Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Aboard S/V Sarita: Friday Harbor to San Francisco: 3-8 September, 2014

Richard (Brit), Jude (Aussie) and their daughter Katya (artist) have been living aboard their Hallberg-Rassy 46 center cockpit Sarita for a few years now, home basing in the San Juan Island area.  Usually home schooling Katya, they don't hang around long.  Available on their website is an extensive write up of their travels to Alaska the summer of 2013.  They repeated the journey the summer of 2014.

However, fall is approaching and they desire warmer climes for the winter and have decided to take their home to Mexico for the winter.  Since they left their automobile here, everyone assumes they will be back...hopefully.

Getting to Mexico though can be a challenge.  WNW out the Strait of Juan De Fuca then south, off the coast in the Pacific Ocean.  Open ocean and not the protected 'inland' waters of the Salish Sea or the inside passage to Alaska.  Off shore passages are not necessarily easy or comfortable or relaxing or without angst.  Adding to the angst is there are limited opportunities to duck into a safe harbor and not all the harbors available are easy to get into as many have sand bars with breaking waves blocking the entrance!  To relieve some of the angst, Richard and Jude asked me to come along!  How could I pass up the opportunity to get away and exercise some skills?

Initial intent was to do 3hrs on and 6hrs off watches.  Potential stops were Neah Bay, WA for fuel and Newport, OR for fuel or a break.  Note:  A day is dawn to dawn.

Wednesday, 3September, 2014

Weather:  Sunny and warm, clear and a million, great day for a picnic.  But with no wind, bad day for sailing.

Took the 0900 ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor.  Arrived around 1000.  After some last minute errands and goodbyes from their marina friends, Sarita was underway around 1300.  Motored out through Cattle Pass and headed NNW.  Had ATT cell phone reception until just west of Port Angeles and chatted with Kelly a few times.  Still 5 hours from the open ocean, easy, 4ft ocean swells started to greet us.  Discussed pulling into Neah Bay and opted to bypass knowing Newport, OR was available in a couple days.  Watched the sun set, looking for the green flash.  Nope.  I hit the rack just after sunset in anticipation of the mid watch.

Around 0030, felt a change in the motion and knew Sarita had just changed course, making the big left turn southbound around Duntze and Duncan rocks, NW of Tatoosh Island, NW of Neah Bay.  We were on the Pacific!  0100, up and about, geared up:  Life vest, foulies (cold out there), harness and life line.  Grabbed a box of cereal and an apple.  Relieved Richard who stated he was queasy and Jude was out for the count.  Making 7.5kts in FOG, no horizon, with an 8ft Pacific swell from the stern, though gentle, was not helping.  Running on radar and GPS, enclosed in a cockpit...I hoped for the best.  I ate the apple and then munched on the cereal wedged into a corner where I could see the radar, GPS and have cold, outside air blow on me.  Didn't help.  Less than an hour later, my stomach rebelled.  Don't fight it!  My abdominal muscles were well exercised.  The good news was what came up was fresh and tasted nearly as good as when it went down!  Feeling much better, resumed my position and the watch.  Apparently there was a tiny piece of apple left and an hour later, made its escape.  Feeling much better again, resumed the watch.

And that was it.  No more excitement.  No traffic, no maneuvering, no sail changes as Sarita was motoring.  Richard relieved me at 0400 and I was off to an exhausted sleep.

Thursday, 4September, 2014

Weather:  Initially cool in haze/fog then the sun came out with the winds.  Winds:  Zero increasing to 20kts NNW in PM.  Seas:  To 8ft @ 10sec.  Off the Washington coast, about 60nm out.

Relieved Richard at 0700.  About 60nm off shore with no traffic making 7.5kts motoring.   Just 'for noon, NNW wind was up to 14kts sustained and out came the genoa and main!  Wonderful broad reach!  Sailed along smartly through until afternoon on Friday.  A mixed pod of 15 Pacific White Sided and Common dolphin escorted us for about 45min.  At times, Sarita seemed surrounded!  The crew had a party, hooting and whistling.  Out on the bow, I tried to teach them The Victors, but don't think the dolphin got it.

