Friday, October 24, 2008

san francisco part two

As we left the strait of juan de fuca, the big ocean swells were already rolling in. the winds and currents were mostly for us, but the open ocean swells were funneling right down the straight, forming big close packed swells. Our first attempt a week earlier was during a new moon. We had left around 14:00 so as we entered this big swell area it was very dark and stormy. Sometimes our boat would slid down a swell and it would feel like we were being sucked down into a back abyss only to be lifted up into the sky and then back down the next swell all in the blackest night. This made some of us a feel a little seasick, but it was exciting too. Our second attempt we were more prepared for the big swells and we also were more ready to set sail as we found out it is much more comfortable and fun to sail rather than motor especially in bigger winds and seas. Coming out of the strait rounding Tatoosh Island we cut out to the open ocean until we were about 100 miles offshore.
By the third day we had our sea legs and started to eat a little more than fruit until our stomachs settled..
Leaf and I both got sick a little but we recovered and felt the relief of our bodies adjusting to the sea.
Doing repairs on the rigging while underway were some of our more challenging moments. The bail which is a steel strap that is bolted on the boom to hold the boom vang on broke under way, the preventer held the boom down so it was ok until I replaced the broken vang with a piece of chain that works so well I am not going to replace it.
Catching the tuna was a big highlight. When we first heard the fishing reel whine we thought something must have broken. Then we heard it again and ran out to the cockpit. Leaf reeled in our second line to keep it out of the way, Yvonne got the net ready and I brought the tuna to the side of the boat Yvonne scooped it up in our big net. When we bought the net we wondered if we would ever catch a big fish in it.
We ate our fill of fresh tuna steaks. It was a great. The next day the sea was so calm we lay and rested totally becalmed. We enjoyed the rest and the warm sunny day.
That evening the winds built up quickly and all the sudden the swells were about 12 ft and the winds around 30 knots, I found I could not drop the mainsail. Due to my inexperience reefing during a storm and the wire winch (brent swain says “wire winches should only be in museums“) jamming the halyard, we were sailing down wind with our mainsail up with the wind and seas building. At this trying time,our faithful and perfectly working wind vane named “lucky the monkey” broke off. Fortunately he fell of slowly. I had time to disconnect the control wires and to tie on ropes to hold it if if fell off entirely. Soon enough the whole rudder disconnected and for over two days of storm sailing it held on floating in a very stable way like a knife in the water that really helped us steer by being an accidental sea anchor. So Lucky helped us even in its completely disabled state. We love our self steering system and will rebuild it and upgrade the attachments Once we figured out how to use the windvane properly we found we can sail in all point of sail with much more comfort and ease.
We saw very few other ships once we were out of the shipping lanes. A few fish boats and a few freighters.
We have had a great time in San Francisco, people are very friendly and people watching along Fishermen’s Warf was lots of fun. We toured the boat museum and did some shopping in Chinatown. The customs officer was very nice and friendly. The whole bay is very kind to mariners. We called the coastguard and asked where we could anchor and they told “anywhere as long as you are not in a shipping lane”. so we tucked in the aquatic park reserved for sailboats, rowing and swimming. For three days we were anchored right in front of the city while we checked out the shopping, museum and galleries. A great reward for our first blue water sail.
Presently we are anchored in Sausalito for a few days for upgrades and repairs.
We play catch with leaf in the park and Yvonne just made a chocolate cake for Leafs birthday.

Sausalito is nice with still strong elements of the past bohemian days of the area. Old trucks and folksy folk living along the waters edge with lots of character mixed right among the yuppiest of the yuppies and lots of tourists. There are a few well placed dingy docks and a library that gave us full use visitors card. It is very warm (26C). Some locals say this is the nicest time off the year here. We are finding a little time for sunbathing and enjoying inexpensive California wines.
Best wishes

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sept.29 2008 on a new moon we left to sail south from Victoria B.C. Canada to San Francisco California.
Two days out we were about 100 miles off the mid-coast of Washington, we heard on the radio that a big southerly was blowing south of us and heading our way. Since this was our first time out blue water sailing we decided to head back. So for two days we motored back to Victoria. There we waited another week until another weather window opened. This time it seemed a strong northerly would blow us all the way to California. Anywhere on the west coast a storm can blow up big anytime and the best time to go south is in summer. We were late leaving but we were determined to go anyway.
At first most things worked ok. It was challenging for us to handle the big seas and especially at night. But this time the moon was up at night and so night sailing was not quite so scary. We had a number of problems and just about everyday something broke. Fixing things on a rolling sea with just a harness and a jack line to keep you onboard was the scariest thing I have ever done. The seasickness did not help. Many times I would have to wipe my mouth on my sleeve and keep on working.
This was all hard enough until half way down the Oregon coast our self steering system broke off the back of our boat. Amazing enough it held on with two small control ropes. But still we now had to hand steer all the time. This would be a drag enough but we had many compounded issues. I had tried to douse the main earlier and the wire halyard had seized in the winch I could not lower the main sail. The wind and seas were building into a fairly big storm. We were in an area called "gale alley". The control for the main was reduced to near zero because the traveler for the main sheet had come off its track. I had moved the vang to use as a preventer so the main would not at least bang from one side of the boat to the other. But still it would back fill with wind sometimes. I also suspected a cable on the vang might break so I put on a extra rope to protect if it if it did. I am glad I did because it did break during the storm. But then I had to go out on deck again to put yet another safety line in case the new preventer rope broke. Which it did not. Still many times I had to go out on deck, seasick and tired to repair or adjust the rigging.
We had way too much sail up and it seemed at the time my only option may be to cut the wire halyard that kept up the mainsail. But that seemed dangerous too, because I would have a big sail on deck with no other sail up. I considered putting up the storm jib and then cutting the halyard but that seemed too difficult and we were exhausted already.
So what we did was put on the engine and motored ahead to give us more control. This was tiring too and Yvonne and I took turns every half hour or so for two days fighting the storm at the wheel.
The storm never let up until we came close to San Francisco.
As the sun rose on the third day of the storm, like magic the winds died down, I was able to easily go out on deck, attach a rope to the mainsail and drag it down with another winch. I put away the headsail that was tied on deck during the storm. I checked to see if the self steering system was still in tow behind us, which amazing enough it was. During the storm I had tried to bring the steering rudder onboard but that was too hard so I had put on another rope to secure it. Still I had expected it might chaff off but all the ropes held and the rudder dragging behind us had even helped a little by acting as a sea anchor. We motored under the Golden Gate Bridge on Leafs 11th birthday, The sun was shining, the tides were in our favor, we were all very happy and tired.
The bad times sailing can overshadow the good times but we had good times on this trip too. Before the storm I caught a big tuna fish. We had many days and night sailing when everything worked well. We all worked very well together. Although Leaf was sometimes seasick he never complained and seemed mostly to enjoy the trip. Yvonne did a great job of steering more than her share and cooking when conditions allowed. Sometimes after a trip out on deck all I could do is roll into a ball and sleep for a little while until it time to work the wheel again or go and fix the next new problem.
The self steering system had worked perfectly up until it broke and we love it very much, we call it "Lucky the monkey". Very little damage was caused. There were several small issues. The transmission developed a couple of leaks which we will repair here in S.F. The topping lift that holds up the main boom had broke. I will put a down haul rope on the mainsail so I can more easily bring it down if I run into the same problem again. Lucky will be better attached to the hull and we will sail on with more high hopes and great adventures.

We met other sailors that made it through this storm in s.f. and some have faired at least as bad as us and some worse so i guess we did ok for our first time out.
We are now getting ready for points south.