Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm back in Seattle

I'm adding this post many weeks after I arrived back in Seattle, but back dating it to Aug 14, my arrival date.  Rather than leaving Luckness hanging out in Neah Bay I thought I should bring the story up to date and bring her blog presence back to Seattle where we are now.

I left Neah Bay on August 10th, 6 days after having arrived.   It was a nice stay and I enjoyed the town this time.  I recall that when I left Neah Bay at the start of this journey back in Sept 2011 that I didn't have a very good impression of the town.  NeahBay only has a few restaurants and at least one of them isn't very good with mediocre food and poor service (its the one which looks the most promising, with a fancy building and a fireplace inside - probably the one the tourists first see when they pull into town.)  There are no pubs as Neah Bay is a dry town.  When visiting this time I thought the place was just fine, I could have stayed longer.  There is a supermarket which is small by city standards but after being on a passage for 21 days it seemed to have everything that I could want.  There is a first class pizza place in town with a wood fire stone oven and most of the ingredients made in house.  I also ate at the Indian Taco place a few times, the food was good and the staff were friendly.  There is a museum in town, the Makah Cultural Research Center which was cool.  I think the town is pretty much the same as the last time I was here and I attribute my changed attitude toward it to my learning a few 'cruising skills' during the last year.  Finding ways to enjoy where you are is a useful skill if you plan to visit a lot of different places - and I do have that plan.

When I left on the 10th Neah Bay had clear skies and the forecast was for very light wind all day.  I motored east heading to Port Angeles.  A few miles out of Neah Bay I entered a fog bank which was with me all day.  The visibility was down to around 1/8th of a mile - around 800 feet or less.  I watched my radar and AIS all day and had a good if somewhat freaky trip.  Along the coast near to the towns on shore there would be fleets of small boats fishing the local waters.  Some of these vessels had very poor radar reflections and so I didn't see them on radar until I was quite close.  I did manage to not be surprised by anything I was actually able to see visually as I had seem everything first on radar.  AIS was excellent, as usual, but the radar was very useful  on this trip.  When I was within 2 miles of Port Angeles I came to the end of the fog bank and I was able to enter the harbor and anchor in clear skies.

I left the next morning heading to Port Townsend but along the way I changed my mind and decided to head directly to Port Ludlow instead.  There was good visibility all day and I arrived just as the sun was setting and dropped anchor in a very familiar anchorage.  The paperwork I had waiting for me at Shilshole Marina was dated for August 14th so I decided to hang around here for a few days.

I left Port Ludlow on the 14th and completed this journey when I pulled into my slip at Shilshole Marina at 2pm, slip K39.

As I was motoring the final few miles, looking around me at all the familiar sights and going through the familiar routine of getting the fenders and dock lines out preparing to pull my boat into a marina I had entered dozens of times before - I started reflecting on where I had been in the last year and how much I had enjoyed my year away.  As I pulled into my slip I was hit with thoughts of whether or not I should turn around and head back out again immediately.  Luckness was in good shape and could easily have made the trip back down the coast to California - I had enough food and water on board to not even need to stop until I got there...  But then I had arrived and started organizing my dock lines and my new neighbor, Linda, came out to say Hi and that was nice.  It turns out that there are 6 live aboard boats in the immediate area.  One of the boats is owned by a couple who has sailed her around the world and are planning on heading out again.  Another boat is owned by a couple who has been living aboard for 33 years and has all sorts of sailing experience.  Another guy bought his sailboat brand new in the early 80's and has owner her ever since, sailing her around here and there in the mean time.  Linda has a large classic power boat which she is able to single hand around the area without any worries or bother.  This neighborhood that I've pulled into has some accomplished sailors that have immediately made me feel very welcome, I think its going to be a fun place to hang out or a while.  Within a day or so I had given up the idea of heading out again right away - I'm going to stick with my Plan A.
Plan A: stay around the Pacific Northwest until next summer.  Work through the list of projects I have accumulated during the last year.  Sometime in the summer of 2013, head back out.  This time I intend to sail to New Zealand via Mexico and the South Pacific.  
Plan A is enough of a goal for now - from New Zealand there are all sorts of possibilities for continuing my journey and as I get closer to needing to make the decision about where I go from there, I'll make it.  But I don't want plan too far in advance and there are a lot of things to do and see between now and then.

