San Francisco to Los Angeles

 

Evening sailing in San Francisco Bay
Evening sailing in San Francisco Bay

San Francisco to Monterey

I wasn’t looking forward to the bash out of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. There was already an offshore swell that could hit eight feet, and we were going against the grain. Fortunately I at least had enough crew to divide the work involved. I would still need to run the foredeck until the crew understood how to reef, rig the boom vang, and rig the preventer. This time I was seasick only after the first couple of hours and it didn’t go away until Monterey the next morning. I think it was the initial bashing over stacked swell, and then the swell hitting us from a couple of different angles. Fortunately it was just waves of sickness that did not prevent me from doing anything. In fact it was better if I was doing something above deck. I think I prefer to be at a point of sail where the motion is what I like to call rock-a-bye. I also think it’s better to ease into it. I had a third crew member this time, but with already three experienced sailors, the third was just along for the ride. For whatever reason she brought enough food to last an entire week.  Not to mention two bottles of wine, and a bunch of fruit. None of the other crew had seasickness, so that was a bit embarrassing. The winds were great once we rounded Point Lobos, but then early the next morning they changed direction to the point where Satori was slatting pretty violently. It wasn’t enough to motor, and then eventually the wind came forward of the beam, so that helped in the end. We made it to Monterey just after fog rolled away from shore and our landfall was uneventful other than seeing a large amount of sea lions on the break wall coming into the bay.

Sentinel Building in the Financial District of San Francisco
Sentinel Building in the Financial District of San Francisco
Sunset at Alcatraz
Sunset at Alcatraz
Leaving San Francisco
Leaving San Francisco

Monterey to Los Angeles

After spending a week in Monterey, I was not able to find any crew for the next part of the trip to Los Angeles. Fortunately the forecast looked good enough to be somewhat uneventful. I was expecting to motor most of the way, or the entirety. I was planning on stopping in Santa Barbara or Ventura, but I didn’t decide until I was able to see the amount of progress I made getting past Point Conception. After spending part of the afternoon waiting for the fuel truck to arrive so I could fill the tanks, I departed during mid-afternoon. It was a good time to leave because I was looking at a calculated total time to Marina del Rey of fifty-five hours, averaging five knots. The first part of the journey I saw a range of six to ten knots, with an occasional gust to twelve knots. I could keep motoring and point directly to my destination, or I could sail with a spinnaker and likely only average three knots by losing my desired angle (vessel made good). This was not a pleasure cruise. It was a delivery, meaning I did not want to waste time sailing unless I could average as good under motor or better. Doing a watch schedule was pretty straightforward. I would sleep either thirty minutes or an hour at a time, throughout the night. Depending on how many obstacles were around, I would scan the horizon with binoculars, then check the chartplotter to make sure course and AIS targets were identified, and then set the timer. It only took about five times before it was morning and I felt refreshed enough to stay awake. I was well away from commercial traffic, the horizon was visible, and there wasn’t much in the area to be concerned about. This time the seas were mellow, so I never felt seasick.

Bluefin Tuna from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Bluefin Tuna from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jellyfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jellyfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Once I was closing in on Point Conception the winds started to pick up. The skies were clear, and it was warm enough to be comfortable with just a puffy jacket and hat on. I decided once I saw sustained twelve knots to start sailing, which helped conserve on fuel, and my sanity from so much engine noise. Point Arguello is where the winds began to build. I believe this was just the Venturi from offshore winds hitting the point and picking up speed. Eventually I had to put in a reef on both the mainsail and jib, then again on both, then put the mainsail away and run under reefed jib. The winds grew big enough to warrant putting the jib away and run under just the staysail. I was still going over six knots with just the reefed jib, and I was also starting to see a lot of commercial traffic to the south. The strangest thing was the fact that the seas were still only about two to three feet. Occasionally I would see one double the wave height, or steeper than the rest, but never anything to worry about. In fear of losing control of the boat during one of the gusts, I decided to roll up the jib and rig the staysail. Only a short period after that I decided to setup a track where I would need to jibe through the night to avoid oil rigs and the commercial traffic. Maybe eventually I could put more sails up and keep sailing, but I would need to do quite a few jibes, and maybe a couple of sail changes through the night. The other option was to motor again and just stay a couple of miles from the shipping lanes. No need to do sail changes, no need to worry about having to jibe. Just a slightly more uncomfortable rolling motion, but only until I was in the lee of Point Conception.

