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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Strait of Juan de Fuca

Neah Bay is an amazing place, but soon we wanted to move on.  We'll miss the incredible general store, and the open safe anchorage. But we probably wont miss the constant sound of fireworks, and the big piles of trash from setting them off along the beach.  We also wont miss the us vs. them mentality of the town.  My advice to the visitor is to ask more than one person what something costs, if something is available, or if something is allowed.  I didn't always get a strait answer, and it seems race may be involved.  Maybe they are still mad that all the vegans gave them a hard time for hunting whales.  For once I am with the vegans.

We motored out of the bay and were able to raise sails at once.  We made many miles at 4 knots on a broad reach.  It was the sailing we've dreamed about but never done: a tack that lasts more than an hour.  We were headed for Pillar Point to anchor for the night.  We got there at the end of the flood tide and the beginning of a lot more wind.  The mellow day changed fast when I felt like the anchorage wasn't safe.  All of a sudden we were in for a long trip to Port Angeles with a lot of wind behind us and an ebb tide.  We had 4-5 foot breaking seas around us.  We motored to make good time and got in at 10 pm as the light faded and we picked our way past buoys and around anchored tankers.

Port Angeles is not a pretty town, there is no way around it.  The harbor greets you with smoke stacks billowing great clouds into the sky.  But it has a nice snug harbor full of cool boats.  I think they pull in for the affordable moorage in between adventures.  Most of the boats looked capable, cared for, and tested by experience.  The night after we pulled in there was a gale that made conditions rough in the strait, and we were happy to be tied to a pier.  We met folks from Ubiquity, a pretty Pacific Seacraft who were bringing it down to Portland.  They took us to the Peak Brewpub, which makes great beer and has excellent guest taps.  Don't pass through Port Angeles without going.

We had a quest in town, find a 1/2 inch hose barb debris filter for our water tank.  All the heavy sloshing around at sea stirred up some strange things.  We figured that we'd need to cobble a solution out of different parts.  We also needed a wireless usb device and a digital camera.  We walked through strip mall after strip mall and were nearly run down numerous times.  City workers were tearing up all of the sidewalks to improve them.  I suspect they had advance notice there would be pedestrians and they were trying get everything ready for us.  They failed.  But our spirits were lifted by Swain's, voted best hardware store in the county, which carries a  whole line of Shurflo items, including the exact part we needed.

We installed the filter and headed for Dungeness Spit.  The was no wind to speak of so we motored.  The spit is caused by the Dungeness River dumping silt, and for whatever reason it creates a stable spit of sand 5 miles long.  It grows 30 feet or more a year.  We anchored behind the safety of the spit.  I rowed over to the spit and walked out to the lighthouse.  The terrain was just like an ocean shore: tidal pool follwed by driftwood followed by dune, only then it was driftwood, tidal pool and ocean shore all over again on the other side.  At the lighthouse I expected signs from the Coast Guard saying "keep out".  Imagine my shock to find an oasis: lush, well kept green grass with a family wandering the grounds and signs saying "welcome, public tours".  There is a 630 foot deep well at the lighthouse, and it creates a freshwater stream and pond, and allows for a sudden change in vegetation.  The lighthouse is kept by volunteers.  Members sign up to stay out there for a week and take visitors on a tour.  I think it would be an amazing experience, perhaps best in rough weather.

I've been wanting to fish and crab all along the trip, but my first chance was in Dungeness Spit.  I tried a bottom jig and caught dogfish, a kind of shark.  I guess these are tasty if you soak them in cold water and vinegar overnight.  Mine threw the hook and got away, so it remains untested.  Then I tried the crabhawk, a tiny crab pot that can be cast using a stout rod.  We don't have room for real crab pots so even though it seemed unlikely to work, I went for it.  I caught a little female right away, and 2 large males in short order.  We boiled the males in seawater and had them with pasta.  Fantastic.  The next night I got 2 more.  They tasted even better.  Small boaters take note!

I had a shock one morning out there as I was using the head - I looked out the window and saw a pistol!  Some guys with guns were grabbing our boat!  The feds!  It was border patrol and as I was naked,Kristin went out to talk to them.  I got dressed and joined her.  They were polite, checked our papers and moved on.  They try to keep things on the up and up, but I can't imagine a more porous border than the complex coastline of Washington and British Columbia.  Later in Port Townsend we met boaters from Louisiana who pulled in and got some food before clearing customs.  They didn't even know that they weren't supposed to.

It was time to go meet our friends in Port Townsend so we pulled up anchor reluctantly.  Light winds had us sailing the first 8 miles, but we had a schedule to keep so we motored through max flood around Point Wilson en route to Port Townsend.  Around the point we were clocked going 12 knots!  The boat would be going 5.5 knots without the help from the tide.  Should we have turned around, we would have been hard pressed to do more than keep our position.  Around the corner we tied up to a slip in the Point Hudson marina and started to clean up and make ready for guests.

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