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Leg 1 - 2015, Update 1

March 23, 2015, 0115 hrs, 44.53 N, 124.38 W, Log: 180,947 miles
Baro: 1010.1, Cabin Temp: 66 F (furnace is on low), Cockpit: 50 F, Sea Water: 55F
Close-hauled at 5-6 kts under double reefed main and triple reefed genoa in 20-28 kt S headwinds and occasional squalls.

A ROUGH AND WET START TO OUR 25TH SEASON!

Currently we're 31 miles NW of Newport, Oregon reefed down so as not to arrive at the Yaquina River bar entrance before dawn or before the strong ebb tidal current which may cause breakers across the channel entrance has subsided.

Our keen and eager crew joined us Thursday, March 19th in Victoria, Canada. I say keen and eager, as why but for heavy weather experience would anyone sign up to sail down the Washington-Oregon coast so early in the season? Our personal reason for starting off in March instead of June is simply to be clear of the Caribbean before the start of hurricane season in early July.

Mahina Tiare wintered ashore at Canoe Cove, 20 miles N of Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Amanda and I arrived March 8 to complete a few chores including anti-fouling (just around the waterline), getting help with a couple of engine and rigging chores and set sail two days later for Roche Harbor Resort, where we loaded gear we'd been stockpiling at home and in our office all winter. On Sunday, March 15 we motored the 15 miles to Victoria where we completed a few last minute jobs and completed our final provisioning.

We were ready when crew arrived on March 19th and within 30 minutes of their arrival set sail 24 miles directly south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to clear US Customs in Port Angeles, WA where we found an excellent marina with a very helpful harbormaster and friendly and efficient customs officers.


Leaving Victoria Harbour

Crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the fog

With 55 miles to Neah Bay, the small Indian settlement on NW tip of Washington State, we got underway just before first light. It was afternoon before the rain tapered off and the following easterly winds picked up, and pick up they did, with MT surfing along at over 8 kts before we stopped to practice Lifesling overboard rescue in the gusty conditions.

It was really tipping when we reached Makah Marina, owned and operated by the Makah tribe. Dave rigged the cockpit enclosure, we cranked our trusty Webasto furnace on high and before long our adventuresome crew took off exploring the settlement, rain or no rain! For the first time in our three visits the impressive tribal museum was open and Amanda and I enjoyed a quick tour before closing time.

The forecast we received from Commanders Weather was not at all promising, with the suggestion that we wait in Neah Bay until later in the coming week to avoid a quick procession of fairly active frontal passages bringing southerly headwinds. By listening to the local VHF continuous weather broadcasts and looking at the GRIB weather charts we discovered the winds were consistently 5-10 kts less in the coast to ten miles off area than in the 10-60 mile offshore region so at first light Saturday morning we set off rounding Tatoosh Island and motorsailing in light headwinds south along Washington's dramatic and rugged coast.

03 The wild Washington coast line near Tatoosh Island 04 Tara helms while Peter keeps a lookout for crab pot floats We started with small goals - our first was just to make it to Grays Harbor, a fairly secure bar entrance. Once we passed Grays Harbor, our next thought was making it to the Columbia River bar entrance and into Astoria, Oregon, hopefully just before near gale force headwinds picked up. Very early this morning the forecast improved and we decided to bypass Astoria and see if we could make Newport, Oregon, the next river bar entrance before yet another frontal passage with forecasted 30+ knot southerly headwinds arrived. And that is what we are doing now. Actually, the first front has passed us, but we kept tucking in reefs in the main and rolling up headsail and our keen crew have been enjoying the challenge of motor sailing in difficult chilly wet conditions.

The Coast Guard is making frequent broadcasts on Ch 16 that all of the harbor entrances, including even the Columbia River are now closed to vessels under 40' due to breaking wave conditions when the ebb current hits the westerly swell. As maximum ebb is at 0800 today, we have purposefully tacked 35 miles offshore so we won't arrive until closer to slack water.

