s/v Solstice

John and Shirlee's incredible adventure

10 December 2009 | Cartagena, Spain
11 October 2007 | Long Beach, CA
10 October 2007 | Long Beach, CA
08 October 2007 | Lala land
07 October 2007 | Oxnard, CA
06 October 2007 | Oxnard, CA
04 October 2007
04 October 2007
03 October 2007 | Oxnard, CA
02 October 2007
30 September 2007
27 September 2007 | Morro Bay, CA
25 September 2007
23 September 2007
22 September 2007
20 September 2007 | Monterey, CA
18 September 2007 | Monterey, CA
15 September 2007 | Emeryville, CA
14 September 2007 | Emeryville, CA
12 September 2007 | Emeryville, CA

The passage from Westport

29 August 2007
Everything went pretty much according to schedule for our departure at 0900, and although the waves were good-sized at the Grays Harbor Bar, it was no problem. We headed west southwest for the blue water and some tuna fishing. We raised the mainsail as soon as we cleared the bar, and by 1500 we shut off the engine. It remained off — except to charge the batteries — until about 24 hours before we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge.

On our way out to sea, a couple of humpbacks surfaced near the boat and everyone came on deck to watch. A couple of hours later, it was another call to the deck for a great display of 20 or so Pacific wide-sided dolphins. Half a dozen leaped into the air in formation while the rest swooped up to the boat and under. Then they traded off. It was the best dolphin show we've seen outside an aquarium.

Our friend Steve kept checking the water behind us and asking if it was blue yet. John had told him that we could try out the tuna rig as soon as we reached bluewater. Once he learned that it was the water temperature that mattered, Steve checked that on the chart plotter every hour or so. Finally, the water was warm enough and the guys rigged the hook and line to follow us. Less than an hour later, they landed our first tuna. The real challenge was cleaning and filleting it as Solstice bounced around on the waves and John fought seasickness. The next day the hook was out for less than five minutes before they landed another tuna. John did an inventory and some rearranging in the freezer and decided that we had room for two whole tuna and the filleted one. Five minutes later they had their third keeper. For another day they played with catch-and-release before a spray of tuna blood across all of the windows on the port side put an end to that. I don't get seasick, but I am squeamish about blood.

All the time the guys were fishing we were sailing south. The winds were from the northwest at 20 knots or better, and the combined swell and wind waves were fairly steep with lots of cross waves that made it uncomfortable in the cabin. Between Cape Blanco (north of Brookings, OR) and Point St. George (just north of Crescent City, CA) we had winds over 30 knots with frequent gusts to 40 and combined wave heights of 20 feet. That's a gale on the Beaufort scale.

We double-reefed the main and switched from the jib to the staysail at 25 knots. At 30 knots, it was time to drop the main altogether. For me, that was the scariest part. The wind was too strong for John and Steve to get the sail down on a downwind run, so we had to head up. From my perspective at the helm, those big waves were higher and closer together when we were motoring into them than they were when we were going the other way. The guys were both tethered, but it was still a challenge. (To the moms: John says it wasn't as bad as I make it out to be.) Steve didn't have good deck shoes and lost his footing once. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt in the fall.

In all of that, Steve had the main halyard jerked out of his hand, so it was good-bye to the mainsail for the remainder of the passage. To his credit, Steve wanted to go up the mast for it while we were still out, but it really wasn't worth the risk. We did let him go after it when we were safely tied at the dock in Emeryville.

The winds eased before Cape Mendocino (between Eureka and Fort Bragg, CA) and we brought the jib back out. In the night somewhere south of the cape, the engine came on. When I took over the watch at 0630, we were still doing seven knots or more motor-sailing, but as we reached Point Arena, the winds died. It became certain that we wouldn't make it to San Francisco on Sunday as we had hoped. As I've said elsewhere, we motored under the Golden Gate Bridge at 0500 on Monday, August 27th, four days and 20 hours after we left Westport.
Vessel Name: Solstice
Vessel Make/Model: Sceptre 41
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA, USA
Crew: John Forbes and Shirlee Smith
About: Our crew is Märzen (our miniature dachshund) and whoever else is aboard at the moment, if anyone. We welcome friends and family to join us as crew for specific legs of our voyage or to visit at a destination.
Extra: We left San Francisco May 1, 2006, on our proposed 10-year voyage, now reduced to five years due to the economic crisis. Visit our home website for photos, more words, and links.
Home Page: http://www.svsolstice.com


Who: John Forbes and Shirlee Smith
Port: San Francisco, CA, USA