Lot of pictures in this one, sorry! Click any picture for a full size version.
After an abortive attempt to move on Sunday, Monday morning I woke up at 5:30am and prepared to leave. The reason being that the high tide was at 10:30 at Sooke, and there was a sandbar at the entrance to the harbour that was only passable at high tide! I also had to time it so I could get through Race Passage (a narrow stretch of water that passes between land and a bunch of nasty rocks on the other side) at slack tide, as its current can get pretty intense.
A lot of think about, especially for my first solo voyage anywhere! (unsurprisingly no-one was available at 5:30am on a Monday morning to go with me).
At 6am, I nervously hand-bombed the boat out and gave it a good shove in the reverse direction. It’s the first time I’ve undocked by myself, but it went fine. There was no wind and little current that helped, and the commercial spot behind me was empty for once. I backed out, and I was on my way!
The water was incredibly calm – look at those reflections
The first little bit was easy enough, it was me basically getting used to being on the boat by myself.
Soon however, I ran into fog. You can see it looming up ahead!
….. which then turned to this.
This was pretty scary – my AIS was down (thanks Simrad), my radar was sat under my table, and my hand-held foghorn decided not to work. I throttled down and crept through the fog. It was extremely spooky going through race passage, not the widest place. Visibility was down to 50 yards or lower. Occasionally I’d hear the mournful sound of a foghorn going off to one side, and I’d strain my eyes even harder trying to spot what it was.
It was exhausting. The fog was so thick it was really easy to get disoriented, so I had to constantly check my GPS, then look up and scan to make sure I wasn’t going to hit anything (logs, boats), then down to my GPS again. It reminded me a lot of being IFR when flying a plane – constant scanning.
Once out of race passage I relaxed a little, and the fog lifted slightly. A couple of sport fishing boats slipped in and out of the fog, and then I rounded the ‘corner’ of the island, and into the straight of Juan de Fuca.
It was still pretty foggy, and squinting up ahead I saw something strange – the horizon seemed to be moving… and I then realised it was ocean swells, probably caused by the area of low pressure far to the east. It was the first time I’d ever seen them.
Now the swells were probably only 4′ – 6′ high, long, and very gentle, but it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before and I was pretty terrified for a while. It’s hard to explain just how alien the whole experience is. Watching these things roll out of the fog towards me was not helping, so I just decided not to look, and take the briefest of glances out the front now and then. Not really the best idea, but hey. I also called my friend Nancy, who talked me down, and after a while I got used to it. Gudgeon, of course, gave no shits and happily rode the swells. No pictures because I was too busy shitting my pants.
I carried on chugging, and just as I was wondering how I was going to find the marina, I broke out of the fog into a lovely sunny day
Now for the next challenge. The sandbar.
The entrance to the harbour has a sandbar which means that it is only passable in certain tidal conditions. I calculated I had around 6′ of water which should have been enough, since I draw 4’11”
I went into neutral and crawled over the sandbar at half a knot, staring as the depth sounder went down… and down…
This was the lowest it got luckily – that gives me a good one inch clearance by my reckoning! Yikes.
Anyway, I got in ok and went to find the riggers.
Then my mast was pulled.
It was …interesting. The ‘mast tower’ was a guy in a chair lift, and the dock was an old log thrown against the rocks. Needless to say I was extremely nervous as we bounced near the sharp edges as Steve wrestled with the mast.
It all went ok though, and now the mast is off
Then it was moving Gudgeon back to the dock, where I tied her up.
It’s ridiculously beautiful and quiet here – shame it’s nearly $60 a night to stay, ouch. Gotta get that hardware installed on the mast!