Passage Notes - Seattle to San Francisco - (the really long scenic route).
Total Distance: 2456 nautical miles
Time: 18 days at sea
This started as a passage from Seattle to Hawaii; however, after 13 days and 1491 nautical miles the swage fitting in the Seldon Profurl failed and we lost our new forestay (all standing rigging was replaced in April). For the next 8 days we sailed under main sail (and some motoring) with the winds to our stern. We finally made port in Richmond, California after a somewhat stressful 965 nautical miles.
There is little doubt weather patterns are changing. This year there was no predominant "Pacific High" pressure system. There were multiple smaller high pressure systems and a few low pressure systems with near gale force winds. The conditions made for a mix of sailing and more motoring than planned.
The sea state in the Pacific Northwest is best described as rough, confused seas. Big predominant swells with long periods from the northeast or northwest, mixed with breaking and choppy wind waves from a different direction. The Pacific Northwest coastline is a lee shore and is known as the "graveyard of the Pacific" for good reason. Generally speaking, the first week or so after the "big left turn" is pretty rough at best.
TIPS & LESSONS LEARNED
You can never have enough solid hand-holds on a sailboat.
Don't fly a spinnaker at night...cruising isn't racing!
Carry more diesel fuel than you think you need.
Gorilla Tape...get a couple rolls...enough said.
Make lots of 3' ties out of old lines for lashing things down.
Using a Hydrovane in the open ocean is different than practicing with it Puget Sound.
Put door buttons on every cabinet door and floor hatch.
Never underestimate the importance of a hot meal.
Make dividers in shelves to prevent cans and items from moving around at sea.
Plan for the worse, then expect the completely unexpected!
DAILY LOG ENTRIES
Date: October 15, 2019
Position: N 47.62, W 122.39
Departed Elliott Bay Marina (EBM) at 2230 PM (O630 UTC). EBM has been my home port for about 18 years. It is a great marina and I have many great memories while participating in the Downtown Sailing Series beer can races. The plan is an evening departure to arrive in Neah Bay by mid-day Friday, refuel, then make the big left turn into the Pacific Ocean. After years of planning and preparation we are finally underway!
Date: October 16, 2019
Position: N 48.36, W 124.61
At 0430 PST we rounded Point Wilson and headed down the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Conditions in eastern strait were rather benign. Light winds (contrary to the 30 knot winds predicted by the Windy app), and 1-2 foot seas. Around 0730 PST we were about 20 nautical miles out of Neah Bay and the seas had built to 4-6 feet with a rather short period as a result of an incoming tide and a building westerly wind. We slowed from 7 knots to 5 knots and continued to plow our way down the strait. We arrived at the fuel dock in Neah Bay at 1430 PST and took on 81 gallons of diesel!
While leaving the fuel dock a strong onshore gust blew the boat back into the dock and a protruding bolt ripped an 8"x 1.5" gash in the hull about a foot above the waterline. We quickly made our way over to an empty slip to assess the damage and repair the hull. Fortunately the hull is foam cored and the inner fiberglass skin was not damaged. So, I broke out the epoxy resin, micro-bubbles and some glass cloth and get busy repairing the damaged hull. This is a really shitty way to start a voyage! I mean literally shitty as I was laying on a dock filled with bird shit.
New Plan...we will spend the night in Neah Bay to allow the fiberglass to cure, complete the repair in the morning, then get back underway Saturday afternoon with the slack tide.
Sun 18/Aug 00:42 GMT
48º 28.806 N 124º 39.943 W
Course: 244° true, 5.8 kts.
After an unplanned overnight stay in Neah Bay, I wake up to an empty boat. I assumed my 2 crew mates (JP and Steve) are up getting breakfast at the only restaurant on this quiet tribal reservation. I make some coffee, drink a cup, then get to work to finish the patch job.
While sanding the patch JP returned to the boat. I asked him if Steve was with him and he said no. I go back into the boat to get another cup of coffee and realize all of Steve's gear is gone! WTF! A few minutes later I find a note written on some sort of advertising flyer. In the middle of the night Steve packed his gear and snuck off the boat. I finish my coffee, say a few "sailor words," and then go out, lay down in the seagull shit on the dock and complete the repair on the hull.
WTF! Seriously...who jumps ship in Neah Bay? There is nothing around for miles. There is only 1 bus a day from the tribal reservation at Neah Bay to Forks, WA where the "Twilight" obsessed wanna-be vampires congregate.
