07. Never seen this kind of fog before

We let loose and had a good time last night. And this morning, we deal with the hangover and indigestion. But today, we have decided to stay in Neah Bay and not move, so there are no issues.

If we sail west from here, we will soon reach the end of Juan de Fuca at Cape Flattery. If we make a ‘big left turn’ there, we will enter the Pacific Ocean. Instead of going offshore, we will only be sailing between ‘stops’, so we don’t need to wait here for a period of consecutive good weather like others do. However, we still need to prepare the boat before going out to open sea.

Preparing for the Pacific

We need to start by installing the VHF radio that we picked up in Port Angeles. This radio also has an Automatic Identification System (AIS) feature, which uses GPS to determine the location of our boat and allows us to see and be seen by other boats equipped with AIS, reducing the risk of collisions. We can also set the system to trigger an alarm if our boat gets too close to other vessels within a certain distance, or to directly communicate with those vessels.

The captain was worried that there might be a connection problem with the VHF antenna installed on the mast, but The radio works fine just by connecting the terminals. We had previously replaced the port side navigation light, believing that the lamp was broken, but it was actually an issue with the wiring. The navigation light started functioning again for unknown reasons, which is a good thing, but there is still a risk that the connection could be lost again for unknown reasons.

We try to find the optimal jack line circuit by fastening and unfastening in various ways the cargo belt we bought from the hardware store. We want to position it in a way that prevents us from tripping while moving around the boat, as close to the centerline as possible to prevent us from falling overboard, and so that it ensures adequate support while minimizing the frequency of opening and closing the tether buckle.

We now regret buying only one cargo belt, having been doubtful if it would be a suitable replacement for the dedicated jack line for boats. Fortunately, the wind is consistent on the open water, and when we will be sailing downwind with a northerly wind, it is expected to blow slightly from the west, which will be our starboard. Since it is necessary for the person outside the cockpit to move along the upwind side only for safety, it seems that the single jack line should be installed on the starboard.

We plan to visit the village, so we need to lower the tender from the davit on the stern onto the water and inflate it. However, the gusty wind makes this task difficult. The fog that blanketed the village in the morning has now engulfed here as well. Despite my great curiosity on the Native American village and desire to explore it as soon as possible, I am not confident that we can navigate through this wind and fog with our tender, which is equipped with a 5 horsepower outboard motor.

The original plan was to visit the village today and prepare the boat for departure tomorrow, but we have decided to delay it by one day. Practically speaking, this schedule would have been quite rushed given our usual pace. On the one hand, there are those eager sailor friends who have been cooped up on a boat, completely isolated from the outside world for a few days, just waiting for the right wind. On the other hand, there are people like us who feel it unfair to come all the way to Neah Bay and not take the time to pay a visit.

However, the fog that fills the entire field of vision with a uniform gray makes me feel a bit depressed. It is now September, and after having spent long time in Port Angeles, summer has come to an end. I feel a bit uneasy due to the sense of being chased by winter, possibly due to this gloomy weather.

The Fogged Neah Bay

View from our cockpit

The next day, when I woke up and looked outside the window, it was just a bright gray monotone. When I went out on deck, it felt like the boat was floating in the air. I was surprised to find that the fog could be so thick that I couldn’t even distinguish the water in front of the bow of a 12-meter boat from the sky. Our boat had dropped anchor not too far from the breakwater, which was always in sight, but now it had vanished as if it had been erased with an eraser. It was as if our boat was floating in a four-dimensional world where nothing else existed.

Even if we were to set sail this morning as planned, it would have been impossible to depart with this kind of fog. There is no wind, which is a good thing when we want to land with the tender and explore the village. As we haven’t been able to shower since the night before our first departure in Port Angeles, we also prepare for a shower.

Since it is our first time visiting this place and we have no visibility, we use a satellite map to find a place to dock the tender. We choose a location that appears to be quiet and uninhabited based on the satellite images. As we have no visibility, we rely on the GPS and save the location on our plotter on our mobile phone before setting off from the mother boat. To ensure our safety, we bring the fully charged Bu-ooh device and some reserve fuel for the outboard motor in a mineral water bottle, as well as a pair of oars for emergencies, thinking though it will be too much distance to row back.

View from our tender

Even though the tender is traveling slow, it’s unsettling not to be able to see anything ahead. We soon realize that our decision to sound the Bu-ooh device in a preventive measure, as we read in books, was a mistake. Soon, the blurry silhouette of a power boat comes into view, with a rushing silhouette of a person on the deck. As the boat gets closer, we could see that this person, who appeared to be in a state of confusion and looked around frantically before finally noticing us, was in his pajamas. We have startled this person to jump out of bed with the loud sound of our Bu-ooh device, which may have made him think a ship was passing nearby.


A dark, dilapidated silhouette appears within the swirling fog, revealing a wooden building at the end of the dock. Its damaged, tilting appearance adds to the eerie atmosphere, as if it might collapse at any moment. It’s uncertain why it has been left in such a state of disrepair. The long wooden pier, which we had chosen on a satellite map as a docking spot for our tender, is situated next to it. At the end of the pier stands a spectral maritime gas station, while the rest of the pier lacks cleats and seems unsuitable for docking boats. The lower part of the floating pier is covered in clams. We barely find a metal hook sufficient to tie up the tender and disembark, finally feeling at ease.

