Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In San Francisco almost a week

When we left Neah Bay and headed out in the big blue Tony said - "We'll be in San Francisco by Wednesday " - he meant next Wednesday. 3 Wednesdays later we arrived in San Francisco and tomorrow we will have been away 1 month.

We came through the Golden Gate bridge at high tide as recommended and it was uneventful, but very exciting to be bringing our own boat into San Francisco. As we were going under the bridge we phoned Georgia (my daughter who lives in San Francisco) and announced our arrival very loudly in unison.

We found Sausalito Yacht Club just exactly where it was supposed to be and pulled up to their transient dock to fill up with water. We stayed on one of their moorage buoys for the next 5 days and enjoyed their facilities - showers, bar and restaurant. The ferry terminal was right next to the yacht club, so we had easy access to downtown SF but we also had a very rolly moorage.
I think I'm beginning to understand the meaning of the 'pace of the cruising life'. I think that it means that you just don't get anything done. In fairness to us - it was hard to get any work done because the boat was pitching about alot.
We did explore Sausalito a bit - a couple of miles walking to the laundromat - and a couple of miles walking to the Bay Model - which is an amazing feat of engineering. It was built and is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers - started in 1959. The project covers about 2 acres of land and is housed - as are many businesses in that part of Sausalito - on a site where Marinship built 93 tankers during the war. (33 days to produce one 10,000 ton tanker). They employed 75,000 people to build these ships - many of whom had never even seen a ship before.
The Bay Model project was commissioned by a government with foresight - they knew that California would have water problems in the future, and needed to know how to make the most of the Sacramento delta, weather systems, and tides. This model is used to educate the visitors - many of whom are school children on field trips - to understand the need for water conservation and respect for all natural resources.
We were impressed.
We spent a day with Georgia and Wyatt downtown. Mostly we walked about in Chinatown - one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world where we ate a good meal and took lots of pictures just like all of the other tourists.
Alameda is our current location - we sailed over from Sausalito yesterday in the the daily 25 kn winds - they come up at noon and continue until about 6.00pm. We're on the guest dock at Encinal Yacht Club - they have a pool, showers, a great view - no rolling around - all for $15 per day, 84degrees today. We'll be here a couple of days before moving downtown to Pier 39 and then back out into the big water to commence our trip south.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Moored in Sausalito - San Francisco Bay

Eureka is a very nice town/city. It has an old town section which is very picturesque, mostly 'Victorian', 'Edwardian' hotels, business buildings, houses dating back to the late 1800's. Its amazing to walk around the town and think that in its heyday men were still riding the ranges shooting each other - and now it all looks so sedate and very beautiful. There is already the feel of California in the type of shops and the way the young people look. Its hard to describe that look - kinda rasta/hippy/yuppy, dunno - it's alot like San Francisco.

We were told that we must see a particular Victorian house - "the most photographed Victorian in the world" - quite the statement, which of course we were cynical about. Because we forgot our map, we were instantly lost but were helped by a friendly barber who knew exactly which building we meant by the description "the most........". He gave us directions and we took off - just a few blocks away - and when we turned the corner there it was at the end of the road - incredible - almost worth dropping into Eureka, driving over a crashing bar in the dark - in fog about 4 boatlengths visibility, navigating up a couple of miles of channel drenched in more thick fog - just to see it - there it is - it was a private house originally, but is now a private mens' club.

We met a few cruisers in Eureka, including BJ and Jim from Watea - Blue Water people we met at the August rendezvous. The local liveaboard people told us that they had never seen so many cruisers who were passing through as this year - because many of us were coming in for shelter as opposed to keeping on going.

We were docked on the last dock at the end of the marina and had a lovely view of the delta in the morning when we woke up. So many water birds. We love pelicans - of course every time we see pelicans Tony says 'bluddy pelicans' with an Australian accent. Finding Nemo.

We spent 2 nights in Eureka, recouped our strength, did laundry, drank beer in a local Irish Pub, met a couple called Dave and Debbie from Wavesweeper - an American couple on their way to wherever. Dave is an ex NOAA employee and he offered lots of good information about sailing down the coast - having done that most of his working career.

