Saturday September 2 Winter in Westport
We are enjoying a lovely winter day in Westport, Washington. We arrived here early Wednesday morning after an overnight passage from Neah Bay. We have been waiting out a persistent low pressure system that parked itself off the SW coast of Vancouver Island and is generating South winds of 10 to 20 knots along the Oregon and Washington Pacific coast.
You might wonder why we are concerned about south winds of 10 to 20 knots. The problem with those moderate winds is the 3 to 4 wind waves out of the south that are generated by the south wind. These meet the persistent NW 8 to 10 swell coming out of the Gulf of Alaska. The southerly wind waves and NW swell combine to make a very uneven and uncomfortable sea that ranges up to 12 and has no pattern.
During the last 24 hours, the harbor has filled with boats that were planning on making a non-stop passage from San Francisco to Cape Flattery/Neah Bay or vice-versa. Those boats encountered very uncomfortable conditions in the area from five to 25 miles offshore and ducked in here to wait out the adverse wind/wave situation.
Since arriving here on Wednesday morning, we have met three southbound sail boaters who planned on non-stop trips from Neah Bay to San Francisco. There are also four powerboats ranging in size from 35 to 50 tied up near us. All waiting for the wind to switch back around to the NW wind that is supposed to blow 25 days a month this time of year!
The coastal marine forecast for today from here south 120 miles is for South 20 knots with 30-knot gusts in the thunderstorms. The wind waves are forecast to be south 4 and the swell is out of the NW at 8 to 10. The air temperature at noon is 53 degrees and it is raining.
A 40 cutter that looks like a Baba 40 just docked next to us. He came in from Newport, Oregon. He said it was a great sail coming north but he wouldnt want to be headed south.
This is just the weather and situation we were looking for when we left Gig Harbor last Saturday and started our journey to warm and dry weather!
About 7 AM Wednesday we were eight miles west of the Grays Harbor Bar headed into Grays Harbor/Westport. Arlene asked if maybe we should go on to Newport Oregon which was another 24 hours. We talked about it and decided that it would be nice to see Westport and spend a little time here. Little did we know that Westport might become our winter home. In retrospect, we would have been much better off if we had continued on to Newport on Wednesday. However, at that time the Low-pressure system was forecast to dissipate Thursday night and be gone on Friday.
The wind is forecast to go to the Southwest tomorrow morning and then to the West later in the day. By Monday morning, we should have NW 15 knots to help us south.
Our next destination is Newport, Oregon, which is about 145 nautical miles due south of here. Our challenge in getting from here to Newport is timing the crossing of the Grays Harbor Bar and the Yaquina River Bar at Newport. We have to cross each bar on the end of a flood tide. Sunday morning we can cross the Grays Harbor bar for several hours after 11:15 AM. On Monday, we must be across the Newport Bar no later than 5:45PM. That means we need to average 4.8 knots over the bottom from here to Newport.
If we miss the slack after the flood at Newport, we have to wait for the next slack water, which is after dark. We CANNOT cross the bar in the dark. So, we would have to standoff Newport until the morning slack water at 5:30 AM on Tuesday. I am not certain we can maintain 5 knots over the bottom into 15 knots and 4 wind waves. Therefore, we continue to wait here in Westport.
In July, on another boat, we missed the evening tide at Newport and just continued on to Coos Bay, which turned out to be a not so nice place for small boat cruisers. We really want to make it into Newport this trip.
Some people ask how can we stay busy on a boat while sitting in a strange harbor waiting for weather? Here is a brief description of Thursday and Friday.
We wake up about 6:30 AM and make coffee and put away the sleeping stuff. Even on a 40, boat there is not enough storage. The bed is storage during the day, at night that stuff resides in the main cabin.
At 7 AM, I start the weather fax system on the computer to receive the US Coast Guard weather faxes broadcast on SSB (single side band, e.g. 8.8602 MHz), from station NMC at Point Reyes, California. While the SSB and computer receive the NMC WFX broadcast, I spend 15 minutes listening and copying the NOAA VHF weather reports and forecasts. After that, Arlene and I talk about the forecast and what we should do about leaving, staying, or waiting until the 9:30AM NOAA update.
By then it is 8 AM and time for me to walk to the top of the dock and visit "The Little Donut Shop" where I can watch them knead the dough and drop the donuts in the hot oil. I spend about 45 minutes drinking coffee, reading the paper, and looking at the sights.
While I am doing the donut thing, Arlene has pulled her barbell, dumbbell, and weight plates out from under the settee and begins her two-hour weight lifting session. So, while her favorite dumbbell is eating donuts she is keeping fit.
Thursday morning and part of the afternoon I spent on my back in the engine room laying on the waterlift muffler and batteries. Wednesday night the Heart Freedom 20 inverter quit making AC current. Thursday morning I discovered that the battery charger was not charging the batteries although the LEDs indicated that the charger was charging the batteries.
I had to chisel a notch in the mounting board for the Halon fire extinguisher system in order to get to the bolts that I had to remove in order to remove the cover from the Freedom 20. I had to do that lying on my side on the muffler with my feet up thru the hatch. Arlene worries about staying limber while on the boat, I have to perform contortions just to work on much of the boat. Finding the chisels required the removal of everything from two different compartments to dig out the chisels. It took me two hours to cut the notch and two minutes to then remove the cover.
Eventually, after three phone calls and 90 minutes of non-help on the phone from Heart technical support I found a four-pin connector that had vibrated loose from the computer circuit board in the inverter. Plugging that in resolved the problem. The total time to repair the inverter was five hours.
Arlene has not been feeling well since she had a root canal on a molar the Monday before we left. She is suffering from a sore jaw, sinus pressure, and bloody drainage from the sinus above the molar that was worked on.
We were told there was a walk-in clinic we could visit about 1 ½ miles from the harbor. We were also told that the clinic was open until 7 PM on Thursday. We got a ride to the grocery store about ¼ mile past the clinic. We shopped for fresh produce and bread, (all the bread we had brought with us molded). We walked back to the clinic, arriving there about 5:15 PM. There was a sign in the window, right next to the sign that said "Open Late Thursday 7 PM", saying they had decided to close at 5 PM.
So, we hitch hiked back to the boat and stowed the food. We then went for a walk around town. The fog rolled in about 6:45 PM and we retreated to the warmth of the boat, We cooked dinner, actually Arlene cooks and I eat. I worked on weather faxes and VHF weather for about an hour. The forecast seemed much more favorable for a Friday trip to Newport.
Friday morning we planned to leave about 10:30 AM to catch the tide and beat it to Newport. Arlene did a quick arm and upper body workout while I went off in search of donuts. We wanted to get some videotape of Westport from the 40 tower on the breakwater. We walked down to that end of town and checked out the bar from the tower, using our 14x47 Canon Image Stabilized binoculars.
About 10:30 we started the engine and put water into our fresh water tank. The new 47 USCG motorized lifeboat then appeared with a 31 sailboat close behind him. We walked over to chat with the new sailboat after the guard left. They told us they came in to escape the miserable wind/waves outside the bar. They were headed south but felt it was too uncomfortable to continue. They had no harbor or bar charts for any of the West Coast so needed the USCG to show them thru the rather complex Grays Harbor buoy system. There are several sharp turns that must be made and the channel takes you to within 10 yards of the South Jetty. The north side of the channel is all sandbars and mud flats.
I then checked the NOAA VHF weather reports for 10 AM. The Columbia River Bar buoy was reporting S 16 knots. That buoy was one of our waypoints and is about six hours south of Grays Harbor. The Cape Elizabeth buoy was reporting SE 16 with 4 wind waves. The Grays Harbor waverider buoy, eight miles offshore, was reporting NW 8 swell at 8 seconds. We decided not to go.
We ate lunch and decided to try the clinic again. Some new friends from another sailboat seeking refuge here appeared at our dock before we could leave for the clinic. We invited them in and chatted for two hours.
They are from Bellingham and are headed to San Diego and Fiji. They quit their jobs, sold their home, and have become Missionaries. Dave is a HAM (radio) and radio engineer. He will be helping local churches in the Fiji Islands set up SSB radios so they can communicate with each other. Tana, his wife, will be teaching local teachers how to be more effective. Tana says that almost all Fijian teachers have only a high school diploma.
Dave and Tana, on a Pacific Seacraft 37, were planning on a non-stop passage from Anacortes, Washington to San Diego. They found the wind/waves too uncomfortable on Tuesday night and came into Westport just before us on Wednesday morning. Dave and Tana did the Seattle to San Diego passage non-stop in 1995. They have a great deal of offshore sailing experience in the Pacific and Atlantic.
We got to the clinic about 3 PM and found it locked but with the lights on. Their answering service thought they had left early for the Labor Day weekend. The pharmacist next door thought the clinic was still open. He told Arlene to take the penicillin based antibiotic that her dentist gave her. We then called her dentist but our cell phone battery died just as he was telling Arlene that the antibiotic should work fine for the sinus infection.
Another trip to grocery store and the 2-mile walk back to the boat took up the rest of the afternoon. We then met Dave and Tana and another sailboat couple for a long leisurely dinner that lasted until 9:30.
An hour spend with the weatherfax and VHF weather used the remainder of the evening.
and so it goes.
Now, how did we get to Grays Harbor/Westport?
We left Gig Harbor; Washington about 10 AM on Saturday, August 26 in drizzle and no wind. We motored all the way to Port Ludlow, Washington. There was no wind at all but a lot of clouds and drizzle during the 46-mile trip to Ludlow.
Lee and Lucy met us on the dock at Ludlow about 5 PM. We all went to William and Riggans new house for a house warming and the premier showing of the videotape from our July trip on a Tartan 42 from Gig Harbor to San Diego. William played "Skippy the Navigator" during the 18 day trip to San Diego and was my ever so entertaining watch mate during nine 3 AM to 6 AM watches. William and Riggan served a lovely buffet during the party.
We left Port Ludlow at 8 AM Sunday and motored all 45 miles to Port Angles. There was plenty of sun but again, not a breath of wind. We arrived at the PA public dock about 5 PM. We ate a nice, but strange dinner at the Crabhouse on the waterfront overlooking Mirador. I had tasty and well-cooked Tuna. I asked for Wasabai and soy for the tuna but no one in the restaurant knew what Wasabai was. Arlene ordered a Crab Louie and received a small dinner plate with a head of butter lettuce cut in half covered with a quarter cup of crab. Next to it was a half tomato and half an avocado.
On Monday morning, we left PA at 6 AM in bright sunshine, a light east wind, and a 2-knot current pushing us toward Neah Bay. There was a forecast of light wind until late afternoon. We made the 58 nautical miles to Neah Bay by 1:30 PM, arriving before the afternoon gales kicked in. Neah Bay was bright and sunny, but that is about all the positive that I can generate for Neah Bay.
Neah Bay is the manmade harbor, thank you Corp of Engineers, about 3 miles east of Cape Flattery Washington. Cape Flattery is the most NW point in the continental United States and is noted for wet and windy weather.
We planned on leaving Neah Bay about 10:30 AM on Tuesday. Again, this was timed to get us to the Grays Harbor in the early morning to catch the slack water after the ebb. Dawn Tuesday showed us heavy drizzle, fog, 8-knot north winds and 48 degrees.
We got a late start because I lost my new, very expensive, guaranteed to never break, Titanium Flexon reading glasses. Eventually, after some puzzling I found them on top of the toilet paper dispenser at a public restroom in front of the grocery store, about ¼ mile from the marina. I was very lucky to get them back.
We left the Neah Bay Marina about 11 AM and headed out into the Pacific in fog and rain. Once clear of Wadah Island and Cape Flattery we experienced rain, fog, South 15 knots and a NW 7 swell. Really uncomfortable the boat did not settle down and the waves never got organized. The forecast was for NW 15-knot winds.
Finally, about 3 PM, about 12 miles SW of Cape Flattery the rain stopped and the wind veered to the Northwest. We put up the 120% Genoa and the full main and began to sail South toward Grays Harbor. We had about 12 knots true wind off the port quarter. We were making about 4.5 knots thru the water but 6.8 knots over the bottom due to current going south for the winter.
