New photos from the trip HI to Washington are now on the blog. Don’t forget to clear “history” and “cache” to view them.
I realized when talking to my sisters on the phone that I left out a very important background detail to the whale post. Yes, it was spectacular. So incredible to see but in the back of my mind I was remembering one of the last seminars we attended before leaving Mexico to cross the Pacific. The Pacific Puddle Jump group provided numerous seminars to help us prepare for the crossing. This talk was given by a woman who had sailed down the coast of California. On the way they found themselves suddenly surrounded by humpback whales.
They had not intended to be there and the whales were frightened. One whipped his tail and took out the rudder on the boat. They attempted to block the hole while calling for help but it did not work. The boat sunk in 15 minutes. This story kept going through my brain as I watched these magnificent creatures. So close to our finish…but I wanted to get there safely!
Yes, it is good to no longer be a little speck on a big ocean. But what an adventure!
Not so long ago on this blog JHamm indicated that perhaps I was not exhibiting appropriate sailor-type behavior. Not so, I say! During my last day watch, about 50 miles off of the North American coast I could not help a very sailor-like thought from crashing through my brain. “Where there be birds…there must be whales!”
Generally I do not think this way but during this final afternoon watch, after an UGLY morning watch for Bob (which he shared with you because just thinking about it again scares me still), I was treated to a show of whales unsurpassed in Charisma history. Initially I was seeing a few blow puffs on the horizon.
Two, maybe three at a time. I was trying to keep track of how many and what types (I saw numerous humpbacks and three Orcas). One sighting was about 50 yards in front of us. In order to avoid hitting them I quickly turned on the engine to idle knowing that the noise would tell them we were there. It worked and they quickly dove and moved out of Charisma’s path. Sailing can be so silent and approaching whales that are feeding seems so dangerous.
As it turns out I needed to turn the engine on about four more times as Bob slept. I was worried it would signal pending collision with a large container ship to a sleeping captain. Fortunately after the first such thought he understood my strategy. It was working great. Until the birds. I noticed a hundred or so birds sitting on the water as we sailed up to them. How interesting. I took pictures to show Bob. A few miles further and the birds were swarming. We had been without aviary company for about 24 hours (during the gale) and so I was delighted. At first. As the birds thickened in the air I began to feel like I was in the middle of a bird feeding frenzy…like the ones we’ve seen off the coast in Aptos.
That’s when it registered…they are feeding…and so is someone else. So I lowered my sights to the water and suddenly noticed numerous spouts from feeding whales. One was 20 feet off the port side. I quickly turned on the engine to idle again to announce our presence. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. After they had passed I found I was trembling. Too close for comfort in my book. And that saying started marching through my head. “Where there be birds…there must be whales!”
When my heart finally slowed to a regular beat I relaxed and enjoyed the gift of sunshine and an ever=brightening rainbow after the horrible morning. And then I noticed lots more birds about a mile ahead. In the air, swarming. I altered course with a quick adjust to the Monitor hoping to avoid the melee. It did not seem to help. I turned on the engine and tried to determine if they were moving in a discernible direction. In panic I finally woke Bob to come help me decide. By the time Bob got into the cockpit he had me disengage the Monitor and steer twenty degrees to the left of the large pod of feeding whales directly ahead of us. No minor Monitor adjustments would be enough. So as I steered we gaped in amazement at the huge whales puffing along, happily feeding with a entourage of winged friends circling wildly overhead hoping for left behinds. What a show! Even now my heart races as I think of these large mammals so close to Charisma and so preoccupied. I realized at this point that the Pacific Northwest was full of incredible beauty and adventure waiting for Charisma. Yes, we were almost to America, but our journey is definitely not over.
After a 22 day passage, the third long passage in the last 105 days, there does not seem like anything could equal the joy of making landfall. Well we were wrong. After getting safely tied to the dock at Neah Bay and properly celebrating with a bottle of bubbly (put in the icebox only when the final decision to stop in Neah Bay had been reached about 10 miles offshore) we went to the Marina office and checked in. We were a bit disappointed to find out that our cell phones would not work due to lack of service. How was I going to make a few phone calls? I was directed to the pay phone in front of the grocery store a few blocks down the street. No bueno. The phone was broken. So the Marina office/bait store attendant offered to let me use the store’s phone.
Lisa and John on Orcinius had asked us to please call them before we took our much deserved naps. They had left Hawaii with us but made landfall in Astoria four days prior and wanted to make sure we made it in before the two big storms coming down the coast. So, with a not-so-quick call home and then another not-so-quick call to Lisa I had worn out my phone welcome and left the office. Even though there was a celebration of Makah Days down the bay further, filling the air with carnival noise and shotgun discharges to start canoe races, I finally laid down for a nap. Bob had found the bed earlier and was deep in slumber. Aw, sweet rest.
