07/18/2011, Oak Harbor Marina
This blog is written after-the-fact and will cover the last week or so of our passage from Maui to Oak Harbor, WA. Hopefully those of you who are/were interested had the opportunity to read of our journey for the first half of the passage.
But when the comm went down in the way of our computer monitor blinking out, everyone -- including us -- was in the dark. We couldn't blog; we couldn't email; we couldn't get grib files. That meant we were back to navigating the "old fashioned way. We earned it!" I felt like Magellan, Cabrillo, Cortez and the many others that went before me without anything except a chronograph, a sextant, and intuition.
Of course, we had the almighty GPS so it wasn't like we were totally lost! We could watch the GPS show -- in excruciatingly slow fashion -- the reduction in miles to our first waypoint, the Juan de Fuca buoy outside of the Straits. I have always maintained that the last 20% of an ocean passage takes 50% of the time. This passage was no different.
Without gribs we were stumbling our way across the pond in the best fashion we could -- taking the lifted tack whenever possible. We had turned right at 32 deg. N on a southwesterly breeze thinking that we were entering the trades. Instead I think we entered the Pacific High. (In hindsight, I wish we had gon further north, maybe to 40 N before turning right.) Consequently our passage was beset with light winds that required motoring and motorsailing.
The motoring started to cut into a dwindling fuel supply. With a little over 500 nm to go, Jim and I were quite conscious of an impending fuel shortage. Whenever the wind cut out we would turn the motor on, but only turn it over at 1200 rpm in order to conserve fuel. Normally we had the "3 knot rule" which meant anytime the knotmeter registered below 3 knots we were free to turn on the motor and motorsail. Well, with diminishing fuel supplies we adopted "the 1 knot rule" -- oftentimes drifting along at 1.5-2 knots -- to conserve the fuel.
I'm not exactly sure where but I think it must have been with about 800 nm to go we hooked our first bluefin (ahi) tuna. It was about 30# and after we cleaned it and iced it down I was wondering how we were going to eat so much fish. As it turned out, no problem!! Even though we were eating tuna every day, we never tired of it. I was pan frying it with a bit of oil, the fish, a squeeze of lime and a shake of salt and pepper. 1-3 min. on each side and voila! We were eating like kings!
About that same time we had an easterly fill in. An easterly? That was the last wind I expected to see! But it was a good breeze and we booked north on starboard tack and made some great miles, even as it swung to the SE and then the S. At this point I figured the wind was either going to continue to veer to the SW and then the W, or it would just quit and refill.
Sure enough, after about a day of sailing on the easterly/SErly the wind died, we motored (slowly) for a few hours, and then a Werly filled in that quickly went NW. Now we are beam reaching and the boat is flying! We are doing 7s, 8s, and even a few 9s and we started to log 160+ miles day -- not a bad days work for a short crew!
But all good things must pass and so it was after two days of closing on the mainland in rapid fashion that we sailed out of that breeze into nothing. From this point on the story gets a little boring because it involves a LOT of motoring!! We chugged along and finally came upon our first waypoint marking the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We were on full alert to make sure we didn't foul the congested commercial traffic lanes.
By now the fuel gauge is reading "E" and we have precious hours left before we have to shut the whole engine down. As we passed Clallum Bay I motored within shouting distance of a fisherman and asked him if there was diesel in Clallum Bay. When he nodded affirmative, a big smile started to creep across my face from ear to ear. It was at that moment I knew we had made it.
8,000 nm in 9 weeks, and we did it. The boat is/was a little worse for wear, but nothing out of the ordinary. I'll give a full report next blog.
From Clallum Bay we motored down the windless Straits to Port Angeles, where we killed a little time downloading email and getting some email out to family and friends teling them we were OK. Our trip to Oak Harbor required a passage through Deception Pass. That passage requires timing with the currents and we still had 6 hours to kill before we could go in with the flood.
That evening -- as we waited for the next day's morning flood -- was one of the toughest. We nearly hit Discovery Island off of Victoria in the middle of the night! Dense fog combined with torrid currents and little or not wind made for some difficult (and impossible) sailing. It was also quite frustrating given the fact that both of us were dog tired.
But we pushed on through and arrived safely in Oak Harbor Marina Thursday last at approximately 1330, 19 days after we started. I was off on my original estimate out of Hawaii by 3 hours!!! I have never, ever gotten the right date when we are playing "ETA roulette". But this time I hit it spot on! Wheeee! Jim owes me a beer!!! :-)
07/15/2011, Oak Harbor Marina
Greetings! We have arrived! And safely, too! We got back yesterday around 1400. But before I share with you some thoughts about the passage and returning home, I first need to take care of some housekeeping.
About a week out of Hawaii the monitor on the ship's computer went on the blink. That effectively cut out communication because I didn't have a screen for writing emails, or for downloading grib files, or uploading blogs..
Some of you were concerned about the lack of comm., and I appreciate your concern. I am not sure about those two scallywags - Janders and Combie, though. I suspect Janders was hoping he could score my Hobie gear while I am not sure what Bob's line was. As for Ruth, she already had cashed in the life insurance policy and spent half of the proceeds! So we'll be having a garage sale shortly to try to repay the insurance company!