Now the big decision...whether JP is willing to continue the voyage. I told JP I was going with or without him. JP decided to stay and by 1430 PST we are underway and out into the Pacific. We both agreed it was probably for the best Steve bailed. I believe his heart was in it as he was quite excited and talked a great story. However, I think he realized this voyage was more demanding than he thought. I certainly would have respected him more had he had the cahones to tell us of his decision instead of sneaking off in the middle of the night.
Anyway, it was slow going leaving Neah Bay. Light winds. Against current. Beating into wind. The winds are less than 3 knots again. Motoring away from coast to get away from fog bank and find the wind. Hopefully better day tomorrow. On the bright side saw some whales.
Mon 19/Aug 04:42 GMT
46º 11.372 N 123º 53.032 W
After almost 28 hours of motoring and with a large low pressure system just off the coast to we decide to make another unscheduled stopover in Astoria, Oregon to refuel and wait out the storm. Unfortunately, our timing was not good and we ended up crossing the bar against an out-going tide that slowed our forward progress down to 3 knots. It was not pleasant. It made for a really long motor into Astoria's West Marina Basin, and we arrived after dark which made it even more challenging. The really good news is that on our way towards the Columbia River bar we caught a nice size tuna.
Thu 22/Aug 20:49 GMT 45º 56.140 N 124º 45.130 W
Course: 250° true, 6.2 kts.
After 2 days we finally departed Astoria, Oregon this morning on the high tide and made it out just in time. The low pressure system closed the Columbia River bar for 2 days. Within 1 hour after departing we heard the USCG broadcast the bar was closed to vessels less than 38 feet. It seems conditions on the bar deteriorated shortly after leaving. Winds are variable 5 - 10 knots to start out of northwest. Now they are 10 - 15 knots out of the northeast forcing us on a more westerly track.Sea state is 8 - 10 foot seas and a little lumpy mostly due to the low pressure system that passed by. But…sunny skies and all systems working well. JP jamming to his tunes. BJ doing little boat projects. Both of us enjoying the ride.
Fri 23/Aug 16:55 GMT 44º 46.070 N 127º 17.955 W
Course: 236° true, 4.5 kts.
After a long night with mixed seas and gusty winds to 28 knots we awoke to relatively calm seas (for the ocean), 10 - 15 knot winds, and logged more than 140 nautical miles in 24 hours. Since we basically fed on fruit and nutrition bars last night. This morning called for a hot blueberry pancake breakfast. Only 2048 nautical miles to go! Oh, and yes…we just crossed out of US territory into international waters!!
Sat 24/Aug 10:03 GMT 43º 26.816 N 128º 31.138 W
Course: 239° true, 9.2 kts.
It’s funny how you become accustomed to certain sounds on a boat. It’s the abnormal sounds like sails going into irons, or a thud against the hull or deck that wake you up. But, it is also the lack of sound that wakes us up. Tonight at 0200 I didn’t hear the wake of the boat rushing past my port, I didn’t hear the groan of the autopilot (we use Tardis the Garmin autopilot with light winds and the spinnaker). The lack of sound is what woke me up.
Next thing I know a knock on the door and JP saying “no wind.” So, I put on a pair of shorts, a shirt, and of course the life jacket, then clipped onto the jack line and went forward to lower the spinnaker in pitch black darkness due to a heavy marine layer blocking all ambient light. It was pretty convenient this all happened at watch change at 0200.
Anyway motoring now…looking for wind…AGAIN.
Sat 24/Aug 15:49 GMT 42º 56.367 N 129º 04.557 W
Course: 230° true, 5.2 kts.
I can tell we are technically still in the Pacific Northwest. The skies are gray, the wind is 7-10 kts, and the seas are 6 foot and confused. This morning at 6:00 am PST I stopped motoring and pulled the genoa out in 15 kts of wind. Only 9 hours later, the winds died down and we are getting tossed around a bit. Pulled the kite back out to see if we can keep up some speed and settle the ride. Speed is about 6 kts, but still getting tossed a bit. Just not enough wind to smooth out the ride. Yesterday had another great day covering 145 nautical miles. Our weather prediction track show us pretty much on a straight course for Hawaii…only 1935 nautical miles away.
Sat 24/Aug 22:49 GMT 42º 27.359 N 129º 05.497 W
Course: 149° true, 5.3 kts.
Well, downloaded the latest weather files and things aren’t looking too good. There is a huge hole with no wind right smack in our path between our current position and Hawaii. We changed course to head back towards the coast where there are strong northwest winds predicted tonight and tomorrow. Hopefully they’ll push us down to catch the westerly wind from SoCal / northern Mexico (which is the more traditional route).
