|Familiar peaks in Katchemak Bay|
|Approaching Hones lagoon|
|Gotago welcoming Darwind home|
|Tied up to the Seldovia docks, the voyage is officially over.|
At last I found a clear spot, and bracing up against the cockpit seats, I gripped the dodger with one hand and plunged Darwind's bows into that raging mess. It seemed like I was battling the tiller for hours and hours, as the still significant 20 knots of wind crashed into an opposing 3.5 knot current, with our little cork boat caught in the middle of the crossfire. for the longest time, we made almost no progress, often under 1 knot of speed made good, while I struggled to win every foot from the treacherous current, amidst steep, crashing seas that were constantly spilling water over the coamings and lazarete, swirling away down the drains, only to be replaced by another bucketful as the bows plunged and rolled another weirdly lumped wavecrest passed under the keel. However, after around an hour, the waves started to die down, as the current abated, and we started to move forward again, but unfortunately along with the opposing current, our favorable wind died out to be replaced by a thick fog and rain over a glassy sea. It appeared that Alaska wasn't letting us go home without one last demonstration of her ever so bewildering weather. As it was now smooth sailing under power for a few hours, I switched places with mom, and ducked below to catch around an hour of sleep and rest after the ordeal of the tide rip.
The rest of Chatham passage passed uneventfully, with only on other tide rip to deal with, though this one was much more benign as there was no wind to really pick up any nasty chop like the first, and we just plowed through under power, rolling like a drunken pig. However, just past Chatham Harbor, as we began to swing north around Arthur point at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, we sailed out of the fog bank into a clear, sunny sky, with some light, teasing zephyrs and over three knots of current to help us along. It was lazy sailing as we stripped off wet foul weather gear and hung wet bedding and clothes out on the rigging to dry.
And as we continued the huge U-turn around the Kenai peninsula, the geography, harsh and dramatic on the south side of the peninsula, softened and resolved itself into the intensely familiar setting of Katchemak Bay. Near Fourth of July Creek, once the farthest extent of my voyages as skipper of the Lynx and the Capri, we passed a line of over two dozen fishing boats, both commercial and sport, and soon after that we picked up fresh breeze blowing from the southeast, so the main and number to went up, the engine was silenced, and we hardened up on a hard reach towards Seldovia Bay and the finish line.
As we approached the channel, Gotago, or as she is now called, Uka, my dad's old 36 foot Columbia that over 20 years before, he had sailed with my mom exactly the same voyage as I had just completed, and the first sailboat I had ever been on and where I spent a large part of my childhood summers cruising around south central Alaska. It was fitting to be thus escorted to the finish line and to top it off, Camile, our good friend and captain of the the fast ferry, which was just leaving the harbor hailed us over the VHF and loudspeaker to welcome us home.
Finally, I hailed the harbormaster, and after a tricky and somewhat humiliating docking, right across from the Linwood Bar and Grill deck (of course), jumped onto the familiar planks and wrapped Darwind's docklines around the worn timbers. We did it.