Maybe having bananas on the boat was a mistake, but Nick really likes bananas! Morning of departure the goal was to take off by 9am but sail boats never depart on time and the boys dealt with some Y valve issues with the head all morning. Nick’s mom came out to Anacortes to wish him farewell and stock up on provisions for two weeks - we were definitely never hungry and ate quite well on the trip. Thank you Chris!
Wild Rover departed from Cap Sante Marina on Saturday September 5th. At the marina Nick’s neighbor, Rubicon III, was doing the same trip down to Berkeley Marina which was nice to know a friend heading in the same direction. Rod (owner of Rubicon III) paid Commander’s Weather Corporation to put together a detailed forecast for the sail down - which was very on point and made specific recommendations for the sail down. Getting out of the Salish Sea the water was glossy so we motored most of the way - trying to avoid debris, birds and kelp forests. The coast line included many coves to explore and forests. The crew included Graeme, Ryan, Mariya and Nick for the first half of the trip. We were all excited and stayed up chatting/taking pictures all day as Graeme worked and re-worked the watch schedule for 24 hour sailing he eventually realized there was 00 and 24 hour - so the math did not add up. During the day we did 3 hour solo watches and after sunset each individual only had 1 hour by themseelves, and 2 hours of overlap with the person before then after. So if Ryan was on watch 8pm - 11pm then 8-9pm he overlapped with Mariya and 10-11pm he overlapped with Nick to minimize desire to fall asleep and have extra hands for wind changes/sail changes etc.
We kept strict rules that anyone leaving the cockpit had to be tethered in - and nobody was allowed to go up if they were the only ones on watch. Day 2 we woke up to a foggy morning, swell was pretty tall and kept building up as the sun came out and wind came up. A shark passed by us - Jaw soundtrack. The first day included a lot of motoring so the boys refilled the fuel, spilled some diesel on the boat (which we carefully cleaned up with the diapers and buckets) and fixed the head. Off to a productive start - the winds picked up and we had a lovely sailing evening. In the evening the wind picked up pretty quickly - within minutes we would be adjusting sail from the 135 full genoa … to reef the genoa, to one reef on main sail, well lets put in a second reef, and time for storm jib. After getting the second reef in on day 2 - we actually never un-reefed the rest of the trip.
Day 3 was a beautiful day! We saw a dolphin swim alongside the boat - showing us how blue and transparent the water is. Nick was concerned about the shrimp/crab pots so we stayed further offshore - we were about 20 miles away from the coast cruising over 5000 feet of water at times. The sun was out and the winds were steady, towards the evening the winds again started to pick up quickly from the East so we reacted fast and were prepared with the storm jib (which we ended up keeping packed up on the bow and already attached to the halyard) and double reef learned our lesson from the night before how quickly the wind may come up.
The swell and winds continued to build. At this point Ryan is puking overboard, Nick is happily eating a grilled sandwich, Graeme looks concerned and Mariya is taking pictures and upset she cannot get a great shot of the sunset because Ryan keeps being in the picture. Then the wind came up even more and we took down the mainsail and sailed storm jib alone. Now the sun is down and the wind is coming up. Eventually we end up taking the storm jib down (bare poles) and trying to motor against the wind to get us closer to shore - this was a strong east wind. Then Nick says, “wouldn’t it suc.k if the motor dies.” Whelp, a few minutes later the motor dies. Bare poles, large swell, very very windy - Nick is steering, eventually finds he has the wheel hard over and the boat feels pretty stable. He tells Graeme he is off shift and can go under - ties down the wheel and stays in the cockpit to observe how the boat handles.
Mariya is laying in bed praying the boat does not turtle - but decides she should be emotional support so she pops her head out and inquires if Nick wants some emotional support on deck as she sees the tall swell on both sides - “Well actually I’m falling asleep and there is really no point of me being out here anyway - lets all get some sleep and be ready to sail tomorrow” - says Nick. He takes another second to put another lashing to tie down the wheel and comes inside and gets in bed. At this point, Graeme is fully dressed in his foul weather gear and PFD and is in the quarter birth. The V birth is soaked because we didn’t properly batten down the V berth hatch - though we did have a discussion earlier in the trip how this is not an escape route since the dinghy is latched down over it. One occasion a wave hits the side of the boat and a dinner plate flies out and hits Mariya in the face. #lol
Then at some point Ryan gets up to go to the bathroom - during this entire night we are rocking rail to rail with an occasional massive wave surprise (that sounds like an earthquake/boat falling apart) - next thing we hear is “Mariya, I think I dislocated my thumb” “What makes you think that” - says kind exhausted Mariya. Ryan walks out of the bathroom with a thumb very much not in place “oh, okay, yeah you dislocated your thumb.” “Can you put it back in place?” - says Ryan. “I’ll try, I am not sure I have the strength to do it.” Mariya tries but with the boat rocking aggressively not having the strength to do it - they both look at Nick. Nick says “okay.” He gives it a nice pull - almost there, then another yank and pop - thumb back in place. Ryan gives him a high five and goes back to the bathroom apparently he hadn’t gotten a chance to pee yet.
In the morning we found the bird that kept trying to stay with the boat last night tucked in front of the dinghy towards the bow holding on. When we noticed it - it got spooked and tried to fly around, but then fought its way back to the boat to continue the journey towards shore with us.