The rest of the day and night was spent clipping along at 7.5kts under sail!  Watched the sun set, looking for the green flash.  Nope again.

Friday, 5September, 2014

Weather:  Sunny and nice!  Winds:  NNW@20, dying to zero in the night.  Waves:  8' @9sec.  40nm off the Oregon coast.

On an early morning watch, saw the moon set.  Then Orion rise, then the sun rise!  An entertaining phenomenon occurred in the predawn light.  Looking west at a faint horizon, with all the waves together, the sea looked pretty flat, almost like a field of grass the wind was blowing.  But every 30sec or so, a larger wave, could be seen speeding along, like a lump.  The lump reminded me of an elephant's back.  Suddenly, I could see cartoon elephants trying to sneak by.  Trying, but not succeeding, by hiding (or not hiding) in the grass!

Richard tossed a line in and caught a 5lb tuna!  The tuna must have been there for a while as it did not struggle.  But because their shape is so streamlined, no one could tell the fish was on, even when retrieving the line!

Discussed going into Newport, OR.  I could think of two reasons.  First was to refuel.  Sarita carries enough fuel for an 800nm range:  Exactly the distance from Friday Harbor to San Francisco.  But since we had sailed for nearly 1.5 days, there was plenty of fuel, and therefore, no need.  The second reason was Jude might need a break from the motion.  However, she was finally becoming acclimated.  Going in would give her a break, but risk a set back.  Richard decided to continue on.

Watched the sun set, looking for the green flash.  Nope again.

Saturday, 6September, 2014

Weather:  Sunny and nice.  Winds:  Calm.  Seas:  1-2ft.

Simple day in the sun.  Motoring about 30nm off the coast.  Passage past Cape Blanco and Cape Mendicino, potential rough spots, were uneventful.  Tossed a line in the late afternoon, but did not catch anything.  With Jude doing watches, 3 on and 6 off is easy!

Attempted to find the Michigan vs Notre Dame football game via XM.  Could find the MSU vs Oregon game and heard the Michigan halftime score of 0-14.  Did not want to listen to the MSU game in hope of hearing a score.  Kelly kept me apprised via Sailmail and the 0-31 shellacking.  Glad I could not find the game.

Sunday, 7September, 2014

Sunny and motoring.  Wind picked up a bit towards dusk.  Waves:  1-2 but became confused north of Point Reyes.

Another simple day!  Motoring 30-10nm off the coast.  Off all things, got cell phone reception about 10nm off Point Arena, about 100nm north of San Francisco.  Better yet, my old flip phone was able to reach those 10nm!  Made some calls letting everyone know things were going well!  Attempted to sleep, but the confused waves and attempting to sail kept the berth...well, shall I say, moving in odd, random, sometimes jerky ways.  Did not sleep well.

Assumed the mid watch, just north of Point Reyes light, and actually had something to do instead of just monitoring!  Approaching San Francisco, there is traffic, there are lights, there are buoys and other navigation challenges!  Sarita was motoring with the genoa mostly furled.

First off, Sarita has two GPS systems aboard.  A Garmin and an IPad running Navionics.  The IPad seemed to be more accurate.  The Garmin positioning was good, but showed buoys, buoys not on the IPad and upon close inspection, did not show up in real life.

So, that sorted, there was an intermittent light, off in the distance, at 11 O'clock.  Seemed fixed, as in not a boat, but something ashore.  House?  Were the waves making it intermittent?  One of the nice things about being on a boat is things slow down.  Sarita was making 6.5kts, about a mile every 10min.  As such, there is know need to make quick changes, just need to spend some time looking at the situation.

Richard had pointed out another navigation hazard, at 9 O'clock and named it S/V Northern Lights.  Said he had spoken to someone aboard.  Radar showed a target, about 2nm off at 9 o'clock.  Radar is nice, range set at 6nm, giving an hour's warning, but I guess I'm spoiled.  This radar did not plot the target's course, no speed, no CPA (closest point of approach).  Fortunately, I know how to do these by hand...or Mark I eyeball :).  Got the binoculars out to check out the target.  The waves didn't help and I could not get a steady look.  Was I seeing the boat's green light?  White light?  Both?  At this point, the wind died, the sail was furled and course was changed a bit to the east to parallel, outside and to the west, the northern Vessel Traffic Lane (VTL).  Bumped up the throttle to make 7kts.

