Escape to America
Although we enjoyed spending time with our new grandson, older grandsons, daughters, and even older family and friends (although we would have liked to have seen more – but Covid, you know), and we appreciated seeing places we hadn’t previously stomped over, such as the Lake District and Peak District – reminding us of why England isn’t such a bad place to live – it is good to be back on board. Eight months is a long time off the water.
Because the travel corridor between the US and the UK didn’t materialise, getting back to the US wasn’t as straightforward as we had hoped. But rather than whine about it and wait, we took a detour to Antigua to flop our corpulent bodies on Jolly Harbour beach for a couple of weeks. That beat the 10 days quarantine in a Crowne Plaza hotel room in Basingstoke after we flew to England. And that time spent in Antigua, together with one more Covid test, granted us entry to the US.
The final land-based job was to swap out the old anchor chain for the new one. After that was done we launched on a calm sunny day from the boatyard in Anacortes, reversing, dry-mouthed and tight-buttocked, onto the boatyard pontoon where we stayed for a few days to check all the systems and work out all the buttons to press. There, Maria volunteered to go up the mast to reattach a spinnaker halyard, we restarted the provisioning process and, more importantly, performed a renaming ceremony.
We have seen many boat owners rip off their old vinyl lettering and unceremoniously apply a new name with barely a thought. We haven’t seen them since, though. And, as we appreciate all the luck we can get, we followed the ceremony to the letter. This involved pouring a weepingly high quantity of good champagne into the briny.
Naturally, this alcoholic tribute to the gods of the sea and winds caused much distress to Maria, who was waiting with an empty glass in hand. But only after almost two bottles of France’s finest had hit the ocean could we toast our new boat with one glass of champagne each and take off the cover exposing her new name. All that might sound extravagant, but it’s an accountant’s rounding error compared with the cash we spent on accommodation and car hire over the last few months. It’s made boating seem cheap.
After much time pouring over instruction manuals – and happy that all was good with Jamala’s engines and systems – we deemed ourselves fit enough to head out on our first trip: motoring around the corner to anchor at Port Townsend. Unfortunately, Marina berthing in Anacortes wasn’t an option. For one thing, no berths were available. For another, we didn’t want to spend on anything looking remotely like an accommodation bill.
We arranged to meet our Anacortes boatyard neighbours, Ted and Elaine, in Port Townsend. They worked on their boat at the same time as us over the winter period, so this was an excellent opportunity to meet properly and not covered in grease, paint or wood shavings. Ted and Elaine arrived at the dock by ferry. We went over by dinghy. Unfortunately, the outboard motor decided that it was quite happy with continuing its year-long rest, so I had to row us to shore. Exercise for me. Entertainment for the ferry passengers.
After lunch, we all took a stroll to the West Marine shop at the far end of town in an attempt to get a new petrol hose. Unfortunately, nothing but space occupied the shelves where the hoses should have been. We did get a tip from the guy working there, though, the practical side of which amounted to ramming a couple of O rings in the end fittings. Nevertheless, that cheap remedy appears to have worked. As long as I keep squeezing the fuel priming bulb, the outboard runs.
Cheap Parking – Lots of Beer
The crew from Aloha, who have a similar boat to us and who we visited last year before flying back to the UK, told us about a town dock in Port Angeles that charges only $20 per night. A rare bargain that, so off we went.
Leaving a dock and arriving at a dock are tense times for the long-distance sailor, especially rusty ones like us. Most of our time is spent well away from marinas and other solid land-based objects. There’s too much potential to go wrong and usually too much money jettisoned out of the wallet. But a surprising thing about Jamala just how easy she is to handle for a big boat: the power of the retractable bow thruster makes short work of docking, especially in reverse. There might not be much steerage from the rudder at slow speed, but that bow thruster more than compensates for the boat’s size and our unfamiliarity. At least we didn’t make a total hash of things parking up while the holidaymakers looked up from their crabbing exploits at the Port Angeles public dock.
