Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bitter Sweet Recap

Captain Kurt Lorenz and Jamie Orr on the approaches to San Francisco
I am just back from a delivery run from Victoria, BC to San Francisco. The trip was a repeat of the first long passage that Rani and I made on Ladybug in 2008, only this time we took the near shore route and did not stop until we reached Drake's Bay just north of San Francisco. It was a good trip both weather-wise and in terms of crew, but it felt sad to be closing a chapter in our cruising lives, since this will be the last long trip for a while.

Trawler passing astern

Here is a brief synopsis of the voyage, the purpose of which was to deliver Raven, a West Sail 39 owned by friends of ours (Kurt and Nancy) to San Francisco. We met Raven and her owners in Mexico a few years ago and cruised with them on board Ladybug in the Sea of Cortez and on Raven in the Gulf Islands. Nancy did not fancy the trip south, so Kurt asked me and our mutual friend Jamie Orr, to join him for the delivery.

We left Sidney around 10 am on Sunday, motoring south between James and Sidney islands, past the Darcy Islands, and through Baines Channel, past Oak Bay and Trial Island. Crossing the strait to Port Angeles, we cleared customs and bought fresh provisions at a nearby organic market. We departed Port Angeles at dusk and motored to Neah Bay, which we entered around 4 am and tied to the fuel dock.

Jamie piping us into Drakes' Bay

Monday morning we refueled, topping up 6 jerry jugs, which we lashed to shrouds. A fishermen at the fuel dock on a small wood double-ender said we were lucky with the return of summer weather pattern after weeks of lows. He told us that it was usually not a good idea to leave after Sept 15 on this passage.

We motored out of Neah Bay, but soon had the sails set and were beating into a south wind. The wind then died and swung into the NW and we reefed and proceeded south under about half sail. Crew were sea sick and not much cooking was possible. Much fishing traffic that night. Humpbacks and later, gray whales were sighted.

Wind continued N (NW to NE) as we rolled down the coast. We ran off to the south under main and jib, tacking downwind and sailing between 20 and 60 miles out from the coast. As the wind rose to 20+ from the NNE we struck the jib and ran down under prevented 2 reefed main. The 2nd reef line had come undone inside the mast so we tied the clew in with a spare mainsail tie. The below deck autopilot handled the small main well despite following breaking waves.

Morning coffee

The wind rose to 28-32 knots sustained so we turned north into the wind under motor and struck the main. We rolled out about 70 sq feet of jib and ran off under this. Some rolling in seas to 3 meters but much better on the helm and less danger from an accidental jibe. The boat was quite dry with only a few breakers slopping into the cockpit. Took some spray through the open main hatch once. Boards were left in after that. Crew recovered from sea sickness and able to eat hot food and enjoy life again.

Approaching the Golden Gate

Motoring under the Golden Gate Bridge - Video by Kurt Lorenz

Wind died to 10 knots and less, directly aft, so after an initial attempt to sail, tacking downwind, we turned on the diesel and motored for 36 hours, hoisting sail near Bodega Bay. We sailed the last few hours into Drakes' Bay, which we reached on Saturday evening, anchoring in heavy fog in company of several boats. We made much use of AIS and radar on our approach.

San Francisco Bay!

Up at 4 am to motor in fog through salmon fishing boats and under the Golden Gate Bridge its fog shrouded piers just visible. We turned across the shipping lanes and ran to the Presidio area to avoid oncoming commercial traffic. Much use of radar and AIS. Fog thinned and we put out the jib alone to sail dead downwind past Fisherman's wharf, Alacatraz, and Angel island. We passed Treasure Island and ran down to the Berkeley Marine where we tied up in the early afternoon. Commercial shipping was light but there were plenty of yachts to avoid.

Raven safe and sound in Berkeley Marina

About 800 Nautical miles - Est 64+ hours (approx 3 days) of motoring, 15 hours at 2 docks and anchor, and about 90 hours (3.5+ days) of sailing. The passage from Neah to Drakes took from Monday at about 8 am until Saturday at 6 pm or 5.5 days. We were lucky with having good following winds and clear weather for much of the passage. The GRIB (weather forecast) files we downloaded on passage showed that a low offshore interacting with one below us was causing the stronger winds we experienced, but these disappeared when the Great Basin high returned. So we were able to sail behind the low and use the nice North winds at its top left edge for a few good days.

Food eaten - homemade granola, bread and cheese, pasta and beef/sausage, chili, roast potatoes and omelette, tortilla eggs, potato cheese hash, salads, porridge, chicken coconut curry, many energy bars and 4 large chocolate bars. One bottle of wine and a few tots of whiskey during the last 2 days.