Saturday, November 10, 2007


The last few weeks have been filled with a smattering of life. I think that many small pieces of busyness take up more room in my life than just a few large ones. Like round melons (Yes, there are square melons) in a square box, there's just so much wasted space between them. We've been to the beach twice (for a church retreat and a tidepool-exploring field trip), the doctor's office, the recording studio, and the mechanic's. We've spent time with a couple of new babies, helped plan a birthday party and a baby shower, and scrounged haphazard meals from our increasingly filthy kitchen. Today is shaping up to be relatively relaxing, and I am snatching time at the computer this morning to share the first installment of our latest boating fun. (Sorry there's so much to read; it was a busy day. Pictures to follow)

We left Thursday after work for the drive up to Port Townsend, slept aboard (the first time for the girls--what fun!), and woke early Friday morning ready to re-rig the boat and be on our way. Stepping the mast went quite smoothly. It had been windy the evening before and we had wondered if we would have to postpone the work, but Friday was beautiful and the mast went up without a hitch. Just before the riggers, Ben and Ira, slid the mast into place, Ira called, "Anybody have a coin?" According to sailing superstition, it's very bad luck to step your mast without a coin underneath. Some people choose rare coins or one from a specific year. We offered the masters of sailing tradition the penny I had in my pocket.


By the time the rig was up and tuned, it was too late to leave, so we ran a few errands in town and puttered around on LiLo. (Some of my musician friends have joked about tuning the rig to a certain note. It turns out that there are some similarities to tuning a stringed instrument. With the purchase of any new rig, Port Townsend Rigging offers a free rig adjustment anytime in the first year because, just like the extra tuning needed after putting new strings on a guitar, the new wire stretches just a bit and makes early tuning necessary. )

Just before bed, we decided to check out the waste holding tank system so we didn't have any unpleasant surprises while underway. We had wondered if the system had deteriorated over the last few years without use. We turned the valves once and the answer came dribbling out onto the cabin floor. It was almost midnight before we had everything cleaned up, very glad to still be in port. After a few trips to West Marine the next morning (our new friend, Laura, was surprised to see us again...and again), we were finally good to go...so to speak.

As we motored out of the marina, the girls and I went up on the bow. The sun was out and the wind felt fresh on our faces. Up and around Marrowstone Island we rode the waves until we turned to face the wind and all came back to the cockpit. Meira went below and curled up in her quarterberth. Hannah pulled out a book and settled in for the ride. Bryan and I stayed above, enjoying the beautiful...what was that?

Before I could move to help, Bryan yanked off the companionway steps, opened the engine compartment, and aimed the fire extinguisher. We were all relieved to find that sometimes where there's smoke...there's just smoke. But now, with the engine compartment airing and the boat drifting backward through the shipping lanes, our priority became steering. Without forward momentum, a boat's rudder is useless. There were no cargo ships in sight, but we knew we needed to get a sail up--and quickly. Our rig included new halyards, the ropes that pull up the sails, but not the splices necessary to attach the halyards to the sails. Bryan grabbed his life jacket and climbed up on the cabin top. I stayed in the cockpit and relayed messages and materials up and down from Hannah in the cabin to Bryan on the deck above her head. She handed up sail twine, needles and strange metal implements (no not that thingy, the other one!) and Bryan stitched them together in record time. My relief as the mainsail went up was short-lived when the sail slides stuck about halfway up the mast. With no time to diagnose this newest glitch, we acted out an instant replay. Again the sail twine, needles and shackles passed from hand to hand. Again the careful stitching on the foredeck and--ahhhhhh--up went the jib.

Now we could steer, even if we could make no progress in our desired direction, and, with the boat a bit steadier, we stretched out in the cockpit with binoculars. The official diagnosis was, "something sticking out of the side of the sail track." Bryan sent the halyard aloft with just one sail slide attached to jam it back in place. After a brief moment of panic when we realized we were hoisting our main halyard with no way to retrieve it, Bryan hooked it on our telescoping boat hook, pulled it back to the deck and tied a line on the end. This time, his plan succeeded. He pulled down hard and the sail slide shot to the top of the mast. Soon we had the mainsail up and Bryan traded his life jacket for a toolbox. One replaced spark plug later and we were on our way again.


A bit more warily now, we motored south toward Kingston. But after only a few minutes, the engine sputtered, misfired and died. This time, the temperature gauge read dangerously high, so we hoisted the sails again and began to beat against the wind. We sailed through twilight into the evening, not knowing whether to bless or curse our GPS with its horribly accurate ground speed indicator. I sat at the tiller in 3 wool sweaters and a jacket, squinting through the salty film misting my contact lenses and did the math. Nine more nautical miles at 2.5 knots...would we make it in by midnight? I didn't even want to think of what we'd do when we got there since we'd never been to this particular harbor in the daytime, much less at night. Several hours later, we decided it was worth chancing the engine again. Our hope was that the raw water intake for the cooling system had been temporarily fouled with sea detritus (is it flotsam or jetsam--I can never remember the difference?) and that now that the engine was cool, it would behave.

By now the girls had cuddled up in their quarterberths and had fallen asleep to the motor's roar. I'm sure we ate dinner at some point, but my memory has blurred the last few hours of the evening into a miasma of wind and spray and squinting for land in the darkness.

We hadn't been out at night before, but all the books we'd read said that it's never completely dark on the water. And sure enough, as we sailed through the Puget Sound, the skyline of each city wore a halo: Everett off the starboard side, Edmonds toward 11 o'clock, Seattle just a thin haze of light far ahead. Then finally, around the last point, we spotted the ferry terminal of Kingston. We followed the directions from our cruising guide, and the harbor unfolded just as described. Past the ferry terminal, around the red flashing light (but not too close to the point with its unlit rocks), behind the breakwater and down the long guest dock to a port-tie slip. We'd made it!

Now we settled the boat for the night and took a short walk to find the marina's fee box. As we crawled into bed, we noticed water on the floor. Was the head leaking again? What hadn't we replaced? I cleaned it up, slid into the V berth and fell asleep.

The stuffing box (which allows the propeller to pass through the hull without letting in the ocean as well) leaked all night. Bryan finally got up around 5 am, to see if the bilge pump was depleting the batteries. Relieved they both still measured in the green, he finally got a few hours of sleep. More awake the next morning, we compared notes. With head-slapping clarity, we recognized the "leak from the head" as a rookie mistake. Through the wind and spray of the previous night, we never once thought to check the direction of the bow vent. Sure enough, it had been open to the weather all evening. We'd been baptized in salt water, but come out dry.

1 comment:

Liz and Brad said...

Wow! What a wild adventure! As one who isn't too keen on water, I have to say that my heart is racing a tad bit. I'm glad you all made it safely. :)