Monday, August 3, 2009

Dead Reckoning

Ahhhh.... nothing like waking up to a nice, cool foggy Pacific Northwest morning. I've always dreamed of mornings like the one after our "ocean crossing". So quiet and peaceful, having a cup of coffee up on deck with the Captain, watching some kayakers paddling around the bay, and seeing their dogs run up to them on the water's edge as they head back to their beach house.

It was very nice.

But that fog out on the straits was thick.

That may look like simply a cloudy day in the picture, but it was pea soup thick fog outside the bay. Couldn't see anything past about 50 yards. Nice when you get to stay put, but when needing to sail through it?....Not so nice.

"It'll burn off," said the Captain. "We don't need to pull up the anchor till about 10am in order to make the slack tide at Deception Pass. It'll mostly be gone by then."

10:00 AM: It wasn't gone. It didn't burn off. And unless we wanted to sail back in the dark, we needed to head on back in order to time our sail through Deception Pass with the slack tide. There are enough whirlpools to deal with in that pass alone, without mixing tidal forces with it, so we needed to leave, fog or not. I may have slathered myself with SPF 50 the day before, but there was no need for sun screen that day. Nothing was cutting through that fog.

Ok, so now I'm thinking that if Rosario and Juan were rough the day before, how much more scary are they going to be when sailing blind in a fog?

"Not a problem," said the Captain. "We'll just use the maps and compass. It's called dead reckoning."

Then he started doing some kind of calculations with the compass that were way over my head. But I'll tell you what. I didn't like the sound of that "dead reckoning" thing at all. I like the GPS thingy best, but the Captain said one shouldn't rely on that alone.

And then we sailed out.

Good news was the waters weren't near as choppy. I think the fog may have kept some of the day trippers at home, and the waters were still smooth. Remembering the day before, I had given up pretty quickly and decided to hide out below, but the Captain said he wanted me to sit up top with him and enjoy the scenery. So I put on the life jacket and went back up. Couldn't see anything though. The closest land was invisible in the fog, but we did see some dolphins, a couple of seals, and a flock of seagulls floating in the water.

Mostly, I was looking to sight Deception Pass Bridge. The Captain kept checking his compass and calculations, and we kept on our course heading for it, but we couldn't see a thing much past the end of the boat.

Normally, in good weather, you can see the Deception Pass bridge from miles away.

But we kept on sailing and sailing, and it never appeared. I kept checking the GPS, which indicated we were right up on the bridge and should have seen it nearly half an hour before. But there was nothing but fog.

And then... finally.... we saw a small cruiser boat coming out of the fog, and then another, and then a structure started taking shape before us. The Captain had found it! We were at the pass! But now we had to deal with those rocks on the sides and those whirlpools. This is what it looked like going in.

And then, like a whole different day, this is what it looked like on the other side.

We did get swung in one shallow depth whirlpool, because some big cock-swinging day cruiser was hogging the whole pass right down the middle. But the Captain handled the wheel and managed to skirt out of it without running aground or being slammed into the rocks, and it was smooth sailing and sunny skies for the rest of the day. The fog was behind us.

Time to turn on the "Tropical and Fruity Drinks" playlist and pour some drinks!


John said...

Pleased to report that my thirteen year old came home from Boy Scout camp with his small boat sailing AND orienteering (map & compass) merit badges. However, I would not trust him with any type of dead reckoning.

Chatelaine said...

I am quite impressed with my Captain. I didn't even know what dead reckoning was and didn't think it sounded very cool at all. He did it, though and didn't even seem worried.

Congratulations on the new merit badge. It's good to see kids still doing Boy Scouts.

the Wine Commonsewer said...

Enjoyed that little travelogue (with pictures).