Point Pinos in Monterey
Point Pinos in Monterey

I did another track to see what time I would arrive in Marina del Rey if I didn’t stop. Not only would I arrive around 3:00pm but I would not lose the time it took to get to and from shore the next day. If for any reason something happened during the night, Santa Barbara and Ventura were close by, so I decided to stay off the coast and head for Marina del Rey. I maintained a similar watch schedule, but this time I had a few more frequent checks due to the close proximity of oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel. In the morning it was still grey, but the air was noticeably warmer. By the time I passed Point Dume and Malibu it felt like summer. The winds started to build, but I decided to just keep motoring. It was two sleepless nights, a battle with the wind and waves at Point Conception, and I still needed to figure out where to park Satori once I was in Marina del Rey. For the last two hours I was really tempted to sail in, but then I saw the amount of boats outside of the harbor and decided against it. Every choice is so much more conservative when I’m single handing. Maybe it’s my lack of experience, but either way I felt better to just mark waypoints and try to get into port. Heading into the marina was the worse part. Sailboats tend to sail all the way into the marina, and you need to somehow get across to the motoring only lane and still give way to all of the boats.

The north side of Point Conception
The north side of Point Conception
The south side of Point Conception
The south side of Point Conception

Getting to the guest dock at Burton Chase Park was no problem. It was completely empty and the wind was blowing Satori right onto the dock. After checking in at the park office, I switched to a guest slip. It was warm enough to only need board shorts and a tank top. I could see palm trees everywhere around the bay. The park and waterways were full of people, which many were blasting their hip hop and techno music. I am in Los Angeles. It’s warm. I think I’ll stay a while.

Seattle to San Francisco

 

Westsail 32 Satori close hauled while sailing back to Seattle from Poulsbo
Westsail 32 Satori close hauled while sailing back to Seattle from Poulsbo

Satori and I have been busy. We’ve worked hard at learning how to sail, what to repair, and how to sail in the Ocean. After wintering over in the San Juan Islands, mostly living on the hook, and spending time sailing around the Salish, I feel fortunate. Since I was young I have always thought about sailing in the ocean. I knew it would feel different than sailing close to land. Also the boat would be different, and look out of place in the protected waters of the sea. When my longtime family friend offered a good deal on Satori, I felt it was my purpose to take her and sail her like she was meant to do. In a way, I think maybe she chose me. Maybe she knew I would take her to the ocean, and she would show me what that means. After three years we finally did it. We made it to California.

Satori getting splashed after five weeks out of the water, looking pretty good
Satori getting splashed after five weeks out of the water, looking pretty good

During the months of April, May, and June I spent most of my time in Port Townsend. Either I was working on Satori, or playing music with the locals. There was still much to do to get Satori ready for her trip down the coast. I worked with the local maritime tradesmen, mainly shipwrights, to finish the job. Her prop needed overhauling, her bottom faired, her rigging completed, her water tanks water tight, her rudder overhauled, her tiller repaired, and her cabin organized. By the end of June most of the tasks had been completed. I’d work in the evenings and weekends while the painters worked on her hull, or the prop guy pecked away at getting parts and installing them. Eventually everything was completed that needed to be done before she went back in the water. I decided to take a trip into the San Juan Islands to visit some of the sailing community, some which I had met already, and others only through social media via the internet. A few days in Fishermans Bay on Lopez Island, then back to Seattle to wrap up the final provisions of food and supplies. I rounded up my first crew member, then we began our journey back north to pick up another and head out into the Strait one last time.

A floatplane divides our anchorage, with Satori and Harbinger enjoying fourth of July weekend
A floatplane divides our anchorage, with Satori and Harbinger enjoying fourth of July weekend
Tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain sailing near Port Ludlow
Tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain sailing near Port Ludlow

