Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Retrograde Maneuver:
Sailing back across the Pacific

A typical view: Lots and lots of fog
We stayed in Japan for as long as we dared, given
general weather patterns and our next selected
destination: Seattle, approximately 4,500 miles away.
We were nearly ready to go: We'd gone over the boat
thoroughly; we'd brought out the storm trysail and
staysail, Jordan series drogue and sea anchor, stowed
our anchor, set up the inner forestay and hanked on
the storm staysail; we'd bought more jerry jugs to
carry extra water and topped off our fuel tank and
extra fuel jugs; we'd purchased mountains of hearty
heat and serve meals; we'd stowed most of our Japanese
charts and pulled out charts covering the entire north
Pacific, plus Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific
Northwest, all potential stops.

About 3 days before we planned to leave we noticed a
deepening low east of the Philippines where northern
Pacific typhoons usually form. (While typhoons can
pass through this area anytime between June and
October, typically they form east of the Philippines
and pass through the Philippines towards Vietnam, Hong
Kong or Taiwan until around August when they begin
curving more northeastward towards Japan.) That low
soon became typhoon Man-Yi and was forecast to come
right to the Tokyo area, unusually early for passing
this far to the east. In a well protected marina in
Yokohama, south of Tokyo, we prepared the boat (moving
slips, reducing windage and stringing a spider's web
of lines to the marina docks around us and placed huge
Styrofoam fenders to protect the hull just in case)
and waited for the typhoon to pass. Despite being
physically and mentally ready to go, we had a week to
wait before we could think of leaving, giving us the
opportunity to do several more "final" trips to the
store for more food. We even managed a trip to Costco
(pronounced coostecoo by the Japanese). While we
waited we received emails from friends scattered
around Japan reporting the weather they faced as the
typhoon passed. One set of friends suffered bent
stanchions and pulpit and gel coat punctures in the
Ryukyu Islands, but while we had torrential rains, our
winds were quite manageable in the comfort of the
protected marina. And so mentally we began our voyage
across the Pacific, already so likely to be dominated
by concerns about weather, even more acutely aware of
the weather and feeling somewhat boat bound.

Generally we refer to Pilot charts to study general
trends in an area to guide where we want to be and
when. But since day to day weather can vary
significantly from the averages and affects us so
profoundly, we evaluate the weather every day. Over
our years of cruising, we have grown to understand
weather patterns in the areas where we've spent some
time and identified good sources for weather data.
The tools we use to check the weather include a number
of websites when we have internet access onshore, plus
grib files, a graphical depiction of weather systems
resembling a pilot chart of an area that we select by
latitude and longitude plus a range of details such as
wind direction, barometric pressure, wave heights, fog
or ice areas, etc. which we can via Sailmail, a very
limited email we can access while underway through a
very slow radio link. In addition to grib files, we
can download weather faxes that are broadcast by
weather bureaus on certain frequencies at certain
times of the day for different areas of the world.
That gets us the raw materials with which we can
determine the conditions we might be likely to face
and estimate the best time to leave - a weather window
- for a certain passage, if we're smart. Getting weatherfaxes

Despite our years of learning, our experiences prove
to us time and again how difficult weather can be to
predict and how much we still don't understand. And
then we get to relearn old lessons when we get
complacent! With so many variables to consider, we
often see different actual conditions than the
prognosis would suggest: predictions based on models
that don't always agree that are then affected by
local geographical factors. For example, off the
northern coast of the Philippines we had very light
winds suddenly build to 35 knots accompanied by short
nasty seas. We were taken by surprise since we saw no
obvious clouds hinting at a coming change in the
weather - sunny hot conditions we'd had along that
coast for days - and nothing in the 3 day forecast
indicating any change was expected. With difficulty
we returned to an anchorage we'd passed up while we'd
had good conditions and the intensely strong winds
totally vanished the following day as though we'd
hallucinated the whole miserable episode. We surmised
that we'd seen a lee trough effect like we see off the
California Coast where a very strong sea breeze builds
as a result of the land heating effect. Kicked in the
butt by an old lesson long forgotten!

