2017 Vancouver Island to San Francisco

LEAVING NZ – A NEW CHAPTER

April 7 2017

I am on the way back to Truce in Canada and writing this on the plane.  Eleven hours from Auckland to San Francisco, I have plenty of time. It’s going to be a long flight but an even longer journey when I return to New Zealand with Truce in a few weeks.

Leaving home is always an uneasy time, there is the anticipation of new adventures ahead tempered with the leaving of loved ones behind for a while.  I will also be leaving a nice soft bed, home cooking and the easy domesticated life.  I have been through this cycle many times but it never gets any easier.

Before leaving home I checked out the weather forecast for Canoe Cove, seems there will be a few days rain and temperatures struggling to get into double figures during the day.  I don’t like wet cold weather and it’s not the best to be getting the hull anti fouled and the boat prepared for the voyage ahead.  I am hoping the winter has not been too harsh on Truce and that the BC green mould has not taken over.  Whatever, I expect that there will be a lot of cleaning up, airing out and warming through to be carried out.

My priority is to get the hull anti fouled and then launch Truce back into her natural environment.  Then I can really get going on the seemingly endless job list of commissioning for the trip back to New Zealand. My ‘to do’ list is growing daily, its split up into essentials, really good to have and nice to have items, all the safety and communication stuff is essential of course.

I am flying on United Airlines from Auckland to San Francisco.  What a useless airline, I am very unimpressed.  The inflight food is just awful, service is aggressive and inflight entertainment is like something out of the seventies and the touch screen doesn’t. Then came the bizarre ice cream snatch.  I was given Ice Cream with my meal and just getting into it when a cabin attendant snatched it from me!  Why?  Because someone on the plane had a nut allergy!  Just Bonkers.  To cap it all my seat won’t recline, the cabin attendant informed me it’s broken and nothing can be done – but I could try complaining.  Clearly the Cabin Staff don’t anticipate any result from complaining and as there is no free seat I can move to – looks like I will just have to suck it, sit upright for 11 hours up and make a note never to fly United again.  I suppose (hope) the equipment on the flight deck works better than my seat.

Working on the theory that everything happens for a reason and that every action has an opposite and equal reaction – I am expecting a stroke of good luck to come my way soon.

WET, WINDY AND COLD IN BC

April 14 2017

It’s now a week since I left sunny NZ.  The first couple of days at Canoe Cove were not too flash, I caught some disease (United Airlines food poisoning maybe) and felt awful.  For two days I was pretty useless, feeling cold and miserable and couldn’t eat.  Fortunately, I stayed at an Airbnb just five minutes walk away from the boatyard for the first four days so had a warm bed to return to each night.

Well its rained every day since I have been here, real spring weather, rain on and off.  When the sun comes out its glorious for a few minutes then the cloud and bitterly cold wind kick in again.  Not the best antifouling weather and it’s taken me 4 days to get the hull ready for the final coats to go on.  When I did the antifouling in Alaska last year I saved money by using Petit antifouling paint.  Well, cheap is not always good and I have spent a lot of time sanding and scraping the Petit paint down to a good substrate.  This time I am using International CSC paint and hope it will do a good job on its way back to NZ.

I just received a bunch of Pacific charts from Redwise ship delivery.  So kind of them, it will save me money and give me paper chart back up should my electronics fail.  Redwise is the company I do ship delivery for and they are a top quality outfit and very professional.

Looking back on the past week I don’t seem to have achieved much.  Truce is in a terrible mess, I have sail bags heaped in the salon and spare gear scattered all over the place.  For the first few days I was quite miserable, feeling unwell and forlorn. I have given myself a good talking to and am now back in better shape, health and attitude.

I had a new shaft and dripless stern seal installed over the winter and want to leave the aft lockers clear for when we get back into the water so I can see if we have any leaks.  The launching is scheduled for Tuesday when we floating again. If we are not leaking I can start stowing things back aft and get shipshape again.

Tomorrow should see the first coat of antifouling finished – I cant wait to be finished with this job.

NO MORE SPEED LOG

April 15 2017

Every time I removed the speed log for cleaning I had a terrible feeling of foreboding.  The simple act of lifting out the speed log and replacing it with a temporary cap was always accompanied by thoughts of ‘what if something went wrong’?  Would I be stuck with my hand over the hole keeping back the ocean like the little boy in Holland with his finger in the dyke?  Of course nothing went wrong, but the sheer volume and pressure of water that comes spurting through the speed log hole into the boat is terrifying.

Speed logs are great things when they work, a little paddle wheel spins beneath the boat powered by the passing water and gives a readout in the cockpit of speed through the water.  The problem is that the little paddle wheel gets fouled up with slime and small invertebrates over time.  These little passengers put the little wheel out of kilter and the speed registered tends to get slower over time.  Hence the need to pull the log out and clean the wheel.

Over the winter I decided to get the log taken out and the hole sealed up.  One less thing to worry about and the less holes in the boat the better I think.  Of course this means that I wont be able to get a speed through the water read out, but I can live with that.  GPS provides speed over the ground information and I will just have to estimate and calculate the current effect.  A small price to pay for peace of mind and one less thing to worry about.

The hole is sealed up with a wooden plug, being larger diameter on the outside than the inside, so water pressure naturally pushes it into the hull.  The outside has been glassed over nice and smooth and the inside covered in epoxy to match the interior.  It all looks very neat and shipshape. Thanks to Jespersen Boatbuilders for a job very well done.

READY FOR LAUNCHING

April 17 2017

Not a drop of rain overnight and the morning was dry and sunny.  After a quick cup of tea I was back out rolling anti fouling paint.  The second coat was finished by ten in the morning, just in time for smoko.  Then it was back out to get a third coat on the high wear areas.  By three in the afternoon I was finished and a few minutes later the rain started again. The weather gods had been kind to me today.

Getting the anti fouling completed has been a battle against the weather. It’s taken me days longer than anticipated but finally its done.  Truce is now ready to go back in the water and what a relief it will be to have running water again and all boat systems working.

Last night I flashed up the AIS to check it was working OK, it is.  This morning I received an email from Marine Traffic informing me that I had departed Canoe Cove.  They are jumping the gun a bit – but interesting to know that there is someone out there tracking every ship, boat and canoe with AIS.

So a big day tomorrow, launching at noon then checking out the shaft seal and new through hulls for tightness.  Canoe Cove is so busy they can only give me a berth for two days.  That’s not enough as I need more time to get the boat ready and equipment installed.  I don’t really have a plan ‘B’ at the moment but will wait to get tomorrow over before thinking too hard about it.

BACK IN THE WATER

April 18 2017

This afternoon Truce went back into the water.  A big sigh of relief all around.  The last days have been cold wet and miserable trying to get the anti fouling completed. Living on board when the boat is out of the water is not pleasant, in the mornings it was difficult to get out of the warm bunk.

Once in the water I had a good check all around for leaks,  Happily nothing untoward found and the hull is nice and tight.  The engine started on the second try and burst into life in a large cloud of smoke.  Once the checks had been completed I motored around to the lay-by berth and noted that the dripless seal didn’t drip.  It’s doing what its supposed to and if this continues we will have a dry bilge – or at least dry from the water coming through the shaft packing.

Once secured on the berth I went up the road and jumped on a bus to Sidney for some groceries.  I had just about run out of food and drink.  When I got back to the boat I flashed up the Dickinson Diesel heater and ten minutes later the boat was getting warm.  Such luxury to have a warm boat.

Tomorrow I will start working on the rig and cleaning the boat up.  My ‘to do’ list is s bit shorter now, but still plenty to tick off. The salon is full of sail bags that I will have to re-stow somewhere before I can get comfortable and reclaim my living space.

I am looking forward to a good nights sleep as we gently rock at the dock.

I DID A DUMB THING TODAY

April 19 2017

I had a wonderful relaxed night’s sleep, woken this morning by the quacking of ducks around the boat.  Yesterday was quite mild for a change but today has started with a bitterly cold wind, even the locals are complaining about the cold weather.

This morning was clean up time.  As I was taking out one of the big floorboards it slipped from my hand and landed point first on the freshwater tank.  Yep, it has made a nice hole in the tank.  Just what I didn’t need.  I set to fixing the hole with epoxy and glass tape, but it’s so cold today the epoxy is struggling to cure.  It looks like it will be another couple of days before the repair will be complete.

As a penance for my dumb mistake this morning I set about cleaning the boat outside, removing all the green BC mould and slime that has accumulated over the winter, a complete wash down.  I was soaked through, freezing cold and didn’t finish until six thirty in the evening.  It was worth it. Truce is now clean again – well outside anyway.  One benefit of having wet cold hands all day is that the black antifouling paint has now washed off and in have more or less clean hands again.

