//UNEXPECTED GOOD SAILING and TYPICAL MISERABLE MOTORING

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We did get out of Port Angles on Thursday September 2, 2010 just as the sun was rising over a clear and calm Straits of Juan de Fuca.   With absolutely no wind; we motored west with the Yanmar at 2200 RPM and the knotmeter showing 6.4 knots.   The EAST!! wind began around 9 AM and by noon we were sailing dead down wind with a full main and the 120% genoa out on the pole.  

I was feeling very fortunate because an east wind in early September is unusual.   The wind kept increasing and we reefed the main mid-afternoon.  Within another hour I had dropped the main when Mirador was consistently surfing at 8.5 knots.   The following YouTube Video Sailing West in the Straits shows the wing and wing configuration that we used until we dropped the mainsail. 

The clouds increased dramatically as we approached Neah Bay and the wind stayed in the East to SE 18 - 22 knot range.  The seas did get a little lumpy since the tide was coming in (flowing east) against the wind blowing toward the west.   We continued to sail with only the genoa up as we rounded Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island.  

 The following two photos are of the lighthouse on Tatoosh Island and of the Olympic Mountains at sunset from about 15 miles offshore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ESE wind died pretty quickly after we turned south and headed away from the coast.   We were 30 miles offshore by the time it was dark and we motored all night with only the main up.  As the night progressed the NW swell increased as did the odd larger wave coming from the west.  The wind continued to build during the night and was consistently in the high teens and low 20 knot true range by 6 AM. 

Mirador sails down wind much more comfortably, and with far greater control, when only the genoa is up and the mainsail is laying quietly on the boom.  Just after daybreak, I can't say sunrise 'cause there were low clouds and gloom, I decided to drop the main while sailing downwind in 22+ knots true.  Normally this is an easy procedure that I have done hundreds of times while sailing single handed.  But this time, even with John's assistance, it turned into a 45 minute wrestling match.  The main just would not come down, even when I attached the 4:1 downhaul to the first reef point.  

I had not slept all night and was a little rummy but did FINALLY notice that I had forgotten to re-rig the lazy jacks.  That meant that with the main boomed all the way out to the side the full length battens were bent around the port shrouds and creating way too much friction to allow the main to drop.  The only option was to raise the main and rig the lazy jacks...but NO - in my sleep deprived state I decided to pull the main down by tugging on the leech.  After a lot of struggle and swearing I finally got the main to come down in such a manner that I could tie it to the boom. 

We then unfurled the genoa and continued to sail SSE toward Monterey.   The seas kept building from both the west and NW. The combination of NW five foot swells and west five foot waves made for an uncomfortable ride as the the following video from the following afternoon shows. 

YouTube Video John's Miserable Birthday

YouTube Video NE Pacific Misery

I was closely tracking the weather via Winlink 2000/HAM radio and the Airmail software.  All the forecasts continued to be in agreement and pointing toward a major wind event for the coastal waters from Cape Blanco (just south of Coos Bay, Oregon) to Point Arena (about 50 miles north of the Golden Gate).  By Friday afternoon it was apparent that Sunday and Monday along the southern Oregon and northern California coast would be uncomfortable, and probably dangerous for Mirador.   At six knots we would pass Cape Blanco mid-morning Sunday and Point Arena late afternoon on Monday.   The forecast was NNW 25 - 30 knots for Saturday night increasing to 35 knots gusting to 50 knots by Sunday afternoon with 15' short steep breaking seas thru Monday morning.   The only harbor of refuge in the 400 miles from Coos Bay to Bodega Bay was Crescent City which we could not reach until Sunday afternoon.  The large NW waves would make the bars at Eureka and Noyo River impassable until at least Tuesday morning. 

The planning dilemma was whether we should try to get to Coos Bay or go into Newport, Oregon.  There were two potential problems with Coos Bay - we would not arrive at the sea buoy marking the bar entrance until at least 8 PM Saturday.  If the winds picked up earlier than forecast and were even 50 miles north of where forecast there was a distinct possibility that the Coos Bay bar would be very difficult to cross when we arrived in the dark.  The second problem was that we would probably have to wait in Coos Bay, really it is the Charlestown small boat harbor, for at least 60 hours and there few stores or restaurants anywhere within walking distance. 

We decided to go into Newport, Yaquina Bay, and wait for a better weather window to pass Cape Blanco, Point St George, and Cape Mendocino.   Slack water on the Newport bar was 10:30 AM Saturday so we slowed Mirador to time our arrival at the sea buoy for 9:30 AM.  Following is a video from Friday afternoon after we had decided to go into Newport.