The weather in the north Pacific is quite different
from the tropics, which is typically governed by large
stationary highs that provide a nice steady flow of
air that doesn't change much. Outside the tropics, we
are affected by a series of highs and lows that move
across the area and move against each other in often
unpredictable ways, so the wind changes all the time
and can dramatically change speed and direction.
For a little peace of mind, we solicited extra help
analyzing the weather to identify a good weather
window, because once we leave . . . . So we asked our
friends at Commander's Weather who provide weather
forecasting for countless cruisers like us and also
for many famous world record sailing attempts and
round the world race and America's Cup campaigns. We
first met them while they were assisting the One World
Challenge America's Cup Campaign and the Volvo Ocean
Race ABN Amro team and enjoyed their company many
times, including Thanksgiving and Christmas after One
World lost to Oracle BMW in 2002. They confirmed our
decision to wait for the typhoon to pass and then our
decision to depart on our second proposed departure
date as the adverse winds and swell from the typhoon
abated. And their service includes monitoring our
progress as we sail and providing warnings if any
conditions threatened our safety or answers when
specifically requested.

And so armed with a reasonable forecast for the start
of our long voyage, we left the comfort of a nice
marina with wifi access, shops and restaurants
wondering if we were really ready for this. We again
encountered heavy shipping traffic and fog as we
exited the bay of Tokyo, with a nice northeasterly
pushing us at speeds of 8 and 9 knots. A whale
breached several times and then waved its tail in the
air as we pulled away from the southern tip of Japan.
Birds were everywhere. And the ships started to thin
out as did the gloomly layer of clouds hovering over
the densely populated Tokyo area.

We had wind on the beam and confused seas as we
continued heading south to get away from the coast and
the after effects of the typhoon. Our plan was to
head down to around 30 degrees North, then turn east
when we could ride the ridge between the lows rolling
across Japan and the highs to the south so we'd have
the wind behind us, on the bottom of the low and the
top of the high pressure systems. (In the northern
hemisphere, high pressure systems rotate clockwise and
low pressure systems rotate counter-clockwise,
opposite rotations in the southern hemisphere). A
great theory, anyway, but difficult to execute when
the systems are continually changing speed and
direction, moving north or south, slowing or speeding
up in their general progression eastwards across the
Pacific. Our course took us across the Kuroshio
current back eddy and we had rough waves making for a
very wet and wild ride for a day or two. We just hung
on and eventually the waves mellowed and the weather
became pretty ideal, with beautiful sunny skies and 10
knot winds from behind or abeam which made for days of
great sailing, where we could make progress to the

We settled into our watch system of 4 hours on and 4
hours off, a steady routine on our marathon relay,
pacing our way across the ocean. With light winds and
flat seas, we had comfortable conditions for sleeping,
cooking, eating, washing the dishes, reading, plotting
our position and course, listening to music, watching
the moon, stars and constellations march across the
night sky and always one of us watching for ships and
fishing boats on the desolate horizon, making sail and
rudder adjustments to stay on course and compensate
for changes in the wind direction and speed. Sailing
in light winds can be quite pleasant with flat water,
though we nearly always have some swell or wind waves.

Little broke up the monotony of the dark blue horizon,
though we saw lots of sea life. Storm petrels chirped
at dusk and small albatross gracefully glided over the
boat throughout the day. Dolphins often visited
mornings and evenings, swimming alongside for a short
while. Occasionally in the moonless darkness,
dolphins cut torpedoes of phosphorescence through the
water, making for a great light show. Huge tunas
leaped out of the water, a number keeping pace with us
for a time, though none fell for our lure as we
dragged a hand line. We did snag something later but
couldn't reel it in fast enough before another
predator feasted on our catch. Unfortunately an
albatross fell for our trailing lure while we were
eating dinner and became fatally snagged, to our
horror. We were hesitant to put out the lure again,
though we were desperate for some fresh fish. We did
manage to "catch" several flying fish and squid with
the sheer expanse of our deck (ha!), but they were
always tiny and petrified, stuck to the deck in rigor
mortis by the time we noticed them - Not exactly good
eating. One squid inked all over the deck, leaving
his signature in the throes of his last moments;
Though we missed the drama, we may always remember
him. Whales visited on quite a few occasions, some
coming unnervingly close that were nearly as big as
the boat. One morning I spotted a whale in front of
the bow and altered course to avoid him as he slapped
the water with his tail, passing just a few boat
lengths to windward. Close enough for some great
camera shots, but it was drizzling at the time and I
didn't want to miss the show while I went down and put
the camera in its underwater case. Other whales
surfaced, blowing and breaching nearby. Garth saw a
huge sunfish swimming on the surface. We also saw
lots of our namesake velellas sailing the waves, but
getting a photo of these tiny creatures was nearly
impossible until we caught a few when we had light
winds.Our namesake velellas

For a time the winds were very light and for more than
10 days our progress was quite slow, though sunny
skies made for nice sailing.

