Denouement – heading home

This was written a few days ago and is being posted today, 15th of August, 2017 as we motor by Klemtu, while we have a connection. Other posts that have video and pictures may not make it during this window.

13-AUG-2017, Curlew Cove, Fin Island, Wright Sound, BC – Jennifer has become unabashed about getting us home.

The trip has deconstructed into life under siege: of the weather and Hilary.

I wonder whether Hilary is just the excuse for not being productive, for not having as much fun as I would like, for not enjoying the trip as much as we’d like, but I think it is not so much of an excuse as that we have started to buckle under the load. We need a reboot, a step away or a vacation.

We may have taken a first step today in changing the paradigm. For the first time of the trip, we closed the door to the V-Berth and went in there in the middle of the day to be alone.

Hilary, who had started to move into the afternoon and evening manic phase, without us in attendance, became quiet. When we returned from our hour alone, she was (and is) asleep. Mouth wide open.

This morning, while it was still dark, we weighed anchor in Baker Inlet to catch the southbound current. We’d spent an extra day there because we hadn’t remembered that with the time zone change into BC the sun would rise an hour later than it had a few days before – according to local time.

How does this all fit together? Via one of the joys and challenges of cruising in a slow, low powered vessel.

The entrance to Baker Inlet is through Watts Narrows: a one hundred-yard wide serpentine entrance, 100ft deep through which twenty vertical feet by two or three square miles of water must pass.

We’d entered the Narrows in Nantucket Sleigh Ride mode 90 minutes before slack with the water moving in our direction. The current was traveling, by our estimate, 3 knots, with whirlpools and eddies skewing us 90-degrees every few hundred feet. Our estimate came from noting that we were traveling at 7 knots and would have expected to be moving about four knots in still water at that engine RPM.

Jennifer drives, I watch, ride and keep my mouth shut. It was Jennifer’s decision to enter at this time, and her skill that brings us through. A year ago, Jennifer would have succeeded and carried us through, but as often as not cried with fear and relief when it was over. Now she laughs and looks to me for confirmation of what we know she just did.

And follows the laughter with an expert’s, ‘‘We’re not going to do that again.’’

And so we planned not to.

We met our neighbors in the 20-meter motor vessel, Mellow Moments (and its cleverly named dinghy, Tender Moments – a nine-foot RIB with a fifty-horse outboard. Caro Babbo is thirty-one feet, weight 8000lbs dry and have a 28-horse inboard.)

The wife of the pair, who referred to each other solely by their role in the relationship – ‘‘my wife,’’ ‘‘my husband,’’ and externally to ‘‘my grandchildren’’– came by in a plastic kayak to say hi, followed later in the evening by her husband in the dinghy.

He told us he’d come through an hour earlier than we had when he estimated the current was about 4 knots. Jennifer spoke to him as a fellow navigator and skipper, but was confused by his shallow knowledge and deep successful experience. He has learned to overview the basics and then use horsepower to make it all work out.

Tim Allen came to mind, ‘‘more power!’’

Slack high current would be at five am the next morning.

We launched the dinghy and went for a row. Hilary climbed easily into the dinghy, sat for the ride and easily climbed back out. He circle of interest doesn’t extend much beyond her physical self, so while she is no longer arguing her disinterest in the outing as she did a few months ago, she is mostly silent with closed eyes, opening when called, but returning quickly to the world behind her eyelids.

When we put the dinghy away by lifting it with the jib halyard, the Mellow Moments husband and wife crew watched from their afterdeck. Most likely not of any abiding interest, but merely because we were the only action within sight.

Dinner was a matter of convenience and things that needed to get eaten: Hot dogs, coleslaw and vanilla pudding with blue berries. We somehow didn’t get to bed until 10.

At 4, I got up, surprised that I didn’t see the beginnings of sunrise. The Garmin told me what I should have known: the sun wouldn’t rise until an hour after we should transit the narrows.

