Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Dispatch #1 Shilshole revisited

September 9, 2005
Hello friends from Shilshole Bay marina, our home port. Some of you have wondered what has become of us so we thought we’d write a rather prosaic first dispatch of our transition to the cruising life. So far, nothing too exciting has occurred on the boat which is good since, as we know, it’s the exciting times of which books are written, films are made and hair is made grayer (and we don’t have much further to go in that department).

Some of you know our exit from Seattle and Shilshole Bay Marina at the end of June wasn’t pretty. We were not only leaving the dock on our sailboat for a cruise, we were closing up our whole Seattle life as we’ve known it for more than 20 years and it was a daunting task to say the least. We were forced to sort our belongings into categories of store it, sell it, give it away or bring it with us. Several of you were invaluable in offering help with this—storing our stuff or helping sell our stuff or offering to help us sort our stuff and to all of you, a big thank you. In the end it was the two of us who had to do the last edit job and we are not too proud to admit that we weren’t very good at it. Perhaps it’s something that takes practice, and if that’s true, we don’t intend to work on getting good at it because it was emotionally traumatic to say the least.

Closing up the condo we were renting was less hard than seeing both our cars driven away by others who had purchased them. That, in some ways, was the most symbolic event that drove home the hugeness of this undertaking. We think we made a good decision to sell the house a year ago since doing that now would have driven us around the bend.

With the sorting done, we were left with stuff everywhere on the boat. We had been assured by others who have done this that this is normal. It didn’t feel good even if it was normal. It took us most of the first week of “cruising” to sort out our stuff and most of the first month to figure out what we think we really need. Help from friends was invaluable and we thank you who were there for us.

Despite all our efforts not to set a date of departure, we did have a deadline in mind which was June 30th, the day our moorage slip ended at Shilshole marina. That very day, in the late afternoon/evening, our bimini (sun cover for our cockpit) was completed and installed. We finished running around doing errands (there are always more errands but we got done what we set out to do), Richard watched his car be driven away for the last time. We looked at each other and at the boat which was a piled up mess with a very nice new bimini; it was around 7 PM and we thought, well, what are we waiting for? So, we left.

We did not plan to go far—Blake Island, one of our favorite haunts was 8 miles away so we went there, dropped the hook and let the enormity of our undertaking sink in, went to bed and slept like the dead. We spent the next 4 days sorting stuff and seeing friends who were all wonderfully supportive and helpful. Our plan was to stop at favorite places and see friends along the way and find out what did and did not work on the boat

OK, now for the first in what will be, we’re sure, a continuing part of this series: report of latest equipment failure. As most of you know, this part of our voyage was purposely intended to be local so that we could shake down most of our systems, many of which were new and some of which were untested. The other thing we will repeat often is that things break on a boat all the time. It’s not like a car—the marine environment messes things up royally. Everyone with a boat knows this mantra, the rest of you will have to take our word for it. Cruising is often defined as fixing the boat in exotic and distant ports.

The pump that empties our holding tank (that holds our sewage) stopped working. It wasn’t a catastrophe—the sewage stays where it is until we find a pump-out station to empty it and we had other ways of taking care of business—it just needed to be addressed. So we changed plans again (we are on Plan H or greater at this point) and headed for Anacortes, a town with every marine good you could need. Not only was the fix relatively simple (the part was there, the replacement fixed the problem—not often will we be able to report such success), but some other good friends who we thought were out of town were there as well

Lest you all think the sorting and stowing project got finished some days before, it seems to be a constant project and every day we work on something. In fact, our current plan is to spend time everyday on boat projects and maintenance along with whatever fun/relaxation we may have planned. Neither of us has even started a book because there’s always something to do or learn or practice.

When we finally were cruising, we headed to Sucia and Stuart islands in the San Juans, our favorites because of their beauty and the great walking trails they have. We traveled through the Canadian Gulf Islands and had our first wonderful sail downwind down the long channel in those islands. Finally we went to Hornby Island, sort of an orphan Gulf Island further north than the others.

Why Hornby? We have a woodworker friend who lives here who agreed to help us on a boat construction project just before we left Seattle—building a sea hood to protect our companionway (stairs down to the cabin) from waves coming in while on the ocean. That project will alter the deck of the boat enough that our dodger (canvas cover over the companionway (see above)) will need to be altered by the same seamstress who finished our bimini just an hour before we left Seattle.

Hornby is a beautiful island with an artsy craftsy nature that is one we’ve always loved. We spent a week there while the project was being done hiking, swimming (Betsy only, Brrrrr) and visiting some of our favorite places. Once the project was done we headed to the Sunshine Coast (BC mainland) to explore and went to the city of Vancouver which was a blast. We happened upon their outdoor Shakespeare festival and enjoyed “Love’s Labours Lost” at sunset on the waterfront. We enjoyed fabulous food and some great sailing in the harbor.

Alas we got some shocking bad news from home—Betsy’s father was discovered to have a huge subdural hematoma (bleeding inside the skull) from a fall 2 months earlier and was taken to emergency surgery. We made our way post haste to the U.S., cleared customs at Roche Harbor and Betsy took a seaplane to Seattle and on to Cleveland where she spent 10 days at the bedside. He is improving slowly with lots of ups and downs and there is likely to be another trip home in the near future to help. Meanwhile Richard brought the boat back to Seattle and has chipped away some more at the boat projects to be joined by Betsy August 5.

If all goes well with our final preparations here, we should be back on the sea again by August 12 and heading out to the west coast to wait for our weather window to take the boat to San Francisco. We find that all the uncertainties and the curve ball of family illness are helping us to understand even better that cruising must be flexible. So if we sound hard to pin down for dates and places—we are! More reports to come. Hope you are all well and enjoying beautiful summer weather!

Late breaking news: we’ve had more boat problems that will keep us in Seattle longer. More to come when we understand what all is involved in the projects. Meanwhile, we enjoy a beautiful summer in the Northwest and can’t complain about life.

August 23, 2005: And a final postscript to the first dispatch we hope. The boat work that took us by surprise was extensive. We have spent an extra 2 wks at Shilshole enjoying the unbelievable generosity of our friends while we work 8-10 hours/day doing a repair that was unexpected. Now the boat is ready and the crew, having gone through the gamut of emotions, is also ready. We depart for Neah Bay and parts south (California) by the end of this week if all goes well. Betsy’s Dad went home after a month in the hospital and subacute rehab as of yesterday.

Our deepest thanks and gratitude to the many friends who have helped carry us through this time in every way. We hope our future dispatches will make for more exciting reading!