A glassy Sea
While we had pleasant
conditions for living, every time the winds got light
we worried about our small water tanks, limited
propane supplies, and scant fuel capacity over the
course of such a long voyage. We were in serious
conservation mode: We cleaned our dishes in saltwater
and reduced our use of fresh water as much as
possible. I avoided making hot and water intensive
meals when I could, boiling the occasional pasta (for
the sake of variety) in one third saltwater, and
eating lunch meats and cheeses with crackers as much
as we could to save propane for colder weather. Our
fruits and vegetables quickly dwindled. (Once
refrigerated in the stores, fresh produce doesn't last
nearly as long as farm fresh produce like I bought
when I provisioned in Mexico for our 3 week crossing
to the Marquesas. After that provisioning, we had
vegetables for months and actually reached New Zealand
with a perfect jicama that we'd carried for over 7
months!) Even power was rationed since sailing at
angles put our solar panels in the shade on even
bright sunny days, limiting our ability to generate
power, so we often had to curtail our computer and
radio use as well. Balancing limited resources while
trying to avoid feeling deprived became a constant
theme of this passage. The distance we were covering
and therefore the sheer length of the voyage was
certainly daunting and we tried to set smaller
milestones to keep our spirits up and avoid focusing
on how much ocean still lay ahead of us.

Like a couple of gerbils on a perpetual treadmill
around the clock with little to break up the monotony,
we sailed on. To keep ourselves from going stir
crazy, we entertained ourselves through a variety of
means depending on our conditions: making a new
Japanese flag to replace the shredded rag that we had
to take down a couple of weeks before we left the
country, decanting food stores into easier to reach
locations whenever conditions allowed, decanting water
from jerry jugs into our tanks as we used fresh water
supplies, listening to music or short wave radio
programs (BBC, Radio New Zealand, Radio Australia)
when our power level allowed. Repairing the jib underway

Exercising while
underway can often be a challenge due to the limited
space and the motion of the boat, but stretching and
doing limited yoga kept us from getting stiff from
sitting in the same positions for extended periods.
Besides meals, we spent most of our awake time alone
on watch trying to keep quiet while the other of us
grabbed some sleep. We blew through a huge selection
of books, thankful that we'd been able to trade books
with another boat before our departure so we'd have a
good variety. And we worked on the laptop whenever
conditions and our power situation would allow,
weather taking top priority.

With the laptop we downloaded weather faxes and grib
files, though we had trouble connecting and staying
connected to the nearest Sailmail stations thousands
of miles away. A problem we thought we'd solved was
evidently still an intermittent one, compounded by
poor reception: HF interference made for frustrating
sessions of attempting to connect and being unable to
or getting dumped partway through a transmission
accompanied by a huge drain on our batteries for
nothing. While we've had few mechanical breakdowns on
Velella - probably due to good preventative
maintenance - and have always been impressed at how
well the boat has performed, we haven't been so lucky
in the area of electronics and seemed to have been
plagued by gremlins that have been very exasperating.
Not having Sailmail was a big disappointment, since on
such a long voyage, we were counting on it more than
ever. Without it, our weather resources were limited
and our ability to keep Commanders Weather, friends
and family apprised of our progress was missing. And
it meant the loss of a key form of entertainment.
Occasionally we'd connect to Sailmail without trouble
but more often than not efforts to connect, send and
received messages turned into an exercise in
frustration and I drafted countless emails that became
out of date long before we could send the messages,
and we wasted precious power getting nowhere. We
hoped that our ability to connect would improve once
we got closer to the Hawaii Sailmail station.
Fortunately we could still receive weather faxes
passively through the SSB using a different program so
we could at least anticipate coming weather.