Radio crackled, "Vessel to my west, this is Northern Lights."  It could only be us.  "Northern Lights, Sarita, go ahead."  "This is Northern Lights.  Have you changed course?  I'm seeing just red light."  "Affirmative.  Have you on radar and no collision danger."  "OK.  What's your vessel name again?"  "Sarita."  "OK, Sarita, Northern Lights out."  Seriously?  Makes me smile.  Northern Lights out.  "Sarita out."  Northern Lights' radar blip started slipping aft, no longer a factor.

Bright light glowing, beyond the horizon, lighting up the night, at our 1130.  WTF?  Everything is moving slow.  Just keep an eye on it.

The light on the beach is clearly rotating now.  'Tis Point Reyes Light.  On course and on track for a 0830 slack tide arrival at the Golden Gate.

Big vessel moving fast, coming from astern, at our 6:30.  Looks to enter the VTL.  AIS gives a name and it is a freighter bound for San Francisco.  Northern Lights is now 4nm aft, between Sarita and the freighter.  Radio crackles again.  Northern Lights trying to contact the freighter.  No response.  Another attempt.  Still no response.  Should I let Northern Lights know the VT Service (VTS) is on channel 14 and the freighter is probably on channel 14 and not monitoring 16?  I decide to let Northern Lights figure it out on his own.  With two radios aboard, I tune the hand held to channel 14 to monitor the VTS.  Over the course of the watch, there was a lot of chatter, but mostly inside San Francisco Bay and nothing affecting Sarita.

Glow in front of us is getting brighter.  Freighter is charging up from astern.  The freighter is fast, making about 18kts, about 11kts closure.  AIS alarm goes off warning of a danger vessel with a CPA of 1nm.  It is the freighter, in the VTL.  Sarita is outside the VTL, should not be a factor.  And it wasn't.  The freighter just zoomed right up, went right on by and became another light on the horizon forward, nearly disappearing in the glow.

There was a, for lack of a better word, a phenomenon I'm associating with the freighter, the radar and waves.  When the freighter was 2nm aft, a small blip appeared on our bow at 2nm.  Over the course of the next 20min, the blip was there and then not.  Wave action hiding something?  No lights out there...debris?  Changed course to starboard, away from the VTL.  There was no appreciable change in the blip's bearing drift.  Slowed Sarita to 4kts and changed course again, significantly, to port, towards the VTL.  At this point, the freighter was approaching our beam and the CPA of 1nm.  As was the blip.  On the radar screen, sea clutter, radar reflections off the freighter, began to spread around Sarita.  The sea clutter got larger, engulfed the blip and then surrounded Sarita.  I kept an eye out for a real object ahead.  The freighter moved past and beyond, the clutter went away.  No real object was spotted.  After 20min, enough time for an object to be spotted, avoided or just plain no longer a factor, course and speed were resumed.  I can only conclude the blip was a reflection off the freighter and waves and there was no real object.

At this point, the Point Reyes light was aft of abeam, the freighter was disappearing forward, Northern Lights had dropped well aft and the glow began to take shape:  A very bright set of lights, on the bow of a northbound vessel.   Ultimately, as the vessel came abeam, I could see it was around 90ft.  I could not tell if it was a fishing vessel or perhaps coast guard.  But man, the lights were bright, illuminating the sea for a long way in front of the vessel.

All of the above happened in the first 2hrs of the watch.  The last hour was...quiet.  Richard, looking like something the cat dragged in (not having slept because HE was enjoying the sailing earlier in the night), came up to relieve me.  I used the aviate, navigate, communicate form for the turnover brief and hit the rack for a couple hours.

Monday, 8September, 2014

Weather:  Cool and overcast.  Winds:  Negligible.  Waves:  1-2ft.