We've only seen ship traffic at the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and off the Columbia River and surprisingly haven't seen a single fishing boat and only one motor yacht headed north. Crab pot floats have meant that last night we kept a bow watch with spotlight throughout the night, but today we haven't seen a single float.

March 25, 2015, 2335 hrs, 41.37 N, 124.59 W, Log: 181,201 miles
Baro: 1027.2, Cabin Temp: 68 F (furnace is on low), Cockpit: 49 F, Sea Water: 57F
Broad-reaching at 4-5 kts under full main and genoa in 10-12 kt N following winds and seas.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES, AND HOORAY, WE'RE NOW IN CALIFORNIA!!!

We hove to for 30 minutes just outside Newport, Oregon's entrance channel to wait for slack water, and phone called both a recorded bar report, and a USCGuard watch-stander. The Coast Guard officer was very helpful and said that since we'd waited for slack water we would miss the 10' breakers in the channel and should have passable conditions, noting that the bar was closed to all vessels under 40' due to hazardous conditions. As the strong west winds would be directly astern, we elected to drop the main, but leave a small amount of headsail up for stability and in case we lost power. We again reviewed the full-sized paper harbor entrance chart, the C-MAP chart running on Rose Point Coastal Explorer and the Navionics chart running on our Raymarine C80 MFD plus the directions, chartlets and aerial photos in Don and Reanne Douglass' excellent Exploring the Pacific Coast cruising guide.

Dave piloted us in the fairly narrow channel lined with rock breakwaters and had his hands full keeping MT lined up on the leading marks especially when a whale surfaced beside us, sea lions leaped in the waves and a crab pot buoy danced precisely mid channel. Several times it looked like breakers were about to crash over our stern, but MT surfed forward.


Surfing into Newport through the channel

View of the channel out to sea from the Highway bridge

After a few minutes we got into calmer water, passed under the Highway 101 classic bridge and looked for a fuel dock. A helpful liveaboard cruiser who worked for the Port of Newport Marina gave us a hand tying up, woke up the fuel dock attendant and welcomed us to Newport.


MT tied up and snug in the Marina

View of the Marina from the Highway 101 bridge

Our crew set off to find showers and hike across the bridge to explore town while Amanda and I went to work on unblocking a head, changing engine oil and making a shopping list.

By the time we were ready to head to town it was tipping buckets and blowing a hoolie, so we hitched a ride to the grocery store where everyone was talking about the 60 kt southerly storm forecasted for the evening.

Once back aboard we doubled up lines enjoyed an amazing dinner then all crashed, barely hearing the howling in the rigging and the torrential downpour that occurred through the night.

Keeping a lookout for floats is rather chilly in these conditions but necessary
Yesterday morning we left at slack water with much mellower bar conditions. Sadly, the forecasted 10-15 kt NW conditions never eventuated, instead we had headwinds of up to 27 kts all night and through to this morning when it finally abated, shifting to the SW, W and now NW.

We just crossed the border into California this afternoon and right on cue the sun came out, someone spotted a mother and calf grey whales very close off out bow and we gained a brief escort. As we're now 35 miles west of Klamath River and in 3,000 fathoms of water, we no longer have to keep a lookout for crab pot floats which is very nerve racking, particularly at night.

We're not sure where our next stop will be - possibly Santa Cruz or Monterey, but we're pleased to have clear skies, lots of stars and following wind and seas allowing us to catch up on sleep and turn our attention to class and learning.

March 27, 2015, 0411 hrs, 39.10 N, 124.04 W, Log: 181,367 miles
Baro: 1022.0, Cabin Temp: 64 F (furnace is on low), Cockpit: 49 F, Sea Water: 56.8F
Broad-reaching at 5 kts under full main and reefed genoa in 10-12 kt N following winds and moderate seas.

MYSTERY SHIP!