Today is a slow day…winds light and variable (about 10 kts). Flying the kite in lumpy seas just trying to keep it full. Hepzibah is unhappy and unable to do her job because of the light winds and confused seas…so we are relying on Tardis (the Garmin hydraulic autopilot). Will download weather files when available and hope for better conditions.
Sun 25/Aug 10:49 GMT 41º 32.473 N 129º 42.257 W
Course: 226° true, 6.7 kts.
We finally found the wind. It has been blowing pretty consistently at 15 knots. Sometimes down to 12, sometimes up to 20. Now moving along at 7 knots towards Hawaii again. We decided to turn away from the coast and predicted gale force winds for the night which turns out to have been the best decision. In a few hours download the latest weather models and plan from there.
Hepzibah the Hydrovane wind vane steering us towards Hawaii.
There is something both serene and eerie about sailing at night. Obviously visibility is limited so we can see the waters ahead of us or waves around us. The sails are black blobs that have to be trimmed by feel of the boat. The only sounds are the water rushing past the hull, and the occasional sail flap as the boat adjusts to the rolling motion of the seas. But there is also something peaceful and relaxing about sailing at night. The stars and moon peaking through the clouds, the wake of the boat, the wind and the endless horizon with nothing else in sight…it makes me appreciate how precious life is, and it also makes me realize how infitesimally small I am in this big world.
Sun 25/Aug 13:57 GMT 41º 20.371 N 130º 02.855 W
Course: 234° true, 7.0 kts.
The sun is already well above the horizon at 7 am PST. We are sailing SW at about 7 knots with mostly following seas. Some waves are a little contrary and the bigger swells like to push us to the south, but all in all a reasonably good ride for these latitudes. Wind is still about 15 knots out of the north. Despite the rather slow progress during the day yesterday we sill made 144 nautical miles. (JP will be happy to hear that when he wake up.) So far we have travelled 759 nautical miles…which means only 1845 to go. We have been checking in on the Pacific Seafarer’s Net (14.300 MHz) each day. Last night radio conditions were good and we were able to talk with JP’s father also. The net controller is also happy to pass on messages sent to the net.
Sun 25/Aug 19:49 GMT 40º 58.973 N 130º 50.122 W
Course: 236° true, 7.1 kts.
Last night we raised JP's father on the ham radio. He asked me “what are lumpy seas?” I replied “in one word…uncomfortable.”Today we have really lumpy seas again. So as I was taking a break and laying on the settee in the main salon I thought about how to best describe lumpy seas.
First, imagine yourself laying on a soft mattress nice and relaxed. Then, you feel your insides being pushed down into your pelvis, up into your lungs, and then pushed to the right and left in random order and at random intervals. Also periodically the mattress will lunge violently to about 30 degrees to one side, then it will come back down almost as violently, but then it feels like the bottom drops out as your innards slam into your backbone as the boat falls down the back of a large swell. Oh, also imagine the concussion of a grenade going off near you and the shock waves rippling through your entire body…that’s sort of what it feels like when the sails fill with air rapidly and violently shake the whole boat with a load boom! YEP! That’s pretty much what lumpy seas feels like.
As for walking…imagine a toddler who is just beginning to walk and place them in a room that simulates a magnitude 10 earthquake. That’s pretty much what it’s like moving about in the cabin or on deck. But, on deck you also have a 20 pound yoke around your neck, with a line that is attached at your chest with a line that runs lengthwise down the boat but inhibits your lateral movement. Add to that also think about putting you face in front of a firehose filled with saltwater that randomly get turned on. Remind yourself that saltwater is a good exfoliate once the sting is gone. Remember…this is fun and exciting!!!
After a day or two your body gets accustomed to the motions and it all feels somewhat normal. For now, the sun is out, the wind is blowing, and we are making way to Hawaii. What more could a boy ask for?
Mon 26/Aug 13:49 GMT 39º 17.011 N 131º 44.116 W
Course: 205° true, 6.3 kts.
It has been a rough night…no…it’s been a really rough night. Against better judgement we kept the spinnaker up after dark. In the mixed seas and building winds the spinnaker got rapped around the furled Genoa. We made one attempt to unwrap it, but dark was on us and winds up to 25 knots and I didn’t want to be on the foredeck in the dark in 10 foot seas and winds approaching 25 knots.
The seas built to 10 -15 feet overnight. Winds gusting to 30 knots. By morning the spinnaker somehow wrapped itself into a nice colorful rope and was no no longer wrapped around the furled Genoa. I woke up JP and in less than 10 minutes we had the spinnaker down and secured on deck. Untwisting it will wait for another day.
