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S&G

  DEPARTURE
Engine Hours: @182.2    Distance:159 nm   WX:Rain / ^11-16C
 
  May 29, 2010 Lund BC - Port Angeles

  As this is probably the last chance for internet before we part into the Pacific, I will post now from PA (Port Angeles)
We were pretty nervous about doing our first passage, but we're getting accustomed to the idea, and planning tracks/watching the  weather charts/and living aboard again. Today I calmed down enough to etch, build and install a 5V/12V/Variable Voltage power supply into the ongoing test bench project. (below - blue label gun haha!)

Now we have a supply for testing things and using the Wishboard if we decide to make a circuit for something.

  The boat was put back into the water a couple of weeks ago and the rain began about the same time. We motored down from Lund to Van Anda and bid all our new friends farewell, then waited for weather. Things were taken to the house, and still other things, forgotten, were brought from the house. By weight, I think it was an even trade.
 Jamie & Heather came down to the docks, as well as Helmut the German (I forget his friends name), Ted and Barb, and several others to wish us well.
We were a bit teary-eyed. "Why are we going?" I thought.

  Early the next morning we set off anyway, and motored to Nanaimo. We only managed to sail for 1 hour before the wind died.  After a night at Nanaimo, we cut through Dodd Narrows, less intimidating this time, then straight down to Montague Harbour.

We stayed there for a couple of days as the winds were blowing strong from the south east. We didn't mind, it's certainly quieter than Nanaimo! I took the dinghy ashore and adorned her with our registration numbers. Seems the U.S. likes that sort of thing so we thought it'd be a good idea.

Next chance I get, the words "Fresh Nelly" are going to be painted down the other side! I think that's a great name for a dinghy. They look like stick-on letters because I used the leftovers from the stick on letters I used to etch the brass plate inside the boat last year for templates.

Gena had replaced the floor board near her bow as the other one had de-laminated already. It's covered with roof paint speckled with bits of rubber that we found at the cabin.

We noticed the support board at the bottom aft is also de-laminating. Guess that'll be fixed in the future...somehow.

After Montague, we checked into the U.S. at Roche Harbour on San Juan Island, stayed an extra day again because of strong south winds up the Haro Strait, then made the run for Port Angeles. There's not really any photos because it's been misty and miserable mostly ever since we left Van Anda. Not much to see really. Here at P.A. there's a great view from the top of the hill, but, as luck would have it, no camera! That aside, the people here are very friendly, and the town is quaint - no mega-stores!
The next entry will be from (hopefully) the Marquesas! Here we go!    Sandy,  S/V Dulcie-Darlene

 

 

 

  PASSAGE ATTEMPT
Departing Neah Bay for the South Pacific
 
June 5th, 2010 Neah Bay - Brown Bear Seamount area (250 miles) engine=291.1 hrs      distance=576 miles

  After leaving Port Angeles, 50 miles later, we arrived at Neah Bay, an Indian reserve and fishing village situated next to Cape Flattery on the extreme northwestern tip of the United States. While waiting for weather we thought it'd be nice to have some fresh bread and milk.

So we jumped in the dinghy, tied up to the small fuel dock, and found a reasonably sized store after asking around. While there, a clerk recommended we buy our tobacco at the gas station as it is much cheaper there!

  We took our groceries back to the dinghy, no worry about someone stealing anything here as the area was pretty deserted, then walked to the gas station. When we returned, there were like 20 seagulls pecking at our bags! What a mess they made, half the bread was gone, Gena's potato chips, and cookies, then they dressed up the sides of the dinghy with abstract art!

Thanks guys!!

Once back in the dinghy a huge seal (walrus?) swam right by, probably interested in all the commotion...or a free lunch.

Out in the bay where we were anchored there is a large section of bridge. (In photo left)

The bridge was lost off of a ship (probably during a storm) and never recovered. It was bound for San Francisco but now remains a bird sanctuary not to be trodden on by humans because of the above mentioned art work carefully dispersed on all 4 lanes.

On June 4th I made a final check of the weather fax's and, even though a quasi-stationary front extending all the way to west of Hawaii had been casting off lows like a paisley machine, there appeared to be a clear 96 hour forecast.

The much awaited first day of our first passage was upon us. We had to motor sail out west from Cape Flattery for 60 miles to ensure we were off the continental shelf, a shallow area where seas reportedly pile up as they roll up from the deeper ocean. It was a bit rough there, but by the evening of the 5th we were peacefully sailing along, land quickly falling off aft, only to be outlined by clouds, then ocean all around.

"Helmit" the auto helm had done well on his first day ever tested, and only took minutes to balance and set a course.