As I walk along the wooden pier, an eerie atmosphere surrounds me, as if the sound of a flute can be heard from far away. I am eagerly anticipating our arrival at the mysterious, foggy native village. But, wait? The end of the pier is a bleak asphalt road that stretches out in front of me. The landscape is so barren and uninviting that it’s difficult to even decide if I want to go right or left. Of course, I did not imagine an Indian village with cone-shaped tents with smoke rising from their tops, but this is… disenchanting.

We see a convenience store and get in. It’s fascinating that the casher and the employee at the gas station next door are both native American. We asked if we could leave the tender at the dock for a few hours because we don’t feel like bringing ourselves to leave due to the thick fog, but our request is immediately denied. Even the kindness I had imagined on my own falls short of my expectations. But what alternative do we have? None. We go back to the tender and we navigate through the fog to reach the marina of Neah Bay. Fortunately, the marina is relatively empty with little movement, so we’re able to easily find a spot to dock our tender among the boats that seem to have not sailed at least a decade.

The Sea Hunters of Neah Bay

The marina office was closed, but fortunately the shower facility was wide open. In the marina in Port Angeles, it takes one quarter to get two and a half minutes of water, but here it gives a whopping 5 minutes! After not showering for four days, I feel refreshed after this warm shower. As we walk along the seaside, we come across a closed counter with a ‘Teriyaki’ sign. We had also heard from Korean friends in Port Angeles that there is a Korean-run Teriyaki restaurant in Neah Bay. In the grassy area in front of it, several people are doing something and one of them is a mid-aged man with an appearance that can’t be anything other than Korean.

“Annyeong-haseyo!(Hello in Korean)” I approached with a big loud voice that clearly conveyed that I knew they were Korean. As it turns out, they were not the owners of the Teriyaki restaurant, nor were they Korean, but they were of Korean origin and had immigrated to Seattle long time ago. They were here to fish as a visitors. One of the group just returned from kayak fishing and they were looking for a suitable workbench to sort the fish. The black rockfish coming out of their fishing bag seemed to have no end, and they were all larger than an arm’s length. Their expertise in sorting the fish was impressive. “If it wasn’t for the greeting of ‘annyeong-haseyo’, we wouldn’t have invited you, but we are weak to it. Our camp is behind, would you like to come join us and have some sashimi?”

We have been feeling tense and uneasy since we landed here in the fog, as we walked around the unfamiliar neighborhood. Just meeting other Korean peers who spoke the same language and looked similar was heartwarming and comforting. To top it off, we even received an invitation to lunch. And we will even have sashimi at this unexpected location.

As we walked to their campsite, we found that everything was ready – campfire, table and chairs, and even a background music from the car with the stereo on and the door open. On the table lay the black rockfish that was just sorted out, as well as calamari that one of the group caught this morning on a kayak, and a king salmon that was bought at the market and ready to turn into sashimi. We were thrilled to be able to enjoy sashimi, which is hard to find good one in the US. As we looked at the table with a variety of genuine home-made kimchi that was brought from their home, we couldn’t help but wonder what kind of luck had brought us here. In a corner of Neah Bay that felt the most unfamiliar and eerie to us, we enjoyed Korean food among Korean companies as if we had just returned home.

These are such cheerful people – there isn’t a single word out of their mouths that isn’t a joke. They are long-time friends, and they all enjoy fishing. They say that the fish are caught well in the sea here, and they all come by car and gather like this every year. When we mentioned that we were sailing down to Mexico on a sailing boat, everyone clicked their tongues. It was also amusing that a group of fishermen and a group of sailors met in this remote location, which seemed unlikely to attract Korean people.

We ate to our hearts’ content, chatted in Korean, and enjoyed listening to Korean pop songs from 20 years ago, but we still had to tour the village, so we walked around the neighborhood, but we only saw crudely built houses, bleak roads, and if it weren’t for the gas station employee and cashier we met earlier, we wouldn’t have had any chance to meet local residents. In this atmosphere, even the expectation of an Makah museum has dropped. In the end, we returned to the camp to stay with our Korean friends and headed back to our boat before sunset. Instead of an Indian camp with rising smoke, we had a fun time at a Korean friends’ camp full of sashimi and kimchi.

It looks like we’ll have to stay one more day at Neah Bay because of the heavy rain and the southerly wind that’s expected to continue blowing along the northwest coast of the United States until tomorrow. Instead of our original plan of staying two nights and setting sail, we’ll be here for four nights. Although it’s not what we had planned, I can’t help but feel a sense of relief. We have almost finished all the physical preparations for the boat and just need to deflate and tie up the tender to the fore deck. However, we’re not sure if we’re ready for the next stop, La Push, or the one after that, Grays Harbor. If we can’t make it to La Push, we might have to skip it and go straight to Grays Harbor. Can we really do this?

Back to mother boat

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