For my trip to NZ I am trying to source a life raft.  I thought it would be easy but the suppliers in BC are quoting 4 to 6 weeks delivery due to ‘excessive demand’.  I will have to go online tomorrow and see if there are any available south of the boarder in the USA.

I have the Dickinson heater on again tonight and feeling warm for the first time today. The salon is clear of sail bags and junk, its shipshape and comfortable again.

SPIDER BITE

April 20 2017

Late last night I felt a pain in my right wrist,  I was surprised to see it was swollen and blue.  It was about twice its normal size and throbbing.  There seems to be a bite wound in the centre of the purple patch – looks like a spider bite.

It was about twice its normal size and throbbing.  There seems to be a bite wound in the centre of the purple patch – looks like a spider bite.  Not surprising as I was cleaning out all the lockers and storage spaces where spiders might hide during the winter.  This evening the swelling has reduced and the colour has turned from blue to red.  Not nice and I have been feeling a bit off today.

Good news, I found a life raft in Vancouver and it will be shipped over to Canoe Cove on Monday.  It’s a Viking 4 man with offshore pack.  Viking is a good brand and can be serviced just about anywhere.  I hope I never have to inflate it. My safety equipment is now just about complete for the voyage now.  I bought some flares, rockets and smoke floats at the weekend.  The new VHF radio should arrive tomorrow.  I have gone for an ICOM with integral GPS, this allows distress to be automatically sent without the need to wire in an external GPS and its full class D DSC.

The weather was a bit warmer today – it rained of course.  This made my fresh water tank repairs with epoxy a bit easier, I got a second patch on today, a final patch tomorrow should do the job.

The new sail for the windvane self steering (Micky) arrived today.  Looks good and I will fit it when the rain stops.  I also received a coil of half inch braid line.  Funny, Canada is metric but everybody here seems to think in imperial measurements, must be the proximity to the USA. There are 500 feet on a coil (or reel as they say here) and I will use it to make up new halyards and sheets.  I will need to get splicing.

A RIGGING TYPE DAY

April 21 2017

Glorious spring weather in Canoe Cove today, shorts weather with clear sky and bright sunshine.  The first day with no rain I reckon.

I stuck another epoxy patch on the fresh water tank this morning, the warmer weather is helping the epoxy to cure faster, I think one more internal patch tomorrow and we will be back in business with the water tank.

The mainsail turned up again this morning with the sailmaker from Leitch and McBride.  I wanted some modifications made, handles sewn into the luff and nettles for lashing the sail to the boom when reefed.  We fitted the sail and it looks excellent with a good heavy build. The sailmaker told me they have the sails made in Idaho USA – a strange place to make sails but apparently the labour rates are competitive and the work quality excellent. I am very happy to have a new mainsail.

Next came the rigger to check over the rig.  Always a good precaution once a year or before any ocean passage.  It is also a blue-water insurance requirement that the rig is checked by a rigger.  The rig is good shape, just a few rivets to replace in the jib furler foil.  I will have new lifelines made up with plain wire to replace the old plastic coated ones.  I don’t like plastic coated wire, you never know what is happening underneath the plastic.

After the rigger had departed I set about replacing some halyards.  I should have replaced a couple last year but I pushed it to get another years use out of them.  I have also rigged a halyard from the masthead spinnaker block.  Not that I expect to be using the spinnaker this trip when single handed but just as an additional halyard.  Always handy to have a spare halyard available.  It was very pleasant sitting on deck in the sunshine splicing  eyes in the halyards and chatting with others preparing their boats.

The Canoe Cove Marina guys have given me a few more days alongside so there is no pressure to move elsewhere. I am happy about that as Canoe Cove is an excellent place to refit and maintain with good services and people available.

The spider bite on my arm isn’t any worse, funny its not any better either.  I googled spider bites in Canada and a whole bunch of horror stories came up, I closed it down before I frightened myself.

BOAT GARAGE SALE

April 22 2017

This morning I went to a boat garage sale in Victoria.  Very happy I went as I picked up some bargains and crossed a couple of items off my ‘to get’ list.  Luckily I was able to get into the venue early with a vendor and have a scope around before the public entered.

First I picked up an inflatable dinghy for $150, not a youngster but seems to hold air well and is small enough to handle easily by myself.  It also rolls up quite small for stowage on deck when at sea. Secondly I found an inflatable kayak, it’s a West Marine Advanced Elements model.  Not exactly top of the range but for $100 it will do nicely.  So, all my shore transportation boating needs met for $250 in one morning.

This afternoon I bought an additional solar panel to complement my existing panel.  With both panels I still only have a total of 100W.  However, my electrical needs are light and the two panels should be fine for day to day operation without running the engine.  Yesterday I fitted LED’s lamps to my navigation lights, they use very little power and put out a nice bright light.  This cuts down on the battery drain considerably overnight when at sea.

The cherry blossom is out in force in Victoria, very pretty but of course it rained and blew cold just after I took the photo.

Today was too cold, windy and wet to do much outside and i didnt have much time left after mt excursion to Victoria.  Anyway my hands needed a break to heal after doing rope work yesterday.  My hands are still soft from the easy life at home over summer.  It was also too cold to do another epoxy patch in the fresh water tank today, I will do it first thing in the morning.

A QUIET SUNDAY AT CANOE COVE

April 23 2017

I had a lie in until seven thirty this morning, the rain was dropping onto the cabin top so I decided to roll over for another hour.  After I dragged myself out of my bunk I applied the final epoxy patch to the fresh water tank.  It’s not easy when you can’t see what you are doing, applying fibreglass and epoxy upside down and by feel is challenging.  To see the results, I stick my phone in the tank and take a photo.  It’s not a pretty repair on the inside but I reckon it will hold.

Then I spent a couple of hours fixing the stern light that had some corroded wiring, one of those simple little jobs that take forever and use every tool in the box.  Then it was onto the wiring of the charging station at the chart table.  From Aliexpress I got a 12 volt USB charging rig, only cost a few dollars but could be a great buy.  Charging laptops, phones, cameras etc from 12 volt uses much less power that using the inverter as I have been doing to date.  Before I can finish that job I need a switch.

Then I set about installing the VHF Radio, didn’t get too far as I need an antenna joint.  So then it was onto the cabin light, this I fixed but need a cable joint before I can box it up.  I then measured up to fit the new solar panel, I have the spot marked out and have drilled a pilot hole for the cables, but of course I now need 5 metres of cable to complete the job.  So I now have a heap of electrical jobs half-finished waiting on little bits to connect and join.  I am off to the electrical supply tomorrow morning.

Getting fed up with electrical work and the brain power it takes, I spliced up a new halyard for the staysail.  We now have renewed halyards all round.  Truce is looking quite fancy with all this new rope dangling from the mast.

I am getting anxious to leave Canoe Cove now, the days are flying by and I am not moving forward towards my destination.  Of all the items I need only the electrical bits, batteries and headsail furler repairs remain outstanding, these are the must have items.

Everything else can wait.  Hopefully by the end of Monday I will be able to call USA Boarder Protection and give them 48 hours’ notice of arrival.

READY TO DEPART CANOE COVE

April 27 2017

Well, I am not really ready, I still have a heap of small jobs to complete before i am fully is ready for sea.  However, all the big jobs requiring shore support or access to chandlery are complete.  The remaining small jobs I can complete as I head south.  Truce is now ready for sea.

The rig has been checked over by a rigger and some minor repairs made to the headsail furler.  The new lifelines look good and strong with plain wire for both upper and lower lines.  I have made up new halyards and sheets, fingers are a bit sore from splicing.  Sails have been rigged and the outside of the boat is now looking good.  I need to rig new reefing lines on the mainsail in the next few days then its all ready to go.

On Tuesday I picked up the Viking 4 man life raft.  Its in a soft valise as I don’t have anywhere on deck to stow a hard case life raft.  Really a bulky item, is living in the quarter berth at the moment as it won’t fit into a cockpit locker.

My other main works have been electrical.  I have surprised myself with my success rate.  The new solar panel is installed and works well.  I now get double the power coming in to the batteries each day and so far have not needed any shore power at all.  The Icom M324G VHF radio is fitted and working well.  The Aussie Yakker Wi-Fi router is sending GPS and AIS data to my laptop to work with OpenCPN navigation software.  Three maintenance free flooded batteries have been installed and after taking the greatest of care connecting them together it all works correctly.

