13 weeks later! We're doing this!
The last 13+ weeks has been the absolute wildest ride we’ve ever been on. It’s been hard, it’s been exciting, it’s been frustrating, and it’s been exhausting! But mostly, it’s already been an adventure!
It was really tough to hold off on writing an update until now because there was so much to document as a reminder one day, but there was also a reason behind the procrastination….FEAR OF FAILURE! Fear of making our life so transparent without actually making this work! Right up until the day we left, we were uncertain of how this would all fall into place. So much we still have to learn, SO many things we had to wrap up, and of course, the never-ending list of goodbyes that couldn’t possibly be accomplished before going. We left Piers Island the last week of July as our friends, who’d so graciously given us a home for the past 9 months, were now back from their own epic adventures at sea.
Details that felt overwhelming just fell into place, whether they’d been stressed about or not. A man, unknown to us, had heard through the grapevine that we needed to sell our motorboat (our commuter from Arena to the main island) and called us up one night. We hadn’t listed it for sale at that point because we relied on it to get the 6 of us back and forth across the ferry line, but after the phone call, our boat was sold within a few hours and we didn’t have to do a thing! He even let us keep the boat until the day we cut the dock lines! Our dear friends were looking for a bigger vehicle and we just happened to own a van that needed a new home, so that was dealt with! MORE trips to the thrift store than I care to admit and last minute purchases were made.
Summing up some of the majors during these 13 weeks: 1 set of braces removed. 1 surgery. 1 mast removed. 1 complete standing rigging replacement. 1 mast restepped. 2 jobs for Steph came to a close. 1 company for Jamie left behind. 2 birthdays. 1 minor procedure. 2 amazing adventures to Pender, first with Dad and Mom Leland (including a meet up with great friends) then for a Blue Water Cruising Rendezvous. 1 wonderful visit to Dad and Mom Craig on Salt Spring Island. 1 wallet lost days before departure….
We had a hard date of August 14th, so…August 15th we officially left Canadian waters, securing our offshore insurance as we sailed past Sidney!!! Some people have it all together. Sometimes we have it together, and the rest of the time we live on a hope and a prayer!
Leaving Vancouver Island was cathartic. We will miss our friends and family very, very much, but so much dreaming, planning, preparing, time, and energy had been put into this adventure that watching the island grow more and more distant felt like freedom. We could finally acknowledge that this was FOR SURE happening. By the time we got to Port Angeles, Washington, our first port of entry into the USA, we still weren’t far enough away for this to be shared…just in case.
August 15th, Port Angeles was a quick stop to provision and fuel up. We stayed in the marina long enough to make sure we found birthday presents for Bronwyn and Ada and to have a quick reprieve from the reeling of this enormous step forward. Our boat was an absolute disaster! Tripping on extra sails and a bagged drogue, bins of spare pieces and parts, extra bedding, and SHOES! Gah! The shoes that we have on the boat are driving me (Steph) crazy. 3 pairs of footwear x 6 people = 18 set of shoes. 36 shoes and they are never where they are supposed to be. Why do we have so many shoes!?
Being our first offshore experience, it’s important for our own benefit to include a few more details. While the feelings will always remain, details fade.
August 17th, all the pieces and piles shoved away to be dealt with never, we left the marina at 0330h to take advantage of the current through the Juan de Fuca Strait.. The seas were rough due to a storm that had passed by during the day before and Steph’s coffee lasted about 5 minutes where it was supposed to stay. What deceit to experience! Never a day of real nausea with pregnancy, rarely a moment in life with a bucket. Riley and Lochlan were also deceived but, never the less, we did our best to be stay in good spirits to celebrate Bronwyn’s 9th birthday. We had planned on stopping at Neah Bay that evening but last minute plans due to a great weather window had us cruising past the last stop before open waters. The beautiful birthday cake Bronwyn picked out was not eaten!
We spent the next few days heading further out to sea, first west, then turning southwest to reach the 100 nautical miles (nm) offshore that we’d planned ahead of time. We’ve never done this before. We didn’t know what to expect. We prepared as best we could and then…we were just out there! FREEDOM! It was exhilarating! The open ocean waves in combination with the winds made for quite the learning curve to navigate through the huge swells, the winds forever changing as we rose and fell through each swell. Jamie has a stomach o’ steel, thank God! The nausea that I felt kept me up in the cockpit for most of the time, but it didn’t ruin the experience for me. We motored, we motor sailed, and then it happened. We had just our sails up and it was pure magic! Arena was sailing 8kn in 11kn of wind in the middle of the most beautiful night. We had started our night shifts by taking 3 hour shifts, but this night, we struggled to share our experience by waking the other! We didn’t want it to end! We took 4 hours each with grins on our faces.
We watched porpoises shyly grace us with their presence. We saw whales everywhere! One whale breeched awfully close to the boat, forcing Jamie change course, when Bronwyn yelled “YOU BETTER SHOW ME THAT TAIL!”. In obedience, that enormous creature flipped its tail out of the water to create the most magical moment. I’d love to have an identification book because I can’t be sure what kind of whales they all were. We caught a tuna! Full stop.
The kids had good days and not so good days. Occasionally Ada and Bronwyn would feel nauseous, but all 4 of the kids were amazing! Just amazing. They occupied themselves, they slept, they made each other food, they played in pairs. They helped out with so much. We couldn’t have picked better kids to be ours if we’d ever had the choice! Because of the sea state, Bronwyn and Lochlan abandoned their v-berth, Bronwyn choosing the settee as her bed and Lochlan climbed into our bed with whoever wasn’t on night watch. Riley ended up moving from her starboard bunk to sleep at the settee as well, leaving stoic Ada as the only child seemingly untouched by the sea.
We knew that there was a system that would be blowing through starting Wednesday, but according to the predictions, it seemed manageable. Jamie was downloading weather multiple times a day (caution is vital, especially first time around!) and eventually came to the conclusion that we needed to find a safe harbour. Flexibility has become very real in our lives. Plans change. Weather happens. Life happens. To be honest, I was thinking of what antiemetic drugs might be available in USA that we can’t get in Canada!!!!!!! No coffee since August 17th …this was fun, but caffeine is really important too.
Once we decided to head towards shore, there was no messing around. The winds had picked up to 20-22kn which may have been just fine, but it was in combination with confused seas. It was rough trudging through it. Towards nightfall, our forward head displayed a large puddle of water; more specifically, salt water. Perhaps someone’s imagination ran away with her, assuming that the integrity of the hull had been compromised somewhere along the way and well…
Jamie informs that it seems to be a leaking hatch.
We made it to Crescent City, California with a few hours to spare before the winds picked up even more. Navigating into the channel proved adventurous in the fog between outcroppings of rocks, feeling more like surfing than sailing. Our tensions were lifted when a puffin was spotted looking up at us, then the sight of pelicans and the sounds of the sea lions, the glimpses of curious seals in the harbour.
There are no words for the emotions of completing our first leg of our first journey. What an amazing feeling to be here! We finally have enough distance behind us that we are doers now, not just dreamers. We’re doing this! The adventure of a lifetime is at hand.
p.s. Our boat is a right MESS!