Winds still 25 -30 knots, seas are 10 - 15 with an occasional swell coming from northeast and violently rolling the boat 30 degrees to starboard then 30 degrees to port. Much worse than mere lumpy seas, but still manageable since we are running before the wind.
On a positive note…the sun is out, and we covered 169 nautical miles last night.
Mon 26/Aug 20:49 GMT 38º 39.779 N 132º 12.320 W
Course: 198° true, 5.9 kts.
Well, things have finally calmed down a bit. Winds are a nice 20 to 22 knots and have been pretty steady for a while. (Thank you Aeolus!) The seas are 10 - 15 feet and mostly from the same direction. (Thank you Neptune.) Every 5 minutes or so we get a swell from the east that rolls the boat to starboard and back to port (not as bad as before…but you have to hold on). But the wind is to our stern, and the waves are following, and Hepzebah the Hydrovane wind vane steering kit has been keeping us on course.
(NOTE TO SELF…You can never have too many handholds on a boat. When you think you have enough…add 10 more.)
I have hiked mountains and looked upon the great vistas of land, but there is no more humbling experience than being in the middle of the mighty Pacific hundreds of miles from land and looking out at the horizon in all directions and seeing the glorious ocean and thousands of shades of blue.
Tue 27/Aug 13:49 GMT 37º 22.049 N 133º 14.918 W
Course: 254° true, 5.5 kts.
After 2 days of winds above 20 knots and as high as 38 we have some relief and the winds have calmed down to about 15 knots. During the past 2 days we were running with the wind in mixed seas. Mostly running with the predominant swells, but about every 5 minutes or so a set of waves from the northeast would hit us and roll the boat violently in a 60 degree arc. The boat was unhappy, and the crew was unhappy…it was a damn uncomfortable 2 days. So, there was not a lot of posting to Twitter or here…there was mostly a lot of holding on.
We are heading westerly now and as I look to the east the sun is behind the clouds but rays of light beam down towards the water. I hope that is a good omen. The wind is from the Northeast now and the swells are on our starboard quarter. It’s a much better ride. Later this morning I’ll go on deck and start the ominous job of unwrapping the spinnaker so we can raise that by noon for better headway.
But first…it’s time for coffee. I haven’t had coffee for 2 days, Neither of us dare use the stove yesterday due to the unpredictability of the swells. JP did manage to throw some taquitos into the oven for a hot lunch.
Tue 27/Aug 15:50 GMT 37º 19.901 N 133º 28.745 W
Course: 262° true, 5.8 kts.
Some additional thoughts this morning...
Learning to use a Hydrovane in 15 knots of wind with 1 foot seas in Puget Sound is a lot different than actually using a Hydrovane in 15 knots of wind with 8 foot seas in the Pacific Ocean.
A slow rolling motion on the boat is relaxing…almost to the point of rocking you to sleep. A violent roll with an arc of 60 degrees (30 to port and 30 to starboard) is exhausting. The saying is one hand for the ship and for yourself…the creator gave man a handicap by only giving us 2 hands.
Don’t underestimate the value of a hot meal. Nutrition bars get old real fast!
Every noise on a boat becomes amplified in rolling seas. If it moves even a half inch…it will drive you crazy. I have spaghetti noodles in a plastic bin behind the stove. They have a gap of about an inch. In rolling seas it sounds like a maraca. I’ve even filled the cabinets with paper towels to stop the bottles from banging around.
Related to above…always have about 100 pieces of 3 foot lashing rope to secure things both on deck and below. By day 3 you’ll use 99 of them.
Never stop in Astoria, Oregon during salmon season. The flies will drive you insane. The cockpit became filled with fly carcasses as both of us killed them off. (I know it sounds disgusting…and it was.) We thought we got them all…but this morning I saw one. That damn thing will hide until we hit Hawaii…then come out during the inspection and they’lll make us turn around. Damn Oregon flies!
Oh…and I forgot to say in the previous post…we made 300 nautical miles in 2 days. That mean we did 131 nautical miles under main sail alone.
Tue 27/Aug 21:49 GMT 37º 16.391 N 134º 11.503 W
Course: 262° true, 5.5 kts.
This morning after coffee I went on deck to unwrap the spinnaker. It was like a puzzle, but eventually I was able to shake it all out. Surprisingly there were no tears. JP and I quickly set it and JP tuned in our new course virtually due west.
