I heard it before I saw it, looking back I saw white water crumbling over my head. The wind was up and the sea as steep and angry as I have seen in this area. The wave slapped Sookie with an explosion of white water, streaks of foam blew off the crests of the waves and for the first time on this journey I almost wished I had added a reef point to my 80 square foot staysail the only canvas I had up. I was is heaven caught in the belly of the tempest. Sookie was doing what I built her to do, keep me alive. I couldn’t of known it at the time but in less than 48 hours I would come as close to losing Sookie as I could on a dead calm windless day. People who sail with me know if anything that I’m not easily rattled, some day I will write about our near fateful encounter but honestly weeks later I’m still too shaken up. I can teach any good student 80% of sailing in a week. The other 20%, the part we call seamanship takes the rest of your life. Sookie turned out to be the absolutely ideal boat for the voyage, she never failed to tack, beat into steep short period sea’s like a witch, was super comfy at anchor and as fun to sail as any boat I have ever been on. It took me 4 years but her running rigging is finally perfect, i can reef her in under a minute, she heaves to instantly and no matter what the weather she handled like a lady. The only complaint I have is that while she may be able to claw off a lee shore getting her to make weatherly progress in anything over 40 knots of true wind is beyond her or my ability. I’ve been doing my research and I think a furling jib might be in my future. I’m convinced that if I could roll just a scooch of her jib out in combination with a reefed staysail we might find a middle ground when the wind turns grumpy. A third reef in my main is also in the makings I ask a lot of this 22′ boat but due to her small size she does have limitations although they are few and far between. I was told you can’t sail the inside passage so many times I got paranoid and added 5 gallons to my 4 gallon total fuel capacity, I never used it and could have done the whole trip with 2. I was also really beaten up for continuing to sail without a depth sounder but it was never an issue. I did however meet 6 people who all had hard groundings with their depth sounders on. I have to admit our fun meters were pegged on more than one occasion trying to negotiate small rock strewn passes but it was the constant challenge that made the trip what it was. Our little 6hp outboard would have been the perfect size engine had she run properly for us. One hour into the trip she started to faultier and got worse every day, ONE HOUR! The final insult was when her prop spun its ring while we were being sucked backwards into the rocks at 10.2 knots by a rapid that was going north south and west all at the same time. We carried 34 gallons of water but never used more than 14 between refills. Our meager budget of 100 a week and a fairly well stocked boat was easy to stick to and we never ran over it until the last week when disaster came looking for us, the motor runs perfectly now that we are back thanks to the wonderful people at Roche Marine. The prices in Canada were ludicrous and there are three taxes on everything. With a little bit of luck I will set off again April 2nd 2016 with a windvane so I can completely skip the Gulf Islands which didnt do much for me other than all the wonderful people I met. My goal is Glacier Bay and a full 8 months to do it in. Had circumstances been different this year I would have gone all the way but I’m still working hard at that last 20%. We didn’t have heat and were cold and wet for half of the trip, heat is number 2 on my list followed by a good light air sail that our tiny budget couldn’t afford. Our anchoring system was flawless easy to use and even though we couldn’t set our amor or use the engine for anchoring we never dragged and inch, not even during a full gales in soft squishy mud. We would drop the anchor in silence doing about half a knot down wind which was enough to straighten her chain but never enough to set it. We witnessed many boats dragging even some with all chain. I would like to go to 100′ so we don’t swing so much but thats mostly due to boneheads who don’t know how to anchor and drop their hook right on top of us in a deserted bay. And what about crew? We had more fun than any boat we came across but the universe has different plans for both of us. I will never sail solo again so its back to the boatyard for now which gives me the opportunity to work on Sookies almost legondary cozy factor. I loved the early mornings and daily routine of setting up the boat. We rarely sailed over 12 miles in any day and almost always found safe quiet empty anchorages. Before we left many sailors tried to give me advice and tell me of their favorite spots, I refused to listen to any of them. I wanted my own trip, my own adventure and boy did I get it. Each morning I would pull out my compas and make a 20 mile circle on my chart from our anchorage, only then would we have any idea of where we were headed. We never made a single plan or destination some days we sailed north, others south, east or west. We didn’t see a single whale but we were whitness on regular basis to the brutality of nature. We never saw the bears we were warned of but did hear them. We met up with a super pissed off mountain lion but missed the wolves. Having a Sasquatch encounter was the scariest part of the trip but awesome. Now that were back its time to look for a bit of work to buy my freedom. I carefully bottled up enough selective memories to carry me though another winter and this one is going to be a wild wet one. The hardest part of the journey was remembering to put clothes on, we sailed out of the cold and into 100 degree temperatures that followed us for the remainder of the trip. Rowing naked across our anchorage Emily looked down and asked do you think we should have clothes on? More often than not we had wide open empty anchorages. Sookie was our own private island the surrounding nature our universe. While I loved every aspect of the voyage the sound of chain rattling through the haws hole was the most satisfying. I would crack a warm beer sit on the scuttle hatch and scan my new horizon content with yet another successful day at sea, more lessons learned and the best damn boat in the world firmly planted under my tan bare feet.
You’ve learned everything about sailing but nothing about seamanship.