Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peril Before Panic
By Michael

Windy applies final make-up to the
Raven Fairy while the Ballerina
looks on.
“Get up. Wake up. We’ve got to get off the boat now.”
I was smack in the middle of that final, pleasant half-hour of dreamy, near-consciousness sleep that life without an alarm clock affords me. Now I was abruptly fully conscious, trying to understand what I’d woken to. I called after Windy, “What did you just say? What’s going on?”

She was gone, out of bed like a flash, already in the aft cabin urging the girls awake with the same serious, insistent tone. “Girls! Get up, leave your PJs on, get your shoes on, we have to go now.” Then to me: “I don’t know. They’re announcing an evacuation of the marina, it is not a drill.”
“Who’s announcing…”

I have a strong aversion to over-reacting. When people around me freak out, I tend to polarize and go the opposite direction. You know that orchestra that played on as the Titanic met her fate? I could have been their leader—in denial as I slid into the icy ocean. It’s not because I’m Mr. Cool, but because I’m protecting my bizarre, deep-seated fear of panicking. It could be a good thing, but in my case, it means I often fail to react. Windy isn’t prone to panic, but she is usually prepared and always ready to act, “just in case.” Bless her heart.
In response to her sense of urgency, I wanted to push back, maybe talk this through before we jumped out of our warm beds and ran for our lives. But I roused myself and pulled on some pants, knowing I’d have to take her seriously before she would entertain my questions.

The girls react to sidewalk chalk art
in downtown Victoria.
“Who’s announcing an evacuation?”
“I don’t know. I heard a loudspeaker, a bullhorn.”

“Are there emergency vehicles?”

Hmmm. There was an earthquake and tsunami warning the day before; I wondered if maybe this was another? Maybe a propane leak? Windy called down as she and the girls climbed out the companionway. “Are you coming?”
“Yeah.” I was putting my shoes on. I looked around and grabbed the camera, my wallet…my computer and left. Outside I could see Windy and the girls already off the docks and one-hundred yards down the boardwalk, talking with a group of people. I met them halfway back.

“I chewed out somebody,” Windy said. Apparently, our tiny marina in front of the Empress Hotel had morphed into a movie set over night. People, trucks, and equipment were everywhere. “I think it was the director, I told him they should first notify those affected by their filming; they have no idea people live on these boats.”
Then the loudspeaker hailed again, this marina was being evacuated and this was not a drill. Giant fans blew dead leaves into a crowd of extras in front of the docks. On cue they pointed and ran together in fearful unison. It looked like panic to me.

“Let’s get back to the boat and make a nice breakfast for Eleanor,” turning to my newly nine-year-old girl in PJs: “Happy birthday Boo.”

Here is the movie set; Del Viento is just visible in the
upper right, with her beige mainsail cover. The film
is called, "Stonados" and is "an epic disaster flick about
the devastation caused by rock-spewing tornados."
Apparently, the story takes place in Massachusetts and
our little place is doubling as Boston's Harbour Walk. 

Oak Bay, a Victoria suburb, puts on this "pumpkin art"
display for charity every year. It was super cool, until
we learned that the pumpkins are made of polyurethane.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Salish Sea Ports
By Michael

Windy watches as the schooner Alcyone
motors past our stern. It seemed that
immaculately maintained wooden boats
like this one were a dime-a-dozen in Port
Townsend, home to the annual
Wooden Boat Festival.
To get to Victoria, we had to come up the relatively desolate Washington coast until we could make a right turn into the strait that separates the United States and Canada: the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where it dead ends, we could make a right (in a southerly direction) or a left (in a northerly direction). The former takes us south into the Puget Sound—a waterway that would take us down past Seattle to Olympia and other Washington towns. The latter, northerly route takes us into the Strait of Georgia—through the San Juan Islands and all the way up to Desolation Sound. These three interconnected coastal waterways of straits, sounds, and inlets are collectively referred to as the Salish Sea.

