Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm back in Seattle

I'm adding this post many weeks after I arrived back in Seattle, but back dating it to Aug 14, my arrival date.  Rather than leaving Luckness hanging out in Neah Bay I thought I should bring the story up to date and bring her blog presence back to Seattle where we are now.

I left Neah Bay on August 10th, 6 days after having arrived.   It was a nice stay and I enjoyed the town this time.  I recall that when I left Neah Bay at the start of this journey back in Sept 2011 that I didn't have a very good impression of the town.  NeahBay only has a few restaurants and at least one of them isn't very good with mediocre food and poor service (its the one which looks the most promising, with a fancy building and a fireplace inside - probably the one the tourists first see when they pull into town.)  There are no pubs as Neah Bay is a dry town.  When visiting this time I thought the place was just fine, I could have stayed longer.  There is a supermarket which is small by city standards but after being on a passage for 21 days it seemed to have everything that I could want.  There is a first class pizza place in town with a wood fire stone oven and most of the ingredients made in house.  I also ate at the Indian Taco place a few times, the food was good and the staff were friendly.  There is a museum in town, the Makah Cultural Research Center which was cool.  I think the town is pretty much the same as the last time I was here and I attribute my changed attitude toward it to my learning a few 'cruising skills' during the last year.  Finding ways to enjoy where you are is a useful skill if you plan to visit a lot of different places - and I do have that plan.

When I left on the 10th Neah Bay had clear skies and the forecast was for very light wind all day.  I motored east heading to Port Angeles.  A few miles out of Neah Bay I entered a fog bank which was with me all day.  The visibility was down to around 1/8th of a mile - around 800 feet or less.  I watched my radar and AIS all day and had a good if somewhat freaky trip.  Along the coast near to the towns on shore there would be fleets of small boats fishing the local waters.  Some of these vessels had very poor radar reflections and so I didn't see them on radar until I was quite close.  I did manage to not be surprised by anything I was actually able to see visually as I had seem everything first on radar.  AIS was excellent, as usual, but the radar was very useful  on this trip.  When I was within 2 miles of Port Angeles I came to the end of the fog bank and I was able to enter the harbor and anchor in clear skies.

I left the next morning heading to Port Townsend but along the way I changed my mind and decided to head directly to Port Ludlow instead.  There was good visibility all day and I arrived just as the sun was setting and dropped anchor in a very familiar anchorage.  The paperwork I had waiting for me at Shilshole Marina was dated for August 14th so I decided to hang around here for a few days.

I left Port Ludlow on the 14th and completed this journey when I pulled into my slip at Shilshole Marina at 2pm, slip K39.

As I was motoring the final few miles, looking around me at all the familiar sights and going through the familiar routine of getting the fenders and dock lines out preparing to pull my boat into a marina I had entered dozens of times before - I started reflecting on where I had been in the last year and how much I had enjoyed my year away.  As I pulled into my slip I was hit with thoughts of whether or not I should turn around and head back out again immediately.  Luckness was in good shape and could easily have made the trip back down the coast to California - I had enough food and water on board to not even need to stop until I got there...  But then I had arrived and started organizing my dock lines and my new neighbor, Linda, came out to say Hi and that was nice.  It turns out that there are 6 live aboard boats in the immediate area.  One of the boats is owned by a couple who has sailed her around the world and are planning on heading out again.  Another boat is owned by a couple who has been living aboard for 33 years and has all sorts of sailing experience.  Another guy bought his sailboat brand new in the early 80's and has owner her ever since, sailing her around here and there in the mean time.  Linda has a large classic power boat which she is able to single hand around the area without any worries or bother.  This neighborhood that I've pulled into has some accomplished sailors that have immediately made me feel very welcome, I think its going to be a fun place to hang out or a while.  Within a day or so I had given up the idea of heading out again right away - I'm going to stick with my Plan A.
Plan A: stay around the Pacific Northwest until next summer.  Work through the list of projects I have accumulated during the last year.  Sometime in the summer of 2013, head back out.  This time I intend to sail to New Zealand via Mexico and the South Pacific.  
Plan A is enough of a goal for now - from New Zealand there are all sorts of possibilities for continuing my journey and as I get closer to needing to make the decision about where I go from there, I'll make it.  But I don't want plan too far in advance and there are a lot of things to do and see between now and then.

