Our first experience with intensely thick 'pea soup' fog was an angst ridden affair. That day we were setting out for the crossing of Cape Caution. It is aptly named, as it can be a treacherous endeavor. We had carefully watched the forecast for the breeze and swells, along with the tides. Conditions were as close to perfect as we could get. We did not, however, plan for the fog. We have a chart plotter, currently installed down below in the navigation “nav” station. We had also just installed the autopilot (which would prove to be invaluable later on). After a brief review of our resources, and the tide refusing to wait, we opted to go ahead. With me in the nav station looking at the chart plotter and Noj at the helm, we engaged the autopilot for the first time. We programmed the waypoint and watched, horrified, as the autopilot spun out, as if possessed. We had only a boat length of visibility. We decided to press on. I would call for several degrees to port, or to starboard, and Noj would respond accordingly. And then drift off course again. (This proved to be an excellent exercise in trust, as it turns out. Thank goodness we are solid in that regard.) At some point he noticed that we had installed the autopilot upside down. One speedy reverse reinstall later, we had use of the autopilot! This reduced the stress level significantly. For a while. I then noticed a boat overtaking us on the port side. They were speedy, and while I saw them on the screen, I could not be 100% certain they saw us. (Despite having AIS and radar, there really was very little visibility.) So, there I was, flipping out, and Noj kept saying he didn't see any sign of another boat. I went topside to listen. And I heard it. It was big (sounding). And close. Noj, at this point, thought I was suffering a bout of sea madness. I told him (rather urgently) to go 10 degrees to starboard and reduce the speed to nearly idle. Minutes later, we were hit with the wake of the boat on our bow. Breathing a massive sigh of relief, I gave Noj the new waypoint and we were off again. A short time later we heard a terrifying THUNK, as we hit a log. I had been afraid of this. There are so many wayward logs, sometimes whole trees, in these waters. I went forward to examine the bow. We were, thankfully, unscathed. Two hours hence we were able to see islands in the fog, which soon thereafter cleared to a spectacularly sunny day (albeit calm and bereft of breeze). I was well pleased to take the helm for a smoothly successful rounding of Cape Caution. The breeze then filled in, and we sailed happily to our next anchorage.
We now have a system in place. I am writing this on a deeply foggy morning as we navigate the Hiekish Narrows on our way north to the Bishop Hot Springs. I am periodically calling out course corrections to Noj, who is up on deck looking out for logs, and making degree changes with the remote device for the autopilot. We have named our autopilot Willoughby, as he has proven to be an invaluable crew member. What was once a fairly daunting prospect is now a natural part of our navigation process! Yay team!