Notes from the Sailor’s Log: July 27, 2015

We are back at Friday Harbor  after spending two days with my sister, Amy, and her family at Stuart Island. It was a wonderful interlude having the opportunity to meet them up here on their boat and have nephew Reid, of the holding tank finale fame, be the first to stay in the V berth/guest room. It was a last hurrah with some family before we actually do this thing and take off.

We hiked to the light house for some beautiful views.

Now we are seriously gearing up for our first multi-night passage. Today we pulled up to the fuel dock to fuel/water/propane up. Tomorrow we’ll do some provisioning of fresh foods and produce for the passage. It’s looking like we’ll leave Friday Harbor and turn right into the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Wednesday or Thursday. Our tentative plan, once we sail out of the strait, is to get offshore about 100 miles, or wherever the good wind is. We’d like to be well off the coast, with its weather systems. We’ll be using Predict Wind to do our weather routing. Our first planned stop on this leg will be the San Fransisco area.

If you want to track our progress, look for the link at the end of the post to our page on Farkwar.Com. That is a location page updated by satellite about once a day, or however often we turn on the Iridium Go.  My personal FB page will also stay updated with with posts from our Iridium Go. Unfortunately I cannot post to the Little Cunning Plan page, only to my personal FB page.

Stuart Island

Mike is furiously finalizing the tweaks to the Hydrovane installation, which is made more difficult on Galapagos due to the compound curve on our stern. He’s using the Portland Pudgy as a work platform to give him access to the underneath part of the swim step. We continue to be impressed by what that little boat can do. Meanwhile I am getting the boat interior ready to go offshore and preparing meals in advance so I don’t have to think about food much while we are underway.

Having a dinghy to work in makes this job less fraught with the peril of dropping stuff in the water.

As I was clearing out and securing the books, which would certainly go flying across the salon if left as they were, I came across my personal logbook from our Vancouver Island trip in 2015 and found the pages I wrote after my first night watch on that trip. I thought it was worth putting this on the blog because we learned so much on that overnight sail. It wasn’t our first overnight, but it was the one I remember best. I’m just publishing this verbatim. It was written at 7:00 am at the beginning of my morning watch. I remember being so glad the sun was up and wanting to get my impressions of the watch down on paper as fast as possible. Although we had a 3/4 moon, it was very dark out there. We were sailing from Vancouver Island into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Don’t analyze the directions of wind and waves too much. I have no idea if my sleeping brain was accurate with those.

Just on watch from passing out for 4 hours. Stood watch last night from 10-2AM, but couldn’t bring myself to wake Mike, so stayed until 3:00am. Was falling asleep in the cockpit in spite of the lumpy conditions by 3:00. Wind from one quarter, steep seas with short interval from another. Originally had jib and jigger arrangement, then during his watch  before me Mike turned motor on to try to smooth the ride. That was slightly helpful. On my watch as we passed the corner of Vanouver Island, I brought in the jib, which was not helping much no matter which direction I wanted to go. We had already gone south as far as we dared, but even that wouldn’t have helped. At least it was a lovely night with a 3/4 moon. I could occasionally see the water.

I could see a cruise ship in the distance lit up like Broadway. I wondered if he saw us as his AIS was turned off, on ‘sleep’ mode. Then I noticed I could not tell if our running lights were on. Mike had said they were when we changed shifts, but I couldn’t tell and got anxious about it. I crawled forward to check. Nope, not on. Great. Crawled back, flipped some of the poorly labeled switches in the cockpit, crawled forward again, all the while thinking how my kayak was in the way and how my knees couldn’t do this for long. But standing up was not an option because the conditions were lumpy and Mike is never going to come on watch and find me gone from being stupid. Still no lights. Think. Think. Some angel of deliverance whispered ‘check breaker panel below’ and voila! Let there be running lights, praise Jesus and all his friends.

Stuart Island

The ship passed without incident and I basked in the Christmas tree glow of having solved that problem with only disembodied help. This also allowed me to fine tune the radar since I could now identify the cruise ship on radar and see how it would show up. Our radar is old and there is a lot of background ‘noise’ on it. But it works. I could barely keep my eyes off it. Scan radar, scan GPS, scan water (ha!), scan horizon (double HAHA!) keep scanning over and over and over. Darkness is profound.

The mizzen sail needed to be dropped but I wasn’t going to attempt this with the boat wallowing like a pig in slop. I tightened the lines to keep it from flapping, crawling on hands and knees, again.

I needed to furl the headsail a bit. Getting it furled was interesting. I did not want to go on deck because I would need to stand up on the side deck to haul it in, and would need both hands, leaving no hands for holding onto the boat. The line barely made it to the big winch forward of the main winches. I was able to pull enough line to get 1 wrap on the winch, but these are old style winches with no self-tailers. I still needed three hands to turn the winch, tail the line, and slowly release tension on the sail. It’s not as if there was no wind, and this is the pity. There was plenty of wind coming from the NE. We needed to go east into the strait and the swells were coming from the south east. Ugly. I turned us up a bit and let off enough tension on the sail to put a few turns on the winch. Then let off a little more, and a few more turns. It’s a big sail. I was able to do this while straddling the cockpit combing, which kept me stable. If we had a self-tailer on that winch, or a longer line, it would be pretty easy to pull in the genoa from the cockpit.

So we motored into the current as the tide had turned against us and I adapted course so at least most of the swells rumbled underneath us. Funny how even I, with my poorly working ears, can tell when the rumbling changes, even when it’s dark. Soon I was able to work out that when a low growly rumble passed under the boat, shiver me timbers, we would shortly be knocked the hell about until that one passed. About every 7-8 swells was a growler. No way to avoid them.

So I set course for Port San Juan and I let Mike sleep through his 2:00am time. By 3:00am I was passing out in the cockpit so very glad to be relieved and lesson learned. I immediately fell into a deep sleep to the drone of the engine and the slap of waves against the hull and awoke exactly at 7:00am, when I was due on deck. Somehow. Now, after writing this, I feel a bit alive, a big cup of stout coffee under my belt. You know what they say. The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup. So true.

Mike got us through the worst of the current against us on his watch and now we are picking up speed again, but wind has not filled in. I can see Port San Juan, but I think we’ll just keep going. ”     End. 

The new sail is a joy.

Lots of things are different for this coming passage including:
1. Jacklines and tethers with offshore PFDs. While on night watches we will be tethered in the cockpit, and on deck with tethers that are short enough to keep us on board. Our firm rule is no one goes forward on deck while on watch alone. We have to wake the other person.
2. A new and longer line for furling the headsail, making furling easy using a good winch from the cockpit.
3. New labels on the cockpit switches
4. Mike and I agree we will just do that hard thing and wake the other person at their assigned watch time, no matter how much that hurts.
5. We’ll be sailing at night with reefed (sails made smaller) sails, no matter if we think we’ll need them or not. It’s better to go more slowly and not have anyone go out on deck to reduce sail in the dark.
6. Our new headsail is a 125% instead of a 135% (so that much smaller). We’re going to like that better and it is much easier to handle.

As always, it’s a learning in progress. We will be very conservative, given that it’s our first multi-night passage. As always, your thoughts, ideas, and sharing what has worked on your passages is welcome.

S/V Galapagos, out.

We found this wee beastie on Stuart Island close to the light house. Just a bitty baby garter snake, but so fierce!