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July 23
Cape Flattery to Kauai
Expected distance: 2700 miles
Expected duration: 20 – 25 days
Route: (more on which later)

Day 1

Noon position: 48.58.87W by 125.39.66W (60 miles west of Grays Harbor)
Miles since last noon: 116 (Counting from June 22, 11am Neah Bay departure)
Total miles of passage: 116
Avg. Miles per Day: 116
Course: SW
Speed: 1 – 7 knots
Wind: Light and squally. SW7; W15; NW5
Sky: Mostly overcast; light rain
Waves: Various directions to 3 feet
Air Temperature: 74 degrees
Sea Temperature: 60 degrees

Departing is difficult. So frequently have I delayed previous solo passages by a day and then another that it’s now a joke to my wife, a joke whose humor I’ve yet to satisfactorily access.

I plan to weigh on a Monday, for example, but there’s too much wind or not enough wind or the tide is contrary or the sky is too low or I need one last item from the store. Better to wait till Tuesday. Then Wednesday.

“How can I meet you at your destination if you won’t leave?” asks Joanna as I explain my quite logical reasons for remaining among the safe and secure.

Even after the accomplishments of Port Townsend, the task list for Neah Bay was long. Test the rebuilt Monitor; refine under sail the stays tuned by Port Townsend rigging (there hadn’t been enough wind for either on the trip up); check (again) the fluid level in the autopilot; stow and record the last of the groceries, secure below decks for sea, inspect and test-set the Jordan series drogue; set-up automated weather emails for my route, etc.

Besides, the wind was light.

And then there was that familiar sense of dread. Looking out into the fog, knowing that’s where I’m going; doubts about the boat, about the skipper, about having waited too long already, about the wisdom of such a long passage in a vessel still so new to me. Worries about storms, about injury, the unexpected or compound mechanical failures.

So I remained on the hook for one last night of good sleep and awake at 2am with cold sweats.

This is just how it goes.

On Friday morning at 11am the anchor came clean from the mud, and we motored out to sea in a calm. Water around the Duncan Rock buoy was dark and confused and glassy. But wind filled in lightly from the SW by early afternoon. I raised sail, the big genoa and main, and put us close hauled SSE.

Overnight wind went squally and veered to the west, allowing me to shape a course more offshore. I swapped the big genoa for the working jib–a better sail for upwind. Not much sleep. Between 11pm and 1am we weaved through a fleet of brightly lit fishing boats, as many as 15 over an area of eight square miles; then two ships, car carriers, crossed our course heading SSE. It was 4am before I could take more than a 20 minute nap. Must get further off shore to be free of such traffic.

By morning the wind had gone NW and dropped right away. The sails slapped and banged me from my bunk at 7am and no position made any of us less quarrelsome. I should have dropped the main and poled out the jib, but I wanted the wind, when it came, more on the beam. I wanted a course with more west in it, for now.

Spitefully light wind and we made two knots if lucky to make way at all. The small swell lifted the boat. It felt like a promise. Then the boat dropped, and the swell snatched what little wind the sails had been able gather up. They rattled their displeasure. I yelled at everyone.

So far to go. Such an inconsistent beginning.

By noon, suddenly wind at 15NW. We are making good 7 knots as I type. The sea is alive. The foredeck is wet, sails taught and happy.

Now to clear the funk from the skipper’s head.

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