This evening I have topped up with fresh water and pressure tested the water tank repair.  The laundry has been done.  A late morning departure should make for a good trip on the tide with an afternoon check into the USA in Friday Harbour.  I am looking forward to being mobile again.

BACK IN THE USA

April 28 2017

I feel exhausted, what a day – I am now checked into the USA and have been granted a six month cruising visa. 

This morning I departed Canoe Cove at ten in brilliant sunshine, calm waters and a cold crisp air.  A beautiful sparkling spring morning. There was no wind as I motored out and across Haro Strait towards the US boarder.  At just after eleven I entered USA waters and an hour later I was visited by three US Coastguard guys in a flash rib, they had all the gear strapped on.  They were doing a boating safety check, very courteous and polite but they were very business-like. As Truce is a New Zealand flagged vessel they didnt feel the need to board and seemed happy when I showed my life vests and safety gear.

At three in the afternoon we arrived at Friday Harbour and I tied up at the customs dock to check in.  I used the free phone on the dock to call Boarder Protection, they invited me to visit their office in town. Off I trekked with my passport and ships papers.  An hour later, after a bit of to and fro I was in possession of a cruising permit valid for six months. 

At each place I stop in the US I have to call in my position by phone and provide my cruising permit number, this is a bit of a chore, I suppose I need to buy a USA sim so I can comply.  The penalty for non-compliance is potentially life changing.

I need some refreshment and feed, this evening I will head up the road and find a suitable watering hole.  After all I need to celebrate breaking free of Canoe Cove and starting my journey south.

JUMP TO PORT TOWNSEND

April 29 2017

Last night I went into town, Friday Harbour isn’t a big place so fairly quiet at night. I found a place to eat and had an average meal. Then I found a bar with a feature that I haven’t seen before. There was a chilled or frozen track between the bar counter and the server where frost has accumulated. On the track were various model cars, motorbikes, snow ploughs etc. Of course you could also put your beer on the track to keep cool. Fantastic! I have been in a few bard but this was a first. Why don’t more bars do it?

This morning I went into Friday Harbour town to get a US sim card for my phone, only to find the shop didn’t open until ten.  It was perishing cold and I could not wait around and risk hyperthermia.  I scuttled back to the boat and cast off to head a bit further south with the tide.  I was wearing long johns and gloves today – it was so cold.

We made great time from Friday Harbour down the San Juan Channel and shot out the southern end at ten knots amid over falls, whirlpools, tide rips, seabirds and seals.  The south going tide was ripping out at about three and a half knots so I swung into Mackaye Harbour and anchored for lunch and waited for the tide to slacken.

After lunch the wind increased from the south, yes the direction I wanted to go.  The forecast for the next two days is not good so I decided to tack across the towards Port Townsend.  The wind grew stronger and colder, I added layers and finished up with full foul weather gear on to try and keep warm.  After a bit of a struggle and motoring the final couple of miles against the wind and tide we finally made Port Townsend at six thirty in the evening.  By this time the wind was so strong i knew that berthing in the marina was going to be a challenge. 

We entered the marina and I could not find my allocated berth. I asked someone on the shore and they advised I was going in the wrong direction. I managed to turn around and head back where I had been advised. Unfortunately, the directions I had been given were wrong and I was entering a narrow dead end channel. If I were to carry on we would be blown down onto a row of berthed boats with no hope of getting off in the prevailing wind. By going full astern I managed to get out of the narrow channel but now we were being blown down towards the boat launching ramp. The wind had increased and was so strong that I could not go astern into it, we were at the mercy of the wind. I didn’t have a choice, Truce had decided she was going toward the boat ramp. We had a sort of controlled berthing, I jumped ashore with a stout sternline as we passed the boat ramp dock. Fortunately I managed to get a turn around a cleat on the dock, the rope came bar tight and Truce settled to a standstill alongside the pontoon, the bow too close to shore for comfort.

After so much excitement I decided to head ashore and seek refreshment, There was nothing else I could do as the wind was howling and the rain pouring. A few hundred meters up the road I found the Pourhouse.   A bar with live music, proper ale and Wi-Fi.  Just as importantly it was warm and dry. I had a snack and a couple of very good beers. Suitably refreshed I ventured out back to Truce about nine. The rain had stopped and the wind had reduced. By the time I got back to Truce the all was calm. No time to waste I started the engine, let go from the dock and moved around to my allocated berth. Just in time as it turned out, the wind has returned again, blowing about thirty knots. I don’t care, we are snug and safe in the berth, let it blow.

Sunday tomorrow, day of rest.  The spray we shipped on the way across from Mackaye Harbour has cleaned up the decks nicely and the rain this evening has washed off all the salt. I will get around to properly cleaning up the can of condensed milk that ended up on the cabin sole during one of our more boisterous moments this afternoon. It can wait, bed beckons.

READY TO SAIL

May 2 2017

The last two days have been quite busy, needing to work around the weather to get the final jobs completed for the trip down to San Francisco.  I am berthed in Port Townsend, a place that seems to generate its own wind and rain patterns.  The town of Port Townsend is an interesting place, one of those old towns that has seen a few cycles of economic boom and bust.  Now it seems to becoming a tourist destination, craft shops, antiques, old book shops and organic coffee shops popping up. I like the place.

The marina and boat yard is a very interesting place, just about every boat type from wooden sailing ships and fishing boats to modern racing yachts can be seen. The yard is buzzing with activity and many traditional boatbuilding skills are on display. Looks like the guys in this yard could fix almost anything that floats.

Here I have met up with John and Jennifer from the sailing yacht Caro Babbo, our paths crossed many times last year when I was in Alaska.  They now have a house in Port Townsend and last night they had a few friends to dinner, a great time had by all.  John is an excellent cook and the pork roast was irresistible.  Also at the diner last night was Brion Toss, the author of ‘The Complete Riggers Apprentice’, an excellent book that I actually bought before leaving New Zealand, Brion kindly signed my copy.

Jennifer has done me a huge favour and run me to a large supermarket outside town where the prices are cheaper. The price of food is cheap in America anyway but this place was even better. I took advantage and stocked up, never can have too many provisions on board!

Finally I got the the mainsail up and finished the reefing lines. The fresh water tanks are topped up and we are ready to go.  The tide starts to turn favourable around eleven tomorrow morning for the first part of the voyage up the Juan de Fuca Straits.  The prevailing winds usually blow down the Strait making getting out into the Pacific a bit of a slog.  The Strait also has strong tides and commercial shipping to watch out for as well, it could be a long couple of days.

My plan after departing Port Townsend is to head up the Juan de Fuca Strait to Neah Bay at the Western end.  There I will top up with fuel and wait for a favourable weather window before heading south towards San Francisco.  I don’t know yet if we will take the offshore route of the coastal route, I will decide after figuring out the weather from Neah Bay.

I am looking forward to moving south and picking up some warmer weather.

HALF WAY UP JUAN DE FUCA

May 3 2017

Just before eleven this morning I let go from the Port Townsend Marina to catch the ebb tide up the Juan de Fuca strait.  Wind was forecast but only arrived briefly for seven minutes sailing, then it was motoring all the way in flat calm conditions.  Quite a bit of marine life about, seals, ducks, porpoise and seabirds.

The weather turned out really nice with the sun making an appearance in the afternoon.  When the cloud cleared the snow capped Olympia Mountains came into view, looking magnificent.  They look pretty from a distance but I know that’s where the cold wind comes from.

Just as the tide was turning against us in the afternoon we made a small cove called Crescent Bay on the west side of the strait.  We are anchored there now waiting for the next ebb tide around one in the morning.  The anchorage is a bit rock and roll but not too bad and I should get a few hours good sleep.

So, now we are about half way between Port Townsend and Neah Bay.  After Neah Bay I will be rounding Cape Flattery, the real departure point for the trip down to San Francisco.  I am looking forward to Neah Bay, it’s an Indian settlement.  My friends tell me there are some interesting things to look at, we shall see.

NEAH BAY

May 5 2017

Yesterday I made the trip up from Crescent Bay to Neah Bay. It was foggy all the way, visibility was poor and the radar and engine were on all the way. Not a very relaxing day. Late last night the fog closed down at the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait and the mournful sounds of ships foghorns could be heard from the anchorage.  Neah Bay was clear.  After the fog came the wind, it blew a gale all night with torrential rain this morning. I was confined to the boat – filling in time with small jobs but getting bored.

Around five in the afternoon the wind eased and the rain stopped.  I launched the rubber duck ‘piglet’, strapped on the outboard and went ashore.  Piglet got a bit soft on the way into shore, it must have been the cold water.