We left Eureka with high hopes that this leg would be the best yet - NOT - straight out into 4 - 6' swells with wind waves a couple of feet more - and yes - you guessed it - on the nose. We suffered this for an hour or so heading west - couldn't turn south too soon or we would run into land - didn't want to turn north as it seemed pointless being out there. I suggested we go back in and try again tomorrow, but was made to see the sense of going a bit further.

We left at 0900 hrs, expecting at approx 5 knots to reach Cape Mendocina in about 5 hours.

We rounded Cape Mendocino at about 0100 hrs the next morning. It was not a rough rounding - but the swells were inhibiting our progress all the way from Eureka . We motor sailed our way along, doing short tacks, using the main to steady us and thus ensuring some forward movement.

The rest of our trip we motored - not enough wind to sail. Each morning we were visited by little birds - yellow finches - sparrows - a chubby little brown bird a bit smaller than a Thrush.

Our best bird encounter was a humming bird which came into the cockpit at about 1900 hrs Monday evening. It was so sweet - it thought that our fire extinguisher was a feeder and tried very hard to extract pollen from it - we even taped a little container of sugar water to it, but it didn't understand. We rushed for cameras and just as I was about to get a shot it landed on my camera and stared into my face - then it landed on my head before flying away.
We dropped anchor in Drakes Bay - about 4 - 5 hours before San Francisco. At our current rate of progress we not have reached the Golden Gate Bridge at a good time - ie. slack flood.
Drakes Bay in a huge bay capable of taking 1000 boats in a sheltered anchorage. It reeked of dairy farm - which took some getting used to - but it was beautiful and absolutely packed with wildlife. All the entertainment we needed - we watched pelicans and se lions competing for the same fish - so dramatic. Very small porpoised were swimming around us for an hour or so, and a small shark like fish - dog-fish perhaps leapt from the water about 4 feet. So many different sea birds - and all to ourselves - not another soul in the whole bay.
We left at 0700 hrs and motored to San Francisco. Thank God - no fog - no sun either but it has just come out. We tied up to Sausalito Yacht Club's private dock - filled up with water - had showers, met a Dutch couple who have just arrived also - having sailed down ahead of us from Victoria in 5 days - but then they've sailed about 50,000 miles in the last 3 years and were not daunted by the 45 knot winds which had us scurrying for cover.
See pictures on webshots - lots of em.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mr. Chubbs makes a friend

Zoom in on this picture and you'll see this lovely little canary like finch. He spent some time with us today on our trip from Crescent City to Eureka. Unfortunately we lost him, but he was a delightful little visitor.
We left Crescent City this morning at 6.00am in - guess what - thick fog, why not, its been here every other bloody morning. So heading out of the harbour with almost no visibility we ran aground - fortunately the tide was on the rise, so we were only delayed a short while, and Tony gunned the engine a few times and we were lifted off.
About an hour out of the harbour heading south we say grey whales. That was a beautiful sight. Two of them came very close to us and stayed awhile then one of them flipped his fluke as they headed away. Unfortunately I did not take a picture - that's the sort of situation where you make a decision to either watch and take it all in or rush to get the camera and take the chance of losing the whole experience.
Fog - we hate fog, yesterday the fog did not lift at all over Crescent City and today we motored all of the way down to Eureka in it. We also came into Eureka this evening after sundown in thick fog. The buoyage system was good and with Tony on C-map, Johnny on eyes (young good eyes), and me on helm we were shot up the channel at 6 knots and found our way into a lovely marina. A gentleman on the dock helped us moor the boat in a spot which had just been vacated by a fishing boat who passed us in the channel on the way in. He almost blinded us with the huge lights they use for fishing full on as he came down the channel.
We plan to stay in Eureka tomorrow - the weather forecasts are a bit iffy - and we (I) am nervous about approaching Cape Mendecino in iffy conditions. It'll give us a chance to get some laundry done and visit this town, which we hear is neat.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Finally reached California - no not San Fran