Luckness in our new home
Although I have been in a number of marina's after leaving Seattle last year, being back here is different.  I'm going to be staying around here for longer than my earlier transient stays in California and Mexico.  This opens new possibilities - for example, I have internet wired into the boat now - super fast reliable internet is awesome.  Its also nice to have a car again.  A friend of mine was kind enough to store my car in her garage while I was away - thanks Vonne!  When I got back I put my multi-meter on the car battery and saw the battery had 12.4 volts of charge after sitting unhooked in the car for a  year.  I connected the battery back up and the car started and has run reliably ever since.  Cool.  I've started working on boat projects which I'll talk about later but being back in this area makes the projects much easier as I know where to go for teak, engine parts, and so on.  I've been back to Fisheries, the best local chandlery, so many times that the staff are starting to learn my name and recognize me when I walk in again.  One of the parts that I have been trying to find for the past six months is a piece for my Achilles dinghy - the plastic cover for one of the inflation ports had broken.  I went back to the store I bought it from, Ballard Inflatable Boats, described the part and the owner walked over to a cabinet where there was a drawer full of them - I bought two.  Some things are much easier here.

I also rejoined the gym I used to be a member at here and have started trying to get back into shape.  When I left last year I had the impression that somehow sailors are all super fit creatures.  Somehow the motion of the boat rocking all the time would cause you to continually adjust your body and in doing this you magically stayed super fit.  This turns out not to be so true as I've lost a lot of strength over the past year and gained a few pounds.  When I left last year I had been swimming and training for many years and was in decent condition.  I was able to pull myself up my mast on my 3-1 block and tackle without much effort.  When I climbed my mast after having arrived back in Seattle to bring down my Tack Tick wind instrument there was much more effort involved.  When I got back into the gym the first time I went around trying to do the same weight on some of the machines until I learned that this wasn't such a good idea.  I almost crippled myself on the bench press leaving myself barely able to raise my arms above my shoulders for 4 or 5 days afterward due to the muscle pain in inflicted on myself.  I'm going to have to work on maintaining my fitness better during my next cruise - while I was away I felt fit enough but as I didn't have a benchmark I was comparing my fitness to I was slowing loosing strength without realizing it.  I'm starting to regain some of it back again and its something I'll work on this year.

When I left on this journey last Sept 1st, 2011, I was calling my journey the 'Shake me up tour.'  Somewhere along the way I dropped that name, as I wasn't feeling very shaken up.  Sure, I had bought a sailboat, worked on her like a madman for two years, sold my house, retired from a good job I had had for 20 years, moved onto the sailboat and sailed her down the coast to California - but it wasn't feeling very 'Shaken up.'  When you are sailing around in your own sailboat, there is comfort in having your home with you at all times.  After leaving Seattle last year I have spent every single night on board Luckness.  Sure we've moved around a lot and have been in California, Mexico, Hawaii and many places in-between - but through all of the trip there has always been the comfort of having my house with me.  Its an awesome feeling - my house is very seaworthy and can travel at between 2 and 7 or 8 knots, through calms and raucous seas.

A looked around a little for a second title I could give to my year and started calling it my 'Training year'.  I kept this title for a while as I initially liked the idea of treating this year as a big learning experience.  I was learning how to live on board and all sorts of other cruising things along the way.  Its been a really good year and I now feel confident that I can sail where I want to...if perhaps not when I want to.  I've reinforced the knowledge that when you plan a passage is one of the most important parts of the journey, there are good times and bad times for each passage.  I liked the 'Training year' title up until a few months ago when I started approaching the end of my year away and realized that the 'training' I was undergoing is never going to stop.  It seems to me now that the cruising lifestyle is going to have a lot of learning along the way, perhaps it will never stop.  Learning to sail better, understanding the weather more completely and other areas are things I will always be able to get better at.  So calling the year my 'training year' was limiting the training and learning to one year only which I didn't like, so I dropped that title.

One way to think of my year away is as a one year sea trial.  I liked that for a while, but a sea trial seems to be mainly boat oriented and this year has been much more than a search for ways to improve my floating home (although I did find lots of ways I could improve her and have started on some of them already.)

