Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More about the Mystery Star

We wrote about the orange mystery star that dazzled us around dusk on Saturday, September 17th while we were off the shores of Washington State enroute to Astoria. We heard from Cory and Nancy who were sailing the same route at the same time that they saw it also. Using a website called Virtual Telescope, I was able to generate a star chart that indicated that Sirius, the Dogstar, was visible in the southern sky at that time and place. Here is the chart

I hope someone who knows the stars better can give us more insight. The object that we saw was very bright and maybe 20 degrees above the horizon. It appeared and disappeared, which I attributed to shifting fog at the horizon.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Astoria to Portland

We arrived in Portland yesterday evening, after the ninety mile trip up the Columbia, which we split over two beautiful sunny days. Interesting scenery, and an uneventful trip with the exception of a very close encounter with a tug and a freighter early Wednesday morning in dense fog.
Indigo is moored on the Multnomah Channel, about fifteen miles north of Portland, just across from Sauvie Island. This is flat, riverbottom land, with lots of farms and nurseries behind dikes. The boat sits about an inch lower in this fresh water.
The crew is reveling in city pleasures: fancy groceries, daily newspaper, unseen videos. It is surprisingly disorienting to see the world from our hillside location after months of sea level vistas.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Passage to the Columbia

Following are notes from our passage from Port Angeles in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, to Astoria, on the Columbia River in Oregon. This is the first overnight, offshore passage we have made in Indigo
Friday, 8 am, Straits of Juan de Fuca: North of us, there is another huge Trident submarine, with its dark whale-like hull just above the water, and its conning tower perched forward. Yesterday, when we came closer to another submarine just like this one, we could make out people on the deck of the tower – they were tiny, the submarine was gigantic. Again, there are two coast guard cutters accompanying the submarine.

Friday 2 pm, Approaching Neah Bay: The names of rivers and towns on this edge of the Olympic Peninsula have fine, idiosyncratic names that engage mouth, tongue, and teeth: the Pysht River, Tatoosh Island, Hoh Head, and town names like Sequim, LaPush, and Queets.
Saturday 4:30 p.m, fourteen miles off of the mouth of the Quinault River. The sky is perfectly clear, and the sea is as calm as could be – a low, rather confused swell, and no real wind. We’ve had these perfect conditions since we left Neah Bay at 6am this morning. Seabirds dot the surface, which is a perfect pale Wedgewood blue, the sky slightly more cerulean.

Saturday, 7:30 pm, The sun has gone down, and we are entering the time called “Nautical Twilight” – after sunset, but when there is still enough light in the sky to navigate. There are half a dozen boats in sight, which are beginning to turn on their work lights and running lights and masthead lights – a confusing array. Just as it begins to get really dark, we see the huge full moon rising up above the coastline fog. We are giddy with our good fortune – no real darkness tonight.
Stars begin to appear, and we are busy trying to match the boat lights with the targets on our radar. A shooting star rips across the sky. Strangest of all is a brilliant orange light, low in the southwest, looking in the misty fog like the masthead light of a ship very close, with a very tall mast. We both see it, and know there is no ship close by. Hours later, Mac thinks this must have been Sirius, the Dog Star, but for a moment we think we have seen the nautical equivalent of a UFO.
Sunday, 2:00 am, fifteen miles off the mouth of Willapa Bay: Our progress has been too good in these excellent conditions, and now we have to reduce our speed so that we won’t reach the entrance to the Columbia Bar before slack water. There is no real wind, so we can’t heave to. We try turning the motor off and drifting, but the boat wallows sickenly in the six foot swell. So we are underway again, but now just puttering along under four knots. Moonlight still bright, the fog stays distant, and there is almost no boat traffic.
Sunday, 5 am, twelve miles off Long Beach; We’ve traded off watch, and each gotten a few hours of sleep, and dawn is just an hour away. But we have finally encountered dense fog, and we don’t ever see the tugs, barges, fishing boats, and freighters we pass, just hear their engines when we are at the closest point.
Sunday, 8 am – We are approaching the first in the long string of buoys that mark the Columbia River entrance. We have three knots of current against us, and a mixture of swell and wave that is distinctly uncomfortable. Dense fog, lots of boat traffic.
Sunday, 9:30 – We are well into the marked channel, still in fog, and picking our way from one buoy to the next, avoiding the tankers and barges and little sports fishing boats. At the moment when Mac begins to doubt our sanity, we encounter a small sailboat crewed by two plucky and very competent “kids” (well, they are much younger than we are) who we met several days ago, and who have made this same coastal passage without the aid of radar or electronic charts. They are happy to follow us now, and rely on our ability to “see” the other boats.
Just then, the fog lifts and we can see the Astoria Harbor ahead, and off to our right about a hundred yards breaking surf where the strong currents meet the sandy shore of the Columbia River Bar.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Setting Out

