August 21, 2017: Partial eclipse of the sun by fog!

Gray morning mists and light rain greeted us on “Eclipse Monday,” and the clouds continued to thicken and lower as we prepared to leave Port Hardy. Walt filled the water tanks and plotted our course to Mound Island, and I made sure that everything was put away and that all the cabinet and door latches on Braesail were fastened. I then hauled the garbage bag up the steep ramp from the docks to the dumpsters on shore (the tide was quite far out!), and looked around the marina and surrounding waters to see if fog might become a problem, and it appeared that it would. We received some welcome assistance from one of the marina’s dock hands as Walt expertly maneuvered Braesail out of its snug spot between two large boats and around a tight corner into a shallow waterway to one side of which we needed to keep close because of the low tide. Off to the fuel dock we then went to buy diesel fuel and propane, receiving free rainwater hair treatments as we went about docking and walking to and from the store. As we prepared to leave the dock, I noticed a bald eagle sitting magisterially at the top of a nearby sailboat’s mast to bid us farewell.

By the time we motored away from the fuel dock at about 9:30 am, thick fog began to hug the hills around Port Hardy and shroud the sea in cottony gray, making it very difficult to see anything in any direction (of all the weather we encounter while cruising, I think fog is the most frightening to me!). I began to feel my anxiety level rising, as usually happens when we’re motoring through fog, and I busied myself taking in all the fenders and coiling the dock lines neatly, finding Walt a long-sleeved T-shirt, bringing him the warning horns and the battery-operated inflating device that recharges the air horn, turning on the cockpit heater and the steaming (under way) and bow and stern lights, bringing up WatchMate on my smartphone so that I could see the positions and travel directions of other vessels in the area that have the AIS system, wiping the accumulating moisture from the cockpit curtains and windscreens and putting out small towels to catch drips, making mugs of hot tea, and peering into the fearful featurelessness to see if I could see anything anywhere in a world where water, fog, and bits of sky were painted in at LEAST “50 shades of gray!” Walt had the radar function on our chart plotter operating to warn him of obstacles, and he sounded the air horn periodically to signal our presence to any nearby watercraft (of which there were almost none). We motored relatively slowly, avoiding drift logs and other floating debris, and at one point being surprised by small whale slicing the water near our starboard beam–it disappeared very quickly into the mist. The fog finally began to thin and lift a little in the late morning, allowing us to  glimpse the azure tops of surrounding mountains–such a relief! I felt as if we were at the bottom of a vast gray-white porcelain dish whose sides sloped up to a ragged rim of deep blue to which puffs of cloudy gauze were glued. Soon we could see islands and their shores and the bases of the mountains along which filmy gossamer wisps of fog floated, stretched, and arched and melted away.

I took a turn at the helm as visibility improved, allowing Walt to whip the ends of some new line he’d purchased with which to secure the anchor, and he took over again when we encountered some curling back-eddies in a narrow passage. Around Mound Island we motored (since, as usual, wind had been almost entirely absent during our journey), and we easily located an anchoring spot in a wide sheltered cove in which there were only two other boats. By about 3:30 pm, we were securely “hooked;” Walt went back to the aft cabin to take his usual afternoon nap, and the skies cleared gradually, painting the sullen steely sea a soft robin’s-egg blue and streaking it with cream and gold. I spent most of the later afternoon writing blog posts and enjoying the stillness disturbed only by the calls of downy white seabirds assembled on a rocky island nearby.

Mound Island in the evening
Rocks near Mound Island in the evening–the birds will be back in the morning

We shared chips and dip before Walt’s beef stew supper was ready and I enjoyed a short nap in the cockpit, now very warm and sunny, while he prepared a salad. With dishes done and the galley “ship-shape,” I wrote this blog post while Walt read a novel and some cruising guides. Our bed beckoned as darkness gathered–will the fog creep back tomorrow morning?

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