Thursday, August 12, 2010

Circumnavigation Is Complete

A lot has happened since our last blog entry. Mark and Anne are now back in McCall, Idaho for a few days and "Blue Rodeo" is on the hard at Platypus Marine in Port Angeles, Washington having her bottom repainted.

When we left the Pinkerton Islands we spent a pleasant night anchored in a small cove a short sail away and continued the next day to the tiny town of Bamfield on Barkley Sound's eastern shore. The trip to town came at an opportune time as the day before we discovered that we had used the last of our fresh water and our last water maker pre-filter had become clogged with material from the plankton and algae-rich water that we were anchored in. Being away from docks and access to shore-side electricity and water for most of the last two months has provided a good shake-down and an opportunity to get to know our floating home even better. Among other things, we have learned that we need to carry more water maker filters and devise a method of cleaning and reusing the filters a few times before discarding them. We will also have to be more selective about where we make water and wait until we are in areas with less suspended biological material.

Bamfield turned out to be an interesting place to visit and explore. The inlet where it is located divides the town in two with no road access between the halves. The locals refer to the waterway as "Main Street" and boats of all sizes shuttle people and goods between the two shores. We purchased some fuel and filled our water tanks at a fishing lodge in West Bamfield, anchored in the bay and dinghied ashore to see the sights. A short walk through the forest took us to Brady's Beach, a beautiful spot featuring craggy rock outcroppings and splendid views of Barkley Sound. As we approached, we passed a family walking in the opposite direction who warned us of a rather aggressive bear they'd seen just 100 yards ahead. Anne had been hoping to see a bear during our whole trip around the island but, aside from seeing a black blob on a distant shore as we sailed by, had been disappointed. Encountering an ill-tempered bear up "close and personal" though was not appealing so we warily continued while loudly singing Monte Python songs in hopes of scaring the furry beast away. Apparently our inabilities to carry a pleasing tune did the trick and the bear was no where to be seen.

From Bamfield we motored through foggy conditions into the Broken Island Group, an archipeligo in the center of Barkley sound where we spent the next few days, exploring the rugged islets and driftwood covered beaches. What a magnificent area! We saw a number of kayakers camping along the picturesque beaches as we dinghied in search of a sea lion rookery on one of the out-lying islands. Our exploration was cut short that afternoon by the return of pea soup thick fog that gave us concern for finding our way back to the cove where "Blue Rodeo was anchored. We returned without any real drama but chastised ourselves for not heeding the advise of the area's guide book that speaks of the frequent and sudden appearance of dense fog and the need to always carry a compass and GPS when away from your mother-ship.

Although the area's scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, the limited afternoon sunshine and cool, damp air made our decision to leave for the civilization of Port Angeles a bit easier. Our plan from the beginning had been to haul the boat out at Platypus Marine in Port Angeles to repaint the bottom's antifouling paint and boot stripe before continuing down to California. While the work was being done we would retrieve our tired old jeep from Seattle and drive home to Idaho with a few things that we did not want to keep aboard for the trip to Mexico. The 15 hour, 90 mile run from Barkley sound to Port Angeles was a classic "Northwest" boating experience. After our 6AM departure, we motorsailed for several hours through fog with visibility often less than 1/8th of a mile. We are getting rather used to the technique of carefully scanning the area ahead while watching the radar for other boat traffic. While not especially fun, the challenge is somewhat like flying "instrument" approaches in bad weather like we'd done for so many years during our flying careers. The cold, wet air sucked the body heat from us as we stood watches in the cockpit and Anne found the poor visibility combined with the rolly seas to be a little hard on her motion-sensitive stomach. As we approached the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, while still in light-wind conditions, our trusty Mercedes diesel engine suddenly quit. Mark had been carefully monitoring out engine operating times and estimated fuel burns and was surprised by the fact that we had run out of fuel in the tank that the engine was drawing from. Although we have fuel gauges, we learned early on that they are only as good as their calibration and that we have yet to accurately measure our fuel tank capacities. We learned later while filling the tanks in Port Angeles that our fuel tanks each hold 15 gallons less than we were lead to believe. Oh well, it's just part of the steep learning curve associated with getting to know a boat. After switching to the other fuel tank, Mark had to open the engine compartment and bleed the trapped air from the fuel lines in order to restart the engine while Anne stood watch and kept the boat moving ahead in the light air. The engine was restarted within minutes but the whole situation was made rather tense by the fact the the engine had chosen to quit in the foggy conditions just as we began crossing the the busy shipping lanes entering the strait. Pilots often joke that flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. This experience didn't exactly fit the "terror" category but was one that we hope not to repeat.

With "Blue Rodeo" pointed east toward Port Angeles. we began to enjoy the building westerly wind and were soon sailing at hull speed toward our destination. The fog stayed with us though and by late afternoon we were seeing building swells and wind speeds approaching 30 knots. We were sure glade we were sailing east. Despite the strong winds, fog continued to menace us and we were dripping wet, not from spray but from the 100 percent moisture-saturated air that we sailed through. Anne pronounced it not to her liking (edited for audiences with sensitive ears) and we both dreamed of sailing in tropical breezes in T-shirts and shorts. We entered the harbor at Port Angeles in the last of the evening light and tied up to the guest dock at about 9:30PM. As our port of entry back into to US, we were required to call Customs and Immigration to officially clear in. This is often accomplished with just a phone call, and we were surprised when the agent we spoke with said he'd be down shortly to inspect the boat and our documents. His visit was short, professional and painless though and we were soon able to put "Blue Rodeo" and ourselves to bed for the night.

As we drifted off to sleep, we couldn't help but reflect back on the grand adventure that the circumnavigation had been. We had met the challenge of safely sailing "Blue Rodeo" through waters not visited by most boaters. We had seen sights that will forever remain in our memories and met new friends that we look forward to sharing with as we continue our travels. There were highs and lows to be sure but our spirits are soaring with warm feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment.

We will return soon to "Blue Rodeo" and, with the help of two good friends, sail on to San Francisco. The adventure is good!

Cheers to all of you that have been following along!

Mark and Anne

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