This is pretty close to perfect. If the winds were more steady at a constant 15 knots…it would almost be what I imagine heaven to be like. Winds are a bit light from 6 to 12 knots, and change about 15 degrees from time to time, but the sea state is mostly calm at 6.- 8 foot swells. The sun is out…JP is up on the foredeck soaking up some rays and reading up on celestial navigation. I built a cradle for the life raft, repaired some fiberglass on the dodger, and soldered a cable for my Morse code key for my marine SSB/ham radio (Icom M-802). This is the first day we could actually relax and get some things done.
Then I took a break and watched 2 birds circling the boat…I think to myself…what in the hell are these birds doing out in the middle of nowhere? They were smaller than seagulls, pure white body, orange beak, and black head, and looked like they had a string sticking out of their butt (or maybe it was a landing hook). Anyway they circled the boat several times. Each time coming in slower as if looking for a place to land…or maybe just take a crap on my solar panels (since that’s what most birds seem to like to do). Eventually they both flew off into the distance. Good luck I thought…it’s a long damn way to anywhere from here.
I suspect we won’t be making the same distance today as the past 2 days, but at least we are not getting our brains bashed, and Discovery is much happier also. She speaks to me, at least I think that’s one of the voices I hear in my head.
Wed 28/Aug 13:49 GMT 36º 55.506 N 135º 50.032 W
Course: 232° true, 6.6 kts.
JP said after midnight the winds would die off and then pick back up enough to make way. When I came on watch, the winds started to pick up to about 8 knots, but then the winds again would die off then pick up a little. Finally, at 6:30 am PST the winds died and we were pretty much dead in the water...again!
Now as the sun is peaking up from the east we are motoring southwest. Coffee is brewing, the seas are calm and unfortunately the wind speed is only 3 knots. But it looks to be another beautiful day despite the barometer falling 3 millibars yesterday.
We did manage to cover 133 nautical miles in the past 24 hours averaging 6.2 knots under sail. We are not quite halfway there…but only 1474 nautical miles to go!
Yesterday’s course had us indeed heading for a low pressure system, with the plan is to get near it’s eastern side and then sail close hulled southward. Either that low pressure system didn’t form, we missed it, or were about to hit it.
All we can do at this point is sit back and enjoy the ride. Now it’s time to sit down, drink some coffee, download the morning’s weather maps and try to see where the wind is, and point the boat in that direction.
I feel the wind starting to build.
We have been motoring for about 10 hours now. The drone of the engine has become white noise for us...only at 500 decibels. Sailboats weren’t designed to motor for long periods of time so the engine rooms are not especially designed to deaden the purr of the diesel as it chugs along at 2500 rpm.
The seas are dead calm like little rolling green meadows...except these are blue and they actually move. The glints of light reflecting off the wavelets on the ocean’s surface are like bright flowers dancing in the sun. Or, perhaps it is the first sign of delirium setting in.
The wind is starting to build. It is up to 6 knots from the south...exactly where the Predict Wind weather model said it would come. And the barometer fell 1 millibar today...down 4 from 2 days ago. So, we know we are heading in the right direction...yes...right towards a low. That’s the plan...some may say not a good plan...but it’s our plan. (Mariner’s tend to shy away from lows.)
Yes, we will be close hulled and beating into the wind for a few days, but it was either that or turn east...head for the northern Mexican coast, try to avoid this huge dull drum that’s sitting in the middle of the ocean (which we probably would have ran into), then try to catch the westerly trade winds to Hawaii. That would have added at least a week to the trip...so we both agreed it was not an option. Not that JP and I are ready to part company; quite the contrary. But we both want to get to Hawaii in a reasonable timeframe.
The good thing about motoring in calm seas is that a lot fo work can get done. I ran a copper strip from the SSB/Ham radio Antenna Tuning Unit (ATU) 30 feet through the bilge to the keel bolts to see if it will improve my radio signal. I also reorganized and cleaned the galley, and the head (bathroom), navigation station was getting a little cluttered, soldered a cable for my Morse code key so I can start sending dots and dashes across the HF airwaves, and some other odd jobs.
JP has been out on deck learning to use a sextant, listening to his music (which is great...brings back some fond memories), and soaking up the sun.
My daughter asked if we caught any more fish. I told her no because we still have tuna in the freezer. No sense in catching more fish if you already have plenty. So, I pulled some tuna steaks out of the freezer, and now JP is making his delicious marinade, then in about 2 hours we will sear the steaks and have a nice relaxing dinner. Then download the latest weather models...look them over...and adjust course as necessary.
Only 1419 miles to go (as the crow flies). But since we can fly over the island...it’s a little further for us.
Oh, and we had the first flying fish casualty of the trip. As I was returning from the deck I saw the poor little bugger laying at the base of the arch stiff as a board. When you see a school of them the are fun to watch, but they can’t control their flight...which sort of makes you wonder why they fly to begin with?
