Friday Harbor, USA

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 17 Sep 2015 02:50

Position: 48 32.37 N 123 00.88 W
Alongside Friday Harbor Marina, Friday Harbor, USA
Wind: South to South-east, F1-4 light air to fresh breeze
Weather: mostly sunny
Days run: 27 nm

I had planned on departing Ganges Harbour on Monday, but just as I was about to start making preparations for getting under way, an inflatable boat pulled up with a couple on board who, having seen the Australian flag flying from Sylph's backstay, wanted to say hello. They, Mary Anne and Larry, turned out to be be very experienced world voyagers who have sailed to corners of the world, such as Antarctica and the North West Passage, that are as yet but dreams for me. We ended up spending most of the afternoon on board their beautiful and functional steel sloop, Traversay III.

So, instead of getting away on Monday, we got away yesterday morning. It was a pleasant day, though the winds were mostly light and consequently we had to motor much of the way to our next destination, Friday Harbor (sic) in the USA, where we secured alongside the Customs dock at 18.00. There was no one in the custom's shack on the dock but there was a phone in a box, with no instruction on how to use it, apart from “Use this phone to contact Customs on arrival”, no buttons, just a handset. I picked it up, looked at it, wondered how it worked, and replaced it in its holder. There was a phone number on the shack to ring I tried to ring the number on the satellite phone but now that we were in US waters, and the phone plan I was on being for Canadian and Alaskan waters, it would not work. I went back to the mysterious handset to consider further how it worked. I put the earpiece to my ear, and, lo and behold, I heard a dial tone. A voice answered. The man on the other end seemed to be rather cranky. He asked me whether I had rung to advise my arrival.  He questioned me about where I had departed Canada from, at what time, and why it had taken me so long to get here.  I answered all his questions, but he did not seem to be very satisfied with my answers.  It turned out that we had arrived at a bad time as they had an international ferry that was about to arrive and they had lots of passengers to clear in.

I walked up to the Customs office ashore, following the directions that I had been given, feeling anxious that I had gotten off on the wrong foot, and that being on the wrong foot might lead to further misadventures. After a brief conversation I was sent back to my boat to await further orders. While I waited I made myself some dinner, a vegetable curry, hoping to consume some of our store of fresh veggies in case they wanted to quarantine them all. I was just about to tuck into the curry when I heard a knock on the hull. The first comment from the custom's officer was, “I thought I told you to move your boat down there.” I meekly responded, “I did move it. I am sorry that I did not move it far enough.” We walked back up to the Customs office ashore and as we did so our rather tense relationship rapidly thawed. It seems that the officer had checked my file and found out that I was ex-military (so was he).  He made a quip about US navy divers being “bubble heads’, I responded that in the Australian navy we called them “pressure heads”, and from that common ground all past sins were quickly forgiven. I soon had my passport back in hand, with the promise of the cruising permit being completed first thing in the morning.

This has since been efficiently accomplished, and I am pleased to say that, apart from the initial tension, the clearing in procedure has actually been quite pleasant. Once we were all legal, I move Sylph to a berth alongside in order to get a few chores done and to allow easy access ashore. Now it is late evening and I still have a bit to do. I hope to leave Friday Harbor tomorrow, but if I cannot get everything sorted out I will go to anchor and leave on Friday.

All is well.