Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some gathered thoughts

I've had time to gather a few thoughts and images on the trip south so far.

First of all - thank you for all your comments. I appreciate all your good wishes, and its really nice to hear from all of you.  A note on how I read them - when I'm away at sea, I'm unable to access the internet other than being able to send and receive email through a special email address I'm keeping to a small group.  When someone comments, I receive an email at my Mac email address, and it will sit there until I get back to within wi-fi or iPhone range.  So please continue to add comments, but realize I can't read them until back on or near land.

My parting view of Shilshole Marina
I'll try not to repeat what I've already written.  Getting to Neah Bay was uneventful.  I had been out this way earlier in this season and going back was familiar.

Motoring part of the way from Port Angeles to Neah Bay
Luckness at anchor in Neah Bay
Luckness at anchor in Neah Bay
A short summary of the trip from Neah Bay to Monterey, is:

Sept 5, Left Neah Bay, sailed 3 hours, motored 7 hours, then sailed in light wind all night
Sept 6, Wind died, becalmed until evening, then sailed in winds rising to 12 knots.
Sept 7, Beautiful sailing. 100nm offshore, jibed, 75nm offshore, jibed, ...
Sept 8, Slowing down in nice wind to avoid gale to the south. Hove to at 9pm
Sept 9, Still hove to in winds 28-33 knots with well developed seas, avoiding stronger winds south
Sept 10, Started to sail at 7am in 20-25 knots of wind
Sept 11, Wind died by noon, seas still developed, took all sail down by 3pm due to slatting. Pitching/rolling
Sept 12, Waved diminishing, sailing in 7-9 knots of wind
Sept 13, Winds increasing 10-12, then 20-25. Encountered 22 fishing boats at 3am 120nm offshore
Sept 14, 25-35 knots of wind, gusts to 37.
Sept 15, At anchor in Drakes Bay by noon
Sept 16, At anchor
Sept 17, At anchor
Sept 18, Left for Monterey in 10-15 kts by 9:30am
Sept 19, Arrived in Monterey by 11am after a beautiful sail.  Clear sky all night, brilliant stars, phosphorescence galore

Sailing away from Neah Bay
I took surprisingly few pictures of my journey, I'll try to take more in the future.  When the seas are more developed I don't really want to have my camera on deck as waves have a surprising way of jumping into the cockpit unexpected.  On my first day out of Neah Bay there were a few waves which found their way into the cockpit.  I thought to myself, "That's annoying, now I'll have saltwater there for the rest of the trip."  Its funny as by the end of the trip I had had waves crashing over the boat drenching it and myself entirely.  There was salt water spray 1/2 way up the mainsail, covering my wind generator and radome.  There was much more water everywhere than I had expected.

Port side of interior.  Lee cloth setup.
Starboard side.  Chart on table to track progress.
Being steered by the Monitor wind vane
When I arrived in Drakes Bay after a night of relatively stronger winds, I eventually noticed there was serious chafe happening on the monitor wind vane starboard (lower in picture) control line.

This chafe had happened overnight - I swear the lines were fine at sunset when I checked them...  The bottom bullet block has rotated CCW by almost 90 degrees forcing the line going through it to chafe on two edges of the block.  The bottom block should have been oriented like the one above it.  The blocks were loose and have now been tightened so this should be avoided in the future.  I've bought enough extra line for two more replacements of this control line however...

Luckness on the end of E dock, Monterey Harbor Marina
I won't talk much about Monterey in this post, but will do so in a subsequent post.

I'll pick a few topics and blab about them in a little detail.  I don't pretend to be any sort of expert in really anything about sailing.  I'm just passing along my experiences.

Sea Sickness.  One of the surprising things to me was that I wasn't seasick.  I had prepared stories about how even astronauts (highly trained professionals) get seasick, how there are extremely experienced sailors who routinely get seasick when they return to sea.  So I was prepared to be in good company when it happened.  I'm not sure why I didn't get seasick and am not at all sure that it won't happen in the future.  There seems to be a general rule that once you've been out for three days that your body adjusts to the motion and you get over it.  This isn't always true, but is a rule of thumb.  My first two days were light with flat seas and my third day was beautiful sailing with slowly increasing seas.  If my first day had started out rough my experience with seasickness may have been different.  I didn't take any medication, but was eating licorice and ginger whenever I felt any symptoms start up.  I have no idea if they helped or not, but I like licorice and ginger and they are reputed to help - so eating them can't hurt.  The best ginger I found is from Trader Joe's, its an uncrystalized ginger which isn't sweet.  I highly recommend the ginger, even though it may not help seasickness at all its pretty yummy stuff.  By the fourth day I would say I was immune to the motion and felt no more symptoms for the rest of the trip.  After being at anchor for three days, I felt fine when I returned to sea for the passage to Monterey.  I've had the most epic case of 'land sickness' in Monterey - where the land seems to be swaying beneath you after being on a boat for a while.  Its fading away now...and I wonder if this will be tied to a new cycle of three days needed to acclimatize to seasickness again.  I'll find out next week.