36º 09.169 N 139º 14.531 W
Our track had us beating into a predicted 15 knot wind on the southeast side of a low pressure system for about 12 hours, and then tacking to catch the winds of a high pressure area behind this low pressure system. The morning of August 29 I came on watch and put in the first reef in the mail sail as the winds were 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots. I downloaded the GRIB files, made some coffee, and sat in the cockpit enjoying the ride. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Morning watch on August 29
Within 2 hours the winds were 20 knots with gusts to 25 knots, so we furled the genoa from 135% to about 100%. As I was trimming the starboard sheet we heard a loud bang, then the boat continued to fall off. I looked forward and the roller furling drum was laying on its side. (The swage fitting inside the Seldon Profurl failed and the roller furling drum collapsed on deck. The only thing holding the genoa up was the length of wire cable inside the furling foil and the halyard.) We realized we lost our forestay!
JP immediately ran to the foredeck and attached a spare halyard to the bow stem. I took the helm and turned the boat northward to run downwind and take pressure off the mast. There was no way to furl the remaining sail. We had to lower the genoa halyard with part of the sail wrapped around the foil, and part of the sail unfurled. As I lowered the halyard the sail and furling rig came down on the starboard side of the boat, and yes it ended up in the water. We used the second spare halyard to slowly lift the sail and foil out of the ocean. We were able to disconnect the furling drum and then muscle the foil into a U-shape around the boat and secure it to the gunwale. It wasn’t pretty, and it sure as hell wasn’t easy in 15 - 20 foot seas and 30 knots of wind, but we did manage to save the sail, and minimize other damage.
The good news in all this…WE DID NOT LOSE THE MAST. How the mast stayed up in this situation is a miracle.
Fri 30/Aug 17:35 GMT 36º 22.376 N 137º 28.453 W
Course: 51° true, 4.6 kts.
Yesterday morning we were sailing in 15 knots of wind with gusts to 20. At about 8 am I put a reef in the main sail because the wind was building to a steady 20, At approximately 10 am when JP woke after his watch, the winds started to gust to 25 knots so we reefed the Genoa sail from 135% to 100%. As we were trimming to Genoa we heard a load boom and saw the forestay had broken at the base inside the roller furling drum. After several hours we were able to secure everything on deck. We are both uninjured.
The USCG and Pacific Seafarers Net are aware of our situation and are tracking us.We are slowly making our way to San Francisco under mainsail and jury rigged forestay to make repairs. That means we can only sail mostly downwind so you will see our track may seem erratic.
The good news is we made it half way, or another way to look at it is we took the scenic route to San Francisco.
Better news is we did not lose the mast.
The not so good news is that it’s going to be a long slow lumpy ride into port.
We thank everyone for thier concern and well wishes, but please excuse us if we don’t reply to messages…we’re kinda busy.
Mon 2/Sep 17:00 GMT 39º 03.178 N 131º 21.481 W
Course: 71° true, 6.4 kts.
Well, we have pretty much settled into a routine aboard again, and things have become a bit more relaxed aboard. So, as I drink my morning coffee I’ll jot down some thoughts as we continue to motor through a high to get to northwest winds that will blow us into San Francisco.
Some good news…Health wise we are both good. JP informed you I went on a very rapid weight loss diet which we suspect was due to a viral or bacterial infection. First day I felt great but couldn’t even keep water down. Day 2 I ate plain ramen noodles and macaroni (yuck), but my body felt like someone came into my cabin and gave me a blanket party. (I’m not saying that’s what happened…I’m just saying that’s what I felt like.) By day three, I was back to my old grumpy self again. Physically we are both great, mentally we are both ready for this to be over. JP is longing for a juicy burger and I want a quart of ice cream.
More good news…we are half way back to San Francisco as I write this. When JP woke up I said…”hey, we’re half way there!” He replied, “We were half way there before.” So, I had to remind him, “We were almost half way to another place. Now we are half way to the other place.”
The wind is starting to build out of the north but not yet enough to sail. Also, we need a northwest wind because our apparent wind cannot be less than 90 degrees off the nose. Fortunately my calculations on fuel look to have been very wrong and it looks like we might have another 24 hours of fuel remaining (not including reserve). Either that or the fuel gauge is very very wrong.
Some other random thoughts for today…
I will not leave again without 60 gallons of reserve fuel. I thought 125 gallons in the tank and 20 reserve on deck would be sufficient…I was wrong.
Expect the unexpected.
