Pan-Pacific Adventure 23

Zulu in Hanelei

As most of you know Zulu, and consequently me, have been back on land for a week now. In all the excitement I never published my final log entry so here it is.

About 100-200 miles off the West Coast the wind seamed to reach it’s peak. This was forecast and we were therefore prepared as the wind and seas steadily built. Saturday morning saw at least 25 knots and large seas exceeding 15 feet in height – perfect surfing conditions! I took the wheel for about an hour under double reef and small jib with all the crew in the cockpit sharing in the fun. There were cries of “lets see 10 knots Aidan!” “c’mon we can do 12!” etc. One wave accelerated us to 13.5 knots of pure exhilaration while I laboured to keep the bow out of the troughs. As if to polish an already exceptional day of sailing, and to welcome us home, a small pod of dolphins appeared unassumingly from beneath the waves. They stuck with us for at least 10 miles.

Thereafter the wind and waves gradually eased and by happy hour we were back before the wind under full sails. We savoured our “last supper” and collectively reflected on the trip. The moments of fascination, the difficulties, the experience… As we finished up though an encroaching bank of fog signaled our proximity to the coast and the end of the Northwesterlies. With visibility near ZERO the best thing to do is closely monitor the radar, which is what we did ALL NIGHT. Our last night on Zulu was actually rather intense as we closed in on Banfield and Juan de Fuca. We encountered so many vessels and the numbers only climbed as we neared the 10-mile wide bottleneck that is Cape Flattery.

Being under sail we were subject to limited angles of heading and more than once the helmsman lost his spatial entirely in the dense fog. At one point we had a ship heading towards us fine off the starboard bow. Being on starboard tack the person at the wheel bore off rather that tack (typically boats pass port-to-port when possible). Rather than turn to port to oblige the ship continued to turn to starboard and was closing fast. I was brushing my teeth below decks when I heard “Aidan, get up here and take the wheel!” The scene that greeted me was a little disturbing: A massive ship fully illuminated, an eerie glow in the fog sliding towards us, sails flapping, compass not illuminated, and everyone on deck temporarily “turned around”. Looking at the chart plotter we discovered that Zulu was in fact pointed North! We had not been able to establish radio contact with any of the vessels and so I tacked the boat and did a 180 back towards the straits, and the ship faded away again into the fog. I feel sorry for the officer onboard trying to figure out what this little sailboat is doing spinning around in circles in front of him…

Anyways the next morning Findlay spotted land through the fog and we declared that we had reached Canada at last! There was still 12 hours ahead of us though and we had such a current against us that at one point we were reduced to 4 knots of boat speed at 2000 rpm under power! As we wove the the maze of fish boats though the wind picked up, the fog burned off, and the sun slowly appeared! Going through race rocks we were doing 9.5 knots with a headsail alone dead down wind!

Ah if I could express what it felt like to arrive back in BC by the same means as I had traversed the Pacific… The trees had never seemed so green, and the gulf Islands were like beacons of home that floated past us rather surrealy… During the approach we cleaned the boat, stowed all lines, put up the flags, and whipped Zulu into fine appearance. Heading North toward Sydney spit our anticipated floatilla arrived in full colour and what a welcome! 5 big power boats appeared, with familiar faces on deck and proceeded to describe large figure eights and arcs around our boat while sounding horns and throwing confetti…. they made formations, took photos and generally made us feel like total rockstars! After an hour or so they sped off, presumably to prepare for the party. We had to stop at the customs dock for a bit to clear and finally after the sun had begun to dip beneath the trees we made our way to our last stop – the final waypoint in a 7000+ mile trans-pacific voyage.

I will never forget this moment: Standing ready with docklines we saw the Gibbons dock come into view around the point and upon it, nearly sinking it, were a crowd of people waiting to welcome us home. Rod Stewart’s “I am sailing” drifted out accross the gassy water as our friends and family on the dock did the wave. The final approach toward the dock was the most surreal few minutes I have ever experienced, seeing the smiles of my family and all those people that had come out to greet us. A culmination of everything we had accomplished rushed through my mind as I jumped off Zulu and onto the dock – A moment of pure beauty and catharsis! We were home!

After the emotional blur of hugs and photos and sputtering words we all joined the party and poured over the world atlas to see the complete voyage diplayed on a kitchen table, as the wine flowed freely.

This past week has been a challenge as I re-integrate into my old routine and think “what’s next!?” However, I could not be more proud or happy about what I have accomplished these past 3 months.

Thank you to everyone who tuned in and shared in the dream, and for all your support, encouragement, and feedback. It is all deeply appreciated.

Until next-time, take care everybody.

Aidan Wood and Zulu OUT

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