Our Last Night Offshore and the Arrival (14 days and 23 hours)
Well, WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!!! We arrived at the customs dock in Victoria around 1130am Hawaii time, 230pm BC time on Wednesday, August 17th. The first steps on land felt quite strange and even after a night on land in Victoria, it still seemed rocky into the next morning. But before we get into all of that… Let’s rewind to our last night aboard Turnagain.
Tuesday evening the wind and waves began to build going into the night, as forecasted. After making soup for lunch (worst idea, ever….lets make soup on the last day when it’s meant to be the biggest wind and seas for weeks they said…it’ll be fun they said….) and avoiding being scalded with boiling water, we decided to hold off on cooking our last dinner of pasta until things calmed down. By 430pm, the wind had picked up to 25 knots, with gusts up to 30 knots. The swells were quite large and rather close together. Travis warned of the high possibility of at least one wave coming into the cockpit over the night, and everyone was dressed in full foulies and clipped in to ensure they stayed “dry” and on the boat. Staying dry out there meant at least attempting to keep the salt water off your skin by donning as many layers as possible without overheating (this wasn’t a problem – it was FREEZING) and by ensuring your outer layer was fully zipped and functional.
The wind began to build even more and the swells threatened to toss Turnagain around wildly as we slammed through the waves and surfed down the troughs. Those off watch attempted sleep below, but with the boat heeled over and things flying around, it never really came. I was laying in my bunk on the low side when I felt us get slammed and the leeward side of the boat get sucked under by a wave. By the way the medical kit came flying and attempting to stop myself from rolling up over the leecloth, I knew those on deck must have been standing in water higher than knee deep. As we slowly became more vertical than horizontal, I knew it was going to be a long night. At least I was dry. For now.
Travis drove Turnagain all night through the wind and waves and kept us moving forward when it was too difficult for anyone else to even hang on let alone keep the boat pointed in the right direction. She wanted to round up badly and seemed to have quite the temper when we attempted to keep her at 60 degrees. The wind began to unzip pieces of canvas off the biminey top and with a great deal of teamwork we were able to get the piece unzipped and stored below without loosing it overboard. Without this piece, the entire thing shook violently and seemed like it was just going to be ripped clean off the boat. The Canadian flag began to do its snapping show again, as it did when we were leaving 14 nights ago. Funny how the first night and the last night were the most wild.
By midnight, the gusts of 30+ knots and crashing and confused seas began to calm down and the fog rolled in. After a lovely warm meal of pasta, within an hour, the seas were calm and the wind was nonexistent. It was an eerie and strange feeling to have to turn on the engine in order to get anywhere after what we’d just come through. For the past 14 and a half days we’d been at the mercy of the ocean, conforming to what it required and demanded of us. But finally, it seemed to realize that we needed to get warm, dry and needed a break. It must have known we were almost done with it, about to enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca, about to be home.
The smell of land became very apparent before heading down off of shift, and the air seemed to be full with the smell of trees, much like a Christmas tree lot in winter. The earth smelt pungent and the appreciation of our beautiful continent became existent again. It really was there! We weren’t just sailing into the great wide open anymore, we were almost coastal rather than offshore or on the ocean. Shortly after our watch ended and we fell asleep finally, Chris called “land ho” at 3:07am. First sighting of land in two weeks, gave a feeling of warmth but also uncertainty amongst the crew. What had happened since we’d been gone? Did the world just keep going? Was the wheel still turning and we’d just stepped off of it? The feelings we all experienced over the next 8 hours were a mixed bag of emotions.
In the early hours, some crew were treated to a wonderful show of orcas and humpback whales breaching. Morning came and although those who were meant to be off watch attempted sleep, everyone was too pumped to even rest. Slowly but surely, the multiple layers began to come off as we began to feel the heat coming off the land. You guys sure have been lucky! It’s so sunny and warm here!!!! As we motored down the strait and the fog lifted, the land became more clear and we saw people (people other than us!) for the first time in weeks as they fished off of their little powerboats. The colour change of the water was very noticeable and rather weird. I don’t think any of us will be able to appreciate the colour of the water here anymore after spending weeks in the brightest and purest blue ocean most of us have ever seen.
As we began to see the city come into view and the cell service came back, the music was cranked (not that it ever wasn’t…) and videos and pictures were taken as the crew sent texts and made calls to loved ones. As we cruised past the infamous Race Rocks and Victoria got bigger, it felt even more real. We were home. Coming in past the breakwater, waving to people on land, we were greeted by the flower display saying “Welcome to Victoria”. We reached the customs dock and all took a quick step on land while Travis made a call to get us cleared through customs. Devin instantly spoke pirate to some guys on a boat there waiting and we all knew the next few hours were going to be a lot of fun. After being cleared through customs, we headed for our spot at the causeway docks. Battle flags flying, we pulled into the dock and were greeted by some friends. Thanks for being there for the arrival – it was nice to see some familiar faces.
Turnagain quickly was tied up and drinks flowing, we began to clean and scrub a month of salt off of her. A lot of cheering and hugs were had by all and over the next few hours we were only told once by the dock boys to turn the music down. Once the boats around us realized what we’d just done, everyone seemed rather friendly and eager to chat. Our Americans (Arthur, Mike and Devin) caught the last ferry to Port Angeles and Dave took the last floatplane to the mainland. This left myself (Tonya), Travis and Chris, along with some friends to tear up the town for the night. The next morning, we set off to deliver Turnagain back to the Sunshine Coast. With an overnight stop last night in Kendrick near Gabriola pass, we set sail this morning to cross the Salish Sea. As we approach the coast, I currently have an uneasy feeling in my stomach of it all coming to an end.
It’s been one hell of a ride, some of the greatest feelings and sailing ever experienced for all of us. The wind and waves, marine life, magnificent sunrises and sunsets, never ending open ocean, delicious food and mad crazy crew love are just some of the things that made this journey the most incredible thing to ever be accomplished. Huge shoutout and thank you to Turnagain and Travis for getting us all home safely. You’ve accomplished something even greater than another ocean crossing, you’ve shown us what it truly means to become a crew of people brought together as one to accomplish something only most people dream about. I believe that most of us will return to cross more oceans and for this alone, we are all eternally grateful. The highest standards of safety and sailing put forth on this journey have shown us that things like this really are possible. All you have to do is want it.
Signing off for now, thanks for reading.
Turnagain is readying for a trip to Mexico and beyond in September. Be sure to follow along here as the adventures continue!
#tesmsail and Team Turnagain
Oahu, leaving the fuel dock