After five months of what you might call exile on Vancouver Island, Otto and I have made it back to the US. Exile in the sense that the driving factor was obtaining proper US Coast Guard documentation and insurance for Blue Starr prior to leaving Canada. I have all the respect in the world for the brave men and women of the Coast Guard that risk their lives to save mariners all over the waters of the US. The folks who push pencils in West Virginia who control the fate of your vessel documentation, not so much. After much false information, obtaining documents that weren't even needed, faxing, mailing and so on and so forth for months Blue Starr has finally immigrated and become a US citizen. Enough complaining. I should mention that if you do have to spend months waiting on the US Coast Guard, Vancouver Island is a lovely place to do so.
Documents in hand Otto and I set off from Port Alberni on Oct. 3rd. I planned on a week to motor the 220 or so Nautical Miles to Tacoma WA. I planned on splitting the trip up into roughly 5-8 hour jaunts each day. My only apprehension was rounding Cape Beale and traversing the Straight of Juan De Fuca prior to entering Puget Sound. Being late in the season I knew Juan De Fuca could cut up into something quite nasty and she did not disappoint.
The first day was a well known trip out the Alberni Inlet which we had done back and forth twice already. Though it poured down rain the entire trip out the inlet to Bamfield, nature did not disappoint on entertainment. As mentioned in previous posts the scenery of the inlet is awe inspiring with mountains and dense forest on either side. On this trip the seals/sea lions were out in force. They could generally be spotted in the middle of a flock of sea birds flogging around a salmon quite violently. Closer to Bamfield, a pod of Humpback Whales was seen some 3 miles ahead. Even at such a great distance the sight of a massive fluke diving below to the depths of the sea was beyond impressive. We pulled into Bamfield as the sun was disappearing and anchored for the night in the very peaceful little harbor.
On Day two nature promptly put us in our place. After a brief check of the weather on the VHF, I made the decision to take off against my better judgement given the wind out of the SE. Leaving Bamfield we ran into a 6-9' swell which posed no threat. However, upon trying to round Cape Beale we quickly realized the Oceans potential. The swell kicked up to 10-15' out of the west at still a manageable interval. The wind out of Juan De Fuca from the South East against the making tide yielded a 5-6' cross sea in the opposite direction of the swell which made things very much like the violent agitation of a washing machine. Two hours in at the precipice of rounding Cape Beale, I decided that the situation would not improve and we headed back to Bamfield with our tail between our legs (quite literally for poor Otto who is not a fan of rough water).
Day three with a much more favorable West wind we made the trip from Bamfield to Neah Bay, Washington in about eight hours and anchored in the very serene Neah Bay for the evening. From Neah Bay we headed to Port Angeles where we cleared customs. On the way we motored directly through a pod of Orca. The first I have seen in the wild and what a truly amazing thing to witness. I did get a few photos but, missed the shot of a lifetime when two young Killer whales breached the surface at the same time as though they were playing. After sighting the whales and passing many commercial and military ships (including an aircraft carrier) we made it to Port Angeles. In an attempt to be frugal I decided to try and anchor in the Bay of Port Angeles for the night. The commercial traffic makes this a very poor idea. After half an hour on anchor we made our way back to the Marina where we cleared customs and tied up to a dock for the night. From port Angeles we picked another relatively poor day to head to Port Townsend as Juan De Fuca was quite choppy until we rounded Dungeness Spit. We spent two nights in Port Townsend to see the sights and from there went to Blake Island just south of Seattle to anchor out for the evening leaving only a short 2 hour trip down to Tacoma the next day.
We have been in Tacoma going on a couple weeks now and I have already made up my mind to move. The city seems great but the marina we are in is less than impressive for the money and most importantly there is no good place for Otto to walk. The situation just doesn't coincide with what I envisioned for living on the boat. Given the extreme difficulty in finding a place to live aboard, I was lucky in almost immediately finding a new marina in Blaine WA. So the next adventure is a 2-3 day trip from Tacoma to Blaine and then it is back to reality and finding a job. More to come on that.