Puget Sound

After 25 days at sea we’ve arrived and are tied up in Port Angeles Marina in Port Angeles, Washington.

A pair of early rising seals greet us when we get up in the morning

Before leaving Hawaii, we spent considerable time discussing if we should drop our Alaska plans and sail back into the South Pacific instead.  Covid-19 had closed Canada and the Inland Waterway for sailors, so going north meant going only as far as Washington State.  Alaska was out of the question since we didn’t want to spend a winter in Alaska.

Sailing south again was questionable.  Not all the island nations were open and a resurgence of the Covid virus would quickly shut them down again.  We also thought about treatment possibilities if one or both of us should be unlucky enough to become infected.  Treatment possibilities, despite what you may have read, are better in the USA than on most of the island nations in the Pacific.

We ended up making the right decision and sailing north.  There has been a resurgence of the virus in the south pacific and everything there is in lock-down.  We arrived in Washington and didn’t have to go into quarantine – 3 weeks alone at sea were enough.

We are allowed to move around as we please, in stark contrast to the cruisers in lock-down in the south pacific where they are confined to their boats.  Washington State was one of the first areas in the US to be hit by the pandemic and they take their precautions here seriously.  Facemasks are required in all buildings as well as public transit.  Everyone wears a mask when outdoors, even though it isn’t required.  Many, even though both they and we have masks on, make sure to allow the 2 meters social distancing when approaching each other on the street.  Some even make a sign that they will go right and we should go left.

Personnel stand outside the supermarkets and ensure that everyone washes their hands before going inside.  Shopping carts and baskets are all disinfected before the next person uses one.  Further inside, if you are going to buy nuts etc. and use the “shovel” to fill your bag, you need to disinfect your hands with disinfectant.  Many stores only allow a limited number of people inside at a time.

Many of the marinas have closed off half their slips so that there is only one boat in a double slip.  The marina offices are all behind locked doors and you can only contact them via telephone.  Payment is via credit card or paypal.

Almost all tourist attractions are closed except the national parks.  The Indian reservations have also closed themselves to the public, unfortunately.  Carsten, in particular, wanted to spend time learning more about these Pacific Northwest Indian tribes.

With all the above, we are astonished at the hullabaloo in Denmark about wearing masks.  Apparently, Denmark hasn’t been as hard hit since the politicians are discussing opening up for the nightlife.

We’ve been hoping that the Canadians would open the border by October 1, especially since we reserved a marina space at a marina near Victoria, but “Auntie Bonnie”, the governor of British Columbia is not ready to that yet, so now we are wondering if it will even open by spring.

Therefore, we needed to find a winter slip here in Washington, but unfortunately, that isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Carsten has been calling most of the marinas in the area and they have all said they don’t have any slip available and there is a waiting list.  Port Angeles also has a waiting list – this one with only 3-4 boats ahead of us, but after having been tied up here for several weeks and Carsten having charmed the harbormaster, he relented and said he could give us a winter slip from October to May.

Hot Damned!

Port Angeles is well-protected from wind and swells and it is great to know that we don’t need worry about that.  Capri can lie here while we are away and we won’t have to worry about her.

We’re going to be landlubbers from October to May and will spend those months visiting family and friends here in the US.  We also planned to visit Denmark but that is a now a no-go.  While Covid-19 doesn’t stop us from flying, the US has an inbound travel restriction on anyone coming from Europe.  So once we leave – we can’t come back.  No one knows when this restriction will be lifted, and we can’t just leave Capri without knowing when we can come back to her.

All that, of course, means we are again up against the wall as regards to our cruising license and visa.  Both expire December 1 and if we can’t get extensions, then we have to leave.  Of course, there is nowhere to go.  Canada and the entire pacific are completely closed.  Mexico is supposed to be open, but is in reality closed.

