Monday, September 26, 2011

Seattle to San Francisco!

Bigger than life! This trip was that and more. Lucky for you, not enough time to document the tales, just to let you know we made it thus far!
We successfully and frightfully traversed 337 nautical miles from Seattle to Astoria with just the two of us on our first ocean passage. And a huge one it was with many stories yet to be documented – let us say that fog, wind, current and choppy waters (and Judy running us aground at Protection Island as we entered the big waters and heavy currents of the Straits of Juan de Fuca) were just some of the experiences that were our fate. We traveled 19.5 hrs to our first resting point at Neah Bay. We crashed for 3 hours, grabbed lunch at the only restaurant in the Native American village and met a couple who were coming up from Mexico so we swapped a few quick stories. But we had to move on, so exchanged calling cards.
Off to Astoria on a 28 hour journey that brought us into a foggy and choppy Astoria bar crossing an hour earlier than was preferred for the best bar crossing (tide and current). Can we just say that there are no rest stops along the way, so you go for what you’ve got ahead of you. It was a treacherous passing into the fog with Judy creating real time waypoints for us to pass between the buoys and Mike skillfully at the helm navigating unseen. An occasional huge freighter would appear from the fog just to keep us on our toes.
We gleefully entered the harbor and stayed for 3 glorious days at the Port of Astoria, celebrating Judy’s birthday and sharing time with visiting family and friends! We enjoyed a bit of relaxation then cleaning and prepping the boat for our next big journey to Newport. In Astoria, we picked up Linda, crew member #1 and headed for 27 hours to Newport (132 nm) with 3 of us sharing the helm, so that was a nice treat: 3 hours on and 6 off (when just Mike and I, it’s 4 hours at the helm, 4 off).
Nicole, crew member #2 (she and Linda are experienced NW sailing / racers) joined us in Newport. We spent the night with 5 on board, then said good bye to Mark, Nicole’s driver, and headed to San Francisco! Those next 4.5 days were big. 3 hours on, 9 hours off, so great to have 4 of us sharing the “driving”. This trip was bigger than we could have anticipated, and yet, we had it better than those who followed (hearing stories of weather, storms, etc.).  
Many tales of sloshing and bravery to Bodega Bay, just north of San Francisco for much needed showers, a journey to a restaurant (in a borrowed pick up with 4 of us), and a good but short night’s rest: up at 4:30 for 5AM departure for SFO. The journey from Newport to SFO crossed 240 nm to CA border then 468 into San Francisco Bay to Alameda. Roughly 710 miles, but who’s counting.
All of this is why I haven’t written previously, just trying to process the huge journey that brought us to the totally fab experience of going under the Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon sunshine! Mike at the helm, the crew anxious, smiling and taking photos. 
We have been in SFO Bay area from Fri night, 16 Sept, across from Coast Guard Island (Alameda) - very cool for so many reasons. Not the least of which, Mike was a “coastie” so he jumps when they do revelry at sunrise, and the views of USCG ships just across the harbor are incredible – at sunrise, sunset and during the glorious fall days that we have been blessed with in San Fran.
We are getting our fuel polished (who knew?) and tank cleaned on Wed AM then start the next part of our journey to places further south!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The first two months!

July 7 – Aug 2
Moving on board and getting adjusted to life on a boat! After our hasty departure from our home, we had a lot of stuff to get settled into a substantially smaller living environment. This wasn’t without its own sets of ups and downs and we made a lot of changes to, well, pretty much everything. Judy had a bout or two of “wanting to go home” then Mike politely shared the little tidbit that we WERE home.
 Downsizing, manual processes, rethinking.  Loaded and reloaded hatches, moved things around twenty times until it seemed ‘right‘ . This will continue to change as our learning curve increases!
We quickly realized that we’re in school now full time. Both smarter and stronger with a few bruises or “badges” to our names.
Aug 3 – 7
Spent 5 intense and great days with Captain Chuck on board to literally show us the ropes on Pura Vida. This was Mike’s fabulous idea and the captain helped us learn practical skills for our ketch and for sailing her. We picked him up in Port Angeles where we learned some basic docking and anchoring skills with a full keel boat that doesn’t like to go in reverse (some say it backs up like a bale of hay). He hails from Sidney BC and we cruised and sailed in Canada until delivering him safely to his marina on Saturday.  We stayed at his home base marina - the fisherman’s working marina, where boats were moored 3 and 4 deep on each dock. Crazy maneuvering out of there but we made it safely then headed out to practice our skills and take a breath!
Aug 7 – 13
Tooled around Canada and the San Juans, made another pilgrimage to Port Townsend – 3 visits to get our rigging installed and adjusted. We learned that town and that marina!
 6:45 AM on Wed, Aug 10, Judy at the helm with sun rising behind the clouds. Behind us, BC and the cloud formations over land and sea. Sidney hails to our west as we travel south to US Boundary and customs bound at Roche Harbor Marina, San Juan Island. Fighting the current and major swirls as we cross Boundary Pass and head into the Haro Strait. Graced by a Dall Porpoise heading North with their small black fin and shiny surface against the morning light, just 25 yards to Starboard. A sure sign it will be another amazing day on the water.
Just like when we headed North into Canada on Wednesday Aug 3, leaving behind a shroud of fog.
Seals pop up at random and eyeball us as they lazily coast by, sometimes doing their full body flip into the water, other times gracefully dropping below the surface with absolutely no sign of their existence.
Heron fly over the islands squawking to let other creatures know they are around. They gracefully land on the shore and in the trees, beautiful in flight, awkward yet knowing as they land on a branch.
Kingfishers cry as they zoom across a bay to announce their territory. We were literally divebombed by two as they raced across the stern and flew through the rigging of a docked boat we passed as we departed Roche Harbor Marina. Being so territorial, it was no doubt a test of wills – fighting for who will have that key spot to roost and fish. Their cry is so distinct.
Porpoises – 6 times
Purple Martin nests at Oly dock
Artic Tern
Great Blue Heron
Surf Scoter
Pigeon Guillemot
Pelagic Cormorant
Turkey Vulture
Stellar Sea Lion
Sparrow at Poets Cove in the butterfly bush, quizzically looking at us just 3 feet away.
Bumblebee (landed in Mike’s drink at Poets Cove, poor thing "drunkenly" climbing the rail after being ousted by Mike's dueling olive picks)