I had a quick scout around on shore and was surprised to find the place overrun with fishermen and associated RV’s, wagons, campervans and boat trailers.  What is going on?  One of the guys told me this is the three day Halibut fishing season, hence the frenzy.

Up the main street I came across Mama Bucks food wagon, she was selling Halibut and chips for $10, seemed a good deal so I went for it.  Mama Buck gave me two nice pieces of fresh Halibut – wonderful, worth braving the elements to get ashore.  Two pieces of Halibut in a restaurant would cost a fortune.

I am hoping the weather will be good tomorrow so I can leave Truce at the anchorage and get ashore for some time.  I would like to see more of Neah Bay before I depart – hopefully on Sunday.

WANDERING AROUND NEAH BAY

May 6 2017

Today has seen a great improvement in the weather, still windy but sunny as well.  I spent the morning rigging up a gybe preventer.  It looks the business but won’t know for sure how it will work until I get offshore.

In the afternoon the wind eased off a bit and I launched Piglet for a run ashore.  Neah Bay is an Indian township, home to the Makah Tribe.  These guys can still go whaling in open boats – but don’t think they do it too seriously anymore.  The main street has a gas station, general store and a few community buildings, nothing too extensive.  The locals are friendly and I had a chat with a few of the guys hanging around.  It’s a dry place (no alcohol) so no chance of sampling the local brew.

I didn’t want to wander too far as the wind was still gusting and I don’t like leaving Truce alone in those conditions.  Although by now the anchor must be well dug in.  The ride back from shore was pretty wet, Piglet is not a boat for choppy conditions.

Once back on board I checked the weather forecast.  The weather is moderating and is looking good for a departure tomorrow morning.  All being well I will catch the ebb tide in the morning and depart from Neah Bay heading towards some warmer weather.

ROUNDING CAPE FLATTERY

May 7 2017

It’s a month today since I arrived in BC from Auckland, seems much less, the time has flown by.  It’s taken a long time to get ready to go south, the weather hasn’t helped, things just seem to go slow when it’s wet and cold. Looking back I have achieved quite a lot in a month so shouldn’t beat myself up.

I picked the anchor up at six this morning, a beautiful calm clear day, by six thirty I could feel the suns warmth.  There was a large aluminium expedition type French yacht anchored close by, they left last night also heading south I believe. The forecast is good for us today so we headed out into Juan de Fuca Strait for the last time and rounded Cape Flattery before shaping course to the south west. 

There was no wind at Cape Flattery and for the next two hours I hand steered (the autopilot couldn’t cope) in horrible lumpy seas left behind by the previous two days wind.  Around ten, things started to settle down as we moved into deeper water past the 100 meter line.  By eleven I had the main and jib set and we were sailing at last, not very fast but great to have the engine shut down and the wind vane doing steering duties.

My plan is to head offshore and to get clear air away from the land and then had south.  Offshore, there is also less shipping traffic and fishing floats to worry about.  Around twenty miles offshore we picked up a nice westerly breeze at four in the afternoon and are moving along at between five and six knots.  If the wind remains favourable we could be in San Francisco next Sunday – but I know how tricky this coast can be so am not making any predictions.

The snow covered mountains of the Olympia National park can clearly be seen to the east.  Apart from that, there is nothing else out here apart from the occasional duck floating around.  The sun is going down and night is coming. I hope this breeze holds, its nice comfortable sailing and in the right direction, hoping for a comfortable easy night. Voyage distance 165.2 miles.

BECALMED, A 3% CHANCE

May 8 2017

Last night at sunset the wind started to decrease.  First I had to bring down the main, it couldn’t hold the wind and was flogging about on a path to self destruction. Shortly after the staysail came down.  I carried on until one in the morning with the jib, until the wind completely disappeared and the jib finally got furled.  I was hoping for a nice comfortable night of steady sailing.  What a disappointment, I was expecting the forecast fifteen knot north westerlies to hold.  So, we were becalmed.  The last thing I expected on the Washington Pacific coast.

After midnight I drifted and tried to get some rest.  The residual sea and swell caused Truce to gyrate abominably.  The sort of wild movements people pay good money to experience at theme parks.  At four I could stand it no more and started the engine to see if the movement would be less under way – it was a bit better and we were at least moving south and I got to see another sunrise.

I hand steered until eight as the seas were too lumpy for the autopilot, then stopped for some breakfast and to get the latest USA weather reports.  The forecasters are now calling for light winds in this area for the next two days.  Unbelievable.  I checked my routing charts and there is a 3% chance of calm weather in the month of May!  I just happened to hit it.

Looking at the large swells rolling in from the west is a bit surreal, they are moving hillsides of water, perfectly smooth and glossy, like liquid glass.  Looking at it from sea level is a beautiful constantly changing sight.

So I have been motoring all day, rolling along.  Much as I hate motoring at sea there is no option.  The barometer has been stuck at 1024.5 for the last 30 hours.  This must be an unusual weather event for this area.

Any thoughts I had about being in San Francisco on Sunday are just dreams now.  On the positive side the day has been beautiful and sunny and I am starting to feel a bit warmer, late afternoon and time to break out a beer.  Voyage distance 252.1 miles.

THE WIND IS BACK

May 9 2017

Last night was frustrating again, we managed to sail through the night with the jib but there wasn’t enough wind to keep it from flogging every thirteen seconds as we came off a swell.  In the morning there was more no wind. So we just drifted with all sails furled.  I had a nice refreshing sleep in the cockpit under a warm sun.  If you are following the route on the chart you will see the recent track resembles the random slithers of an inebriated snake as I try and find wind.  Not a good days run today, only 72 miles but I am quite happy to take it and a bit surprised me managed so well.

Since three this afternoon we have had some building wind, early evening now and we are romping along at five, sometimes six knots.  This wind is forecast to drop at midnight but until then I have all sail set to take advantage and get a bit more to the west and closer to the land where there is forecast to be a bit more breeze.

We are now past the Columbia River, one of my contingency stops in case of bad weather.  The next bolt holes are Coos Bay and Crescent City.  Crescent City sounds an interesting place, it was recommended to me by an American fisherman I met in Alaska last year.

I don’t know what is going on with my craving for food.  I have been in and out of the galley all day.  Looking for snacks and tangy, spicy food.  I really fancy a Thai meal but I don’t have the fresh ingredients on board.  The cook is getting fed up with me poking around.

This morning when drifting in the calm I was watching a couple of Sooty Shearwaters.  Incredible birds, they skim so low, only millimetres from the surface.  To see them from sea level puts a new perspective on their skills.  It looks like they like doing it because its fun, they never seem to stop for food.  Voyage distance 324.6 miles.

A WINDY DAY OFF OREGON

May 10 2017

Last night I was becalmed for the third time since leaving Neah Bay.  I drifted until nine this morning when the wind started filling in from the south.  At seven I wrote in the log “ barometer falling and no wind – something will happen soon’.  It did!

At ten I had all sail set and we were moving along nicely at around five knots in a light breeze.  An hour later I had the first reef in the main and the wind was building quite quickly.  When furling the jib to reduce sail I somehow got a riding turn on the furling drum, it was stuck. By now the wind had built to about 25 knots and I needed the jib reduced. With the wind gusting i decided to sail off and sort out the furler. I dropped the main and then the staysail. We were now sailing fast in the wrong direction with the jib pulling hard.

I lashed off the furling drum so it couldn’t rotate, then stripped off the line, remembering how many turns to put back on.  All the time I was doing this I was running north off the wind, getting very wet from spray and the occasional dunking as the bow ploughed through a wave.  After a couple of hours I had it all sorted out again. By this time the wind had increased to 35 knots.  The barometer dropped nine millibars in ten hours.

The radio weather forecast was still giving five to fifteen knots.  I called a passing tanker the ‘Polar Adventure’ on VHF radio and asked them for the wind speed, they confirmed 30 knots plus. I watched the tanker heading north, I know how warm and comfortable the mate is on watch.

After heading the wrong way for a while we are now heading further west offshore under reduced sail where I hope to pick up a shift to the south west.  Very uncomfortable, noisy, bumpy and wet all day.

Its proving to be hard work getting to San Francisco.  I fear that we may be further away tonight than we were last night.  Something good will come out of this I am sure.

SIDE TRIP TO NEWPORT, OREGON

May 11 2017

Last night I plugged on in poor sailing conditions, by midnight the mainsail was struck and Truce was reduced to staysail only.  Wind was gusting thirty five knots from the South with rain squalls.  The midnight weather forecast predicted another two days of southerly winds – I was quite disheartened by this news.