In the meantime, I am posting a few blogs I wrote enroute but could not post. They are dated July 7, 9, and 10. I have another blog written for the period from the tenth to when we arrived. But I will wait a day or two to post that to give y'all a chance to play catch up on the other blogs.
Thanks, again, for your concerns - it is quite comforting to know. It is good to be home. I'll share with you the rest of our travels and travails in the next day or two.
07/10/2011, 350 nm off Cape Flattery
As the song goes "I wish I were....". Well, it is starting to look like we are (finally) homeward bound. We hooked into the northwesterly trades we had been looking for. At 15k on a beam reach, we have been putting on some major miles the past couple of days - 160 nm the day before yesterday; 148 nm yesterday; and 145 nm today.
How quickly things can change out here. Why it wasn't so long ago - about 4 days ago when we logged 92 nm - that I was lamenting the fact that it would take us forever to get home. That is because we take the immediate situation and project it out ad infinitum as if nothing will ever change. But, of course, that is foolhardy because the only consistency to life is its inconsistency! And so now our projected arrival date has gone from Monday of next week to possibly Wednesday of this week! I am not a betting man, and I am glad I am not. This stuff would drive me wild(er)!!!
It is bitterly cold here, though. The water temperature is a bone-chilling 55 degrees and the air temperature, with chill factor, is decidedly cooler than that. Jim and I take our watches with everything we own on. Last night I put the watch cap away in favor of a balaclava. A balaclava! Imagine that! This sucks!! As soon as we get off watch we hurriedly slip under the blankets to warm up our digits and body.
The cockpit seats are usually wet rendering them useless for 'enjoying' the ride outside....as if you would want to! So the guy on watch sits at the top of the gangway steps, under the dodger, with the hatch closed to keep what little heat there may be in the cabin. It isn't a whole lot of fun. I much prefer the warmer climes!! Besides eating, the only other activity we can pursue is reading novels. So we spend our days chewing through hero novels and looking at the handheld GPS to tell us how much further. We have been counting down the miles and early this morning we crossed into the 300's, and later today we hope/expect to cross into the 200's.
But just a few hours ago the NWesterly started to lighten up. So maybe we won't get there by Wed. after all. But at least we should be able to make it before Race Weed starts, which will give me some much-needed time to rest up from this 2-month odyssey. But, hey - we still have 350 nm to go and this passage has (re)taught me one thing - don't plan on anything and that way your plan's won't get ruined!!
Boy, the difference a day can make out here!! One day I am down in the dumps after recording a whopping 92 nm (it turned out to actually be 120 nm, (but that is another story for another time) and wondering if I will even be back in time to crew on J's boat for Whidbey Island Race Week. The next day we are logging 160 nm and we are looking sss-aaa-ww-eeee-tttt!!!!
Jim and I were moping along the night before last - at one point we logged a meager 2 nm for the hour -- wondering when we might be able to hook into the westerly trades. There is a dense, dense cloud cover throughout the sky for as far as you can see, and it just looks like crap. Then around 0600 in the morning a 15k easterly fills in! An easterly? Wassup with that??? We didn't ask the question too long. We sheeted in and were on our way.
Over the course of the day it gradually swung around to an 18k SWesterly and we were logging some real miles!! But we knew that at some point we had to pay the piper when the westerly filled in. We were wondering how all of that was going to go down? Were we gonna be stuck wallowing in doldrums? Would the wind continue to clock?
As it turned out, Jim had to motor for about an hour to jump from the southerly to the westerly. But now we are 'hooked in' with 500 nm to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. This looks to be real, and we expect this breeze to hold all the way. Guess we'll see!
So now instead of thinking we might arrive on a Tuesday after 24 days, it looks like we might make it next Thursday after only 19 days. Boy, what a difference a day makes! But it is like that out here on the ocean - things can change very rapidly. Here is hoping (and praying) this westerly holds for us!
07/07/2011, Somewhere out in the Big Pond
What a last couple of days it has been! But not in the way you might think. This time instead of having too much wind and sea we had too LILTTLE wind! That's right. We found ourselves staring at our fuel gauge wondering how much we really had in the tank and just how far it would take us and, more importantly, when the weather might change.
We found ourselves on Tues. and Wed. with a consistent 7k - hardly enough to give a fully-burdened, liveaboard boat like Time Warp any traction through the water. I mean, let's face it - at 3k you just aren't gonna cross the Pacific Ocean in any record-setting time!! Plus I had committed to racing on J's boat (Bodacious) at Whidbey Island Race Week and the pressure of possibly missing that while camped out in the middle of a big pond was most annoying. The problem was further exacerbated when the ship's computer had the hiccups which effectively cut us off from getting weather forecasts or emails from Will advising us on where to go.
And so it was that Jim and I found ourselves discussing our options and strategies for best managing the dwindling petrochemical resource that might help us escape the high pressure that had camped on us. It was a fairly agonizing 48 hours, full of twenty minute bursts to the next wind puff before shutting the engine down.