Customs has promised us that they will renew our cruising license if we can get a visa extension from Immigration.  So once again, we’re going through the bureaucratic funhouse of applying for a visa extension.  The last time, it took eight months for immigration to decide and agree to an extension.

When you apply, you pay $475 (naturally), and then wait.  They are supposed to issue a case number and while you have the case number, you can legally stay (since they are still making up their minds).  Eventually they will reach a decision and let us know.  We can see that they have taken our money – but so far, they haven’t issued the case number.  We’re hoping that they understand the Covid situation for sailors – we literally have nowhere to go.

We’re also hoping that “Auntie Bonnie” in British Columbia will open for cruisers so we can live out our dream of sailing to Alaska.  We like our motto:  We have no plan and by golly, we’re gonna stick to it!  but as things are, we have no influence on our lives at the moment.

Well – so how are we going to live as landlubbers do while Capri is “on vacation”?  Airplanes are a well-known source of infection for Covid so we hesitate to spend a lot of time on airplanes.  We can drive, but our family, friends have settled themselves all over the US, and hotels are not exactly unknown as infection prone areas.  So we came up with a fantastic idea, over a glass of wine, of course.  And the fantastic idea is?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Why not buy a used RV?  Next we searched Craig’s List and Voilà! an almost new old RV from 1979 with only 27,000 miles.  We have seen and test driven it this wonder and it does live up to the advertisement:

  1. 1979 model
  2. 27,000 miles on the clock
  3. The interior is pure 70’s (orange and brown, shag carpets – you can cringe and imagine the rest)
  4. Clean and no smells
  5. Toilet, shower etc. work perfectly (actually looks like no one has ever used it).
  6. The fridge needs a new valve and will then work
  7. The heater needs a new valve and will then work.
  8. Everything likes looks like the darn thing just came off the showroom floor.  The only visible issue is that the stove is rusting – but works just fine.
  9. This thing (30 foot Monarch) is so ugly only a mother could love it, but all things go in circles so I told Vinni when we are finished with it we will advertise it as Avanté Garde and sell it for a fortune.
The new owner of a “Hippecamper” proudly shows it off – Mt. Rainier in the background

Of course, since Vinni and Carsten are involved, there was a little problem when we went to buy it.  The owner went looking for the title and couldn’t find it.  So they are applying for a new title, but the DMW does not ride the same day they saddle their horse.  A new title can take up to 11 weeks!

NEWS FLASH!  NEWS FLASH!  NEWS FLASH!

The owners called and said that the new title had just arrived so when we get back to Port Angeles in a week or so, we’ll go pick up the RV.

In the meantime we are sailing around in the San Juan Islands and once again I’m surprised at the helpfulness and friendliness we meet everywhere with Americans.  Jim, our neighbor in Port Angeles is a truly friendly guy and after saying hi the first time, he offered to lend us his car if we needed to go somewhere.  The next day he dropped by with an extra key and said we could just keep the key and use the car as we wished – just send him a text message so he knew it was gone.  So when we had to drive the 200 miles to see our new “Hippiecamper” – we used his car – thank you Jim.

Not only that.  Jim has crab pots out and he came by and gave us a kilo of freshly caught crabmeat (a real delicacy in these parts).  Carsten retired to the kitchen and that evening we dined on a crab bisque and crab salad – rarely have I tasted anything so delicate and delicious.  When we left the marina to sail in the San Juans for a month or so, Jim showed up as we were taking in our lines and gave us a freshly baked sourdough loaf of bread.  Is it any wonder that we want to have Capri spend the winter in the marina alongside Jim?

Our plans for visiting this area did not include sailing down through Puget Sound to Seattle, but our watermaker has been giving us problems the last year or so and Carsten is unable to fix it – even with constant telephone advice from the factory.  Seattle has one of the oldest and most knowledgeable Spectra dealers and they claim they will figure out what is wrong with it.  They are located in Seattle and it would be absurd for us to pay for 3 hours of driving time each way – so as the old saying goes: If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed – then Mohammed must go to the mountain. 

