Monday, August 19, 2013

Ocean Debut

Guest post from the crew:

A long overdue update is needed. Time escapes you on a boat. We have been on the boat for a week and two days and I am just now finding time to update thanks to the weather which has delayed us another day and Claire's persistence that we blog about the trip thus far.

I finally left Seattle. My crew arrived on Friday, August 9th. They are all old friends from the Hoofer Sailing Club in Madison, WI where Rachel and I met. Justin flew in from San Francisco after just moving there three days prior. Nathan and Claire arrived by Bolt Bus from Portland, OR on Friday evening. They were last minute add-ons thanks to Facebook. Justin has the most off shore experience having taken ASA courses and sailed off of Florida and in the Great Lakes. Nathan and Claire are newbies to cruising and off shore sailing, but have experience sailing small boats. They will learn soon enough. We all enjoyed catching up over seafood at Ray's that evening. Justin is a self employed computer programmer and has been planning to do this trip with me since its inception. Nathan and Claire have taken the summer off to adventure. They are the old couple on the boat. Claire quit her job in June as a pediatric speech and language pathologist after a managerial change went way wrong. Nathan followed suit soon after as he will start graduate school in the fall for his PhD in neuroscience. They have been traveling around climbing, camping, and helping friends and family and were hoping to add a sailing adventure to their summer resume. They must return to the real world in mid-Sept. and so will only make the first leg to Newport where we will do a crew swap.

OK, I am going to stop pretending I am Adam. This is Claire writing so you will notice an apparent lack of sailing terms, boat related vocab and details about our location, wind, current, and whatever else sailors are concerned about. Instead I will describe things we saw, ate, and felt. On Saturday, Adam put us to work. Adam's work ethic is a good match for Nathan, who can never sit down. I have never seen someone work so hard. He is always thinking of projects, but I am getting the idea that that is just what happens when you own a boat. Adam is constantly making changes and improvements and Nathan is eager to help out and learn. Adam has a mini-hardware store on the boat. He has everything he thinks he might need for the next year and more. He cannot run an errand without coming back with more hardware. I help with the projects where I can but have found that I am much more comfortable cleaning, cooking, and organizing. And so we have developed gender stereotyped roles, but I am not complaining yet. I am happy to help out in any way I can. Since I have been organizing and putting away things like crazy, I have somehow managed to become the only person who really knows where things are on the boat. Adam has a habit of buying things and then leaving them on the kitchen counter. I put them away. I don't often know the names of things, but know what they look like and can get them with a short description. I am not quite sure what Adam is going to do once I leave and until Rachel comes as she knows where everything is as well.

We did so many projects I have forgotten what the were. Nathan and Justin ran to the grocery store and ended up spending $500 on groceries. Adam will be eating the best and most he has eaten since moving on to the boat. The jellyfish we saw in the marina before departure, were only appreciated by three of us (Justin, apparently, is terrified of jellyfish). We decided to forgo the party in Poulsbo for sleep and an early departure the next day....just too many projects in the works. Well, as it turns out, early departures are not our strength. We woke up and did more boat work and ended up not leaving for Port Townsend until afternoon. We sailed out of the marina until the wind died and then we motored the rest of the way, arriving late in the evening.

On Monday, we stayed in Port Townsend to complete more projects. I learned to make an eye splice...a venture that almost drove me insane. After 4 hours, I completed my first and then went on to do another and teach Nathan to do one as well. We now have a new main sheet, main halyard, and spinnaker halyard. We drilled holes for the storm windows and Nathan went crazy organizing the lazarette. We visited the legendary rigger Brion Toss and the sail loft. We had an amazing breakfast at the local cafe as well.
Tuesday we left for Port Angeles. Justin has the information on exactly how long it took and such, so I will just do the best I can to remember the details. It took all day, but we sailed! We were traveling upwind the entire time so doubled the length of our trip by tacking. Nothing too notable, just had to remain out of the shipping lane. The weather was great. We were going at under 4 knots in the evening so we decided to throw in a line. We caught 3 salmon that night, I believe. Put one back because it was wild, caught one, and then lost one reeling it in (Nathan's first go at fishing). It was truly a wonderful end to the evening. We arrived in Port Angeles late. Adam taught us how to clean a fish by head lamp and we ate it as our late night snack.

Wednesday was another work day in Port Angeles. 'Ohana joined us in the morning. They are another boat from the rally. At this point I think all other boats were ahead of us besides 'Ohana, hoping to beat the weather or what not ( but really they all ended up motoring most of the way). More projects were completed. What? I don't remember. The day flew by. George, a member of the local yacht club, was kind enough to take me to the grocery store to pick up a few more items. He then invited us all over to the club for $1 beers and to chat with some members. They were all so very wonderful and very curious as to how we, as young people, could afford to sail. It is a relevant question as Adam is clearly in the minority when it comes to sailboat owners. I did not see anyone close to his age at Shilshole and have not seen anyone out on the water or at the marinas either. Instead, we meet lots of retired couples spending their time sailing around the Pacific. Something I must say I had never thought about doing until now. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is beautiful and I could definitely see myself spending summers sailing around the San Juan's.