About 4 PM the fog lifted and the sun almost came out. We had very nice sailing until dusk when the wind died fairly quickly.
Unfortunately, the swell did not diminish but moved to more out of the west and our course changed to just east of south. That meant we had a 7 swell from abeam all night long. The boat rolled unmercifully and we suffered. I normally sleep in the cockpit at night and get up every 15 minutes to check the radar and horizon. I was rolled off the cockpit seats twice during the night. On several occasions, we put one rail or the other in the water on a particularly deep roll.
That misery went on until about 4 AM when we changed course and headed more east for the Grays Harbor entrance buoy which is 8.5 miles west of the Grays Harbor breakwater.
This was Arlenes first night offshore and she was not impressed. The rolling from side to side is very disconcerting and down right annoying. She kept asking if we could change course but we would have had to head west into the swell or east toward the coast which was only 12 miles away. I tried to stay outside the 100-fathom line but that did not help much.
We came in over the Grays Harbor bar at about 8:30 AM. The Coast Guard was reporting 8 to 10 swell and had closed the bar to vessels under 16 feet. We had a 50 fishing boat about ¼ mile behind us. When we both went into a wave trough, we could not see each other. There was only an occasional breaker. The surprise to me was how long the bar type waves lasted. We surfed and surged for over an hour at six knots so I guess the bar is about five to seven miles wide.
The USCG called us on the radio and asked if we wanted an escort over the bar. We told them we had good charts, good radar, lots of bar experience, and did not need assistance. About 30 minutes later an USCG 20 RIB with two crewman came jumping over the bar waves and circled us several times. They waved, we smiled and waved, they paced us about 20 yards off our starboard side for five minutes and then went flying back into the harbor.
We allowed our ST6000 autopilot to steer across the entire bar. It did great job, probably better than I could do. The boat really picks up speed surfing down the big swells and tries to round up into them. The autopilot never let the boat get more than 2 degrees off course. I would use the radar to get a bearing to the next buoy and would then confirm that bearing with the use of the GPS and Jeppesen MarineMap charting software running on our laptop. I would just adjust the course to point to the next buoy and the ST6000 would keep us right on it.
Several weeks ago I installed a Raytheon "Gyro Rate Transducer" and plugged it into the Autohelm course computer. (Autohelm is a Raytheon company/product that works off the "SeaTalk" databus. All our instruments, GPS, and Radar also transmit and receive data off the SeaTalk databus). The installation took five minutes.
The Gyro Rate Transducer is a very sensitive yaw sensor. If it detects a course deviation of more than two degrees, it immediately causes the course computer to enter a rudder deflection to get the boat back on course. It will also work with the Autopilot set to steer to apparent wind. This prevents quartering waves on the stern from knocking the boat off course with no change in apparent wind until after the boat is 20 degrees off course.
A wonderful addition to Miradors electronic gadgets.
We tied up at the transient dock about 10 AM and sat down to a nice level lunch.
Transient moorage is only $12 a night but they only accept cash and we dont carry much cash.
Now you know the story about Miradors first week on the way to warm weather.
Sunday September 3 Noisy VHF Radios in Westport
It is 6:55 AM and we are far too awake. About 5:45 AM the boat next to us started listening to the NOAA weather forecast on his VHF. He had the outside speaker turned on so loud that it woke Arlene who sleeps with earplugs. He, and we, listened to two complete cycles of the forecast, about 12 minutes worth.
We managed to fall asleep again, and then the Bayliner 37 on the other side of the dock from us decided to leave. His problem was that the 15-knot east wind from their beam had them pinned to the dock. It required far too much shouting, engine roaring, and thruster grinding to get them off the dock and underway.
By 6:30 AM I decided there was no hope of going back too sleep. We had wanted to sleep in this morning because we are planning to leave for Newport about 10:30 AM and will have to stay awake all night.
The current conditions here in Westport are 47 degrees, overcast, and an east wind of 12 15 knots. That wind would make for a nice trip down the coast. But, NOAA is still forecasting SW winds for this morning.
While I was updating this, the latest 96hour surface analysis came in via SSB weather fax. It shows the North Pacific high moving in close to the coast by next Thursday and predicts NW gales from Newport, Oregon to almost San Francisco.
This trip is started to look grim!
Monday September 4 Lovely & Sunny Newport Oregon
We left Westport Sunday morning about 10:15 AM. We had to wait for a lessening of the ebb tide and for the donut shop to prepare their Sunday specials. No sailing trip can begin without donuts.
There was a five knot East wind for the first several hours and bright sunshine. We thought about trying out our new 165% light air reacher sail. It flys loose off the spinnaker halyard but has its own roller furler to make it easier to manage. We decided not to try the new sail because we wanted to be sure to reach the Newport entrance buoy by 3 PM Monday.
As it turned out, we made a lucky choice. We encountered more than two knots of north going current all the way from Cape Shoalwater to Cape Disappointment. The knot meter stayed above 7 knots but the VMG and speed over the ground, (the same measure since we were motor sailing direct to our waypoint) stayed below 5 knots most of the time. If we had tried sailing in those light winds we would have made little progress.
The two boats we made friends with in Westport could not leave with us because they both needed diesel fuel and the fuel dock was closed on Sunday. We now have 140 gallons of diesel tankage and dont worry too much about fuel. We converted an 85 gallon water tank to be a diesel fuel tank when we installed the Spectra watermaker in May of this year. Mirador burns about 6/10 gallon per hour at 6.4 knots, 2300 RPM), so we have a slow speed motoring range of over 1400 nautical miles or about 775 miles at 7.2 knots.
We started sailing a little south of Cape Disappointment when the adverse current diminished and the wind increased to NW 12 knots. We were not able to sail directly toward Newport because we were too lazy to set the genoa wing and wing on a pole. Our desired course was 148 degrees magnetic and we were sailing 185 to 190 degrees at 5.5 knots. Our VMG stayed around 4.8 knots with our 120% genoa and full main. Both sails were made by North Sails of Seattle out of Spectra sailcloth and are excellent offshore sails.
As we crossed the shipping lanes about 10 miles west of the Columbia River mouth we had a very annoying encounter with the Atlantic Sovern, an 800 crude oil carrier. We were on her starboard bow and under sail. We hailed the Atlantic Sovern several times on VHF 13. Finally, we heard from someone who barely spoke English. I asked if they saw the sailboat 2 miles off their starboard bow. The said they did and then declared they would hold their course of 300 degrees magnetic. I told them that my radar plots indicated that put us on a collision course in 9 minutes. They did not acknowledge me, nor did they change course. When we were 3/8 of mile from them, still on their starboard bow, we jibed in order to pass astern. I guess "might makes right!"
We had lovely sailing until dark. We dropped all the sails at dark because we were entering an area of heavy commercial fishing. It is very difficult to figure out how to dodge all the trawlers and long liners going every which way. Arlene is still not comfortable reading the radar and then figuring out how to change course to avoid the fishing traffic. I wanted to sleep so we motor at night.
At about 2 AM Arlene woke me up and pointed astern. There was a very large ship headed right at us. We could see both a red and green light. The ship was 1 mile astern and closing at 20 knots! Arlene showed me the electronic bearing line on the radar and said the ship had not deviated from the line for 10 minutes. That means a sure collision.
I tried to hail the ship on VHF 16 and VHF 13 (13 is the channel reserved for communications between the bridges of ships). There was no response. We had no idea which way to turn because we expected the ship to turn at any second because they were burdened and we had right of way. I would have gladly gotten out of the way but I felt like a puppy in the freeway.
I shined our 500,000 candle power spotlight on the ships bridge. I guess they saw the light because they immediately changed course and passed 500 yards to our starboard. I think they lost sight of our masthead 40 watt tri-color navigation lights because there were six brightly lit largish commercial fishers within 3 miles of us.
We both stay in the cockpit all night when we make a trip with just one overnight leg. One of us sleeps while the other stays on watch. We use an electronic timer set to go off every 15 minutes if the watch keeper cant stay awake. Last night the sleeping person had to wrap up in a down sleeping bag to stay warm. The air temperature was 47 degrees and there was 7 knots apparent wind from the stern.
The sky was crystal clear, there was a ½ moon, and a lot of shooting stars. An excellent night to be 10 miles off the US West Coast.
There was a lot of fishing traffic that requires almost constant attention. At any time the radar, set at a 6 mile range, would have five to ten targets on it. The watch keeper has to stay alert because the fishing boats start, stop, and change direction rather abruptly.
The final drama of the night began about 6 AM which is 34 minutes before sunrise in this area. I heard a sailboat talking to the USCG about the fog. The sailboat had no radar and few charts. They had been sitting in 200 yard fog for eight hours at that point. They were afraid to move because of all the other boats moving around them. They wanted the USCG to tell them when the fog would lift. The guard offered little comfort or advice.
I called the sailboat and asked for the position. I plotted their position and suggested they sail to a waypoint where we could meet. They were 9 miles southwest of me and I could see them on radar. I told them I would watch for other traffic around them. We agreed to meet at the waypoint so I could lead them into Yaquina Bay, (Newport, Oregon).
Seventyfive minutes later we met and they then followed me 5 miles to the Yaquina Bay entrance buoy. Just 20 minutes after we met the fog lifted, the sun came out, and visibility increased to five miles.
Mirador arrived at the Embarcadero Marina at 11 AM. This is a very nice marina. Good docks, great restaurants, large marine store, hot tubs, swimming pool, showers, weight room. All this for $0.60 a foot.
Well stay here a couple of nights and enjoy ourselves.
Arlenes tooth and sinus are responding positively to the antibiotic and she is feeling much better and suffering less pain. The downside is that the antibiotic upsets her stomach which is not a good thing out in the ocean swells.
Wednesday September 6 Newport, Oregon
We have spent two and a half easy days here in the "Dungeness Crab Capital of the World." It is truly astounding how many people spend so much time throwing crab traps in the water. They seem to do it 24 hours a day. The dock next to us is the crab dock for the Embarcadero Resort. There are always three to six crabbers there.
We talked to the couple in the 25 boat near us. They set six traps a days and leave them in the water for about an hour. They have caught 52, 36, and 36 crabs the last three days.
Newport is a very busy commercial fishing port. The harbor is focused on the commercial fishing fleet. The other commercial enterprise is tourism. The six block main street in "old Newport" is a mix of tourist traps, artsy shops, and down and dirty fish and crab processing facilities.
Yesterday was spent wandering around Newport and doing some grocery shopping. The closest groceries are about a mile away up a long hill. But, we
enjoy walking and what else do we have to do?
We had an olfactory treat while walking in old Newport yesterday. We were standing on the dock watching the sea lions fight and jostle for prime sunning spots on the floats. We were in front of a nice little coffee shop with all the typical coffee, chocolate, and pastry smells. Then the wind shifted and we had the pleasure of combing coffee aroma with the distinct odor of old fish guts and other aquatic by-products. The coffee shop shared the dock with a fish processing facility and the smell of the moment depended on which way the wind blew. I can assure you that fish flavored coffee will never be a success in Seattle.
I cant image anyone making more than one trip to that poor coffee shop.
The boat project for the day was the installation of an on/off switch in the 12-volt power supply to the Xintex propane sniffer. That seemingly simple task required two hours effort. Part of the problem was the wiring diagram. I did not recognize that the red wire from the control panel that powers the propane solenoid at the tank should connect to the negative side of the solenoid. At least that is how the Caliber dealer installed it back in 1995.
I had to put in the on/off switch because the SSB radio would set off the propane alarm whenever we transmitted on HF. The propane switch was wired directly to the 12V DC main circuit breaker. The only way to turn off the propane alarm when we wanted to use the SSB was to turn off all the 12V DC circuits. Now, I can disable the alarm and the solenoid while leaving all the lights on.
We took our dinghy for a tour of Yaquina Bay and the Yaquina Bay entrance channel today. Bright sunshine and 65 degrees. Our 12 foot PortaBote, (folding polyetheleyne), with a 6HP outboard is a lot to fun to cruise in. It planes at 17 knots and is quite comfortable and stable.