San Juan de Fuca straits are 80nm long and divide into two fjords, the northern one stretches up through Canada and the Southern one becomes Puget Sound and runs down to Seattle. There is a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) the entire way for the big ships and the scheme fills almost the entire waterway, leaving very little room alongside for pleasure craft.  The locals don’t seem to care that they aren’t allowed to sail in the TSS – they happily run up and down it when there is no big ship traffic.

The straits and the fjords are renowned for the strong currents that run here and there are frequently standing waves up to 4-5 feet when the currents run strongest.  In other words – if you sail here, you’d better have checked and know your tides, tidal streams and currents.  When we sailed in from the Pacific we had a 4 knot current against us the first part of the way and stood almost still, even with the engine working hard.

I remember a comment from a sailor we met in Honolulu.  He grew up in the San Juan’s and said:  Good luck with finding slack water!  Now we understand that comment.  In many of these narrow straits and bays, the current will first turn an hour or two after the tide turns from ebb to flood (or vice versa).  Our new bible is “Ports and Passes”, an annual publication that details both tides and currents.  The lesson here is quickly learned – sail only when the current is going the same way as you are.

Seattle is 75nm away and we can’t sail that distance with a following tide the entire way.  So we leave early and sail against the falling tide the first couple of hours – only 2.5 knots of current against us.  We hugged the coastline – frequently the current is less there.  Unfortunately, as happens often here, there was morning fog and we ran blind the first couple of hours, navigating via our radar and chartplotter.  We can do this, but it is stressful, since there are countless crabpots, small fishing boats without AIS and in these parts, floating logs that have gotten away from a logging operation.

Four hours later, we are ready to pass Point Wilson, the infamous corner that marks the end of Juan de Fuca Straits and the start of Puget Sound.  We’re in a hurry and have to pass right through the worst part of it.  The fog has lifted and we have a beautiful sunny, but cold morning.  No wind and we are running on the engine.  As we pass the corner, we hit a medley of maelstroms.  The sea is truly boiling.  Despite the raging sea, we fly through all this making 11.2 knots – we have over 6 knots of following current.  After this little excitement, we agree that there is no way we want to attempt to round Point Wilson with the current against us.  Later we heard that a couple of days before we came, the standing waves at Point Wilson were 9 feet.

This photo shows 10.2 knots – a minute later we were going 11.2 knots

The rest of the trip we motorsail with the engine and sails up, but the wind shifts here are ungodly and we have to tack our sails every 15 minutes of so.  Now we run into a situation that we would have considered to be theoretical – it could never happen in real life (of course, Vinni and Carsten are sailing).  We know our Colregs (regulations for avoiding collisions at sea) and that port tack gives way to starboard tack, an upwind boat gives way to a downwind boat.  Here we are, on a port tack.  Coming towards us on the same, but 180 degree opposite course (meaning on a collision course) is a sailboat, also on a port tack.

The wind was blowing from the east for us and the west for him.  Confused?  So were we.  We fell off to give way, but it was strange that the wind could come from both directions.

The sailing here through Puget Sound is idyllic and the hills are covered with pine trees.  In the background, we can see snow covered mountains.  This is the scenery I expected to see in Canada, but it obviously is here also.

After eleven hours (still daylight this far North) we tie up at Elliot Bay marina at a floating dock.  The tides here are over five feet, so even inside the marina there will be strong currents.

And here’s Seattle!

Early the next morning the Spectra man shows up.  Carsten and he spend the morning working on the problem.  After six hours they claim to have solved the problems, all the filters, valves and the membrane have been changed.  That “only” cost $1500. 

Sigh.

Our neighbors here in the marina are Steve and Amy, a very friendly couple with a 32-foot red trawler.  Since we plan to sell Capri when we eventually return to Denmark, we’ve been thinking about buying a trawler when that happens and spending a couple of years sailing on the European rivers.  We grabbed a bottle of wine, went over, knocked and introduced ourselves asking for a guided tour.  They immediately said “yes” and we spent the next couple of hours talking and having a good time.