The sun comes up, it’s still pretty windy. Mariya naggs Nick, we finally get a storm jib up! Then we get the tri-sail out for some time to experiment. Finally the wind comes down even more and we raise the mainsail. The decision was made to head to Newport, OR (the closest port at that time) since the motor was not turning on and Graeme had planned to switch off with the next crew half way and needed to get back to work. As we head towards shore, the wind dies, sun starts coming down towards the horizon and smoke fills the air - so dark and red, none of us have witnessed such an apocalypse before.
No motor. Wind dying. Getting dark. No visibility due to smoke. The decision was made to call BoatUS for a tow into Newport, OR (triple-A in the boat world). They did not service the area so they said they would contact the coast guard on our behalf. Seconds later coast guard was calling us on the radio - we gave them our coordinates and continued to sail towards Newport, OR and the boys kept trying to fix the motor. Coast guard came as the sun was setting, we saw a boat and flashed it down - very professional, they circled the boat a few times to “evaluate the situation and boat.” They asked us if the bow cleats were reinforced and if they would accommodate a 2 inch line. Coast guard had impressive organization, communication and control of the situation - they tossed us a line, which was apparently a heaving line just to feed another more secure line and towed us into Newport and got us to the dock safely. For what it is worth - it was badass to watch a lady command all the gentlemen on board.
Once we were tied off and safe (the captains watched us tie cleat hitches, a little stressful - then told Mariya the stern is not tight enough, stepped on the line and she re-tied it) of course the coast guard asked us for a fire extinguisher, flares and registration. Whelp - apparently the owner took the flares with them even though they were present on the boat during the inspection. The registration numbers were not on the boat yet and no wifi/service, convicts that are all wearing PFDs, harnesses and tethers in foul weather gear. But we had 3 fire extinguishers! The first reaction was to search the boat but the captain was nice and gave us a lecture and we had all the other coast guard requirements on board so we got a “fix-it ticket” and Nick purchased flares and flare guns at the local marine store the next day. To prove the purchase he took the dinghy over to the coast guard station (I’m sure many people just dinghy into their marina) and the situation was taken care of.
That night we were all pretty tired and delirious but some had energy to find the marina shower and give a shot of rum to Neptune.
The next morning we ate all the bananas on board. Air quality was brutal and considered “black” with ash building up on the boat. The boys spent the next 48 hours cleaning and polishing and filtering fuel - at some point they figured out a way to get it squeaky clean and finally the motor was up and running. Graeme had to find a way home to Berkeley to get back to work. Nick used the dinghy for errands (the walk to town was over an hour).
The motor is fixed - Rubicon III also took a break in Newport, OR and together we take off. It was nice because Rod had suggested we check in with each other every 3 hours on the radio - so we had sailing friends for the journey ahead. There were tons of crab traps on the way out - we had to keep a very close eye. It was a very foggy day, Mariya was on watch when she looked ahead and thought I think I see something - yup she all of a sudden saw a large fishing boat about 50 feet in front of us. Quick standby to take the boat off auto-pilot and go around the fishing boat. Ironically this was while Nick was working on setting up the radar which was a huge hit.
The next two days were foggy with maybe 50 feet of visibility during the day so the watch was focused on checking radar and Navionics. We saw lots of jellyfish, some hit the rudder. The bio-illuminance was bright! We had new bird friends that live on the ocean - when it is silent they yell “Agh!” in a frightening but silly manner. Watched some seals play, the wind shifted south. The original plan was to stop in Crescent City but as we continued to monitor the forecast the South wind was filling in stronger - and the new plan became to sail all the way to Berkeley and stay close to shore to avoid strong south winds - though we were close to shore we had not seen shore the entire trip yet, even when we approached/left Newport, OR. Day 10 the fog starts to clear up and we have a warmer night with a nice sunset. We wing on wing the sails heading down wind.
Finally we see the shore!!! It was a miracle. Later that day we pass a pod of whales - at first it was amazing, Mariya grabs her camera, every “poof” is exciting. Then a whale surfaces about 10 feet away from us - a little terrifying. Then another on starboard about 20 feet away coming towards us. About 20 minutes later another whale on the bow. At this point we were all banging on the hull hoping to make enough noise to scare away the whales - of course they were not scared, but we were. As the sun set, our biggest fear became the sound “poof.” In the morning the water was calm, Ryan captured a photo of a bunch of seals and whales passing by. The birds awoke - and then we saw Golden Gate Bridge! We could not believe our eyes.
As we sailed in, it felt like home. Of course there were many fishing boats outside the gate, shipping vessels coming in/out. It was exciting to hear the echo under the bridge. We sailed in Genoa alone making good progress (moving at 6knts down wind) and started to get overpowered with the Genoa alone. We decided to do the city front as it felt right, then gybed past Alcatraz to head home. As we looked up there was a bright pink large container ship that was not clear if it was heading towards Richmond or out the gate - but if it was going out the gate we were not ranging to make it in front of the ship. Of course this is when the Genoa furling line gets caught, wind is blowing pretty steady over 20 - we work on fixing the Genoa furling line and getting the storm jib up as we try to maintain steering and notice Merope coming to greet us.
Once we took the shipping containers stern, we were pretty tired and happy to sail home with a storm jib alone at a solid 4knts.
It was a great learning experience and adventure and impressed by Nick staying so calm and being a great captain throughout the journey. Though it did feel good to spend the night tied off to a dock, sigh.
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