Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: arrived!

2016-07-27 1:00PM UTC, 48°27'N 126°03'W
2016-07-27 3:45PM UTC, 48°27'N 125°43'W # motoring
2016-07-27 7:00PM UTC, 48°27'N 125°14'W # noon
2016-07-28 12:30AM UTC, 48°22.30'N 124°37.12'W # Anchored in Neah Bay

Sea temperature: 51.8deg

I'm anchored in Neah Bay!

The final day was quite varied. After the last blog post, I entered the stronger wind band. The wind picked up from 15, to 20 and then into 'near gale' strength which is 28-33 kts (gale starts at 34kts.) During the stronger winds I was doing my 20min sleep cycles, so the wind strength may have been higher. The forecast was for the wind to reduce the next day to 20 at 5am and then 15 by 11am. At 6am the winds were reducing into the 20-24 range. At 7:30am the winds had fallen to 16 and I was rolling out my genoa to keep the boat speed up. By 8am the wind had fallen to 4-8kts, from the NW, which was behind me as I headed directly East. At this point, the seas were still quite active and I had slowed dramatically.

I decided to motor at 8am. I started the engine and started to furl (roll away) the genoa (big head sail) when I felt the wind increase and I started to sail again, and ended up sailing at 5kts. This lasted for 10min when the wind faded again. I decided to slow down my decisions, give the wind a chance to recover - so I finished drinking my pot of coffee. No wind. So I started the engine again and again started to furl the sail at 8:30am. Again some wind arrived - I started to sail in it, and by 8:45am it had faded again. This time I started the engine, furled the sail and ignored any little puffs of wind. By 9:40am the wind was basically zero and it stayed there until I was 5nm from Neah Bay. I motored the remaining 41nm to anchor.

Shortly after the wind faded to zero, some fog arrived and then got gradually denser until the visibility dropped to less than 1/2 a mile. The fog stayed for the rest of the day, until I got to Neah Bay where it lifted - as I write this there is still a dense fog bank out to sea, but Neah Bay has sunshine - its glorious! As I arrived I could smell the pine forests and it really reminded me of home - various homes, pine forests have a strong association with me - mountains, hiking, creeks - things I am looking forward to exploring again.

The other notable thing about the day is that there were a *lot* of AIS contacts. While I was far offshore in the early morning, around 4am I had three cargo ships displaying on AIS, all with a closest point of approach to me of less than 5nm. There were two which would pass me within 20min and then one further away, 45min away. I decided to stay up to make sure there wasn't a wind shift which would have me alter course into them. As the third contact was approaching, two more appeared, again close CPA's, so I decided to not sleep until *those* two passed. This kept happening. At one point I had 12 AIS contacts, with 8 of them passing within 10nm of me - this at something like 70nm from shore. Its been a long day, as I slept poorly through the gale.

It feels so good to have finished this huge passage! I left New Zealand on May 1st and arrived in Hawaii on June 20 - 50 days at sea. I was in Hawaii for 14 days, but when you subtract the 2 1/2 days I was on passage from Hilo to Hanalei, thats down to 11. If you subtract the days when I was either arriving or departing, that's down to 9. So 9 full days in Hawaii. Over the past 88 days, I've sailed on 79 of them.

Its been a long day and a lot of sailing. Its time for a short break now.

I'm going to make a quick dinner, eat and go to sleep. I'll stay in Neah Bay for a few days, perhaps more. Over the next month or so, I'll slowly cruise back toward the San Juan Islands and Seattle, where I hope a slip at Shilshole Marine will open up for me, sometime in September.

All is very well onboard.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 23

2016-07-24 7:00PM UTC, 48°18'N 133°05'W # noon
2016-07-25 2:00AM UTC, 48°05'N 132°32'W # jibed
2016-07-25 6:01PM UTC, 48°43'N 131°34'W # jibed
2016-07-25 7:00PM UTC, 48°39'N 131°29'W # noon
2016-07-25 9:45PM UTC, 48°31'N 131°15'W # wing and wing
2016-07-26 5:10AM UTC, 48°10'N 130°31'W # jibed
2016-07-26 7:00PM UTC, 48°28'N 128°50'W # noon
2016-07-27 1:00AM UTC, 48°30'N 127°56'W

Sea temperature: 60.8deg

In my last post I mentioned that I was trying to get in front of a ridge that was building between where I was and a stronger band of higher winds to my East. That didn't work. By the early morning of the following day the wind was falling and I started having to sail wider angles and jibing back and forth in order to make progress. I ended up jibing three times over the next two days, jibing NE for the last time Monday night at 10pm. Since then the wind has been increasing and I am now sailing due East at speed, having entered the stronger wind zone.