Once again we are met with this American hospitality, Amy immediately offers to lend us her car the next day, an offer Carsten gratefully accepts.  He has to go shopping for a battery, since I’ve made it clear that I want our bow thruster to start working again.  When we sail towards Alaska, we’ll be maneuvering in tight places with heavy current and the thruster will be a godsend.  Carsten apparently forgot to buy a new battery on Papeete when he replaced the other ones.  He claims he didn’t forget – we don’t need a bow thruster on the open ocean and besides, we can sail Capri perfectly well without one, so why not save the $500?

I get my way.  Carsten comes back the next dragging a new battery, hooks it up and the thruster works.  Will wonders never cease?

Most of the shops and all the tourist attractions in Seattle are closed due to Covid.  We can only enjoy Seattle’s skyline.  The watermaker is fixed and we can sail onward.  Amy comes running the next morning with some fresh baked bread and a large bag of fresh picked green beans.  I’m not sure our Danish culture and we Danes can match this American friendliness and helpfulness.  We meet it everywhere, both here, on Hawaii and sailing up the ICW.  We Danes can learn something from it.

Our morning sail is only five nm, over the bay to Eagle Bay on Bainbridge Island where we will meet Tom, whom we met in Hilo on Hawaii.  Here we can anchor for free (we can’t afford these expensive marinas anymore), and Tom has the door code for the showers on shore – which he promptly gives to us – thank you Tom.

American law doesn’t allow you to empty your toilet tank out into the water; you have to empty it at a pump out station.  We used pump-outs on the ICW also, but there they usually cost $5 or $10.  Here they are free.

We’re also filling our water tanks from city water here.  We’ve been living on watermaker water for 4 years now and this is something new.  The watermaker expert who repaired our watermaker advised us not to make water in Puget Sound or the San Juan’s.  There is so much algae here that you will immediately clog your filters.  The same is true for the glacial bays in Alaska – don’t use it there.  Since we just spent $1500 on repairs – we’ll take his advice.

Bainbridge Island is a sort of suburb to Seattle – the rich live here and the small town is a true tourist trap.  Everything is very, very expensive.

After a couple of days, we sailed to Poulsbo, a Norwegian enclave that takes its Norwegian heritage seriously.  Norwegian flags everywhere, many of the stores have Norwegian names etc.  But they don’t carry anything from Norway.  Even the baker who proudly proclaims his is a “true Norwegian baker” sells only the same type of bread etc. you can find at any American baker.  There was one small grocery store that carried a sizable selection of Scandinavian foods.  But that was it.

There is a little haze – but you can just see Mt. Rainier in the background

The sail up there was through narrow passed in beautiful surroundings – a real “scenic-route” on the water, threading its way through pine forest with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop.  We dropped the hook in the middle of the bay and had a panoramic view from our cockpit with Mt. Rainier as the centerpiece.

A seal pup suckles at her mothers breast

We spent a couple of days in Poulsbo then sailed on to Port Townsend, known for its restored Victorian houses.  Our friends from Hawaii Yacht Club, Brian and Mizzy are there – they sailed from Hawaii two weeks after we did.

But first, we have to pass Gate Agate – a narrow strait under a 75 foot high bridge.  Our mast, including antennas is only 63 feet, so the bridge will not cause us problems.  The currents in the strait can run over six knots, however and that means we need to pass it during slack water.  The current in the strait doesn’t turn until 2-3 hours after the turn of the tide (yes, go figure).  Fortunately, we have our bible, Ports and Passes and Deep Zoom on the net to help us figure out when exactly slack water will occur.  Deep Zoom is really great – it is spot on regarding currents etc.