In the end I don't really have a title for my last year.  It was my first year cruising.  I  hope to follow it up with many more.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some images from the last little while...

I found some more pictures on my camera that I hadn't gone through yet.  There are a few from Hanalei, a few from my passage and a few from here at Neah Bay.

A typical weather forecast for Hanalei.  It was a tough life...
There was a little river that feeds into Hanelei Bay.  I took a trip up the river in my dinghy.  It started wide and got narrower and narrower, until I had to turn around.

I saw Jeanne Socrates leave Hanalei for her passage back to Victoria, BC.  On her return passage she crossed her outbound track and completed her circumnavigation crossing south of the five capes.  Impressive.

Jeanne Socrates on Nereida leaving Hanalei.  July 13, 2012,
I didn't take very many pictures during my passage.  I think I said the same thing on my last passage, the passage from Mexico to Hawaii and promised to take more next time?  Didn't happen.
A little well behaved squall.  Day 8, July 21st.
Around 37° 30'N, 163° 45' W.
A little later than the above picture.  Beautiful weather, although not
much wind.  Going 3.2 knots in 6.5 knots of wind.
A little after the picture above.  I have a log book entry of my doing 6.0 knots in 11
knots of wind with the apparent wind at 8.4 @ 108° starboard - the wind behind the beam
for the first time on this passage!  By the  next day I was going upwind again...

I arrived with a cloudless sky into Neah Bay, which is rare.  There had been no clouds for at least a day which was welcome after all the clouds on the second part of this passage.

Neah Bay, the evening of my arrival.  August 4th, 2012.
By now the weather here has turned more typical...

Neah Bay.  August 7th, 2012.
So, one little story...  A few days ago I was at the fuel dock buying a gallon of gas for my dingy while there was a sailboat getting fuel.  I approached and we got talking, later we had coffee at one of the coffee places here in town.  Aboard Genesis III were Paul, Mary and Derrick.  They are heading south from here to California and Mexico.  I spoke with them about my trip a little and for a few moments there I felt like an experienced cruiser - the Man Who Had Done It.  Later that afternoon I was returning to Luckness and stopped in to visit with Ken on Spindrift, a 28' ketch in the anchorage beside me that I hadn't met yet.  Spindrift looks interesting, well maintained, seaworthy and like it had been somewhere, but its not an imposing boat, I figured it had been sailing around these waters for a while.  It turns out that Ken has been around the world in Spindrift, around Cape Horn, the Cape of Good Hope.  Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, many years in the South Pacific, Brazil and on and on.  He took 18 years doing his circumnavigation and has seen a lot.  Ken is also a single hander. He finished his Hawaii passage two weeks before I did.  He encountered a gale along the way, found out that his engine wouldn't start when he was in the Pacific high and ended up taking 28 days to finish his passage.  He sailed into anchor here at Neah Bay after bobbing around for three days trying to complete the last 50 miles in the entrance to the Straights of Juan de Fuca.  I feel good about my year of cruising, no doubts about that.  However when talking with Ken I remembered that I'm someone who is just starting out in this cruising lifestyle, with a lot still to learn.  I've finished my first year and have learned a lot - but there is so much more to learn!  My sailing skills could be improved a lot, my understanding of weather has barely scratched the surface of what I would like it to be - in almost every area of the skills necessary for this cruising lifestyle I can learn more.  I seem to know enough to get by but I like the fact that I can continue to learn more, that I remain a student of this lifestyle.  Its exciting, as there is so much out there in the cruising world to see and that I want to see.

Anyway, I've been here for not quite a week now.  I'll probably stay around for another day and then leave on friday starting my slow return to Seattle.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 22, at anchor!

Date: Aug 4, 2012, Time: noon PST
48° 22' N  125° 01' W
Wind speed: 14 / wind dir: 060 (ENE), Heading: 090, Speed: 5.5 Motoring
Barometer: 1016, Water Temp: 57.2
Log: 8177.3
Previous 24 hour run: 138
Final noon to finish run: 17

I finished my passage to Neah Bay yesterday, August 4th at 4:30pm.  Yay!

