Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 2: Down the Coast of Washington

15 September 2009: Tuesday

"A" watch takes over from "C" watch at oooo hrs. They have been watching the phosphorescent plankton in the water. A cruise ship has passed. It has been an easy watch they report. It is not long after we are on deck that we approach Neah Bay at 0030. I drift back to 1982 when Jean, my twin, Mike and I on board Sabra, my Swan 36 made landfall at Cape Flattery coming from the Hawaiian Islands and entered Neah Bay. Wow; that was 27 years ago and my memory of it, is as fresh today, as it was then. I'm wearing the same survival suit tonight.

At 0130 hrs we pass Cape Flattery. This is the second time in my life to pass this cape and I have never seen it. The first time it was fogged in and now it is shrouded in the dark of night. 10 minutes later Kyle orders us to alter course to steer 265 degrees. We are being under the watchful eye of Tofino traffic control from Vancouver Island. The Canadians seem so polite on the radio,"Good morning, this is Tofino Traffic Control". Their politeness changes, as an inbound ship migrates over into the outbound lanes. "Captain, What is your intention?", he snaps. " When do you plan on returning to the south lanes?" The vessel officer speaking in broken English answers, and whatever he said, seemed to satisfy the traffic controllers. Kyle notifies Tofino at 0230 when we round R 2D buoy at Duntze Rock and we change course to 180 degrees. Tofino takes our position and asks us to report when we have reached 48 degrees. We are currently at 48 degrees and 24.o minutes. Each minute of latitude is 1 nm, therefore, we have 24 nm to get to 48 degrees and our speed is approximately 4 knots. We will be there at about 0830 hrs.

We are in the Pacific Ocean and heading down the coast. This is new territory for me. We have seas on our bow and slight wind. During our watch, we went through several rain squalls and building seas. The action on the tiller became rather intense and at times it took a lot of stamina to hold our course. We talked about, if need be, that 2 people could steer if they felt overpowered. Everyone did amazingly well. Some watch members had never been to sea, never been on the ocean at night and some had never steered a compass course before. Kyle patiently helped each person overcome their obstacles. One person said it was scary. Yes, it is as you are pounding through seas that you can not see into total darkness. You have nothing to orient yourself, no shoreline, nothing but darkness. By the end of the watch, the crew has changed; gaining confidence in their sea faring abilities and getting to know the Lady Washington more intimately.

I have never sailed on a Tall Ship, but plenty of my ancestors have. A large group of my 9th great grandparents sailed from Holland in the mid 1600's to colonize Manhattan and what is now, New York State. 14 different families, hailing from Norway, Germany, Holland, and French Huguenots with names of de Forest, Van Pelt, Van Huyse, de la Montagne, Hendershouts, Andressisen, and Van Schoonhoven to name a few. In 1845 the Reids came from Scotland, up the Hudson/through the Erie Canal /Great Lakes and settled in Wisconsin and in 1850 the Gilmours/Dunsmuirs came from Scotland, around the horn on a 6 month journey via the Sandwich Islands to be the first coal miners on Vancouver Island. Tonight, in the darkness of night, with the rain blowing in my face, I remember them all and honor them with the greatest esteem I can muster from the great cave of my heart. I particularly think of the mothers who who gave birth on board and the mothers who kept many children happy in the dark bellies of these ancient ships. How did they do it? Why, did they do it? It was all for the hope they felt in finding a better life than the ones they had left behind. One crewman said he was unhappy with his job. He wanted to do something that made him happy, to feel alive and he wanted his young daughter to be proud of him.

Going to sea will certainly build self confidence, self esteem, learning that teamwork will get the job done. None of us can single hand this Lady. Each watch, moves the vessel towards its destination, hour by hour, chore by chore, and in doing so, we build a better self, a stronger self, so that later when we meet our life's challenges we can face them with character chiseled out of strength, confidence and perseverance. Already, I have learned this trip is not an easy one, every line is big and heavy, every fender is almost as big as the smallest woman on board, and a simple task of eating your meal is not so simple. Cruising on Shatoosh is simple. Cruising on the Lady Washington makes you dig deep into your soul to find the strength to do what is necessary at the moment. Tonight, I face my dream of sailing on a Tall Ship down the Washington Coast with excitement, joy and gratitude for my ancestors and my present day crew members. Together we will bring this ship to the port of Aberdeen and all of us will be better and stronger people because of it.