We watched the weather systems closely as they moved
across the Pacific to help us plan our route and avoid
adverse winds. We kept adjusting our course so we'd
be positioned to take best advantage of wind speed and
direction for the various weather patterns as they
moved. Sometimes that meant sailing a bit out of the
way – further south or north than our ideal course to
get on top of a high pressure system or stay below a
low pressure system so we'd get favorable winds from
behind as much as possible. After the initial calms,
we began sailing more northerly to reach areas where
there was more wind. As we found more wind to the
north, our speed picked up dramatically and we made in
a single day what had taken us 3 during the lighter
winds. Plotting along

Plotting our location on the charts became
much more interesting, as we wondered whether we'd
surpassed our longest run of 179 miles in a day. With
the wind and swell behind us we surfed, rocketing
forward at *average* speeds of 7.5 knots, with peaks
of much more. Though we only had so much control at
the relatively slow speeds we were moving.

As we moved north the weather got windier and colder
and blue skies were obscured by clouds. We saw water
temperature drop from 80 degrees to 68 F in about a
week and continued to fall. Arctic blasts swept down
from the north. We pulled out fleece, foulies, and
blankets, then gloves and hats. (We even pulled out
our boots, but discovered that they'd disintegrated
since we last used them.) Our days sailing in little
to no clothing disappeared and soon changing the
inside layer required courage and planning. Clouds
enveloped us for days on end and everything felt moist
and cold. Suiting up for going on watch meant piling
on layers, often still damp from the previous watch.
A pervasive mist seemed to penetrate to chill us to
the marrow, reminding us of Seattle weather and making
us doubt our sanity for proposing to leave the tropics
where we've enjoyed nearly endless summer for years.

And so we continued our marathon relay across the
Pacific, changing watch every 4 hours and doing our
best to stem the boredom, the scenery ever the same
with little apparent progress save for the plots
trickling eastwards across the chart. And still so
much ocean to cover. When conditions were wet and
boisterous, our entertainment was reduced to watching
the sometimes invisible horizon, conditions being too
wet to risk the Ipod or a book, the moon and stars
obscured in the gloom. Food became the highlight of
the day and the best way to keep warm. The cold drove
us to hover in the companionway and then eventually we
took refuge inside as much as we could get safely away
with while keeping a decent watch for ships. That
proved to be important to keep us going.

Making burritos
One day, while trying to do Sailmail in vain yet
again, the power suddenly went out on the SSB;
Exploring for faulty wiring is difficult under the
best of circumstances and the conditions we had at the
time precluded even thinking about it. We'd been
mostly unsuccessful getting Sailmail for weeks, but
hoped reception would improve as we approached Hawaii,
and now we were facing not having it at all for the
rest of the trip? We reconnected our old back up short
wave radio to the antenna but couldn't get a decent
signal to get a weather fax. So no weather
information either? Then we got really depressed.
But we tried again the next day and were able to get a
barely readable weather fax and felt a little better.

And we sailed on: sleep, wake, cook, eat, suit up,
stand another watch . . . Repeat.

One early morning just 40 minutes into my watch at
4:40am, I nearly had a heart attack. In a pervasive
mist, a ship suddenly appeared from the murk, so close
that I didn't think I had enough time to react. We
hadn't seen a ship for more than 2 weeks and were
nowhere near any shipping routes – or anything at all.
Normally I can spot a ship more than 10 miles away,
and have plenty of time to determine its heading and
speed and plan possible evasive maneuvers and execute
them with plenty of time to spare. But I was
rocketing down waves at speeds of up to 9 knots with
the jib poled out – not exactly in the most
maneuverable of circumstances - and this ship was
suddenly within a quarter of a mile on a collision
course. And at the speeds they go . . . . we were
closing the distance between us pretty fast. The
ship appeared and disappeared in the thick fog while I
was watching it and though I noted its bearing and
knew where it was I often could not see it. My heart
pounded in my chest and my body literally started
shaking as I knocked on the hull to wake Garth. The
simplest evasive action we could take was to call the
ship on the radio and hope he'd hear us and alter
course immediately but we didn't have the VHF on
(trying to save power) and turning it on required
going down below and taking my eyes off the ship which
I wasn't about to do. Garth was awake by then so I
got him to call the ship. Following our call, a
whistle came through the speaker followed by 2 clicks
and the ship changed course to our immense relief.
Shortly after the ship changed course our preventer
broke and we accidentally jibed. The preventer cleat
ripped out of the back of the combing and the line
positioning the preventer on the boom also broke.
What timing! The ship disappeared and reappeared in
the fog several more times while we watched him go
astern of us. Then we reefed and worked on jury
rigging the preventer line to keep the main boom from
wrenching around in the swell causing another
accidental jibe. Yikes, that certainly broke up the
monotony and woke me up!