This is all new and exciting geography for the crew of Del Viento.
So we made a detour on our way to Victoria. We visited old friends and new friends in the three primary Washington “Port” towns: Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Port Ludlow. All three are distinct and all three offer free, convenient anchorages.

Port Angeles (PA) is closest to the Pacific Ocean and may have the lowest crime rate of any town in America. When we jumped in the dinghy to meet our friend Jim for a trip up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, we grabbed our best binoculars and digital SLR with all the lenses—this place promised stunning views. We weren’t disappointed, but we didn’t take a single picture or scan the vistas with our binocs. Instead, we got up there and realized we left our expensive gear sitting on the public dock near the dinghy. Incredibly, when we returned hours later, both our camera and binoculars were sitting right where we left them.
Port Townsend (PT) is at the mouth of Puget Sound. She boasts Victorian homes and buildings along a picturesque main street, chandleries that cater to wooden boat aficionados, and she is home to world-class boat tradespeople like Carol Hasse and Brion Toss. Our friends John, Cindy, and their daughter Journey have their boat here on the hard, undergoing an extensive refit. Namaste is a sistership to Del Viento and will be soon joining us on the cruising trail.

Port Ludlow (PL) is a bit deeper into the Sound and there is little development visible from the water. In fact, there is no town with a main street, Port Ludlow is a bedroom community of homes nestled in the hillsides and a private marina. As we approached, we explored a narrow inlet nearby and the small, hidden bay it opened to. This protected body of water, about a thousand feet across, is surrounded by large and pricey homes.

Port Ludlow

Our friend John Orchanian with Del Viento's sistership, Namaste.
There were roughly a dozen Fuji 40s built.

Me, Jim, Windy, Don, Rich, Carol (Eleanor and Frances front).
Don and Jim and Rich and Carol were slip mates of mine
back in my Ventura, CA liveaboard days, on the first
Del Viento. Both couples were at our wedding. Rich
and Carol own a nice Swift 33 named Amadeus in PL.

Entering the "secret" inlet near Port Ludlow.
One thing I didn't know about Windy when I married her is that she is
horseshoe challenged. Note Jim filming. Having seen Windy throw
dozens of times, he thinks it is likely he'll get a video that will go
viral online and make him some money. What he and Don should
be doing is wearing helmets when Windy throws.

One of the cool things about Port Angeles is the Feiro Marine Life Center.
Here the girls are feeding kelp to sea urchins. This place has amazing
hands-on exhibits and learning stations.

Monday, October 22, 2012

She's Underway!
By Michael

Jeanne at the helm as she sails away, alone.
70-year-old British solo circumnavigator Jeanne Socrates left Victoria, BC this morning to begin her third attempt at an unassisted, non-stop solo circumnavigation of the planet via the great southern capes (Cape Horn [Chile], Cape of Good Hope [S. Africa], Cape Leeuwin [Australia], S.E. Cape of Tasmania [Australia], S.W. Cape of Stewart Island [New Zealand]).
It was a cold start for her bid to be the oldest woman (and one of only few people) to complete this monumental sailing achievement. I was aboard Nereida, a Najad 380, with Jeanne and two other friends when she was towed out of Victoria Harbour by a local whale watching outfit. (Her transmission is disabled for the attempt.) A favorable east wind was blowing 10-15 knots. After final goodbyes, the three of us disembarked to the tow boat and Jeanne sailed on alone, across the starting line.

I first contacted Jeanne last month, for an interview. After that interview, I offered to help her get ready. Hers is truly a grass-roots effort and she welcomed all of the time I could spare. Over the past week, I attached fittings down below, attached jack lines topsides, vacuum packed clothing and other things, and individually wrapped tons of fruits and vegetables for stowage. She was a pleasure to hang out with and learn from. I plan to share all of my impressions in an upcoming article (along with better pictures). In the meantime, over the next 7 to 8 months, as she sails non-stop, day and night, around the world, Jeanne will post updates on her website via SSB (
Fair winds mighty lady!

