Leg 1 - 2006 Victoria, B.C.; San Diego, CA
A New Season!
March 26, 2006, 1410 hrs., 45.15 N, 124.20W, Log: 96,684 miles
Underway, motorsailing at 6 kts into 12 kt headwinds, 112 miles NW of Coos Bay, Oregon
Baro: 1022, Cockpit Temp: 56F, partially clear, 13 kt S winds, Cabin: 64F
For the first time in six years we had Mahina Tiare moored (and stored) near our office and condo on San Juan Island, Washington. We unloaded everything possible from the boat, scrubbing, cleaning plus drying and removing the sails before taking her to a small boat yard in Sidney, B.C., nine miles away for winter storage. After replacing the cutlass bearing and winterizing the engine we put MT's full boat winter cover on and left her for 3.5 months.
All winter we kept stockpiling replacement parts until our office storage room was packed. Once we relaunched her late February, Amanda replaced nearly all of the running rigging and sewed up new table and main hatch covers.
Saturday, March 18 dawned frosty and clear, and with the best weather window in months for departing Victoria, Canada to head south on the first expedition leg of our 17th season. The
only problem was, our crew wasn't scheduled to join us until Monday noon, and by then the narrow window had slammed shut. We set sail early Tuesday morning to catch the ebb tide out the Straits of Juan de Fuca 53 miles to Neah Bay. We had some good following winds to practice helming, tacking, Lifesling rescue tactics and even a squall near Neah Bay for reefing demonstration and practice.
Crew practice reefing
What a shock we had when checking in with the marina manager to find that although Neah Bay is still a Customs Port of Entry, it is unmanned. After a round of calls to Customs in Port Angeles, Hoquiam, Bellingham and Tacoma, we were told (nicely) that we needed to turn around and go 60 miles back to Port Angeles to clear into the US from Canada. So, that's what we did. It wasn't all bad as a series of southerly gales made going south from Neah Bay out of the question. The friendly Customs inspector in Port Angeles recommended Michael's, an outstanding Mediterranean restaurant under a health foods store. We enjoyed a great dinner, exploring this revitalized seaport town, with crew stocking up on more winter garments, including neck gaiters, before setting sail for Neah Bay Thursday morning, arriving late afternoon.
Friday morning a small weather window opened and Commanders Weather recommended a 0400 departure in order to reach Astoria, OR by 0400 Saturday. We awoke to find the entire boat and docks covered in a thick coat of ice. J.M. and Tracy found that sluicing down the decks with buckets of seawater worked as a great de-icer, and the sun was just starting to lighten the eastern sky as we rounded notorious Tatoosh Island and headed south.
The chilling NW winds increased until they hit 32 knots in the late afternoon and our crew got some great high-speed helming experience as Mahina Tiare surfed southwards dodging numerous crab pot floats at up to 8.5 knots. In fact we sailed so quickly that by early Saturday morning we were putting the brakes on with two reefs in the main and three in the jib so we wouldn't arrive at the Columbia River bar entrance in the dark.
The weather information that we received from the GRIB files (www.saildocs.com) and the VHF weather broadcasts indicated that the earlier forecasted strong southerly winds had stalled further offshore, so at 0300, we altered course for Coos Bay, Oregon, 200 miles further south.
Our biggest concern is not hooking a crab pot line on our keel, rudder or prop. The Dungeness crab season is nearing the end of its season but there are still thousands of floats along the NW coast. One fisherman we spoke with said 50 fathoms was the deepest they set traps, another said 80 fathoms, and yet another said some pots were set as deep as 300 fathoms, so we have had the second watch person on continuous lookout during daylight hours.
As another low and cold front approach Tuesday night, we are planning to wait in Coos Bay, catching up on teaching and doing a little exploring before continuing south, hopefully on Wednesday.
Amanda teaching rig tune and inspection
Well that was originally the plan. Commanders said we might have to wait until Saturday for more favorable winds, so, after listening the VHF coastal weather forecast (S 20-25, diminishing the following day) we reckoned the approaching front didn't sound too bad. My only concern was that the barometer had dropped from 1022 to 997 in 24 hours, so I closely listened to the VHF weather to see if the forecasts indicated any severe weather. After having a crew meeting and discussing the forecasts, we decided to reduce sail and sail on to windward through the front. After all, sailing to windward into 20 -25 knots for a 12 hour period isn't a big deal.
This proved to be one fast moving front as our winds went from 6 to 35 knots on the leading edge of the active cold front. Soon we were down to a triple reefed main and a small amount of headsail. At 2100 I ducked below to see if the VHF weather had been updated and was stunned to hear that a severe high winds warning had been issued for the southern Oregon coast with winds of 50, gusts 65. We quickly pulled the storm trysail and storm staysail out from under the forward bunk and Tracy ran off downwind while several of us dropped the main and hoisted the trysail. As the winds reached the mid-30's, we chose to heave-to at 60 degrees off the wind. We were relatively comfortable considering the short steep breaking seas and maintained watches as we had several crab boats with their huge deck lights glowing around us. We tacked twice to stay in at least 80 fathoms (fewer crab pots) but within 20 miles of the coast as the winds are generally stronger further offshore. In the early morning as the winds reached the mid-40's and continued to build, we un-backed the headsail and tried fore-reaching (close reaching slowly under storm sails) which kept us from losing as much ground as heaving-to. The few miles we lost in leeway while heaving to we made back while forereaching.