There is around 130nm to go to Neah Bay. That is a 24 hour day at 5.5 knots, so if everything remains constant, there's a pretty good chance I'll arrive and be able to sleep at anchor tomorrow.

Its so nice to be so close! My last day is going to be fast and salty, much like how this passage started.

All is well aboard.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 20

2016-07-20 7:00PM UTC, 47°31'N 142°55'W # noon
2016-07-21 7:00PM UTC, 47°31'N 141°08'W # noon
2016-07-22 3:50PM UTC, 48°29'N 140°17'W # jibed to wing and wing
2016-07-22 7:00PM UTC, 48°27'N 139°51'W # noon
2016-07-23 7:00PM UTC, 48°31'N 136°16'W # noon

Sea temperature: 55.3deg
Barometric pressure: 1022

In my last post I mentioned that the wind was starting to fall, and that I expected a light patch to follow - which is exactly what happened. I sailed in falling wind for the remainder of day 16, through day 17 and at 1:20 on day 18, July 21, the wind had fallen to the point where I was not making any progress. The seas had been falling through this period as well, so I was actually able to sail slowly in very light wind, but when I noticed the boat speed had fallen to 0.5 knots after a sleep cycle, I lowered the sails which were hanging limp.

At 4:15am a light N wind arrived and I raised sail and started sailing in it. At 5:10am the wind had faded and I lowered the sails. At 7:15am I raised them, lowered them at 8:05am, raised them at 8:40am, lowered them at 10:10am, raised them at 12:45pm, lowered them at 1:15pm. At 4pm I raised them again, and this time the wind held and I was sailing NE in 7kts of wind at 3.5 to 4kts boat speed.

The only real angle I had in this wind was NE or SE, and so I chose to sail NE and did this overnight. By 8:50 the next morning, day 19, I jibed to wing and wing and started heading almost directly East. I am still sailing wing and wing and making good progress.

The forecast shows the wind slowly fading for me until I reach around 130W, which is the start of a stronger band of wind which ends at around 125W. My next little goal is to approach 130W before a ridge of high pressure builds between me and 130W. If I can travel at an average of around 5.5kts, I am hoping to beat the formation of the ridge and sail straight into the stronger wind band. If the falling wind over the next few days slows me too much, then I'll enter the newly formed ridge and slow even further.

Once I'm either past the newly formed ridge or into the stronger winds, I'll need to jibe again, get back onto port tack and sail through the 15kt to 25kt wind and into Neah Bay - those are the forecast winds, I'm expecting them to be a little higher in reality.

I have something like 420nm to go, which at an average speed of 5.5kts is 3.2 more days. I have no real idea what my average speed is going to be over the next two days, it depends entirely on how fast and far the wind falls from its present conditions.

I'm looking forward to arriving, heading over to the anchorage that I've used a number of times before, and dropping the hook and resting easy for a few days. I hope the Pizza place I remember is still there...

All is well onboard.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 16

2016-07-16 7:00PM UTC, 46°09'N 154°36'W # noon
2016-07-17 7:00PM UTC, 47°16'N 152°07'W # noon
2016-07-17 11:10PM UTC, 47°14'N 151°46'W # Jibed - Yay!
2016-07-18 7:00PM UTC, 47°53'N 149°39'W # noon
2016-07-19 7:00PM UTC, 47°48'N 146°07'W # noon

Sea temperature: 53.5deg
Barometric pressure: 1026 (center high pressure 1040)

I'm now around the top of the high on the final leg into Neah Bay.

However, backing up and starting again from after my last blog post...

I mentioned the fog in my last post. Fog has ended up appearing every evening for the following four days, and has stayed around for two afternoons as well - its very foggy out here.

