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Our Community of Fantastic Friends

Well, it has been a long journey for sure. I am not sure the total mileage so far, but I'm sure we have tipped past 1200 nautical miles on our trip from Pleasant Harbor to San Luis Obispo, California. This journey started back in Pleasant Harbor at 7am on Thursday, August 24 when our friends John, Mardie, Xavier and Carrie, who had explored Canada with us in July, slipped our dock lines from our slip at Pleasant Harbor Marina for the last time. Then, they hopped in John and Mardie's dinghy and escorted Karma out of the channel and into Dabob Bay. While excited to begin our journey, it was hard to say goodbye to these sailing buddies and great friends.


The trip from Pleasant Harbor to Port Townsend was against the current, as usual, and against a "gentle" and constant 20 knot wind. If only the weather experts were right on occassion; they had predicted five knots of north wind, gusting up to 20 knot gusts. We saw no gusts, just a constant 18-20 knots on the nose. It makes you wonder if the experts are also right when taking about global warming, global cooling, climate change, or whatever the next fandangoed scary life-ending thing they can think up is. {Visualize Rochelle's eyeroll here.} Anyway, our trip to Port Townsend was sweetened by crossing pathes with Jana and Dwight, friends and Commodores of the Pleasant Harbor Yacht Club, aboard their boat Grace, and Marianne and Ric aboard Renaissance Woman, the fourth buddy boat from our Canadian great adventure. It was great be hailed on VHS radio and waved to en-route by these friends. `


We arrived in Port Townsend, in the early afternoon for a few days of preparation and celebration with the other 14 boats leaving for San Francisco with the Coho Hoho rally. With three days for final tasks and provisioning, we expected a relaxed and smooth departure. Yeah, right. Unfortunately, the two days before we headed out to sea were truly a mess. Before we left Pleasant Harbor Marina, we discovered that our freezer and one of our house batteries had failed. We can do without the freezer until we get to San Diego, where the manufacturer is located. House batteries, on the other hand, are absolutely necessary. They run our systems like the lights and electronics that we use to navigate the boat. Healthy batteries are critical to our safety and comfort. Though one battery was failing, luckily, we had two others, so I disconnected the bad battery from the bank, and we went on with our preparations to leave.


We notified our canvas expert that we had arrived and were excitedly awaiting her visit at 9am the next morning, Friday, to install our new "tall man's" dodger she had been working on since late June. A dodger is like car's windshield, made out of canvas and heavy plastic over a stainless steel, and it is an important piece of equipment because it protects you from the wind and water underway. We were afraid that the dodger wouldn't be finished in time for our departure. With a Friday installation and a Saturday departure, we had no margin for error, but were confident in Inger's craftmanship.


Later Thursday evening, I checked the battery bank--now one-third smaller with the decommissioning of that failing battery--only to find that the other two batteries were not performing well. Good grief! They would need to be swapped before we left on the passage! These are Rolls lead acid 8D batteries, three of them, weighing nearly 600 pounds in total, nestled down in a tiny cabin under a berth. How were we going to get those swapped out, and do it all without a car, since we sold both our vehicles two weeks previously, and now our only modes of transportation are the boat and our dinghy? A quick check of the internet confirmed that three new batteries were available at Fisheries Supply in Seattle, but obviously, we couldn't pick them up quickly using either of our boats. We brainstormed on how we could get across the Puget Sound to Seattle, pick up the new batteries, bring them back to Port Townsend, and install them in just one day when our only vehicles travel on water, not land. SPOILER ALERT: the answer was our community of fantastic friends.


We came up with a plan for our friend Captain Nancy to drive Rochelle back to Pleasant Harbor, where Rochelle would pick up the car that her sister, Erica, loaned to us after we sold our cars, then driving Erica's car to Seattle to buy the batteries. After she dropped the batteries in Port Townsend, Rochelle would drive Erica's car back to Pleasant Harbor, where Erica planned to retrieve it on the weekend. But how was Rochelle going to get back to Port Townsend, an hour and 20 minutes away? Rochelle called our friend Mardie, who had escorted us out of Pleasant Harbor the day before, to ask her if she would be willing to give her a lift. Always the gentleman, Mardie's husband, John, insisted that he and Mardie would drive Rochelle to Seattle, and he would help get the behemoth old batteries out of the boat and the behemoth new batteries into the boat. The plan was set in motion. Nancy picked up Rochelle at Boat Haven in the wee hours of the morning, then drove her to the Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center near the Hood Canal Bridge, where John & Mardie showed up in their car to pick up Rochelle. Nancy returned home and the intrepid three continued their journey on towards the Kingston ferry. This is always a crap shoot: if you hit it right, you save a lot of time getting to Seattle, if you hit traffic or miss the boat, you just doubled the time it takes to drive around. Well, they arrived on time and wouldn't you know it, the ferry was cancelled. They got on the next boat, made it to Seattle, went straight to the shop, plopped down a big pile of cash (well, really one debit card) at Fisheries for what are essentially three heavy boxes of lead and water. Fisheries was nice enough to load the batteries into the car, and the intrepid three headed back to Port Townsend, this time via the Tacoma Narrows bridge.


All the while, I was back at the boat deflating the dinghy, L'il Karma, to getting it stowed away for our passage. The dinghy had a lot of growth on its hull from being towed behind Karma for the last two months. It is amazing how fast sea growth attaches to this PVC hull. And it doesn't just come off with a spray down or the swipe of a rag. I had to use a dish scrubber in order to remove the little barnacles that had started to grow. It was a long and arduous job. Lesson learned: don't leave the dinghy in the water that long again. As I was scrubbing L'il Karma down, our canvas expert, Inger, arrived to finally install our dodger. After months of her work and our waiting, and being so close to our departure date, I had to tell her we needed to cancel for today because I was going to need to use the boom, which is above the dodger, as a hoist to assist in removing the batteries. (Have I adequately conveyed how heavy they are?) Inger kindly agreed to return on Saturday morning at 7am to install the dodger. We were planning to leave at 3pm on Saturday. This is the definition of cutting it close.


