Turn Right at Astoria

Monday, June 2, 2008
23'085 N; 12446'868 W

Dear friends and family:

It's been a long time since I've written a cruising report -- I believe the last one chronicled our arrival in St. Helens, after the South Pacific trip of '03 - '04. This time, we're headed for Glacier Bay, while stopping at as many beautiful, interesting, historic, and folkloric places as we can on the way.

We started yesterday (June 1) from Astoria, Oregon. We had taken the boat down the river from St. Helens the previous weekend. The intention was to go out to sea, check out some new and old equipment, find any faults, and then go back up the river to St. Helens to repair any discovered problems, and complete the provisioning. What we found was that the Columbia River was flowing 3 knots, and was full of snags, logs, and even, from time to time, complete trees. It took us only 6 hours from St. Helens to Astoria, going with the flow of the river, but we figured it might be 12-14 hours coming back. One wouldn't want to be on the river after dark because of all those snags, logs and trees, so we elected to leave the boat in Astoria. (There is also the issue of saving fuel. Our credit card company put a hold on our card when we fueled up in St. Helens. Craig talked to them, and they said "No one spends that much at a gas station..." All is now fixed with the credit card company -- we hope -- and they will not be surprised at future monumental fuel charges.)


Above:  Craig trying out his new exposure suit, in preparation for bad weather to come...

So we did find some problems on last weekend's cruise -- all relatively easy to fix. Mark Downing and Mark Nelson accompanied us on that "shake down" cruise -- basically 40 miles out, then 40 miles back. When we were almost the furthest distance from shore, we were joined by a pair of goldfinch. We can't imagine what they were doing out so far from land. One kept his distance from the humans, but the other joined us in the cockpit, tucked her head under her wing, and went to sleep. When we got
back to where we could see land again, the goldfinches disappeared. Perhaps they could smell the land? I like to think we rescued them from the deadly consequences of their navigational error.

At the moment, we're headed up the Washington coast, nearing Tatoosh Island. We must be in the whale migration lane, because we've been seeing humpbacks spouting and diving, tails in the air, about every 20 minutes. Perhaps we'll see these very whales again near Glacier Bay. One of our friends told us that the whales are wall to wall in that area.

We'll stay tonight in Neah Bay, and Craig will try to diagnose and fix our autopilot problem. (We've been hand steering, since the problem was discovered yesterday afternoon.) Along for this segment of our Alaska trip are Buck Boston and Mark Nelson. We warned them that it might actually not be a sailing trip -- and so far that turns out to be true. There is almost no wind and the ocean waves are completely trivial (1-2 feet). (If we had some wind to sail, we could ignore the autopilot issue.)

The last week has been pretty high intensity. The "to do" list that each of us maintains only seemed to grow longer, even though you keep knocking things off. And of course there are the random items that never made it onto any list. One of those items was our passports. I think I might have forgotten them completely -- except that while I was looking for some software disks, I ran across our old canceled passports. A light bulb went off, and we did come away with the new passports. Along with the old passports, I found several wallets full of old travelers checks. Those will go quickly, especially if the lack of wind causes us to frequent more fuel docks...

Well, that's all for now -- the water is getting rougher as we approach Tatoosh Island.

Later: we decided to skip Neah Bay, because the seas are so calm, and the current is with us. Instead, we'll go to Port Angeles tonight. Of course, not long after we made that decision, the engine quit. Nothing serious -- just needed a new fuel filter.

Best wishes to all!

Barbara & Craig Johnston
S/V Sequoia

On to the next report