I no longer have sunglasses. The string on the sunglasses had conflicted one too many times with the string on my hat so I had taken them from around my neck and installed them on my hat. Then moments later I had glanced overboard at some passing kelp and “ploop” — there they went. Since they were not of the floating variety they were gone before I could even contemplate attempting a rescue. I had lost my touque in a similar situation a couple of days previously but a successful retrieval had been performed.
We all slept in. Except for those who didn’t. But I did and I wasn’t the last one up, so that’s all that counts. Coffee was ready by the time I hit the deck and I sipped the hot deliciousness in the misty morning.
Intermittent internet has been a feature of this trip. Sitting there at anchorage in the middle of nowhere we get a cell signal but not enough for data. But at the hot springs we were at 4 or 5 bars. Tofino was almost dead but offshore we were downloading like crazy. There seems to be no rhyme or reason although I suppose there must be.
Wind predictions continue to tease us but the immediate schedule calls for 6-8 foot swells and a light SW wind. And that’s what we got. We pulled out of Pipestem Inlet and motored into the Broken Group. I really wish we hadn’t lost a couple of days so we could stay a while. But we are still playing catch-up and Port Renfrew at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is today’s destination.
The swells started up as we approached Cape Beale and hung a left to follow the coast. The wind came up to 10 knots or so, so we raised the sails and started to beat to windward. On paper heading into the wind never seems so bad, but the 1nm progress we were making for 3nm of sailing sure is frustrating. We sailed along for a few hours with Bob and Leslie at the helm, but when I took over the winds dropped to less than 5 knots. So we furled the jib and motor-sailed just off the wind the rest of the way.
The fog broke a bit and visibility was 3 or 4 nm but it was pretty monotonous. We bisected a family of sea lions at one point as the swam across our bow and I spotted one dolphin. At one point the Coast Guard Cutter Gordon Reid Came up behind us about 3 miles off, but at 12 knots they passed us and we could barely make out their outline in the distance. Later when we turned into Port San Juan there they were, anchored in the mouth of the small bay, lights ablaze.
We ate dinner on the go and I gnawed on my pork chop while watching Otto (the autopilot) steer. The wind had completely disappeared by that point but the swells meant you still needed one hand to stand.
Eventually 3 or 4 hours later we arrived at the bay (Port San Juan) in the dark and slowly made our way to the head of the bay. It’s pretty unnerving heading into a strange bay and strange marina at night. There’s not much of a town so there weren’t that many lights and you are relying on your weak night vision and the chart plotter.
On the first pass we mistook the lights of the town for the marina and I narrowly missed (we had 2 feet under the keel) running us aground. The marina turned out to be the two dim lights off the starboard so I swung around and frantically divided my attention between the depth sounder (which never rose above 3 feet) and trying to make out a dock. Terry was on the bow with a flashlight but it was almost more distracting than helpful.
I missed the first attempt because of my worry about the depth (we had hit 2 ft again) but I swung hard and decided to back in. The Northern Passage has a wide beam but her stern is narrow compared to most modern boats so while I concentrated on the stern I threatened to drag a large unprotected section of the hull along the dock. But I avoided that much to Tim’s relief and soon we were stationary alongside the dock.
The swell is still pretty present so we tied a few spring lines and then tidied up for the night. Then it was down below for some delicious apple crisp and ice cream. Some few minutes after the last bite we all started to crash hard and scattered to our various berths with gusto.
The final depth under the keel was only 1.5 feet but it was low tide so we would be ok for the night. But tomorrow morning’s low tide was another 5 feet lower so we would have to be gone by 7:30 to avoid digging the keel into the mud.
And then we slept. Or tried to as the wind came up momentarily and started the halyards howling like slightly drunken banshees. But Tim was on the job and silence returned a few moments later.