Bound for Juan de Fuca

Homeward Bound!

In July 2014 Baraka turned her bow north for the 2700 mile passage to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. After 8 years of voyaging, this would be our final ocean passage. The strategy is to head north to about 48 degrees latitude, then turn east. In theory this would take us around the Pacific High. It's a bittersweet passage, knowing we are at the close of some wonderful adventuring. Dave says, "It's our last passage, let's make it fun!. Hmmm. Not buying it. Passages are many things to us, but never "fun".

July 9 - 23 02 N, 158 43 W - Target practice

Boom-edy-kaboom-boom! At 10:10 am local time a huge percussive blast pounded. Wholly shit! (as friend Jeff writes). Either Kiluaea was having an event, or RIMPAC had started its practice maneuvers. No smoke plume, so I turned on the radar and saw it was blocked with false returns. The radio was silent - though I felt like crying "Don't shoot!" All quiet since. Hope we are sailing out of range.

Winds slightly ahead of the beam, 20-25 knots gusting to 30 in occasional small squalls. Dave threw a second reef in the main so we are moving a little more slowly but a lot more comfortably. Only casualty so far is the hook that holds our stalk of bananas pulled free. We are off to a good start, headed almost due north. All is well.

July 10 - 25 13 N, 159 04 W

245 miles down, 2478 to go! Conditions are almost pleasant, 20-25 knots just ahead of the beam, manageable seas except for the occasional breaker, so hatches are closed. I was just stepping into the cockpit for a shower when a green wave pooped us, soaking my precious clean! dry! towel. By the trip's end a dry towel will be a luxury.

Dave tweaks the watch schedule. I am cranky the first couple days until I start getting enough rest. We like to give each other 6 night hours off-watch, but this is hard to do on the first couple sleep-deprived days until we get into passage cadence. Too much motion to cook, that too will change as we settle in.

Boats just now making landfall ahead of us each had a couple gales. By delaying until July we are hoping the pattern is more settled. Time will tell.

July 11 - 27 11 N, 159 36 W

Winds have gone light so we have slowed to 4 knots. Gribs show low pressure systems marching west to east above us. We will try not to make any more westing to avoid the worst of it. We are ghosting along over seven seamounts named after composers, called the Musicians Seamounts on our charts. Makes us wonder who named them.

The genset has been hard to start. Dave has been troubleshooting. Then last night it sounded different to Dave. He quickly found no seawater coming out (a water cooled engine) and shut it down, then spent his night watch replacing the seawater impeller. The impeller he took out was just installed new in Hawaii, but was missing several of its ears! Fixed now, and once again doing its job. We run the genset twice a day to charge batteries and chill the fridge/freezer.

All is well.

July 12 - 29 00 N, 159 21 W - Iron wind

As forecast, our tradewinds died, so we fired up the Perkins, running low RPMs for stingy fuel consumption. Gribs show another 3-4 days of the same as we work northward along the western edge of the Pacific High. In anticipation, Dave loaded an extra 3 jugs with diesel, in addition to our tankage and 7 jugs, and hope this is enough. Seas are flat, deep deep ocean blue, under mostly sunny skies. We have a some favorable current, sweet. It is calm enough to walk around the boat without holding on, and do things requiring 2 hands! Temps are still balmy, warm enough for cockpit showers. All is well.

July 14 - 32 36 N, 159 11 W - Drifting along

We motored for a day, then last night a breeze filled in from the northwest so we are again sailing north, 4 knots speed in about 10 of wind. This trip so far has been slow but easy, on us and on the boat, so we are happy. The nights are starting to cool, enough to break out a long-sleeved shirt though we are still in shorts and barefoot. Almost 700 miles down, 2000 to go. Some excitement last night, a ship on the radar 20 miles away, but no AIS and never saw him visually. Every so often we pass a renegade fishing float, but there is little else out here to see. All is well.

July 15 - 34 40 N, 159 23 W - Drifting

Motored overnight in calm. This morning the wind filled in slightly from the SW, so we poled out the jib, and are now drifting along making about 4 knots in 10 of breeze, helped by a small favorable current, in fairly flat seas. Dave is tempted to cut the corner of the high, though if we hold to our plan we may get a small boost from a low to the west of us. The gribs show light airs for the next 10 days, further than our fuel range, so we must milk these zephyrs. In checking the engine oil, Dave discovered the refrigeration belts twisted. Amy's Dad told him this happens when a strand in the belt breaks. He spent an hour replacing the belts so we are again good to go next time we have to motor.

