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Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

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Sundown at the end of a rainbow, Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, Wash.

Which day do we choose as an anniversary date? The day we left Fort Collins (Sept. 10)? The day Sundown arrived in Bellingham (Sept. 13)? The day we sailed away from Seaview North’s dock (Oct. 14)?

It really doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, we’ve been living aboard and doing life different for a year. Wow! The last 12 months went fast. I remember thinking often, “A year from now, I’ll feel so much better and will have so much more experience.” And actually, both are true.

My take aways

So what’s different than a year ago? For me, a lot! For example, I don’t break down in a nervous fit of tears every time we start the engine, put up the sails or when I struggle to tie fenders on with a clove hitch knot. (Really, that did happen.) I now regard the sails as my friends; they stabilize the boat and provide a quiet, peace-filled ride when there’s sufficient wind to only use the sails for propulsion. When there’s not enough wind (see below), the engine and Grateful Dead provide a steady drone I try to block out.

I appreciate wind more than I used to. It’s always been the one element I dislike the most (So how funny is it I now live on a sailboat? Someone has a sense of humor!). Rather than being afraid of forecasted wind speeds above five knots, I now think “good sailing” wind is 15-25 knots. We don’t even hoist the sails unless we have at least eight knots of wind, because Sundown is a big girl! Her 15 tons of solid beauty requires more than a breeze to move her at any reasonable pace.

And finally, Sundown feels like “home” and living in a tiny house that floats suits me. We have everything we need and then some. Life is good.

Clay’s contemplations

One year living on Sundown. It is hard to believe! I remember the day we launched, as I walked over to the water with the boat hanging in the slings and felt so satisfied that all our hard work was going to pay off. I also felt a little nervous when I realized I’d never actually piloted the boat before. But when I took the helm to motor her around to the dock, she operated as expected.

When we left Seaview North’s dock last year on this day (Oct. 14), we motored due to lack of wind to Sucia Island where we’d been before. It was a 21-mile ride, which felt like a long day. We’ve sailed 2,574 miles since then, and some days average 50 miles or more.

It’s been a year of many firsts and a lot of growth. We visited many new places and made a bunch of new friends. And I feel like my relationship with Kim has grown in many ways. It has been amazing to see her become so comfortable with all the aspects of sailing.* We have had great adventures roaming through the islands both on land and at sea.

So as the sun sets on 365 days of living afloat, we’re looking forward to the promise of more adventures to come.

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*Editor’s Note: I only could have made it this far with Clay’s help. His calm demeanor when things get exciting and his saintly patience with my ineptitude as I stumble along on the steep learning curve I’ve been climbing has been remarkable. He is so knowledgeable about this whole boat thing and I’m immensely proud of him. Thanks, Honey!

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Getting settled in Anacortes. Working (yep, that “W” word). Sailing. Connecting with friends and wildlife. We’ve had a lot going on and it’s all good. (more…)

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A: I got to have both in one day!

 

Little did we know our trip to Anacortes to help friends work on and clean up their new-to-them boat would lead to so many exciting things! But first, let me backtrack.

When we returned from our July trip to Colorado, we didn’t know where we would head next or where we’d spend the coming winter, but we had faith our intended path would become clear just like it has throughout this whole adventure so far. Alas, we haven’t been disappointed.

That’s what friends are for

The first place we headed after working on Sundown in the Seaview North boatyard in Bellingham was Anacortes, Wash. We went there to help our friends Bob and Sandy work on their new-to-them Roughwater motor yacht.  It’s a 1983 and needed a lot of cleaning, painting, varnishing and repairs. We’ve been happy to help!

 

We also connected up with some friends from Fort Collins! Mary Carraher, Will Moore, Diane Westervelt and Jeff Pape. They were vacationing on Lopez Island and we sailed over there to meet them. Sunset beverages and tapas were enjoyed by all!

Gotta float the boat

When we returned to Anacortes from Lopez via Bellingham where we picked up our new solar panels which are now installed, Clay had the opportunity to interview for a job at a local boatyard, Marine Servicenter. They hired him on the spot (NO surprise given his amazing skills, work ethic and experience). So far, he’s built out their office with a new multi-desk area; laying a new teak deck on the owner’s boat may be next. It’s as much of a job as he’d like it to be—part time, full time, whatever. But we can’t anchor out in Fidalgo Bay when the weather turns bad, so we put ourselves on three waiting lists for a slip. Ancortes Marina, which is located right next to Clay’s job spot, came through in record time. Clay’s boss introducing him to the management didn’t hurt, but I believe prayer for the right spot trumped that connection. We’ll be moving into our slip by Friday, Sept. 9. Don’t think we’ll be tied to it permanently, though. We plan to cruise the San Juans and back up to Canada for fishing as much as possible.

You may be wondering why Clay got a job. Here’s why: while my income floats the boat, I don’t make enough for extras like trips back home and boat upgrades (e.g., solar panels). Having Clay contribute to our income will be nice. After all, he’s been goofing off for a year; it’s time to pay the piper! Also, it’s always been our plan to work a bit and then cruise a bit, at least till we’re old enough to draw from our pensions, so Anacortes is our first pit stop for the work part.

Bikes are back

Since we’re staying here at least through the winter, acquiring some ground transportation seemed reasonable and there’s NO better kind than bicycles! Clay found potential options on Craigslist and this morning those potentials became ours! Clay has a Norco (Canadian made) 2 X 6 (12 speed) and I have a circa 1980s Diamondback Ascent 3 X  6 (18 speed). They both needed a little lovin’ so we went to the Bikespot during today’s Open Streets event (Yes! This town just hosted its 3rd annual open streets event!) and got hooked up with fenders, bike racks to accommodate our panniers, and new tires and tubes. Thank you, Nick and Carolyn (Bikespot’s owners)! For $300.00 TOTAL, Clay and are are back on two wheels!

