Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Solar Wind takes on The Pacific

Our last night before heading to the open ocean. This was the city pier at Port Angeles. You wouldn't know that earlier in the afternoon we had decided to hang it up due to grumpy 35 kn. winds and crazy waves.
Getting ready to round Cape Flattery...

It’s Thursday, Sept. 13, as I write this. I will not post for several days, but wanted to catch the flavor of our first few days in the big Pacific pond. Wow! I think I can say that all three of us are surprised and impressed with the size of the swells and rollers that we have been riding since shortly after leaving the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It has been like riding in a mix master -- Wahoo! What a ride!
What a day we had...

in the sunshine!

Motoring around Cape Flattery and past Tatoosh Island last Monday afternoon was spectacular! No large wind waves, no fog, sun glistening off the water, sea birds feeding in the tidal current, and the amazing sea stacks at Neah Bay, Point of Arches, Cape Alava – beautiful and exciting!

At the rounding of Cape Flattery, we “hucked the apple fritter,” a now stale gift from Keith at departure, and apparently the tradition of any goodday “at the shop.”

and a dramatic sunset as we turned south at the corner of Washington state.
The winds have been 15 to 35, day and night. We have been under sail, and easily averaging 5 knots an hour. (A knot is about a thousand feet longer than a statute mile – hardly worth counting out here). We have had a double-reefed main sail, and a partially furled (smaller) jib during the day. At night, we have dropped the main completely, and had up only the staysail (very small sail in front of the mast). The last two nights we have also pulled a warp, or a drogue. (I know, so much new jargon). We cleated a long fat line (3/4” x 150’) to the stern and dragged it behind the boat. Last night we even had two lines out and put about 50 pounds of weight on one. Surprisingly, this only slows us up to about 4 knots, but make it easier to control the steering down the rolling waves that are pushing us from behind. The long dragging weight keeps the boat a bit anchored in the water, rather than surfing down the tops of the waves, which can push us sideways. We had only read and talked to people about using this, but we had them in the stern locker ready to go and boy did it work!
These photos are before the wind got wild -- apparently we were way too busy to take pictures during the crazies as we called them. Life on board includes:
Napping whenever you can...

and making small adjustments while underway.
Can you spot Lanham? Yikes! He's tethered.

   This morning we have turned on the motor for the first time since Monday afternoon, mostly to store up a bit more battery power. We are about 120 nautical miles off-shore, about 200 nm from Cape Flattery, (about even with Tillamook Bay, OR, on the coast) and about 450 nm from San Francisco. We have liked being well out of the shipping lanes. We’ve kept the radar on all the time, and only seen a couple fishing boats and one freighter the first night, none last night. We will now be heading due south as much as possible given the wind direction. With the motor running we have plenty of power from the alternator, so we are running the water maker for 4 hours (giving us about 50 gallons). We will have warm water to wash up, power to run the vacuum cleaner, and keep all our instruments and refrigerator juiced up. Things get a little messy down below with all the motion.

Yes, we are getting the northerly wind that we had hoped for this time of year, just more of it than is comfortable. Whether it is sitting at the helm, putting together a meal in the galley, using the head, or trying to take the illusive nap, comfort is at a premium. We are bruised and tired, but safe, sane (at least we’ll all vouch for each other on that), a heck of a lot more educated by personal experience, and I, at least, am proud of us for making smart, conservative decisions, and keeping our senses of humor. We have learned to put on our life jackets right side up (most of the time), to start to undress the layers earlier than needed when using the head, and not to set anything on a horizontal surface thinking it will be there when we turn around. Since we have not been going into the wind we have not spent any time heeled over. Instead we have spent all our time trying to stand up. The motion of the waves is like a slow bronco ride, swinging side to side, but not with much of a regular rhythm. We are constantly thrown off balance and have learned to move slowly, deliberately, and always with a handhold. (Forget walking with a cup of coffee in your other hand.) We have also learned that if something is already on the floor, that's good, it can’t fall anywhere else. Hands and knees are a good way to go. The gimbaled stove is a miraculous invention. A pot of soup and a warm teakettle can (or at least have, so far) sit on the stovetop all night, when nothing else stays put. Doesn’t all that motion make you a little seasick? Just ask Slim. A scopolamine patch behind the ear seems to help, except when he comes inside or it gets dark. Poor guy. Good sport. He thinks he’ll loose weight on the trip.

We started with our 4 hours on-watch rotation for the first day, but when night fell and there was reefing and warps dragging to figure out, it was all hands on deck. Lanham and I have each slept a couple hours, two or three times. Slim not so much. The amazing thing is how a couple hours can feel really refreshing when your clock is so messed up. The second night we decided on 2 hour watches and had a second person in the cockpit to assist, relieve, or doze. We have all tried all the different bunks. In addition to the rocking motion, the noise is quite disruptive. We have gotten rid of most of the banging and rattling from inside the cabin’s cupboards by stuffing them with towels or pillows. But any tacking, luffing, or rigging on deck sounds like a train wreck from below. Earplugs and lots of pillows. Being dog-tired helps too.
M making notes in the Log
We have been logging (almost) every two hours. I like how it marks the time passage, and it will come in handy knowing when to switch fuel tanks, and how the barometer forecasts weather. Our log entries include: Date/Time, Latitude/Longitude, Course Heading, Avg. Speed, Engine Hours/RPM, Wind Speed and Direction, Barometric Pressure and Sea State, and Remarks. 

Our electronic charts and instruments (hear me knocking) have been working well. It’s fun to know we are over the Cascadia Basin and the Astoria Fan, geological formation some 1,575 fathoms below us on the sea floor (a fathom is 6 feet). 

We are occasionally plotting our position on paper charts as well, but that will be handier when we go inshore. It’s hard not to feel huge admiration for the sailors and explorers who came B(fore)GPS. Hmm, time to get out the sextant and figure out where in the world we are. Oh, and we have had our “In-Reach” satellite tracking device on and it seems to be showing breadcrumbs of our location every hour. For those who are interested you can “see” where we are on a map at ....where our login/username is Solar Wind, and your password is L&M. This is also one of our emergency locator devices. We can send an SOS via it, and use our cell phones for messaging, instead of carrying a satellite phone. We have found it eats through the rather expensive lithium ion batteries, so the constant tracking is not practical. We figure you will get on with your lives eventually, regardless of our exact latitude/longitude, and we will only use it for sending updates.
You can just see a bit of the warp being towed from the right stern of the boat.

We’ve tried to capture the immenseness of the waves, and the vastness of the sea in photos. I doubt it looks like anything more than a windy day on Lake Washington. We have some video that may give a better impression – or maybe you just have to be here. For those friends who have been here, we see why you go and some of you go again. For us, one of our favorite truisms fits – “You don’t know, ‘til you go,” and we expect there will be more of that feeling this year.

Signing off for now, from 45degrees 16.750minutes N and 127degrees 3.563minutes W.

1 comment:

  1. What an AMAZING and WONDERFUL report!! I loved following you on the Delorme tracker and trying to imagine how you were doing, what the weather was like, whether you were sick, warm, tired, in calm or rough seas, etc. And, now I have a pretty good picture!! Even though, "you don't know 'til you go," this certainly helps! AND, I love how happy you all continue to look! CONGRATULATIONS on making it the first leg and I can't wait to hear more! Much love, Julia