05/26/2010, Newport, OR
As I said goodbye to Ruth Ann, the love of my life, and entered the airplane in Grand Rapids, Michigan, early in the morning, I anticipated getting off a shuttle bus later that same day in Port Townsend, Washington, stepping onto the deck of my daughter's and my son-in-law's boat, the Jenny P, and setting sail for Hawaii. But that kind of start happens only in books about this kind of adventure. In reality people with good sense take it to heart when their weather router suggests that today is not a good day to meet the sea. Better wait for Sunday. So we did.
Our weather router, who resides in Hawaii, is in daily contact with Eric and Christine. He knows exactly where the Jenny P is, in port or at sea, at any moment, through a very sophisticated set of technological devices that also allow him to see what weather is ahead of us at any time and to make suggestions about alternatives to sailing through storms when alternatives are available. What a great and comforting service!
We had a very nice send-off the night before we left Port Townsend as Alan and Sandy stopped by with a bottle of very good wine and their best wishes. They took a couple of pictures to email to back to Bob and Alice, and through them to Ruth Ann. At six-thirty in the morning we left the dock and headed for Port Angeles, west along the mountain-rimmed coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Eric expected us to have to fight the flood for some part of the trip, but, as he predicted, most of our hours at sea were spent with the benefit of the ebb. We had only a one-day window to go west, according to the weather router, and we were not about to waste even that. We made Port Angeles without much difficulty, but were locked in there by a series of low pressure systems for another three days.
We crew made the best of it with excursions to a playground, an evening out with dinner and a movie (We thoroughly enjoyed the new documentary, Oceans) and a full day in Victoria on Vancouver Island where we visited the local castle and a maritime museum, traveling there and back by ferry.
Finally, our weather guru suggested we had a 72 hour window during which we could actually exit the Strait and sail down the coast of Washington and Oregon, perhaps as far as Newport, Oregon, before another set of low pressure systems were sure to come through. We left at high tide.
As we rounded the waypoint just outside the Strait of Juan de Fuca and headed south along the Washington coast, we adults on board broke out a bottle of Champaign, toasted Poseidon as well as each other, and headed south. We have decided on a two-hour watch schedule after having experimented with four-hour watches the first night. The four-hour watch proved too challenging in the cold. For the following 60 hours, the winds varied between twelve and twenty knots, gusting from time to time to twenty-eight The air temperature reached the mid- 50's during the daylight hours but got down to the low 40's after sunset. The rollers were generally at eight feet and above, off our starboard quarter, making life below difficult to say the least, but the children coped...not without some rancor, but they coped. A freshly baked apple cake in the early morning not only takes the bite out of the cold, but makes life below decks a lot more comfortable as well.
At the top of a swell I looked off to port across the gray valley that just passed beneath us and wondered about the life teeming below us, remembering the images from the movie, Oceans, and marveling at my good fortune to have been invited aboard by my daughter Christine and my son-in-law Eric. I have day-dreamed of just such an experience as this for decades. I am a very lucky man.
On an early morning two-hour watch the second day out, I heard a whales' blow off our starboard quarter, turned to look at the twelve foot spray, and just as that dissipated, the whale's enormous head came rising out of the gray swell to take a breath... all of which nearly took mine away.
We pulled into Newport, Oregon, straightened things out below, got a twelve hour sleep in and now are waiting out the two or three-day rainstorm our weather-router predicted. Life is very good. Anticipation is delicious.
After a sixty hour run down the coast we pulled into Newport Sunday night to wait out some bad weather per our weather router's instruction. Sure enough, less than 12 hours later it started to blow. It was nice being in the marina. We had much needed showers and a 12 hour sleep. We will need to manage nights and naps better on the long legs. The stop was productive asit also gave us a chance to fix and fine tune a few things. We made it about two weeks into this trip before I needed to fix the head ;). After several hours of trouble shooting the inverter issue turnout out to be some simple mis-wiring. We are going to have a lot to shake out. Unfortunately our boat work ran right up to our departure, and we couldn't spend the last month testing and practice. Everything we are encountering is minor and addressable though.
Newport was a nice town, and seemed like a close knit community. Being without a car, we round the local loop bus. The bus ride was more entertaining than its stops. Everyone on the bus knew everyone else, and greeted them by name as they entered. Age was no barrier to conversations, students discussed travel plans with retirees. As we boarded near the marina, they guessed us to be from a boat and included us in the dialog.
The Rogue Brewery was within walking distance, and had a very nice, family friendly restaurant. It also gave me a chance to replenish my small stash of Northwest beer from PT brewing, the waiting in Port Angeles had depleted it. (We are dry underway.)
There was also a nice Aquarium and Library, but Sophie and Finn's favorite place may have been the mounds of dirt and sand near the marina: climbing, exploring, and digging. It will be good to get them to a tropical beach and less constrained.