 

 

While cruising down the street, we also met the woman who coordinates Safe Routes to School programming for Skagit County, as well as the guy who chairs the area’s bike/ped commission. He and I are having coffee in a couple of weeks. (I’m trying to contain my excitement here!)

 

 

So, it seems we’re meant to be in Anacortes and we can’t wait to see what the next few months hold in store and how we get to help this wonderful town become an even more robust bike friendly place! I’m actually feeling rather giddy…like a little kid at Christmas!

 

The lesson here is that if you prayerfully leave yourself open to possibilities rather trying to script every move you make, wonderful opportunities show themselves. Thank you, God, for giving us this new twist in our adventure! Oh yea, and thanks for the chance to wash my hair today! It’s the little things…

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We’re having a wild time here in British Columbia!
In Ocean Falls, Clay made friends with a seal while setting a crab trap. After he vacated Lightfoot the dinghy, the seal hopped in it. I’m going to start calling him the seal whisperer. (Make sure your sound is on and the volume is turned up!)
One day we were “bear-ly” dressed in Eucott Bay’s hot spring (check out the map below). While soaking in the rock-rimmed “tub,” we watched a grizzly on the opposite shore. Once back on Sundown, we saw another grizzly and two black bears!
The next day, Clay went out fishing in Lightfoot. I stayed behind to work and am sorry I did, as he had a close encounter of the whale kind. He says he didn’t know whether to try to get to shore, make a run back to Sundown or just stay put. He choose the latter,  and to hold on tight to the dingy and his bowels.
We’ve also enjoyed the company of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, many kinds of birds and some sea lions. Here’s to living life on the wild side!

Where in the world are we?

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Sundown in Emily Bay.

I woke the morning we were going to make the next big leap north toward Alaska feeling confident and ready. But as we crossed the north entrance of Raymond  Passage out of Shearwater on Denny Island, I had an overwhelming gut feeling we needed to immediately change direction. I said as much to Clay and we did. Rather than continue out and around Price Island and up Hecate Strait, we went the opposite direction up Return Channel (the name was not lost on me) to Emily Bay in Briggs Inlet. It’s a beautiful spot surrounded by granite walls and high forested mountains with a small river at its head. Perhaps, for whatever reason, north British Columbia is meant to be our destination, not Alaska.

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Clay scantily clad on the beach?

When we’re not sailing, you probably imagine we’re strolling on white sand beaches at sunset, dipping our toes in the surf. Actually, we’ve only walked on two sand beaches in our journey so far and we had our Bog boots on. One of the beaches was about 100 yards long by 50 feet wide until the flood tide when it shrunk to about 100 feet long and 10 feet wide, but there was sand, nonetheless. The other was during gale force winds (34-47 knots knots) with rain coming down in sheets. It was marvelous! We HAD to get off the boat that day after being cooped up for a couple previously, so we dressed in our foul weather gear and dinghied to the Hakai Institute landing in Pruth Bay to hike to the west side of Calvert Island where we could check out the Pacific Ocean. Then we hiked to the island’s northern shore—just because we could. (more…)

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Friends are made fast when cruising. Since we’re confined to a boat the majority of every day, it’s wonderful when we get to interact with people. (Yes, Clay and I have each other and we actually still like each other, but I’ve already heard all of Clays stories. He loves having a new audience.)

Our friends Bob and Sandy, who we met in Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, traveled with us for a few days when we first entered Canada. We window shopped in Ganges, hiked around Wallace Island, played cards and just hung out. Our time together with these kindred spirits came to an end when they decided their turn around point was just before Dodd Narrows. So Clay and I continued on as a duo until we anchored in Walsh Bay in Desolation Sound preparing to go through the Yuculta and Dent Rapids. That’s where we met our new friend, Chris Bowman.

Chris recently retired from running the nano fabrication facility at Carnegie Mellon University. He’s on solo trip in his 36-foot Catalina, Puget Escape. We became fast friends in the course of a week (was it only a week?)–eating dinner together every night while reviewing the next day’s weather and routes, listening to music and just getting to know one another. He’s super smart, well-educated, an experienced sailor and a pilot, so we appreciated having his opinion about conditions. (It was the old “three heads are better than two” theory at work.)

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Chris and Puget Escape sailing across Queen Charlotte Strait

It also was comforting having each other nearby to render aid if necessary, like when Chris’ dinghy painter got wrapped around his boat’s propeller and Clay got to use his newly honed propeller unfouling skills (see one of our recent blog posts for details). Or when we snagged an underwater logging cable with our anchor. Chris was preparing to help free us from the bondage just as we were able to unhook ourselves from the steel tether.

Clay and Chris also fished together. It was fun to watch the two of them head out in Chris’ RIB (or rigged inflatable boat, which is a big dinghy with a large outboard motor on it…think FAST!). They both sported large grins making them look like they were up to something, which I’m sure they were. Their excitement was contagious when they caught lingcod, black bass and rock fish, as well as crab and prawns. Together they laughed off the days the fish and the lures got away.

But the Broughton Islands are Chris’ turn around point. After a couple more weeks, he’ll head back south to Olympia, Washington, where he moors his boat. We are continuing our northerly passage bound for Alaska.

The frequent goodbyes are a bit sad, but on the flip side, it’s exciting to see who we get to meet and befriend next. Who knows, maybe we’ll even find our friend Steve Jones. If all has gone according to his plans, he should still be making his way back to his home in Craig, Alaska, and might just be around the next bend.

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