By 0900 the winds were down to 20 knots so we dropped the trysail hoisted a reefed main. This was only the third time in 97,000 miles that we had hoisted the trysail for other than teaching purposes.
We had a re-cap with expedition members, talking about why we hoisted the trysail (potential of sustained 50 kts, gusts to 65) and how I should have put more weight in the huge drop in the barometer. They each said that they really appreciated the experience of going through the intense frontal system and were glad that we weren't sitting comfortably in Coos Bay during the blow! Now that is dedication to learning and gaining experience!
We headed south towards Eureka where we received a forecast suggesting we continue to San Francisco to avoid another intense low headed toward the coast.
Friday, March 31, 2006 0130, 37.26S, 123.04W, Log: 97,231 miles
Motorsailing at 6.8 knots into 17 kt S winds, 20 miles SW of the Golden Gate Bridge
Baro: 1013.4, Cockpit Temp: 53.4 F
This morning we received several forecasts that suggested if we stopped in San Francisco, we probably wouldn't be able to sail south until Monday, which wouldn't allow us time to reach San Diego before the end of the expedition. J.M. came up with the idea of checking out the weather for skipping San Francisco (none of us looked forward to that option) to get south before the next southerly storm system made landfall on Saturday night or Sunday morning. We quickly studied options of Moss Landing, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara and LA, deciding to keep on sailing south, as long as headwinds and seas weren't too rough. Today we had fairly good conditions, sailing to windward until the wind shifted to nearly on our nose, then motorsailing to hold
course rather than tacking back and forth and missing the weather window. The amazing thing is that not one of our crew has complained once about these boisterous conditions.
Nicole and Amanda get creative in the galley
What a tough start to the season this leg has proven! When we sailed the identical leg in 2000, we were 4.5 days from Victoria to San Francisco. This year the succession of southerly blows has given us a hiding and we've taken 10.5 days of bouncy motorsailing interspersed with a little good sailing to cover the same distance. My guess is that the North Pacific jet stream has shifted south, causing the storms that would normally make landfall in Alaska & Canada to make hit as far south as Southern California. The GRIB files predict we should be able to ease sheets in SW 10-20 knot winds this afternoon, and we are all looking forward to that!
Here's our intrepid Leg 1 crew:
Arthur Koenig, 61 lives near Vatican City in Rome, with his wife, Yvonne. He has lived all over the world as his business is running steel mills. His most recent mill was in Russia, but he just retired last month and can't wait to take delivery of his new Morris 34 in Maine this July. Arthur's son recently moved from Rome to San Francisco where he attends UCSF
and Arthur is looking forward to renting a car in San Diego and driving up the coast to visit his son after the expedition.
Bruno enjoying a sunny period at the wheel
Nicole answering Arthur's weather questions
Arthur and Bruno on watch
J.M and Arthur trim the boat while Jerry takes a break from the weather
Bruno Claude, 46 joins us from Zurich, but is originally from Belgium. Having recently sold his cable television business, Bruno just purchased a nearly-new Hallberg-Rassy 46 from our friend Willy at Transworld Yachts in The Hamble, England and plans to sail it to Portugal and then to cross the Atlantic in the ARC rally this November with his wife Miriam. He is very excited about this and is constantly taking pictures and making notes of different ways we have rigged things on Mahina Tiare. Bruno is also really looking forward to meeting his two sons in New York after the expedition.
Nicole Friend, 31 lives aboard a houseboat in Sausalito and she and her husband Gar are outfitting their recently purchased Pacific Seacraft 40 for a South Pacific cruise, hopefully this year! Nicole worked in Palau, Micronesia and is looking forward to sailing back there. She is a consultant for environmental philanthropy and an aspiring photographer. Nicole is imbued with a great sense of humor and adventure and keeps us all on our toes!
J.M. Kiel, 53 lives aboard his Spencer 53 with his wife Gail in Portland, OR. Gail is joining us on Leg 3. They hope to circumnavigate the world with the Blue Water Rally. Both J.M. and Gail are vetetrinarians, but J.M. has made a career change to pursue writing. He is currently working with Fine Edge Productions to update several of Don & Reanne Douglass' excellent cruising guides to Alaska, B.C. and the West Coast.
Tracy Willett, 55 is a wonder woman! She was a welder in a shipyard, a midwife who delivered thousands of babies in desperately poor Mozambique and later became a physician who now works in a family care clinic, but can't wait to go cruising on their recently purchased Mason 43. Her 13 year old son and husband equally share her passion for travel and adventure, and her son has already built a sailing dinghy!
Jerry Cambell, 57 singlehanded his immaculate Island Packet 40 to Victoria to meet us for the expedition. He plans on meeting his daughter in Victoria and sailing back to Seattle with her after he flies back from San Diego. Jerry has set up his custom home building business so that he has two to three months off each summer to sail to British Columbia. He looks forward to long distance cruising to warmer climes with his IP.