Luckness in our new home
Although I have been in a number of marina's after leaving Seattle last year, being back here is different.  I'm going to be staying around here for longer than my earlier transient stays in California and Mexico.  This opens new possibilities - for example, I have internet wired into the boat now - super fast reliable internet is awesome.  Its also nice to have a car again.  A friend of mine was kind enough to store my car in her garage while I was away - thanks Vonne!  When I got back I put my multi-meter on the car battery and saw the battery had 12.4 volts of charge after sitting unhooked in the car for a  year.  I connected the battery back up and the car started and has run reliably ever since.  Cool.  I've started working on boat projects which I'll talk about later but being back in this area makes the projects much easier as I know where to go for teak, engine parts, and so on.  I've been back to Fisheries, the best local chandlery, so many times that the staff are starting to learn my name and recognize me when I walk in again.  One of the parts that I have been trying to find for the past six months is a piece for my Achilles dinghy - the plastic cover for one of the inflation ports had broken.  I went back to the store I bought it from, Ballard Inflatable Boats, described the part and the owner walked over to a cabinet where there was a drawer full of them - I bought two.  Some things are much easier here.

I also rejoined the gym I used to be a member at here and have started trying to get back into shape.  When I left last year I had the impression that somehow sailors are all super fit creatures.  Somehow the motion of the boat rocking all the time would cause you to continually adjust your body and in doing this you magically stayed super fit.  This turns out not to be so true as I've lost a lot of strength over the past year and gained a few pounds.  When I left last year I had been swimming and training for many years and was in decent condition.  I was able to pull myself up my mast on my 3-1 block and tackle without much effort.  When I climbed my mast after having arrived back in Seattle to bring down my Tack Tick wind instrument there was much more effort involved.  When I got back into the gym the first time I went around trying to do the same weight on some of the machines until I learned that this wasn't such a good idea.  I almost crippled myself on the bench press leaving myself barely able to raise my arms above my shoulders for 4 or 5 days afterward due to the muscle pain in inflicted on myself.  I'm going to have to work on maintaining my fitness better during my next cruise - while I was away I felt fit enough but as I didn't have a benchmark I was comparing my fitness to I was slowing loosing strength without realizing it.  I'm starting to regain some of it back again and its something I'll work on this year.

When I left on this journey last Sept 1st, 2011, I was calling my journey the 'Shake me up tour.'  Somewhere along the way I dropped that name, as I wasn't feeling very shaken up.  Sure, I had bought a sailboat, worked on her like a madman for two years, sold my house, retired from a good job I had had for 20 years, moved onto the sailboat and sailed her down the coast to California - but it wasn't feeling very 'Shaken up.'  When you are sailing around in your own sailboat, there is comfort in having your home with you at all times.  After leaving Seattle last year I have spent every single night on board Luckness.  Sure we've moved around a lot and have been in California, Mexico, Hawaii and many places in-between - but through all of the trip there has always been the comfort of having my house with me.  Its an awesome feeling - my house is very seaworthy and can travel at between 2 and 7 or 8 knots, through calms and raucous seas.

A looked around a little for a second title I could give to my year and started calling it my 'Training year'.  I kept this title for a while as I initially liked the idea of treating this year as a big learning experience.  I was learning how to live on board and all sorts of other cruising things along the way.  Its been a really good year and I now feel confident that I can sail where I want to...if perhaps not when I want to.  I've reinforced the knowledge that when you plan a passage is one of the most important parts of the journey, there are good times and bad times for each passage.  I liked the 'Training year' title up until a few months ago when I started approaching the end of my year away and realized that the 'training' I was undergoing is never going to stop.  It seems to me now that the cruising lifestyle is going to have a lot of learning along the way, perhaps it will never stop.  Learning to sail better, understanding the weather more completely and other areas are things I will always be able to get better at.  So calling the year my 'training year' was limiting the training and learning to one year only which I didn't like, so I dropped that title.

One way to think of my year away is as a one year sea trial.  I liked that for a while, but a sea trial seems to be mainly boat oriented and this year has been much more than a search for ways to improve my floating home (although I did find lots of ways I could improve her and have started on some of them already.)

In the end I don't really have a title for my last year.  It was my first year cruising.  I  hope to follow it up with many more.

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