Not being able to make good progress south I decided to have a rest. I have been working hard in wet and damp conditions, need to have a recoup. We ran an north east under staysail at six knots – faster than I wanted in the wrong direction but the staysail is the smallest sail I have and the ride was very comfortable – I had a good rest.

This morning I called the Coastguard at Yaquina Bay and asked if it would be possible for me to cross the bar into Newport.  They advised the bar conditions were deteriorating but currently open for Truce sized boat.  So, at seven this morning I headed towards Yaquina entrance, some 52 miles distant.  We had a sparkling sail with the wind about 60 degrees on the starboard bow.  The wind held steady at around 25 to 30 knots and under triple reefed main, staysail and one quarter jib Truce romped along happily with Micky (wind vane) steering.

The coastguard were helpful as we approached the bar, an ebb tide running and interesting conditions on the bar – considering the small engine on Truce.  We were lucky, once across the bar the coastguard closed it to recreational vessels. We arrived in calmer waters inside the bar at four in the afternoon. Thirty minutes later Truce was securely tied up alongside the Newport Marina. I was thankful to be alongside and noted that the large French expedition yacht I had seen in Neah Bay was also tied up alongside and sheltering from the weather.

As I write this, wind is howling through the marina and we have had two hailstorms.  I feel happy to be tucked up here and not trying to flog south into the wind.  A wise decision to head into Newport.

Well, as I predicted some ground has been lost towards San Francisco.  But on a positive note this is the first heavy weather sailing I have done on Truce.  This has given me the opportunity to try out several different sail combinations – a good learning experience.  I have also tested the gybe preventer I rigged up, it worked well and I will write about in more detail in the future.  I also now know I need to rig a downhaul on the staysail so I can drop the sail from the cockpit without having to go on the foredeck.

Next immediate goal is a hot shower, a change into some clean dry clothes and then to find a local hostelry willing to cater to a weary traveller.

HAIL NEWPORT

May 12 2017

Last night, after a refreshingly hot shower and a change into clean dry clothes I ventured up the road seeking libation and sustenance.  Fortunately, I stumbled across Hoovers Bar which provided both.  Good draft beer and a real Bacon Berger.  Just like you see on TV it had bar stools, pool table, slot machines, men in hats, live music, big TV screens showing Baseball, American Football, Basketball and other irrelevant sports.  I enjoyed Hoovers Bar, very informal and a good cross section of what could be called blue collar folk. 

Just as I returned to Truce later in the evening a hail storm hit, the third one today.  I jumped on board and under cover just as I was about to get stoned to death.  I crawled into my bunk and slept like a baby until morning.  I awoke at seven to the sound of rain on the coach roof – the welcome signal to roll over and go back to sleep for another hour.

When I finally woke up I realised I needed to call Boarder Protection to log in.  I had called last night but hung up after the recorded message started (the wrong thing to do I learnt later).  Anyway, the Boarder Protection guy came down to the boat at eleven thirty and checked my papers were in order. He sternly told me off for not leaving a recorded message last night and then helpfully gave me a list of boarder protection phone numbers for at ports further down the coast. All these Boarder Protection people are so formal. 

After the bureaucracy was completed I had to get some chores finished, the boat tidied and laundry done.  All this took a bit longer than expected and it was three in the afternoon before I caught the free bus into Newport.  By this time it was raining again with some more hail.  I visited the numerous small shops on Bayfront and the excellent Englund Marine Chandlery.  These American fishing ports all have great chandlery stores and real prices.

To escape the rain, I found a place serving fresh Dungeness Crab.  It was OK, the concept of fresh crab seems to be not clearly defined by time – could be fresh out the freezer.  The guy that was playing music in Hoovers last night came in and played, he did a good interpretation of stairway to heaven for me. Full of crab and beer I headed home.  

I have really enjoyed the little I have seen of Newport (apart from near constant rain).  Everybody I have met has been super friendly and helpful, genuinely nice people.  I would like to stay for a couple more days but don’t expect the weather will provide any excuse to linger longer.  I will check the bar conditions with the coastguard in the morning – maybe they won’t let me cross the Yaquina bar.

SUSPECT RUDDER

May 13 2017

It looks like I may linger longer in Newport after all.  As I was preparing the boat for departure today and running through my checks I noticed that the rudder has excessive play in the pintles.  I fear that something may have let go but can’t see any obvious cause.  Anyway, as I don’t feel comfortable sailing unless I know the rudder is 100% OK.  I have arranged for a diver to check out the bottom shoe for me.

I could not have left today anyway as the bar was closed to all recreational vessels as there is quite a big swell causing rough conditions on the bar.  After my morning chores, I hopped on the free bus into Newport to pick up some fresh victuals and have a look around. 

On the way back from town to the marina I walked over the Yaquina River bridge.  As it is still windy, cold and wet it was a bracing walk so high over the river.  At the centre of the bridge I could feel it moving, vibrating and shaking as the traffic passed by.  The bridge was built in 1936 and looks quite flimsy close up, I walked off a bit quicker than I walked on.

Back on board I finished rigging the downhaul for the staysail.  This will make life much easier as I won’t need to go on the foredeck to bring the sail down in bad weather.  I then re-rigged the gybe preventer to provide less resistance and simpler leads – looking forward to trying that out.  I also made up a couple of soft shackles for the staysail to replace the current metal snap hook.  Getting hit on the head from a flaying snap hook could be a death blow, soft shackles are much safer.

Truce is one of only two visiting boats in Newport.  The other is the large French expedition boat. Last night I was invited on board for drinks. A very impressive boat that has been both to the Antarctic and Arctic.  They too are waiting on a weather window before moving down to San Francisco.

RUDDER INSPECTION AND SUNSHINE

May 14 2017

Heaps of rain last night and this morning and then the sun came out.  Wonderful to feel the suns warmth and the solar cells are charging the batteries again.

The diver turned up this morning, a very helpful guy called Carson.  He had a good look at the rudder and made a video.  All the pintles are in place – that’s good news, nothing broken.  However, there is some play in the bottom shoe.  This is what I can feel when I move the rudder. I will call the local shipyard in the morning.  To see what is going on with the rudder I need the boat out of the water.  If the problem is general wear and tear then it should be a quick fix but until I can eyeball it I just don’t know.  There is a boatyard a few miles up river from Newport at a place called Toledo.

As it was Sunday there were a few people wandering the docks, the sunshine probably brought them out as well.  Quite a few of them wanted to stop for a chat.  So, I spent some time today relaxing and chin wagging with the locals.  In between gossiping I finally finished all the small jobs on my list that needed doing before sailing.  Now I can start another list of jobs, this time more on the lines of preventative maintenance.

The weather looks good for a departure south on Wednesday.  The locals agree that the weather will turn on Wednesday – local knowledge is good.  I just hope the rudder is in good shape by then and I can make the hop down to San Francisco.

UP THE YAQUINA RIVER TO TOLEDO

May 15 2017

At eight this morning I had called the Toledo boatyard and spoke to a helpful lady called Asia – (she seems to run everything in the yard).  She could not give me a haul out time but said come on up and we will take you when we can.  The idea is to lay alongside at the yard until they have a space for me.

After lunch I let go from the Newport Marina and turned right up the Yaquina River towards the town of Toledo, some ten miles distant.  The departure was timed to carry the flood tide up the river and arrive an hour before high water.  The river is shallow in places and I wanted to be able to float free on a rising tide if I went aground.  Luckily, we found the channel all the way up and arrived at three in the afternoon.

Motoring up the Yaquina River was a different experience.  There are a few housed dotted along the shore but mostly the banks are wooded with some pasture.  Birdlife is abundant and seals swimming about everywhere.  The river must be very productive to keep all the seals fed and happy.

The shipyard is a pretty small place catering mainly to the local commercial fishing fleet.  They seem to have all the right skills available on site to fix most common boat problems.  Definitely not a flash place, just how I like it. Commercial yards are so much better than recreational marina type yards, better workmanship and prices usually. Ted, the haul out guy, is going to try and lift Truce out at noon tomorrow, perfect i am in no great rush and gives me time to explore ashore.

I am informed Toledo Town is about two miles away and there is a bowling alley quite close to the shipyard that serves good burgers.  I will have a wander up the road later to scout around.

RUDDER FIXED

May 16 2017

It’s been a full-on sort of day and I feel tired at the end of it – but importantly ‘we got the job done’.  The rudder is good again.

