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Friday - wind subsides around dawn - Cape Flattery rounded - landfall!

What a difference a few hours make! When I took to my bunk for some sleep near midnight, winds were 24 kt, having been 27-28 kt for quite a time with steep seas tossing us around every 6 seconds. I thought they were beginning to subside but when I talked to the cargo vessel 'Cronus Leader' on VHF at 3.30 a.m. to make sure they kept well clear (they altered course to stbd, to pass port-to-port), winds were back up at 27-28 kt. The bow and stern navigation lights, that I tried to add in for safety, kept shorting out but, fortunately, the tricolour, at the masttop, continued working fine.... Another problem added to the joblist for when I get in!

By 6 a.m., I was being woken by the noise of the boom as it flopped about - we were in light winds but there was still a big swell . The wind had died right down to 15 kt, veered to NNW and we were 26 miles from C. Flattery, with a lot of ships to our NE, heading in and out of the Strait, a good distance off.... We were making 3.7 kt ....over a deep kelp bed - I could see and smell it.

An hour later, with all reefs shaken out, both headsails unfurled completely and the sails trimmed for what was then a NW 10 kt wind, we were making 4.5 kt .... But not for long ... two hours later, with boat speed under 2 knots in 5 knots of wind, the 'iron sail' was turned on and the headsails furled in - they were flapping uselessly. 16 miles to the Cape and a further 6 ml to Neah Bay.

We're lucky to be heading for the entrance to the Strait on the flood - that only lasts for five hours (max flood 0.5kt) but should easily see us to Neah Bay. Most of the rest of the day, the Strait is ebbing, so SOG when heading in to the Strait is mostly reduced, with up to 1.7 kt of current to fight five hours ago in the middle of the Strait.

Well - not quite the ending I expected...! I took my usual course towards Neah Bay - aiming midway between Tatoosh Island and Duncan Rock - its black outline clearly seen at low water in the bright sunshine. Wind had appeared, so I was having a very pleasant sail but as I got closer, the wind died down so boat speed was much less - and I found us being taken strongly towards Duncan Rock and the shallows to its S... I turned on the motor to give us some boat speed and had to steer well off our course to compensate for the strong current. I stayed at the helm for a time until safely past both Duncan Rock and Tatoosh Island. Neah Bay is only six miles further on but as I got close, a strong (19kt) SW wind came up and headed us as we entered the Bay and made for the marina.

It hadn't occurred to me that with the strong conditions offshore that I'd just come through, the entire fishing fleet would be sheltering in Neah Bay...! I had expected to tie up at the long 'visitors dock' and had lines and fenders all ready - but it was full, as was most of the marina - I've not seen so many fishing boats tied up since a similar situation in Sitka, Alaska!

What to do? The wind was blowing a hooley and I spotted an empty pontoon. I'd have to dock almost head on to the strong wind... We survived, but only just... I jumped off when we were alongside and grabbed my bow and stern lines to tie us off. The wind blew the bow on and the boat astern . I got the stern line round a cleat but not well enough and the wind blew her back... I nearly lost the stern line... I tied the bow line to the same cleat - hanging on to the stern line for dear life, I had no choice! - and called over to the neighbouring fishing boat for help - someone was there! Steven came and took the bow line from me and tied it for'd - but no way could even he pull the boat for'd against the strong wind... In the end, I had to leave the stern sticking out and accept that at least we were tied safely to the dock, not going anywhere.... Later, I used a lull to move the boat - but not by much.

"The fleet is stuck here until Sunday," he informed me... "Love your accent!"

I've made up the log, made out a position report, had a late lunch (watching an osprey pair using a high post nearby for a perch) and will now hit the sack - after posting this with the position report.... A shower will be enjoyed later and I'll also find out more about the possibility of moving on tomorrow - could be dubious, depending on wind direction and strength. In theory, I've a couple of good friends driving over from Pt Townsend to meet up with me in Pt Angeles later in the day...

One thing I love about sailing is you can never know for sure what the next day will bring... "Plans are made in wet sand at low water." ... but it can be equally frustrating, at times...

Written by : Jeanne Socrates