We suspect that the Coast Guard here in Newport conducts a lot of rescues. We took the dinghy around their docks . They have a new 47 motorized life boat, two of the older 40 motorized lifeboats, a very sleek 40 patrol boat, a 20 RIB, and another 20 boat that I did not recognize. I was glad to see all that potential rescue equipment.
We will be leaving at about 6 AM tomorrow and heading south. We thought about leaving today but the forecast was for North 30 knots and 7 seas. That would be more fun than we needed. The forecast for the next four days is NW 15 to 20 knots and 7 seas.
Our course down the coast is about 175 degrees true so we will have a broad reach or run all the way south of Mendicino. We havent decided about stopping in Coos Bay which is 12 hours from here or if we want to continue on to Brookings or even Crescent City. Anything past Coos Bay is an overnight trip.
Well sail for a while and then see how we feel tomorrow afternoon. I would like to see the small fishing ports along the coast but I also want to get south of Mendicino while the weather is still good.
The problem we keep having with route planning is timing our arrivals so that we have daylight and an appropriate tide to cross the bar. Every harbor on the West Coast north of San Francisco has a serious bar that must be crossed. Timing is everything so well head south and see what happens.
Friday, September 8 A SWELL TIME IN COOS BAY
We arrived here in Coos Bay last evening about 6 PM. Actually, we are in Charleston small boat marina which is just inside the south jetty. The city and port of Coos Bay is about 8 miles north of here. We are on the far south end of the Bay and the big city is on the north end.
We are trying to decide about moving south today. There are Small Craft Advisories forecast for 12 swells out of the northwest for later this evening. Right now there is a 7 NW swell and a 12 knot southwest wind at the Coos Bay sea buoy. An Amel 53 left here headed south a while ago and I will call them on the VHF to get a report.
We want to go to Bandon which is on the Coquille River about 20 miles down the coast. Bandon calls itself "The Storm Watching Capitol of the World" and is supposed to be lovely to visit. If we leave here by noon we should cross the Coquille River bar before the swell gets too large I think!
Yesterday we planned to go into Winchester Bay on the Umpqua River. When we were five miles NW of the Umpqua sea buoy we called the Umpqua Coast Guard station. They were already reporting 6 swells with occasional 8 breakers on the bar. Charlies Charts says this about the Umpqua River "This is not a highly recommended stopping point for cruising vessels because of its dangerous bar."
I was pretty sure we could get in over the bar in the reported conditions but I was concerned that we might not be able to get out today with the forecast conditions. Therefore, we continued on to Coos Bay which is 22 miles south of Umpqua.
The problem we encountered at the Coos Bay entrance buoy was 200 yard fog. We had to find the sea buoy and first two channel buoys using radar and the Jeppesen Marine map charting software. The seas were only about 3 so it was an easy bar crossing except that we had to get within 200 yards of each buoy to verify its number. The fog lifted just as we passed the outside tip of the north jetty and we had bright sunshine the rest of the way into Charleston Marina.
We backed into a slip but found that our stern pointed right into the west wind and more importantly, every one of the dozens of people crabbing on the dock looked into the cabin. The other problem was that there is no cleat to tie to on the inside of the finger pier or on the main dock. That meant we could not easily control the stern of the boat to keep the boarding gate near the finger pier. Eventually, I decided to turn the boat around; which meant moving all the fenders and the dock lines. Oh whine! whine!
We left Newport about 6:30 AM yesterday and headed south. It was cold and stayed cold most of the day. At 2 PM I was still wearing long underwear, a heavy sweater, fleece jacket, and a warm hat. Visibility was never more than one mile and there were a lot of commercial fishing vessels.
We motored all the way and I felt terribly guilty about it. The wind was a very consistent 12 to 18 knots out of the north and we were headed due south. I really wanted to set the genoa and main wing & wing. The problem, as usual on the Pacific Northwest Coast, is ensuring arrival at the next bar before dark. We had to be at the Coos Bay Sea Buoy no later than 7:15PM to ensure 45 minutes of good light to navigate the 3 mile channel into Charleston. My experience with our boat is that we only make a VMG of 6 to 6.5 knots sailing downwind, wing & wing in those conditions. That would have cut it very close on the good light arrival at Coos Bay. If we missed the daylight to enter Coos Bay we would have had another cold night at sea, headed south, waiting for daylight. So, we motored at 2600 RPM, making 7.1 knots, all day and arrived in good time.
I am still thinking like a Puget Sound racer or sport sailor. I am having trouble getting use to thinking like a cruiser whose first concern is comfort and safety, I feel bad whenever the engine is running and we could be sailing. But, I also worry a lot about getting us in over our head. It is Arlenes first ocean trip and I dont want to push the excitement level too high until she is more comfortable running the boat out of sight of land.
The biggest problem at sea when southbound off the Northwest coast is the constant rolling. It is a real struggle to work on deck when the boat is rolling 15 degrees every nine seconds. The swell is always out of the northwest. Yesterday it was about 6 with a seven second period. We were taking each, and every wave on the stern quarter. Many of the swells would roll us more than 20 degrees to port and then 20 degrees to starboard. A couple of times I saw 30 degrees of roll on the cockpit inclinometer.
That rolling is also what makes it so hard to sail wing & wing. The 15-degree rolls cause the main and genoa to back fill and then refill with a big bang and shudder. We took my brothers Tartan 42 from Tacoma to San Diego in July and struggled with the same problem. We tried every combination of sails and never did find a sail setup that did not flog, bang, and shudder.
The only way we found to avoid the rolling was to reach up higher and sail further offshore. That worked very well but requires much longer passage times or a lot more jibes. For example, from Coos Bay we sailed offshore 86 miles, jibed back toward Cape Mendicino, jibed back out, and finally ran downwind to Noyo River. We covered almost 320 miles as opposed to the 240 miles straight south.
We are hoping that from here south the harbors and anchorages are close enough together that we can sail most of the way and still get there before dark. Our goal is to make few if any overnight passages from here south.
We will probably have to leave Eureka about midnight to round Cape Mendicino in the early AM. It is then about nine hours to Noyo River. We will also do the same for Point Conception. Well leave Port San Luis in the late evening and round Point Conception before daylight and make the remaining six hours to Santa Barbara.
We are really tried of the cold, wet Northwest waters but are too lazy to make the four night trip direct to Santa Cruz and sunshine.
Well we are off to explore either Charleston or Bandon. It is 10:30 AM, overcast with a 10 mph south wind. The shoreside forecast is for showers and a high of 64 degrees.
Tuesday, September 12 CHETCO RIVER, OREGON
It is a beautiful late summer afternoon here in Brookings, Oregon on the Chetco River. Brookings is about 3 miles north of the California-Oregon border. We arrived here about 6:30 PM last evening after a wonderful 55 mile sail from Port Orford. Brookings is a major commercial fishing port and has large, and very nice, commercial and separate recreational marinas. The Chetco River is not navigable above the inside of the north jetty.
Our entrance to Chetco River occurred at a very fortunate moment last evening. We had been listening to vessels asking the Chetco River USCG motor lifeboat to escort them across the bar and through the jetty all afternoon. The visibility at the jetty tip had stayed below 200 yards all day and most boats were not comfortable negotiating the bar and entrance range without an escort.
The Chetco River entrance channel is 150 feet wide with a minimum depth of 9 feet. However, the ¾ mile long channel is only 10 yards from the north jetty. The Sea Buoy is one nautical mile from the jetty tip but the entrance range starts 300 yards outside the jetty. Buoy "2" is 700 yards outside the channel but ½ mile inside the sea buoy. That means that you must find the dredged channel entrance by lining up on buoy "2" and the jetty tip. The jetty tip does not provide a sharp enough radar target to safely get within 30 yards in the fog.
For all those reasons, most boats asked for an escort. We decided to try to make the entrance using our radar and charting software. Just as we passed buoy "2" the fog lifted, the sunshine came out, and the jetty tip came into clear view. There was no swell so we had another easy bar crossing.
Transient moorage here is $0.25 per foot, including water and electricity. The only problem is that all the facilities; shops, etc. are a 10-minute walk thru a gravel storage area for commercial fishing gear. We are directly across the slipway from the Chetco River USCG station. We get to listen to much of their radio traffic and USCG announcements on their pier-side loud speaker.
The coasties told us that they engage in 300 activities a year. Most of those are escorting vessels across the bar. They have two new 47 motor lifeboats and a 20 RIB. That seems like a lot of rescue gear for a rather remote harbor but I guess the amount of commercial and sport fishing justifies it.
Yesterday was one of those championship sailing days. We left the anchorage at Port Orford at about 9:30AM. Once we cleared the Port Orford headlands, we found 23 26 knots true out of the Northwest with about a 6 NW swell. Up went a main with one reef and a full 120% genoa and off we flew at 7.5 8.0 knots on a broad reach for Tahiti. The sun was out and the air was warm!
We sailed into some light fog but the wind stayed very consistent at 22 25 knots. We were on a course of 195 and Chetco was at 155 degrees magnetic. We had to sail a ways off shore to clear the reefs and rocks that extend 4 miles west of the mouth of the Rouge River.
While sailing at 7.5 knots with full sails and dragging a tuna line, we ran aground on an enormous kelp raft. The boat came to a complete stop in about 50 yards. The sails were full but we were not moving, even with 20 knots true wind over the starboard quarter. The forward half of the boat was clear of the kelp raft but the kelp extended 10 yards on both sides of the boat and 30 yards behind the boat. The kelp was so thick and so deep I am sure I could have walked on it.
We were 10 miles from shore and in 350 of water when this happened. I just stood and stared over the stern of the boat. Gigantic kelp plants were wrapped around the rudder and the prop. The water temp was 57 degrees and I was not happy about diving to clear the kelp. The boat was stable and not rolling too much so we just waited. After about five minutes, I saw that we were slowly sailing out of the raft. We finally cleared the raft and the last kelp plant gradually dropped off the rudder. Arlene was even able to get her 8-oz squid with a double hook thru the kelp without losing it.
After we sailed clear of the kelp island our course kept the 6 swell on our starboard stern quarter. The ST6000 autopilot was able to keep the boat within 10 degrees of the 130 degree apparent wind angle that I wanted.
In late morning, while I was below working on our DR plot and Arlene was asleep in the cockpit, I heard a large thump and then a whimper. I turned back to the cockpit and found Arlene lying on the cockpit sole with a dazed expression. An unusually large swell from abeam had rolled us 30 degrees and she had fallen off the starboard cockpit seat and landed on the cockpit floor.
We sailed SSW for several hours and then jibed back toward shore. After about an hour the wind diminished to about 16 18 knots true. We set the genoa on a pole to port, boomed the main out to starboard, and headed directly for Chetco River at about 6.5 knots.
AFTER we started to setup for wing & wing by bringing the genoa from the starboard side to the port side we discovered a near fatal problem. Apparently, when we jibed the genoa to port to set it on the pole the starboard genoa sheet, had wrapped itself around the flag halyard cleat which is at chest level on the forward starboard shroud. That meant the port genoa winch was pulling aft on the shroud and the genoa itself was pulling forward on the shroud.
I think that the genoa fouled the flag cleat during the process of moving the genoa from starboard to port. I cant imagine that we sailed for over an hour like that. This problem has occurred several times before, each time I swear I am going to move the flag cleat or at least wrap it so the genoa sheet cant snag it. I guess I had better do it this time.
Five years ago, the same snag occurred during a tack in 18 knots apparent wind. The flag halyard wrapped around my thumb in the process of clearing the snag. When the genoa sheet came off the cleat, it put the full load on the flag halyard. The only thing that kept my thumb from being amputated was the thumbnail as the 1/8" nylon flag halyard sawed all the way to the bone. Yea I swore I was going to move the cleat that time to! Actually, as I hung from my thumb I swore several other things.
Getting the pole up was complicated by my stupidity. I forgot that the genoa car had to be moved aft and the sheet led thru the boarding gate. None of that became obvious to me until after we had the pole up and out and were trying to bend the lifeline and stanchions due to the pressure of the genoa sheet bearing down on them. All this sailing downwind in 15 knots true and a 6 swell.
The wind diminished to about 14 knots true and our boat speed, and VMG, dropped to about 5.4 5.6 knots. The poled out wing & wing combination worked great and was quite stable. Only the occasional bigger swell from the wrong direction would rock us around.
