Sunday, 17 July 2011

the slog: a ramble on gales, pee breaks, and leaks

July 6, 2011 Log Entry

Antares, in Joe's Bay
This morning, we woke up cloaked in a foggy mist. Following a leisurely breakfast and not one, but two cups of café au lait, I relished reading a novel about another couple's adventures (and misadventures) at sea.1 We’re taking it easy today. Rick puttered about, and then rowed over to Antares with a plumbing fitting and in a visiting mood.

Exciting view from inside the cabin
We tried to leave on Sunday. After fighting 34 knot winds on the nose for a couple of hours, Rick suggested we head back and wait until the next day, the forecast being more promising. Surprising us both, I hemmed and hawed… I did not want to go back, so thrilled was I to be off the dock. But we did go back. We were tired from a crazy month and didn’t want to get beat up more than necessary. We pointed the boat toward the inner harbour. What a difference it makes to sail downwind in 34 knots. One word: Superb… If only that had been the case on the way out! Instead of being on the water, we got a few more tasks done at the dock to make the pending trip more comfortable. When you’re sailing in rough weather, you quickly notice the jobs that were forgotten. (The cockpit table wedged behind the head, (toilet)? I discovered it dancing madly, as if possessed. It is now properly tied down.)

The next day, we decided to do the trip in one go. I had a nagging thought in the back of my mind. “That means we will have to fight current in the central Juan de Fuca Strait. Oh well, we’ll just buckle down for a slow ride.” Wait. This sounds awfully familiar…

There was a gale warning for that area, but not until evening. We hoped to get through most of central strait before the gale hit, as the west entrance had a more favourable forecast. Of course, the gale started earlier than predicted. We reefed early, and our progress slowed to a crawl. Waves, currents, and wind were all against us. We were motor sailing in lumpy seas with a slippery prop, (read: not very effective – It’s a long story). I sent Rick down for a nap and settled into a slow slog up Juan de Fuca.

Eventually it was my turn to crash in the sea berth. The sea berth is the starboard2 quarter berth, at the bottom of the companion way. It is more comfortable than the V-berth3 while making a passage. We cocoon ourselves in, as to avoid rolling around. Nothing prevents sleep more. Well, except for that mysterious clanging or banging you just can’t seem to locate. Oh, and the new leak I discovered at the foot of the berth. Leaks. When the green water comes a-splashing over the boat, we always seem to discover a new one.

Sunset Sail on Juan de Fuca Strait
The wind conditions improved. Rick managed to sail, (lucky guy), which means I slept better without the roar of the engine and with the smoother motion of the boat, (lucky girl). Wendy did most of the work while he was taking pictures and pee breaks, unworried and casual. (Wendy is our wind vane, a wind-powered auto-pilot. Once the sails are trimmed and balanced, the boat is sailing a desired course, you adjust the angle of the wind vane to match. It keeps the boat aligned with the wind and on that course. Standing watch becomes much more relaxed.) The wind calmed as we neared Port Renfrew, and Rick had to turn on the engine. When I woke up, it was dark and it was my turn to go on watch.

We don’t have a tiller pilot, (an electric auto-pilot,) yet. They’re especially handy when you’re motor sailing (or just motoring) longer distances. Time can drag, it is tiring if you have to steer the whole time. (And pee breaks are more difficult when your mate is sleeping.) So here I was, steering in the pitch black night (or so it seemed to me), except for the faint lights of Neah Bay and that of the Port Renfrew entrance.  I was nervously straining to see lights on the water while making sure to stay out of anybody’s way. Our AIS identifies commercial ships that are coming and going on the Juan de Fuca Strait, letting me know their heading. I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they won’t be coming my way. We sail or motor near the shipping lanes, but avoid going into them for obvious reasons. Still, there are smaller boats and fishing boats that we need to look out for. Traveling at night can be unnerving, but it’s kind of cool too. It was especially so when I tilted my head up to see a dazzling amount of stars. I was told it was even more mesmerizing out in the open ocean. I believe it.

I watched the sun rise over Carmanah Point after a frantic pee break when I jury-rigged the tiller. (Not very effectively, I might add.) Though I had slowed the boat down and was far from any bumpy bits. Back in the cockpit and on course, I finally noticed the Pacific swell as it moved languidly on this windless morning. And at last, I relaxed. (My bladder did too, thank you.)

Barkley Sound, early morning
Rick got up, I had a quick nap; Rick napped and I motored us to Barkley Sound. As we neared Effingham Island, we heard a cheerful voice on the VHF radio calling Nyon.  It was Carol warmly welcoming us to Barkley Sound. Antares was here! After catching up with our friends Jim and Carol on Antares, Rick and I rowed back to Nyon ready for a well-deserved sleep.

The sun is breaking, and we have plans to go ashore with Antares. Life is good.

1 The book in question is called: The Motion of the Ocean: 1 small boat, 2 average lovers, and a woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife. By Janna Cawrse Esarey. The owner of Twixt, a boat briefly mentioned in the novel, lent it to me. The book is a fun, light summer read.
2 Starboard means the right side of the boat, Port means the left side.
3 V-Berth: Our berth at the bow of the boat. (That’s the pointy end). Our bed looks like a V, hence the name. The quarter berth is toward the back quarter of the boat. It’s a single berth.

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