At midday Truce was lifted out the water and half an hour later I had the rudder unshipped and hung off with the help of ted and a forklift. The bottom bushing was worn and causing the play in the rudder.  Thankfully everything was intact and no damage or wear on the metal parts at all.  I decided to have a new bush machined up and installed.  By four thirty in the afternoon the new bushing had arrived from the machine shop and was fitted.  Shortly after the rudder was back in place.  The bushing is tight and the rudder hard to turn – I expect when its back in the water it will be lighter and as the miles go by it will free up nicely.

By five in the afternoon I was back in the water and tied up alongside the dock again.  I really admire the can-do attitude of the American guys when it comes to engineering solutions.  I had the same experience in Wrangell last year when the shaft strut was cracked.  Within a few hours, a great engineered solution found and executed.  Thank you, Toledo boatyard, especially Asia and Ted for a great job.

In the early evening I took a walk into town.  Toledo is quite a small place, it looks like everybody knows everybody.  Tuesday evening and not much going on.  The main street is an attractive historic place that would be good to visit in warmer weather.

This evening I will have a good feed on board and get some good rest and be ready for tomorrow.  In the morning I plan to take the tide down the Yaquina River to Newport and hopefully be able to head out over the Bar towards San Francisco.  I have a special date in San Francisco so need to get moving south.

DEPARTING NEWPORT

May 17 2017

Early this morning Truce and I dropped down the Yaquina River from Toledo to Newport on the ebb tide. A lovely trip down the river.  Upon arrival at Newport I found the Coastguard had closed the Yaquina River bar to vessels less than forty feet length.  As Truce is thirty-six feet long we couldn’t depart Newport.  Very frustrating, the weather outside is good and I want to make distance to the south.  Doubly frustrating, my French friends in their larger boat were allow to cross the bar and sailed at ten in the morning. The Coastguard are strict in their enforcement of the rules, they know the bar conditions and can’t be argued with. Bar crossings can be dangerous, particularly for low powered vessels like Truce so its better to be cautious and safe.

There is no option but to wait until conditions improve.  I topped up fuel from the fuel dock and hung onto the dock waiting.  Finally, just after noon the Coastguard opened the bar to vessels more than 20 feet and I made my escape.

Once outside the bar and clear of the breakwaters I cracked on all sail and was soon romping south at six and a half knots.  Two hours later the wind died and I was motoring in a sloppy sea, rockin and rolling.  In the early evening a very light NW breeze came in and we can just manage to sail under the jib – about three knots.  There is not enough wind to keep the sail full in the seaway so we are crashing and banging along – but moving south.  The Oregon coast is slowly slipping away to port and we are getting closer to San Francisco.

Before dark this evening I am trying to get offshore beyond the hundred-meter line.  This whole place is infested with crab traps and buoys in the shallow coastal waters.  Outside the hundred-meter line I am hoping it’s too deep for traps and I can relax.

These uncomfortable light wind conditions are forecast for the next twenty-four hours, then a strong northerly wind sets in which should take us all the way under the Golden Gate bridge.

HORRID NIGHT, BEAUTIFUL DAY

May 18 2017

Last night was a shocker.  Not quite sufficient wind to keep the sail from collapsing in the seaway.  Just a little more wind or a bit less sea and everything would have been perfect. All night spent crashing and banging, rocking and rolling – all to keep moving at between two and three knots, quite tiring.

Our distance made good yesterday was only seventy-nine miles.  Its proving to be a slow trip, our average speed so far is a miserable three point six knots.  Mustn’t complain, I know one guy who took two months to get down this coast.

The sunrise this morning was awesome.  First the moon popped up, then Jupiter followed by the sun.  I was happy to see the sun, last night was perishing cold – I was wearing two wardrobes.  The fickle wind persisted until just after noon when a north westerly breeze started in – just as forecast for a change.

Its turned out to be a beautiful warm sunny day, this is California weather a day early.  By three in the afternoon all sail was set and we headed south at over six knots.  We have now passed Coos Bay and Cape Blanco will be abeam later this evening this evening.  Only another hundred and sixty miles to the infamous Cape Mendocino.  If the wind holds I can make my date in San Francisco.   Voyage distance 567.8 miles.

ANOTHER FRUSTRATING NIGHT

May 19 2017

I finished writing and sending off last nights’ log, then settled in the cockpit with a beer and some music.  All was well with my world and we were sailing along at five plus knots.  Then, in the space of thirty minutes the wind died and we were left struggling along with just the Jib.  It turned into the same as the previous night, fiddling around to get two or three knots boat speed. By now I know the drill.

Around four in the morning a northerly breeze came in and has been freshening all day.  This morning, as I was making breakfast, we got hit by a squall.  The boat rounded up and Micky (wind vane) tried to counter.  Unfortunately, this time he came off second best and bust himself up.  I hove to for an hour and patched him up, it’s only a temporary fix but we are moving along nicely again now. I only have a quarter jib out to reduce boat speed to less than six knots.  I hope Micky can survive the next forty-eight hours – I really need him. It’s now a solid twenty-five knots and the seas are starting to build as well.  Basically, a horrid overcast, windy, wet rough day so far.

We passed Crescent City after lunch and are now in Californian waters, but no warmth or sunshine yet today.  We should be rounding Cape Mendocino in the morning at three.  My weather download shows thirty knot winds south of Mendocino.  However, the latest update from NOAA is gale warning and predicts forty knots!  For once I really hope NOOA are wrong, I don’t want forty knots. Its quite surprising how quickly the forecast is changing.

Everything is lashed and battened down, it’s going to be bumpy for the next day I think.  I am dreaming of a cold beer in Warm San Francisco.  Voyage distance 660.9 miles.

BARE POLES AROUND CAPE MENDOCINO

May 20 2017

The same old story, two steps forward – one back.  Last night the wind came on strong.  As we approached Cape Mendocino all hell let lose.  The wind was howling – no shrieking from the North with great gusts thrown in.  It felt stronger than the forty knots predicted.  I was unable to carry any sail and we rounded Cape Mendocino under bare poles, once reaching nine knots!  Steering in that wind is a good workout.

Really a mad morning.  The wind vane can’t handle gale force winds in its fragile state so I headed for Shelter Cove, about forty miles south of Cape Mendocino and anchored.  The scenery is spectacular on this stretch of coast and the day turned out beautiful.  Real Californian sunshine, I am feeling warm at last.  Now I am considering breaking the shorts and jandals out – but don’t want to jinx it. The anchorage at shelter cove is not the best, some swell comes into the bay and the bottom is rocky. But I am happy here for the night.

When it comes to weather forecasting NOAA are pretty good.  I downloaded Gribs for the route yesterday but the strongest wind they were giving was twenty-five knots.  I also found the same when using weather routing on big ships.  A couple of years ago in the Bering Sea, NOAA prediction was different from the weather routing company.  I took NOAA advice, altered course ninety degrees to the south, it saved us a beating.

NOAA have issued a gale warning for this evening.  I will sit in Shelter Cove, relax in the evening sunshine and crack a bottle of wine I have been saving for a special occasion, rounding Cape Menocino qualifies.  Tomorrow is another day.  Voyage distance 765.8 miles.

CALIFONIAN COASTING

May 21 2017

This morning I awoke feeling fresh and well rested after the travails of the previous 24 hours.  Shelter Cove provided a good resting stop for the night.  A bit of swell came into the anchorage and we rolled all night, nothing uncomfortable.  I headed out at first light, the day turned out sunny and warm, a real pleasure coasting down the shoreline admiring the scenery.  Very light winds, almost nothing and we ran south under the engine. I took breakfast on the foredeck, away from the engine noise – very nice.

Since rounding Cape Mendocino it’s like the heating has been turned on.  I don’t feel constantly cold anymore.  My thermals are in the laundry bag – to be washed and put away for a long time I hope.

The afternoon brought fog banks and overcast skies. The coast has disappeared behind a wall of grey.  The wind is the missing ingredient, it’s been light all day, the sails have been up and down three or four times with Mr. Yanmar doing most of the work.

A few mammals around today.  A large pod of whales came by, cruising northward.  A pod of Orcas came to visit briefly and a solitary, heavily barnacled, whale surfaced about fifty meters off.  I always like seeing Orcas, they are sleek, graceful, powerful and smart – top predators.

A large motor yacht passed, sailing North and a fishing boat were the only boats seen today.  Yesterday I didn’t see any other boats.  There is not much moving up and down this coastline.

My minor delight of the day – finding a Twix chocolate bar in the corner of a locker.  It may have been vintage but tasted excellent.  Voyage distance 818.8 miles.

