Friday, October 05, 2012

Falling Forward - late season boating adventures

September is a month of new routine combined with work chaos for me.  While I set and settle into the new school year hours and after school activity schedules I must simultaneously scramble with my job to complete the end of the fiscal year paperwork.  As of today my final files are delivered for work, back-to-school conferences are done, art docent training is complete, and I have about 9 months of "regular schedule" laid out before me.

Ahhh... October.

Our September has been very unusually dry (I think we only had one day of rain the whole month!) so we have been taking advantage of the sunny days and mild temperatures and enjoying some fresh air and elbow room.  A couple weekends ago we were wandering around Seattle and decided the weather was so nice we should take the boat out onto Puget Sound.  It was a spontaneous decision, so I unfortunately did not have my camera gear on me, but it was a lovely ride over calm waters.  We grabbed a few snacks at the little store in the marina, got out into the bay and crossed over the "traffic lane" to Bainbridge Island.  There we started seeing dorsal fins pop out of the water, and quickly realized we were surrounded by a pod of small porpoises.  D cut the engine and we floated off shore for a bit, watching for fins and listening to the sound of their spray as they came up for air around us.  After a bit of a pause in the ride, we continued on and circumnavigated Bainbridge while we watched the sunset over the horizon.  The next day dawned fair and sunny, so after a lovely yoga class we stopped at the store for supplies and headed back out to the marina.  D looked over some maps and did a little math and decided we should head towards Port Townsend and see how far north we could get before we'd have to turn around.  We were surprised to find that even with a couple of slow downs for a lunch picnic and navigation through a narrow, shallow channel... we were able to get to Port Townsend in just about 2 hours.  We found space at a public dock, pulled up, and had the great pleasure of walking to our favorite coffee shop for a cup of coffee and dessert.  It was slightly surreal to arrive by water, but we enjoyed it greatly.  Our return trip was on the chilly side - as sunny as the day was, dusk brought the chill over the water.  On our way back we slowed to navigate a narrow channel and we found a flock of sea birds in a great pod just ahead of us.  D slowed the boat to a crawl so that I could attempt a few pictures.  He took a picture of me taking a picture of the birds.
I was very happy about the warm light from the setting sun, however as calm as the water appears to be, it was actually quite bumpy which made focusing on moving targets extremely difficult.
Taken with my cell phone... the rest of the trip was a race against the sunset - I did not want to navigate through ferry traffic in the dark!

We are already talking about boating to Port Townsend next year, making reservations for a spot in the marina and enjoying some fishing or whale watching.

I've surprised myself with my ability to be out on the Sound in our open bow boat.  I love being near water, hearing it's movement, feeling the pulse of waves on the shore, listening to the trickling creek or the rush of a waterfall.  Being on or in the water is something else entirely.  When we first bought the boat I was dead set against going onto the Sound... from shore the Sound looks like open ocean to me, and it is plenty deep and extremely cold water.   It has been a gradual journey to go from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington to the open waters of the Sound.  Sammamish was small and comfortable, but the docks were in terrible shape, always overcrowded, and required me to back up the trailer (which I am just not skilled at doing).  Lake Washington was much easier to launch and pull out of, but very busy with waterskiers and packed with sail boats and kayakers in Lake Union.  Although the Sound is deep and cold and wavy, it has breathing space, and the convenience of a marina so we no longer have to go through the tedious task of launching and loading every single time we want to be on the water.  The marina itself is an incredibly peaceful place for me to be... the wind blows through the tall masts of the sailboats, there are always heron and ducks and kingfishers meandering about, and the occasional harbor seal will glide around spying on us from a distance.  Heading out of the marina, we have a complete view of Seattle and Elliott Bay.  My cell phone's camera lens does not do it justice.

It has taken a lot of time, and practice, and deep breathing but I am slowly gaining better control over my panic attacks, and I'm finding that I not only "deal with" being on the Sound, but I actually look forward to it with great enthusiasm.  My only main concern now is when we cross the "traffic lane" - the center of the Sound where all the giant barges and cruise ships pass through, leaving massive undulating wakes in their path.  D has become quite skilled in boating over the wakes - depending on the speed he will even angle the boat so that we surf along the crest of a wake until the waves die down.  If we are near shore and puttering at low speed I can almost relax entirely, but when we are out in open water at full speed I will wear my life vest for extra peace of mind, and usually have a white-knuckled grip on the windshield.  Technically our boat is designed to go 40 miles out into the ocean for tuna fishing, so short of a tsunami I don't believe anything in the Sound would ever tip it.  Logic just doesn't penetrate panic, so I have to learn to breathe through it and talk myself down in my head.

It's a bit ironic that I find it so relaxing to be someplace that causes me to have panic attacks, but in the end it's the sound and smell of the water and the view of the wildlife that wins.