Our first stop was in Port Townsend to pick up the second crew member, and to top off the water and fuel, plus fill the two jerry cans of water, and two of diesel. We also decided to prepare Satori to be more water tight. First by moving the anchor chain into it’s storage under the v-berth, and then sealing the chain pipe with a towel, a plastic bag, some duct tape, and more duct tape. We also sealed the jerry can lids with plastic bags and duct tape in case the seal was not secure. Finally I lashed the anchor to keep it from moving, and sealed the second chain pipe. I secured the wires in the engine compartment to prevent any movement, as well as added a little more security to keep the battery bank from moving. Finally I bolted the cockpit sole and sealed it to prevent water from leaking through in case the cockpit filled with seawater. We also did some additional tweaking to the running rigging so we could barber haul the jib or staysail, plus added a boom preventer so we could vang the boom outboard, plus run a preventer system from the bow back into the cockpit. This allowed anyone at the helm to release both the vang and preventer without going forward, in case there was a sudden need to jibe or sheet in the boom. I moved the boathook down into the cabin and secured it to the headliner to keep it out of the way. The trysail slugs were in the second track, and the sail stowed in the ready bag under the boom. Everything seemed to be in it’s place, crew ready with their tethers and hunger for blue water, and then we headed out into the Strait.

Crew from Neah Bay to San Francisco the day before departure
Crew from Neah Bay to San Francisco the day before departure

The trip from Port Townsend out was supposed to be nonstop, out the gate, and down the coast. Conditions were not ideal, but then again, they never seemed to be right. We pressed on and motored past Port Angeles. Eventually we encountered twenty-five knot headwinds, with gusts to thirty. The waves stacked up, our progress slowed, a crew member seasick, then fell during a lurch and sat on a protrusion in the cockpit which caused a nasty bruise. Our speed slowed to about two knots, and our chance of getting to Cape Flattery on time seemed low, so we opted to spend the night back in Port Angeles. A couple of hours of downwind sailing under staysail put us easily into the harbor. We spent the night there, then looked at the weather forecast again. This time we saw a better weather window just a little further out. Instead of departing on Thursday, we chose Sunday morning. We just needed to be at Neah Bay by Saturday night, and bought even more time to mentally prepare. The next day we motored to Neah in calm seas and winds, and made great time getting into the harbor. We spent a few days doing even more tweaks to the rigging, and preparing. Mostly we just tried to relax, and enjoy the solitude of the land of the “fat belly”, or “the generous with food” – aka Makah. The forecast looked okay for the first few days, but pretty rough at Mendocino. In theory we could head offshore, stay further off at Mendocino, then head back in once we were clear of the heavy weather. Winds did not look light, but we decided to go and just try to avoid gales.

Jason on the foredeck preparing to raise the mainsail
Jason on the foredeck preparing to raise the mainsail

Sunday morning we were all up bright and early. We departed the calm and foggy bay at 7:30 am, and were out into the strait by 9am. The swell was stacked up again, and winds combined with the steep waves were up enough to cause a crew member to become seasick. Satori did great breaking through the swell and getting past Tatoosh Island. Eventually we could stop motoring, the swell became westerly, and the winds back from the northwest. By mid-afternoon we had all sails flying with a double-reefed mainsail. We remained on the same tack through the night, and when the winds built to over twenty knots, we furled the jib and ran under double reefed mainsail and staysail. The next day I also had been stricken with seasickness. The entire day I could not keep anything down, but by the evening it eventually subsided. My body adapted to the motion, and I eventually felt better again for the remainder of the trip. Our tack was pushing us offshore quite a ways, and we needed to keep close enough to land so that once we were at Mendocino we were close to the mark that we used to get around the heavy weather. The forecast called for gales near shore, and offshore. We had no place to go so we buckled down and accepted our fate. On the fourth day we jibed and headed back towards shore with only the jib. We were hitting speeds of six and seven knots the entire way. We worked to keep Satori under six knots, but suffered the boat rolling. By the fourth night, the winds had built and the seas seemed to be building as well. For the entire evening I watched the seas continue to build. Water started to break high enough to flush across the deck. On occasion the water would enter the cockpit. I stayed up the entire night studying the ocean and learning the waves. I learned about the intervals, the breaking seas, the swell, and grew confident that we could overcome whatever come to us. The next morning we decided to head back offshore. This time we would line it up with our mark at Mendocino. As the winds and waves continued to build, we opted for a sail change to staysail only. By the fifth day we were in gale force winds, and waves bigger than any had ever seen before.