My deep sleep was penetrated by someone calling “Charisma, Charisma!” Such familiar voices. So hard to focus. We both climbed out of bed and up to the cockpit. As the Christmas poems goes…”and what to our wondering eyes should appear?”…Lisa and John from Orcinius!!!! Not being totally familiar with Northwest geography I was confused. Wasn’t Portland pretty far away? That’s where they live. And the answer is yes. About five hours away. And when I called to check in with Lisa as requested, they were at the ticket counter of the ferry about to purchase passage to Victoria, BC. That was our original destination. They were hoping to be there to grab our lines as we arrived. How very lucky it was that I borrowed that phone and informed them of our new location.
How very happy we were to see them! Joy, joy, happy tears! Celebration, laughter more bubbly and stories ensued. How different our two passages had been. We knew we were going to sail over the Pacific High and make landfall further north. Orcinius knew they were going to motor through the High and make landfall in Astoria. Other than leaving from the same location four hours apart, our passages were similar only for the first two days…when they passed us and never looked back. They were sailing brilliantly. We were too. But it seems that a few degrees of longitude made all of the difference. They had some squally weather but nothing like we kept finding. They encountered some lightning, but not three solid nights of it. They never saw the 40kt winds we found. They caught lots more fish than we did. They had more boat issues than we did. Score one for Charisma. But we all win when we make safe landfall. And we can’t do any better than celebrating together!
I think we would be pinching ourselves still if we were not so exhausted. We arrived at 6:30am local time… 3:30am local Charisma time.
We tucked into an open slip in Neah Bay, tied up and shouted gleefully..not knowing the boat next to us was occupied. Oops. No worries, they were actually up and getting ready to move out so were happy to share our joy. Although on a trawler they had previously circumnavigated on a monohull so appreciated our feat.
Bob is sound asleep …deservedly so as he was up from 5pm to 3am through a very stressful night. I just went to scope out the facilities (not very impressive and the laundry is actually four blocks away…I will definitely need help getting three weeks of laundry there). Unfortunately AT&T does not exist up here and Internet is spotty. Oh well. Time to sleep and worry about all of that later!
We promise to give details on the last two days when better rested. Thanks for cheering us on!
Position: 48 degrees 22 minutes north; 125 degrees, 34 minutes west 94 mile day
Rain, fog, 3 meter seas and winds 30-40 knots kept us very busy last night. Not fun.
Finally eased late morning and the day has been OK, but we’re really racing a gale coming down from the north so have decided to stop just inside Strait of Juan de Fuca on the US side at Neah Bay. It has a marina and fuel so a much safer choice than the extra 40 or so miles to Victoria in what will be deteriorating conditions.
Ahhh, passage making. You never know, three weeks earlier when you leave, what you’ll get when you get there.
On a more inspiring note, Ann saw so many whales today that she lost count. If you know Ann you know she never losses count, so that’s a lot of whales! We are in the “seamount” area off Vancouver Island where the water goes from thousands of feet deep to more like 400 or so. This makes for a very rich feeding ground and we passed through literally multiple pods of whales as the afternoon progressed who were oblivious to us as they were in a virtual feeding frenzy. We had to alter course several times to avoid sailing into a pod of five or six whales that were feeding. Crazy!
Position: 48 degrees, 21 minutes north; 127 degrees, 55 minutes west 148 nm day
Definitely still a couple hurdles though. Rain and fog are in the forecast.
And the wind is also forecast to drop. If it goes too low and we have to motor while still off the coast, fuel will become an issue. We’re down to what we need for the 50 miles down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but not much more. Oh well, we’ll see.
The last 12 hours has been great sailing. Blue sky, blue water and plenty of wind from behind us, so fast going. Since late morning though the wind has swung in front of us (again!) and we’re now close hauled and trying to keep our course to the strait. The wind should lighten and back in the early morning, so cross fingers, but fog! Yuck! And right outside one of the busiest shipping channels on the west coast.
OK, the good part: last night the sky was almost completely cloud free and the moon came up just before sunset, affording us a stunning view of the almost full moon on one side and a beautiful sunset on the other. Ann had a cloud free watch and enjoyed infinite stars and a nearly full moon. She was one happy camper as I came up for my watch.
Today marks three weeks, twenty one days out of Hawaii. Whew, a long time. I’m very ready to be tied up to a nice, stable dock! We’re hoping for a Sunday afternoon arrival pending all the usual “what ifs” that arise to keep plans flexible.
Position: 47 degrees, 54 minutes north; 131 degrees, 28 minutes west 135 nm motor-sailing
It is 11 am on Thursday and I have just finished taking a shower. Not just a shower but a luxurious shower. You are probably scratching your heads or chuckling to yourselves thinking how can a shower on a moving boat be luxurious. How? You get to use a whole tea kettle of hot water and the sun is shining and warm! So warm that I did not have to shower as fast as possible and hide quickly under my towel. Nope, I even stood naked in the cockpit and let the sun and gentle breeze dry me off.