Forget Duct Tape. That stuff is crap. It’s crap in a house, and it’s worse on a boat, Gorilla Tape rocks. Carry at least 5 rolls with you. Why you ask? Well read the next tip…
Everything that is not screwed down or lashed somehow will get tossed around. Even that stuff that stays put in a 25 knots wind with 4 - 6 foot waves in the Strait of Juan de Fuca or Strait of Georgia will get thrown across the cabin at sea if not secured. I thought I had everything pretty well secure…I was mistaken…no…I was dead wrong! Before I depart I will secure everything that has Gorilla tape on it, or get rid of it.
The water maker is amazing and a great investment. Of all the things we had to worry about…fresh water was not one of them. And we also still have plenty of provisions…we haven’t even had to break into the MRE’s I have onboard for emergencies. Although JP and I have both had to eat MRE’s when we served, we agree we would rather chew on the teak first.
Finally, plan for contingencies. As I said, “expect the unexpected.” Our plan was to make directly for Hawaii. I watched weather for weeks, prep’d for that voyage, etc. I didn’t plan for crossing the bar into Astoria. I did not plan for a return to San Francisco. Get charts, phone numbers, and other details on potential emergency ports along the way rather than trying to get it underway.
Finally, while the marine ssb/ham radio has been invaluable, the Iridium Go is a true blessing. The first contact we made after the accident was on ham radio, followed up with text messages via Iridium. Being able to stay in contact with family and friends during the voyage has done wonders for morale aboard.
Tue 3/Sep 12:52 GMT 39º 51.432 N 128º 53.407 W
Course: 68° true, 5.7 kts.
First with the good news - We are burning way less fuel at 2200 rpm than compared to 2500 rpm and so it looks like we can be motoring for at least 12 more hours. That’s really good news considering the bad news.
Now with the bad news - The winds shifted to the northeast (030 degrees T) at about 10 to 12 knots. If you’ve been paying attention you would realize why this is a bad thing. Bueller? Bueller? OK…I’ll remind you.
We can’t sail with true or apparent wind less than 90 degrees on the nose. So, now I have the sail in irons and pointing at 060 degrees True, and slowed our speed to about 5.5 knots. Currently the seas are only about 2 feet, but very choppy. If seas build we lower the main and slow more because with only 3 lines now acting as a forestay the mast can’t take a lot of bouncing.
Now back to some good news - the weather model predicts the winds will shift in our favor by 1500 PST today…so we have about 7 hours to go.
Oh…now for some really good news - last night at sunset we had a pod of about 30 dolphins surround the boat for about 30 minutes or so, playing in the pressure waves and riding the crests of the waves around the boat. It was amazing. We both went up to the bow to watch them play. Definitely a highlight moment that video does not truly capture.
And, it was way better than the excitement of finding another dead flying fish on the deck. Flying fish are quite the anomaly; sort of like the platypus. I mean…flying seem pretty cool…and when you see a school of them the are fun to watch. But if you can fly yet not have the ability to control your flight it’s seems your fate is predetermined to crash into something…like a sailboat…and die. Just another of life’s little puzzles.
Wed 4/Sep 02:53 GMT 40º 01.222 N 127º 12.412 W
Course: 110° true, 6.2 kts.
As our saga continues…This morning when we left you we had northeast winds on the nose. Shortly after that post we did lower the main and slow engines to reduce bounce so we don’t lose the mast. And fortunately 2 hours later the winds subsided and we resumed an eastward course expecting the northwest winds to materialize around 1400 PST. It is now 2000 PST and we still have no wind as the “model” predicted. The fuel gauge has been bouncing on “E” for the past 3 hours. I don’t know if this is Devine intervention, a miracle, dumb luck, or a really faulty fuel gauge…but we’ll take it.
We down loaded the latest weather models after a nice baked chicken with tikka masala over rice dinner and saw that the winds the previous model predicted are not materializing until later tonight. We were both projecting a Thursday arrival, but now it looks like Friday.
We will continue to run the engine until it sputters, and by then we hope to find our wind. We still have 20 gallons reserve, but it looks like another no wind hole just outside San Francisco on Thursday in the latest “model.”
I know not a very uplifting post, but sometimes reality is like a hot frying pan full of grease hitting you square in the face.
On a lighter note…around 1600 PST today we saw a mega pod of dolphins off our starboard. They seemed to go for miles. Some would break off and come play in our pressure wave around the boat…true story…and I have video to prove it.
Today’s final thought…George Box stated, “All models are wrong; some models are useful.” He should have said, “All models are wrong because all models are built on a bunch of scientific wild ass guesses.”