Jeanne Socrates and me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Special Delivery
By Michael

If Jeanne makes it around the world without
stopping, she won't have to use this phone
when she returns. If you don't check into
another country, it is as though you never
left the country you departed, regardless
how far afield you travel. This is one of
the interesting things I learned reading
about Matt Rutherford's recent trip.
The other day, Tom Petty asked me to pick up his guitar at the shop and deliver it to him before a performance he was scheduled to give at the White House.
Yeah okay, that didn’t really happen. But when we were in Port Townsend, Jeanne Socrates asked me to pick up her wind generator blades and deliver them to her in Victoria before she departs on her next solo circumnavigation attempt in a couple weeks.

Ms. Socrates circumnavigated the planet solo already, once via the southern capes. Last year, the Queen invited her to Buckingham Palace. She’s lost a boat on the rocks in Mexico. Her next boat was damaged in a couple knockdowns just this side of Cape Horn. This past week, Sir Robin Knox Johnson interviewed her for British television. Only weeks after arriving in Victoria from her last circumnavigation, Socrates is departing Victoria to try again for another solo circumnavigation via the southern capes, but this time non-stop. She is seventy years old.
Knowing I’d be in Victoria, I got in touch with her and told her that I want to interview her. She is game, but her schedule is extremely tight. I’m eager; we’ll see how it goes. I want to write and sell a story about her that is different than has been written to-date. But first I have to get these wind generator blades to her; her next performance is a pretty big deal.

At Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails, Frances got a lesson from a sailmaker.
Interestingly, this well-known loft sits above Brion Toss's rigging shop.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Home Found
By Windy

About five miles offshore, between Astoria and
Cape Flattery, this little guy joined us. Much to
the girls' delight, he was about as fearless as a
Galapagos creature. For the five hours he stayed
with us, he slept alot and ate butter and eggs and
drank water. He seemed to perk up dramatically
before finally flying off. 
So we are going to winter over in Victoria’s Inner Harbor as hoped; the marina office told us yesterday they have a spot for us.

As a cruising family we’ve lived temporarily in solitary anchorages, Mexican cities, and historic seaside towns. In Victoria, we look forward to something we haven’t had since leaving D.C.: Big City Life.

But not just any big city will do. Our temporary home needs to be walkable—with robust public transit—and it needs to be outside the U.S. Walkable because we have no car (we like not having a car), outside the U.S. because our catastrophic health insurance policy covers us worldwide, but restricts us from spending longer than six months per policy period in the United States. To explore Alaska next summer, we need to stay outside the U.S. for a while.
Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbor is crammed with tchotchke shops and orca tour vendors, the Empress hotel, every kind of ethnic food, coffee shops, and cozy used bookstores. It’s a college town. Students on bicycles orbit the University of Victoria. Posters advertise music events. Cold and wet by our standards, Victoria is the warmest, driest large Canadian city and the capital of the province of British Columbia; at night the artfully illuminated parliament building twinkles outside our port lights.

Settling down for a while will allow us to homeschool a lot like we did in D.C. From the marina we can walk to an outstanding public library, to Frances’s gymnastics class, and to the YMCA (kids are free, part of a national health program). We’re looking for a French tutor for Eleanor, who has been interested ever since she befriended Loéva, the daughter of French acrobats we met in La Paz. A month before we arrived, I joined the active community of homeschoolers; we look forward to sampling activities and making friends.
We’ve missed being part of a community. We’re eager for our lives to intersect often enough with others so that we become familiar, even friends. We don’t aim to dig roots so deep that we move off the boat or put potted plants on the deck, but since we’ll be relatively immobilized by the coming Canadian winter, we want to make the most of it. Victoria seems like a good place for that.

This little guy hung out with the girls under the dodger about the same
time as the yellow one. He would hop on a finger, but wasn't otherwise
as tame nor as peaked.

Our Pudgy is a bright spot of color on a gray day among the fishing
fleet of Neah Bay .