Thursday we left Port Angeles in the afternoon hoping to benefit from a bit more wind. What we didn't count on was afternoon fog to roll in. It got really foggy exiting the harbor. Adam was having fun watching the radar and dodging boats as if he was playing a video game. Everyone else was a bit tense I think. I manned the fog horn and all eyes were scanning the waters for danger. It was a bit unsettling to hear the fog horns of the giant shipping vessels, but never see them. The fog began to dissipate and we began to sail towards Neah Bay. The wind was light but we stuck with it. When the only item on your agenda is to get from point a to point b, it doesn't really matter how long it takes. We had another great day of sailing. It was rainy and overcast in the beginning, but then the evening opened up to clear skies and sunshine. I cooked jambalaya while the boys did some more fishing. The salmon were jumping and it was almost too easy to catch them. We caught five (each of us got a chance to real one in) and were able to keep two (the limit). We are getting better at salmon identification and believe we got two coho. We got in late (maybe 1 am) to Neah Bay and managed to not wake up Justin or hit anything major on the way.

Friday we got up early and finished the storm window project. I ran to the general store four times for odds and ends (diesel can, Parmesan, plumbing supplies, ice...) Adam is always in the market for something. We got out in the late afternoon...maybe 3. Before we left Nathan and I got to watch a master fish cleaner (if that is what you call them). He literally cleaned a salmon in three strokes. There was no meat left on the bones. It was beautiful. We met a father and his two sons from Anacortes and they taught us how to fillet a salmon. We left for our 19-hour-long journey out into the open water. We saw a whale exiting the sound! I took it as a good sign. We were all feeling fine until the full power of the open ocean hit. I popped a Dramamine, but I think that made things worse. I got sick...pretty sick, but managed. I completed two shifts with Adam, but I honestly was half asleep the whole time. We tried to sail a bit, but motored almost the whole way. Nathan and Justin took a shift with the roughest waters. I tried to sleep my illness off. Adam navigated not getting more than an hour of sleep that night. We arrived at 10 on Saturday morning in Westport, WA. We ate breakfast/lunch and then I promptly fell asleep in the sun in the bench of the cockpit. My nausea went away and I was able to eat again. Everyone else was feeling great. No other major illnesses to report except that I have a persistent heat rash and a lingering case of poison ivy, all of which is making me extremely itchy and very grateful when we have opportunities to shower. We feasted that evening on the salmon we caught, vegetables, and chocolate chip cookies. We took a break from boat talk and finally had our first evening of family game time (cards against humanity).

And so this brings us to today, Sunday. The winds are still coming from the south so we decided yesterday that we would spend the day here....doing more projects. Adam tinkered with the bilge pump all morning. He and Nathan are fixing a deck drain and I am to do some organization of the electrical cabinets when they are done. We have sunshine again, which is much appreciated as we have lots to dry out. It looks somewhat like a yard sale on the boat right now, but things are drying. Adam is also caulking/sealing all the leaks we found in our night of sailing on the open water. Fingers crossed it all works. We leave tomorrow at the break of dawn for Newport, a trek that should take us 24 hours or so. I am hydrating now as I would like to not puke my way through this leg.

As we enter our last leg of this journey with Adam, I have say I have mixed feelings about it all. I am excited to be almost home, be dry, use the bathroom whenever I need to, and get back in touch with the world (unlike the others, I have stayed relatively unplugged). But at the same time I will miss the way time passes when you are on a boat, the people we have met, the beauty of the open water, the simplicity of living on a boat (fix things, sail, eat, and sleep), the scenery, the sunsets, the wildlife, the adventure, and of course Adam. It has been such a pleasure and an honor to start him on this year long journey. We were really not worthy candidates for this gig, but fate or something put us on this boat and I think it worked out for everyone. For me, I am proud to have conquered another fear. I am thankful to have had this experience with Nathan. We had had lots of moments this summer together that we will likely never forget, but this trip will certainly stand out. Like Rachel and Adam, Nathan and I took this time to focus on our relationship and I do not regret a single thing. It seems as though everything we have done this summer was meant to be. Adam and Nathan are so much alike and I have enjoyed watching them work together, laugh, fish, but mostly watching Adam teach Nathan. I never met Rachel, having left Madison for Portland the summer she joined Hoofers, but I do hope to meet her someday. If they will have us, I can't think of anything that Nathan and I would want to do more than to join them next summer wherever they are for more unforgettable moments.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Short update for now.  Adam and crew (more about them later) set sail from Seattle on August 11 and arrived in Neah Bay last night.  When the weather looks good they will turn the corner and head south along the coast!  Please pray for a North wind the whole way.

