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.


chris said...

Wow. It's great to hear you've taken the leap and are heading out across the seas. There's often stuff going wrong on boats but it sounds like your'e enjoying the good times too. Now your'e south the weather may be warmer and hopefully gentle. I know the fall is storm season out in the Pacific, especially if heading across to Hawaii, so it's good you didn't wait longer. Get fixed up and have a great ongoing trip. Keep us all posted and with photos too. Leaf is looking great - so much taller than I last saw.

Susanne said...

Hello Leaf,
We have book-marked your blog page so that all the students at Surge can read about your travels. We are looking forward to hearing about where you go next, and the sea and weather conditions of your trip. Take care.


mjl said...

Hey Ronnie, Marina here, glad to hear you've made that far safely.
Paul's wedding on the 18th went well.
I am moving to toronto probably end of november and am getting married next september.

Just fyi type stuff.

First time I've seen a picture of Leaf. I can't believe he is 11 already and still haven't met him.

Take care of yourselves.

TomW said...

Hi Ronnie, I'm your brother-in-law to be... slightly odd way to 'meet' you.
Are you planning on going through the Panama Canal or down round the Cape?

Berta said...

Hallo Yvonne, ich habe versucht dem Segel-Bericht zu folgen. Mein Englisch ist aber leider sehr schlecht. Wenn ich richtig verstanden habe, gab es einige Probleme bei der Ueberfahrt, welche ihr mit vereinten Kraeften aber geloest habt.Ich hoffe, ihr koennt die Tage in S.F. nun etwas geniessen. Fuer die Weiterfahrt richtung Sueden wuensche ich euch viel Glueck und eine ruhige See! Mit lieben Gruessen Berta


Hi mum here. Glad to hear all is well with you. I love the new pictures of Leaf. Let's see some more of you and Yvonne. Say hi to them for me. I love you and pray for you all the time, for your safety.

Write when you can. luv, mum

galaxywalker said...

Great to hear you 3 are living Life the way it was meant to be lived, to the Max.....see you in the stars, or the waves..big hug