July 16 - 36 17 N, 159 43 W

Early this morning we shut down the engine, and now are gliding wing-on-wing, making 4-5 knots in 10-12 of wind. Dave says we are enjoying the "squash zone" between the high and a low just west of us. 10 day outlook is light air, but mostly sailable if we break out Fat Albert. Very odd to be on passage and walk about the boat without holding on. A freighter passed within 3 miles, likely going from California to Japan. Dave entertained the notion of hailing him to see whether we could buy some diesel. We have gone a third of the distance, and used roughly a third of our fuel, more than we would like, but about as expected. Banana bread day - the remaining bunch have gone ripe. All is well.

July 17 - 37 52 N, 159 48 W - Slow motion

Feels like we are headed to Alaska, as we continue north. Can't turn yet, the windless high is just to our east.

Last night the knot meter stopped working. We know our course and speed across the bottom from the GPS, but the knotmeter is input to calculation of true wind speed and angle, needed to trim sails. I got the idea of trailing a line from the bow to knock the bit of seagrass off, which didn't work, as the line floated on the waterline. Dave cleverly started the engine and reversed the boat, just enough to dislodge the blockage, and it is working again.

Gribs show bad news, the high sliding NW across our path. Dave entertains the notion of beating westward under it, but we must get north of it sometime. I am hoping in another day when winds go even lighter we can turn eastward, and fly Fat Albert. We repaired it in Hawaii but the ripstop is tired, so can only fly it in light winds.

We remind ourselves that this is an easy trip - we just need patience. So long as we are drifting forward we will preserve our fuel. Today we have 12 knots astern, enough to shove us along at 4 knots. Fog has settled in, so the radar is needed to keep our watch. We cycle it on hourly, though have seen only 2 ships since Oahu. Yesterday a green sea turtle flippered by. What's it doing up here in cool waters? All is well.

July 18 - 39 31 N, 159 30 W - Birthday at sea

Today is Dave's 65th birthday. I wrote a poem enumerating a few of Dave's varied achievements. The pie and ice cream must await landfall!

The repaired Fat Albert is flying today and we are making to the NE. We would prefer to keep heading north, as the high is moving up, but we are a too far south to stay ahead of it. The 10-day grib shows very little wind unless we can get above 48 degrees. We don't have the fuel to do that, so must keep drifting along. Zero ships, lots of fog, one albatross. All is well.

July 19 - 40 26 N, 159 15 W - Ghosting along

Yesterday Fat Albert blew out again, in the fabric alongside the repair, so no point in fixing it again. Very sad. This colorful sail has helped pull us across 3 major oceans. Last several days we made under 100 miles, and more light air ahead so we are doubly sorry to witness its demise.

The ten day grib shows very little wind, as the high slides in front of us. There is some wind up at 50 degrees latitude, 600 miles away but we have only fuel for a range of 400 in the tanks. So we will slide along in these zephyrs and practice patience. Alongside, what the Mexicans call Agua Mala sail by, thousands of tiny Portuguese Man-o-War. All is well.

July 20 - 40 05 N, 159 37 W - Adrift!

Baraka is becoming a part of the Pacific Gyre, that floating garbage dump of flotsam that drifts at the center of the Pacific High! We made a dismal 40 miles in the last day, and will do much less today. We are adrift in a slight NW setting current.

We had plotted the waypoints from Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes to mark how to get around the high. This seemed to be a good strategy, but as we approached the turn, the high slid NW and parked on us. Our outlook is dead calm for most of the next week before winds fill again. Then we will get some good sailing for a few days, then fall into another hole. This is going to be a very slow trip.

We discuss strategies - like burning a day's worth of our precious fuel heading westward, to catch some wind on the west side of the high. This could pay off, but only temporarily, as those winds too will die out. Patiently waiting seems our best option. We have enough fuel for the genset for our power needs, full propane tanks, and plenty of food. We don't like to spend our last fuel until we are in range of land, still over 1500 miles away. Yesterday a large pod of dolphins bounded by, noisily churning the seas for a few minutes. A small swell rolls the boat, flogging a double-reefed main, the only sail we have up, and that only to dampen our roll.

July 21 - 41 45 N, 159 25 W - Strategizing

Noon to noon we made another dismal 40 miles, none toward our destination. Dave is transferring the last of our fuel jugs into the tanks. He uses a "super siphon" and nary a drop gets spilled. Then he spent some hours troubleshooting a mystery electrical problem on the galley circuit.