So we sailed with the tide, which meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. and pulling the hook in the dark.  We followed our track on the chartplotter out the winding channel from Poulsbo and finally make the turn into the channel leading to Gate Agate.  We aren’t the only ones wanting to transit at slack water – the waters around us are suddenly filled with small fishing boats and a couple of other sailboats madly rushing towards the Gate to make the passage before the current starts again. 

Eight hours later, we can drop the hook alongside Brian and Mizzy outside Port Hudson and Port Townsend Marinas.  Port Hudson is an idyllic marina, apparently the oldest marina in Puget Sound and the Juan de Fuca strait.  A couple of days later, when we enter the marina to “pump out”, we find out just how small it is.  Carsten helms Capri in through the very narrow and Z formed harbor entrance.  The breakwater here is so high that it is impossible to see is anyone is on the way out – you just have to be ready for another boat coming right at you in this very narrow entrance.  Fortunately, Carsten doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear – so he just sails us in and dock alongside the pump out.

Here I face the same challenge Carsten faced when we landed in Elliot Bay.  When we landed in Elliot Bay, I couldn’t understand why Carsten didn’t just jump off the boat and tie us up.  I had landed Capri slowly and snuggled right up to the pier.  I can see him standing looking down with the landlines in his hand muttering and cursing. Finally, he jumps while yelling – This is ridiculous, there is no place to jump down to!  Now I understand – it is my turn to jump down to the dock and I can see that instead of having normal cleats – they have set a raised 2×4 along the entire length of the pier.  I suppose they think it makes it easier to find a place to tie up to, but getting down from the boat now becomes dangerous, since it is very easy to fall and break an ankle or leg.  I also have to say, this is not easier to tie up to – a good solid cleat is the best – this is shit.

We managed the pump out, left after a half hour, and anchored outside again. 

It is less dangerous to wander around this old town and see all the restored Vitorian houses. Many are complee with galbes and balconies etc. It is a joy to see them.

Complete with balconies on every side
The old lighthouse is fully restored and serves as a guest house for one of the big homes overlooking the bay
A fine example of a totem pole

This is the part of the world where totem poles originated. Port Twonsend has this marvelous one (all town have at least one). This one symbolizes two brothers that fought with the gods (having a woman help them) and won. After the battle they decided to stay in heaven but had pity on he humans they left behind. As a result each day the one brother shines his powerful ight on the earth (the sun). He is pictured at the top. His brother shines a less powerful light at night (the moon) and is pictured in the middle. Blue Jay, the woman who helped them win is pictured at the bottom

Yep, the entire roof and hood were filled with copies of famous buildings
Not to be used for navigation

Aside from the houses we also met a creative soul. He (or she) had decorated the car with a “city map” on the top. Obviously this makes it much harder to steal, but the owner, apparently with a sense of civic responsibility has posted sign in the window.

The car in its full glory
Here’s Vinni and Carsten!

Jyllands Posten, a major Danish daily newspaper ran a full double page article about us and for that they wanted a new picture – so we had the neighbor take one.

We will be here for several days at least since Carsten has to take his Washington State driver’s license.  If he has an American driver’s license then we can get our “Hippiecamper” registered in our names and the insurance will be cheaper. But the last time Carsten took a driving test was close to 50 years ago and certainly, the theoretical part has changed dramatically.  I’m happy he’s doing this and not me.

In Washington State, they take their Covid rules seriously.  Carsten needs to wear a facemask when taking the test, and gloves and bring his own pencil.  Carsten reads the theory book like mad for 4 days – then takes the test and passes.  Now he just needs to go to the Motor Vehicles office, have his picture taken and show his ID.  But Corona has made its mark here also.  You can’t just go – you need to make an appointment and there is a 1-month waiting time. 

We see many strange things from our anchorage – here a nuclear sub on its way to the sub base in Puget Sound

August 18 is our anniversary, 30 years this time and Carsten makes tender steaks and homemade béarnaise sauce.  The next morning he’s up and making coffee and tea while I snuggle under the covers (life is hard as a full-time cruiser).  Suddenly I hear a loud CRASH!

