Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lady Washington Wins By Default

14 September 2009: Monday:Day 1

We depart Tacoma around 1000 hrs and we experience misting rain all the way, but we are optimistic about it clearing in the afternoon. As we pull into Port Townsend and I see a Tall Ship in dry dock. We find the Hawaiian Chieftain still being worked on and a propeller missing. I hail over a crewman. He tells me that the rudder hub was cracked and one is being flown over from Denmark.

I explain we are the new passengers, so he calls the Captain of the Lady Washington. Apparently the ship was outside waiting for us to arrive, as there was limited dock space. The Lady Washington arrives in short fashion and ties up long enough for us to climb aboard the rope ladder. The Captain maneuvered the Lady in the tight basin as though her hull was filled with thrusters in every direction. We depart about 1245 hrs. We get a quick orientation by Lisa, an enthusiastic young girl. She shows how to put on our life jackets, where to stow our bags, how to use the head and then takes back on deck as the Lady is motoring out of the marina and her bow is pointed towards Pt. Wilson.

Our friend Mary was to meet us for lunch. Well, scratch that plan. I'm trying to notify her but no answer on her cell phone. I leave several messages. We never connect until later in the evening, as we are well offshore and beyond Port Angeles. She does see the LW depart and figures we were on board. She has several photo opportunities so it will be nice to see her pictures of us underway.

The Lady Washington departs Port Townsend, WA. Whidbey Island in the background.

Photo by Mary Huston

They have delayed lunch so once under way we have a very delicious soup, cooked by a young woman who says she loves her job. Ann and I meet Captain Dave and his wife Nancy and the First Mate Kyle. He is operating also, as the Watch Captain for "A" Watch and states he is short handed. Ann and I both want to pull watches and help as much as we can so we sign up. I notice that A watch pulls the midnight to 0400 shift, which is my least favorite shift in the whole wide world. I say to myself," you can do anything for one day". My next least favorite is 2000 to midnight, which will also fall on Tuesday. I say to myself the same mantra for Tuesday night. Great guns; my 2 least favorite shifts in the same day. I will definitely have to step up to the plate on Tuesday.

But for now let me focus on Monday. I fix my bunk and get myself organized with my cameras, notepads to keep a mini log and go up on the quarter deck to see what is going on. Kyle orders a practice fire drill and we rush to get our jackets on and the crew sounds off their numbers. There are 16 + the 2 of us making 18 people on board. Seattle Traffic Control is keeping track of our course and speed and we check in by noting our position off Pt. Wilson.

Photo by Mary Huston: Taken as the Lady Washington rounds Pt Wilson Buoy and enters the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Ann and I begin to get our sea legs.

I take some photos of the different aspects of the boat. All the lines, pulleys and fittings are a sight to behold in their beauty and tidiness. The rudder post( looking down to the water).

At 1440 we pass Protection Island to port. The seas are flat, no wind and a haze fills the Straits. Our next point of contact is Dungeness Spit. We are staying south of the incoming ship traffic lanes. The sun is penetrating the haze and it seems as though this weather will hold the rest of the afternoon. The LW has a new chart plotter so Kyle is explaining it to us. This is his first time outbound in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, so I get to help him with some of the pronunciation of the way points. Already I am really impressed by this young man. He is upbeat, energetic, a teacher by nature and really knows his sail training, navigation and how to motivate a group of young adults, not much younger than himself. I remember when they came in to pick us up. He was barking out orders and the crew were responding with vocal feedback and moving all about the boat, like a Balanchine ballet. No one did anything until they were ordered to and then did it with a quick response.

Ediz Hook is passed at 1725 and Kyle asks me plot the course on the chart. I love navigation, course planning, being look out and sighting the buoys and approaching ships. The seas are flat, no wind to speak of, and only a hint of a pacific swell. Boy, this is a piece of cake. I get to take my turn at the helm which is a huge tiller which seems about 10 feet long. It is controlled with rope pulleys and a bronze fitting to create a stop on it. It also has a small braided rope with several loops to put an additional stop on it. You control this monster tiller with your thigh, or lean in to it with your buttocks. Using your arms to pull and push it would deplete your energy in a short time. With my thunder thighs I'm good for the long haul. Ann describes her first helmsman opportunity as, "I thought I was wrestling an alligator". Ann has numerous years of being helmsman for the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association and has raced internationally. She learned to sail with the Tacoma Women's Sailing Association many years ago. I first met Ann while being assigned together in the Army as Physical Therapists at Madigan Army Hospital in Tacoma. Our friendship goes back to 1966. I knew without a doubt when I called she would jump at this chance to be on the LW. She recalled that she, her mother and children had sailed on the Lady way back when she was first launched and plying the waters of Commencement Bay in Tacoma.
Kyle has the other 2 young women on our watch, Catherine and Ashleigh to take the older 2 women(Ann and I) on the hourly check of the boat. They write down all the vital signs: oil pressure, temperature of engine, voltage, RPM's, we go and check the bilge water levels in 3 sections of the boat, check the stuffing box, check the generators, inverters and record the findings on checklist. This is done hourly around the clock. We eat dinner at 1800 and have a very flavorfull pasta dish. I stay on deck and watch the sunset.

I make contact with Mary on her cell phone and we discuss our failed attempt to meet for lunch. I hang out on deck until dark and then go below to take some rest. After about an hour I begin to get cold, so get up and put on warmer clothes for sleeping. I am awake and dressing when the watch person comes at 2345. She tells me the status of the weather which is clear, slight winds and seas from the west. I try to wake Ann, but she is fast asleep and does not stir, so leave her to the sleep fairies.
(Since Ann and I are paying passengers, we can opt for doing what we want to do. We were told that many passengers don't wish to pull a watch.)

Bow watch on the Straits

Days run: approx 90 nm
Port Townsend to east of Neah Bay.