Studying the gribs, he considers motoring ENE along our rhumbline. About 3 days away we'd catch some favorable winds for a couple days, then fall into the next hole. This would burn through a big chunk of our fuel, but we'd be closer and in a region that should offer better wind patterns. Or not. This guesswork is enough days out that we can't see with much confidence.

Today we have had a mixed bag, windless drizzle when even the Agua Mala with their purple petticoats seemed to be overtaking, and now a NE breeze, enough to shove us northward at better than 4 knots, so we will sail until it dies. Still about 1500 miles to go. Thanks to Bruse's apples we won't get scurvy. All is well.

July 22 - 43 11 N, 158 39 W - Cooler

Yesterday when we decided to motor, a breeze filled in and we got a full day slowly sailing, making about 90 miles NNE. Now it has gone light again, so the motor is on. We are headed up to 45-47N where we will have sailable winds, and feeling more optimistic about the outlook.

It is cold now for our tropical bones - Dave reports being layered in 4 shirts and 3 pairs of socks, and we now sleep under a quilt. All is well.

July 23 - 44 42 N, 156 59 W - A ship!

We are again ghosting along at 2.5 knots, wing-on-wing. Our fifteenth day was a checkerboard of motoring and slow sailing, trying to edge NE. Gribs have been very accurate, so we expect somewhat better winds in about 15 hours.

This morning Dave heard a foghorn. He turned on the radar and saw a ship at 15 miles. Soon the AIS reported that it would pass astern, .8 miles away. The ship's bridge hailed us, giving ID, course and speed. Dave replied with ours, and was told they could see us on radar. Nice to know they were watching out for us! Dave asked whether they might have a spare drum of diesel, but no joy, though they seemed regretful not to help. We never did see them in the fog. 1346 miles to go, we are now halfway to Neah Bay. All is well.

July 24 - 45 54 N, 155 13 W - Sailing!

We are a sailboat again! Gribs spot on, we got 12-13 knots from the NW this morning and are rolling along at a comfortable 5 knots on our rhumbline. Should continue to pick up a bit, then hold several days. 3 ships yesterday. 1250 miles to go. All is better.

July 25 - 46 33 N, 151 54 W - Home stretch

Winds 18-25 overnight boosted us along. We made 130 miles noon to noon. Dave threw the third reef in the main to better balance the boat with a poled-reefed jib, and we are running downwind, vane steering. Feels like we are finally on the home stretch. 1100 miles to go. For a long time, one degree of longitude or latitude represented roughly a nautical mile. This is still true for degrees latitude, but now as we work north, a degree longitude is roughly 2/3 of a mile.

We plan to work a little south over the next couple days to try to pass under a low. Then we will hit another patch of light winds, and then maybe a rowdy 20 knots from the NW as we approach the coast. Lots of sail changes as the winds clock all over. Thermometer reads 57 but feels much colder with the wind chill. We have closed up the cabin, are layered in every warm thing we own, and heat soup, coffee, tea. All is well.

July 26 - 46 47 N, 149 20 W - Tortoise and Hare

Errata: 1 minute latitude equals a mile. Doh.

Winds lighter. Making a pokey 3 knots in only 6 of wind. We debate taking the last reef out. We might get a half knot but the in light air and swell the main will flog miserably, so no. We are consoled by a dolphin show. They leap around the boat for several hours, hundreds of them, synchronized swimming with spectacular leaps. Calm enough today to shower and cook a bit. 1000 miles to go. All is well.

July 27 - 47 05 N, 147 15 W

Slow day, noon to noon only 90 miles, but now the winds have again filled in. It is unrelentingly chilly. We had the genset heat water for welcome showers yesterday, and I did a little baking to warm the cabin. Dave heats hot apple cider. 915 miles to go, all is well.

July 28 - 47 30 N, 144 11 W - Progress

We are making about 5 knots in 15 of NW wind and easy seas, pleasant conditions. Couple whales visited this morning, one blowing right next to the hull. If we keep this pace up, I have enough Hershey bars left to make Neah Bay. All is well.

July 29 - 48 03 N, 141 29 W - Steady gains

108 miles noon to noon. Winds clocked from NW to W so this morning I gybed the main and we are again wing-on-wing in 10 knot winds, making under 4 knots now. We will get a bit more of this, until winds clock S as we go through the bottom of a low, giving us better speed. Then winds die for a day, and finally fill from the N for our landfall approach. 675 miles to go. We have enough fuel to motor when winds go light, so should be able to keep moving.

