Leg One- Part One: Everett to San Francisco. Reflections on Grey Skies and an empty ocean…After all the years of dreaming, months of work on the boat and endless preparations, the day of our departure arrived.
August 5th 2017, 0411 we untied our dock lines from the Everett marina dock for the last time. With Liz, myself, Don and Ben aboard we motored in the pre-dawn darkness. Finally on our way!
After a 12 hour motor and a bit of motor-sailing in fog we tied to the transient dock in the Port Angeles boat basin for a quick dinner and a short walk to stretch the legs. Then to bed for an early start.
Day two: Liz and I had the first watch so after a hand with the lines from Ben, we let he and Don sleep while we crept our way out of Port Angeles dodging not a few crab pots. We had the current alternately with and against us as we motored to Neah Bay. With a nearly perfect weather window, we opted only to stop to top off our fuel and departed at 1330. We chatted briefly with a Canadian boat, also headed for San Francisco, that were leaving the next day.
With great expectation, we motored out past Tatoosh Island and at 1530, made “The Big Left Turn”, the dream of so many cruising sailors. Southbound at last!
With what little wind there was right on the nose, we continued to motor a bit west south, letting the coast of Washington slowly move away to the East. There was some excitement after dark when Liz an Don found themselves suddenly dodging crab pots in nearly 200 feet of water. We narrowly missed picking one up in the prop as the boats bow wave separated two pots! The prospect of having to dive to free up that kind of mess would not have been much fun. We decided to cut the engine and sail out to the west into deeper water. At least then if we hooked a pot it would not foul the prop.
As we got further west, the predicted NW wind began to fill in which allowed us to take a course SSW on a starboard tack, one we didn’t change for several days.
On day three, our first day offshore, the sea-state was getting more and more confused as the swell from the south met the NW wind. Then, as forecast, the predominant swell began to fill in from the NW. We found out what the socks feel like on the agitate cycle! The seas were not particularly large, maybe 5-6 feet but they were coming from three directions! Fortunately, the wind was steady enough to keep the sails up which steadied the ride. Sure would not have wanted to be in a power boat!
The NW breeze allowed us to see speed over ground (SOG) of 4.5-6kts with some surfing speeds over 10kts. Silver Wings handled everything with grace in spite of being tossed around like a cork! She did develop a couple new creaks that are annoying and will be addressed in San Francisco. The Raymarine Evo Sail autopilot coupled to our Octopus variable speed hydraulic pump steered amazingly well through all the confused cross seas. It did, at one point (in the middle of the night, of course) stop and give an error message that I was not able to troubleshoot. Don and Ben did a heroic job of hand steering in very difficult conditions while I got some sleep. In the morning after a Satphone call to reach Raymarine technical support, I could not understand the accent on the other end of the line and just did a factory reset which seemed to do the trick.
Over the next few days we adapted to the watch schedule. The pattern of sleeping when there is time to do so takes a little getting used to.
Liz had spent a lot of time planning a great menu and organized all of the provisioning. We were treated to chicken curry, home made chicken soup and had several other gastro-treats in the freezer.
One of the high points of this part of the trip was catching a nice (20#?) tuna on one of the two hand-lines trailing behind the boat! It hit very hard and it was apparent why one uses a snubber as part of the set-up! After dressing it out, we had four healthy filets that provided three dinners for the for the four of us and a few slices of sashimi in the process!
The grey skies and featureless sea continued as we watched the miles creep by. We had the impression that we were in ‘Groundhog Day’. Same day, all over again. The only evidence of progress was the incremental change in Latitude and Longitude in the log book.