Let’s Sail To Alaska!

We learned a lot about ourselves, our boat and the weather on this first sailing adventure

Article by Drew & Suzanne McDaniel

Photography by Drew & Suzanne McDaniel

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

There never seems to be a good time to take a long hiatus from your business or work and go sailing, but we thought this summer would be as good a time as any. So, after spending two years getting our sailing catamaran ready with new electronics, all new running rigging, hardware, sails and a few structural repairs, we put our plan into motion. We rented a U-Haul, loaded it with a few weeks of provisions, our Chihuahua (Lasi), our cat (Pancakes), and our 2 miniature Malaysian Serama Chickens (Pancho and Biscuit) and drove 12 hours from Boise to Port Townsend. We re-launched our boat, “Hulakai,” on our 34th wedding anniversary, cast off the dock lines on May 30th and pointed our bow toward Alaska.

The trip from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska is approximately 750 miles. Our first stop was on Whidbey Island at a small town called Langley. This was the first anchorage of what would become many over the next few weeks. Our next stop was LaConner, WA where we had lived 28 years prior. It was our first time back. It's still a quaint, pretty little town. On our third night, we stopped at a small, remote anchorage on the east side of Lummi Island in beautiful Inati Bay. We enjoyed the sounds of a small waterfall as we cooked dinner and went to bed early. 

Excited to discover the next stop, but reluctant to leave such a beautiful place, we motored our way to Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island, BC. Here we made entry into Canada at the customs office located at the dock. We made our way to Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island where we anchored for the night and dined on fish and chips at a local pub.

We were feeling confident with our navigation skills, but so far we had only motored and had yet to raise a sail. We stopped at a marine park near Vancouver Island and hunkered down for a night of high winds and more rain. Will it ever warm up? Will we get a chance to sail? The next day would be our first opportunity, while crossing the open expanse of the Georgia Strait.

After re-fueling ($8.18 per gallon!) we headed into the Georgia Strait, bound for Hardy Island. With 12 knots behind us, we were finally able to sail. We raised our gold spinnaker and spent the next several hours making our way. It was nice using just the quiet power of the wind to get to our destination. Hardy Island was beautiful! We enjoyed watching the bald eagles playing above us, while a lone sea lion circled our boat. We went to sleep even more confident in our boating abilities, but we were about to learn that mother nature is unforgiving. The next day, our adventure was about to change.

We raised anchor at 8:30 a.m. and headed out into the Malaspina Strait. We wanted to repeat our calm sail of the day before, so after motoring for a bit, we raised the spinnaker. Soon the wind started to increase and we could see a squall brewing on the horizon. We clipped on to the safety line and tried to take down the sail, but strong winds jammed the lines in their rigging. We quickly turned to prevent a capsize, but we still needed the sail to come down fast. As we ran to the back of the boat to cut the lines, the headstay pulled out of the mast and fell off to the side of the boat. Mother nature had shown her strength.

We started the engine and put the boat into an idle reverse to slow our progress to the rocks, now less than a mile away. Once the sail was on board and stuffed away, we sent out a mayday over the radio. The Canadian Coast Guard in Powell River, BC (5 nautical miles east of our location) immediately responded and were at the side of our boat within 15 minutes. 

We were very grateful for the quick, professional response of the Canadian Coast Guard, if you’re going to have boat trouble, have it near Powell River! The Coast Guard guys there are the best! Thank you, Ryan and Ian! We were grateful there were no injuries. We were stunned at how fast the weather changed and we knew our plans now had to change as well. We needed to get back to Port Townsend to rebuild our mast, work on our rigging and get things put back together. So, with the help of just about everyone at the dock in Powell River, we lifted the mast on to the cabin roof of our boat and headed out the next morning.

We learned a lot about ourselves, our boat and the weather on this first sailing adventure. Although we were dismasted just one week after we departed, we spent two leisurely weeks getting back to Port Townsend. We were able to visit places like Smugglers Cove (a great, secluded anchorage in BC), Steveston (a quaint seaside village just south of Vancouver), and Friday Harbor (one of the most popular places in all of the San Juan Islands). We won’t forget any of this experience and look forward to going further next time, as soon as possible. 

Side Note:

We woke up to the cock-a-doodle-doo of Pancho every morning between 5:30 and 6:00. We drank a bunch of coffee and then we would wake up Lasi, get her dressed for a dinghy ride and take her to shore every morning and then again every evening. The cat would come out at night and run round the boat exploring, jump on us in our bed and then go stare at the chickens in their coop. The chickens would spend a good part of the day wandering around our salon / galley area.  Biscuit, the hen, laid an egg almost every day.  And, like clockwork, they would roost on top of their pen at 8:00 every evening.   

Editor's note: Thank you to Drew and Suzanne of Impact Imports for sharing their sailing adventure. If you have a story to share with us, write to Editorial@BoiseCityLifestyle.com

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