It was just after noon on Thursday, August 21, 2008 that Jamie and I finally cast off the docklines—departing Bainbridge Island to begin a nomadic life afloat as a family. Over the last two weeks, we’d kept a count of days-to-departure updated on the whiteboard affixed the pantry locker door- it finally read “0”!
Despite the years of planning and dreaming that lead up to this day, immediate celebration of the milestone was somewhat lost in the chaos of last minute details. Some were bigger than others: despite redundancy in spares for nearly every part, our previously trusty autopilot expired. Not really interested in hand-steering down the coast, with <24 hours to go a new one was acquired and installed. Then there was the oven in our house that had a service call…the pile of turf (I called it sod, until our British tenants educated me) in our driveway…the report at work (I’ve got several weeks to go) that needed some ‘splaining…another half gallon of milk to shore up our provisioning…clothes for the children’s week away…and what felt like 100 other tasks to complete. We have two crew members coming with us- Curtis Edwards was already on board, and we were picking up PJ Baker at Shilshole marina. Notably, the children were not on board but with their grandparents, aka Plug and Poppy. They are happy little boat kids, but their sailing experience limited to coastal cruising around Puget Sound. Going offshore is wholly different, and given the probability of adverse or weather during at least some portion of a trip down the coast—we felt it was prudent to spare them the experience and ease in more gradually through progressively longer hops south from San Francisco Bay.
Sending us off in true style was a friend I’ll miss more than I can say! Tracey Denlinger pulled together her family (parents Ray & Jan Peacoe, and children Sam & Julia) and ours (my parents with our children in tow) on board the Peacoe’s Sabre, Abuela, to escort us out Eagle Harbor- complete with a soundtrack of tunes from a CD for the occasion. Abuela stayed alongside until we raised the jib and pointed up towards Shilshole. Watching them turn, it hit me just how much I’ll miss the frequent visits with this dear friend and neighbor…thankfully, sunglasses are a great foil for discreet tears.
Meanwhile, at least the crew on Abuela was having a fine day on the water- Niall was actually mock-crying, LOUDLY, across the water while they all waved hankerchiefs at us. It was quite a sight! I was thrilled to see my mother on board- she loves boats, but from a distance. Getting ON them and leaving the dock is another story altogether! (Mum, I’ve got the St Christopher up).
Riding the Humpback Highway
Today- two days later- we’re riding what Jamie finally called the Humpback Highway. We’ve seen so many whales today I’ve actually lost count! Most were too far for away photograph to do any justice, but there have been spectacular displays of tail slapping, breeching, and several mother/calf pairs. It’s been a smooth ride of gentle swells and beautiful skies.
We haven’t had enough wind to sail, but were able to get out just behind one weather system- and are motoring through so we can get south ahead of a second one. We’re anticipating pulling into Newport, OR (hopefully finding wifi to upload this!) on Saturday afternoon to wait out the next low…let the big winds blow by, then head out on the back side. We’ll get favorable wind and anticipate a nice sail south, with perhaps a bit of excitement (hopefully not too much) around the Cape Mendocino.
Meanwhile, we have the opportunity at least to take a deep breath- look around- and enjoy and appreciate the place where we are and this time in our lives. Our first full day out, PJ replaced the whiteboard departure countdown with this message: WELCOME TO DAY 1 OF THE CRUISING LIFE. Are we ever grateful!