Coos Bay is a nice little place - but not for a week. We don't really believe that this coastline is ever anything but wild. We left Coos Bay at 08.15 Monday 8th. During our 6 days there we met a few other boats who were sailing down the coast, all of us were concerned about the weather conditions and were pursuing various sources. Its amazing how many weather sites there are on line. So - we made our decision to leave - as did 2 other boats. A couple of hours into this leg and about 10 miles off the coast and Coos Bay was looking way more attractive, but we plodded on with building wind and seas.
The first vindictive sideways wave I took full in the face was the beginning of the very difficult night that followed.
We finally reefed down to our third reef - which UK Sails had just put in for us before we left Sidney, and flew down the biggest waves I've ever seen. We clocked over 12 knots surfing down one behemoth. After rounding Cape Blanco and its very impressive rocky shore in huge breaking seas we made a decision to go into Brookings which is about 100 miles south of Coos Bay. It would take us a few more hours to get there, but I was really scared. Tony was for keepin on until Crescent City and if conditions improved just keep going.
We had some radio communication with 2 other boats who were out - Julia Max, an American boat from Portland with George, Sue and Bill on board - they'd left a few hours ahead of us.
They were looking to go in as they heard the weather was building to 45 kn. Morgana, a Canadian boat from Campbell River with Ernie, Lionel and Mark on board went out a bit further than us. They radiod us in the evening to see how we were doing and said they were going into Brookings anticipating 0100 arrival on Tuesday morning. We probably weren't likely to arrive until about 0300 hrs.
It became disappointingly obvious by 0100 hours that getting into Brookings wasn't a good idea - to do so would have meant motoring in sideways to 12-15' waves. Another 30 odd miles would take us to Crescent City. We arrived here at 12.00 today - Tuesday 9th.
We jibed 6 times on that leg, many of those in the night in seas that it was best not to look at, all of us totally sleep deprived.
Anything that was not in a cupboard or bungied down was on the cabin floor, the water coming over the decks found its way in, not to mention the stuff that just came in through the companionway.
So here we are in Crescent City Harbour. We've slept most of the day and are now watching a Fish Called Wanda.
This trip to San Francisco sure is taking a long time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Still in Charleston,Coos Bay - September 5th

Last Wednesday when we left Neah Bay and headed out Tony said, OK next Wednesday we'll be in San Francisco. Well that next Wednesday has gone by and we are still in Coos Bay - Charleston actually, its a nice little fishing town about 350 miles north of San Francisco. We've been here 4 days now awaiting a change in weather.
We have company - 3 other boats are here from BC, a Cal 29 from Victoria, a bit custom built boat from Nanaimo and another Bluewater Cruising power boat from Vancouver. Also a boat we met last year up in Squirrel Cove from Portland, a beautiful 45' Peterson.
These people subscribe to a service called oceanbuoy.com which shows wave heights and wind pretty much all of the world. They've decided to leave tomorrow morning expecting about 25knots and 10-15' waves up to about 10 miles offshore - beyong that it is far worse.
We're debating leaving also, as it doesn't look like its going to get much better in the near future. Charleston is a charming little place - but can't see being here much longer.
Johnny has dragged Tony off to one of the many huge sandy beaches to go skim boarding.
Hope they don't break anything.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blog Entry – August 23rd 2008
Exodus finally from Sidney – it was lovely to spend time with our friends and family saying goodbye – it took quite a long time – about a month in all, but now its done and we left today at 12.00noon 23rd August – Tony, Johnny and I – we motored all the way from Sidney to Friday Harbour.
Expecting that we would have to give up - and probably throw away some of our fresh - food I cooked most of the way over – we had potatoes and bacon for lunch - and then remembering that perhaps we’d have to give up our fruit we ate oranges, peaches and I made apple sauce from the apples.
We arrived at 16.00 hrs., tied up to the customs dock and called on the cell phone. They asked that we call on a different phone which is on the dock with a camera attached. We had been warned ahead of time that it would be too bad if we got this particularly difficult customs agent, a very large imposing man. Well we must commend Customs Agent Moltar; a very large imposing man who made our entrance into the U.S. so pleasant, plus we got to keep all of our food.
He issued us with a Cruising License – didn’t check over the boat – made pleasant conversation and shook our hands.
The crew – Tony and I, Nancy and my son, Johnny – last minute picture on Sidney North Saanich reciprocal dock.