GOLDEN GATE TOMORROW

May 22 2017

Last night we were having a lovely run down the coast being pushed by a fresh wind directly from astern.  I just had the staysail up, sailing at between five and six knots without any fuss.  At midnight the fog closed in, a cold wet fog.  An hour later the wind had died and Mr. Yanmar took over motivation duties.

Through the early morning we motored, with the radar on.  I saw nothing, apart from the occasional crab pot buoy floating by.  Daybreak didn’t bring any relief.  It wasn’t until we anchored in Drakes Bay just before eleven that fog cleared.  Feeling tired after the all-night marathon, I cracked a beer and then had a sleep.

The last few days coming down from Washington has delivered just about all the weather in the book, calms, gale force winds, rain, fog and hail.  It’s not been an easy trip down – but everyone said it would be difficult so no surprises there.  What has surprised me is the amount of calms and light unusable wind days.

Drakes Bay is named after Sir Francis Drake who is alleged to have stayed here in 1579 to repair his ship.  He should have asked one of the locals ‘Is there one of the world’s best natural harbours near here?’  The answer ‘yep, just around the corner’ may have surprised him and changed history.  Fortunately, for Drake he never learned what he had missed.  It was almost 200 years later in 1769 that the Spanish discovered San Francisco harbour.

This evening I will stay in Drakes bay before entering under the Golden Gate Bridge to  San Francisco on the morning flood tide.  I hope it’s a clear day. I have never been to San Francisco before.  There are over forty large marinas in the bay area, I just don’t know where to go.  I think I will try Sausalito first, friends have given it good reviews.  Then try and pick up some local knowledge before trying other places.

Wednesday is the big day when Ngozi, my beautiful wife fly in from New Zealand to join me.  I am really looking forward to having company again and exploring San Francisco together.  Voyage Distance 936.3.

ENTERING SAN FRANCISCO BAY

May 22 2017

An early start this morning from Drakes Bay after a wonderful peaceful sleep, Truce gently rocking all night.  The plan was to ride the flood tide into the Harbour and under the Golden Gate Bridge.  There was a slight southerly wind, not enough for sailing, so it was motor all the way. Shortly after departing Drakes Bay I saw three Pelicans (my beak can hold more than by belly can)  floating around.  This is a good sign as Pelicans are known to dislike cold areas.

The day was foggy, the Radar was on and picking up numerous fishing vessels.  As we rounded Bonita point the southern section of the Golden Gate bridge could be seen first and then the whole bridge came into view with Alcatraz Island beyond in the distance.  The upper parts of the bridge covered by cloud.  A wonderful sight.  As we passed a guy on the bridge was waving frantically and shouting, I did the same in return – a strange moment – I don’t know who was more excited, him or me.  There was also a whale swimming around as we approached the bridge, I didn’t expect that.

Five minutes after passing the bridge I had the Jib pulling softly and the engine shut down.  Peace and quiet on board, sun shining as I started to shed layers of clothing.  The steep streets of San Francisco could be clearly seen running down to the waterfront, for some reason it reminded me of Istanbul, I don’t know why.  We ghosted along the waterfront, showing off as numerous ferries passed, going in and out of their respective docks.

Chat Plot Approaching Golden Gate
Chart Plot Approaching Golden Gate, San Francisco. Photo Ray Penson

From the water the city district seemed smaller than I had imagined.  The iconic Transamerica building could be clearly seen.  The skyscrapers here aren’t the slender wafer thin types seen in the far and middle east.  They look stockier, heavier and far more solid.

I then continued to the South under the Bay Bridge, It’s a double decker bridge, what an ingenious idea.  Top lane flows one way, bottom layer the other.  Destination is Brisbane Marina. Advantages are its close to the airport and cheaper than others. The marina has turned out to be a rather sterile place, not far from nowhere.  The Sierra Point Yacht Club is on site and welcomed me as a guest.  Great place and nice friendly folk.  I had an enjoyable evening.

Tomorrow morning Ngozi arrives from NZ.  She will be welcome company after being alone for so long.  Be nice to have someone to help clean the boat up a bit.  Voyage distance 974.3 miles.

NGOZI ARRIVES SAN FRANCISCO

 May 24 2017

Brisbane Marina is quite close to the San Francisco Airport, planes can be clearly heard taking off and landing.  During the night, I awoke a couple of times thinking the wind was whistling through the rigging, only to realise it was the noise of jet engines in the distance.  I closed the deck hatch to keep the noise out and awoke in the morning with a headache.

Ngozi arrived this morning – I received a call “do you want me here or not?  Where are you?” I went out the marina gate to find Ngozi sitting wrapped up against the cold in a grumpy mood.  She had not read my message about the exact location to go to.  A couple of minutes later hardship forgotten and everybody happy. 

We had an easy day, went for a walk around Sierra Point.  Had a late lunch and just chilled out, catching up on what’s been happening.  The weather was cool this morning but turned out lovely in the afternoon, just a bit windy.  Tonight, we will try and find some dinner out somewhere.

Tomorrow we are moving to a different marina on the Oakland side for four days.  It will be nice sailing with company and not having to perform balancing acts to make a cup of tea when sailing.

We will leave Brisbane Marina in the morning – otherwise we will be pinned to the dock by the wind all afternoon.

 WINDY ON THE BAY

May 25 2017

This morning we checked out of Brisbane Marina. We found Brisbane Marina to be a windy and remote place to be moored. But handy for the airport which was the reason for going there in the first place. The wind was blowing us onto the berth as we prepared to depart we had to wait for a lull in the wind before backing off the dock.

Once in the San Francisco Bay the wind was strong from the south and against the tide. Not too comfortable for a gentle harbour cruise. We sailed up towards the City with the wind from astern before crossing over to the Oakland side and motoring down to Marina Village past giant container ships and smaller cargo vessels. We have four nights booked in Marina Village, should be sufficient for us to compete all the tourist stuff we want to do.

In the afternoon we had a nice walk ashore and found the local shops and shopping centre. All this was thirsty work and called for refreshment. Ngozi found Famous Daves BBQ served our new favourite IPA on draft and we stopped for nutriment. Then we found it was happy hour. Then we had some BBQ ribs. Interesting how one thing leads to another. 

Over watered and over fed we waddled back to the boat feeling contented. The cook has requested a day off tomorrow so we will breakfast ashore. After breakfast we don’t have any definite plans – we will just see how the day goes.

SAN FRANCISCO SOJURN

June 3 2017

Ngozi and I have had a great time in San Francisco.  We have done a few of the tourist things and as usual ate too much, drank too much and spent too much.

We had 4 nights in the Marina Village in Alameda.  This a good spot for access to local attractions and has easy access to Oakland and San Francisco, either by ferry or Uber.  West marine is just up the road from the marina and I picked up a few more essential items for the boat.

On the last day we found the bus to Oakland went from outside the Marina, we could have saved a bit of money if we had known earlier.  Oakland turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  A well laid out city with some beautiful buildings.  Also, some great bars and restaurants around Jack London square on the waterfront.

We visited San Francisco around Pier 39, very touristy, lots of souvenir shops selling cheap stuff from China.  Not my thing.  A couple of days later we went to the carnival and had a great time. After Alameda we motor sailed across, past Alcatraz, to Sausalito and tied up in the Clipper Yacht Harbour.

Sausilito has population of around eight thousand and an easy pace of life.  It reminded us of Waiheke Island in Auckland, a mixture of Rich and Hippy with an arty side.

From Sausalito we did the Golden Gate trip on an open top bus, sunny with a cold wind.  We really enjoyed our stay in Sausalito – not the cheapest place but worth a visit.

Ngozi returned to New Zealand last night and I stayed a final night at the marina.  It felt quite lonely after having company around.  This morning I topped off the fresh water tanks and then motored around to the fuel dock to top off the diesel tanks.

After taking on fuel I dropped anchor off Sausalito, just outside the channel on the bank.  From here I can see Alcatraz, San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and the top of the Golden Gate.  The weather was warm, almost hot, today and I pottered about doing odd jobs.  This evening its flat calm, the stars are out and the city and bridges are all lit up.  I reckon I have the best seat in the house. The boat is stored up, water tanks topped off and fuel tanks at one hundred percent, we are ready to go.

The weather in the Pacific is not favourable for a departure yet.  The Pacific high hasn’t fully established and there is a large area of light winds on my path to Hawaii.  It looks like I may have to wait for a week or ten days for a favourable weather window before departing.  In the morning, if the weather is nice, I will re-inflate the rubber duck for a trip ashore to find a Wi-Fi hotspot and download a weather update.