As we are on our way south towards San Francisco, Port Angeles is a good place to stop on the way out of the straights leading to the Pacific Ocean. There is no shortage of shops or pubs and restaurants. Most of them are open despite what seems to be a general shortage of staff. We stocked up here on fresh food from the local Safeway, and the Farmers Market tried some more of the local beer (the Washingtonians brew that well) and decided to get our laundry done.
Laundry is an adventure here. Although there is a washing machine onboard, it would have been time to rewash it before it had dried. So we asked the server at a pizza restaurant we went to, and she recommended Willy’s (the laundry place) as the one less sketchy than the rest. Fewer needles on the ground, I think she said.
The next day we loaded up the bag and hiked the mile or so inland, observing the gradual disintegration of the neighbourhood as we went. Inside the laundry was one other person, a woman doing the washing for her family. She looked like she knew what to do, so we asked her for advice on using the machines. She helped us with that and suggested that we don’t turn our back for too long here because the place is rough. “I’m packing,” she said, pointing to the ominous bulge under her t-shirt. That certainly is sketchy. I spent most of the time stood at the door on the lookout for whatever it was that would merit shooting. And this was the better place: I could only find one needle out there on the floor.
Fortunately, the place later filled up with more people – who may or may not also have been ‘packing’ – so I could calm down on the hypervigilance. Even so, we couldn’t wait to get out of there. On the way back, we chose to eat at the relative safety of a biker’s cafe.
Trail – Trial
I have previously written about our mishaps with the Brompton bikes. We always forgive them because, in dog years, they should be dead by now. It’s usually the spokes that give way on one of them. But we thought we would give them a try and ourselves a workout by riding along the trail that runs for miles east back to Port Townsend.
We did well. We managed five miles before a spoke broke on Maria’s bike. Like a numpty, though, I forgot to take a toolkit with me. Fortunately, a fellow biker got us a pair of pliers from another biker so that I could persuade the errant spoke out of the wheel. But, unfortunately, another mile later, my tyre completely gave up, and there was no fixing that. So that was it for riding. It’s time for new wheels or new bikes.
Neah Bay is the closest anchorage to the entrance to the Straights of Juan de Fuca. It is also a native Indian reservation home to the Makah Tribe, which translates to ‘people generous with food.’ It’s just as well the reservation is closed. We put so much weight on during our land-based adventures that food generosity is the last thing we need.
The anchorage is open, though, and a great place to wait for a fine weather window to head south. It’s tranquil here. Usually.
A couple of people in Port Angeles said to us that the Indians like their fireworks. A bit of a generalisation, and I’m pretty sure that does not apply to all native American Indians. But it might apply here.
It started Friday afternoon with a BOOM, then a few minutes later, the sound of an ambulance. Possibly firework-related that. On Friday night the party really started. I don’t know how much money the tribe has or whether they make their own pyrotechnics, but they launched the GDP of a small nation up in the air that night. It was as spectacular a display as we have seen at any major city event – it went on for over an hour before eventually fizzling out around 10 pm. Hugely impressive.
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Our initial plan was to set off towards San Francisco on Saturday morning. But when I checked the primary winches on Friday morning, I found that one of them wasn’t manually winching at high speed. A stuck pawl, I thought. But when I dismantled the winch, I found the whole thing caked in grease.
It seems a common misconception that if a winch is heavily greased it’s OK. It is not. The grease eventually becomes hard and gums everything up. It took us almost 5 hours to clean that winch before reassembling it with the lightest coating of grease on the gears and oil on the pawls. There was no way we were heading offshore if the other primary winch was the same. It was. So, that’s how we spent Saturday morning.
The weather still looked favourable for a Sunday departure, though. So, at 1030 on 29th August, in nothing more than a light breeze and a slight haze, we lifted the anchor and motored out of the straight to catch some wind to blow us towards San Francisco.
And we certainly found the wind. That story is to follow because getting fast internet on the computer here is harder here than in the Marquesas.