Disclaimer: Blog posts will be sporadic due to lack of time when we have good internet connection and rough sea conditions while underway. And I am learning Word Press, give us a month and postings will improve… Also check posts on Facebook.
Arctic Loon’s Crew for the first leg Diana, Anne, Greg, Mike and Bartek left Port Townsend at sunrise on Saturday September 1st for a pleasant 12 hours out the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Neah Bay. We saw our 1st humpback whales as we arrived just at sunset.
Day 1 – After a good nights sleep and final preparations, we left Neah Bay at 10:30am for our 6 day journey to San Francisco. Our new friends on SV Nomad / Howard and Pam left about an hour earlier. It was somehow comforting to know another sailboat was out on the ocean even if we could only see them on our AIS Chartplotter. We encountered large ocean swells and had 10-15 knots of wind for sailing downwind as we settled into our watch system staying about 20-25 NM offshore. As evening approached, we got prepared for the endless display of stars that slowly appeared in every direction. Not sure any of us had ever seen the Milky Way as vivid as that 1st night off the Washington Coast with no night pollution.
Day 2 – The fun was just beginning… Our crew continued evolving our routine as we got to know Arctic Loon, her technology and each other. We studied the weather, had amazing dolphin encounters, and spent endless hours watching the horizon for boats, crab pots and possible wildlife. 60 NM off Astoria, the winds began to build so we decided to reef the main sail. Almost immediately the bail attachment for the main furler along the bottom of the boom broke. It was then up to the crew to figure out how to fully remove the main sail as the wind and seas continued to build. Sailing by the genoa alone, Diana was at the helm working to keep Arctic Loon steady so the crew would be able to work out on deck. We stored the main sail in the cabin salon and it looked like an airbag had exploded.
Day 3 – Over the next 24 hours, we sailed by the head sail in 20-25 kt winds with 6-8’ seas and an occasional rough wave to toss us around. At some point, we had decided to head into Newport to see if we could repair the main furler and for the crew to rest. We arrived at the Newport Marina at South Beach at 10am on Tuesday. Todd from Marine Chandlery did not have the right size riveter but was very helpful. Mike and I went into Newport looking for a chart and to explore. Arctic Loon’s crew enjoyed dinner at Rogue Brewery next to the Marina. During dinner, SV Nomad reported that they were encountering 50 kt winds and 14’ seas, going 7-8 kts under bare poles. Our crew was thankful that we were safely tucked in at the Newport Marina. Upon checking our weather tools, we felt comfortable continuing with the goal of getting to San Francisco by Saturday to avoid an approaching weather system.
Day 4 – Just before sunrise on Wednesday morning, Arctic Loon headed out once again. This time things were going to challenge the crew to a whole new level and we would question why we chose to go offshore. Sailing by our head sail, we made our way down the Oregon Coast. Diana and Mike were on watch when they were attacked by the California Killer Kelp Monster, it was a massive kelp patch that stopped Arctic Loon dead in her tracks and woke the sleep crew. Mike jumped into action with the knife while we put Arctic Loon in reverse to chop up the kelp monster. Once again, we were underway.
Day 5 – Thursday afternoon we passed by Cape Mendocino which was calmer than we expected. It was not until we were south of Cape Mendocino that the Northwest winds increased to 20-25 kts where we encountered our 1stsquare waves. We had been warned about square waves, where they come from all directions making for steep and uncomfortable confused seas. This is where our crew learned how to call the waves to guide the helmsperson. Our auto pilot did not like these steep following seas so it was up to us. As it got dark, we knew we were in for a long night ahead.
Day 6 – Overnight and into Friday morning the winds and seas relaxed. In the afternoon, SV Capaz with Dr. Herlow and crew passed off our starboard side. As we passed Point Arena, the wind and waves continued to build to 20-22kts with 4-6’ seas, then the seas continued to grow at times feeling like 15-20’. The waves were higher than the solar panels. You could hear the walls of water approaching and felt the apprehension before we rode out over each wave. We found ourselves once again in confused seas, it felt like being in a washing machine. Going into Botega Bay was an option, but that would have it’s own challenges. It was then decided to continue the last 12 hours to San Francisco, with all crew on deck to support each other overnight, taking turns to nap as needed. Then just before sunset at 7:10pm on Friday night we heard a very sad Mayday, sports fisherman, not wearing a life vest fell overboard and had been missing for 10 minutes. The USCG announcement went on every 30 minutes all night until we were safely at the dock in San Francisco. A reminder to wear your life vest and don’t fall off the boat. As it got dark, it almost became easier to steer when you could not see the height of waves. Approaching Point Reyes, the waves became more manageable but now we had to keep a watchful eye for commercial traffic in the shipping lanes. Energized after her nap and knowing arrival under the Golden Gate Bridge was less then 6 hours, Diana took the helm so her crew could sleep. Slowly we each awoke and joined Diana for the final approach to San Francisco.
Our arrival in San Francisco on Saturday September 8, 2018 – Surfing the waves along an inbound current gave us time to reflect on our journey together. What an incredible bonding experience. Each of us felt a sense of relief and accomplishment as we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge right at sunrise at 6:50am Saturday September 8th.
Extra special thanks to our guest crew members: Bartek who coached us on technology and shot drone footage, Mike (our Poet) who was always ready to assist in any capacity, and Greg who was our weather guru, stellar helmsman, developed our watch system and brought Magda’s homemade perogies/cabbage rolls. Thanks Magda!!!!