The sky lit up with hues of red and orange as the sun set. My attention was pulled elsewhere so I missed the possibility of seeing "Le rayon verte" or green flash that often occurs over open ocean just after the sun sets.

As Gena slept,  and the sky grew dark, I sat in the cockpit  listening to whale song. They sounded just like the whales in the movie "Cast Away", kind of eerie, but enchanting.

  That night, absolutely moonless as we had forgone waiting for a full moon in lieu of fair weather, the water was almost perfectly calm, with just enough wind to push us along. It was getting chilly so I went inside and sat in the pilot house. I could see our wake through a thin layer of fog and phosphorescence. It looked and felt  like we were gliding through thin air, a very cool sight indeed! There were pointy winged birds flying around us making a giggling sound, almost dolphin-like, as if they were mocking us which left me feeling intrigued and a little spooked as well.
By sunrise the swell size had increased and the wind picked up. I had been taking Gravol to stave off sea-sickness, and Gena was on a Scopolamine patch, but we both felt pretty weak-stomached and couldn't eat much more than half a bowl of soup. It was enough though as we didn't have an appetite at all.

Now moving along at a satisfactory 5-6 knots, we were both fairly well rested, and enjoyed a spectacle of black and white dolphins swimming along side for a time. (video photos right)
We have never seen dolphins like these!

A little later on, we started to notice whale spouts, first at a distance, then closer. Suddenly a huge black back, then a fin, the a tail breached the suface. Just like on the Discovery Channel documentaries! They were humpback whales! I saw a long pectoral fin gliding along  for a few seconds as they played, oblivious to our existence in their realm.

Late into the evening we watched their spouts along the horizon. Pretty magical. How could anyone kill these magnificent beasts?

   
WE still comment on Helmit the auto-helm. What a great crewman he is! Steering by hand became tiring and boring on the first day, so I insisted on setting him up.

As long as there's wind, there's Helmit. Even under power in 5 knots of wind...unimaginably light airs...he kept us on course.

With all the anxiety and the swells and feeling less the 100%, I felt we would be ok now...that is until I saw the weather fax late on June 6th.

A rather strong low had suddenly popped up along the continuing front yesterday, but was predicted to head east towards Oregon. The new position showed it was heading straight for us!

Anxiety started setting in, and it's a slow build believe me, and I started getting worried. Worry doesn't do much out here, just keeps you awake instead of resting up for the next watch that you *need* to be awake for!

Coming up to day 3, the skies grew ominous toward the west, (photo below) and I kept thinking the low is passing south so nothing to worry about. That was until I saw the newest weather fax, which indicated the low had shifted further north than anticipated. The seas had started to get lumpy even though there was still very little wind. I knew the seas would get pretty big behind the low, but with it's new heading those seas will certainly catch us.
We were just coming up on a whole area of shallow seamounts as Gena had pointed out. These would make the seas even higher.

So we made the decision to head north to avoid the worst of it, and to get away from the seamounts in the event we'd have to heave-to.

The motor was started as there was just no wind at all, and was kept running for most of the day.

On the next wefax, that evening, it was obvious that the low had shifted even further north, and with our inexperience as to wave heights (16 feet was forecast) and spacing (about 7 seconds) we decided to make a run for it back toward Washington.

We knew we couldn't out-run it completely, but maybe we could avoid the worst of it. The bad part of this choice is the notorious shallows before rounding cape Flattery. Expanding out 60 miles is that continental shelf which will cause the swells to pile up much higher.

 

 

Perhaps fatigue played a minor role as well, we hadn't been getting enough sleep with adapting to the motion and just the pure  excitement of it all! Heaving-to might have been a good decision to continue with the passage, but the events that followed indicated that we in fact did make the right decision.
Sea Conditions:

  As we headed toward the shallows with the gale brushing up behind, the sea conditions grew and grew. On day 4 we think the waves were around 8-10 feet, still fairly spaced apart.

  We had some sail out to perhaps stop the boat from rocking so much, but the wind was only 10 knots at best.

Enough wind for Helmit though as he kept us on course. Every once in a while I had to go out and adjust him some, which became an increasingly dangerous job, with all the tossing back and forth and occasional breaking seas.

We found the Mustang survival suits are very slippery on deck so I plan to sew some pads on the butts and knees!

  Every once in a while the boat would heal over beyond 45 on a huge wave. We got used to it after a while, but then we dug into a wave and I heard water splashing down below.