In the morning of the 16th, my 13th day on the passage, I was doing my checks after a sleep cycle at 12:30am and noticed that there was an AIS contact, with our closest point of approach (CPA) in 60min. My alarm goes off when the time to CPA, TCPA, is 45min or less. The initial CPA was close, less than 0.5nm and seemed to be jumping around. At 45min the CPA was still indicating a close approach, within 0.5nm, where the solution was jumping around to show the closest point being 0.5nm ahead of me, then behind, then 0.1 ahead, then 0.0, etc. This is bad, and indicated that I was on a collision course with a freighter. The CPA normally jumps around like this, but what you want to see is a steady set of solutions where the CPA is, for example, 2.5 in front, or behind, or to a side, and then have all the following solutions be close to that one and always on the same side. Anyway, I adjusted my course while 45min away, the new CPA showed the freighter passing 1.5nm ahead of me. I stayed up and 'watched' it pass. I say 'watched' it pass, as there was dense fog, and even at 1.3nm I could not see anything, not even a hint of its deck lights. AIS is wonderful! If I hadn't had AIS and had not altered course the chances are likely that I would have continued and not noticed anything. Freighters have professional crews, excellent radars, and of course receive AIS. As I also transmit AIS, their AIS alarm would have gone off when we were around 8nm apart - my signal is not as strong as theirs, being the recreational AIS version. Even without my AIS transmission, if they were actually paying attention at that time of the morning, they could easily have avoided me with their radar. However I much prefer seeing the situation myself from far away and altering course to avoid it. I've altered course twice now to avoid close encounters with freighters, and had one alter course on me when they must have felt our CPA was too close. Its a large ocean, but its not empty.

That same afternoon, just after the sun had appeared from behind the fog at 6pm PDT (around 3pm local time), I was sitting in the cockpit looking around when I heard the sound of a whale close by. I jumped up and looked around, and there was a large whale close by. It finished its breath and dove. Then surfaced, breathed and dove again. And then a third time and disappeared for a while. I thought that might be the last time I saw it, but it returned - again within a few hundred feet of the boat, appearing slightly behind and then approaching a little closer for each breath. It stayed around for about 1/2 hour and it was an amazing experience. It seemed to move off, and later I saw a whale on the horizon when it rose and breathed its plume of mist into the air. A little after that, it returned and stayed close to Luckness again for about 20min, then left again. After another hour or so, it returned a final time, and then left and I have not seen him/her again. I have pictures - if any of them turn out I'll post them when I get to the internet. I have friends on two other boats who left Hawaii at around the same time that I did. Dennis on s/v Pamela saw a whale and had a very similar experience 4-5 days ago. Colin & Wendy on s/v Bangorang left after both of us, and they had a similar experience yesterday. Its amazing that these whales take time out of their day to hang around with us yachties for a while. This is a huge ocean, and if the whales wanted to avoid us they very easily could. I have seen a lot of dolphins approach Luckness, and hang around, enjoying themselves. After watching dolphins interact a few times, you end up realizing that they are curious about us, they're friendly and are having a good time. I hadn't thought of whales this way until now - but the fact that they approached all three vessels and hung around, in my mind, shows a real sense of curiosity and friendliness on their behalf.

By 2pm on the next day, day 13, I was starting to get close to the high. The final plan I decided on was to sail a constant apparent wind angle, on starboard beam, and let Luckness sail the wind as it veered around, and this ended up working really well. As the winds veered around I went from NE to E to SE to S at which point I jibed and started heading NNE, NE, and finally East. The wind had slowed to 5-7 by the time I jibed as I was very close to the high, but I kept moving the whole time and was able to sail around the top of the high, cool.

After passing by the high the next part of this passage had me exiting the high pressure system and passing through a region of higher wind to its East. This started yesterday and continues today and tomorrow. The winds yesterday were quite strong, 28-32 knots with large waves developing. Luckily I have been able to put the wind behind me and I'm sailing at an apparent wind angle of 120, port side, and the ride has been boisterous but ok. Today the wind has been falling all day and the same is expected tomorrow.

After I exit the higher NW winds, there is short light wind region followed by what looks like WSW 10-12 knots for three days. I'm hoping those winds end up a little higher than forecast as I will be sailing close to dead downwind toward Neah Bay and a little more wind would speed things up.

The ball bearing-less turning block for the monitor control lines is holding up well. I started greasing it with SuperLube a few days ago, and that's working better than the SailKote - not a slam on SailKote, its just that a little grease is a better approach to this problem. The block is turning pretty freely and I expect it to survive the passage. My backup plans are still available of course.

I've currently sailed 2040nm since leaving Hawaii, and have roughly 830nm to go.

All is well onboard.

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