This has been one slow passage! We remind ourselves that the boats that did it in June hit high winds and a few gales, and we are fortunate. But a bit more wind would be very nice...Boat holding up well, except for the mystery wiring problem in the galley, and the head is whining for a rebuild. Small issues on a passage this long, these are landfall tasks. All is well.

July 30 - 48 33 N, 139 06 W - Feeling the low

Winds clocked around S then built as we entered a low pressure system. Blowing 20-25, to 30 in the squalls, so Dave put the third reef in. Took one wave into the cabin, main hatch not toggled shut, but otherwise riding dry. We are letting it blow us a bit north of our course until it eases. This morning we hit a log. Tremendous bang. It nudged the prop lock off, but we don't detect any damage. Not the most pleasant conditions, but making good time. 575 miles to go. All is well.

July 31 - 49 39 N, 136 02 W - Working NE

Strong winds overnight shoved us further to the NE. Baraka is pointed at the north end of Vancouver Island, 300 miles away. We are now 75 miles north of our rhumbline. Not a problem, in less than a day we should be getting moderate winds from the NW, which will push us back down. Nice breezes now, 12-15 on a comfortable beat, we are starting to shake out more sail.

We discuss a Vancouver Island landfall, but it looks like a favorable angle of sail to make Neah Bay, maybe on the 4th. Saw a large shark circle next to the boat yesterday. As if we needed further incentive to stay aboard. 450 miles to go. All is well.

August 1 - 49 55 N, 133 27 W - Motoring

Nice sailing yesterday. Early this morning the wind went light as we are crossing a narrow high so we are motoring. It was so glassy this morning Dave could not tell the sea from the sky. In a few more hours we expect wind to fill from the NW, then maybe hold the rest of the way. Ship's clocks are still set to Hawaii time, so it is light at 2am! Dave spotted a whale, and a few ships have passed. 360 miles to go. All is well.

August 2 - 49 40 N, 130 47 W - Ocean motion

We are sliding across the east side of a high. Overnight winds filled and we are sailing on a broad reach, making 5 knots, almost on course. Seas are short and steep, with a nasty snap-roll motion. We find places to wedge ourselves to keep from being thrown around. Heavier winds just ahead - maybe better speed will make the motion more tolerable. 250 miles to go, all is well.

August 3 - 49 01 N, 127 29 W - Galloping to the finish

The Pacific decided to give us a parting reminder of who's boss. Winds kicked up to 30 for a sleigh ride overnight. Dave tucked the 3rd reef in the main, and dropped a hatchboard in when the cockpit took some splashes. Shiver me timbers! The windchill feels frosty. Making good time, we will have a daytime landfall tomorrow. Starting to see more traffic, and fishing boats for the first time. Bull kelp floats by - home waters! Only 120 miles to go, we are now just 40 miles offshore from Estevan Point. Should see lighthouse beams tonight. All is well.

August 5 - Decompression

Yesterday we approached Neah Bay in dense fog. Dave ran the radar continuously. Small fishing boats would pop out of the gloom, then be sucked back in. As we approached Tatoosh the fog lifted, and soon we could see fir trees and smell seagull guano, our first land smell in 27 days.

Just outside the marina breakwater our GPS failed, to give us a last moment of anxiety, though the bay entrance was clear. Winds kicked back up into the 20s for our approach to the fuel dock, where we took on 50 gallons. The helpful attendant called the marina and got a slip assignment. Soon we were tied to a dock. Our sea legs cause us to stagger along like drunken sailors. Dave hooked up shore power and we plugged in an electric heater, last used in 2006! Glad we still have it. We enjoyed stand-up hot showers, takeout pizza, and a solid night's sleep on clean sheets. Indescribable luxury! It takes a little misery to appreciate comfort.

Today I lugged the stinking pile of laundry to a laundromat. Next job is rebuilding the head, which has been getting cranky lately. We will do a few boat chores here and rest another day, then work our way to Port Townsend.

We are both feeling a panoply of emotions, relief at having this long passage safely over, sadness at the end of our cruising adventure, excitement at returning home to family and friends. The future yawns as gaping hole - we don't have any Big Plan for what is next. This in itself feels very dismaying - there has been no moment in the past 8 years when we didn't have a goal and a next destination. Feels a bit like we are in free fall!