And we sailed on: four hours on, four hours off . . .
Drizzle, fog, rain . . .

When wave conditions mellowed we found the problem
with the SSB. Cleaning the contact for the power
button did the trick and we were back in business.
(Corrosion and rust never cease in life aboard.) But
in the process of investigating the SSB power problem
we created ones for the VHF and stereo. While working
in an overly cramped compartment that houses a myriad
of other wires, power wires for those got knocked as
we moved about in the waves, requiring a revisit to
the rats nest of wiring. Still no luck with Sailmail,
but at least we could get good weather charts again.
Jeez, this trip was getting long.

And we kept on sailing . . .

Over such a large distance, we passed through many
time zones, which meant that the sun rose and set
earlier each day as we traveled east. Time zones are
spaced every 15 degrees of longitude, and to preserve
a relatively constant meal and sleeping schedule, we
chose to adjust our clocks as we crossed into a new
time zone, splitting the lost hour between us. And
when we crossed the International Date Line at 180
degrees, we finally recovered that day we lost over 6
years ago, by repeating the day twice. The repeated
day seemed just as uninteresting as the day that
preceeded it, and probably wasn't quite as warm as the
one we traded away in the South Pacific 6 years ago!

We were well stocked with treats and set mini
milestones to keep up our spirits on our long journey.
We celebrated my birthday, getting over the fold on
the chart, reaching various waypoints for course
changes to secondary destinations like Midway, Hawaii
and Kodiak, crossing the International Date Line,
passing the halfway point, graduating to a new chart,
etc. We bribed ourselves with various kinds of food:
olives, fancy cheeses, popcorn, pappadoms (cooked
without oil), artichoke hearts, tapioca pudding, crab
cakes with homemade chutney (fruit jelly, butter,
cayenne, jalapenos and ginger), shrimp and homegrown
alfalfa sprout salad (thanks, Sue!) and smoked oysters
and, of course, sweets like coffee and fruit candies,
chocolate, gummy crocodiles, and cookies; And then
there were drinks like kahlua and cream, rum and
juice, tequila and hot chocolate, wine, plus special
books, movies etc. We had a glorious day to celebrate
crossing the International Date Line, but the next few
ugly days more than made up for it, with violent
squalls, intense thunder and lightening, heavy rains
and cloud or fog. The motion on the boat was
unpleasant as the wind went forward of the beam and we
sloshed in the sloppy waves and residual swell. But
then the wind moved aft and conditions mellowed again.
We had a day or two of light sunny conditions, a
welcome respite. And then it clouded over again.

Sending a message in a bottle
Then fog enveloped us, reducing our visibility to less
than 200 yards. Such dense fog continued for over two
weeks and began to feel claustrophobic. One afternoon
we heard a fog horn getting closer and after blowing
our whimpy fog horn that sounds more like a pathetic
party favor, we called on the VHF and a voice replied
that he'd spotted us on his radar. Whew! We never
did see him, but heard his fog horn quickly fade.
Another time we heard a fog horn and had a brief VHF
conversation with a woman officer on a container ship
headed for Long Beach and then her conversation with
another ship in the vicinity. More ships we never
saw. Once we heard the rumbling of an engine in the
fog. We called on the VHF but didn't raise anyone.
Shortly afterward we smelled the ship's exhaust though
we never saw the ship that produced it. Now that was

Typically a high pressure system dominates the weather
between Hawaii and the Pacific NW, but after weeks of
steering to go above that stationary Pacific high, it
started moving unpredictably, venturing much further
south than usual. Instead of riding the top of the
high like the textbooks suggest on a typical weather
pattern that we'd been watching for weeks, our weather
faxes revealed that a string of lows, gales and fronts
would cross our path as we were squashed between the
lows and the usually stationary high now way south.
Oh boy! Low after low passed by and we carried on in
a trough that stretched in a long line between us and
our destination. The trough haunted us, producing
gloomy fog and drizzle weather for another two weeks
as we precariously sailed between narrow bands of gale
force winds. While expecting much higher winds at any
moment we encountered only 10-20 knot winds. We were
blessed to escape gale after gale: Each time we
braced ourselves, mentally preparing and sometimes
physically, with course adjustments or sail changes
and advance meal prep. Some gales went north of us;
Some went south; And others dissipated before they
reached us. Whew! We were feeling a little lucky.
But tense.