For the past 24 hours we've had varying levels of fog with visibility ranging from .2 to 4 miles, so we've been running our 48 mile Raymarine radar and AIS transceiver continuously, with someone responsible for watching it. Around midnight Amanda started tracking a radar return that matched our 4.5 - 5kt speed, paralleling our course four miles further offshore but not transmitting an AIS identifying signal. When I assumed the radar watch from Amanda, I called the vessel, using the cursor on our C80 display to identify their position as I was concerned that they had slowly started cutting across our course. On the second call, "Warship 1” replied faintly, that they were the vessel I was concerned about. Their radio signal was weak and their radar image was small, what one would expect from a 50' fishing vessel at four miles, not from a warship, so I asked them to confirm that they were in fact 15 miles NW of Point Arena. They confirmed and then slowly speeded up, their radar return completely disappearing at six miles. If this truly was a warship, they were obviously using some type of stealth technology.

Today our favorable following northerly winds gusted into the mid-30's giving our watchstanders some excellent surfing experience as we zoomed along at up to 9.5 knots. The swells were amazingly modest and Amanda was able to complete a very thorough rig inspection and spares class, followed by my in-depth start to our marine weather class.


Rig inspection class

Jacqueline gets a workout with the Big Daddy riveter

Most of our crew enjoyed hot showers on the aft deck and we are all pleased and excited to have forecasted strengthening northerly winds for the next several days. An overnight stop in Monterey on Saturday is definitely a strong possibility and it is great for the first time in three similar expeditions it is a relief not to be concerned about having enough time to reach San Diego before the final day of the expedition. We're even talking about a night anchored off Hearst Castle at San Simeon Bay, a great opportunity to practicing anchoring, launching the tender and surf dinghy landing as well as the chance for running on the beach and hiking. It's all good!

 


Leg 1 - 2015, Update 2

March 30, 2015, 0115 hrs, 44.53 N, 124.38 W, Log: 180,947 miles
Baro: 1010.1, Cabin Temp: 66 F (furnace is on low), Cockpit: 50 F, Sea Water: 55F
Close-hauled at 5-6 kts under double reefed main and triple reefed genoa in 20-28 kt S headwinds and occasional squalls.

ADVENTURE, AWESOME DOWNWIND SAILING IN SUNNY CALIFORNIA AND DAMAGE FROM A WHALE

A ridge of high pressure off the California coast has meant that every day our downwind sailing conditions has been a little stronger than the previous day, frequently reaching the high 30 knot and low 40 knot range. We've covered hundreds of miles with reefs in the main and just a scrap of genoa unrolled while surfing along at times reaching over 9 kts in seas to 14'. It's giving our Leg 1 crew fantastic steering, reefing and gybing experience.

So let's meet this great crew.


Left to Right - Greg, Tara, Dave, Peter, Deryk, David Jacqueline and Amanda

Greg, 62
I'm a vet in the SF Bay area and own a 25' sloop which I keep on Lake Tahoe. I've chartered in the BVI and Australia, but wanted to try a more difficult passage.

Tara, 47
I work as a school counselor and am currently landlocked in Colorado, having earlier spent many years enjoying the waters of the Pacific Northwest. I have two amazing sons that I hope to sail with in the future. In addition to sailing, I love to climb, ski and spend time with my dogs.

Dave, 54
I live near Seattle and sailing has been a life-long passion of mine. This is my second MT expedition having completed Leg 7-2013. Every minute aboard MT has been enjoyable and I wish I could stay all the way to Sweden! In the next few years I will strike out on my own.

Deryk, 53
I'm currently on an extended break in a career in technology and live in Western Canada. I've been involved in adventure sports (climbing, skiing, paragliding) most of my life and learned to sail while stationed in Texas in the 90's, becoming an avid racer. I am currently shopping for a boat for extended cruising with my wife (who is sailing on Leg 2) and our four year old daughter and hope to be living aboard later this year.

David, 55
This is my first long passage since moving to the Bay Area from London a few years ago. I'm thinking of buying a boat to do the Pacific Cup on and possibly cruise with my family.