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Home
By Michael

The girls raising our Canadian courtesy flag
after clearing customs.
The time for safe and comfortable passagemaking in the northern latitudes is past. Del Viento and her crew are going to settle in for a period. We made it to 48-degrees north, a 3000-mile leap from our 20-degree starting point in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We’re two degrees north of Fargo, North Dakota, though we expect a temperate winter here in coastal Victoria, British Columbia.
Since embarking on our voyage we’ve been either working, working, working on our boat or moving, moving, moving in our boat. Our time in Victoria will be a welcome respite—assuming Victoria is where we settle…

We cleared Canadian customs here in the inner harbor late yesterday and began seeking a home, a spot on the water we can park Del Viento and live aboard through the long, dark winter season. From afar, and months in advance, we attempted to secure a Victoria slip without success. We decided to arrive and see what doors would open for us.
With the recommendation of our friends aboard Nyon, I pinned my hopes on the Canoe Pub Marina. It is a collection of about 15 slips behind the Canoe Pub, a warm, wood place where I could spend hours off the boat, sitting in front of a fire with a stout—or maybe it’s a brandy and a book. People who worked there would know my name. I’d have a tab. When people asked where I lived, I could say, “Over there, on a boat behind the pub.” But alas, it is not to be. We met with the marina manager yesterday, a white-haired salt named Paddy who lives on a 65-foot topsail schooner. “The news isn’t good. They’re kicking us all out, removing the pilings tomorrow.” Despite his poor fortune, he regaled us with one tale after another and sang for us on the dock—no doubt a bit influenced by gin. He told us about his first guitar lesson from Pete Seeger and his close friendship and admiration of Utah Phillips. We wished him luck and continued our search.

Because of the extensive commercial
seaplane traffic in Victoria harbor,
it is important to heed these signs.
Planes taxied and took off
alongside us as we came in. There
is a control tower adjacent to
these signs.
Windy and the girls had their hopes pinned on the Coast Hotel Marina. It lacks a pub—or at least a pub with any character, but offers both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Approaching the marina, I was encouraged by the tell-tale sign of a live aboard community: potted plants on decks. As we pulled in, a resident on his power boat put down his guitar and stepped around his inflatable palm trees and parrots to come help us secure our lines. He directed us to the friendly staff in the hotel lobby. “Nothing now, but if you’d like we can add your name to our wait list, it’s running about two years for a boat your size.”
We were already rejected by two of the three small marinas on the far western end of the harbor, in the Esquimalt township, and that left the three city marinas. They boast front-and-center locations, but we’d been warned away from each of the city marinas for various reasons: because the walk to the showers is long, because of the noise of the float planes, because the docks are open to curious tourists. But here we were and we needed a place to secure Del Viento for the night.

We side-tied to an expensive transient dock ($1.50 per foot, per night) and found it to be pretty nice. We walked up to the office to inquire about long-term moorage. “I don’t know. I know we have a wait list and everyone is coming back for the winter this week. Come back in the morning and talk to Michelle.” In the morning things were more encouraging. “I don’t know. Uhm, there may be a spot for you in front of the Empress—it’s a long walk to the showers and the docks are open to the public during the day—but you’ll need to talk to Thora to be sure.” I later talked to Thora and learned that we’d have to wait until Michelle returns Wednesday to get a definitive answer—but it sounds hopeful. We may have found home, a place to be until late spring, when we’ll be on the move again, charging up to Alaska to experience her wilds.

The famed and historic Empress Hotel in Victoria's inner harbor.
Seaplanes are everywhere, serving the 345,000 island residents who live in the
Victoria metropolitan area. There are at least three airlines flying seaplanes
out of the inner harbor. Because nearly all of them are turboprops, there is the
sound of jet engines and the smell of kerosene. I kind of like it. Apparently,
they don't fly after dark; they say that in the winter up here,
darkness descends at 3:00 p.m.
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