YouTube Video Rolling SE to Newport

When I was narrating the video I did not know there was strong low pressure system 500 miles to the NW that was creating a very large west swell in our area.  That west swell is the cause of the 30 degree roll, to each side, that we suffered several times a minute. The sea conditions moderated by early AM Saturday and we had some decent downwind sailing in the wee dark hours of Saturday morning. 

DID THE CONDITIONS GET SO BAD IN "GALE ALLEY?"
The wind at the Point St. George buoy was greater than 30 knots with gusts over 42 knots for 29 hours beginning on Sunday afternoon at about 3 PM.   The combined swell and wind wave height exceeded 10 feet for 30 hours beginning about 5 PM Saturday afternoon.  During that 30 hours the waves were almost always categorized as Very Steep which means they were continuously breaking.  Traditional wisdom is that a breaking wave that exceeds the beam of a sailboat can potentially capsize the boat if taken at the wrong angle.  Mirador has a beam of about 13' so any breaking waves over that size are very dangerous.  

Further south at Cape Mendocino the combined seas exceeded 16' for 30 hours beginning on Saturday evening and exceeded 20'  for about four hours beginning Monday in the early AM and were classified as STEEP or VERY STEEP the entire time.  

At the southern end of Gale Alley, Point Arena, the seas were greater than 10' for 56 hours beginning late Saturday night.  The combined seas were greater than 20' for 16 hours starting Monday afternoon and were classified as STEEP or VERY STEEP the entire time.

Eric Stephans, who shared a dock with me in Gig Harbor before our first Mexican Adventure, passed thru Gale Alley in late August aboard his Norseman 447 Indara.  Eric and Indara enjoyed 10 hours of 50 knot gusts and seas over 15'.  Eric said that Indara was surfing at over 9 knots for extended periods of time under bare poles!   The forecast he received 24 hours earlier had been almost identical to the one that caused me to divert to Newport.

With a months hindsight - I am very glad we stopped at Newport!

We did have a major equipment fiasco Saturday morning about 8 AM when I decided to furl the genoa.   For only the 2nd time in 15 years - I could not get the sail to furl.  It would not take even one wrap on the drum before it jammed.

Jim went to the bow but initially saw no problem with the furling system that would prevent the drum from taking up the line.  Upon close examination of the front of the drum he discovered the very unlikely disaster that occurred. 

The lead block that is normally attached to the port pulpit, as shown in the picture to the left, was now tightly wrapped into the furling drum.  The block was under three wraps of line and was turned it such a way that it hit one of the stainless guards on the drum before the drum could make a quarter turn. 

Jim and I worked on the drum and block for about 15 minutes and were able to extract it from the drum with no damage to the line, drum, or block.   We saw that the clevis pin that held the block to the pulpit mount had come loose and it appeared that somehow, for no apparent reason, the block and gotten pulled into the drum when I unfurled the sail at about 3 AM.   We replaced the pin with a stainless  bolt and nylock to prevent recurrences.

I did remember that the unfurling process was more difficult that usual and I had to pull on the genoa sheet much harder than  normal to cause the sail to unfurl.   I guess I should have stopped pulling and gone forward to see why the sail was not unfurling as quickly and easily as it did normally.

At least we can be thankful the problem occurred when we were furling due to no wind rather than too much wind.

The picture to the right shows the outer portion of the Newport jetties and the entrance from the Pacific Ocean.  This was taken from the Highway 101 bridge, 140 feet above the waterway.  The inner harbor and Yaquina Bay was behind me when I took the picture.  We entered the inner harbor at about 10 AM and went directly to the fuel dock where we took on 30 gallons of pretty cheap diesel.  
 

We then called the Port of Newport who told us to take any slip on the dock next to the fuel dock and to check-in at the office at our convenience. 

 

SUMMARY

Port Angles Washington   Newport Oregon

  September 2 September 4  2010
Nautical Miles   303
Elapsed Hours   50
Engine Hours   30
Sailing Hours   20 - mostly downwind with sail poled out
Sailing with engine on   20 - all downwind in 8 to 14 knots true
Maximum Wind   24 knots from ESE in Straits & NNW 25 once offshore
Sails used   Full & reefed main with Code 0 or Genoa on pole - mostly downwind
Biggest Seas   8' from NNW - occasional breaking wave
Sunshine Hours   18
Rain   5 hours
Fog / Mist   27
Max & Minimum Temperature   64 - 50