Coming Home Again

When we left Seattle four years ago we were pretty sure that our boat would not see the cold waters of Puget Sound again. It’s an uphill sail to the Pacific Northwest from anywhere south (meaning both upwind and against the current) in the summer. Sailing in the high latitudes of the North Pacific is challenging enough in the summer, we would never try it in the winter. Four years ago the world was a different place economically, and our plans were to work as we traveled. These plans were approved by our financial advisor, who said happily “just go sailing and send me some money every couple of years and you’ll be fine”. We hoped that at some point in our travels we’d find that perfect little island or piece of land where we would build a little house and live happily ever after.

We also always knew that leaving family behind may at some point require us to come back for some extended period of time to help out. While out on anchor in the Rock Islands this week we received an email from home that convinced us that time has arrived. Given the global economic conditions of today, it also makes sense for us to work in the states while we’re home helping out. Most importantly, what we have learned in the last four years is that Dorothy was right – There’s no place like home. So we will set sail for Puget Sound next week, bringing our boat back to the short summers and long wet winters of the Pacific Northwest. Are we coming back for good? Are we tired of cruising? Absolutely not. We’ll leave and sail south again as soon as it makes sense, we’re just not sure at this point when that will be. In the meantime we’ll enjoy the quiet waters of home and return to weekend anchoring in the many favorite spots Puget Sound has to offer.

The route home is long and cold. From Palau to Elliott Bay is over 5,600 miles if sailed in a straight line. But since the first 2,000 miles may be hard to weather (certainly forward of the beam at best), a straight line likely will not be possible. We expect this trip to take at least 45 days, with little of the easy downwind sailing we’ve learned to like.

The to-do list will keep us busy this last week in Palau. Rob needs to recommission the furnace, which of course we haven’t turned on since we left Alaska. We’re going to take the anchors off the bow, stow them aft, and move all the anchor chain out of the anchor locker from the bow to somewhere midships. Lightening the bow will make the boat pound less when sailing to weather and make the trip much more comfortable. We’ll get the parachute anchor and storm sails ready to deploy, in the event we get caught in a late season storm. We’ll load up on diesel to help if we need to motor sail into big winds and seas, or if we accidentally get into the middle of the North Pacific high and lose our wind. We’ll refill our propane tanks and I’ll figure out where to store enough food to last for two months, which sadly means lots of canned fruit and veggies. And somewhere in the midst of all the preparations I’ll get back out on that reef for what will be our last warm water dive for possibly a very long time.

As we talked last night about the upcoming passage and both agreed it was the right thing to do, Rob made the comment that we should check the timing and make sure we left Palau at the right time of day so that when we made landfall at the customs dock in Port Angeles it would be during daylight hours. Funny guy. That’s hard enough to do when traveling on short hops between the atolls of the Tuamotus. Right now we don’t know how many weeks this passage is going be, how many miles we’re actually going to have to sail, or how many days we might need to heave to and wait for storms pass by. What we do know is that it feels good to be coming home again.