After many games of solitaire and many weeks in port, we have reached the open ocean. The waves here are 8 feet high. The sea life is so beautiful! I have seen 3 porpoises and grandpa saw 1 sei whale. Everything is amazing. Sleeping with other people is hard, especially when we are moving. The only benefit of sleeping with Finn and Freya is that I get a quarter every time I go to sleep before them, which is almost every night. I miss school and everybody a lot, but I think I'm going to have a lot of great experiences. Bye For Now, Sophie
We have exited the Strait of Juan de Fuca and "turned left". We celebrated turning the corner with some champagne my friend Amy gave us to wish us well. While delicious, we sipped sparingly anticipating our night watches, and poured some for Neptune for good luck. We are not quite on our way to Hilo: our weather router has informed us that another bad system is coming in Monday evening, and has advised us to hole up along the Oregon Coast. We are targeting Newport, and expect to arrive tomorrow afternoon. There is a decent amount of wind but we have been mostly motor sailing, as the swell is inconsistent, and it is hard to sail the coarse we need without bouncing people around in the cabin. Freya has mild motion sickness, but everyone else is doing fairly well, but tired. It is going to take us some time to really adjust to the motion of the boat.
A stop in Newport will give us a chance to make some adjustments and fine tune/fix things - my inverter has stopped working, so we only have DC gear. This is not critical as our import gear is all 12 volt, but it would be nice to recharge the cameras. We are also getting a good sense of what is going to come loose in big swells - we have had eight feet or so most of the day. Not too bad, but the direction isn't that consistent, likely because we are only 15-20 miles out. We would have steadier seas and better currents farther out, but the weather would be worse and will deteriorate Monday.
The AIS system is great, allowing us to get data on ships near us, generally 15 - 20 miles away. We have not seen a lot of traffic, but a few fishing boats have not shown up on radar or AIS, a little concerning. We are keeping vigilant watches.
05/20/2010, Port Angeles
I have some foodie-friends (check out notesondinner.com) who cook up incredible meals, know just where to buy the right cheeses, and entertain for many as if they were having a nice relaxing afternoon. Thank Goodness I have these friends because everyone once and a while I get to eat really well. As a bachelorette I usually had an empty freezer, with just butter and some lunch meat in the fridge and I ate a lot of ramen, rice and beans. As a mom with three kids and also a husband who now has the time to eat with us, coupled with the reality of living on a boat, I've had to get real about cooking and provisioning. I think we've been eating pretty well so far. Here is our meal plan for the next couple weeks:
Breakfasts rotate between: pancakes and sausage with fruit, quiche with left over sausage and toast, oatmeal with nuts and yoghurt, pancakes with chocolate chips in them, dried cereal with fruit and nuts, scrambled eggs with bacon and biscuits, hot cereal with an apple cooked in it with fruit and yoghurt.
Lunches look like this: cold cut sandwiches with cherry tomatoes and carrot slices, chicken chili verde on tortillas and cantaloupe, ground beef chili with crackers and fruit, black-eyed pea soup, French onion soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup, lentil stew over grains.
For Dinner we'll be having: Tortellini with red sauce and green salad, 15 bean soup, left over chili with Mac/Cheese, Narsi Goreng, Black bean burritos and/or quesadillas with salsa, chicken with lentils and spinach, pasta and porcupine meatballs, and hoping for fresh fish.
For fresh supplies I have stored roughly 75 onions, 15 lbs potatoes, 30 apples, 30 oranges, 10 limes, 10 lemons , 3 ginger roots, 12 garlic heads, 5 lbs carrots, 12 leaks, 3 red peppers, 3 green peppers, 2 jicamas, 3 cantaloupes, 10 pears, 3 butternut squash, 9 dozen eggs right from the farm, un-washed and un-refridgerated, 3 bunches of bananas in various stages of ripe. We have very little alcohol on board as we won't be drinking at all while at sea, but we do have a couple bottles of wine and one bottle of tequila stored in the bilge for when the time is right. We also have a bottle of fine champagne that we will use to toast Neptune/Triton/Poseidon as we head out of the Straight of Juan de Fuca someday very soon.
05/19/2010, Port Angeles
When someone offers to share their knowledge with you, well, that is the ultimate gift. We are very thankful to Gary, the captain of the W. C. Park Responder, an oil spill response ship currently docked here in Port Angeles. He spent a couple hours with Eric yesterday going over his years of experience as a captain up and down the West Coast. I am a bit chagrined that I was not invited along (I've done a great deal of research and investigation into our navigation plans and resources; I've inventoried all of our charts and passage making books, and I collected the various light lists, coastal pilots and sailing directions we need.) But we also have 3 young kids aboard and they can't be left alone at this stage so I couldn't do the usual and invite myself along. Alas, female captains are still few. An aside to any would-be female captains out there: one of the best days I spent in preparation for this trip was when I attended the one-day Women's Sailing Seminar in Seattle back in February (www.latitudesailingassoc.org) I learned so much from the female captains who shared their knowledge of communications, docking, anchoring, sailing at night, provisioning, and the all important crew morale. In any case, when Eric returned to the boat, he debriefed me and my Dad. Main point: never cross a bar on the ebb, only during flood and even then make sure you understand the conditions. Otherwise, some top options for ducking into port and out of foul weather are: Grays Harbor, Columbia River, Newport and Coos Bay. I am so thankful we hired a weather router. Yesterday seemed like it would have been a fine day to head out, but by mid-day today we had 50-60 kts winds blowing. Those are mighty winds, Southern Ocean conditions. Good to be hunkered down with a meatloaf in the oven and a vanilla rum cake for desert.