0400 hrs. Our watch ends and I ask the "B" watch captain to have me wakened at o600 so that I might get to see the sunrise. Dawn on the ocean is always special. I return to the quarter deck and the watch captain is from Majuro in the Marshall Islands. He is quiet, confident, but very orderly. He has a beautiful smile. From the ocean side of the peninsula one can see the entire Olympic mountain range. Clear as a bell is Mount Olympus with snow still on her. Tofino Traffic calls to see if we are at 48 degrees. Our position is 48 degrees and 8 minutes. They tell us to switch over to Channel 16. They will no longer be tracking us. We are alone now, no one is watching us. I return to my bunk and sleep some before breakfast which is pancakes. My digestive tract is fragile this morning and after hanging upside down to get the toilet pumping water, I am slightly queasy. I have not been sea sick in 30 years. I lay down again and get myself pulled together with electrolytes, vinegar water and Reiki.

Our next watch begins at noon 1200 hrs. We get to eat at 1145, but I pass on another carbo meal and eat some almonds instead. So far we have not had any substantial protein in our menu, which really surprises me. I go up early and it is 1125 hrs and discover we are cruising about 2-3 miles off shore and are nearing La Push. There is a narrow entrance to the harbor and I remember looking at it once thinking I would never want to enter from the sea. The view of the coastline is spectacular and we pass several small islands, Hand Rock, Caroll Island, Sea Lion Rock, Cake Rock( photo)and James Island. We can see RW "Q" Buoy. Someone yells, " whale on port beam" along the area of the buoy. We see the whale blow several times and surface dives for quite a while.

Hira at the helm of the Lady Washington

We monitor a coast guard rescue from the Port Angeles station on the VHF radio. A vessel is taking on water and they abandon ship. The ship sinks, however the USCG helicopter was enroute and rescued the members of the sinking ship. We were not able to get the exact coordinates of the rescue.

Its not long after I get off the helm that I remove my survival suit. The sun is coming out and the temperature increasing and I am getting hot.

Ashleigh is not feeling well, so I give her my survival suit so she can have a pillow for her head.

1430 hrs: We are abeam of Destruction Island and about 5 miles off shore. The afternoon is filled with lots of sun and the waves have been rather rolly all day. Several crew are feeling a little sick. Especially the ones doing chores down below. We continue to have head winds and seas. Ashleigh and JP are asked to wash and scrub the decks.

At 1445 Kyle computes an ETA at Gray's Harbor around 0400 hrs. This will not be feasible, so we will have to stand off shore until dawn to cross the Westport bar and entrance to Gray's Harbor. We set a new course heading out to sea to meet the oncoming southwest waves. We meander around numerous crab pots, spot some porpoises, lots of flocks of pelicans. The off watch crew are hanging out singing sea chanties, lying on deck or reading their favorite books. The RPM's are dropped to reduce speed. It will be a long time to stand off but a safe and prudent decision. We close out our watch at 1600 hrs.

At 1800 hrs, the LW is 20 nm off shore steering a course of 190 degrees. I am hungry as a horse when I enter the galley area. The cook is sadly disappointed, her meal isn't ready, as the wonderful bread loaves did not rise or get done and it seems she did not make enough. Everyone is saying it is ok, there are plenty of things to eat. There is real meat protein in the form of chicken in a thick broth. It is very delicious, but short on supply. No seconds tonight for the big boys. The flavors of the food are very delicious and the cook is always hard at work. How she performs this very difficult job is beyond me?

I think I rested some, as we are back on watch at 2000 hrs until midnight. Kyle is really wanting to get some sailing in, so at 2030 hrs, he calls all hands on deck and sets the fore and main topsails. The cook is ondeck suited up in her rigging and up she goes aloft to help set the fore topsail. Everyone goes into action and all are excited to go aloft. One man is 72 years old, holds a 6 pack Captains license and aloft he goes, keeping right up with all the youngsters. This is great to watch, however it is dark and the mast light is allowing us to see this action. This is a lot of work and in spite of all the effort of the crew, there is not enough wind to fill the sails. I forget the terminology that is used, but instead of having everyone go back up to take them down the sails were somehow reduced in size yet not completely secured with rope tie downs.

This rugged coast is void of light and there are few settlements on it. There are not many places you can go to see the night sky in all her glory, but tonight is the night and the place to see the unending numbers of stars, galaxies and planets. The milky way is mapped like a road across the sky. Billions of stars are crystal clear and "A" watch is watching with total excitement and delight. We are all pinching ourselves and saying, "can you believe this", "isn't this spectacular"?

Later on in the watch my excitement dissovles into sleepiness and I have to sit on the deck as opposed to standing on deck. I drift off meditating and then fall asleep for a while sitting up. The throwing life ring makes for a nice backrest and I am sleepy but comfortable. I struggle to hang in there as I am getting cold and shivering at times. Kyles asks me to take the helm for the last 30 minutes of the watch, which I am most happy to do, as I can focus and do something to get warm. I sigh in relief when the watch ends. I'm in my bunk in a flash and fall asleep in a second. I knew having these 2 shifts would be hard for me, but I stayed the whole time and glad I did.

Total run: approximately 100nm.