Peter, 57
I'm a strategic marketing consultant and have worked for mobile tech companies. I learned to sail in the Humber College CYA program on Lake Ontario, near Toronto and have lived in Vancouver with my wife Jacqueline for the past ten years where we enjoy sailing our Beneteau 393. We plan on blue water cruising in the next 1-2 years.

Jacqueline, 51
I started sailing Lasers on a small lake near Montreal and moved to Vancouver with Peter to scale up our sailing dream. I work in banking.

Last night was particularly rough with large, confused following seas and sometime after dinner several of us heard a large THUD, like someone had dropped a deck hatch from full open position. Early this morning Greg pointed out that our second port stanchion from the bow was severely bent inward at nearly a 90 degree angle. I checked it out and discovered black tissue flakes of black scattered about the stanchion, surrounding deck and dinghy. There was no sign of contact on the hull topsides, only the bent stanchion. Bizarre, but not dissimilar from last September in Alaska when a humpback whale concentrating on chasing a herring ball didn't see MT until the last minute when it made a sudden 90 degree turn, rolling over its feeding partner and nearly whacking the inflatable kayak lashed to MT's lifelines with its pectoral fin. We'll never know what hit us this time, but fortunately we have a spare stanchion to replace the bent one.

Originally we were concerned about reaching Monterey before dark and spent the majority of the early afternoon motoring when the wind went lighter to 11 knots to maintain a boat speed of 6.5 knots - but in the end we had to slow down so as not to arrive too early Saturday morning! Navigating through the fog we found the municipal marina (located next to Monterey's historic Cannery Row) very helpful on the phone and when we checked into their office. We'd arrived on an 82 degree cloudless (ashore but not out to sea) Saturday morning at the start of spring break so the wharf was lined with families fishing, the pier a mass of wandering shopping and dining folks, and the beaches packed with families and water craft.


Entering Monterey Marina through the narrow breakwater gap

Minutes after our arrival our crew headed off on their own adventures and when Amanda and I had just about completed inventorying our food supplies to figure what provisions we required someone hailed, "Hello Mahina Tiare" from the dock. We popped up to discover Alison, rocket scientist extraordinaire and Leg 3 expedition member with her husband Glen and 8 and 10 year olds, Paul and Claire. They're planning to set sail on their own cruising adventures to Australia next year and earlier Alison had emailed saying that if we stopped in San Francisco she would REALLY, REALLY like to show her kids the boat she'll be sailing to Panama on.

As we were sailing past the entrance to SF Bay, I planned to email Alison to say we'd decided not to stop as it was dark and we were making such excellent time under near-gale conditions, but I became totally occupied with avoiding drifting ships, vessel traffic separation lanes, watching the radar and AIS all in thick fog conditions. Little did I know Alison had been keenly following our YB Tracker progress her i-phone and once she read in our first update that we were considering stopping in Monterey she had the family on standby alert Saturday morning for a 1.5 hour trip to Monterey from their home in Redwood City.

Alison, Glen Claire and Paul strike a family pose by our bent stanchion
The instant she saw the ping land in a marina berth she piled the family into their Subaru wagon with a backup plan of day adventuring if we were not to be found. They arrived at the locked dock gate just as Deryk was opening the gate, heading to the shower.

It worked perfectly - she got to show her family MT. In exchange Alison kindly offered to run us to the nearest grocery store while Glen took the kids to a huge public playground/park next door. Amanda choose Safeway over Trader Joe's and Alison certainly helped us power shop while plying us with questions of the boats that she and Glen are currently considering. As we were loading the groceries into the back of the wagon I asked Alison what all the wetsuits were for. She said that in case the marina was full and we were assigned a mooring buoy, they planned to rent kayaks and paddle out to visit. This is one determined girl! She said that long before she met and married Glen, she'd decided to experience an offshore cruising adventure as a family.

After stowing the groceries Amanda and I took off on a long late afternoon walk down Cannery Row, to soak in the atmosphere and find an interesting place for dinner.