We left Friday Harbour 25th to face the Juan de Fuca Strait – already receiving weather warnings on VHF. But I’ve never really known the Strait to be anything but ‘orrible (a word we will use often for the next few days), so we progressed slowly and very bumpily. One of the things I’ve always expected of the Juan de Fuca Strait is that the conditions usually ease at night – not this night – well actually they did eventually ease at about 0100 hrs or perhaps its just that the waves always seem better in the dark, so we kept going through the night to Neah Bay – which of course we arrived at in thick fog and calm. While Tony slept Johnny and I crept along in the fog debating whether to keep going out (which was one of our plans – tentative). There were many fishing boats out, lots of sea birds and this was where we saw our first Pelicans. Definitely in foreign waters. So why are there no Pelicans further up the coast? – funny eh!

We went into Neah Bay the morning of 26th under radar and GPS and stayed overnight.
We spent this day hunkered down, caught rain in our rain catcher and checked weather fax. We all wanted very much to be on our way. Speaking for myself, I was very nervous about heading out into the Pacific Ocean with my head full of all of the stories of people getting ‘clobbered’ by bad weather on the way down – so I just wanted to get going before I lost my nerve.
Weather faxes showed us that the wind was blowing South Westerly (on the nose of course) BUT if we headed offshore about 130 miles or so there we would find the perfect North Westerly blowing at about 15knots. That seemed like a good thing to go for. So we started motoring west out past Cape Flattery. What a spectacular, magestic, foreboding – stay away from those incredible rocks – which of course means that our pictures do not do it justice – Cape Flattery. We were hoping that according to our reading of our faxes we would be able to head South Westerly and as the wind veered around to North – which it would be doing forthwith – it would carry us down on those lovely even rolling rollers which all of the good stories prepared us for.

From 1600 hrs 27th to our first tack at 1800 hrs 28th we went from N48 21’ W124 41’ to N48 13’ W126 13’. Not what we’d hoped for, and these are some of the comments in our log. (We used the Sailing Log Bluewater Weather 07) sheets and as each of us came off our watch we logged our position, heading, conditions, barometric pressure, engine hours and made whatever comments we wished – profanities included. “saw a puffin, very bumpy ride – started sailing, Yay!, 2 large ships, glowing cool sea - @#?ing Bull#@ - Horrible Rain – Foggy 1 – 2 mile viz, full sail close reach (albatross) – Shark!!, less albatross, less bull#@?!, motored.

At 1800 hrs we tacked back in towards land and started moving South East, heading 120o
(got no degree symbol, so ‘o’ means degrees). We are starting to settle into our watch system. Thanks to Sean Peck for the watch he suggested from his Hawaii trip. This worked pretty well for 3 of us and we all got to see the different times of day and night; 3 four hour watches during the day 0800 – 1200, 1200 – 1600, 1600 – 2000, one 3 hour watch 2000 – 2300, then 3 two hour watches, 2300 – 0100, 0100 – 0300, 0300 – 0500, another 3 hour watch 0500 – 0800, and then it all starts again.
This seems like an appropriate time to introduce our other crew member, without whom again speaking for myself I would not have been able to manage any of this ……………
Mr. Chubbs – named for his obvious endowment, which seems to point so perfectly into the wind – so far no matter what the strength, and does a way better job that any of us could possibly do. He stands so proudly without any fear or trepidation and just eggs the wind on.
We all love Mr. Chubbs.
For the next 24 hours we sailed mostly South about 50 miles off the coast – fairly uneventful – sometimes fog, rain – fairly typical swells which we are all getting used to – me needing a regular dosage of Stugeron ( I take ½ pill per dose as I do not want to fall asleep), we’ve even had a smooth night where we all admired the bio luminescence in the water – we’re still doing our best with SSW winds running about 10 knots. Barometer has dropped a little and the wind is starting to pick up. By 1600 hours 29th, we are seeing 25 knots gusting to 30 NW,(what we’d been wishing for all along except not 30) and are now running with a double reef main only – big wind and big seas – Oh My God is what I was saying most of the time in my mind, and every now and again screeching out loud, when the hind quarter of the boat including our ‘very well strapped on’ extra fuel tanks disappeared under the water. Thank God I can remember what our hull looks like under the water – because sometimes I actually started to wonder what it would take for this wind and these bloody huge waves to push us over.
Just holding our bodies upright, standing or seated was becoming a challenge – we had a regular joke going as to how pumped up our oblique muscles were getting.
Being the consummate mother and wife I was constantly thinking I should cook something to keep up the crew’s morale – so the joke extended as to how we would be fat people with huge obliques. It was a credit to all of us that we were still able to joke.
We were regularly reaching 6 ½ - 7 knots with just this double reef main, and actually clocked 9.3 knots surfing down waves. Johnny said that standing up on the aft cabin roof before the mizzen mast holding on the back edge of the dodger was like surfing on a 15 ton surfboard. YIKES.

