Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shiriri Saga #79. Land Ho!

Land Ho!

Two hundred miles offshore we are edging still farther north in the dark to get ourselves perfectly lined up for entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca when we see the low cloud layer lit up from below by a bright light. Our imaginations seize control and suggest that perhaps a cruise ship is on fire: we are primed for disaster. Soon the radar shows a lone boat three miles to the west and we give it a call on the VHF just in case it is headed our way. We are in no mood to take chances. This time however it is a fisherman with his bright deck lights coming south from Alaska who chats for a while before getting back to work.

A burning cruise ship?

We turn and travel SE at last; pointed directly for home. One more night on the drogue in 35 knots and 15` seas and then we are reduced to motoring again through an uneasy sloppy sea with what looks like a familiar black thundercloud ahead of us. Out of the cloud drops a big funnel that reaches down toward the sea`s surface and sucks it upwards. Shiriri motors away at full speed as the waterspout comes roaring past. Another funnel twists sideways across the face of the cloud. We seize an opening to scuttle beneath the cloud front and out into the clear air behind. That night is a mass of thunderstorms that we try to navigate between but finally give up, shut down the engine and drift until conditions improve.


The morning brings me up on deck into a lovely NE breeze. Shiriri sails along smoothly. Anne has hoisted sail to take advantage of these new conditions that continue all through the day and the following night. What a wonderful ending to such a harrowing voyage. Except of course, we still expect that fate will get us before we reach shore. The dawn has me looking at the faint cloud layers beyond the bowsprit on the eastern horizon. I notice that some clouds have hard jagged outlines. A bird flutters and perches high in the rigging. I step below and wake Heather for her turn on watch and whisper those magic words: Land! Home!

It is full morning when I hear a voice softly calling me from the cockpit. There, framed in the hatchway is Heather, backed by sunshine and blue sky, pointing over her head. On the furled mains`l is a peregrine falcon eating a kittiwake. It pauses to stare searchingly down at me, finishes it`s meal and then flies up, circles and flies ahead of the bowsprit toward the mountains. In our oceanic state of mind we know this is has been a visit not just from the physical bird but a messenger from the mysterious interconnectedness of all things as well. "Welcome," it has said, and directs us toward home.

By late afternoon we are sailing smoothly with all sail set through a spread out fleet of boats trolling for tuna. We are so glad to see them, but for them we must be an impediment. One turns abruptly across our bows and reminds us that boats engaged in fishing have right of way. We ourselves have fished for essential protein on the way home too but we have also seen industrial harvesting on a grand scale. Are all these men so bent on their harvesting that they can not see the time horizon close ahead that shows the collapse of the world`s fishery and the creation of a desert under the sea?

As we sail across the banks at the entrance to the strait we feel a slight bump. "Did you feel that?" says Anne from the wheel. A big swirl of disturbed water twists past our side. We have side-swiped another fisherman: a whale. Ascending from digging for food on the bottom, it has risen just beneath our bows and splashed aside just in time. We enter drifting veils of fog as evening approaches and line ourselves up in the strip of water that lies between the rocky shore of Vancouver Island and the lane reserved for deep sea ships. We have channel fever and feel hemmed in and jumpy after the broad wastes of the sea.

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