 

As I went down and forward I saw a jet of water shooting from over my desk at an angle down to the floor on the opposite side of the cabin! It was like someone had opened a fire hydrant!
At first I thought we'd blown out a portlight and my heart sank with the sound of Gena saying " I told you they wouldn't be strong enough!" but on the next "splash" it became obvious that a Vetus mushroom vent had been torn off. Only the little plastic handle prevented it from being lost altogether.
 I tied it with a rope down to the door hinge to try to pull it back down. It worked, no more water came in. Gena pulled out several gallons of water under the floor, it was amazing how much came in that little 6" hole! It turned out the nut had shattered, so we'll be changing those.

 

  The waves were getting steeper and starting to break -perhaps 15 feet, and by day 5, I started wondering if we were in a distress situation or not.  The hammering of the waves on the hull is amazingly loud, and the sudden jerky motion of the boat would have been inconceivable a year ago. How can such a large, heavy boat be tossed around so quickly. There were times up front in the berth that I felt 0 G's as we ran down a wave! The lee-cloth stopped me from falling out, but it was impossible to get any more than a few seconds of sleep.
  I was having a dream that it was my hour on watch, and our dog Poutine, who passed on last year, was trying to climb up onto the pilot seat.
 So I picked him up and could feel him walking up my chest when suddenly he was climbing up the side window. Then I awoke hanging in the lee cloth with my feet dangling in mid-air, like as if in a hammock! 2 seconds later I was back on the berth. I immediately ran aft and Gena says, "we were just knocked down you know."  in this calm voice. I went, "cool." even though I was feeling pretty upset, I didn't want to show it.  She had seen the pilothouse side window under water, and not a leak anywhere!
 That wave that hit us abeam Gena figured to be in excess of 20 feet, as she couldn't see the top of it out the port side pilothouse window.

  Once within a few miles of Tatoosh Island, off Cape Flattery, on Day 5,  the waves calmed down but ships continued to be a concern. The A.I.S. display on my PC showed where the ships were and their heading. An indispensable tool believe me! Radar is very hard to monitor in those conditions, and doesn't tell you the ships name so you can call them on VHF to ask if they see you on their radar.

 With the steeps waves and all the bouncing around we'd experienced, the biggest worry for Gena was those ships. Mine was loosing engine power. We had to shut down the engine after 20 hours to put some oil in. It was down 2 litres! It took a few tries to get the starter to engage to get it started again, so after that we left it running for 48 hours. Gena managed to pour in a litre or so every 10 hours while running, which in those seas is a real accomplishment believe me!!

   Our track into the Pacific is shown above. 578 miles and a real learning experience. As the hurricane season down south is inevitable, we have blown any chance of continuing for the Marquesas this year. (Addendum: Within 12 days, hurricane Celia and T.S. Darby  now at 15N would have caught us for sure had we kept going!) So we'll be heading back and doing some cruising around US/BC waters. We're a little taken aback from this experience, and have even more respect for mother nature, as well as more confidence in our fabulous boat. It's just a question of confidence in ourselves.

The weather fax only warned us of impending doom, created anxiety, and ultimately made us turn back because of our lack of knowledge about "how big are 15 foot seas?" It may have been good karma though (read on)

Here's how the charts looked on the 5th of June, as a 48 hour forecast, received later in the day.

The wave heights (in meters) still don't look too threatening and the 96 hour predicts a heading almost straight east.

  By early day 3 the low's course was further north than the red marks I added, and also had became a gale, pushing/absorbing the high pressure right out of the picture. We were heading north by this time.

The wind waves picture is from Day 2, before the low had them all stirred up!

  By day 5, the gale had begun to dissipate, but the mess of waves behind it was quickly approaching aft. The red dot shows our position. The next wefax (from Genas paper machine) showed 2 areas of 16 foot waves, no escape!

Had we stayed off the shallows, it probably wouldn't have been so bad. But we didn't know how big 6-9 foot swells are, or 15 feet with 4-6 foot wind waves on top.  Now we do.

After thoughts:

The word "Karma" has really come into play several times over the past few days we've been back. It means that perhaps this passage wasn't meant to be, and there were many signs to state the now obvious.