We could wait an hour, but then we’d have a repeat of the day before. Jennifer lived up to her decision and we went back to sleep.

The night had been a typical night. We’d fought the valiant, and unsuccessful battle to get Hilary to use the bathroom and change underpants before bed. At 1.40, she was up wandering – no you can’t wander far in our main cabin – looking for the bathroom. While she was seated on the toilet I got her sneakers, trousers* and underpants off, then replaced the underpants leaving the rest off.

I slept until 8:45. I think the latest I have slept in years, though perhaps, we should consider it 7:45 Alaska time.

The next morning slack current would move forward 45 minutes, while sunrise would move forward only two minutes. Sun and water would be aligned and we would leave then.

We have three sources for tide and currents: The book Ports and Passages, which is considered the definitive paper guide, the Navionics software, which uses interpolative data files from a web source and OpenCPN, an open source navigation product that uses web-based interpolative data files, but apparently not the same ones.

The time of the current and the speed is then a matter of coördinating the three sources abetted by our experience. Usually the times differ by a minutes or two, but often enough by the fifteen minutes, which can be the difference between a placed transit and bullying currents.

Peak current predictions can vary by more than 100% and sometimes, like today’s ride down Grenville Channel, we will be making that ride at full flood. But then it is just a matter of how fast we will slide along the thirty-six miles.

We used to, and still do try to get Hilary to come into the cockpit with us. We’ve lost the imperative to do so, as Hilary has lost any interest in being there.

Usually, she will sleep while the engine is running and may come into the cockpit when we are under sail, or become manic when Jennifer and I converse. Too often we find we forestall the mania by not conversing.

More and more, in the past few weeks, the company of friends and conversations will not temp her to join in.

For the first time yesterday, rather than searching for a word she can’t find or using the wrong noun – which she will recognize as such and search for the proper one – she was unable to pronounce the word she wanted and series of guttural utterances came forth. It was anomalous, but is the future as we’ve always known. Jennifer cried.

The husband came by in the morning to offer us two extra crabs that were clawing and scraping in his bucket, but after he discovered we had no idea how to clean and prepare them, he took them back to his wife, who cooked them for us.

This morning I got up at 4, made Jennifer coffee, and at five am weighed anchor motoring through the ebbing darkness to the narrows, which in the new light was placid.

There is less joy in Mudville these days, and we hurry home. I’m hoping we’ll reset and regain the joy of the journey, the surroundings, and each other. We have started to, a bit. We’re sailing more because we have realized though we oftentimes are too down in the dumps to make it happen, we are so much happier during the sail and afterwards.

To catch tomorrow’s current we leave in full daylight, at 8 am.

* I’ve come to say trousers rather than pants after spending too much time in places where pants are what one wears under trousers. Hilary grew up in one of those places, so trousers works fine.

Author: johnjuliano

One-third owner of Caro Babbo, co-captain and in command whenever Caro Babbo is under sail.

One thought on “Denouement – heading home”

  1. Hi John, For some reason I missed this until this morning. I have no idea how the happened although in truth I am very busy doing absolutely nothing and I’m getting worried that I just don’t get enough exercise.
    To bring you up to date, I’m scheduled for that surgery the 30th of August. It’ll be ambulatory so I hope Vincent will drop me off in the morning and come back and pick me up later. I checked out with the pre surgical stuff and then went back this morning to tell them about the most unsanitary liner that I use for the prosthetic. I really didn’t want any surprises that surgery morning but they gave me the OK although they asked for some pretty dumb stuff for me to do. I expressed my dismay over the suggestion but …..CYA won over every rational suggestion. So off I go. They will call me the day before to give me the actual time I have to be there before they take me in to the pre-surgery room.

    Well, I wish you luck on your trip home but I suspect that it’s going exactly as you thought it would. Probably just a little quicker.
    John..make lemonade.
    Love you and Jennifer


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