You’re going to laugh when I tell you this, but I must admit it to you anyway. I just don’t have that much free time for writing these days. Yep, I knew you’d laugh. But seriously, I have to set aside the time – prioritize my day – to include a few hours at the keyboard, otherwise it just won’t happen.
We have now been on the move for 6 weeks, and I mean “on the move” very literally. We have not stayed in any one place for more than 3 nights. Our days are filled with preparing to sail, sailing, motoring, cleaning up from sailing, anchoring, checking weather, making food, exploring islands, fishing, calculating tides and currents, measuring winds and distances.
With summer most decidedly over, I regularly look over my shoulder in suspicion, just waiting for those winter storms to come trundling over us. We must have poured the right libations for Poseidon, though, as he has been very kind to us thus far.
I believe when I last left you, we were pulling away from Tofino with a hint of a tear in our eyes. Boy, that feels like a lifetime ago. From Tofino, we anchored in the broken group, a pathetic attempt at experiencing the wonder and magic of Barkley Sound. I was torn: the sun seemed to taunt me from where it hung, unreasonably low in the southern sky, while the hundreds of islands at my fingertips begged to be explored.
I tuned out the buzz of the islands and set my sights on the orb to the south, still stubbornly unwilling to share her warmth, as I donned boots, gloves and layers of fleece the next morning and put Vancouver Island in the rearview mirror. What a place.
The next leg of the journey contained 25 hours of motoring across the mouth of the straight of Juan de Fuca, down the coast of most of Washington, across Gray’s Harbor Bar and into the sleepy little fishing town of Westport. Though it was our first overnight passage on Halcyon, with the exception of a large pod of feeding humpbacks at the mouth of the straight, it was a rather uneventful transit. We took four-hour shifts between naps, cooking and dishes, naps, boat work and naps.
The Great Weather Predictors foretold 10-15 knots from the northwest, ideal sailing conditions, as I’ve described before. But we were shocked to discover that the Great Weather Predictors (I think I’ll abbreviate to GWP’s to save pixels) had been incorrect in their foretelling! We never experienced more than 7 knots of breeze, which is plenty of wind for sailing if we were inclined to turn our 25-hour journey into a 4-day journey. Call me spoiled, but we motored.
We were soon met by an adventurous group of Halcyon groupies, wonderful souls willing to travel to check in on the welfare of the boat and her keepers. They brought mail, boat parts, wine and dogs. We spent a rainy weekend taking advantage of their respective expertise: making website modifications, fine-tuning the SSB radio system and relaxing with a coloring book and a glass of wine.
The weekend was over much too soon and the goodbyes hurt just a little more this time. A huge shout out to Adam, Leah, Kevin, Dizzy and Beanie for making the trek and acting as curriers.
Ilwaco was our next stop, a short 9-hour motor away (thanks again, GWP’s), on the Washington side of the Columbia River. This stop required crossing the Graveyard of the Pacific, as the mouth of the Columbia has been branded. Over 2,000 ships have floundered in this half-mile stretch of water in the last 230 years where the momentum of the 1250-mile long river collides with the tidal force of the Pacific Ocean. If conditions are wrong, there can be steep 12-foot breaking waves, nearly impossible to navigate. In these conditions, the coast guard simply closes the bar and you don’t get to come in however much you’d like to. But conditions were right and we easily navigated between the jetties and the sand spits in mild 3-5 foot swell.
One quality of traveling like this that I missed in our scheduled city lives is spontaneity. In the morning we talked to some Portland friends and by 12:30, we were packed up and on a bus to Portland. While the logistics were straightforward, it felt awkward to leave Halcyon behind. She is no longer only our home on the water (and drain on our bank account) without feelings or personality. She is our transportation, our home, our safety and our pride. She embodies our dreams and carries scars of the hard work it has taken us to get here. Suddenly it feels like a betrayal to leave her alone in an unknown anchorage.
But explore we must. While Halcyon could have made the journey to Portland, it was not a feasible proposition on our timeline. So we filled her up with power and water and promised to return with new spare parts and stories of adventure.
In Portland, we had the most hospitable hosts that picked us up from the bus stop, fed us dinner and wine, offered us a bed of our own that didn’t sway, even provided unending hot showers! With nothing on the agenda but quality time with friends, we played tourist during the day – visiting Powell’s, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and many food trucks.
On top of providing everlasting hot showers, Luke and Meghan drove back out to the coast with us on Friday, ostensibly to hang out with us more but I’m confident it was just to check in on Halcyon and watch the sea lions at Buoy Beer Co in Astoria (everyone: go there).
The weekend ended with another hard goodbye followed shortly thereafter by a new Hello.
On Friday morning, we sent a request into the facebook universe for a brave and spontaneous individual to join us on our journey to San Francisco to make the 4-5 day passage a bit more enjoyable. 36 hours after seeing the request, Geoff arrived at our boat in Ilwaco with a backpack and a loaf of bread. That’s the spirit.
As we leave Ilwaco, we turn a new page in the wanderings of Halcyon. This will be the longest passage John and I have done. It is the first time we have brought crew aboard. We will skip an entire state. We are leaving the finicky waters of the Pacific Northwest, bound for warmer and more predictable sailing. Our stay in San Francisco will likely be 3x longer than we’ve stayed anywhere so far. We have spent the last 6 weeks on the back end of the weather window; soon we will be on the leading edge of the good weather moving into Mexico.
So off we go.