Wed 4/Sep 20:03 GMT 39º 13.164 N 125º 23.250 W
Course: 128° true, 6.3 kts.
Well, last night after my forlorn post the winds picked up. We stopped the engine and were once again under sail. And the winds grew stronger, and the seas built higher. And now here we are being pushed by 25 knot winds with 30+ knot gusts in 10 to 12 foot seas with a period of about 5 seconds between the white crests of each wave getting the snot knocked out of us. Oh, and we have 3 lines working as a jury rigged forestay.
This is pretty much how they would define being at the mercy of the sea. Basically, we sit inside and wedge ourselves in some corner of the boat to brace against the pounding waves outside as the winds howl past. Essentially all we can do is hold on and try to make the most of the ride. Every once in a while we check the wind angle to make sure our angle of attack is good for the bay entrance.
Why does the Pacific Northwest dislike me so? I was trying to escape from these conditions that torment my soul. But, it’s like she won’t let me go. I find myself back and she is wreaking her vengeance upon me. What is my penance to be free from the wrath of these damn waters to once again sail in the warm blue waters of Southeast Asia?
On the bright side, the sun is out, we are sailing (well…sort of…more like being blown around), and we should be in port tomorrow. So, we have that going for us.
I sometimes have to remind myself to keep things in the proper perspective. The proverbial glass is neither half full, nor is it half empty…it’s just a half glass of water.
Thu 5/Sep 14:02 GMT 38º 13.079 N 123º 34.222 W
Course: 122° true, 6.2 kts.
As the sun rises from the east, Point Reyes is beginning to come into focus on the horizon. Ha Ha…no it’s not. This is San Francisco…we are neck deep in a thick blanket of fog that not only limits visibility to about a mile or so…it makes everything feel damp and cold…actually…everything is damp and cold. But, if the skies were clear I would be able to see Point Reyes. And I am painting the coastline on radar, so I know it’s really there.
I must say that it’s pretty amazing to sit here with my morning coffee and think that it has been almost 2 weeks since we’ve seen land. On the other hand, we’ve seen a lot of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, it will be about 965 nautical miles of ocean we’ve travelled since losing our forestay, and over 2100 nautical miles total. There is quite a bit of relief knowing that we will be safely in port tonight. There is also a bit of melancholy that it is not Diamond Head we are rounding. But, I also know that our families and friends will rest better knowing that we have safely returned.
I think first order of business will be hot showers where you don’t have to sit down, followed by a big hunk of steak dinner where you don’t have to hold onto your plate so it doesn’t fly across the cabin, and follow it up with some ice cream…not the plain vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry stuff…I like chunks of stuff in my ice cream…like that Ben & Jerry’s Waffle Cone Ice Cream…YUM!!!
Last night JP was wondering how to exactly log this in his captain’s log since nobody in their right mind would believe it took 18 days and almost 2000 sea miles to travel from Astoria, Oregon to San Francisco, California. I said, “just make a notation that we took the scenic route.”
As for me…I have a lot of work ahead. The boatyard is waiting for us to arrive and will start work almost immediately. I need new stanchions and lifelines, run some new running rigging (that’s a fancy word for rope Mom), make a few other minor repairs and upgrades, do something with all the stuff that’s taped down (sorry to say but my miniature pool table has to go), buy 10 rolls of Gorilla tape, re-provision the boat, and start looking for a weather window to depart in early October.
Fri 6/Sep 03:55 GMT 37º 55.394 N 122º 22.349 W
Course: 218° true, 0.0 kts.
Well, we arrived in Richmond, at Svendsen’s Bay Marine on Thursday evening around 5 pm. There has been a whirlwind of activity taking things apart to figure out next steps.
The first order of business after removing the genoa from the boat is was to disconnect the forestay from the top of the mast, and measure for a new one. Besides the forestay, I will need a new roller furling system, and fortunately they have a new Harken furler that will fit the boat. The sail is at the loft and they estimate a 3 week turnaround. Also, new stanchions to replace the bent ones, re-do the lifelines, and run some new halyards, fix 2 broken slides on main sail…etc. There’s a long list.
It has been nice to be back ashore, but honestly…I’m ready to go again. This is just another unscheduled stopover in the grand scheme of things.
Racing in sailboats is all about squeezing out every 1/4 knot out of the boat and making the finish line. Cruising in sailboats is all about relaxing and enjoying a comfortable, and safe ride with some vague idea of where you think you might want to eventually be…someday.
So, if all goes well, then around the first week of October I will set sail again and start cruising towards Hawaii.