Thursday, December 13, 2007

Where (and when) is here?

So, phase 1 of our journey began Thursday, August 30, 2007, at 10:30 pm. After the summer's frenetic preparations, and with the much-appreciated assistance of friends and family, we were finally set to sail. We took on our crew, friend Victor Lavergne, and aweighed our anchor, leaving Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle, bound for Port Townsend. We stopped in PT for 8 hours or so to wait out a gale blowing in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, then continued on our merry way.

We bade farewell to Washington's Cape Flattery in the dawn light of September 1st, and made a bee-line (in zig-zag fashion) off shore. We avoided fishermen and tankers, and made our first gray whale sighting along the way. Heading south along the Pacific coast one is usually accompanied with favorable following winds. And yet, we weren't. We beat upwind through two fronts passing overhead, making the trek down through Oregon and northern California a bumpy one. Oh well, baptism by fire. And this was a first for Victor!

On Sunday Victor made good use of the fishing gear he had brought along. We towed the line for awhile under motor, with no bites. But moments after resetting the line once under sail, we hit pay dirt! A beautiful and unwitting albacore tuna had taken the bait. And there was more where that came from. We sailed through a school of tuna for awhile, spotting jumping fish off and on through the day. I was alternately jumping for joy, and crying for the tuna's inevitable end. Anyway, we ate well.

The next day we were pleased to see northwesterlies, giving us some lovely downwind sailing. We poled out the jib top and made good time. By nightfall, (oops) too much sail area for the mounting winds and seas caused us some grief. We were thankful to have Victor's help. After a bit of unwanted excitement wrestling the pole and jib down, we were doused and panting. And it wasn't over, as we had yet to reef the main. Ben volunteered to take the helm....all night long....and into the following afternoon. Once day broke we could finally appreciate what the seas around us looked like, that is, tall. It's hard to tell when you're in it, but we estimate the waves at ~ 20 feet. Man, we were hauling ass, with peak speeds ~ 18 knots, surfing down the waves under a double-reefed main. Needless to say Victor and I were only too glad to leave the helm to Ben. And, sleep-deprived or not, Ben was glowing with glee.

On Tuesday night we finally started our approach to San Francisco Bay. We were surprised how un-crowded it was wending or way in through shipping lanes. Easy as pie. By now we were motoring once again - wind is fickle. We passed through the Golden Gate Wednesday the 5th at 8 am, as dawn was breaking. How cool is that! We were ready to crash, shower, and eat hot food. Oh yeah, and find a functional toilet, as ours had bitten the dust days before. Ode to the bucket - and let's leave it at that.

We parted ways with Victor (thanks for your help Victor!!), and met up with our incoming crew - John Fiddler. We needed a couple days to clean, restock and recupe, but we finally set sail once again on Saturday, September 8. We tacked our away around obstacles solid, darting and unyielding. It was a brief blast of excitement on our way out of the City by the Bay, soon to be met with winds clocking in at ~ 0 knots. So, we shifted into slow mode, twiddled our thumbs and motored. Fiddler, our poor adrenaline junky was running low on adrenaline.

Luckily were were graced with the wonder of wildlife. A whale (gray?) gave us a show with some breaching and tail-slapping. (Does anyone know what this means?) I don't know if he was feeling randy or, rather, agitated. Whichever may be the case, he was expressive to say the least. We passed through a few expansive smacks of jellyfish (we've recently learned this is an ominous sequela to global warming that other sea life aren't excited about), leaping seals, sea lions, otters and birds. Watching dolphins dart through the waves at night, aglow with phosphorescence, is a sight to behold.

Of course, no wind = motoring = fuel. So, our journey south was interrupted by fuel stops. The first attempt was made at San Luis Obispo. Unfortunately we made landfall at night (as per usual) and were directed to a floating dock adjacent to the fuel dock until morning. We had no easy way to get off the boat without swimming, so instead we waited out the night with a serenading gang of randy sea lions nearby (like, 10 yards near). Come morning, San Luis Obispo lay quiet with an electrical black out, so fuel was a no-go. We left with Santa Barbara on our minds. Finally, nearing Cape Arguello, we found wind. We navigated around oil derricks (under an ever-watchful eye), groped through fog, cavorted with more whales, and arrived in Santa Barbara that night (yes, again at night). Fid left us the next day, to visit a friend and ensure he wouldn't miss his ride (ie, plane) back to Seattle.

Well, Ben and I found ourselves, for the first time, alone. We had just a short bit to go, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, our destination. This was a good test of our ability to handle the boat on our own, and we got plenty of practice as we encountered a little bit of everything in the way of wind and weather. We were pleased with ourselves in the way of performance and, besides that, we had such a good time. We cruised in to San Diego early morning on September 12th and celebrated our accomplishment with a toast!

No comments: