Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bringing Aeolus home from Comox: 15 hour day

What a journey. Aeolus was sitting up in Comox, BC waiting for me to come get her. If you have read the previous entry you will see that we left her there after crossing the Straits of Georgia in the Labor Day storm. On Friday after work I chartered a flight up to Comox to begin the journey of bringing her back home.

We've been having bright sunny warm weather, and Friday's flight was incredible. In a Cessna 172, we flew at 2-3,000 feet over the San Juan and Gulf Islands right up Georgia Strait to Comox. Man, I love flying! I've got too many interests to fulfill them all. The flight only took 90 minutes, and it had taken us 7 days to reach Comox on the Dad's trip I described earlier. We flew at 125 knots of SOG and so about 20 times faster than our 6 knot sailboat SOG.

Once there, I took a taxi right over to the marina and departed. It was 6pm. The trip back to Friday Harbor is about 100 miles. I knew this would be about 17 hours of travel time for me, and was anxious to get started.

That night I headed down the inside of Denman Island as the sun slowly set and by the time it was pitch dark, I had arrived in Deep Bay on the mainland side of the straits. It was about 9pm or so when I dropped anchor. Finding a spot in the darkness was a bit tough because the little anchoring spot is not very large and there were already a few unlit boats floating about. I ended up dropping anchor in about 70 feet of water just to be safe and outside the crowded zone. I then had to try to diagnose why my engine temperature was riding a bit high. Normal for my thermostat is about 195, which is perfect, and it never moves. On this trip down it climbed up to 200 and sat there.

I decided to take all the cooling system apart and do an inspection. Turns out the first thing was the problem. I found what was left of several jellyfish in the Groco strainer and that was sufficiently reducing the flow to cause a higher temperature. I went ahead and pulled the plate off the water pump to check the impeller and it was perfect. Then I removed both end caps off the heat exchanger and found no debris of any sort. Everything back together, I started her up and ran her hard at anchor and she sat at 195, so problem solved.

I set my alarm for 4:30 am and was gone by 5 am. Raising the anchor by hand was good work that time of the morning, but our windlass requires two people to operate.

It was still deep dark, and the sky was filled with the most impressive star display I have seen outside of the SW deserts. The milky way was very bright, like the proverbial can of white paint thrown across the sky.

To think of the billions of stars in our own tiny galaxy, to think of the immensity of space, to think of the depths of time, to think of the certainty of other lifeforms on other planets, to think of the fragility of our own lives, to think of it all is to experience enlightenment. I drove Aeolus through the depths of night as kerjillions of stars spangled over the sky. It was as though, as we were, levitating.

Sunrise came slowly and exquisitely. If the night must end, this is a beautiful way.

My only goal was to make Dodd Narrows at close to slack, and my boat speed and the distance conspired to put me there at about 12 noon after an 11:15 slack. Turning to ebb and helping me.

I had about 7 hours to go, but it's a pretty simple math problem to know if you'll make it. The weather forecast was for light and variable winds all day. Smooth motoring.

I did indeed hit Dodd Narrows at 12 noon. The ebb had started and was moving at maybe 2 knots as several boats headed south along with me. Such a beautiful spot.

After that, it was just a straight trip down to Friday Harbor through the Gulf Islands. I used the autopilot a fair amount to be able to cook dinner or just get a break.

On the way past Spieden Island, always a beautiful spot, the sunset overwhelmed the sky with the most intricate cloud patterns. These pictures don't do it justice.

I made the customs dock at Friday Harbor just as they were closing up shop at 8pm. I drove Aeolus for 15 hours straight yesterday and experienced in one day some of the most beautiful scenery our world has to offer.

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