Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oregon to California, 42 degrees Lat

It’s now Monday, September 17, day 9 since leaving Seattle on Sunday a week ago. Actually, sometimes it’s hard to believe we haven’t set foot on land in over a week. Other times it feels like we have been on this rollercoaster ride forever.
Staying bundled up

On Friday afternoon, we crossed the 42-degree latitude line into California. Friday and Saturday were grey and overcast, but we had some good sailing, running south. We saw our first freighter, at 3 miles from us. We are glad to be out of the shipping lanes and expecting the radar to be increasingly useful. We’ve gotten the hang of the basics and it is a big part of night watch duty.
A freighter at 3 miles away
Familiar view while on watch
Hard to capture the action and excitement of sailing with the dolphins!
The last three days we have been visited by dolphins! They appear in a group of maybe 50 (or maybe there are fewer and they are swimming circles around us). They swim alongside, darting, jumping, playing. While I realize that I don’t speak dolphin, they sure act like they are as happy to see us as we are to see them. There are two different species, one smaller black variety and one that is black and white with orca type markings. We have some movies that show the dance better than these still photos.

In addition to dolphins we have hosted a couple of different little birds. The black guy rode with us and slipped off in the morning (not feeling well, we think).

The little yellow guy flew right into the boat and warmed up on the radar monitor. He sure looked more like someone’s lost parakeet than an ocean bird, but within ten minutes off he flew. We thought maybe it was Mamoo (nicknamed Birdie, watching over us)

Wing in wing, using the spinnaker pole for the jib.

Most of Saturday and Sunday we were back in huge rough waves. The winds were not that strong (20-25 kts) but some of the gusts got up to 35 kts and the seas were totally confused. This meant lots of active hand steering, lots of rocking and rolling, and no fun to try to cook, sleep, read, or walk around the boat.

The night watches were invigorating – if not a little scary – as we surfed down the tops of 12-foot waves with the boat speed exceeding 9 kts. We were using only the main sail, double-reefed and continuing to two a warp with weight on the end. Really as close to the feeling of flying as I’ve ever been! We went to 2 hour watches with two of us in the cockpit at a time. We are dressed in our warmest layers, hats and gloves. Tethering in has become a habit, and feels secure and prudent.

When things calmed down a little on Sunday afternoon, Lanham put out his fishing pole.

Within five minutes he had a big one (that fortunately got away) and ten minutes later had a more reasonable sized bite.

He hauled in a beautiful (and delicious) big-eyed tuna – maybe 20 pounds. Lanham was quick with the gutting, cleaning, and cooking. We have 3 large fillets in the freezer. Just when the casseroles that family sent us off with were running low! Maybe we will never get to the canned goods. 

With still 20 kt/hr wind blowing steady, we let Sully (the newly named auto-pilot, our 4th crew member) take the helm. Lanham got his first practice with the new filleting knife (thanks, Kathy) and the cockpit shower came in very handy for clean up! We ate inside at the table for the first time of the trip. Yum! Couldn’t be fresher fish!

Monday morning has dawned with flat water – ahh! but still overcast sky. Lanham had a warm water outdoor shower and washed the cockpit. I shampooed at the sink – ahh! and we are motor sailing the 70 miles southeast to San Francisco.
The water turned to molasses on Monday afternoon.
Was this really the same body of water that had been churning
us up and down for the past week?

We will probably anchor in a bay north of SF tonight, and go in under the bridge on a flood tide mid-morning tomorrow! We already have a list of (small) boat projects to look after and are looking forward to getting some rest our land legs back.

Our first sight of LAND -- that's Pt. Reyes off in the distance!
That’s the news from s/v Solar Wind. All’s well and so far it is the adventure of a lifetime. It is amazing to realize the vastness of the water on our planet and the power of the wind in a whole new way.

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