Finally last night, in a fit of frustration, I furled the jib, pointed the boat towards the barn, and gave the engine half throttle in a vain attempt appease my growing anxiousness and to also conserve fuel. Well, God answers prayers. Because after motoring half the night we found ourselves motoring this morning into a 15k easterly! Now an easterly in this neck of the woods is about as common as bats out in the middle of the ocean. (More on that later.) We have been expecting a westerly or NWesterly all along.
So for now we are hanging onto a thin, easterly thread as we scamper towards Cape Flattery and the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca at 7k and only 800 nm away! How long this breeze will last is anyone's guess, but we'll take it.
As for the birds, at night our stern light has attracted these small, black birds that move like bats with their random, jerky flight patterns. Jim called them bat birds, to which I figure we must be sailing on a bat boat in the middle of a bat ocean! But let's not go any further with that one, shall we?!! They are pretty vocal little guys and other than getting close to the stern light, they stay pretty much away from the boat. That is, except for the one that got a little too close to the jib in the middle of a luff. The jib bitch-slapped the poor little bugger right down onto the deck. I found him on the deck back by the cockpit in the middle of the night a few nights ago. He was shaking the cobwebs out of his head and wasn't looking too perky. But I guess he must've gotten it all together cuz he was gone again an hour later.
Other marine life has been pretty much non-existent. No whales yet, unfortunately. But this morning a huge pod of small dolphins swam with us for awhile. This pod covered a good three acres of water, there were so many of them. Some of them would jump out of the water during the surface breathing. It was a fun albeit brief source of enjoyment.
07/01/2011, 37N; 153W
The traditional course from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest calls for a running of due north out of Hawaii till you get to a period of variable winds. Then motor or motorsail through/around the top of the high till you meet westerly trades and then carry the westerlies into the Straits of Juan de Fuca and into Seattle.
short term it would appear that we have turned the corner in the past 24 hours. As of Sat., July 2, we are sailing directly for Seattle (NE) in a NW breeze, and stronger westerlies are forecast. So Jim and I are feeling like the worst is over and we are almost home. Well, almost home. There is that little matter of 1,500 nm between us and 'home' that still needs to be dealt with!! But for now we are hopeful that it is, as they say, "all downhill from here, baby"!!
The weather is sunny during the day, and that lifts our spirits and gives us a chance to dry things out that need to be dried. Heck, yesterday it was so warm and sunny that Jim and I both got in showers (not together, OK?!!). But during the early evening the sky clouds over and we get pummeled with squalls. These squalls we are learning have less punch to them wind-wise, but still contain their fair share of rain. The next morning we start the whole process all over again. The one thing we are both having to adjust to is the temperature. It is c-c-c-c-cold up here!! At night I am wearing everything I own! Yuck!! I yearn for the 'good 'ole days' when a pair of shorts was all you needed to go sailing (and sometimes not even those!).
We haven't seen much in the way of wildlife. No dolphins or whales. We only just started fishing. There are a few birds around, but not too many. One small, black one hitched a ride with us last night. I think he got slapped silly by a luffing jib and fell to the deck and hung out on the leeward deck for an hour or so getting his bearings before taking off.
The one thing there is plenty of out here is trash. Most of what we see are plastic/rubber/fiberglass fishing balls that were once attached to large fishing nets and now drift free. These balls don't worry me, but wrapping a section of net in our prop is a constant danger and source of concern whenever we are motoring. We turned around yesterday and pulled one particularly spiffy-looking ball out of the water at Jim's request. It was clean on top and underneath was a whole ecosystem!! Mussels abounded. But what really intrigued me was the number of crabs amongst the mussels. Jim scraped them all off the buoy and back into the water to be some other fish's dinner. But to see the number of crabs and the size of the feet on the mussels was pretty cool.
And this afternoon we had a friendly visitor come a-callin'. I went out to the cockpit from the galley to peel some hard boiled eggs for a salad I was making to find fish on!! I hauled that baby in and we had ourselves a nice bluefin (ahi) tuna! You know, the kind they make sushi with and charge $25 or more for at those fancy restaurants? And this baby wasn't one of those measly 3 or 3 kilo mahi-mahi jobs. Oh no. We are talking around 15 kilo (30#) +/-. So Jim and I will be eating tuna for awhile....a long while. Ummm, would you like some tuna with your oatmeal?!!!
Jim and I continue to debate our return date. I insist on the 14th (at 1600, if you must know!). Right now, from 1,400 nm out, it looks to be sometime between the 13th and 15th. But a lot of water has to go under the hull between now and then, so who really knows? We will be restricted by Deception Pass. Since we can only go through there on a slack or flood tide, we will have to make our entrance into the pass sometime between 0930 and around 1200 if we want to have any chance of making it to Oak Harbor in daylight.
But that is all waaay far forward. For now we are settling into the business at hand....which is getting this boat and us safely and quickly into the protected waters of Puget Sound.