Leaving in the fog presents a variety of safety challenges to many mariners. I certainly am one of those persons that looks seriously at going out in reduced visibility! Fog is frequently experienced in Puget Sound since the dew point & ambient air temperature are frequently close. The hazards in our area are container ships, tankers, tugs with barges, ferries, recreational boats, kayakers. Yes, I’ve seen kayakers in the fog once & was amazed. I tend to think kayakers in the fog are darwinian selection candidates! There are several steps one can take as a skipper to promote a safe outcome. I’ll talk about these later.
We have had our new boat, Que Linda, for a year and have spent many hours in Possession Sound learning how she behaves in conditions. She is a 1980 Catalina 38 with a delightful background. Her predecessor was the Yankee 38 an IOR design for racing by Sparkman & Stephens.
The tumblehome shape is distinctive from this era and earlier. When Yankee Yachts went out of business, Catalina bought the molds for the hull, changed the rigging, sail plan, deck & cabin spaces. This then became a racer/cruiser. She remains to this day a fast boat as a cruiser and requires attention when the wind really pipes up (30 knots). Over the last year we’ve sailed her in Possession Sound in conditions up to 50 knots. Truly, in conditions starting at 20 knots and above we progressively reef both the main & the jib and over 30 knots I would like to have a third reef point in the main.
After a year of getting to know her, Judy & I decided it was time for a week long trip from Everett to Victoria, BC. I had seen pictures of the Victoria harbor with the floating docks on the waterfront & was charmed.
Our first leg was 35 nm from Everett to Port Townsend and then onto Victoria, San Juan Island & return home during mid August 2016. Due to fog we lost two days in Port Townsend & needed to change our plans. On the evening of the second day I decided we would leave on the third morning despite the fog. My safety concerns were the Port Townsend ferry & ships around Admiralty inlet since these are the shipping lanes from the Pacific down the sound to Seattle.
On the morning of our departure we got out the compressed air fog horns. Judy & I discussed her role as a lookout on the bow with the fog horns. She would vigorously point to starboard or port if a course change is needed and she would do a 5 second blast on the horn every 2 minutes. I fired up the radar and selected 1.5 mile range for close in objects and would use a longer range after Point Wilson. Finally, I plotted a route the that followed the shoal area out to Point Wilson. It is the red dotted line on the chart below.
As we approached the shipping lanes I called Seattle Control on channel five to inquire about ships in the area of Admiralty Inlet & state our vessel name, course, & speed & size. To my very pleasant surprise two different commercial vessels responded very professionally and inquired about our position, course, speed & fixed me on their radar. We headed NE & crossed the traffic lanes without incident before turning north toward Victoria. The final video is from that day.