Mike sleeping in the cockpit sole
Mike sleeping in the cockpit sole

At one point we all realized that the only way out of our situation was to keep pressing on. Somewhere a little north and a hundred miles from Mendocino we decided that the boarding seas were getting out of hand. The Aries wind vane autopilot could not keep her on course. At first we tried to heave-to. I had never tried it with the storm sails, and although we did get a slick for a short period, she eventually gained headway. The crew was very tired from the sail change, and the effort involved, so instead of continuing on getting her to heave-to, we took a break and continued sailing. I went below to take a quick nap, but within forty-five minutes was awoken when a crew member yelled down to get suited and help out. The wind vane could not steer Satori any longer, so we switched to hand steering. Fortunately I had been in a similar situation in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the seas were stacked and the waves were breaking. Only this time the swell height was three or four times bigger. I taught the helmsman how to keep the stern to the waves and allow the water to wash under the boat. Every time a wave came, we would instruct the helmsman how far centered, or to port/starboard the bow should be for the oncoming wave. He would correct and keep her pointed, but sometimes Satori lost her steerage from waves that broke big enough to have a slick of turbulence. Only a few times did the slick prevent us from being setup for the next wave. We were never told about Mendocino Ridge, and with the combination of gale force winds, and the upwelling from the bottom of the ocean, we had massive waves to contend with. To describe such a thing will never compare to what it was like in person. I will try by explaining the size of waves. Behind us looked to be waves the size of boxcars on a train, with an occasional wave that was almost twice the size. Most of them broke from the gale force winds that blew their tops off. When they broke from underneath Satori we could see the trough, which looked to be like looking down from the height of a boxcar. More or less 15′, but 40′ in length from the top of the wave to the bottom, and occasionally 60′ from a big wave.  Fortunately it only lasted for about four hours, but during that time we took on considerable water, the wind turbine died, and our spirits were pretty low. By the evening we were able to give the helm completely back to the wind vane, but we kept a watch schedule to make sure we didn’t encounter any more big waves capable of knocking Satori sideways down a wave. A couple of times during the night she did hit a wave sideways, but she would always recover and get back on course. It was a rough night, but we endured, and Satori kept us warm and dry.

Jason raising the trysail for heaving-to
Jason raising the trysail for heaving-to

The next morning was concerning for us. We had jibed again to head back towards land, but were quite a ways offshore. To make a landfall in San Francisco, we needed to be further on our beam, but the swell and breaking seas were still threatening us. The forecast showed to be less severe than before, so we waited, then we decided to try a beam reach. At first it seemed like a bad idea, but after the first hour the winds and seas subsided enough to make the sail enjoyable. We were screaming at seven knots over water and headed straight into land. We continued this course with minimal boarding waves until our course was close enough in to allow us to bear away again and head towards the Bay. By nightfall we were running under staysail and double-reefed mainsail alone, and going faster than I had ever thought Satori could go. At times in the evening I saw nine knots over water, and over ten knots over ground. I was back to panic mode, being concerned that the winds would build and Satori would experience her first broach. I opted to suit up and drop the mainsail to slow her speed for our night run. Eventually the winds did build again, but not enough to cause boarding waves except a few times from the rolling motion. By morning we were close enough into Point Reyes to begin motoring so we could time the Golden Gate tides. The seas were still up, but the tiller pilot did well at keeping her on course. Although we were not through the gate yet, our spirits were high, and we knew by the afternoon that we would step off the boat and onto land again.

The crew putting away the trysail after the winds subsided
The crew putting away the trysail after the winds subsided

The first ten hours of motoring was uneventful. The anticipation had built, and everyone was wide awake and excited for our landfall. We had done it. By the time we entered Golden Gate, the tides were still at flood, and the winds had picked up enough for us to sail under the bridge. A friend allowed us to use his slip at Pier 39, so once in alignment with Alcatraz, we switched the motor on and entered the harbor. We had done it, averaging 135 nautical miles per day, over the course of six days and seven days total. Satori and her crew had not only sailed through gales, but we learned how we could have done it better. I realized that the trysail was not used nearly enough during the trip. Running under staysail alone caused Satori to roll more than she needed. With the addition of the trysail in winds above twenty-five knots would keep her stable and allow her to stay upright. I was fortunate to have a competent crew, even if we were all only experienced at sailing in the protected waters of the Salish Sea. They will return knowing that anything they encounter there will never compare to the unforgiving Mendocino Ridge and Northeastern Pacific Ocean.

