Unexpected Port of Call
01 June 2010 | Bodega Bay, CA
I know I've been in port too long when my daughter tells me that the young woman who just waited on us at the Oregon Coast Aquarium Café is engaged to the funny waiter who took care of us the night before at the Rogue Brewery Restaurant. We also knew the bus drivers by name and knew how to give directions to newcomers. We had to get out of Newport, OR! Our weather guy called us on Thursday afternoon and said we could depart that night if we wanted - we cast off and slipped out of town.
I am now writing from Spud's Marina in beautiful Bodega Bay in Sonoma County, CA. Wine Country - but I didn't come for the wine tour. On Sunday May 30 we were sailing about 100 miles out from San Francisco talking about how it would be just another day or so before we'd likely be turning to starboard and heading toward Hilo. The wind had fallen a bit so we decided to shake out the reef on our mainsail and get some speed up. I went forward to do that and while I was cranking the mainsail back up the mast, a screw popped out of the boom. Where did that come from? I looked around and couldn't find the likely place so I put it in my pocket and would keep an eye out. Later I went forward again and noticed another screw on deck, and then a gap between two parts of the boom; ever time the wind gusted or we got a wave the boom pieces would separate and waggle back and forth. I am not a rigger, so I can't give the exact name of these pieces and parts, but essentially I am talking about the place where the long metal piece of the boom meets up with another small black piece that connects to the gooseneck which fastens to the mast. These parts allow the boom to stay attached to the mast and yet move around as it needs to. Short version: the boom broke. I quickly pulled the screw from my pocket and put it in the hole, yelled for Eric to suit up and meet me on the foredeck with a screwdriver and another screw. We assessed the situation, called our rigger back in Port Townsend by sat-phone and confirmed that we had a significant issue to address. Had we been in the middle of the ocean, we would have had to put our creative energies at work and jury rig some kind of solution. We could have done it, but would have been quite compromised. Since we could still motor back to San Fran and get the job done right, we opted for that instead of trusting our luck for another 2100 miles and beyond. The weather we experienced off Cape Mendecino (sustained winds of 25 kts and gusting with 8-10 foot wind waves one after the other for about 18 hours) was enough to make us realize what course we should take. We were very unlucky to have to stop our trip - just as we were beginning to bring the boat into a wonderful balance and sail her with some style - but very very lucky our rig held together during the big blow and that we didn't lose our boom and rip our new mainsail in the process.
Just after we made the call to change our course to 90 degrees and head for shore, the fog set in. One hundred miles off shore! All night long and most of the next day we had visibility of ½ mile or so. We watched the radar closely and kept a look out as best we could. At first we were heading directly for San Fran and ultimately Alameda. (Our rigger set us up with a shop with a great reputation in Alameda and said that he'd cover the costs of our repairs - a great thing to do) However, with the dense fog and the fact that we'd be making the mouth of the San Fran harbor at dusk - we chose Bodega Bay, a more straightforward harbor with a much easier entrance. We pulled in around 7pm, after navigating through fog so think we could hear the fog horn off the red nun as we rounded Bodega Rock and our radar told us we came within a few hundred feet but we never saw it. I imagine that is what pilots feel like when they fly at night under instruments alone. The wonders of radar, GPS, chart plotters and sat phones make it much easier for people like us to make these grand adventures at sea. My heroes are the sailors who started the cruising lifestyle with little more than charts, a chronometer, and a sextant
We will pull out of Bodega Bay at midnight tonight, June 1st, so we can hit the approach to San Francisco (60 miles away) around 10:00am just as the ebb turns to flood. The Coast Pilot says that during the month of June one can expect an average 4 days of fog. The forecast for this area calls for fog all week. Hmmm. Hoping for seasonably good weather and visibility as we head under the Golden Gate Bridge into one of the busiest US ports. A dubious pleasure.