SAUSALITO SUNDAY

June 4 2017

What a beautiful day – perfect California weather, warm but not too hot.  In response to the great weather the local boating community came out in force today.  Lots of activity around Sausalito and in the bay.

This morning I remeasured the anchor cable and replaced the markers.  Over one hundred anchor deployments since last year have knocked a some of the markers into submission and it’s hard to tell what they are as the chain whips out.  I use plastic wire ties for markers, one tie for ten meters, two ties for twenty meters etc.  Not very environmentally friendly but they don’t easily come off and are easy to see, especially in the dark.

Sausalito Sunday, San Francisco

At midday I went ashore in the rubber duck.  I had a good walk around town and found some free Wi-Fi to download a weather file.  The weather is not too flash offshore.  Close to the coast there are strong winds and further out a huge patch of light airs.  The local forecast is predicting gales for Monday and hazardous conditions for Tuesday on the coast.  It’s hard to appreciate what is happening offshore as the conditions inside San Francisco Bay are quite calm now.  Anyhow, I won’t be going offshore before Wednesday, that’s clear.

I am starting to get the urge to move on now.  If we get some breeze in the Bay tomorrow I will have a look at moving to a different anchorage – should not be too busy as its Monday.

SAUSALITO SUNDAY

June 4 2017

What a beautiful day – perfect California weather, warm but not too hot.  In response to the great weather the local boating community came out in force today.  Lots of activity around Sausalito and in the bay.

This morning I remeasured the anchor cable and replaced the markers.  Over one hundred anchor deployments since last year have knocked a some of the markers into submission and it’s hard to tell what they are as the chain whips out.  I use plastic wire ties for markers, one tie for ten meters, two ties for twenty meters etc.  Not very environmentally friendly but they don’t easily come off and are easy to see, especially in the dark.

At midday I went ashore in the rubber duck.  I had a good walk around town and found some free Wi-Fi to download a weather file.  The weather is not too flash offshore.  Close to the coast there are strong winds and further out a huge patch of light airs.  The local forecast is predicting gales for Monday and hazardous conditions for Tuesday on the coast.  It’s hard to appreciate what is happening offshore as the conditions inside San Francisco Bay are quite calm now.  Anyhow, I won’t be going offshore before Wednesday, that’s clear.

I am starting to get the urge to move on now.  Now that I am alone again I feel the urge to get moving. If we get some breeze in the Bay tomorrow I will have a look at moving to a different anchorage – should not be too busy as its Monday.

POLE DANCE

June 5 2017

I awoke early this morning, the tide changed and the boats movement felt different.  I had a good look around and checked our position. Truce hasn’t moved, the anchor is still dug into the Sausalito mud. Just a strange angle of lying to the wind and tide.

After a leisurely breakfast I didn’t feel like doing much.  It was still early when I sat on deck in warm sunshine and gave myself a haircut.  I like the idea of long hair but don’t actually like it on my head. I prefer the short easy maintenance style. After five minutes with the clippers I was well shorn and feeling fresh again.

Then it was into the rubber duck for a run ashore.  I stopped off at the Lighthouse Café, good American brewed bottomless coffee and free Wi-Fi.  The weather file I downloaded shows favourable winds on Wednesday that lead into a massive area of light and calm conditions a few days out.  I downloaded a couple of files and there is a bit of difference between them.  One has a low-pressure system coming through right in my path.  The local weather is also predicting a low pressure later this week – the weather is not settled yet.

On returning to Truce in the afternoon the sea was a bit choppy, that means a wet ride in the rubber duck.  Once back on board and dried out in the sunshine I started messing around with the spinnaker pole.  I will be doing some downwind sailing the spinnaker pole will be used to pole out the jib on the opposite side to the main sail.   I have a spinnaker on board but won’t be using it this trip – too much of a handful when sailing single handed.

The spinnaker pole on Truce is a magnificent length of timber with bronze fittings on each end.  It is heavy – the reason I have not used it previously, no point rigging it for only a few hours, too much effort.  It’s also a bit scary.  The momentum of the pole on a pitching and rolling foredeck is something to take seriously.  Soon I had outhauls, fore guys, aft guys, topping lifts, sheets, various blocks and a cockpit full of assorted cordage.  Oh, what fun.  After a few rig ups I finally had the set up to my liking and a means of controlling the pole during deployment and retrieval.

All this messing around took me well past beer o’clock.  My beer is not cold anymore, the only disadvantage of the warm weather so far.

WAITING IN SAUSALITO

June 6 2017

Another quiet day at Sausalito anchorage – just a bit more wind and cooler since yesterday.  There is a cold front approaching on Thursday and everybody is getting excited at the prospect of rain – apparently quite rare this time of year.  Quite impressive watching the cloud coming off the ocean and building above Sausalito then cascading down into the town this morning.

Early today a Pelican was fishing by the boat.  What an ungainly bird.  First, he gets airborne with a great seemingly uncoordinated performance of feet and wings.  Then circles around and drops like a bag of wet rags into the water beak first.  I suppose Pelicans must catch fish but they don’t look very convincing, looks like pot luck fishing to me.

Later in the morning I took the rubber duck ashore – getting to be a routine.  I was going to walk up to West Marine, quite a way up the road.  The wind was building so I didn’t wander too far as it’s a wet ride in in any chop in the dinghy.

I downloaded another weather file, a strong cold front is hitting the coast on Thursday.  Looks like there will be a weather window for departure on Friday following the front.  I expect I will need to sail quite a way south to avoid the high pressure and calms sitting on my route.

Meanwhile – nothing much else happening.  That’s good I suppose.

STILL WAITING IN SAUSALITO

June 7 2017

This morning I did the daily routine, riding the rubber duck ashore. The anchorage at Sausalito is good, handy to get ashore, good views and good holding.

I had a nice walk up the waterfront and stopped by at the Sausalito house boat community.  There are some very large houseboats built on substantial barges.  The community looks very well organised, neat tidy and well maintained.  Judging the the cars parked around these are not poor hippy people.

Today I made it to the West marine store.  The store here is a large new building and has the air of an up-market department store.  Very nicely laid out and staff smartly turned out in uniforms.  Unfortunately, it also has prices to match.  I could not believe how expensive stuff was.  I just bought a bit of bungee and rope and departed.

Then I hit Starbucks to take advantage of the Wi-Fi, downloaded a weather file and checked the US weather service.  There is a depression heading this way which will bring strong winds and maybe rain.  Looks like it will be finished by Friday – when I may depart.  The local radio station is getting excited about the possibility of rain and is calling the depression a storm.  They are predicting a lot of car crashes tomorrow if it rains.

When I departed from Starbucks the wind nearly bowled me over – it had come up quickly.  The trip back to Truce in the dinghy was quite dry, fortunately the wind was from astern.  As I hopped on board a strong squall struck, I was just in time.  The wind threatened to fly the rubber duck like a kite on its painter.  The rest of the day has been gusty wind and sailing around the anchor.

Tomorrow I may pick up some fresh fruit and veggies if I have the chance of sailing on Friday I need to be ready.  

READY TO SAIL FROM SAN FRANCISCO

June 8 2017

The weather forecast guys got it right, the cold front passed through last night with some good winds and rain behind.  I stayed up until three when the wind started dying down. I wasn’t worried about Truce dragging anchor, it was the other boats around, some of them almost wrecks, that I wanted to watch out for.

It’s been rain and drizzle today, not enough to wash off the city grime, just enough to make everything grubby and wet.  I took my final trip ashore in the rubber duck, this time to the Sausalito library for Wi-Fi and a weather update.  The weather looks OK for a departure tomorrow. Not as good as I wanted but if I don’t catch this window the weather turns ugly again for another week.  So, the plan is to sail first light tomorrow morning to catch the ebb tide under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Coming out of the library I found a marine and Ace Hardware store.  Wonderful, I managed to get the items I refused to get yesterday from West Marine at their crazy prices – less than half the West Marine price.

Then I went shopping for a few fresh veggies, fruits, a loaf of bread and a lump of cheese.  I don’t have a fridge on Truce and perishables don’t last long so no point in stocking up too much.

I watched a guy drive off in a Tesla car.  There was no noise.  No sound when he started up, no sound when he drove off.  Wow, the car looks good and appeared not to be slow.  This must be the future.

Back on-board Truce I deflated and stowed the rubber duck, got everything squared away and prepared for sailing tomorrow.  It’s amazing how a few days in port causes all the movable items migrate from their secure spots into the open. Boat and skipper are now ready and eager to get going towards new Zealand.