Evening view of the pier and Monterey waterfront

Meanwhile our crew had taken off in all directions. Tara and Dave jumped in a taxi to travel 15 minutes over the peninsula to explore Carmel, which they said was less touristy and busy and had one of the most beautiful beaches they'd ever seen along with a nice French restaurant. Jacqueline and Peter hit the gym then soaked up some local jazz music, David and Greg caught up with family and Deryk explored the Monterey Aquarium before focusing on his navigation duties.


Tara is all smiles as we shake out the reefs to full main.
Deryk calculated it was a 90 mile run to San Simeon, the bay that Hearst Castle overlooks, so that dictated a pre-dawn 0500 departure. Amazingly everyone was up on deck and ready to go at 0500 and we crept along, following a fishing boat out through the crowded mooring field. Thankfully there was no fog or too many crab floats and we were soon sailing smoothly south.

Yesterday was a very exciting day for sailing. Winds kept building, our crew kept reefing, occasionally shaking a reef or two out for an hour, then tucking them back in as the wind built up again. As soon as we hit shallower water crab pot floats appeared which dictated a bow watch and some very challenging slalom helming to avoid snagging them. Although we'd left before dawn to ensure daylight for anchoring at San Simeon we ended up arriving nearly two hours before dark, thanks to the powerful NW winds. We anchored off the pier in 15 feet and a rather rolly sea but enjoyed the warm sunset and the early evening hours view of Hearst Castle perched on a ridgetop.


Late afternoon view of Hearst Castle as we approach San Simeon Bay

April 1, 2015, 0615 hrs, 34.19 N, 120.39 W, Log: 181,733 miles
Baro: 1016.6, Cabin Temp: 62 F (no more furnace!), Cockpit: 60 F, Sea Water: 60F (warmer!)
Broad-reaching at 8-9 kts under triple reefed main and triple reefed genoa in 32-40 kt WNW winds with gale warnings and seas to 15'.

ROUNDING POINT CONCEPTION, THE CAPE HORN OF THE NORTH PACIFIC IN NEAR GALE CONDITIONS

Who says it never blows in Southern California? Only occasionally do we shake the third reef out and last night was a challenging one as we dodged oil platforms, moored and drifting oil tankers, all the time trying to stay clear of the Vessel Traffic System lanes. Coast Guard broadcasts are forecasting gale warnings with 30-35 kt winds, gusting 45 knots and seas to 15' over the rest of the week, but only north and further offshore once we complete rounding Point Conception and head toward Santa Catalina Island.

Yesterday morning we awoke to booming surf on the beach at San Simeon Bay so we weren't in a rush to head ashore. I baked muffins and Amanda taught sail design and sail trim before Dave and I launched the dinghy and headed toward shore to see how feasible a surf landing was. We made it in without a hitch and our new dinghy lock-down beaching wheels worked like a charm. Dave stayed ashore to help with future landings and I returned to crew who were just completing sail trim. Our two landings with the balance of crew went fairly well, with only Jacqueline getting pushed over in the shallows as the dinghy surfed in the last bit.


Oh...is the dinghy is coming ashore through the surf?

Amanda teaching rigging spares

Everyone took off exploring on their own, with most checking out the Hearst Castle visitor center and enjoying long walks on the stunning empty beaches. Hearst Castle sits atop a mountain ridge with a fabulous ocean view in both directions. At one time the working cattle ranch composed 50,000 acres and 13 miles of Pacific coastline. We read that only recently the Hearst family donated most of the land to a conservancy group and earlier they had donated the castle to the State which does an amazing job of managing it as a very popular visitor destination.

Tara is all smiles as we shake out the reefs to full main.
In both directions along the coast the grass slopes leading up from the coast to the ridge looked like velvet and fields of blue wildflowers rippled in the coastal breezes. It felt so different being on land with temperatures near 80F and looking out to sea with long rows of breakers, versus surfing underway with a chilly damp wind watching the coast pass by.


Whose idea was is for a surf landing?
Getting back through the surf proved far more challenging and involved two attempts. (One must remember to attach the outboard kill switch to oneself before leaping from a surf tumbled dinghy with outboard running!). In the end with lots of helping hands wading the dinghy out waist deep through small rollers I motored the dinghy through the bigger surf with crew swimming out to the RIB in the bracing water then climbing aboard.