Since everything else was working so well, I decided to throw out the Hamilton Ferris towed generator to make some electricity. The 6" prop is towed on a 75 line from the transom. The prop spins a 3 long shaft attached to the line. The line will not twist and is attached to a 20-amp generator. All the torque from the prop is changed to DC current by the generator. At five knots boat speed the generator was making five amps. That does not sound like a lot but in 24 hours that is 120 amp hours enough to meet our entire electrical demand. The system is supposed to make 15 amps at 7 knots.
At the same time, our solar panels were generating 13 - 15 amps of 15-volt DC current. This was in fog with less than ½ mile visibility and 60-degree air temp.
We have four 120-watt Kyocera solar panels mounted on an arch over the transom. In theory those panels should make over 30 amps. The best we saw while in Puget Sound was 23 amps.
While under sail, we were running a refrigerator compressor using 9 amps, an inverter to power the PC which was using 3 amps, an electric autopilot using 2 amps, and still putting 6 to 8 amps back into the batteries. Just like I planned it-but I am surprised at how well it all works. I just hope all the electrical stuff continues to work this well.
Now, back to Coos Bay where I last wrote you.
We ended up staying there until Sunday morning. The 13 swell on Friday afternoon and Saturday caused the USCG to restrict bar crossings. The USCG was reporting 16 breakers at Depoe Bay on the north Oregon coast.
On Saturday, we rode our bikes from Charleston marina south to Cape Arago and then north to Coos Bay for groceries. We covered about 25 miles in pursuit of a lighthouse visit and fresh Cilantro. We found the cilantro but were denied access to the Coos Head lighthouse. The USCG says no civilians on lighthouse property.
Sunday morning was wet, windy, and cold. We left Coos Bay at 9 AM with a SE 13-knot wind, driving mist, and 57 degrees air temperature. The forecast was for variable winds until early afternoon and then NW 15 knots and clearing. Oh, and a 10 NW swell diminishing to 8 feet. We were headed for the anchorage at Port Orford, which is almost due south of Coos Bay.
At 2 PM, we had an 18-knot south wind, rain, and 8 swell from the west. Baja Mexico must be getting closer.
We abandoned the idea of going into Bandon. The bar is tricky and the depth is only 8. Several locals in Charleston told us about the two or three boats a year that are lost on the Bandon bar. And, the USCG had closed the Bandon bar Friday afternoon and did not know when it would re-open.
Port Orford anchorage is tucked in behind a headland that must be carefully approached from the north because of the many rocks and reefs off the headland. The SW most rock is marked with the Port Orford Reef light buoy. The fog became particularly heavy as we approached the reefs from the NW. I entered the buoys lat/lon coordinates into both GPSs and asked the charting software to get us to the buoy from the SW. I wanted to use the buoy as a certain starting point for a bearing to the Port Orford Head buoy.
We arrived at the appropriate location and found no buoy but did find 200-yard fog. Fischer Rock was visible on the radar at just the correct range and bearing so, I knew we were where the chart showed the buoy to be. The ever-trusty R20XX radar showed no targets within ¾ mile of our location.
I gave up trying to find the buoy after I triangulated two rocks and the headland using radar. That fix agreed very closely with our reported GPS position so I decided it was safe to find the Port Orford head light buoy using radar and GPS.
After laying a course for the next buoy and entering its lat/lon in the GPS I noticed the computer screen switch from a coastal chart to a harbor chart. I just happened to also notice that the Port Orford Reef light buoy was in a much different location on that chart. The computer gave me a range and bearing to that location. Sure enough, the radar showed a target at that range and bearing.
The Port Orford Reef light buoy was over 0.8 miles SW of its charted position on the coastal chart but was exactly where the harbor chart showed it.
As usual, the fog lifted as we approached Port Orford anchorage. It is a spectacular place to spend the night. The headlands are over 200 high and curve around the anchorage. We dropped anchor in 40 over a sand bottom about 100 yards from the base of the cliffs. Behind us the Oregon Coastal Range of mountains poked up through the fog that lingered on the shore about ½ mile astern.
The anchorage is supposed to be in the lee of the headlands and protected from the constant NW wind and swell. We experienced a steady five to ten knots wind with gusts to 20 knots. There was also some swell wrapping around the headlands and rolling the boat 15 degrees at times.
Port Orford was a great overnight stop.
We are now sitting here in Brooking trying to decide about where to go next. Trinidad Head Anchorage is 22 miles south, Crescent City is 52 miles, and Eureka is 72 miles. Then we have to get around Cape Mendicino. We may just head for Santa Cruz from here or maybe . something else.
Now, we are off to the Port of Brookings office to send this message and check the weather forecasts. We are also going to walk up to a grocery store and look around downtown Brookings.
8:00 PM Tuesday
Well, no luck sending this message. The Port of Brookings office staff were very generous and let me use a vacant office and phone line to access the net. Then, at 2:15 PM, I discovered that the US West, "US West is now QWEST", authentication server in Seattle was down so USWEST.NET could not verify my password and would not let me logon. QWEST tech support told me the problem would be resolved by 4:30 PM. I left my PC in my new Port of Brookings office and walked 10 minutes back to the boat. At 4:20 PM Arlene and I walked back to my Port office just to find that the new time for repair of the QWEST server was 8:00 PM.
We did have a very lucky occurrence this afternoon while waiting for QWEST to solve their computer problems. We ran out of propane.
This was significant because we dont carry a spare propane bottle. The space for the spare bottle in the propane locker is used to store outboard gas, acetone, alcohol, mineral spirits, and other things that go boom. We have now decided to make a two or three day run to either Bodega Bay or Santa Cruz. It would have been really annoying to run out of propane just hours into a 48 or 60 hour trip.
I called the Port office on the VHF and they told me the closest propane refill was at the top of the hill, about ¾ mile from our dock. As I wandered around the commercial fishing area I noticed an RV park across the street. I walked over there to inquire about propane refills.
I was very pleased to learn that not only would they refill our bottle, but they would drive me the ¼ mile back to the boat to get the bottle, and then back to the refill, and then back to the boat. So, I took several fun rides in a golf cart. That sure beat lugging a 10 pound propane bottle up the hill in the hot sun.
We walked up the afore mentioned hill after the 2nd visit to the Port office. We were searching for groceries, ice, and books. We found them all within feet of each other. I visited a neat 2nd hand book store while Arlene procured fresh produce and wine.
They had thousands of used books in cardboard boxes spread everywhere on the floor, shelves, and tables. I picked out 15 paperbacks and 5 hardbacks. I was told they did not accept credit cards when I tried to check out. I pulled out my money clip and found 22 dollars. The bookstore owned looked at the money clip and then told me the total price for all 20 books would be $20. He also said to spend the last $2 on a beer at the tavern next door. Do I now look that much like a bum?
We had the store manager call a cab for us when we started to check out at the grocery, The cab was waiting at the door before we finished checking out. It cost us $4 to haul 20 pounds of ice and eight bags of groceries down the hill to the boat.
We are going to leave in mid-morning and head South for Cape Mendicino. If we leave here about 9 AM well round Mendicino between mid-night and dawn on Thursday. That is supposed to be the least windy time of day for the treacherous Cape. We have decided to leave tomorrow because the 3:30PM NOAA forecast for Pt. St. George to Cape Mendicino is light NW winds and 4 NW swells thru Friday morning. Then the winds are supposed to increase to NW 20 by Friday afternoon and NW 30 with 11 seas by mid-day Saturday. The wind is supposed to stay in the 25-knot range through Sunday so the seas will not diminish until at least Monday.
We want to be south of Point Arena, California by Friday afternoon because Point Arena also attracts a higher quality wind than adjacent waters. If all goes well we will be snuggly tied up in Santa Cruz by Friday evening.
September 15 Major Problems & Repairs in Noyo River
We arrived in Noyo River Marina at about 4:30 PM yesterday. I have been solving problems ever since. Some of the problems were ours; others belonged to Alrisha.
We motored overnight from Chetco River to here, about 180 miles. We left Chetco at 11 AM in bright, warm sunshine. The forecast was for light and variable winds, occasional thunderstorms at Cape Mendicino, and a 3 swell.
We experienced all that on the way to Noyo River. We motored through three lighting storms near Mendicino. I suppose someone might get used to lightning but it sure makes me nervous. One of the storms was accompanied by 30-knot winds and very heavy rain for about ½ hour. We had no sails up so it was no big deal. The horizon was filled with fairly constant lighting for hours.
When the squalls were in the distance there was no wind at all so the Yanmar got a real workout. We did sail for seven hours during the 2nd morning and were able to keep our speed between 4 and 6.5 knots. It was quite a relief to turn off the engine after 20 hours of constant droning.
We had heavy fog from daybreak until we made the Noyo River Sea Buoy at 4:00 PM. But, the sun was quite warm, shining down thru the fog.
Our adventure for the night was another close call with a freighter. This time I was tracking the boat on radar from six miles out. It was coming straight at us from astern and was closing at 15 knots. I started hailing them on VHF 16 and VHF 13 at 4 miles (16 minutes before they run us down). At 2 miles, I started shining our ½ million-candle power spotlight on them. They did not respond to any of my half dozen radio calls on each channel. Finally, at less than one mile I called USCG Humboldt Bay to report the problem, give our location, and ask them to hail the ship.
They said the ship would not answer them either. They told me to IMMEDIATELY fire one flare at the ship and to then report back to the USCG. At this point, the ship was less than 1200 yards astern of us, still headed directly at us. I used my spotlight one last time to illuminate their bridge. I then ducked below to grab the 25mm flare gun. When I came back on deck, I saw that the ship was turning west at a sharp angle. She continued to turn until she was headed at 25 degrees to her original course.
The ship never did acknowledge my presence. Maybe they decided to pay attention when the Coast Guard got involved.
Why didnt I turn away sooner??
There was a large and very brightly-lit commercial fishing vessel about one mile ahead and to the west of us when the freighter was coming down on us. I didnt think the freighter would turn toward them but Blunts Reef at Cape Mendicino was only 3 miles off our port bow and I didnt think the ship would turn into shore to close with the reef. So, I didnt know which way to turn and they were responsible for taking evasive action.
The big ships that dont monitor their radios are a real hazard.
Our arrival and docking at Noyo River was uneventful other than finding less than 6 of water in the channel as we came in.
I spent Friday morning helping Craig on Alrisha work on diesel engine problems. Their engine had stopped at 3 AM about 40 miles west of Noyo River. They sailed to the Noyo River entrance and were towed in by USCG Noyo River.
Alrisha is a Fraser 40 that Craig and Deb were sailing direct from Neah Bay, Washington to San Diego. Craig had just drained the water from the Racor fuel filter when the engine quit. He thought he did not need to worry about air locks in the diesel injection system with his type of Racor. I convinced him to bleed the fuel system. He did and it started up and ran perfectly.
The other problem was that just before the engine quit, at 3 AM, the overheat alarm had gone off. Craig found his fresh water impeller was trashed. He replaced the impeller but the engine still overheated. We checked the impeller water output and it was right on spec. We found NO water coming out of the discharge hose from the cylinder block. It appeared some of the missing impeller was lodged in the cooling passages in his 3-cylinder Yanmar.
We hooked up a garden hose to the water inlet and then to the outlet hoses for the engine block. We flushed each direction for 10 minutes. The engine now runs just right at 185 degrees.
When I returned to Mirador at about 1:30 PM there was a message waiting for me from our banker/investment manager. Our checking account was empty and they were covering a check I wrote to the IRS. Now, much as I would like to stiff the IRS, this was bad news.
I have full online access to all our accounts and had balanced the account just the Friday before. At that time, my computer running MS Money and their computer agreed as to the funds in each one of our accounts. My broker and I spoke on the phone and he verified that each check they had paid agreed with my system. My system showed many hundreds of dollars in the account theirs showed the account many hundreds overdrawn.
I have been running the same software for years and have never been a penny off from what the brokers system shows as a balance. I logged onto the Internet and verified that every activity against the account in question was also shown in my accounting system.
