After careful review of 4 different sources of weather information, all of which indicated that once we made the turn at Cape Flattery, we would be in 10 to 25 knots of wind from the North West we made our decision to go. We left Victoria August 24th at 04:30 and motored out the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Cape Flattery.
The trip down the west coast can be a tough one. We were all a little bit nervous and apprehensive about what we were going to encounter. We had just heard from our friends Ken and Cheryl on their boat Sedna, they had just arrived in San Francisco after enduring 36 hours of 30 to 40 knot winds and big breaking seas. Not a fun experience. We were just heading out. What were we in for?
As it turns out we managed to plant ourselves between two weather systems, we had next to no wind and relatively benign seas for 5 of the 6 days. The one day with wind and seas only lasted about 8 hours. We basically motored for almost the entire 5 and a half days arriving at our berth in San Francisco at 4 pm on Wednesday the 29. Only one short stop along the way at Crescent City to take on some more fuel. As much as I was hoping for some decent sailing, I’m happy to take an easy passage anytime. Big press of the easy button for this one.
Sailing 24/7 means someone needs to be on watch the entire day. We broke the night up into three, 3-hour watches, 10 pm to 1am, 1am to 4 am and 4 am to 7 am. During the day we just took turns on the helm in between naps and meals. It seemed to work out well for the 3 of us. None of us felt fatigued but we never turned down a nap either.
Being alone at the helm at night can be a risky venture. With that in mind, we had strict rules that you had to follow : your life jacket on, your safety harness on and you were always tethered in while sitting at the helm. If there was any reason for you to go outside the cockpit (that never happened) you had to wake a second person and have them up and, in the cockpit, and of course you had to be clipped into the jack lines when you left the cockpit. Even for the pictures of us and the Golden Gate Bridge we are clipped in. Once you are in place and all set, you get to spend the next 3 hours scanning the horizon for any other ships lights, checking the chart plotter and radar to make sure you are on course and nothing is in your way, drinking coffee, listening to music (only one ear bud in), reading (must scan the horizon and instruments after each page) and enjoying the experience when you can.
Sailing at night is a completely different experience. We had a couple overcast nights in which it was so dark its hard to see your hand in front of your face. A foggy one that was so thick, the red and green navigation lights on the bow lit up the fog on each side of the boat. That was just weird having red fog on the left and green fog on the right. We also had a couple that were clear with a full moon. There is no way to capture a picture of just how cool that is. The moonlight leaves a trail on the water and overhead there are countless stars. I’d never be able to explain just how awesome that is.
It was quite the rush of emotions as we rounded Point Bonita and were looking at the bridge. Firstly, you are happy to have survived the trip down. Then comes the pride of the accomplishment and the culmination of the dream. Then the challenge of dodging hundreds of boats in a congested seaway and having to navigate through them all. Back to the pride as you start snapping pictures. Then a bit of low as the adrenaline wears off. Then back to the excitement as you clear the bridge and head into San Francisco Bay knowing that you will have some time to relax and play tourist.
All in all, it was an excellent passage. We made decent time. Nothing broke, No one got hurt. A big thanks to our brother in law Marc for joining us as a third crew member. I hope he knows how much we appreciated the help.