Hot showers on the swim step were very much in order and before long Amanda had made an excellent curry dinner with garlic naan after which we stowed the dinghy and setting sail at 1830. We were keen to have daylight to get through the minefield of crab pot floats we'd encountered on the way into the bay and have the sails set before dark.

Last night provided more excellent heavy-weather downwind steering, gybing and reefing experience with the added bonus of dodging oil rigs and tankers.

April 3, 2015, 0115 hrs, 32.59 N, 117.45 W, Log: 181,907 miles
Baro: 1015.4, Cabin Temp: 67 F (no more furnace!), Cockpit: 30 F, Sea Water: 67F
Motoring along quietly at 6.6 kts in 5 kt NNE winds.

WE LOVE SANTA CATALINA ISLAND!

Our strong NW following winds and seas held until we were a few hours from our 0400 arrival at Two Harbors, Catalina Island giving us enough time under power to nearly top up the batteries. Our original plan had been to continue on to Avalon, the busy little seaside tourist town of Catalina Island, but we were nearly a day ahead of schedule, thanks to the fresh NW winds, so we decided to explore Two Harbors, an isolated settlement with numerous sheltered bays and coves, most having mooring balls.

Entrance in the dark proved easy, thanks to the excellent level of detail provided on C-MAP charts running on Rose Point Navigations Coastal Explorer program on our laptop temporarily located in the cockpit. With a couple hundred empty moorings to choose from our expedition members did a brilliant job of picking up and securing the connected bow and stern moorings. Then it was very quiet. In the nearly full moonlight we could see tall palm trees lining the beach.

We all headed ashore to explore this lovely spot after breakfast. The spine of Catalina is rugged and dry and as we hiked east along the coastal track we met a very sweaty Deryk who showed us on a map how he'd nearly circumnavigated half the 18 mile long island.


The mooring field at Two Harbors – MT is on the left with her bow facing the beach

One of the many vistas Deryk experienced on his Trans Catalina Route trek

At 1600 we set sail on a blistering broad reach for the 12 mile passage to Avalon.

Wait let's keep sailing past Avalon there's dolphins on the bow!

Avalon has a picturesque magical charm that is rather unique

Dave took the watch as Amanda taught splicing on the trip to Avalon where we secured to an assigned mooring and headed ashore for a hearty Italian dinner.

This morning Jacqueline was the only taker for a sunrise run up the mountains. Following breakfast Amanda taught sail repair and use of our Sailrite sewing machine before I covered communication options. Crew headed ashore for more hiking and exploring and to celebrate Tara's birthday and we met on the dinghy dock at 1900, getting underway for San Diego while there was still light to maneuver clear of the 250 moorings.

It's hard to believe the lights of San Diego are on the bow and that we'll be securely tied up in our slip at the Kona Kai Marina not long after first light. This expedition has sure whizzed by!


Deryk's view of Kona Kai Marina and downtown San Diego in the distance.

April 8, 2015, 0625 hrs, 32.42 N, 117.13 W, Log: 181,949 miles
Baro: 1016.8, Cabin Temp: 64F, Cockpit: 65 F, Sea Water: 67F (warmer!)

Moored at Kona Kai Marina

Our dawn arrival was uneventful and after breakfast we completed our teaching with going aloft, Cruising Medicine, celestial navigation, braid splicing and whipping. We enjoyed an excellent graduation dinner ashore with three previous expedition members joining us and before long Leg 1 crew were off to new adventures. A special thanks to Deryk for sharing such great images of the expedition.

Amanda and I have had a busy few days stocking MT up as this will be the last time we have access to West Marine and Costco (aside from a possible stop in Puerto Rico) for many years. Amanda has singlehandedly managed a couple of coats of varnish on the toerail and I've been busy with quite a few boat purchase consultation clients buying their dream boats worldwide.


Leg 1 Itinerary

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