Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

“Arms are the New Face”

Prescott and I spent an entire afternoon back in Neah Bay passing the time by reading all the magazines in the only grocery store in town. We didn’t purchase any, just piled them up on a table near the window and plowed through them, page by vibrant, contemporary page. It was kind of a pathetic way to spend the day, but we were desperate, and the magazines were like a portal back to the society that we were so sorely missing in drizzly Neah Bay.

Prescott learned a lot about Why the Beatles Broke Up, while I found out that Arms are the New Face. Cool, convenient for me, I thought, since my new lifestyle is sculpting me some killer arms (but a rather tired face). Living at sea has kicked my ass in many ways and made me stronger in others. Seasickness was probably the most effective diet one could ever hope for. Sheeting in the genoa in 20-knot winds (without self-tailing winches–RAARR), being in a semi-constant state of abdominal crunch for balance against the swell, and cranking the helm for hours at a time in a gale has made me tighten up, cramp up, and then get tougher.

Since Neah Bay, we’ve experienced the full gamut: A few days of utterly sublime downwind sailing (all accompanied by CS&N’s “Southern Cross” blaring loudly in my headphones), some rainy midnight gales that belong in the bigscreen, and a few warm, bobbing calms. Every time there’s a watch change, the boat gets a little less comfortable until the helmsman gets a hang of the perfect angle to cut so that the wind and waves hit us optimally. Each day it’s a different story, but we are all getting the hang of what sail wardrobe to fly in what conditions, what quarter of our stern we want to take the rollers from, and how best to wedge ourselves in our bunks for sleep when we can get it.

Sunrise behind an oncoming storm

Sunrise behind an oncoming storm

A full rainbow before the gale

A full rainbow before the gale

We made it to Eureka, California, by leaps and hops between flukey weather windows, running in to harbor at night from a couple storms, and then settling on a coast-hugging route to minimize our chances of getting stuck out at night. After a harrowing night outside of Newport, Oregon, we pulled in to Coos Bay to the warm hospitality of our friend Ian Leonard (who now happens to be in the Coast Guard at Coos Bay), and the next night we dropped the hook in the shelter of Port Orford.

Finally we made it to Crescent City, our first Californian port of call. After a very long and tricky entrance at dusk (between reefs and rocks everywhere), we turned the corner to the harbor and heard a deep THHHUNGK sound as the bow dipped forward and we stopped completely. Not two feet from our dock for the evening, we had run aground. No amount of power in reverse was going to unstick us from that gluey mud bottom. And as if our drama was supposed to become a comedy, we noticed a sunken ship at the dock not 50 feet from where were. The harbormaster came out and hollered, “You need a berth for the night?” I said, “Yeah, we will, but not for a bit… we’re aground right now…” I’m not sure if she didn’t hear me or what, but without answering she just turned and walked away! The family of fishermen on the breakwall next to us was laughing and chatting us up, saying they saw three people do the same thing that day. Luckily, we didn’t have to sit there for long; we checked the tides and they were rising rapidly enough to lift us off in all of 5 minutes.

The site of our grounding in Crescent City

The site of our grounding in Crescent City

This morning, I celebrated our arrival in Eureka with a dollar-long shower. The colors here are markedly Californian, and the sun is out, and the ever-present Northwestern crab shacks are dwindling in favor of beach-themed decor. Today is our day off; we get to be still, stretch our legs exploring Old Town, and get seasick all over again as we grow accustomed to being back on land. But aaahh: I can cook dinner without doing lunges,  I can crawl into bed without vaulting like a gymnast, and all my tired arms have to do is take pictures as we tour another new city.

(Stay tuned for video footage of Velella crossing the California border escorted by a pod of jumping porpoises!)



  kathy cleary wrote @

still laughing about you vaulting into the v berth..pretty funny word picture…love, mom

  janice reid wrote @

Great stories. Keep toning those arms, Meghan. I love it, a total workout just trying to stay upright.
Can’t wait to meet you.

  Lin wrote @

you and your “Mills” arms.

beautiful pictures–keep it up and i’ll be asking you to be my wedding photographer! 😉

love you. so proud.

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