I left Hanalei Bay on Kauai on July 14th at 3:30pm.  This makes this passage 21 days and 1 hour long.

The noon to noon runs I recorded were: 122.5, 150.2, 160, 154, 145, 145, 102.3, 148, 165, 154, 92, 54, 121, 155, 116, 145, 169.5, 135, 131, 146, 138, 17.  If I added them up correctly, the total distance I traveled was 2865.5nm.  That turns out to be an approximation as each day's recorded number was as a straight line from the previous noon's recorded position - the boat never sailed in a straight line and so that number is on the low end.  My ship's log shows an elapsed 2514nm traveled.  The ships log shows the distance traveled through the water and does not account for any currents.  I think I'll refer to this as a 3000nm trip, accounting for a little artistic license...

The final day since my last noon report was a tale of diminishing winds, raising winds, diminishing winds.  The last report had the winds in the 20-27 knot range which resulted in a fast if wet and rocky ride.  Since then, the wind slowed down to 18 around midnight, 10 by 4am and 6 at 6am where my boat speed had fallen to 2.5 knots.  At that point I was 50nm from Neah Bay and at 2.5 knots I would be arriving at night, so I started to motor.  This was the first time I had turned on the engine since leaving Hanalei Bay in Hawaii - I was glad when it started immediately as it always has.  From that point, the wind veered around to come eventually from the east, directly where I was heading, at 14 knots.  I didn't want to get involved in a tacking exercise in this area with its freighter and fishing vessel traffic...and as I was relatively close to my destination I left the motor on and continued to Neah Bay.

My final sunset the previous night was amazing.  The sky was cloudless, which was a rarity.  Just as the sun was setting a full-ish moon was rising.  I could look west to see a sky lit up with oranges, yellows, blues - a typical gorgeous sunset, and then look east and see a large orange moon just above the horizon directly in front of me.  It was another good moment, this passage has been full of them.

Soon after turning on the engine at 6am I had my first and only whale sighting of my passage - a large whale of some type (sorry, didn't catch its name) broached four times 500 to 1000 feet to my port side.  It was spectacular but I felt somewhat relieved when I got further away from it.  I would rather see a critter that size jumping out of the water from some distance.

When I arrived at anchor the sky continued to be completely cloudless.  I was in Neah Bay with the waters almost completely flat, with 5 knots of wind, looking around and being able to see clearly north toward the mountains on Vancouver Island and north west along the Vancouver Island coast.  Neah Bay itself is a beautiful place, made all that much more impressive by my being at sea for 22 days with nothing much more to look at but water, clouds and waves.

I took a moment to relax and then started on the chores to turn Luckness into a comfortable coastal cruising boat.  The last portion of my passage was done in very high humidity, and that combined with my sleeping in full foul weather gear which didn't come off since it had turned cold resulted in a rather damp and smelly boat interior.  Mildew has started to grow on many of the surfaces, salt water has slowly been tracked around the cabin sole, I had a minor water leak from the forward water tank's inspection port when I was a little aggressive in my water making and had some cleanup to do.  I got through enough of those chores to be able to sleep in my forward berth comfortably and uninterrupted last night.  I tried turning on the boat's furnace to hear a horrible screeching sound from its fan - one more thing to look at when I get back to Seattle.  However its warm enough, even at night here that I'm comfortable.  Not having to get up every 20 minutes contributes greatly to that comfort, it was a relief to turn off the WatchCommander which has kept me from getting more than 20 minutes of continuous sleep for the last 22 days.

I expect to be here in Neah Bay for a few days, after which I'll make my way slowly back to Seattle.

The passage was amazing and difficult to summarize.  I would do it again, and there is a possibility that if my future cruising plans work out that I will in fact be repeating this passage in the future.

Luckness continues to impress me.  This boat is a passage making machine and never gave me a moments worry.  I had no equipment failures and only a few more items to add to my project list to address when I return to Seattle.

I'll try to post a few pictures over the next few days, although I took very few during the passage.