Sailing under Golden Gate bridge
Sailing under Golden Gate bridge

A few shouts to those who helped me make it happen. First I want to thank my mom, who gave me rides to Port Townsend after ditching my car, and rides to Costco to provision for the trip. She was also who mentioned Mendocino Ridge in a text message, which eased our stress knowing that it would eventually end once the sea floor went back down again. She also sent daily emails with NOAA forecast reports for the California coast and offshore areas. They were very helpful, in addition to PredictWind Offshore app and grib downloads. Also my friend Marvin, who’s wisdom and thoughtfulness was forever helpful. He was our point of contact for the float plan, and for daily messages via Iridium Go! sat phone. To Frank Schattauer, who I worked with on getting Satori’s offshore sail plan and suite of sails for bluewater sailing. He and his brother Axel not only built an amazing set of sails that performed flawlessly, but was helpful in configuring the running rigging on Satori. His advice added safety and simplicity in reefing, and running the staysail without a boom, plus helping me decide to go with a roller furling jib. Two generations of sailmaking and sailing experience has led to giving great performance to a boat known for lack of speed. Also to Randy Leasure for loaning me his slip at Pier 39. After spending two weeks getting to San Francisco, and having a slip right in the heart of the city, with friendly staff and tenants, I feel blessed. His passion for sailing has been an inspiration since I first started doing research on how to sail a Westsail in modern times. There are others who have helped along to way. My friend and crewman Jason, who is a phenomenal sailor and sail trimmer. He has helped me maximize Satori’s sail plan, and keep her moving along as fast as she can safely go. When I was most concerned, he did great keeping me calm. His background in aviation has given me new light on maximizing the performance of a cutter rigged sail plan. And to my crewman Mike, who I couldn’t have had a better person to compliment Satori, Jason, and myself. He stepped up for his watches, slept on the floor, and took a beating, then went home wanting more. He is an inspiration on living life.

Crew from Neah Bay to San Francisco the day of arrival
Crew from Neah Bay to San Francisco the day of arrival

After a lifetime of dreaming about ocean sailing, and three years of outfitting Satori for the trip, and a rollercoaster of emotion, we’re here. I’ll be updating the blog going forward to keep you up to date on where we are at. I’m working my way down the coast to warmer weather. We have achieved eleven latitudes south, and have five more to go before fall. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Westsail 32 - Satori sailing to weather, close hauled in fifteen knots of wind
Westsail 32 – Satori sailing to weather, close hauled in fifteen knots of wind

Free to Roam

A couple of days before departure

It’s a rainy Friday night with plenty of wind, and plenty of rain. I moved everything from the dock box to storage. The touring kayak my friend left here at the dock is back at his house. Anything that doesn’t belong on the boat is also in storage. I’ve been pecking away at the remaining stuff but the more I try to scale back my stuff, the more the stuff pile seems to grow. The pile is now in a neutral state. It’s amazing how much those items own me, but I’m glad to have some stuff on land for when I want to spend time in the mountains again. Skiing, rock climbing, and camping gear mostly. A few instruments, some kitchen gear, and a bin full of stuff for when it’s time to work on Satori again. Next time I am back I will take another stab at reducing even more unneeded stuff. The car and storage is everything left from a two bedroom house with a big back yard and awesome garden. At one point there was a flock of six chickens, a cat and Sasha the pup. The back yard had a garage full of yard and garden equipment, an old rotten fishing boat, some broken lawnmowers, lots of wood, a fire pit, a chicken tractor, and a trailered wooden sailing dinghy. The garden supplied a massive amount of food, and the chickens supplied more than two dozen eggs per week during the summer months. I miss the chickens and fresh vegetables, but I’ve traded for fresh seafood and the freedom to roam.

Winter Trials with new boom rigging. Sail shape is much flatter than before.
Winter Trials with new boom rigging. Sail shape is much flatter than before.