  (1) Gena had noticed a leak coming from the transmission, denoted by a pink fluid in a bowl she had place under it. We thought the seal was leaking when in fact, it was just the temperature sensor, but a real concern in opposing wind, lee shore, and big seas.
  (2) After we made the 55 mile trip from Neah Bay to Port Angeles, (another story below!) the starter packed it in. Gena had purchased an extra clutch drive and we had a whole other starter as back-up, but the drive the sent was the wrong one (slightly different) and the backup wouldn't disengage. After several trips to Baxter, the parts dealer, and then to Rudy's auto-repair (highly recommend if in PA!) it turned out the clearance wasn't right and the original starter had to be completely rebuilt, then shimmed up with 2 gaskets. Try to do that in the Marquesas! We'd have been screwed.
  (3) The Vetus Mushroom vent made one hell of a mess forward. The Jordan drogue was completely submerged in salt water, as was some sensitive electronics (my amp!) and parts. It turned out the large brass nut had shattered, so we've replaced them with heavier pipe threaded galvanized nuts. Those won't break! Not sure how easy that would have been to do abroad, but the rope would've had to hold that on all the way there.
  (4) The chain locker drain had been sealed by the last coat of "blue-stuff" and masking tape, so when the chain hadn't been pulled in and the plug not put in, salt water poured in on each crashing wave filling it to the brim, and we couldn't figure out why it wasn't draining. This added a lot of weight to the bow, so I was trying to bail it with a bucket and measuring cup.  Once back at anchor, most of the 350' of chain had to be pulled out to expose the real problem.
  (5) Little rust spots appeared, mostly on the forward cabin. Some of it was from flakes of steel that had  accumulated when we were drilling to add fittings, but others were just missed spots during painting. They had never shown up before because they were only exposed to fresh water (rain) but really made a mess pretty quickly. I have since filled them all with small dabs of acrylic paint but they'll need to be fixed in the future.
  (6) Sea legs. We didn't acquire ours until the 6th day when we were just coming back up to Cape Flattery. Then it took days to loose them again! The rolling motion of the last 4 days meant we were queasy all of the time, and couldn't eat much at all. Over the entire 6 days we had 3 half-bowls of soup, a half a box of macaroni (first day), a few bits of ginger root, and a tomato. Water and apple juice was all we could drink, and my mouth was so dry (probably nerves) nothing could quench my thirst. Our tummies were knotted up tight like a wrongly tied reef knot.
  (7) Sleep. I think it's safe to say that during the last 3 days we only had 2 or 3 minutes of sleep. Gena not being able to sleep is unheard of since I have known her. The jerky rolling motion (lack of wind in the sails) wouldn't let us sleep. The forward berth which had been comfortable, was now a 2-G to 0-G environment. My head kept rolling back and forth, and if I laid on my tummy, the pillow would rub my face raw and make my eye sore. Perhaps a special pillow would do the trick? The aft berth became impossible as going from 30+ degrees each side meant sliding down the bed then up to bonk ones head. I ended up snoozing on the salon seat with my legs braced against the end...but good thing I was in the bunk when we were knocked down or I'd have been kissing the TV!
We (myself in particular) need to practice getting to sleep more. Being that tired results in weakness on deck, cold, and bad decisions.
  (8) Experience. Doing something forward on deck was terrifying to us in those conditions, and the added lack of experience dealing with the sails, halyards, sheets, safety harnesses, and where it all is in the dark made it all the more intimidating. Maybe  more experience would lower my anxiety level too. One day/night my Mustang heavy survival suit felt like it was trying to choke me all the time. That's intense anxiety, probably due to being uncertain about the sea conditions to come, as well as the inexperience.

More signs of our Dream's impending doom showed up later.
The firewire on my computer turned out to be intermittent, that was how we ended up missing several important weather faxes. Gena's weather fax machine was going through paper with those damned NAVTEX reports like toilet paper in a subway washroom, so we had shut it off.
I projected our position would be around 10N by now ( June 25th) and there are 2 hurricanes (Celia-130kts/seas 35 feet, Darby-85kts/seas 22 feet) right in the area we would be right now! We would have had to boogie through under power and sail to avoid the un-navigable areas, but would the engine have started?
 I had a gut feeling we were leaving too late 3 weeks before and the hypothetic voyages I had done using weather charts through May were both successful....so luck had to run out right?
Even though we're in the end of an El Nino, the weather patterns this year have been unusual indeed. The constant string of lows coming off of a stationary front stretching half way across the Pacific is unusual, as is the shape of the normally stable high pressure that resides off the west coast. Everyone we know  across Canada has been telling us how unusual the weather has been this year. It should have been a warning. We ignored it.

I feel we were dealt a tough blow on our first blue water experience, but we made the right decision because of it, so we're glad it turned out the way it did. We could've been 2000 miles out when all this happened instead of 250. That certainly wouldn't have been good!

Even after we returned to Roche Harbor at the US San Juan Island, we had learned even more lessons thanks to mother nature.
 

  PROPERLY PREPARING
 
 
  This summer (2011) we will be getting some sailing experience around the BC coast, working out some bugs with the sail plan, and enjoying life. Back in the fall we decided to skip going offshore this year, which, thus far has been pretty miserable weather wise. With all the flooding inland, lots of rain, and cooler temperatures, the winter was less than ideal.  Sometimes I wish we could forgo the passage south and just be there!

In any event, the dream lives on and by this time next year, this page will be updating regularly!

 

 
 
 

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