I still can not determine why the two accounting systems are so far out of synch. But, we had to rush up to the post office to mail a check from another account to cover the IRS check. The problem was that I did not have that account number with me.
No problem, it is a Bank of America account and they are almost the biggest bank in California. Well, not so easy When we visited the Ft. Bragg BoA its branch manager told me that the BoA branches in California cannot access BoA accounts in Oregon, Idaho, Washington. He said I needed to call a banking center. He made that call for me but I got the same answer from the California phone-banking center.
They transferred me to the Seattle phone-banking center. I could not get help there since I needed my account number to make the transfer to our checking account and their computer system didnt work without a number. An hour later I was finally able transfer money to our BoA checking account so I could then mail that check to our broker.
And, just to top the day off I got dog poop on my walking shoes and did not realize it until walking below on Mirador. Noyo River Marina is primarily a commercial fishing facility and there are a lot of exotic smells. Dog Poop just blends in with all the rest.
PS: Oct 15 Our banker/investment manager has now apologized for the problems. He says their computer made a mistake and we were never overdrawn.
September 18 COLD TERROR & HOT CONTENTMENT
This trip is finally starting to seem worthwhile. We are in Half Moon Bay where the sun is bright and the air temperature is in the lower 90s. This area is in the middle of a record heat wave and we are really enjoying the first consistently warm weather of our trip south. Half Moon Bay is on the Pacific Ocean side of the San Francisco Peninsula. We are about 25 miles south of the Golden Gate and about 47 miles NE of Santa Cruz.
We arrived here yesterday morning, Sunday, at about 11 AM. The shore temp was 80 degrees when we arrived and there was a light North wind blowing.
What a contrast from 24 hours earlier!
We experienced 25 40 knots of wind, 10 seas, fog, and a max daytime temperature of 54 degrees as we sailed from Noyo River to Half Moon Bay. We left Noyo River at 11:00 AM Saturday with a forecast of 15-25 knots NW wind while north of Pt. Arena and NW 10 20 knots south of Pt. Arena. There was also a forecast for 6 seas growing to 8 by evening. The wind north of Pt. Arena was forecast to increase to 30 knots in the late evening but we planned to be south of Pt. Arena by 4 PM.
We sailed into that forecast because the forecast for Sunday and Monday was NW 25 35 knots and 10 seas increasing to 13 by Monday.
After leaving Noyo River at 11 AM, we motor sailed SSE for an hour until we were in 200-fathom water. The wind was out of the NW at 20 knots and the seas were from abeam at 6 8. We rolled terribly and were not real happy about the prospects for the rest of the day. The seas continued to build during the early afternoon and the fog was limiting visibility to less than 300 yards.
While we prepared to raise the genoa, we were badly startled by a newish 65 powerboat, which came out of the fog while crossing our bow from the port side. She was only 200 yards ahead of us and making 8 knots NW. When this happened I was sitting in front of the radar monitor, watching it carefully. Even when the powerboat was dead abeam at ½ mile we could not easily differentiate her radar return from the sea clutter.
We spend a lot of time using our radar and carefully tune it for maximum visibility. Due to the short steep seas, which were probably close to 9 with some bigger sets, and our 25-degree rolls, we just couldnt get a consistent radar return from the other boat. This was very disconcerting and showed that we probably have too much faith in our radar.
We need to be more conscientious about using our eyeballs to look for other boats. The problem was that the combined closing speed of the two boats was over 15 knots which means we were coming together fast enough that the ¼ mile visibility only offered one minute of warning for eyeball navigation.
We have also found that the new dodger-bimini combination is so snug and warm that we tend not to climb out into the cold breeze to scan the horizon as often as we should. It is so easy to just sit in the warmth and quiet of the cockpit and not expose your face to the elements. The panel that connects the dodger to the bimini is all clear plastic but is very hard to see through when fog or rain covers it with little water droplets. Consequently, we sit in the cockpit, staying warm and dry, and navigate with the radar and VHF.
After we recovered from the powerboat fright, we turned SE to head more down wind & down swell. We wanted to round Pt. Arena about 4 miles offshore. Local fisherman told us that the wind might be a little more moderate inshore. We put up a wing & wing sail plan with a double reefed mainsail to starboard and the full 120% genoa on a pole to port. That combination worked very well and significantly reduced the rolling. We happily surfed along at 7.5 9.0 knots, exactly on course to round Pt. Arena at the desired 4-mile distance.
The wind and swells just kept building so that by the time we passed Pt. Arena we were seeing consistent 30 35 knot wind speeds and many swell sets over 10. The Autohelm ST6000 autopilot did a near perfect job during all this; sailing us at 170 degrees apparent wind angle. We were running the autopilot on its most responsive setting so that is used the gyro rate transducer to sense changes in the boat heading. The autopilot could start counter steering BEFORE the wind direction sensor felt the change in wind due to yawing as we surfed at 9 knots down the wave faces.
The ST6000 was using 12 degrees, and sometimes more, rudder deflection to keep the boat on course. Only very occasionally, on extra large waves with higher than normal wind gusts would the ST6000 get behind in its steering and allow the boat to round up more than desired.
I hand steered at times and found it difficult to do a better job than the ST6000. I am sure that I would have been exhausted after one hour of such hand steering. Thank goodness for modern electronics.
Once the apparent wind was consistently in the upper 20-knot range, we furled the genoa to about 90% but left it winged out on the pole. The boat stayed nicely balanced and under good control.
Finally, about 6 PM when we were well south of Pt. Arena and the wind gusts were exceeding 40 knots thru the cockpit; i.e. over 45 knots true, we rolled in the rest of the genoa and continued roaring downwind with just a double reefed mainsail. Our boat speed stayed above 7 knots even with that small a sail plan.
The good news was that fog lifted and we could clearly see the entire coastline and hills from Pt. Arena to Pt. Reyes.
The odd, and kind of frightening, thing was that no NOAA weather buoys were reporting similar conditions. The Pt. Arena buoy, which was 20 miles behind us, was reporting 16 19 knots at 6PM and the Bodega Buoy, which was 24 miles ahead of us, was reporting 14 knots. There were both reporting 8 10 seas.
This entire coastline, from Cape Mendicino to south of the Golden Gate is notorious for localized afternoon gales. The inland valleys heat up and the cool coastal air is sucked though the gaps in the coastal hills. The wind typically builds to its maximum just before sunset and then rapidly diminishes to a light sea breeze by midnight. Well, that is what we could hope for diminishing after sunset, not the continued increase up to sunset.
During all this the boat was very stable and handled the seas fine. Our problem as passengers was the periodic big rolls we took due to the odd wave out of synch with the rest of the waves. Some of these rolls were over 25 degrees and were quite annoying. By the end of the day, we were black and blue.
As expected the wind became even gustier and erratic as the sun set and the inland valleys quit warming. We did experience several gusts in which the wind meter recorded over 50-knot true peaks. I am not convinced it was really that windy but I know the boat speed would stay above 8 knots for long periods.
Shortly after a spectacular sunset, we saw a bright orange light behind the coastal hills. We spent several minutes pondering this odd light when the huge orange harvest moon appeared. There was not a cloud in the sky and later we could literally read by the moonlight.
The wind only diminished to the low 20s during the first two hours of darkness but the swells continued at about 10. We kept sailing ESE with just the mainsail because it seemed like way too much work to go up on a dark and pitching deck to set the pole for the genoa. We couldnt reach off to the east because the coast was only 6 miles away. We could have reached south but that would have put us abeam of the 10 seas with a 7-second period. Our boat speed stayed above 6 knots so we sailed along for Pt. Reyes with just a mainsail.
At about 9:15 PM we had a major fire drill that left us scratching our heads for a while. I was standing behind the wheel but letting the autopilot steer while I talked on the VHF with friends on a boat about 12 miles downwind of us. He was telling us that the wind had diminished to about 10 knots and they were going to head for Drakes Bay.
As I talked to Karl, I felt the wind increase and the boat motion change dramatically. I then realized the instrument panel and compass were dark. I grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the steering compass. I was horrified to see that we were sailing NNW. We had just made a 110-degree turn into the wind and waves. I was literally in the dark and had no idea why we had spun around into the 10 seas.
I tried to hand steer the boat back to its ESE course but the wheel was locked and would not budge. Fortunately, the flashlight was in my mouth, illuminating the compass, so I could not express my opinion about this turn of events. Arlene was now standing in the companionway staring. She had been below and had no idea why I had spun the boat around.
It then dawned on me that the only thing that could turn off the instruments, autopilot, and compass light was a 12V-power failure. But, the VHF and on deck GPS were still working as were the lights in the cabin. I then remembered that the ST6000 autopilot locks the rudder into whatever position it was in when the power to the linear drive motor is lost. This seems like a real design flaw but it is what we have to live with.
Several years ago I determined that the only way to free the autopilot is to re-apply power or pull the 5-amp fuse for the linear drive. I dashed below and found the electronics circuit breaker was off as was the compass light circuit breaker. Turning both those on restored all functionality on deck but left the rudder free to turn as the waves chose.
We got Mirador back on course and settled everything back into place. I assumed that the electronics circuit breaker, which also drives the autopilot, had tripped when the autopilot overloaded the circuit. This was not pleasant to contemplate because the 5-amp autopilot should never be able to trip the 10-amp breaker. There was no easy answer to why the compass lights when out.
Hours later, I found the cause of the problem while doing some DR plots. I noticed the SSB microphone swinging wildly from side to side as the boat rolled. Then I saw that the microphone cord could easily snag any of the circuit breaker switches as it swung from side to side.
I had been talking to Martin on the SSB radio when Karl hailed me on the VHF. I told Martin that I would call him back on the SSB after I talked to Karl. I guess I just laid the SSB mike on the nav station and did not put it on its hanger. I dont know why I went on deck to use the cockpit VHF mike since there is a VHF mike at the nav station. Anyway, I went on deck and the SSB mike started thrashing about, eventually turning off the electronics and compass lights.
As I have discovered many times when reading about airplane and boat crashes: an accident is rarely caused by a single event. Usually it is a cascade of problems triggered by some small problem or failure to follow proper procedure.
The rest of the night was anti-climatic. The wind dropped to 10 knots as Karl said it would and we motor sailed toward Pillar Point and Half Moon Bay. About 8 AM, with the Golden Gate 14 miles abeam on port we reset the genoa on a pole and flew it wing and wing to the entrance to Half Moon Bay.
We will stay here for a couple of days, enjoying the warmth and quiet small town of Princeton, California. Then it is off to Santa Cruz.
September 19 Half Moon Bay
Weve decided to hang out here for a while. It is very quiet and relaxed with a very laid back atmosphere. Most of the boats on our dock are liveaboards. The marina is strict about the state of repair for those boats. They require that each boat leave the harbor once every six months under its own power and be gone for six hours. That may not seem very strict but; once you clear the breakwater you are in the wide open North Pacific Ocean with the swell and weather.
The weather remains beautiful about 80 degrees, bright sunshine, and a light sea breeze. There are many mountain bike trails in the hills above the harbor. There are nice walking and bicycling paths that run both north and south for many miles. There are a half dozen bars, fish stands, and small restaurants within a 10-minute walk. Big grocery stores and shops are about 4 miles south on the bike path.
Last night we went for a lovely walk up into the hills above the marina. We ended up on a hill top about 500 above all the houses. We could see from Santa Cruz to the south to the Golden Gate in the north. The sun was still bright but the air was cool enough that the climb was not too hot. The hike down was thru a Eucalyptus forest.
Many of you have sent us E-mails asking about our house, jobs, and plans.
We have not sold the house yet but are actively trying. It seems that no one wants to buy a 5,400 sq. foot house with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, five fireplaces, and a ¼ acre of gardens to care for. We have reduced the price 20% from our April 19 starting price. We have had only one serious offer but they disappeared after we made a counter offer.
We will take the boat as far south as Oxnard or Ventura, California, or maybe even, Oceanside during the next two weeks. Well then leave the boat for a month or so and return to Tacoma. Arlene has not quit her job yet and is supposed to return to work on about October 4. She wants to keep working until the house is sold. That seems like a good idea to me! Her bad idea is that she wants me to do some more consulting until the house is sold.