For those of you who followed along on my passage through this blog - thanks!  I hope you enjoyed the journey.  I certainly did.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 21

Date: Aug 2, 2012
48° 29' N 132° 08' W
Previous 24 hour run: 131
Water Temp: 56.3

Date: Aug 3, 2012, Time: noon PST
48° 30' N 128° 29' W
Wind speed: 20-27 / wind dir: 330 (NNW), Heading: 105, Speed: 6.9
Barometer: 1024, Water Temp: 57.2
Log: 8056.2
Previous 24 hour run: 146

I'm now prepared to make a prediction on when I'll be arriving in Neah Bay: tomorrow! As I write this, there are 98nm left to Neah Bay. I expect the winds to slowly die down, and at some point I'll start up my motor and finish this passage. I'm determined to be finished one way or another tomorrow.

The winds were stronger today than I expected three days ago when I was planning ahead on how to approach the straights. The weather update showed stronger winds in this area. The text update was:

30 KT. SEAS TO 11 FT.

Clear as day, right!?

I had originally been expecting a weak NW wind in the area I traversed today (48N, 130-127W) so I was heading south of the entrance so that I could come upwind in the light air to approach the entrance to the straights. However, as the wind was now expected to be in the 20-30 knot range, I didn't want to be beating into it and so I changed my approach. I changed my heading to 060T (NE) in order to get north of the entrance. I was hoping this would give me a better angle across the stronger wind area. This worked out really well - I have been sailing with the wind aft of my beam all day today with a pretty comfortable ride. Having access to weather information at sea is such a bonus.

As a result of all this north/south movement, the 24 hour run ending today is lower than it should be - it doesn't account for all the north then south travel - I was just flying all during this 24 hour period, with speeds rarely dipping below 6.5 and often into the high 7 knot range. It was both fun and extremely annoying. Fun for a short period of time, but annoying having to live on a boat that is actively moving around in such unpredictable ways.

I'm currently sailing in blue skies, the sun has just set. It was nice to feel the sun on my face today, I realized that it actually is summer up here and that I haven't left all the heat back in Hawaii. I expect that once I get off the water onto land that it will warm up considerably.

This, my last night on this passage is shaping up to be somewhat challenging. There is a traffic separation scheme in use in the straights, and I'm just south of the approach to the eastbound lane. I've been seeing a lot of freighter traffic on my AIS, and have even seen a few of them visually. I'm also close enough to land now that fishing vessels start to enter the picture - I came across my first vessel that was not broadcasting AIS today, a fishing boat which crossed a few miles in front of me, northbound. I'll need to be alert to these things tonight. I'll probably end up more tired tomorrow than normal, but look forward to a full nights sleep tomorrow night - without my alarm going off every 20 minutes! That'll be so nice.

I'll send an update when I arrive, and then probably not send much out for a while.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 19

Date: July 31, 2012
47° 59' N 138° 32' W
Previous 24 hour run: 170
Water Temp: 54.5

Date: Aug 1, 2012, Time: noon PST
47° 44' N 135° 12' W
Wind speed: 13 / wind dir: 290 (WNW), Heading: 080, Speed: 5.6
Barometer: 1026, Water Temp: 55.4
Log: 7801.0
Previous 24 hour run: 135

Approximate destination lat/lon: 48° 30' N 128° 50' W

I had my best run of this passage on July 31st - 170nm. I had nice steady wind, was heading into it with the apparent wind at around 70deg starboard at around 16 knots and had a pretty comfortable ride (everything being relative.) As of noon today, Aug 1st, there are 419nm remaining to travel to Neah Bay, which is three or four days away depending on how the wind cooperates.

At the moment, the evening of August 1st, the wind has been getting lighter and veering around slowly to the north, and today is not going to be a big mileage day. I have yet to download today's weather forecast, but yesterday's forecast had the wind increasing tomorrow afternoon and veering around to come eventually from the north. If that holds for a few days, I should be able to ride it all the way to my destination.

Its still cloudy here and the water has warmed up a little since the 51.8 on July 29th. Its currently 56.3, its warmed up since noon today, and those extra five degrees make a noticeable difference to the air temperature. Its not exactly t-shirt and shorts weather but sitting outside is much more pleasant today than a few days ago.

Have I mentioned what a big ocean this is? Big. Lots of water. Its incredible. I haven't seen another vessel for three days, visually or on my AIS.

All is well onboard. Take care everyone.

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