And on we sailed, getting more anxious to get there
with each passing day and drop in temperature. The
fog dense continued, the moist cool air chilling us to
the bone, making our journey seem endless. (Gummi
bears get quite hard to chew at those temperatures!)
We continued to worry about our propane and water
supplies. Carefully monitoring our water supplies we
determined that we were doing well on our fresh water
usage, but we had no reliable way to measure our
propane levels accurately and hoped we wouldn't run
out while we needed hot meals so desperately. Our
craving for hot chocolate grew dramatically (to about
every 5 minutes!) as the temperature fell but we had
to restrain ourselves. The water temperature was
down to 57 degrees F and we could feel the cold
through the hull. The bedding and pillows, trapped
between our (relatively) warm bodies and the cold hull
became damp with condensation. We rarely wore less
than a full set of fleece and the damp gear stayed
mostly damp. Oh for a little sun to warm us and dry
things out! Yeah I know I'm blowing the romantic
image of life at sea.

Our power dwindled without sun to charge the solar
panels and though we are usually loathe to run the
engine, we actually got excited about running the
engine to charge the batteries because the engine
warmed the interior. Even though we still had to
watch our fuel usage, we could justify running the
engine for an hour or so to bring the batteries back
up to charge. But when we first turned on the engine,
I immediately noticed that water wasn't jetting out
the transom like normal and quickly turned off the
engine since that meant our engine cooling water
wasn't circulating right. Garth opened up the engine
and discovered that the engine water intake was
completely fouled with barnacles allowing little to no
water in to cool the engine. With an old batten he
chiseled out the opening through the open thru hull
and we eventually got enough flow that we felt
confident running the engine again. Working on the engine
Our boat speed was
agonizingly slow for the conditions we faced and
looking over the side, it was easy to see why. Since
scrubbing the bottom the day before leaving Japan, a
sizeable crop of barnacles had attached to the hull.
We found it telling that the varnished wind vane
paddle had far less growth than the 8 month old
anti-fouling paint! Growth in only 49 days

Already flirting with
hypothermia, we shuddered at the thought of going over
the side to clean barnacles off the hull to address
the fouled thru hull (had our efforts failed) or to
improve our speed. We worried the saltwater intake
for the sink and head would have similar problems, but
I guess significant use made that less of a problem –
or so we hoped. But we had little choice but to
tolerate the slow speeds and hope for the best.

"Will we ever reach our destination?" we wondered,
feeling like kids in the back of the car on a road
trip. A lengthy trip like this proved a definite test
of our mettle. They say that what doesn't kill you
makes you stronger. Yeah, well . . . We had to work
to keep our spirits up, finding ways to lure each
other out of our alternating days of funk. Sailmail
remained elusive as a diversion, remaining merely a
power intensive exercise in frustration and many of
our best forms of entertainment were severely limited
by our low power levels. I kept finding treats that I
had squirreled away over a year before as our food
compartments emptied – Almond Roca, dark mint
chocolate, ganache . . . But, one can only eat so
much chocolate. Oh for a long hot bath, a steak
dinner, a full night's sleep . . . Or even a day of
warm sunshine and a view of a distant horizon.

Finally our prayers were answered and we had several
warm sunny days with good winds, which markedly
improved our spirits. Clear sunrise

We were ticking away the miles,
reaching three quarters of the way and then less than
1000 miles from our destination - major milestones.
At 250 miles, I encountered two ships at once, on a
course indicating they'd originated in Puget Sound.
One ship was on a collision course which never
wavered. Though I called him on VHF repeatedly, no one
ever answered and I finally had to alter course to
avoid a collision: evidently no one was keeping a
watch, listening to the radio or familiar with Coll
Regs. When I first saw Pacific Northwest kelp again,
I started getting excited for our arrival because then
we seemed really close. After 43 days, our families
must have been getting worried with no news from us
for some time.