The problem is that I am psychologically retired. I am far to use to getting up when I want and spending all morning reading the paper, drinking coffee, and wandering the docks talking to all the friendly boaters. My toughest decisions for the day are
I am afraid I would not do well in a work environment that required speedy thought.
We will leave the boat in southern California and drive back to Tacoma. We will take our cold weather clothes back with us. Well then move out of the house and put some stuff in storage. We are going to sell almost everything we own. A HUGE yard and garage sale.
Well drive our car back to the boat when we think the house sale is close, or the November rains arrive; whichever comes first. If the house has not sold by then well just close it up and leave. We can always fly back to sign the papers when the house does close.
We plan on sailing to Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico. From there, I think we will sail north in the Sea of Cortez, (Gulf of California), to La Paz. Well spend most of the winter in the Sea and then; who knows where we will go.
Our ultimate goal is see the Caribbean for several years. We also want to spend at least one year going north to Maine. And another year in the Great Lakes. Then wed like to go to the Mediterranean Sea for several years. We want to ride our bicycles around Spain, Portugal, and the south of France, Italy, and Greece. That sounds like a multi-year project.
During all this wandering, we will be looking for a place to buy a house with a dock for the boat. Our current thinking is SW Florida where we have looked at many houses and lots in the Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, and Sarasota area.
We have not decided what to do with the boat during hurricane season. We think we would like to leave it in some safe hurricane hole or on dry land and rent a motorhome for shoreside exploration.
But, any of that is a year from now and now our big dilemma for this afternoon is how to get to the grocery store for fresh produce.
September 21 - There is always a price to pay for pleasant sunshine
We are now in Santa Cruz, California. We arrived here at 10 PM last night after a miserable, I repeat, MISERABLE, 12-hour bash into 25 knots wind and nasty, short steep seas. We had three beautiful and comfortable days in Half Moon Bay. We lazed around and generally enjoyed ourselves with no thought about the price we might have to pay for the pleasant conditions.
We left there at 10 AM Wednesday in moderate sunshine and almost no wind. The forecast from Half Moon Bay to Pigeon Point was for light and variable winds until Thursday morning. Pigeon Point is 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 26 miles north of Santa Cruz. The wind was a steady SE 22 knots gusting to 27 by the time we found the Half Moon Bay sea buoy at 10:30 AM. The fog had also rolled in and reduced visibility to ½ mile.
The forecast for Pigeon Point and south was for South 10 to 15 knots all day.
The worse part of the whole thing was that the swell was from the Northwest at six to eight feet while the wind was out of the south. Our desired course was SSE directly into the four foot wind waves. The combination of NW swell and SE wind made for some 10 12 lumps of water with very steep sides. The best speed we could motor was 4.5 knots headed SSW. We were making less than 3.5 knots towards Santa Cruz on that heading. Things did not look good for the next 42 miles.
We thought about heading back to the comfort of Half Moon but the forecast for Thursday was the same and there was no reason to think tomorrow would be any better.
We set the mainsail with a single reef and rolled out the 120% genoa to 100%. That combination moved the boat along at 7 knots but we could only sail at 200 degrees magnetic or 95 degrees magnetic. Our desired course was 150 degrees magnetic. Our VMG stayed around four knots but it was not comfortable sailing. We were heeled at about 20 degrees but the disorganized swell vs- wind wave combination knocked us around quite a bit.
We continued to sail for a couple of hours. The apparent wind stayed in the 25 to 30 knot range and the southeasterly wind waves continued to build. About every three minutes we would bury the bow half way to the mast. Every so often it seemed liked a fire hose had been aimed directly at the dodger window. At times, the spray would also drench the window that connects the top rear of the dodger to the bimini, 6 8" above the cockpit.
Just to make it special, the air temperature was 60 degrees and the fog kept the visibility below ½ mile. We have had many winter time sails in Puget Sound that were far more pleasant than this late summer trip down the central California coast.
Eventually we decided to try motor sailing with just the mainsail. We were able to move along at 6 knots at about 175 degrees magnetic with the engine running 2100 RPM. This brought our VMG up to 4.7 knots and reduced the heel to about 10 degrees. The downside of this was the occasional plunge off a cliff. The bow would drop about five feet and the boat would crash, bang and shudder when the wrong combination of wind wave, opposing swell, and boat speed came together. I know this cant be good for the boat - it was definitely hard on our nerves, and balance. We couldnt find any heading and speed combination that did not result in this occasional crashing and banging.
When we left Half Moon we thought we were going out into benign ocean conditions. We didnt stow many of our books. We didnt fasten down the seat back cushions. We didnt clean the junk off the counter tops. We assumed we were going to be either motoring or gently sailing down wind. Nor did we close the overhead sun powered vent in the forward head.
All the books, cooking oils, vinegars, dishes, cushions, charts, hats, shoes, cameras ended up on the floor within minutes of our first big roll. The contents of the port cupboards emptied onto the floor when the seatback cushions plummeted to the floor. We couldnt figure out why the forward head was so wet until late in the afternoon. Closing the vent solved that problem.
From now on, we will secure the cabin for every trip outside a breakwater as if it were a serious passage.
The wind diminished, the wind waves smoothed out, and our course changed to enough east that the ride became marginally quiet by dark. The forecast for Monterrey Bay for evening was SW to West winds of less than 10 knots. As we headed toward Santa Cruz, the wind kept going toward the east. By the time we were in the north part of Monterrey Bay we had 10 knot easterlies.
I bet I am the only boater in the world who has rude things to say about NOAA! Either that, or local knowledge is essential.
We found all the transient docks were occupied by the Vallejo Yacht Club when we arrived in Santa Cruz harbor at 9:45PM. The harbormaster told us that we needed to raft with a "like size boat". The Catalina 42 we tried to raft to told us they were leaving at daybreak so we decided not to tie to him. I saw that boat owner in the coffee shop at 10:30 AM the next morning. He had "decided to sleep in."
We found a Catalina 40 tied to an end dock with five feet of open dock astern and 32 feet ahead of him. We quietly backed in as close as we could to the bow of the Catalina. That left our front nine feet sticking out into the slipway. The Catalinas owner came on deck to see what we were doing. We asked him if we could move him seven feet astern. That way he would stick two feet into one slipway and we would stick out three feet the other way. He refused, saying "his dinghy davits were too vulnerable."
So, we backed even closer to his bow and left seven feet of our bow pulpit sticking out past the end of the dock. Not good but what else can you do at 10:30 PM?
Last night at 5 PM, I had a heart stopping experience while checking the engine. I found that the aft fuel tank was on E and not moving. We were running the engine from that tank. I was able to switch to the forward tank before we sucked air into the injector system. When we left Half Moon Bay the aft tank was at 5/16ths which should have been about 15 gallons. We were running the engine at less than 2500 RPM which should use less than an gallon an hour. I guess the tank guage is not very accurate because we should have used less that five gallons at that point. But, in retrospect, Ive had this experience before! I guess its time to learn the lesson.
Thursday dawned foggy and cool. The fog and overcast is supposed to lift by noon but it is now 2 PM and I see no sun. We had planned on going to Monterrey tomorrow but as of this morning there was no transient moorage in Monterrey. They did think a bunch of boats were leaving Friday morning.
We are going to bicycle around Santa Cruz for a couple of days and enjoy the area. Then it is off to Monterrey.
September 22 Wet & Cool In Santa Cruz
It appears we are going to be in the Monterrey Bay area for a while. There is a persistent little low-pressure system parked off the south coast of California. It is creating South to Southwest winds from San Francisco south. When we leave Monterrey, we have only three possible stops before we round Pt. Conception. Two of those stops are anchorages, San Simeon and Port San Luis that are untenable in south or southwest conditions. The third stop is Moro Bay, which has one of the most dangerous bars on the West Coast. Any kind of south or southwest swell makes the Moro Bay bar uncrossable.
We may go directly from Monterrey to Santa Barbara. That route is about 195 nautical miles. The problem with that plan is that the first 160 miles are on a SSE course and would be very uncomfortable in a south wind.
We are still at the end tie dock we came into the other night. Now there is a Pearson 42 rafted up to us. They are very nice people who are also headed to San Diego and Mexico. The noise from the bumpers between the two boats is irritating and annoying. There is a small swell coming down the channel from the breakwater. The five fenders rub, creak, and groan all the time. Every time a boat goes by in the channel the five fenders rub, creak, and groan.
When they stopped to raft to us last night, we pointed out a lovely end tie dock that was reserved for transient boats. They said they were too tired to go across the 30-yard wide channel. This morning two other end tie docks have opened up but they still havent moved.
There are three people on board the Pearson. They all traipse thru our cockpit to get to anything on shore. They apologize profusely but dont move their boat. I dont understand.
The weather this morning is soaking drizzle and 64 degrees. There are supposed to be sun breaks this afternoon. I hope they deliver more sun than yesterday when sunglasses were never necessary. The four day forecast is for more of the same - drizzle in the AM and a chance of clearing in the PM. Highs in the mid 60s.
Maybe well just walk today since the roads are soaking wet and bicycles would be awfully damp to ride.
September 25 Beautiful Monterrey
It is lovely Monday morning in Monterrey, California. The sun is warm, the air pleasantly cool, and the prospects for the day are great. This is a magnificent small boat harbor with all the amenities that cruisers desire. It is even reasonably priced - $0.50 per foot per night, including water, electricity, and new showers.
We sailed here from Santa Cruz on Saturday afternoon. We had near perfect sailing conditions that made the 25-mile trip just right. We started sailing with a 10-knot west wind. We put up our 165% 2.5 oz nylon drifter and our full mainsail. That combination allowed us to head directly to Monterrey on a close reach at over 6.5 knots. The Sailomat windvane handled the steering duties in good fashion and we leaned back to enjoy the bright sun and 75 degree air.
The wind continued to build during the first hour. After about nine miles of sailing with the drifter, we were seeing a steady 15 knots true with higher gusts. This made the boat fast but did put a load on the lightweight drifter and its ¼" sheets. North Sails told me the sail could handle 22 knots apparent but recommended that we not use it in much more than 15 17 knots apparent.
The wind kept building so we decided to furl the drifter and use our regular 120% North Spectra genoa. The apparent wind was about 15 knots and the true wind was a little over 20 knots at the time we decided to furl the drifter.
Our drifter was built to fly on its own internal stay. We use one of the spinnaker halyards to raise the drifter. The sails tack is attached to a small Harken roller furler drum. The link plates on the bottom of the RF drum attach to a padeye I installed on the very front of the anchor platform on the bowsprit. The furled drifter flys about 9" in front of the standard genoa which is on a Profurl roller furling drum.
This setup allows us to stow the drifter in a sailbag we keep below when not in use. We can also keep the drifter furled in front of the genoa when we think we might need it again. The entire system is quite easy to use.
Arlene was down below when I decided to furl the drifter. I eased the sheet but kept enough tension on it so the drifter would furl tightly on its internal stay. I continued to pull on the furling line while easing the sheet. Eventually, the furling line was completely unwrapped from the furling drum. Unfortunately, the sail was not completely furled. In fact, the clew of the sail was about 5 from being furled.
This allowed the unfurled part of the drifter to flog and flap with considerable violence. I called Arlene on deck and ran forward to finish rolling the sail onto itself. This was accomplished and it seemed that everything was under control.
Soon, however, the middle third of the drifter began to unwrap from the rolled portion of the sail. Within about three minutes, there was about 100 square feet of sail trying to tear itself apart. The lowest portion of the unwrapped sail was about 15 above deck. My only thought was to drop the drifter onto deck and then thru the forward hatch. That turned into its own fire drill when the spinnaker halyard knotted and jammed in the rope clutch. After five minutes of wrestling, we finally got the sail down the hatch and into the forward cabin. No damage was done to the sail or the sail mis-handlers.
We have now determined that we need to put at least a dozen extra wraps on the roller furler drum when the sail is completely furled before first flying it. The problem occurs when we have to furl the sail in heavy air with a lot of tension on the furling line and the sheet. The tension causes the sail to wrap much tighter than in light air. The tighter wraps require more turns of line on the drum and so forth I hope we remember this lesson.
