Monday, August 29, 2016

This loop is now complete: 2013 to 2016

Since sailing into Neah Bay in late July, I've been transient in the Pacific Northwest.  Being transient in this area during the summer is no hardship by any means.  Summer is the time to be out on the water and enjoying the area, and that's what I have been doing.  

The ultimate destination of this cruise was Shilshole Bay Marina, where I have been on the waitlist for a slip to become available.  The marina contacted me last week to let me know that I could come in, and this morning I arrived and I am now tied up in my new home, slip C-82.  I've become a marina based sailor again.

Since leaving Shilshole in September of 2013 I have been in two marina's: four or five days in La Paz while I was preparing for my passage to the Marquesas and then a few days in Cabo San Jose while I was checking out of Mexico.  Since then Luckness and I have been at anchor, on a mooring or sailing between destinations every single day.  I'm looking forward to having easy access to land again.

My second cruise has finished, September 2013 to August 2016.  Over the past few weeks, since being back, memories of the cruise keep flashing into my head unexpectedly: the people I met along the way; the places I've been on this trip; sights I've seen; experiences.  What a fine way to spend three years.

Rather than posting a picture of Luckness in her new slip, which would be a pretty ordinary, here are a few pictures from my recent passages:

Posting pictures of sunrises and sunsets is somewhat of a cliche in the cruising community.  As a group, we see so many astounding sunrises and sunsets that if we were to post pictures of them all, the web would fill up with them. Here's one of the many astounding light shows I enjoyed along the way from New Zealand to Seattle - the sunrise on May 10th, toward the beginning of my passage from New Zealand to Seattle.

Its somewhat surprising how many people ask about the storms I've encountered while sailing, or ask about the largest waves I've been in.  There have been some time with more wind that I would have liked, or with rougher seas, but being becalmed with almost no wind, or no wind at all, is by far a more common occurrence.  And you know what?  Being becalmed in the tropics can be beautiful as well.  I love the deep blues of the water on ocean passages.

Here's one of my many new buddies, Dennis on s/v Pamela, as he was leaving Hanalei in his Pacific Seacraft 37, single handing his way back to his wife in San Francisco.

I mentioned my incredible encounter with the whale as I was traveling north from Hawaii, before I turned East to head into Neah Bay.  I took a lot of pictures, and most of them did not turn out well.  Its a well known fact, in some circles, that pictures of large waves do not convey the experience well. You could be in some dramatic waves, take a picture of them and then later when you see them?  They are completely underwhelming.  Well, the same may be true of whale pictures.  The whale above was very close to the boat, and was enormous!  Read back in the blog for more of a description of the encounter; the memory of this encounter will stay with me forever.  Astounding.

Some beautiful downwind sailing.  There has been lots, and lots of this.  I enjoy to sail, and there has been a lot of enjoyment on this, and my previous cruise.

Luckness, anchored in Friday Harbor.  Before I left on this cruise, you could walk down the dock at Shilshole and stand right beside Luckness and admire how beautiful this boat is.  As the cruise progressed, if you got too close you might (I would) start seeing little things that needed attention: the hull oxidizes easily in bright sun and greys, the wax needs constant attention as does the varnish.  Despite its reputation, stainless steel does rust, and needs fairly constant attention.  As the cruise progressed the distance you needed to be away in order to fully appreciate Luckness's beauty grew and grew.  This is about the right distance while I was in Friday Harbor - from this far away you couldn't see the rusting stainless, for example.  Over the past three weeks, I've been working on cleaning her up again - and if you were to walk down the dock at Shilshole today, you could again admire this vessels beauty from up close.  ( long as you ignore the varnish, and I have a completely different plan for that which will have to wait until next spring/summer to work on...)

It was a good trip, which is a very understated way of describing my last three years.  I'm not sure what my future sailing plans are at this point, but when I returned to the Pacific Northwest my intention was to stay for a while and then leave again.  I've sailed two loops now, the second larger and longer than the first.   I tend not to make long term plans; who knows what I'll be doing in three years time?  Maybe sailing down the coast on a new adventure?

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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