Dressed as Eve, I jump out of bed and rush up into the cockpit to see Carsten, who’s already there, leaning over the railing.  I’m convinced that he neighbor boat has dragged its anchor.  Imagine my surprise when I see two men hanging off our railing and a double-sculler lying half-sunken in the water besides us.

Carsten was a kayak rower when he was younger (many, many years ago) and reacts quickly, as the two rowers, a middle-aged man and his son are not doing anything but simply hanging on to our boat.  He tosses a line down to the younger rower and asks him to tie it onto the sculler so it doesn’t drift away and tells them not to worry about their life vests or waterproof bags – he’ll take the dinghy and round them up after we get boat and rowers taken care of.

We help the two rather shocked rowers up in the cockpit.  They are both very fit and obviously train every day.  They told us that they used to live in Alaska and rowed there so they aren’t freezing from the (comparatively) warm water here.  They declined the use of towels but gratefully accepted the offer of some warm coffee.

But what happened?  The son explained that normally it was his father that did the “driving”.  The driver has a small mirror attached to his hat so he can see what is in front (both rowers are facing backwards, of course) and make course adjustments to get around anything that might pop up.  But there were few boats at anchor, it was early so there was no traffic and they were both pulling hard, enjoying the sensation of speed, so he forgot to look in the mirror.  At the last second, he noticed something show up in the mirror out of the corner of his eye, but it was too late to do anything.  They t-boned us at full speed.

Fortunately, there were no injuries, but Capri now has a couple of new scratches – both she and we will survive that.  We got the sculler righted and bailed out; Carsten took the dinghy and came back with the vests and waterproof bags.  Both of them were embarrassed by their stunt and as they rowed away, the son yelled out to us, “We owe you a dinner”.  But they never contacted us – not for dinner, not an e-mail saying they were sorry, nor did they stop by with a six-pack or a bottle of wine.  Many other boat owners would have raised a stink, yelled at them etc.  We didn’t – there was no serious damage and they obviously didn’t do it on purpose.

They survived but needed to row hard to get warm again

In a number of our blogs, we have described how we have saved other boaters from the shit, due to their anchors dragging or saved a dinghy that decided to go walkabout, or otherwise being damaged.  Surprisingly, a fair number of these boaters have not shown much appreciation.  Had someone saved our bacon, we would immediately have come by with a bottle of wine or a six-pack.  But apparently, other boaters don’t have the same feeling of gratefulness.  Of course, we all help each other, you never know, someday it could be us that needs the help – but a bottle of wine or the like is a nice gesture and shows you are well mannered.

But enough is enough!  This was the third time in less than six months that Capri has been hit by other boats.  The first was the steel ferry that was on a buoy next to us at Maui, the second time was in the marina in Honolulu when the neighboring trawlers dock lines chafed through and she slid over into Capri and now a double sculler.

We’ll be sailing tomorrow to Anacortes where we will meet Mizzy and Brian, whom we know from Hawaii Yacht Club, but we will also see Wags and Paula, a cruising couple we first on Galapagos and later spent some time with in the Marquesas.  Their sailboat is on the hard on New Zealand.  They were there when Covid closed everything down and they decided to haul the boat out and fly home to Anacortes for the duration of the Covid situation.  Just like us, they have no idea when they will be able to continue their trip.

Brian, Mizzy and Feisty. As they were leaving Honolulu, Mizzy and Feisty fell overboard. It took Brian and the the other crew members 5 tires before they got them back on board. Feisty sat on top of Mizzy’s head the entire time staying dry

We’ll spend a couple of day in Anacortes, and then sail out into the archipelago, the San Juan Islands, famous in the US for fantastic sailing.  We’ve heard about this area from many cruisers and are looking forward to seeing it.

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