We'd mused about stopping in Midway, Kodiak and
Hawaii, but hadn't left ourselves a lot of time to
enjoy these locations and still make Seattle this
season. (Ultimately weather conditions dictated: As
we neared points where we'd need to alter our course
if we were bound to each of these places, adverse
winds made these options unappealing.) As we finally
neared the North American continent, where to make
landfall became more than distant fantasy and
something we could actually talk about. We considered
clearing in to Ucluelet, Canada, the nearest port of
entry only a hundred some miles away. Nearby was a
favorite spot from our shakedown cruise – Hot Springs
Cove - which offered a long soak in a hot spring in a
beautiful setting full of fond memories. And after
such a long journey what a great way to finish! We
were running out of supplies and more than ready to
get there. So we refined our course and began
imagining our happy arrival.

You're probably as ready to finish reading about this
epic voyage as we were to finish living it . . . but
wait, there's more! (Like the never ending Ginsu
knife commercial . . . ) Mother Nature wasn't going to
let us off that easy. The next weather fax showed a
high followed by two lows and a gale – not a pretty
picture. We'd been lucky so far and hoped that
subsequent faxes would see these patterns shift as
they often had. A little north or a little south
might mean a world of difference in 24 hours.
Besides, we might be in by then anyway. But the high
rolled over us, sucking away the wind like a deflated
balloon. We started motoring, but worried that we had
too far to go for motoring to save us. Finally the
wind picked up. And then "Land Ho!" Yippee!

But the next weather fax still didn't look good. As
we closed in on the coast, we started listening to
vessel traffic control to monitor shipping traffic and
the weather reports they offered. They issued a gale
warning, but we continued to make progress, crossing
our fingers. The gale was a predicted to be a south
easterly and we were headed northeast – still doable.
Then they upgraded the gale warning to a storm
warning. Oh, shit! So we cracked off to head for Hot
Spring's Cove, the nearest safe harbor for those
conditions. We'd have a great excuse for not checking
in first. The southeasterly winds along the southern
part of the coast became easterly in the middle part
of the Vancouver Island coast and northeasterly
further north but we were near the middle. The winds
began building and were noted to be highest at Estevan
Point. Unfortunately, that's where we were. We
reduced sail area but kept on fighting to make it in
before the worst of it hit.

On the home stretch with a bad case of barn fever,
after 46 days of sailing, we were crushed when within
18 miles of making it into a rather straightforward
port entrance, we could no longer make any progress to
the east – now to directly windward. So close but yet
so far . . . A cruel joke, really. I think swimming
would have been faster. (It surely would have put me
out of my misery sooner!) Our tacking angles were 180
degrees at best, and we slipped sideways (our keel
more closely resembling a double sided hairbrush with
all the gooseneck barnacles than an effective
hydrofoil). Land disappeared behind heavy rain sodden
clouds; The sound of the wind howling in the rigging
became intense; The rain blew sideways; And the seas
became mountainous. And watching for shipping traffic
became hopeless in those furious heaving seas; We
reported our position to VTS so that ships would be
aware of our presence in the area.

But there was nothing we could really do but hunker
down and wait. We were basically hove to: We sailed
back and forth, with minimal sail area, making no
progress and enduring an unpleasant motion and
torrential rain while we waited for the worst of it to
pass. We worked hard to preserve our hard won miles
as the boat hobby horsed in the choppy waves, but we
were 35 miles away by the time the wind eased. The
wind eased but remained easterly. Finally after 2
days the wind shifted and we could again sail east. As
we unreefed the mainsail the stitching came undone
just below the 3rd reef. So under a triple reefed
main and large 150% genoa, we worked our way back into
the coast. We encountered big clumps of kelp and the
water turned from a dark blue to a dark green as we
neared land. We picked our way through the rocky
entrance to Ucluelet and barely made our way into the
channel to tie alongside just minutes before dark
after 49 days at sea. What a relief at last.Velella at whiskey dock: time for some whiskey!

We used 52 gallons of water, leaving us with about 18
gallons of water remaining as well as surprisingly,
1/2 tank of propane that could have kept us going for
another week at least. Thank God we didn't have to go
another week. Arriving in port, we felt like we'd won
the lottery rather than merely finished a rather long
and arduous journey. At this point we could finally
declare our circumnavigation of the Pacific complete,
though we were not yet back where we began. Before we
continue on to the US, we'll repair the mainsail as
best as we can by hand so we can use more than 80
square feet of sail area, refill our propane tanks,
scrape all the barnacles off the bottom and indulge
ourselves at a couple restaurants. Sewing the main

We plan to check
into the US in Port Angeles, about 100 miles
southeast, then head for Port Townsend and Port Ludlow
before carrying on back to Seattle in the next few