Return to the Ocean

image1 (3)

June 21
Noon Position: 56.52.48N by 149.28.15W
Miles since departure: 107
Course 110t
Speed: 6-7 knots
Wind: NW15-20

Departed Kodiak for the SE at 9:30am on Monday into a clear sky and the promise of a brisk westerly. All morning the windmills above the town had been spinning powerfully and pointing west, but in Chiniak Bay there was not a breath. It will fill in past the lee of the headland, I thought; then, past the lee of the island, I thought. But it did not fill in. By sunset at 11pm, Kodiak was a few blunt, black teeth upon an open-mouthed horizon and the ocean so much grease. The moon came up full. I prepared my sea berth, and still we motored.

This had been my experience of weather forecasting on Kodiak. In Shelikof Strait the predictions that called for SW winds at 25 had a chance of success. All others failed. One day I motored for hours in dead calm from an anchorage behind Dry Spruce Island in Kupreanof Strait out into Shelikof expecting (fingers crossed) the foretold SE winds at 20 and a reach to Geographic Harbor. What I got was no wind at all until I was back inside Kupreanof that evening, and then it in came strongly from Geographic.

Weather wasn’t the issue, however. My heart wasn’t in this kind of exploring. Not now. Too much engine and windlass and timing of day’s runs. All glorious adventures in the king of cruising grounds, Alaska, but what I wanted was space, an open horizon. I wanted to stretch my legs; to feel that long-winged flight again.

This morning there was an urgency on the water and after breakfast a wind touched down that began from the west and then veered a little north. I poled out the large genoa to port, set up the wind vane (non-electrical steering device), then poled out the smaller headsail to starboard. I left it pushed a little foreward so that we could take the coming breeze on the starboard quarter and keep my course for the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

All day the breeze has slowly built and the sea has stood up to meet it. Under a sky that disproves the existence of cloud. Under a dome of egg-shell blue and a sea as blue as the sky, we now race. The wind vane steers the boat, the sails embrace the wind and we fly with the grace of an Albatross. Speeds of seven knots are common and we’ve surfed some of the waves at well over eight. All I do is work to keep things in balance and hold on.

When I raised the second sail, the boat charged, and I laughed like a little boy.

How does one explain… I don’t know… It doesn’t matter.

The only sadness of the day is that as we passed from the Kodiak banks into very deep water (avg. depth now is 14,000 feet) we left the Blackfooted Albatross and the Northern Fulmar behind. I guess they prefer the fishing further north.

For now we are alone on the wide ocean.

image1 (4)

One Comment on “Return to the Ocean

Leave a Reply