I’m writing these notes after the fact, using the log to prompt memory – and still do remember that night – which is just as well because the only person who made any log entries from 2000hrs 29th – 0800hrs 30th was Johnny – I guess that’s why it was a good idea to have someone young on the boat – after each of our watches Tony and I just staggered into bed – or whatever space was able to hold us still enough to sleep in.

Why is it that a squall has the whole sky in which to do its nasty business, but no – they just always seem to be just above us – either slightly behind sucking the waves up and making them more menacing – or in a line ahead of us beckoning us along into the waves its already sucked up into a fervour.

Though the barometer is rising gradually – which I hold out as hope that its getting better we are regularly seeing 15 – 20 knots which should be good – and would be except for the size of the waves and the irregularity of their direction. It seems that the overall weather system creating the size of the waves coming with the wind was interfered with by the smaller local squalls which were happening all over the place and whipping up the waves in different directions. Our sea state descriptions are becoming quite descriptive – choppy swells, mailto:f@%23!ing large swells, confusing and annoying, breaking, horrible, big mothers, YUK, PLEASE STOP IT. But we are really trucking now, for us 120 miles in 24 hours is very good.

Its 31st August, and the weather fax has been showing stationary gales hanging around Cape Mendecino for the last week. We are all exhausted - sleeping has been very difficult for all of us and we’ve decided not to keep going to San Francisco, but to pull in. The gales are moving north and we don’t want to be out here having to cope with more bad weather in our weakened state, so we decide to head in. We were thinking Crescent City but that would mean another 24 hours out. We check out Coos Bay Oregon and decide to head in.

A good decision made, our spirits lifted. We’ve reconciled ourselves to continuing to run with the double reef main – its keeping us moving at about 5 knots in the right direction.
We were visited by a huge pod of dolphins – maybe 50, charging at us, flipping 360 spins up in the air and slapping their tails on the surface. We couldn’t believe it. They stayed with us for about 15 minutes, and it was like being visited by playful angels. That day we saw albatross, a huge shoal of tuna, dolphins and birds – a marine biology extravaganza.

Having decided to go into Coos Bay, we started to hear on VHF the local Coast Guard giving Bar Reports – no its not a critique on the bars in town – but the condition of the bars heading into the various ports. The Coast Guard is extremely helpful – will even escort a boat across the bar if the skipper needs help. We figured the best way to cross the bar into Coos Bay would be at slack tide turning to flood, so we timed our approach, set our sails to slow us down. We put up our newly acquired Stay Sail which kept us moving at about 3 knots throughout the night and inched our way into Coos Bay. We wanted to arrive there at 0900 hours – now Sept 01. Mostly this night was crisp, cool and bright with an incredible firmament of stars, the clearest night so far. Still corkscrewing along in very large waves.

On approach to Coos Bay Tony called the Coast Guard and they told us the condition of the bar was good to cross, told us where we would be able to moor once inside. We tried to call the Harbour Master, who was not there because it was a public holiday. But an American boat leaving the harbour heard our call and responded, giving us all of the information we could possibly need.

Here we now sit in Charleston Marina which is just inside the estuary. We are paying $18 per night to be here including power, we are surrounded by fishing boats and liveaboads who are all interested in us, extremely helpful. The town of Coos Bay is about 13 miles away – we could take Moondancer up the river, but it will only make the leaving a little more difficult. We’ve been offered a lift to town on 3 different occasions by the people around us on the dock. Also the information from other sailors and fishermen around us who know the coast is valuable.
Today we repaired our genoa, which came apart on all of the radial seams along the leach and ripped along the foot. We scrubbed off all of the winter grime, did some laundry, found downtown Charleston, and a posh bar where we had posh drinks.
We like Charleston, and we’re very impressed with our dealings with the authorities and the local people. Authorities – as we had already been issued a Cruising License in Friday Harbour we just had to call in to Homeland Security for Coos Bay, just to let them know we are here. They welcomed us and gave us a few phone numbers for future destinations.