I’ve worked out the kinks on the new reefing lines after a quick cruise last Sunday. Just enough wind to make it fun, but not too much to need a reef in the jib, or a double reef in the main. Just one reef to keep her helmsman relaxed. Temperatures were okay for February, and the crew seemed to enjoy getting out. I decided after the boom was finished and I knew Satori was okay to venture, I would head out and work remotely pretty much indefinitely. The only reason I would need to come back to Seattle is to try to pair down my storage until I’m satisfied, and pick up any mail that I did not forward on to wherever I will be. I don’t really need my car except to move things out of storage, or to run errands in town. I’m pretty well outfitted so I only need to resupply food and water for the next month or two. I can also stretch my cellular internet so I have enough data to keep working without running out. A combination of working from coffee shops, and staying away from downloading movies will allow me to live pretty much anywhere in the American Salish Sea, but will also enjoy the convenience of part time at a marina. I can pay a daily rate when I want to come into a marina, then when I am able to roam again I can either anchor, or tie to a state park mooring ball. There are plenty of them unoccupied this time of year, and plenty of transient slips available. The only thing I need to be careful of is staying protected from strong winds and swell. I don’t mind anything under twenty-five knots, but ten to twenty knots gives me more peace of mind. Enough to keep the wind turbine running, but not so much that I worry about my anchor holding. I will retreat to a marina as an excuse to dodge wind storms, but also to resupply and be social.

New rigging, flat sail
New rigging, flat sail

I am subletting my Shilshole slip so I am not paying for an empty slip, and to subsidize the cost of staying as a guest and paying a daily rate. The maximum rate I can imagine would be having to pay for the slip in Seattle, then paying a daily rate for an entire month. The combination would equal to about $1800, and is prohibitive. Ideally I only need to visit marinas to provision and during windy storms. Most of the time I can anchor in protected bays, and take the dinghy to shore twice or three times per day for the pup. I am starting with an estimation of eight to ten days per month at a marina, and the rest of the time I will be anchored or tied to a mooring ball. This will keep my mooring cost to no more than $400 per month, which will be more than $200 cheaper than my mooring at Shilshole marina. I may decide to settle somewhere for longer term, but hopefully I will have not made my decision too late, and end up paying for too many days in a row. As a counter issue for not having shore power, I will be using more diesel fuel to heat the stove. The cost per month will be anywhere from $70 to $120 per month if I am using it every day. If we have freezing temperatures I will be running the stove pretty hot to keep the hull ventilated and as dry as possible, which can use as much as two gallons per day. I may also decide to run the portable generator instead of heading back to a marina slip to fully charge the batteries. I should be able to get three to four days with just the wind turbine and little sun we have near the forty-ninth parallel. As the weather changes into spring, I will end up adding more solar panels to the array. I am also planning on rewiring the circuit, and adding an ammeter so I can monitor the solar output directly.

See ya Seattle!
See ya Seattle!

Day of departure

I’m tied to a mooring ball at Blind Island, just before sunset. Getting here took about eleven hours, with much of it motoring in a little wind. The king tides right now are moving quite a bit of current, so I averaged about seven knots on the way. Around Edmonds I was sailing with the yankee jib and doing about seven knots over ground. Once I was closer to Point No Point the winds and waves built to gusts up to thirty knots of apparent wind, and three to four foot waves. The transition between jib and staysail was not ideal. I guess I’m a little rusty, or have higher expectations on how efficient I should be at getting the jib furled and staysail hoisted. When I raised the staysail I didn’t check to make sure the tack was tight, so at first the staysail was not giving any power and Satori was getting thrown around by the waves. The tiller pilot was useless at that point, but I didn’t setup the wind vane. In hindsight I should have since Pluto the tiller pilot is limited to relatively calm seas. It’s amazing how much more stable she becomes when a sail is putting pressure on the mast. I was running directly downwind most of the way, and at one point when I was trying to get the tiller pilot to behave, the staysail jibed and backed. The tiller pilot could not keep her course, so I ended up hand steering to ensure the staysail was doing it’s job, and we could continue safely on course. In hindsight I should have had the wind vane setup. Eventually the winds and seas calmed and I resorted to motoring again. I was planning on staying the night in Port Townsend but I was lined up to cross the strait at slack tide, and the winds did not look to be too bad. A last minute decision while on a course for the marina, I tacked and set a course for the San Juan Channel between San Juan Island and Lopez Island. I would either make it to Friday Harbor, or all the way to Shaw Island by dark. It’s nice to be back on the water, and enjoying a calm night in a remote bay. Tomorrow we have a short trip around the north end of San Juan Island so we can enjoy some time at English Camp, and Garrison Bay.

Mooring at Blind Island, Blind Bay, Shaw Island after sixty-five miles from Seattle.
Mooring at Blind Island, Blind Bay, Shaw Island after sixty-five miles from Seattle.