Two days ago I was using cleaning wipes to try to clean some of the collected odors off of my body. I had even changed into clean clothes afterwards pretending that I had showered. That felt wonderful. I even washed my hair in the sink using two water bottles of warm water. I was feeling good. But today I luxuriated in the ability to enjoy getting clean. Not just performing a function. And now I smell really good.
Luxurious is always relative. I would normally classify the bathrooms in the Westin suites complete with a Jacuzzi tub (ok, who really uses those when you have the choice of the beach, a few swimming pools and a couple of hot tubs) as luxurious. When we were cruising the islands luxurious was being able to suds up on the side of Charisma and then jump in the water to rinse. Even more luxurious was getting to use the warm water nozzle off the back of Orcinius after floating lazily in tubes. I felt spoiled then. (No boat envy here, but I do have to say that Orcinius made landfall two days ago even though they left Hawaii at the same time…lucky dogs…those bigger boats move faster.)
The weather today is what we had hoped for on this passage. Clear blue skies. Just enough sun to stay warm, not melt. (Too bad we are motor sailing and have to hear the engine but hopefully the wind will fill in from the south tonight as promised.) Last night was full of stars twinkling their hellos and encouraging us ever onward. The layers of clothing have been slowly peeling off. No longer do we feel like kids going out to play in the snow when we go into the cockpit.
So today luxurious is a full tea pot of warm water in a relaxed shower. Soon it will be a hot shower in Victoria. Kind of like food porn only cleaner!
Evening update: Bob caught and landed our first fish of this passage! Albacore.
Yay! We have had several jump our lines on this passage and have been frustrated. No longer. Five minutes after I closed my eyes for my afternoon nap Bob wiggled my leg and proclaimed, “Fish on!” And we got it reeled in and finely filleted. Sashimi at sunset with Charismas graced by an almost full moon rising as the sun set to an electric green flash. As the clean shirt I am wearing proclaims….Life is good!
Position: 47 degrees, 05 minutes north; 134 degrees, 41 minutes west 125 nm day
Last night we entered the center of the low and ran out of wind.
So, around 0330 I started the engine and we’ve been motoring since (it’s now about 2000). I expect we’ll motor another 12-24 hours if the weather stays true to the forecast. Then (again, if the forecast…) we should get some south winds to drive us into the BC area.
Today was a nice day for a change. The sun even cooperated for a few hours, so I had a chance to take a bath in the cockpit. Nice to get clean! Also nice to have a relatively flat sea/calm winds after the last days of squall, after squall, after squall, each bring high winds and often rain.
So, the plan here – hoping the weather holds as forecast – is to motor another day through the low and pick up some south winds on the other side. These are from a new low coming down from Alaska. It will likely bring some poor weather with it, so we’re racing to get in before it gets here. Cross fingers please!
Position: 47 degrees, 26 minutes north; 137 degrees, 49 minutes west 123 nm day
Guess what? I had a night watch with a glorious moon and stars sprinkled all over! How I had missed them. I was set for a great watch. The winds had calmed enough to make it pretty comfortable 85% of the time. But when we rolled back and forth just enough the “Tayana River” would produce a new tributary. That is the water that rushes from one side of Charisma to the other through a hole in the cockpit combing. The net effect is that unless you notice the roll at the very start you are going to end up with a wet butt. Wet butt cold body. No bueno.
And then there were those rogue waves that come barreling across the water like a freight train, slam into the side of Charisma and leap up into the cockpit. But they are rogue and don’t happen THAT often. Because of these 15% occurrences I decided to “stand watch” last night. Literally, I stood in the companionway on the stairs and did my 360 lookout from there. If anything looked more interesting I would step out into the cockpit and study it further. Not much happened.
Until it did. And I think I need some research assistance here (JHamm?). At about 12:45 Hawaii time (we don’t change our clocks until we get into port…too confusing) I was standing looking forward when a spotlight lit up from behind. My first thought was that the moon had come out from behind some clouds but I quickly dismissed it when I recalled that the moon had set an hour earlier. I turned to see a light that looked bright enough to be a ship about to run us down directly behind us. LOOK OUT! And then it exploded and fizzled downward to the ocean with a green glow. HOLY MOLY! I was trembling.
What was that? Did any of you see it? Of course we were 600 miles off of the coast so maybe you missed it. No, I did not get visited by a small boat transporting little green people later, nor did Bob on his watch. I turned on the iNavix application on the iPad to see if an AIS signal from a passing ship would show up. Nada. It did not look like the meteors we had seen a week ago. It exploded and fizzled and was green.
I was still pondering this event when I woke Bob at 2 am for his watch. He laughed at my iNavix thought. I babbled non-stop for about 10 minutes…the pent up adrenalin pouring out of me. Poor Bob was still breaking through the sleep haze. Maybe he thinks he dreamed it.
Well, please let me know what research says. It was at 12:45am Hawaii Time at about 48 north latitude, 140 west longitude. Meanwhile it is so very nice to see the stars and moon and today, the sunshine again. It’s like reconnecting with old friends!