Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Arrival in San Francisco Bay

We've made the first step!  I think that the NW coast, from Washington to San Francisco, is the toughest stretch of water along this trip, and that is behind.  There will be some more bumps and rough water I am sure until we get to Point Conception, but that will be later on. 
The trip wasn't terribly eventful, but swift and dare I say, professional.  I figured about 7 days to get from Neah Bay to here and it took us exactly 7 days.
We left Neah Bay in the morning, following my friend Yale in his 29 ft boat "Equinox" as he picked up the anchor and sailed off, so in the spirit of racing, we hauled ours up and raised sail to head off as well.  There was a strong south wind blowing, but the forecast called for the winds to switch that afternoon, so we took advantage of the south wind to get us the 5 miles out to Cape Flattery.  Rain and low clouds obscured our view, and I was a bit worried about Yale, so we chased him down to ascertain if he was still going.  Upon hearing an affirmative response we tightened the sheets and pummeled into the growing swells from the west.  It was really rough at the end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the last of the inland waters meet the grand Pacific, and there was a strong outflowing current, stacking up the waves.  The south wind created a chop that also bucked like a bronco, and it was near Maelstrom conditions as we rounded the last red bouy at precisely 12:15 pm.  We turned due south and the wind switched on command to the west, but the waves held us to a slow speed and we were jumping and pumping like a regular rodeo clown, dancing on the horns of the bull.  Sometimes waves would catch the front and back and lift the keel nearly out of the water, they were so steep, then drop the whole boat with a splash.  Other times the bow would dig into a wall and the bowsprit would go smashing down against the sea.  It was rough and not fun, and I took a seasick pill to try and help, but I was feeling most unsettled.  We cleared the current and took off like a newly freed wild mustang, still bouncing around but with lots of speed, and made 125 miles that next day.

We began night watches of 4 on 4 off, so there wasn't a lot of sleep to be had, and there were tons of fishing boats all around to dodge that night (and all the nights), so it was kind of exciting.
The next morning we got our own fishing gear out and caught a few fishes!  Albacore Tuna, each about 10 lbs or so, tasty, fresh and fighting on the end of my new Penn reel!  We killed one and took some fillets off for a bite, then caught a few more just for fun.  We soon passed on beyond the mouth of the Columbia River area and there were no more fishes. 
Albatrosses cruised past, along with other sea birds, gliding on the stiff wings and riding the waves.  I really love how they do a surfer-like top turn up in the air to gain more speed, then drop back down to the water to sit in ground effect.  I've been seeing people start to do that with RC gliders (it is called Dynamic Soaring)
and some of them can get a glider up to 400 mph! 
Washington always has had great wind, but I guess that is because it is closest to where I check the weather before departure, but we made it to Oregon lickety-split.  Oregon was also going quickly until we got to southern Oregon, where, near Cape Blanco, the winds began to build and build.  We got some nice big waves and blasted along at a high surfing speed of 11.6 knots, before dropping the tire over the back as a drogue to help us steer and slow us a bit, and then the winds subsided.  The tire, which we got near Neah Bay, is a "Weathermaster" tire, so I had the utmost confidence, and it met my expectations.  Dragging a tire or a drogue behind a boat has been used for a long time, and this is how it works.  When there are big following waves, they hit the back of the boat first (the stern) and push it forward, while the front of the boat is in the next trough and being pulled back.  This causes a turning force on the boat and it gets really strong for a second, and it is hard to steer, even if you have the power of LaFawnda holding on to your transom.  So to supplement, dragging a tire gives me a few hundred extra pounds of drag pulling on the back of the boat, keeping the stern from turning the boat.  I still fly the Jib during this time, and since that is on the bow, it pulls the front of the boat downwind, keeping everything nice and straight and easy to steer.  The best part is that in high winds, it doesn't even slow the boat down hardly at all.  There is enough force to keep us trucking along with the truck tire mastering the weather behind us.  Its Industrial Sailing.
Then the wind quit.  That night it dropped to zero and we battered around in the waves left over and turned on the motor, never to turn it off.  We drove from the border of Oregon and California all the way in.  Initially it was nice and sunny, then the fog arrived and it got glum.  We came in under the Golden Gate at 9:42 am on Monday, 7 days after departure, and then anchored in Sausalito.  I'll be here for a few weeks before Lindsay joins, so I'll try to do some exploration of the bay.
Also, before I got to Neah Bay there were some Gray Whales!   


Anonymous said...

Weather master tire. Don't leave home without one.

David Satterwhite said...

Surprisingly , very few people ever use tires anymore to slow the boat down. Its such a shame because it works so well and if you can't retrieve it or need to ditch it in an emergency, you cut the line and keep going, no big loss. While others will risk thier lives trying to retrieve a $1000 sea anchor, instead of cutting it free in an emergency.

Stephanie and I remember when you found a similar tire while walking around Mexico perforating the boats for Hawaii.

K Douglas said...

Nice to see Altair is on the loose again. If you make it to Hawaii, come visit. By the way, how big a tire would I need to keep Laysan from broaching in a following sea? All the best,
John D