In the meantime they have been fishing up a storm and even had to thrown some back yesterday when they reached their catch limit.  Yummy salmon!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Shakedown

My year of medical school in Asheville, NC has ended and I am now a 4th year student! With the second step of my boards exam behind me I was able to schedule in two weeks of vacation time to help Adam with boat preparation.  It has been a long time since I was in Seattle.  Adam has been living on Moments since April, but I haven't seen our new home since the survey in March.  Much has been done since then to get us ready for departure.  Credit is due to Adam's amazing handy-man skills and determination to make it happen.  As well as the help of many of our friends.  Part of the necessary preparation is to take the boat on a shakedown sail so we can test her, strain her and break stuff before we are out in an ocean.  It turns out that we also needed to test ourselves both with handling a bigger boat than we had ever sailed together and with communicating effectively but not offensively with one another.

After a few days of boat work, Adam and I set out for 4-day cruise in what may have been the most spectacular weather Seattle has ever seen.  Our trip was: Seattle--Port Townsend--Sequim Bay--Port Hadlock--Seattle.  Overall it was a wonderful trip.  We were able to break out our new fishing equipment (a big shout-out to Adam's parents for this thoughtful gift), however it was a good thing that we brought our own food.  Sequim Bay was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  We were anchored right next to the John Wayne Marina and visited by both muskrats and seals during our stay under an amazingly brilliant full moon.

Sequim Bay was our first attempt at anchoring together or using the windlass on Moments.  For the non-sailing folk out there, a windlass is a motor at the front of the boat which helps to let out and bring in the anchor.  They are notoriously finicky.  We had been warned that anchoring is often the most stressful activity a cruising couple will go through. Although we knew better than to completely doubt our experienced friends, we did not understand exactly what they were talking about until Sequim Bay.

If anything, a successful long distance relationship improves your communication skills. The problem with anchoring on a large sailboat is a problem of physics.  One crew member has to be at the front of the boat to watch the anchor chain and guide the rode (fancy sailor term for anchor chain/rope) as it is let out or brought in, and the other crew member is in the cockpit steering the boat and, on Moments, lifting or lowering the anchor with the solitary windlass control switch.  The engine, which needs to be on while anchoring, is a large diesel beast that literally vibrates the whole boat and obliterates any attempts of verbal communication between the two crew members.  In a sailboat, the anchor chain cannot go under the boat because it can become wrapped on the keel.  This situation makes for a comedy of gigantic proportions.  We had been advised to communicate using a set of hand signals and were all ready to leave Sequim Bay after a sleepless night hoping our anchor would hold.  I was on the bow trying to communicate the direction the boat needed to travel to lift the rode perpendicularly out of the water, signaling to Adam using the anchoring sign language we had discussed and many exaggerated arm waving patterns I made up on the spot in an attempt to communicate situations we had not anticipated. To the residents clamming on shore I must have looked like an uncoordinated Zumba participant as I scuttled and waived and jumped and hollered.  In the end we couldn't actually get the windlass to work and Adam had to use brute strength to pull in our anchor.  Not an easy task, especially on very little sleep.  However, after reading the windlass instructions and making a few adjustments during our sail, anchoring and getting underway the next day went seamlessly.  I would like to say we are getting better, but I wont go that far yet.

The shakedown ended, as any shakedown should, with a night sail into Seattle where the throttle went out and the transmission was stuck in reverse while we were drifting into a major shipping lane.  However, with some quick thinking and good teamwork we were able to get home and land so seamlessly we didn't even wake up Adam's neighbor.  

The Decision

Now, T-10 days from departure I can share my first blog post.  This was written back in January.  More to come!

Delayed gratification defines the life of a medical student.  Despite entering medicine for all of the “right” reasons —a passion for helping others, a genuine interest in science and an intense curiosity about all things human – thoughts of doubt never completely exit my mind.  While my friends have been traveling, campaigning, advancing, dating, marrying and buying, I have been studying; studying harder and longer than I ever thought possible.  Thirty hours of class per week, plus studying, plus time for necessities (cleaning and eating) is not an equation that will give you an excellent social life.  Sure, I could skip class, I could study less, but tell me, is that the kind of doctor you want taking care of you or your loved ones?

Then there is Adam.  Ours is initially a story of summer love.  Summer love that the gods of time looked down on and laughed at.  Despite our strongest efforts to end our relationship and even hide on the opposite side of the globe from one another, the attraction we share has resulted in a four-year, long distance relationship.  I have to say I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Adam is an intelligent, understanding, talented, stubborn, and I have to say very handsome man full of love and support for me and my goals.  Goals seem to be our perpetual problem.  Many of our goals are similar, but for now they keep us on opposite sides of the country as we strive for success in our individual career fields. 

As the daughter of a feminist generation, in college even the thought of changing my career plans for a boyfriend made me sick to my stomach.  The Gloria Steinems of the world were watching.  I had to live up to their expectations.  I am successful, I will be the breadwinner, he should come to me.  However, did merely swapping unequal roles really give me the partnership I desired?  The answer is no, but of course the scales of compromise always look weighted towards the side you are standing.  Many sleepless nights and long digitally-assisted conversations later we have hatched a plan.  Maybe it is our goals that need to be put on hold and not our relationship.  There are two things you can do when your partner says, “baby, let’s quit our jobs and sail away.”  Either, you go or you get a new boyfriend.  We’ve decided to go.