But the drifter worked great while it was up. My objective was to sail at over ½ the true wind speed from four knots to 12 knots when I asked North to build the sail last spring. They delivered exactly the sail I requested.
After we put the 120% genoa up, we continued our spirited sail toward Monterrey at over seven knots. We arrived at the Monterey Harbor at 4 PM.
The seals and sea lions are trying to take over the docks and the Monterrey harbor master is trying to prevent them from doing so. I was attacked by a dock seal the first night we were here. I had to twice jump out of the way, as it lunged at me. Even a 50 pound seal has big, sharp teeth. The first time it lunged, I was caught by surprise and it came within inches of my right calf. All I wanted to do was walk down the dock to go ashore. All it wanted to do was sleep in the middle of the walkway.
We spent Sunday bicycling around the Monterrey Peninsula. There is a nice, flat, smooth bicycle trail that goes about 25 miles east from the marina. It also goes about 5 miles north, and then 20 miles south around the peninsula. That seemed a little tame so I decided we should ride across the peninsula on back roads and then ride back to the boat on the trail. Good idea, hard work.
The tourist maps dont show the 500 foot hills that must be climbed and descended when riding directly from Monterey to Carmel. Nor do they mention that Highway 68 has no bicycle lane or even shoulders as it descends from the ridge top to Carmel and Pacific Grove. We had to ride five miles downhill at 30 mph in heavy Sunday traffic. This happened when we found that the private road that connects Hiway 68 to the Carmel portion of the bicycle trail is CLOSED to bicycles on weekends but open during the week something else the tourist map forgot to indicate. Go Figure!
It was a beautiful 17-mile ride but a little strenuous and a little scary at times. The ride along the bike trail from Pacific Grove back to the boat was very nice. The homes, the golf courses, the beaches, and most of all the rock formations are spectacular.
We visited the Point Pinos lighthouse while riding yesterday. It has been fully restored to its 1907 condition. There were several volunteers there who did a great job of explaining life at a lighthouse.
We found a Safeway grocery about six blocks from the boat. We can carry about ½ a grocery cart of stuff on the bikes. We installed a bike rack on Arlenes mountain bike. We use JANDD Grocery Panniers on the rack. They are made out of mesh with solid bottoms. They are shaped so that a fully stuffed grocery bag drops right in. We can then put a ½ full bag on top of each full bag. We found the panniers at Performance Cycle.
Today we are going to visit the Aquarium and historic Monterrey district. We have been told that the aquarium is the worlds largest.
Tomorrow morning we will leave on an overnight trip to Santa Barbara. That is 204 nautical miles and requires rounding Pt. Conception. The infamous point is described in both Charlies Charts and the West Coast Pilot as "the Cape Horn of the North Pacific." The forecast is for North to Northwest 15 knots so we are hoping for a moderate rounding. We should arrive in Santa Barbara about 5 PM Wednesday.
September 28 WE MADE IT TO SUNNY WARM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!!
We are parked in Santa Barbara Harbor enjoying its famous sunshine and light breeze. The weather cooperated almost perfectly yesterday. We rounded Pt. Conception at 10 AM in a light overcast and temperatures cool enough that we wore sweaters and jackets. Within an hour after passing the Pt. Concpetion lighthouse, the sun was hot and we were wearing shorts and tee shirts.
The real confirmation that we had arrived in Southern California came when I opened my post-docking beer. I keep the beer in the bilge under the mast step. Beer stored in the bilge, surrounded by cool Pacific Northwest seawater, has always been a perfect 49 degrees during the five and one-half years we have owned Mirador. Last evening, my Sierra Stout was a distinctly warm 65 degrees when I poured it.
WARM AT LAST!
Our 220 mile sail from Monterrey to here was lovely. We left there at 8 AM Tuesday and motored for four hours. We wanted to average 6.5 knots for the trip, in order to arrive in Santa Barbara during daylight. We need at least 15 knots true wind to be able to maintain that kind of speed dead downwind. At about Point Sur, just south of Carmel, we decided the NW winds had built enough to make sailing worthwhile.
We put up the ever useful main and poled out 120% genoa flying wing and wing. Mirador headed directly for Pt. Arguello at 6.5 to 7-knots with the wind at 170 degrees apparent. The NW swell was only about two feet as we settled in for a 110 miles of easy downwind sailing. The forecast was for NW 10 to 20 knots.
During the next three hours the sun got hotter, the air warmer, the wind stronger, and the seas bigger. Then NOAA changed their forecast to small craft advisories for 25-knot winds with gusts over 30 and 8-foot swells. For once, NOAA actually got the forecast out before the conditions were experienced by boats at sea.
About 4 PM we put a single reef in the mainsail but continued to fly the full genoa on a pole. We can put a reef in the mainsail while sailing downwind. We just use the cunningham to pull the luff of the sail down and we use the lazy jacks to control the leech of the sail as it comes down. This allows us reef downwind at up to about 20 knots apparent wind.
The seas had built to about five feet but they were even and regular. We continued to sail merrily along at 7 8.5 knots. The steering was being done by our Autohelm ST1000 tillerpilot connected to our Sailomat windvane. The tillerpilot is set to steer a compass course. As the boat deviates from the compass course, the tillerpilot will move the Sailomat arm that would normally be controlled by the wind vane. Using this combination allows us to steer a particular heading while using the hydrodynamic power of the Sailomat steering oar to turn the steering wheel.
This combination draws about ½ amp of electricity compared to the 2 amps used by the Autohelm ST6000 below deck autopilot. It also saves the ST6000 for those occasions where its extra torque is required. Such as when the wind gusts over 25 knots and the seas build to over 6. Which, was to soon be experienced.
We did have to re-engage the ST6000 autopilot about 5:30 PM when the wind and waves got to be too much for the ST1000/Sailomat combination. The problem is not the lack of power but the lack of speed in counter steering. Mirador rounds up into the wind very quickly when a big gust hits as we surf on a big wave. A serious wrestling match ensues if counter rudder is not applied BEFORE we round up. The ST1000 does not sense the turn soon enough and the boats rounding up momentum has become too great by the time the Sailomat starts to turn down wind. Our beam is exposed to the next wave when we dont turn down wind quick enough. And, we roll 20 to 30 degrees.
As I have mentioned several times before, the ST6000 under control of the gyro rate transducer magically solves this problem.
We continued to sail with a single reefed main and full genoa until about 11 PM when it seemed like the wind was doing its late evening dying act. By the time we were abeam of Morro Bay the boat speed was consistently in the low 5 knot range. Worse, the genoa was starting to flog when we surfed on a wave without enough apparent wind to keep it full.
We furled the genoa but left the main held out to port. We started the Yanmar and motorsailed toward Pt. Arguello at 7 knots with the engine turning 1900 RPM. We stayed on that course until daybreak when the wind returned, more out of the North this time. As we rounded Pt. Arguello and headed a little more southeast we were able to jibe the main and unfurl the genoa for a nice two hour reach to Pt. Conception.
I have not mentioned Arlenes galley feats during all this writing. Those of you who know Arlene probably heard her concerns about sea-sickness. During her teenage years she used to go out on commercial fishing boats at Illwaco, Washington. She suffered terrible sea-sickness during several of those trips.
Fishing out of Illwaco means crossing the Columbia River bar which is probably the most consistently dangerous bar in the world. The USCG has based their Coxwains Surfman school at Illwaco because they can count on 20 breaking seas three or four times a week during ½ the year.
I have always told Arlene not to judge sailboats on the ocean by her experience out of Illwaco. She has had absolutely no hint of sea-sickness during this entire trip. In fact, she works down below in the galley when I only want to sit quietly in the cockpit. Yesterday while we surfing toward Morro Bay she cooked a wonderful chicken dinner. The boat was rolling enough that nothing would stay on a counter top or table and the autopilot needed its gyro compass to keep on track, but, Arlene spent several hours in the galley, standing over a hot stove making dinner.
She does this several times a day, preparing super meals whenever the lazy captain requests them. The quality of food on this trip has been very high and entertaining.
Arlene has also been concientious about her exercise program. She uses her free weights six days a week, even when we are underway. She has proven that anyone can stay in shape while on a boat. She uses a five-foot barbell and two 18" dumbells. We carry 120 pounds in weight plates that she uses. All this weight lifting occurs in the main cabin. The Bow-Flex machine that we brought along has never been used and will be taken back to Tacoma where we will sell it.
The cabin floor is covered with ½" thick interlocking rubber mats that we found at HomeBase. We have throw rugs over the mats for decoration. The mats and rugs provide very sure footing, even during the roughest sailing. Both the rubber mats and the rugs have strong non-slip characteristics. The rubber mats also provide a lot of cushioning for my very old and worn out knees. I used to suffer from a lot of knee pain after a day of hard sailing. Since we put down the mats, I havent had much of any knee pains.
We would like to leave the boat in Santa Barbara while we head back to Tacoma to move out of the house. The harbor patrol has a strict limit of 28 days transient moorage. They double the $0.50/foot per day rate after 14 days to encourage we vagabonds to move along.
We spent the day talking to every marina from here to the Mexican border. There are no slips to rent for six weeks south of Oxnard. Most marinas have the same 14 or 28 day transient limit that we found in Santa Barbara. The official estimated wait time for a 40 slip at Monterrey and here in Santa Barbara is 17 years, yes - YEARS! And, an odd rule I have not seen before is that no one may sub-let their slips. Only the boat owned by the registered slip renter may be in the slip. There is a $50 transfer fee to chance slip ownership. The marina owner may use the slip for transient moorage if the slip renter is not using the slip.
We will sail down to Ventura or Oxnard tomorrow. There are six marinas with 40 slips available in those two harbors. Well rent a car and drive home on Sunday so that Arlene can go back to work on Tuesday afternoon.
We still have had no activity on the sale of our house and dont have a clue about how to get rid of it. Lowering the price does not seem like the answer but our real estate agent has no idea about what to do. The house has been actively marketed since April 19 and fewer than 10 people have come by to look at it.
This will be our last E-mail until we return home on October 1. I have a high speed web connection in my office so feel free to write as much as you want when responding to this journal.
October 2 Mirador is in Chula Vista / We are in Tacoma
We left Santa Barbara about 10:30 AM on Friday September 29 and were headed for Channel Island Marina in Oxnard, California. We were planning to leave Mirador there for a month or so while we returned to Tacoma to sell our house. We had been unsuccessful at finding any slip south of Oxnard.
My brother, Jim, called me about 12 PM while we were underway to Oxnard. He was calling from the Chula Vista Marina where he keeps his boat. He had managed to talk the marina into giving us a slip for six weeks.
We altered course to head a little more South of East and made all due speed for Pt. Loma, San Diego Bay, and then on to Chula Vista. Chula Vista is a man made harbor that has been dredged out of the far south part of South San Diego Bay. It is 5.5 nautical miles south of the Coronado Bridge. The entire area of water south of the bridge is between 2 and 15 deep and is separated from the Pacific Ocean by the ½ mile wide silver strand beach/sand bar that extends south from Coronado Island.
The two marinas in Chula Vista are very nice, modern, clean, and offer most amenities needed by cruisers and live aboard folks. Their big drawback is that they are 2 hours from Pt. Loma and open water sailing.
We chose to leave Mirador in Chula Vista because Jim can keep an eye on her and the marinas are very secure and well managed.
We had a great sail toward Catalina Island after Jims Friday noon phone call. We put the Drifter up winged out on a pole to starboard and swung the boom way out to port. The true wind speed was in the 9 to 14 knot range and we were able to sail almost straight downwind at 5.5 to 6.5 knots, directly toward Avalon on Catalina Island.
The big 165% drifter is a real treat to sail with in lighter air and provides significantly more speed than would the much heavier 120% Spectra Genoa. The combination balances very nicely. There were hardly any swells so we sailed along in almost complete silence for six hours.
The tiller pilot / Sailomat Windvane combination provided very accurate steering for almost the entire time. I have to say "almost" because we suffered from what Arlene now calls "Captains Error (CE)." This phenomenon occurs when the sometimes overconfident, or lazy, captain creates a problem or situation that even a minimal amount of careful thought would have avoided or prevented.
