IN SAUDI ARABIA

I am in Saudi Arabia for a short job, inspecting a couple of ships.  Its quite warm and everything is covered in sand, not really my type of place but I should be able to top up the boat fund and carry on preparing for next summer.

Anyway, I went offshore yesterday and got marooned on a ship overnight.  With not much to do I started flicking back on the laptop through old photos.  I was surprised to see that I was in Pelican, Alaska on this date – TWO years ago!

Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Pelican was an interesting place, the sort of place not many people get to as it’s off the beaten track.  I remember interesting and friendly people, a library with good WiFi, fresh salmon and good beer.  Very enjoyable.

Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Flicking forward in time to one year ago I found a photo of the underside of the mast where it exits the coach roof, with bits of wood smashed up to make makeshift mast wedges.  At the time I was on my way from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was a bit disconcerting when some mast wedges dropped out and creaks started emanating from the mast.  I think the change of climate may have caused the wooden wedges to shrink a bit as we headed south.  I was happy to have fixed the problem and arrived in Hawaii where I made a more permanent fix once in port.

Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.

This year I find myself offshore Saudi Arabia.  I haven’t been in these waters since I was a young man working on a pioneering SBM project to service the super-tankers of the day.  We managed to achieve amazing things with very little equipment – maybe because we didn’t understand we could fail.  There are far more platforms, barges, rigs and workboats around than the old days – it’s a very busy place now.

Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.

By this evening I should be back onshore and writing up my reports.  Then its back on the plane in a couple of days, back to New Zealand and the winter weather.

EIGHT DAYS OUT OF SAN FRANCISCO

Time flies when you’re having fun.  I just realised its eight days since I left san Francisco.  Days at sea run into each other, there is no demarcation or need for holidays or weekends.  When I look at the daily progress on the chart it seems so small but its steady and relentless, day and night until we arrive.

Two years ago, I was not even considering sailing across an ocean by myself.  I didn’t even contemplate going to Alaska on a yacht.  Once you open your mind to opportunities it’s amazing what you can achieve.  One can always find many reasons not to do something – but the fact is you only need one reason to do something.

Today we had the breeze from astern again.  Not much sail trimming to be done, just set it up and sit back for the ride.   It’s not the fastest sailing but it is relaxing – apart from the occasional roiling.  It will be nice if the wind holds steady through the night and not the up and down winds we have been experiencing for the past three nights.

The sun made an appearance after an overcast morning.  I had shorts on for a while until it became too chilly in the wind.  Still a wind chill, even at twenty-six degrees north.

I ran the engine for fifteen minutes.  Just to make sure the batteries are topped off.  Normally the solar panels take care of all the boats electrical loads and I don’t need to run the engine for electricity.  However, the last days have been mainly overcast so I just wanted to make sure I had plenty of electrical juice in the tank.

I just watched ‘A Fish called Wanda’.  An old movie and years since I saw it first.  Still quite funny as you would expect from John Cleese.  Quite a star-studded cast, even a young Stephen Fry has a part in it.

Beer o’clock will be beer this evening.  Last night I had Mount Gay Black Barrel rum.  Excellent rum, but pretty strong if you have to be up and down playing with sails all night.  Voyage distance 1,047 miles.

READY TO SAIL FROM SAN FRANCISCO

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 Friday departure, 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 early Friday 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 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.

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.

SAN FRANCISCO SOJURN

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.

Oakland Marina, Alameda. San Francisco.
Oakland Marina, Alameda. San Francisco.

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 essential items for the boat.

Sailing San Francisco, Photo, Ray Penson
Sailing San Francisco

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.

Alcatraz, San Francisco. Photo Ray, Penson
Alcatraz

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.  Now I am stored, watered and fuelled ready to depart.

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 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.

WINDY ON THE BAY

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. Like The wind was blowing us onto the berth as we prepared to depart we had to wait for a lull before waited 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. 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. I am sure 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.

 

NGOZI ARRIVES SAN FRANCISCO

 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 – 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.

GOLDEN GATE TOMORROW

Last night I was 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 I started the motor.

Through the night 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 I 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 tongozi 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.

CALIFONIAN COASTING

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.  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 bar in the corner of a locker.  It may have been vintage but tasted excellent.  Voyage distance 818.8 miles.

BARE POLES AROUND CAPE MENDOCINO

The same old story, two steps forward – one back.  Last night the wind came on very 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 rounded Cape Mendocino under bare poles, once reaching nine knots!  Steering in that wind is a good workout.

Really a mad morning.  My wind vane can’t handle gale force winds in its fragile state so I headed for Shelter Cove 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.

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 and 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.  Tomorrow is another day.  Voyage distance 765.8 miles.

ANOTHER FRUSTRATING NIGHT

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 to get two or three knots boat speed.

Around four in the morning a northerly breeze came in and has been freshening all day.  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.

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, 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.  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 need him.

We passed Crescent City after lunch and are now in Californian waters, but no warmth or sunshine yet.  We should be rounding Cape Mendocino in the morning at three.  My Grib 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.

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.