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Monday, September 14, 2009

Ocean Swells

It's 9 am on Monday morning and it’s been 8 days since we left Shilshole Marina in Seattle. Currently S/V Bella Marina is passing Point Arena south of Cape Mendocino and just short of 100 miles steaming distance from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This is just the beginning of Bella Marina’s cruising adventures. Our plans are for my wife Octavia and me to sail down to the end of Mexico and back, stopping and enjoying adventures on the way.
The first step was to get our boat S/V Bella Marina from the cold waters of Puget Sound to the foggy waters of San Francisco. Every cruiser knows that there is a weather window for such an undertaking and that this window starts closing by the end of September. This complicated things a bit, and I was lucky to have my friend Mike help me take our vessel down the first leg to San Francisco.
The three of us left Shilshole Sunday September 6 on Labor Day weekend. We stopped for a little R&R in Roche Harbor, where Octavia stepped off the boat on Monday and got a ride back to Shilshole from friends we met up with in Roche Harbor. Mike and I started our journey towards San Francisco.
With only 55 gallons of fuel in the tank and 15 gallons in jugs strapped to the back swim step, Mike and I immediately set sail in hopes of being able to sail 50% or more as our fuel would not take us all the way to our destination. After a full day of sailing up the Straits of Juan de Fuca, we connect with Octavia who is on our way back to Seattle on another boat. She’s been analyzing the weather GRIBs and advises us to wait in Neah Bay until Wednesday. We do as the Admiral advises and spend Tuesday watching movies at anchor in Neah Bay.
On Wednesday morning we top off with fuel in Neah Bay, before heading out to round Cape Flattery. It’s foggy, but soon the wind kicks up, the fog clears and we set sails. We’re almost sailing northwest to get out and past the cape before tacking back south. Soon after our tack, we lose winds and start motor sailing.
Our first problem arrives. The burrito Mike and I had for lunch was bad and we both have food poisoning. We’re both feeling ill the rest of the day. Luckily we only had half each, and come sunset we start feeling like we’re on the path to recovery. As the sun sets we watch as a passenger on a nearby cruise ship Sea Princess is airlifted by a Coast Guard helicopter. He’s having a worse day than us. Still, we wow never to eat a burrito again! Before midnight we set the sails. I take the first shift, admiring the well lit sky and the full moon.
Thursday the windows are light and we set the spinnaker. The rest of the day is spent trying to sail in light winds, while staying out of the way of fishing boats. Mike sets a lure so we can catch our own.
Friday morning I’m happy to observe that there’s no fog on the dodger windows. It’s both warmer and dryer. We set more lures. In the afternoon, the winds get stronger and we swap the spinnaker for a main and jib. We tack towards the shore. We start getting into routine. We pump out the holding tank, charge batteries using the portable generator and watch a movie downstairs.
Saturday morning is a fun day. I set a new record getting out of bed quickly, when Mike started yelling. He was just excited that we had fish on the hook. We pull a decent size yellow fin Tuna and spend the rest of the morning rinsing it. We had Tuna for Lunch. In the afternoon a pod of Orcas appear twice to play with our bow wake. The second time, they stay so long I get bored watching them and don’t even notice them leaving. I did snap a few hundred shots though; maybe one of them will turn out decent. The boat is flying down the swell behind the spinnaker. We made some changes to the spinnaker setup during the day and it’s paying off. I’m in my element.
Sunday morning we finally get to Cape Mendocino. We’re still pretty far off shore and the seas and winds are building. We have one reef in our main. Later in the day we’re still at Cape Mendocino, this is turning out to take a good time to pass. The seas build and south of the cape it gets really rough. We spend the rest of the day reefing sails and tacking back and forth in pounding waves. We didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before and we’re both tired. It’s hard to get any sleep below with all the noise, so we end up watching several movies. By evening the weather finally subsides and we’re both mentally exhausted.
Monday night is calm and we both catch up on some hard needed sleep. In the morning, I check for cell signal and am happy to finally get a signal. I download the weather GRIBs and catch up on some blogging, while S/V Bella Marina is riding down the ocean swells.