We are moored in Tsehum Harbour, with a plan to leave early in the morning for Port Angeles and re-entry to the USA. If the weather continues favorable, we will make the passage from the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Astoria on Saturday and Sunday, and then make our way at leisure up the Columbia to Portland early next week. If the weather isn't favorable, we will linger in Canada a little longer.
Lingering in Canada allows us the luxury of feeling a little detached from US politics and the aftermath of the hurricane. Cut loose from television and radio, we rely on magazines and newspapers, and feel more calm. But sad and concerned about the world view, and our own view, of injustice and incompetence in the response to the hurricane.
Beauty and sadness, counterpoints.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Georgia Strait 2

Now we've traveled down to the southern part of the Georgia Strait, to Tombo Island and the reefs that surround it. Because Tombo lies just at the edge of the open Straits, at the eastern edge of the Canadian Gulf Islands, it is little visited. The seas are often rough here, and the low islands are open to the wind. Seals and sea birds populate the reefs, moving to higher ground as the tide comes in. On shore, Tombo Island offers great views, including the vista above looking north along the Gulf Islands.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Georgia Strait - Part 1

We finally have made it to Hornby Island, a destination in the Georgia Strait that has been on our list of "must vists". The south shore of Hornby features great big crescent shaped Tribune Bay, which is gently sloping sandy paradise, a real beach. The water is warm and crystal clear. The surrounding slopes are covered with arbutus, and with odd forests of lilliputan oak trees.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Tonight the weather is changing, the wind is blowing up into a gale, and we have come into Nanaimo Harbour and are moored securely to the city docks. We come back to this moorage as often as possible because it is lively and endlessly interesting. The harbour is a natural one, ringed on three sides by rocky outcroppings. The docks and surrounding seawall are heavily used by tourists and locals alike, a pedestrian shortcut between waterfront districts. Best of all, there is a first class eatery on the docks, Penny's Palapa, which serves halibut tacos, and other Mexican inspired seafood dishes, from a tiny shack and at outdoor tables, and so is open only when it isn't raining or blowing too hard.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Winds Calm, Sea Rippled

These are the words that describe the days of bright sun and glassy sea, the weather of August and early September on the southern BC coast. Expeditions disintegrate into vacations. The sails stay furled. Progress is made on those books to be read, the skin to be tanned. Distant mountains are crystal clear. Beaches beckon. We relish it because we know it won't last.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Blogging, Part 1

Blogging, Part 1, originally uploaded by macatay.

We left the boat for a few days to travel to Colorado for the wedding of our old friend, Wink. While we were out in the crowded, crazy world, I read an article in Wired Magazine called "We Are the Web" by Kevin Kelly. It gave me a new perspective on blogging.

Kelly points out that users of the web, especially in the form of bloggers, are becoming producers instead of just consumers. They, or we, are offering up content for free in a kind of gift economy. From the perspective of someone who has watched the web closely and been involved for many years, he writes: "The deep enthusiasm for making things, for interacting more deeply than just choosing options, is the great force not reckoned ten years ago. This impulse for participation has upended the economy and is steadily turning the sphere of social networking - smart mobs, live minds, and collaborative action - into the main event."

So I like to think of a blog as a generous sharing, an outgrowth of enthusiasm, or maybe just the overflowing of impressions that crowd days of reading and travel. But I fear that, alliteratively and less positively, it might just seem like a brag, a boast, or just blabber. In any case, I very much like the fact of being an active participant in this big, wide web

Blogging, Part 2

Blogging, Part 2, originally uploaded by macatay.

This is a follow-up to the quiet ranting, above. Having considered more carefully the power of blogging, I am now convinced that the darn thing has to be interactive. In other words, if you blog and no one reads it, you haven't really blogged.

And if you read it, and are irritated, or amused, or reminded of something - how will we know it? Comments! Just click on the word comment below, and you will open a window where you can respond to the blog. Your comment will get forwarded automatically to our email address, but your name and email won't reach us unless you include those in your message. You can choose whether or not you want your comments to be available as part of the log.

Your message will delight us, make us more likely to update the blog, continue conversations we have had in the past, and provide fodder for conversation in the future.