Aug 14 – 21
Time for a break from the non-stop work!! Had a glorious week cruising in the San Juans with Michelle & Tony (our best man ‘way back in ’07). Started sunny Saturday with a visit from longtime friend Kathryn who drove up to check out the boat and have lunch. As we returned to our boat loaded with provisions for our first long term guests, there was another Islander Freeport 41 in the next slip! In a marina with 600+ slips, odds were slim. We celebrated that small world moment with new made friends and nosily toured each other’s boat – what changes they’d made, space and sail configurations. Quite fun!
Crabbing, kayaking, cruising, enjoying sunsets and occasional porpoise siting, photos and happy hour. Michelle and Judy got oysters at Sucia Island at low tide, wallowing in 55 degree water up to our knees, selecting stubborn oysters from the rocks. Star gazing overwhelming! We enjoyed the hot tub at Lopez and Rosario Resort on Orcas, and took in spectacular views from Rosario’s perch. Took in the hour long organ and piano concert and history tour with slide show of Robert Moran’s creation and lifestyle at Rosario, lo these many years ago.
Delivered Michelle & Tony back to Anacortes Sunday (following stories of midnight run via taxi to the fire station on Orcas to check out Michelle’s concussion and more…), we waited out a storm before departing on Tuesday for Orcas Island. This lousy weather day gave us time to more boat work, do 3 loads of laundry, and as we learn every day, reset our expectations of what any day will bring us.  Every day, it is what it is as we have no control over weather.
Up at 6:30 off to Orcas to longtime friends from Judy’s Eddie Bauer days, Kathleen and Steve’s
historical cabin on Diamond Point. south side of Orcas. They “lent” us their beach house with a mooring ball for our first night on land since July 7th, enjoy their incredible outdoor shower with hot water and a view of Mt Baker, and do laundry someplace other than a deluxe marina laundro-mat…all awesome. Enjoyed Prosecco as Mike cracked crab at sunset and Judy made salads for crab cake dinner on the deck. Pinch me, yet again.
Aug 24
Heading toward Seattle for the next phase of our adventure, we stopped at Port Townsend for best price diesel, visit to pump out station and visit to Port Townsend Rigging for more parts. Anchored near the paper mill, dinghied in to Port Townsend Brewery for beers, ‘live’ bluegrass music and internet access (thanks to Safeway across the way). Our docking skills improve every day and that makes our marina experiences.
Aug 25 – 27
Seattle-bound for more work. New friend Linda (referral from sailing friends in PDX) evaluated and discussed travel south – sailing experience, boat considerations, logistics and crew. After 24 hours on board, she agreed to be our experienced sailor and yes, we are heading to Mexico!
We are beginning our journey south around 9/10! Are we sure? Yes.  Are we apprehensive? Yes!
It’s a 24-7 trip for 7 – 10 days from Astoria to San Fran - we’ll have 3 or 4 of us to manage on the open ocean, up to 50 miles off shore! Wow.
Aug 28 – Aug 31
 Shilshole Bay Marina for a few days while we waited for packages, shopped for electronics and enjoyed visitors from Seattle and Portland. We made the big adventure through the Ballard Locks, the large lock at the last minute and we made it OK.
Sep 1 – 3
Docked right outside Ballard Locks where Miller & Miller Boatyard is installing refrigeration unit for warm weather refrig. Have 3 other vendors helping us with life raft, dodger repair (cover in front of the helm), autopilot and more.
The cool thing is integration of hardware and software for self-steering and navigation on the trip down the west coast along with wind speed and direction, radar, GPS, chart plotter and AIS (where are the other vessels).
We check weather, barometer settings, and watch the skies for what is happening. Our world has become much smaller as we are very focused on our safety and next decisions about travel.
When we’re done here, we’ll head from Seattle to Port Angeles then our first trip on the open ocean – along the north then west coast of WA to Astoria! Wow. We had a chance for a crew member but weather is looking good so we are doing the 36 hr trip with 2 of us, changing helm at regular intervals for food and sleep!
Next Stop: Astoria
Here for final provisioning and details then head out to San Francisco Bay!! Ready or not we are making the move south toward Mexico!
We will determine our next steps with crew member Linda once we get to SFO, how her timing works, etc.