Leg 1 - 2006, Update 2
April 3, 2006, 0600 hrs., 32.46 N, 117.25W, Log: 97,667 miles
Ghosting along at 2.4 kts in 5kt NW winds
Baro: 1917, Cockpit Temp: 59F, clear skies, Cabin: 66F
On Friday our conditions improved and we passed Point Conception in very light winds with a modest NW swell. It was dark when we passed Santa Barbara, so we pressed on into Santa Barbara channel with a following westerly wind filling in nicely.
As the wind built to 14-18 knots we had fabulous downwind sailing occasionally accompanied by dolphins jetting back and forth in our wake. We stayed outside the shipping lanes; gybing back and forth throughout the night avoiding a steady succession of freighters, tug and barges and even a couple cruise ships. The most fascinating targets we passed were the many oil rigs lit up like Coney Island, some with bright
flares burning off excess gas, others roaring like prehistoric monsters.
Oil rig off Santa Barbara
We had thought of stopping at Marina del Rey to visit Steve and Linda Dashew aboard Wind Horse, their new 83' powerboat, but with a gorgeous clear sunny morning we continued on to Santa Catalina Island, 40 miles away.
Our winds held for most of the day and we were treated to a calm sunny cruise along a picturesque island. As this was only Sunday, we didn't need to arrive in San Diego (just 70 miles further) until Tuesday, our crew chose to stop in the more remote and quiet Two Harbors the first night and then the busier town of Avalon on Monday. The one thing we couldn't figure out as we approached Two Harbors, was why on a sunny Sunday morning almost all the moorings were empty and there was a steady stream of boats heading back to LA. In summer there are lots of boats and limited space, nearly all of the bays shallow enough to anchor are occupied with mooring floats to accommodate more boats.
As we approached the harbor, the harbor patrol boat came out and offered to show us to a mooring. The second thing the he said was, "Have you listened to the weather forecast this
morning?" We hadn't. After all, we were in sunny Southern California. We had pushed hard to get here and the grib files showed only light and variable winds for the next several days and the previous nights forecast were totally mellow.
We were quickly informed that 50 knot, gusting to 65 knot winds, waterspouts and torrential rains were forecast.
M.T at anchor in Avalon
The harbor is sheltered from the SW, the forecast direction, but upon listening to the forecast, we discovered that a powerful low was racing down from the Queen Charlotte Islands, colliding with a moist tropical front and the entire Southern California area was forecast to have terrible weather, Monday afternoon through Wednesday. All of the sudden our two days of enjoying Catalina while finishing our teaching went down the drain! We jointly decided that it would be prudent to boogie for San Diego that night before the storm slammed the coast.
Amanda suggested we slip the mooring and head to the town of Avalon, 12 miles along Catalina's coast, for some exploring and dinner ashore. We found Avalon fairly deserted and everyone took off in different directions, exploring the waterfront village and housed hills above. We met at an Italian restaurant for dinner, picked up a few groceries and then set sail after dark.
It's now 0640, Point Loma where the America's Cup was held back in the '80's is on the bow and the sun is about to rise over the ridge line. We're hoping for just a few more knots of wind so
we can complete our Lifesling rescue training before entering the channel and heading to Kona Kai Marina on Shelter Island. The next couple days will be busy as we complete our classes with sail repair, winch maintenance, going aloft for rigging checks, cruising medicine and communications options.
Ice Cream Eating Crew - Jerry, Bruno, Arthur, Nicole, Tracy, J.M and Amanda
Since each member of this expedition are setting sail for tropical waters shortly on their own boats, Amanda has offered to hold a fishing lure class after a crew trip to the local West Marine store to personally select fishing skirts and heads.
April 4, 2006, 2100 hrs., moored at I-63, Kona Marina, Shelter Island
Our winds picked up yesterday morning and we spent several hours working on Lifesling overboard tactics. We tried several new tactics including the deep beam reach system that Chuck Hawley
advocates. After several hours of experimenting we fine-tuned a technique we dubbed the Quick Stop Fishtail.
Nicole, Arthur and Tracy, weary after all our adventures, work hard at the procedures test
What a parade of ships and boat we had passing us all morning, coming out the San Diego channel. First was a Coast Guard boat followed by a nuclear attack sub, a Chouset research ship with a large submarine on the aft deck, an amphibious support ship, a frigate, a gaggle of fast navy RIB's with machine guns on the bow.
After tying up at the Harbor Police dock we cleared customs and moved to Kona Marina after fueling up. We have been working hard on our teaching, covering communications, sail
repair, splicing, rigging the trysail, passage planning, cruising medicine and at Nicole's urging, Amanda taught fishing lure construction.
View of MT from the top of the mast
The storm that we had been waiting for arrived just after we had washed and hoisted the trysail and were taking the radar off to get serviced.
We had a fun dinner out tonight at the Blue Wave with lots of laughs and good times. We're hoping to get a few coats of varnish on the rails this week as well as doing some serious provisioning interspersed with checking out our new little Helios folding bikes.