Pardon my lack of posts lately. We did a bit of sailing this week.
It started last Thursday (4/20) when we caught an extremely favorable southerly wind for a 160-mile overnight passage from the northwest corner of Vancouver Island to the bottom of Haida Gwaii. Continuing north with the breeze, we went up through incredible Gwaii Haanas National Park before sailing across Hecate Strait to the northern BC coast. Then on Tuesday afternoon we made the hop over the border under a shining sun and our bright blue spinnaker to Ketchikan, Alaska.
Pulling into Bar Harbor Marina here in Ketchikan and checking into the USA was a wonderful feeling. Greeted with the last sun rays of the day, snowcapped mountains and friendly locals, it was exactly a month to the day since we departed Victoria with a simple plan to head north under sail. In that time we’ve put over 700 miles behind Yahtzee’s stern and only 90 of those — 90! — have been upwind.
But it was never really about the miles. It was all about the sailing. From day one until crossing the border, our goal in reaching Alaska was about sailing as family. Not pushing it, but waiting for it and living it — and we’ve done that.
The green mountains of the Brooks Peninsula shot up into the clouds off our starboard side. In front of us, Solander Island and its rocky, toothlike shape pierced straight from the depths of the sea. A deep blue Pacific Ocean with frothing white waves, meeting an equally blue and white sky, rose and fell around and under us. And Yahtzee’s white sails spread out wide full of breeze, moving us fast downwind.
With all four of us in the cockpit, we surfed the swell, smiled at one another, whooped it up and danced to the rhythm of the boat moving with the waves. There’s nothing I love more in life than my family and sailing, and if this day could have continued forever or been bottled and kept for a rainy day, I would have.
Shortly after arriving in Barkley Sound, I took my usual long hard look at the weather and began to notice a string of intense lows setting up for a long march eastward across the vast openness of the North Pacific Ocean. The frequency and pattern of the systems seemed somewhat atypical for this time of year and I remarked to Jill, “I have a feeling the weather is going to get real weird for about the next 10 days to two weeks.” Turns out, I didn’t realize how right that assessment would be.
Fast forward about a week and our intended one or two day stop in Ucluelet — or Ukee as it’s affectionately known — started to slow down when an intense low, followed by a slightly weaker one, was forecast to sweep in off the ocean and pummel the Pacific Northwest. The pressure of this low was something more akin to the storms we get in late fall and early winter, and having cruised through many of those, we had no intention of being at anchor or underway when the storm force winds started driving ashore.
When the sun burst through the clouds it felt like a dream. Standing with arms wide open, face pointed skyward, I finally felt like spring was upon us. And Barkley Sound came alive.
The days following our arrival in the Sound had been quite the opposite. It seemed as though a hose was being aimed directly at the Pacific Northwest from the ocean and we endured multiple days of pouring rain and gray skies. At times it rained so hard that I awoke suddenly and laid in bed thinking, “How long can this continue?” Everything was wet it seemed — inside and out.