Onward to Garrison

Blind Bay on Shaw Island is a peaceful place in comparison to anywhere south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The mooring ball is inline with the wake from the Shaw Island ferry, and just about any other boat who is transiting Wasp Passage. The entire night I don’t think I felt anything at all. In the morning I was awoken by a Bald Eagle who I later learned is nested on Blind Island. After our trip to the island I put the dinghy on the foredeck and motored towards Roche Harbor and Garrison Bay. The entire way I only saw crab fisherman checking their pots and harvesting Dungeness and Rock crab. It was pouring rain with variable winds so I ramped the throttle to 3500 rpm and reused a set of waypoints I setup on the chart app this summer to get through both Wasp Passage and Mosquito Pass. Neither had much current running through the narrowest parts but I still decided to hand steer through them so I could keep the boat moving more efficiently. I didn’t realize how dirty Satori has become on her topsides and hull so I took some time to scrub the deck and try to organize the gear. The winds were very strange when I finally dropped anchor. At first they were coming from the south, but then backed from the east, and then from the north. I realized I was pretty close to the shore in Garrison Bay and watched the depth show as little as two feet under her hull. Fortunately it was at the lowest tide, and by tomorrow’s next low tide I will kedge another anchor and move her so she is a little further from the shore. I didn’t get a chance to check out English Camp today. It was pouring cats and dogs so after the trip we just took it easy and cooked some food. Tomorrow we will venture out for a few hours and have a look at the park. The wind is blowing enough to keep the wind turbine running. I’m also impressed with how little it takes to keep the boat warm inside. I have a low flow pump for circulating glycol in the stove, also a couple of LED lights, the entire boat network including the wifi hotspot, the stove fan, and a circulation fan running and am only taking 1.3 amps from the battery. The fridge has been kept a little cooler because it is full of perishables, and I also want to be able to turn it off at night to lower my energy needs. The fridge gets down to thirty-four degrees during the day, and then in the morning it’s up to thirty-nine degrees. The top items in the cold plate are thawing, which is good because I rotate the meats that I plan on cooking. Whatever is on top is getting eaten in the next few days.

Heading through Wasp Passage using waypoints to guide me in torrential rain
Heading through Wasp Passage using waypoints to guide me in torrential rain

English Camp

I have not seen a day so calm for as long as I can remember. Absolutely nothing but birds audible. When I’m in the cabin I can only hear the fridge cycling on and off. I spent lunchtime roaming around English Camp with the pup. We immediately encountered a retired couple with a herding dog. Given the couples’ history it is a fit breed for them. They are retired farmers who bought property in Wescott Bay. The wife was a passionate show jumper and owned several Dutch Warmbloods. After they left I was the only person visible other than a park ranger who was going through a checklist of maintenance. We wandered around checking out the property adjacent to the waterfront. The entire area is picturesque and somewhat perfect for my first full day at anchor. The afternoon temperature reached sixty-five Fahrenheit and without wind. Seagulls, goldeneyes, and eagles occupied the majority of the sounds on the water. The only boat to visit the bay was an aboriginal crabbing boat, checking their pots scattered in all of the bays on the island. I’ll stay here until the weekend, then head into Roche Harbor to provision and do laundry. I’m very happy to be in a remote anchorage, enjoying solitude for a while.

Nice day in Garrison Bay. Blue skies and sun is a welcoming sight
Nice day in Garrison Bay. Blue skies and sun is a welcoming sight

English Camp Day Two

I realized I still had my port light covers on last night. When I’m at the marina I feel like the boat is a fishbowl, so I made a set of covers to provide privacy. While I’m on the hook privacy is abundant. I’ve decided to pull the dinghy onto the foredeck before I go to bed, and put it back in the water on the first run to shore. This allows me to quickly pull anchor and get under-weigh without worrying about getting the dingy on board first. Tomorrow the winds are supposed to pick up and blow into the twenties, then Friday into the high thirties and low forties. I’m going to move into Roche Harbor marina for tomorrow night to recharge the batteries, fill the fuel and water, do laundry, and maybe pick up a few things at the grocery. My electricity needs and the lack of enough sun or wind has required me to run the portable generator for the past couple of days. I make the best of it by taking Sasha to shore while it’s running so I’m not bothered by the noise. It’s barely audible on shore and it sips fuel so it’s a great supplement to solar, wind, and shore power. On our second trip to shore at low tide I found some oysters, but didn’t have anything to pry them off the rocks or open the shells. On my way back to the boat the pull cord for the outboard finally parted ways, so I rowed back and spent an hour figuring out how to replace the cord. After several attempts I was able to get a length of Amsteel Dyneema attached, which should prevent the cord from ever parting during for the duration of it’s service life. We harvested the oysters and enjoyed them with seared ahi for dinner. I’m really enjoying this life, but also enjoying getting into a rhythm that is very different than being on land, or tied to a dock at a big marina. I watched a bald eagle swoop down and catch a fish, then bring it up into a madrona tree to eat it. This is something I should be seeing a lot more often.