Words are inadequate to convey what these 8 years of voyaging have given to us. We learned that we could exceed what we thought were our limits of endurance. We came to rely absolutely on each other. We loved the landfalls, the sealife, the friendships, the cultures. We don't know if we have changed, but we certainly have grown, especially in appreciation of the many kindnesses that have come our way. It's a big world, with a heck of a lot of water, and it has been a privilege and pleasure to see so much of it.

August 7 - Port Angeles

We cast off from Neah Bay early today, and fought a slight ebbing current for a few hours, then enjoyed the flood - 8+ knots, whoo hoo - all the way to Ediz Hook. The fog slowly lifted as we threaded though small fishing skiffs off Sekiu and Clallam Bay. The Clallum Bay Sheriff's launch came by to query us underway. As the fog lifted we could see the spine of Vancouver Island, and the snow-flecked Olympics. The straits wind piped up as we approached Port Angeles, and we had a small fire drill docking in the marina when we were caught sideways in the gusts. After all this time, you'd think we have it down! No drama though, we were soon securely tied and walked into town to explore. Tomorrow we plan to head to Port Townsend where we will park for a week.

August 8 - Port Townsend - a Homecoming

This morning we motored out of Port Angeles, for the final 32 miles to Port Townsend, the small town at the corner of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. It is a thrill to sail past familiar landmarks. We could see Cattle Pass, Smith Island, Whidbey. Rounding Point Wilson, we have come full circle, back to the point where our voyage started. In 2006 we stopped here to pick up our new cruising spinnaker from Port Townsend Sails. Family members joined us aboard while Carol Hasse sailed across the bay with us, teaching us how to fly and snuff Fat Albert. We spent a week settling the boat into passage mode for the trip to California. Other family and friends came to wish us bon voyage.

Now it is happening again, this time family coming here to welcome us home. We are tied up in Boat Haven where we will spend a week, relaxing and visiting, while we try to line up moorage. Baraka is on a wait list for Edmonds, our first choice, and we've also applied to Shilshole. If neither work out, we will look at Everett Marina.

August 16 - Shilshole Marina

After exploring options for moorage, we have signed up for a liveaboard slip at Shilshole. This is a huge marina in Ballard, an epicenter of marine businesses, not that we need much at this point, but is also on the Burke-Gillman cycle trail that stretches to Lake Union, then around the north end of Lake Washington. Ballard is a vibrant community, near the heart of a big city. Big changes for us.

We cast off from Port Townsend early this morning and motored south into the sound. Deadheads floated everywhere requiring some vigilance. One log sported two basking harbor seals, unperturbed as we slid by. At Shilshole a raft of my and Daveís family came by, hugging reunions and a lovely welcome home.

August 18 - Re-entry

We are donning the trappings of civilization! Dave woke his cell phone, and we are trying to revive Caraka, our elderly Rav4. At the dock we are arranging internet and TV! We donít own a TV, so this will be a novelty. Nearby is a good athletic club with very reasonable rates for seniors. We are signing up for Medicare, pensions, and figuring out how to receive mail and packages. Shilshole is a floating community of some 300 liveaboard boats - about a third of the slips. New neighbors are friendly and helpful. We got the bicycles out and rode uphill a few miles to the T-Mobile store, then toured Ballard and the Hiram Chittenden Locks, busy on a summer Sunday with pleasure boats returning home to the lakes. Back along Shilshole we rode to Golden Gardens, the beaches packed with happy picnicking families. We are growing roots for the first time in 8 years. It feels strange not to be planning the next leg. Kick back time, very relaxing.

August 23 2014 - the EpiBlog

After 8 years, some 46,000 sea miles, roughly 284 days on passages, 242 anchorages, 77 marinas, and 45 countries, we are finally back home. We will likely not make any more long passages, but are grateful that our health and endurance allowed us to make this fantastic journey.

Upon landfall we are often asked about pirates and storms, neither of which we encountered. Then the conversation falters, telling us that people who havenít shared this cruising life have little concept of what it is like, or perhaps little interest in it. We do enjoy talking about it, but realize it is like hearing of someoneís vacation on a cruise ship or to Disney World, of very limited interest to others who werenít there.

This cruising blog has given us an outlet to describe our adventures to the audience that cares to hear it, most gratifying. When we made this final landfall we received hundreds of congratulations emails, many from folks we didnít know were following along. Thank you!!

Now it is time to put the blog to rest. Iíll add entries next summer if we make a trip to Alaska, but will not update again while Baraka is dockbound.

Thanks for following along!

To those still out there, we will be following your blogs with interest and more than a little envy. We wish you fair winds and safe travels.

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