Sleep cycles.  Another area I had some concern about was the 20 minute sleep cycles I was doing.  I have a device called a Watch Commander which is a 12 volt timer with a reset button.  Once I plugged it in on the first day, it would continue until unplugged.  You set a time - I set 20min - and then every 20min a little light will flash for 30 sec or so, then a fairly quiet alarm goes off for 30 sec and then an alarm as loud as a fire alarm.  You can reset the cycle at any time by pushing a button, and I would only push the button when I felt I had full situational awareness - or was about to when being woken up.  The first alarm is about as loud as a medium alarm clock.  There were a few occasions where I slept through the first alarm to be woken by the second extremely loud alarm.  Its a well thought out device.  I had read about the sleep cycles (see Polyphasic sleep and Dr. Scampi) but my experience with them at home was pretty miserable.  It turns out that being woken every 20min is annoying but perfectly livable.  This probably remains the most controversial part of what I'm doing.  Single handed sailing means that there are times when nobody is on watch.  However, being offshore is much different than coastal or local sailing.  Its something I'm still getting used to and either I will, or I'll have to rethink this trip drastically.  So far, I'm ok with the sleep cycles.  One note on the watch commander.  The web site which sells them promotes the timers for all crews, even double handed or larger.  Google it if you're curious.

Eating.  I had visions of baking bread and cooking meals from scratch.  What I did end up doing was opening a can, adding a few extra ingredients and heating it up.  Lunch was often sandwiches or if I was cold a can of something heated up.  Breakfast was bread with something - my favorite breakfast was cheese on toast done in the oven under the gas grill it has.  Pop-tarts were popular with the crew (me!)  I've been visiting the local grocery stores looking for a wider variety of easy to prepare foods and have a few more ideas.

Books/Video's.  I thought I would get a lot of reading done - but didn't even crack open a book.  It was a relatively short passage fairly close to shore - perhaps I would start reading on a passage from Mexico to Hawaii or some other offshore destination.  When I was hove to avoiding the gale I watched a video at first to pass the time.  This turned out to be a mistake - I didn't like the way I lost my situational awareness - I was no longer aware of the environment I was in in the same way.  Luckily I'm pretty easily entertained and at the moment can watch the environment around me for hours and be interested in it.

Clothing.  I keep expecting that as I travel south it will warm up.  I arrived in Drakes Bay after a clear cold night wearing: underwear, long underwear, pants, foul weather pants, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece, primaloft coat, foul weather coat, neck gaitor, toque, gloves.  After arriving I turned on my forced air diesel furnace and left it on for a day.  After that it got turned off during the day and on again at night while at anchor.  Having the furnace aboard was most excellent.

Weather awareness.  My main link for weather information is my Single Side Band (SSB) radio.  It has a digital modem attached (Pactor modem) and can be used to send and receive short emails as well as receive weather faxes.  The coast is divided into a number of weather forecast regions with labels such as 'pzz575' for where I am now.  I can send an email to a site (SailDocs) and request a number of forecasts, and the site will reply by sending me an email for each document I request.  This worked very well.  There are also a couple of government sites which broadcast faxes of weather forecast images (surface analysis, wind/wave forecasts, and so on) which I can receive.  There were two main times of the day I would update my set of  faxes, starting at around 12:15 and ending at 2:30 or so, AM and PM.  The weather faxes were a little intermittent.  There were occasions where I would be receiving a fax just fine and suddenly there would be a lot of noise in the signal and the remainder of the fax would be garbled beyond reading.  They are also slow!  A single fax takes between 15 and 20min to receive.  Having this weather information was very valuable.  Even with my limited understanding of weather mechanisms I was able to interpret the information to increase my safety.  

...There was one evening, while I was hove to when I was interpreting the weather information and managed to freak myself out.  I watch my barometer on board closely, and I can correlate that to a surface forecast to estimate what's going to be happening between now and the forecast.  For example, if the pressure is currently 1020 and the forecast is for it to drop to 1018 in my area, that translates into some wind, but not very much (wind is generated by pressure differentials.  This is a vast over simplification, but a rule of thumb...)  That evening the pressure was 1026 and I calculated that it was going to drop to 1013 in about 6 hours.  That's a huge drop which would translate to extremely strong winds.  The text forecast didn't have that indicated at I watched and waited to see what would develop.  It turns out that my translation from GMT to PST was in error and the drop happened over 24 hours.  Losing that much pressure in 24 hours translated to the winds I was experiencing.  Phew.

The surface forecast showing a gale to my south.
The 96 hour forecast showing no wind after the gale.
Reading noisy images takes a little more interpretation than the nice clean images you can download from the internet.  

The passage.  Looking back on the passage, it turned out to be pretty much perfect.  I had a wide range of conditions from being becalmed to winds up to 37 knots, seas as flat as a pancake to pretty interesting.  The order the conditions arrived in was also ideal - I started out with light winds and easy seas, gradually building to more knarly conditions and ended up sailing in 25 to 35 knot winds with well developed seas. I could easily have left Neah Bay and had 7 days of 15-25 knot winds and been at my destination without the wider range of experience I ended up with.  I was very lucky in what I was presented with.

The boat.  This boat is awesome.  I wouldn't be surprised if everybody feels that way about their boat after completing a passage safely.  But that aside - this boat is awesome.  I'm loving it.

The shake-me-up tour will be continuing next week, leaving on Sunday the 25th.


  1. Craig -

    Thank you for posting so much detail about your trip. I am watching your posts with a keen eye, as I hope to someday follow in your wake. The weather data interpretation is something I need to study more; interesting to see your notes about it's use.

    Take care,


  2. Ditto what Kit said. I really appreciate your detailed assessments of everything from sleep to weather faxes. Love the photos, too. Have a great next leg of your trip!