Arose about an hour before bridge transit.  Grabbed a breakfast and headed up on deck.  Everyone was up.  Well, except Katya, who could probably sleep through a hurricane if it were sometime between 6am and noon.  She was rousted out!  Once under the Golden Gate, I started pointing out landmarks:  The Presidio, Transamerica Pyramid (The SF Iconic Building), Ghiradelli Square, Pier 39, I'm not going to Alcatraz, Treasure Island.

Motored under the Oakland-Bay Bridge to the South Beach Harbor Marina, a block from Giants Stadium, and into slip A79.  Voyage complete!

Friends of Richard and Jude from Colorado flew in for a visit and came aboard for an arrival beer.  Since they had wheels, all piled in and took a tour of the city, up the Embarcadero, past Fisherman's Wharf, through Russian Hill, west on Union and into the Presidio.  Stopped at the Golden Gate overlook and then back into the van for dinner at Pier 39.  Lobster bisque in a sour dough bowl, calamari and an Anchor Steam beer.  Except for Ghiradelli chocolate, all the SF requirements were hit!


Relaxed aboard Sarita on Tuesday while Richard, Jude and Katya played tourist.  Met them for dinner in Chinatown.  Had crispy garlic shrimp.  Hotter than expected, but not so hot as to kill the flavor of the shrimp.  Good!  Got back aboard just before the 7th inning of the Giants game hearing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" sung by the fans in the stands.

Flew out on Wednesday.  Steve, Richard's friend from Colorado, offered to take me to the airport.  Both Richard and I gave him a lot of opportunities to change his mind as he and his wife were staying in Bolinas, about an hour north of SF and my flight was out of San Jose, about an hour south.  He was determined though and arrived about 45min prior to the agreed time.  Traffic was not as bad as we thought it would be and he got me to the airport at 0830!  0830, early enough for the 1000 flight, with a window seat on an exit row!  Thanks Steve!  Flight was painless, lots of room, a sunny day with an excellent view of SF, the bay and the bridges.  Into SEA by 1200 and aboard the 1300 shuttle to Burlington where Kelly picked me up.  Mission complete.

I'd like to thank Richard, Jude and Katya for the opportunity and the adventure.  'twas most excellent!  Just wish I'd gotten to taste the tuna :)!

Summer 2014 in review

It has been a slow year for Strider and since the excursion to Poulsbo on Memorial Weekend, she has sat in the marina, patiently waiting.  Kelly's hip was replaced in early June and while the initial recovery was slow, it has picked up and everything is going swimmingly!  The surgeon has finally cleared Kelly to get back aboard and she is looking forward to it!

So, while there was no summer aboard Strider (and no crabbing), we did get a lot done around the villa and estate, things we had put off for a while.  The encroaching forest got cut back.  Lighting and plumbing throughout the garage have been enhanced.  Junk has been off loaded.  Retaining wall built.  Deck railings begun.  Prepped for garage drywall.  Garden planted (onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce).  Cherries, plums, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, figs and Asian pears have been harvested!  Apples and European pears are on the way.  Wine grapes look fantastic with this exceptionally hot year.  Made blueberry and peach jams!

I know, this is supposed to be a sailing Strider blog.  Still, shore bound life affects time on the water and needed explaining.  While time aboard Strider has been dock bound, maintenance must still be accomplished, so she has been visited and TLC applied.

This water baby however, has gotten out a bit in other ways.

Test sailed a Beneteau Oceanis 45 on Lake Union with RT.  RT was looking for a new boat.  Impression of the Oceanis?  Great acceleration, wonderful accommodations, fantastic tailgate, but a leaner, really.  Also, will stall in irons under the main only.

Test sailed a Lagoon 39 catamaran on Lake Washington.  Impressions?  Too heavy, the boat speed was underwhelming.  Under the same conditions, the Beneteau was faster!  Nice on interior space, but the cabinetry was too bland, gave me the impression of particle board slapped together.  Lived up to Lagoon's charter barge reputation.

Took the previously test sailed Oceanis, now dubbed Freestyle by RT, out of Lake Union, through the Ship Canal and Ballard Locks and into the salt water of Puget Sound.  I'd never done that before!

Then the big event, taking Sarita west out the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and making the big left turn.

So, summer at home, enjoying the cycles of life with the changing seasons.