131 Hours

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.

Mid ocean fuel top up

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.

Pacific Ocean sunset

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.

Secured at the helm
Safety first. Tethered in even for the pictures

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.

Finally the Golden Gate Bridge
GGB up close
San Francisco from the water

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.

Happy Anniversary

On Aug 24 Barb and I will be celebrating 33 years of marriage. (Yes to each other). I decided to take her to San Francisco. All be it, on a small, slow boat!

We have spent the last two weeks in Sidney getting some repairs and work done, a quick trip up to Kelowna and Vancouver buying stuff and saying good bye to friends and family again. Here’s the quick update.

In the ongoing, and hopefully now solved, saga of the saildrive seals. I had Vector Marine, the Volvo Dealer in Sidney replace the lower drive shafts, bearings, bearing races, and the seals on both sides. That’s a total of 5 or six sets of seals between the 2 sail drives in the past 3 years and 1400 hours. Total bill for this work $6566. After some complaining and emails to Volvo customer relations Volvo came up with $1000 in customer good will to help offset the cost and 2 years parts and labour warranty on the repair. I really hope its not needed. I felt I should have got more but I’m tired of arguing and headed south so I’ll take what I can get.

Another purchase in Sidney was new dinghy. We worked out a deal with Sherwood Marine and they took our old unit in on trade. It was a great boat but just too heavy for Barb and I to haul up the beach. I basically got the same boat (10.5-foot AB Brand, RIB) but without the centre console steering and with a 15 hp Suzuki outboard. We also installed fold down dinghy wheels to help us when we must lug it up the beach.

While in Vancouver we worked with Pacific Yacht Systems and upgraded our plotter and radar. We are now running a 12” Garmin plotter and new high-tech radar.

I need to get headed south. If not for the weather timing and the adventure, just to get out of town so I stop spending money.

I’m writing from downtown Victoria as we sit in front of the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings and wait for the weather. It looks like a very early morning start on Friday will give us the best chance for the most favorable weather. Barb’s brother in law, Marc, will be joining us and with the 3 of us on board we will try and make it a non-stop trip from Victoria to San Francisco. Here’s the thing though. The trip from Victoria will take five to seven days. The weather forecasts are really, only good for 3 days. That means we’ll have to keep checking and updating and if things look like they are turning bad we’ll head for a harbour and wait it out.

That’s cruising. All plans are written in sand below the high tide mark. Subject to change at any time.

Wish us luck and if you believe say a prayer for us. We’ll take all the help we can get.

Time Flies

Wow I can’t believe it’s August already. We have sooooo much to do before we head south and because of that we have covered the coast at a faster pace than we wanted.

We left Ocean Falls and have made the following stops:

Fry Pan Bay was our staging point prior to our Cape Caution transit. Other than some fog in the morning this one gets the easy button with calm seas and light winds for the trip to Port McNeill.

Port McNeill to Cutter Cover seemed like the horsefly capital of the central coast. Damn those things leave a welt.

From Cutter Cove we headed for our Johnstone Strait passage. We left early afternoon hoping to catch the flood tide. Man did we call that one right! What a ride! With our boat doing 8 knots there were sections of the Strait that had a 4.5 to 5 knot current in our direction making our speed over ground 12 to 13 knots. OK maybe only a sailor can get excited about going 15 miles an hour, but we did. We had an amazing hour with dolphins along side the boat as well. I swear they were trying to splash me on purpose. We will try and post the video to our Facebook page.

From Johnstone Strait it was Chameleon Bay, Octopus Islands, Comox (plus one day waiting on weather), Nanaimo, Montague Harbour (met up with friends on S/V Azura Kai).

Port Browning (Blue Water Cruising Association rendezvous), Winter Cove and Canoe Cove.

We know we’re back in the Vancouver area because the pleasure boat traffic and all the antics that go along with it have increased exponentially. Over in Haida Gwaii the marine radio was so quiet that when a voice did come on it nearly startled you. Here the radio is going non-stop.

As a public service I would like to remind boaters that:

Channel 16 is for hailing and distress only
Radio checks are done on channel 83 A
Cussing some ignorant boater out on the radio will have no impact on their behavior and while it may make you feel better it is frowned upon and unnecessary
Marinas monitor channel 66 A
And please store your microphone correctly so it does not transmit when not required.

To those non-boaters reading this, you won’t understand, but anyone who has listened to a VHF marine radio in Vancouver waters will know all too well what I am saying.

I feel for the coast guard radio operators that have to deal with this constantly.