The first occurrence of CE led to several, as in five or so, accidental jibes that were harmlessly and somewhat slowly executed by the tiller pilot/Sailomat while the captain watched with wonderment. The tillerpilot would indicate that it needed to steer the boat to starboard but would then make increasingly large wheel movements to port all the time saying it wanted to turn to starboard. The turns to port would result in a slow motion jibe every time.
Finally, the captain, as in CE, noticed that both steering lines from the Sailomat to the steering wheel adapter came off the same side of the adapter. That meant that no matter which way the tiller pilot tried to steer, and no matter which way, or how much the Sailomat moved its steering oar, the steering wheel and therefore boat, would turn to port. The captain had failed to note that one of the two wheel adapter lines had not been rigged properly when this sailing session started. Easy to fix but something to avoid when the sailing is a little more serious.
Arlene kept mentioning the strange creaking and groaning emanating from the mast during the lovely, and peaceful afternoon sail. The over confident captain rudely, and somewhat cavalierly, dismissed Arlenes concerns about the noise even though he could plainly hear the strange noises, even with his somewhat deaf old ears. The sailing conditions were so benign, the sun was so warm, and the book the captain was reading was so engrossing that any attempt to figure out the noise was far too much work. Besides, the captain often claims that the crew makes too much of little details, such as odd creaks and groans.
Eventually Arlenes better judgement, and ears, prevailed as the evening wind increased to the occasional 19 or 20-knot gust.
I was shocked to find that the topping lift attached to the outboard end of the pole was wrapped around the radar guard and the fog horn/loud hailer speaker about 25 up the mast. I only determined this AFTER I had put some extra tension in the pole downhaul, which is led forward to a bow cleat, and in the genoa sheet that was being tensioned by a Lewmar 48 winch. I had really tightened all three lines that converge on the outboard pole end. This tension is what keeps the large and light drifter from flogging or flapping as the wind gusts and the boat surges.
The entire dynamic load on the drifter clew and pole end was being transferred to the radar guard. Not so good! But, easy to fix. And, ANOTHER opportunity for CE.
Most of you know the scenario a minor problem in light conditions quickly escalates to a more serious problem as the wind and sea increases.
My plan was to ease the drifter sheet and allow the pole to swing forward as I eased the topping lift. That would allow the pole to rest gently on the bow pulpit after we furled most of the drifter. Then I could take the load off the topping lift and swing the line out from around the radar guard.
Sometimes my plans actually work; sometimes I am surprised at how badly the execution works out. Everything was going well until a larger than normal swell rocked the boat, knocking the pole end off the pulpit and caused me to lose my balance as I was trying to swing the line off the radar guard. In a flash, and splash, the line did come off the radar guard but with enough slack to allow the outboard pole end to drop straight down into the water.
I regained my balance and looked over the lifeline to see 6 of pole extended straight down into the water thru which Mirador was sailing at over six knots. The pole had swung aft so its middle section was firmly pressing against the forward main shroud. The inboard end was pinned to the car on the mast. The outboard pole end had no support and was flexing, rather more than I wished to see, fore and aft as we sailed along. As I watched the outboard pole end flex and bend, I expected to see our $1,000 adjustable pole adjust itself to a permanently shorter length.
I was able to haul the inboard end of the pole up the mast with its car hoisting line. Lifting the inboard pole end raised the outboard pole end up out of the water. Then all I had to do was use the topping lift to lift the pole back to the pulpit and start all over again.
Another lesson re-learned! Look up and check every overhead line when working on the foredeck.
In my youth, i.e. over a quarter century ago, I took great pride in my foredeck skills while racing on several very competitive boats in fairly serious weather and races. Complacency bred by a lack of competitive urges, beautiful weather, and too many easy trips to Miradors bow caused me to forget that most important lesson for a foredeck ape look up everytime!
No damage was done and we were soon sailing again with our favorite wing & wing rig.
Another major CE occurred later in the afternoon. Again, this was caused by warm sunshine, light winds, and a good book. We kept hearing airplane or helicopter noises. At the time, we were about 7 miles SW of Pt. Magu naval air station. I just kept attributing the humming and vibrations to helicopters and jets that we could not see in the LA smog and haze. After awhile Arlene could not stand not knowing what the noise was. She climbed out of the cockpit and took a good look around.
Boy, were we surprised to find an 800 slab sided autocarrier ship about two miles to port and passing us at 15 knots. I checked our location with GPS and Jepperson Marine Map and discovered that we were in the 2 mile wide VTS exclusion zone that separates east and west bound shipping that is entering and leaving Long Beach. I guess I need to temper my involvement in the books I am reading. We were lucky we were in the exclusion zone. I probably wont mistake the sound of a ships screws making 15 knots with helicopters in the future.
We continued sailing SSE at 6-knots until just after a spectacular sunset. Then the wind died and we motored for another 19 hours in glassy calm waters until we found our slip in Chula Vista.
We arrived at Pt. Loma at 12:10 AM on September 30 and motored the 15 miles thru the harbor and down the channel to Chula Vista. Jim and friends were waiting to help secure Mirador.
We ate dinner and had more than a few beers at one of the outdoor restaurants that overlook Chula Vista Marina.
On Saturday evening, we rented a brand new Buick Regal LS sedan that the National Car Rental office at the San Diego Airport wanted returned to Seattle. They gave us the car for $45 per day with no mileage charges. We loaded it up Saturday evening and Sunday morning. We left Chula Vista at 11:48 AM Sunday and pulled into our garage in Tacoma at 8:10 AM Monday. That is 1,274 miles. Nice car!
We returned the car to the SeaTac airport Monday afternoon and paid National $100.78, including tax and all fees. We also spent $73 on gasoline.
I am amazed that we can move two of us and a whole bunch of clothes and gear over 1,000 miles for $173.
Arlene will go back to work tomorrow morning and I will start working on getting this house sold. We also have to get rid of most of the stuff we have accumulated while living here since 1982.
October 3 Some Final Thoughts
The trip from Gig Harbor, Washington to Chula Vista, California covered 1,389 nautical miles in 36 days. We were underway for 249 hours and sailed for 59 of those hours. We sailed downwind for all except four hours. We made seven overnight passages. The longest passage was 34 hours and the shortest was four hours.
The total trip was done as 13 shorter trips during which we stayed in 12 different marinas and spent one night at anchor. During three of the legs, there was not a breath of wind. During three other legs, the wind was from dead astern and too light to maintain a boat speed of more than four knots.
The typical wind that was blowing when we chose not to sail was from straight behind us in the five to ten knot range. As the trip progressed, we started sailing in ever-lighter winds. Our average downwind sailing wind was in the 14 22 knot true wind speed range. We seldom sailed if we could not keep the boat speed above 5-knots.
The strongest steady wind we experienced was from astern at about 35 knots with gusts over 45 knots while we sailed around Pt. Arena. This wind lasted for only about two hours.
The largest seas we sailed in were a little over 10 feet. The typical seas were in the three to six foot range. The most uncomfortable sea conditions were the large rollers from abeam while motoring south from Cape Flattery and the terrible wind/wave combination from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz. Once south of Pt. Conception the seas became almost a non-issue.
We suffered almost no rain during the trip but had many days of fog and mist. We experienced little warm weather sailing until south of Pt. Conception. Nighttime air temperatures, both at sea and in port, were in the high 40s and low 50s every night until we arrived in Santa Barbara.
We found that downwind sailing is an art form that can only be learned at sea. By the time we left Santa Barbara, we were pretty confident about putting up a lot of sail to maximize our downwind speed. We also got pretty good at balancing the boat to minimize downwind rolling.
The sailing leg from Noyo River to Half Moon Bay taught us how to fly a downwind rig in more than 30 knots true wind and still be relatively comfortable. We then got a lot more practice while sailing 90 miles from Pt. Sur to Pt. Arguello in more than 20 knots true wind. We confirmed that our boat sails downwind with the best helm balance if we reef the main and keep the full genoa poled out as far as possible.
We furthered our downwind education when we put up the big drifter on a pole as we sailed from Santa Barbara to Santa Catalina. We learned that we can keep the boat speed above 5.5 knots in less than 10 knots true wind. I wish we had experimented more with that combination earlier in the trip.
We also learned that we are far more likely to fiddle with the sails and try different combinations when the sun is bright and the air temperature is over 65 degrees. I thought about putting up more sail on many days when we were north of San Francisco. The 52-degree air and the bone chilling fog and mist seemed to always keep me from leaving the snug confines of the cockpit. I suppose there are many reasons that cruisers prefer the tropics.
The light air drifter that I had made just before we left on this trip was an important addition to the boat. Once we learned when and how to use this sail it significantly increased the amount of time, we could sail. The sail does allow us to keep our boat speed above 5-knots in most winds over eight or 9 knots. If we had started using the sail earlier in the trip, we probably would have sailed another 40 or 60 hours on this trip.
Having the big drifter on its own built in stay and roller furler drum did make it easy to use the sail in most conditions.
I can not over emphasize the importance of good radar for this trip. We were absolutely dependent on radar for keeping track of all the fishing boats and commercial traffic. I could not imagine making such a trip without radar.
The most important member of the crew was our Autohelm ST6000 electric autopilot. The ST6000 was in control of the boat for at least 95% of all the steering. It performed flawlessly during the entire trip. The ST1000 tillerpilot connected to the Sailomat windvane steered another 4% of the time. I would be surprised if we steered by hand for a total of four hours during the entire trip, except of course while entering and leaving harbors. The ST6000 autopilot has now steered over 1500 hours with no breakdowns or failures.
Nothing broke during the entire trip. I attribute this to good luck and the huge amount of time that Jim and I spent installing systems and then sailing hard to try to break them. Our 30 day shakedown cruise that we took in July 99 when we sailed up and down the west coast of Vancouver Island really helped us understand what systems needed more work.
Our Isotherm refrigerator did very well during the entire trip. The icebox in a Caliber 40 is huge. Before we left Gig Harbor, we put four 10-pound blocks of ice in the bottom of the icebox to take up space. The smallest of those blocks still weighted two pounds when we unloaded the icebox 37 days later. We found two five-pound packages of chicken that were still frozen hard when we unloaded the icebox in Chula Vista. We had put those packages in the icebox 38 days earlier.
The water-cooled Isotherm compressor ran about 20 minutes an hour during the day and almost never ran at night. The compressor draws 8 to 9 amps while running. That power consumption was a non-issue due to the amount of motoring we did and due to the 15 25 amps of power, we were getting from the solar panels while sailing.
A very important lesson was the problem with making two day/one night passages. There is no way to get your body used to this schedule. I am sure that we would have been much more comfortable if we had made more passages that involved at least three nights. That way we could have gotten use to a sleeping schedule. However, we did want to see all the West Coast ports and harbors so we made a lot of one-night trips.
We should have planned on at least another three weeks to make the trip while seeing all the ports. We missed Umpqua River, Bandon, and San Simeon because we were running out of time or we didnt want to get trapped inside a river bar with bad weather forecast to close it.
Many experienced cruisers tried to tell us about schedules but you must live the life to understand how slow things move. Everything takes longer than you plan. The cruisers adage about "plan to accomplish only one thing each day" is really true. A trip to the grocery store fills a day, a repair project fills a day, a bicycle ride fills a day. We quickly learned to live by that rule but it meant we couldnt accomplish everything we wanted on this trip. So well plan on spending at least the next ten years doing things one day at a time.
We are looking forward to our trip south from San Diego. Our just completed trip to San Diego was everything we had hoped it would be and convinced us that we really do love to cruise. Most importantly, the trip showed us that Arlene and I can live and work together on a 40-foot boat. By the time we got to Chula Vista, we were actually starting to feel like a sailing team.
We are hoping that Team Mirador can be headed south for Cabo San Lucas by mid-November.
Editors Note: June 1, 2001 - The "Final Thoughts" section was written on October 5, 2000. Arlene finally sold the house in April 2001 while I was helping my brother Jim sail his boat from Puerto Vallarta back to San Diego. We will move out of our home on July 2, 2001 and then drive back to San Diego. We will spend August thru October 2001 cruising around Southern California.