At about 1:00 pm on Friday, Rochelle, John and Mardie arrived at Boat Haven, the car laden with batteries. John and I worked together to load them into dock carts and wheel them down to the boat. Rochelle and Mardie went to pick up food from Jen's Marina Cafe (a most wonderful place - breakfast and lunch, and tapas in the evenings), but sadly, she had just closed, so they went on to get fish & chips and a burger from Sea J's (another excellent eatery if you like fish & chips). Meanwhile John and I went to task at removing the old batteries. That morning I had removed all the cabling from the old batteries. That left us free to begin the insane task of lifting 200-pound boxes of lead out of a tight spot and moving them up through our companionway (think vertical lift of eight feet) to the cockpit where the two of us would shimmy them around tight corners over the deck and eventually off the boat. We used a pully system rigged from the boom to help get the batteries up through the companionway and from the deck to the dock, but the rest was just brute strength and some expletives. Eventually, all the old batteries were on the dock ready for disposal, but where were we going to put 600 pounds of dead batteries? The new batteries were a tad lighter, only 159 pounds each and they were AGMs, which meant they are sealed - very low chance of getting covered in battery acid. Putting them into their new home went smoothly, as the more we moved, the easier it got. We had them in place by by 3pm. Next, our friend Jo Abley, also a graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, who is part of a cool new shipwrights' co-op in Port Townsend, said she would take care of the environmental disposal of the old batteries. If you're looking for boat work in Port Townsend, I hope you will consider getting in touch with Jo. We said another goodbye to John and Mardie as they headed back to Pleasant Harbor Marina. We are looking forward to them joining us in Mexico next fall aboard their boat, Moon Dancer 2. In the meantime, we needed to get the new batteries wired in, an easy task if you have the gear to accomplish it. Unfortunately, I did not.


Luckily, our friend Gordon Lacey (of Hood Canal Marine) answered my call and was kind of excited about returning to Port Townsend after a long day of work on other boats. He arrived up with tools in tow. I needed a crimper for 2/0 wire; the largest my crimper will do is 2 gauge. 2/0 gauge is about 3 times larger. We cut in half the two cables that I had made the previous day when I removed the dead battery, in order to make cables for the new three battery bank. Gordon crimped on the lugs and also took care of configuring the voltage regulator for the new AGMs, a different type of battery from my old ones. This is a simple process that is made very complicated by the engineers at Balmar. Marine equipment is generally not built for a consumer install, they still use the antiquated distributers, dealers, install techs, phone customer service, etc. No such thing as connecting to it with a Bluetooth connection and using a friendly GUI interface. No, this Balmar voltage regulator has a 3-digit readout and a magnetic sensor to read the number of clicks tapped in for every setting. This device is, of course, in a tight space. Gordon took this on while I wired up the batteries. Thank God for Gordon!


Saturday 7am came fast. Inger arrived on time and as promised and installed our new dodger. It looks great, and now I can enter the companionway without doing a limbo dance. It also provides lots of protection from the wind, plus great visibility. If you need a dodger, I will highly recommend her. Her company is Northwest Canvas; unfortunately, she has a 2-year waiting list, but she's worth the wait. The first picture is the old dodger, and the second is the new one.



At about 1pm on Saturday, Captain Nancy Erley arrived, as she would be crewing with us down to San Francisco. We would use the trip with her to earn our ISPA certifications as Offshore Masters. The plan was to leave Saturday at 3pm, a day earlier than we had originally planned, as our weather routers, Sailing Totem, had identified that there was a "unicorn" weather system out there, meaning that you just don't see weather that good out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Earlier in the day, I had informed the folks at Boat Haven Marina that we needed to stay until 3pm that day, and they said that wouldn't be a problem. At 1:30pm the Boat Haven folks called to say that we needed to leave right away because another boat needed our space. This further cemented my love-hate relationship with this marina. Don't say it if you don't mean it! Chances are that we will never have the opportunity or need to visit Boat Haven again, so it was finally time to give them the honest review they deserve. Little do they know that I am in the top 5% of all Google reviewers worldwide. Boat Haven has many great qualities--mostly the people--but as with most things, there are areas of needed improvement. Getting kicked to the proverbial curb on such an important day left a bad taste in my mouth.


So, we departed ahead of schedule at 2:00 pm PST, feeling disappointed that we would miss our friends Scott and Jasmine, who had rearranged their day to escort us out of the harbor on Scott's boat, Gingersnap, at 3:00 pm. When I texted him to tell him the bad news, he said he wasn't going to allow us to give them an Irish Goodbye. Just as we rounded Point Wilson, we saw a green boat speedily approaching us from astern; it was Gingersnap! They made it! No Irish Goodbyes for friends like them. Gingersnap followed us out all the way out, almost to Protection Island, which is a good bit of distance, probably at least 10 miles. It will be nice to see him again someday, he is truly a good person, a good dad, and a good friend.



About this time, Captain Nancy received a text from her friend, Ace Sprague, from whom we took several classes at the Northwest Maritime Center, letting us know of her disappointment because she and Carol Hasse, who made all of Karma's sails, had gone to the dock with flowers and cedar bows to wish us bon voyage. What an honor it would have been to be seen off by those two giants of the sailing world. Their sentiment was truly touching. Darn you, Boat Haven.


Buoyed by the help, care and love of so many great friends that we have made in Pleasant Harbor and Port Townsend, we headed full speed ahead out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Our great journey had begun.

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