English Camp and Garrison Bay. Satori is just around the point from the dingy dock.
English Camp and Garrison Bay. Satori is just around the point from the dingy dock.
Fresh fried pacific oysters from Garrison Bay
Fresh fried pacific oysters from Garrison Bay

Roche Harbor

It was light winds all morning. I pulled the anchor by hand and left it on the foredeck to dry. I could see some blue in the skies and the sun was planning to shine for a while. I waited until lunchtime to motor into Roche Harbor, through Mosquito Pass. The trip was quick, and I was lucky to get a windward tie to the dock. To my starboard and across the dock is another Westsail 32, and to my port side is a Westsail 43 ketch. The harbor is completely empty. The only people around are people who work there, but the docks were empty, as well as the village. A few hours later I did get a visitor who came to visit with Sasha, and Dave also happened to own the Westsail 32. Two Westsail boat owners together is like meeting someone you don’t know from your own tribe. All Westsail owners are in various levels of refitting their boat, and Dave was carting a pile of various paints and other chemicals, along with portable power tools. Virtually the same pile I kept in my dock box, which has gone to into storage while I live on the hook, so to speak.  I’ve taken the opportunity to do some laundry, which cost six dollars for one load to wash and dry. I’m expecting it to blow in the morning so I’ve removed some things from the topsides. I have also secured Satori with several spring lines to make it an easy ride. Being pushed away from the dock is better than against, and from what Dave says the forecast can be quite a bit under the actual wind speed. Satori will be blown sideways which means I will need to go outside and make sure everything is okay early in the morning. For now I hear nothing except the dog snoring and my keyboard keys getting tapped on.

Secured to the Roche Harbor marina slip during an expected near gale
Secured to the Roche Harbor marina slip during an expected near gale

Garrison Bay and beyond

I decided to head back to Garrison and decide where to go next after work. The winds did pick up and blew pretty well this morning, but not forty knots. Maybe the maximum wind speed was thirty knots, but I suppose it’s better to be safe than have regrets about not hiding out in a marina. I ate lunch at the infamous Lime Kiln Cafe while I continued working on the laptop. After I filled the water tanks and vacuumed the cabin, I started the engine and warped the boat down to the end of the dock. The wind was blowing fifteen to twenty knots and I had to cast off without help. I knew the wind would blow the bow down and away from the docks so I just untied the lines, put it in reverse and waited for a gust to turn her around. Once I was outside of the marina waves increased to chop. Getting through Mosquito Pass wasn’t too challenging. I was close to low slack tide so the currents were not very strong, but the winds grew to almost thirty knots, and the waves were stacked and had swelled to a few feet. I knew once I was past the section that is exposed to Haro Strait near Hanbury Point, the seas would calm down and the winds would’t be as strong. Getting into Garrison Bay and dropping anchor was somewhat uneventful and relatively easy. I prepared the anchor and chain while I had a chance under autopilot so I could run forward quickly and get it down to an eight-to-one scope. Once Satori started to turn and drift back onto her rode, I put the throttle down in reverse to set the hook well. She set and came right back with her bow on the wind. An hour later the winds subsided, and as I type this they have completely disappeared. The wind put a chill to my bones so I have the stove cranked, along with my forced air heater, and even added the ships lantern. It will be too hot in another hour and I can turn everything down. Tonight I am cooking a beef roast in the pressure cooker, and then planning a new location for next week’s adventures. It’s been a great week and I think I will get used to living like this. I am fortunate to be able to experience a mild winter on a sailboat exploring the San Juan Islands.

Beef roast in a pressure cooker
Beef roast in a pressure cooker