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

Winter Projects for Cruising

It’s been a typical Northwest winter, thankfully. The precipitation in December was perfect for laying a deep snowpack on the mountains. The torrential rains have exposed even the smallest leaks on Satori. The window to be outside on the weekdays are limited to early mornings and lunch breaks. Some days I run the Dickinson stove in combination with the space heater. Other days it’s warm enough just to keep the space heater running nonstop, but raining enough to keep me harvesting mildew on a weekly basis. Projects are still getting done, although a little bit slower than usual. I’m on track for a ocean sailing, and have still enjoyed a bit of cruising around the Salish Sea. I don’t venture very far from the marina because it’s cheaper to stay tied up to the dock, and it’s a quick trip to find the hardware I need to upgrade Satori. The lack of sun and inconsistent winds means having to charge the batteries from my engine, portable generator, or at the dock. It also means having to heat with diesel fuel, which is a much higher cost than electricity. I’m limited to how much data I can use while not connected to land based internet. I could pay more, but I don’t mind remaining here while I am still engrossed with boat projects. I have one more big project to finish and then I’ll try to head back to working while cruising. The boat project has been very slow, but the results will be rewarding once it’s finished. I am very close to having all of the rigging completely replaced, with only halyards and whisker stays remaining. Most of the winter projects are to prepare Satori for trade-wind sailing in the Pacific Ocean. If I was just sailing around the Salish, I wouldn’t need any of these modifications. I could wait until I get further south to complete these projects, but it’s probably better that I address them now while I have the money, resources, and time.

Snatch blocks for trysail or spinnaker sails
Snatch blocks for trysail or spinnaker sails
New bobstay
New bobstay

Immediately after finishing the engine project I went straight to getting an inventory, and gathering and estimates on new hardware for the boom. The hardware was pretty straightforward, but I was a little concerned about the load limits. I’m not very talented at this kind of math unfortunately.  I did a semi-calculated estimate on the loads, and chose hardware I thought suitable for the job. The winches were the easiest choice. I went for alloy drums but self-tailing in size 14. The self-tailing choice was because of my experience on the foredeck. Often you’re making three points of contact while using only one hand to adjust lines. One hand is keeping me balanced, while the other is doing the reefing. For the reefing blocks I decided to use Schaefer Series ,with a working load limit of 1500 lbs. They come with ball bearing sheaves which should reduce line friction, and make it easier to reef most of the way down before finishing with the winch. The rope clutches are Lewmar DC1 series, which has a working load limit of 1100 lbs. The blocks on either side of the boom equalize the load, so a combined working load of 3000 lbs. I have taken into consideration the square footage of the sail and the force being distributed by all of the sail slugs along the mast, combined with the three load points of the head, tack, and clew. The chances of the load ever achieving even half of the load limit of the blocks and rope clutches are pretty low I think.

Lewmar 14 self tailing winches with alloy drums
Lewmar 14 self tailing winches with alloy drums

I’ve decided to use Amsteel for the reefing lines to keep the lines as strong and durable as possible, plus to try out a special splice that seems to be perfect for reefing and topping lift lines. Instead of buying yacht braid (also known as double braid) of entirely polyester, I was able to obtain a fair amount of Amsteel for a third of the price, which enabled me to purchase dyneema chafe sleeve and have some really trick lines for about the same price as good quality yacht braid. Instead of having a rope sheath on the entire line, I decided to only use it for areas where I will be winching and inside of the rope clutch where it is locked closed. The bury splice I used is uncommon and very time consuming splice, but is also a great way to join a double braid to single braid. You must tease out four inches of the braided sleeve, then individually thread each length of the braid into the twelve-stranded core. I could buy some cheap yacht braid line and have been done much sooner but this method reduced friction when pulling down the clew of the sail, and prevents the sail from becoming chafed and worn from the line. The life of the line could be as much as a decade or more due to the UV resistance of Dyneema. Time and experience will determine if this is the most effective line system for reefing.

Ready to splice
Ready to splice
Amsteel with Dyneema chafe sleeve, bury splice
Amsteel with Dyneema chafe sleeve, bury splice
Complete bury splice
Complete bury splice

While working on the boom I decided to also address some other rigging that has been on the list for some time. I managed to install the running backstays for supporting the forestay when running downwind under staysail or storm jib alone. They are a simple splice with thimbles on either end, and attached to the mast tangs with quick links. It took some serious consideration to decide how to make the attachment to the mast. There are so many options, but none seemed as simple and bomber as a stainless quick link. On the bottom end I am using a basic 2:1 block system that leads fairly to the jib sheet winch for getting the proper tension. The standard attachment is to a tang at the bottom thru-bolt of the aft stanchion, which leads perfectly to the sheet winch. Many people seem to use fiddle blocks and a cam cleat to set the tension, but I decided to simplify the system and use a more simple way of how they will be deployed. When running downwind, the leeward side is where the sails are flying. To support the mast at the head of the staysail, you deploy the running backstay on the windward side. The only thing to be aware of is if the mainsail is in use, then you need to make sure the runners do not interfere with the boom coming around.

Running backstay
Running backstay

As part of the boom overhaul, I have replaced the topping lift using 1/4″ Amsteel. Instead of using a block on the boom end, I have opted for a low friction ring. This will help reduce any chafe on the mainsail, yet provide plenty of strength to support the boom or if I need to use the boom for lifting or stepping the mast. The original topping lift was a 2:1 setup, and nearly impossible to raise the boom with the mainsail already deployed. Even when I released the tension from the sail by easing the traveler and mainsheet, I still could not get the boom up to mate with the reefing cringle. The topping lift was also rigged on the opposite side of the boom from the reefing lines.  Now I no longer need to go back and fourth to manage the boom. I simply head to the windward side of the boom  and all of the lines for reefing and raising, or lowering the boom and shaking a reef are consolidated.

Amsteel topping lift with chafe sleeve for the masthead connection
Amsteel topping lift with chafe sleeve for the masthead connection

I have also decided to replace the sheet lead blocks with something more substantial. I’ve been pushing Satori quite hard and as part of the learning process, I’ve discovered that her original lead blocks are now insufficient. They were old Schaefer blocks, and one of the pins stops had already failed from the screw not being tightened properly. The new cars have more contact with the tracks, and spring loaded pin stop, and a much better setup for leading the sheets aft. I replaced the existing jib sheets, which now provide a very strong attachment to the clew via a soft shackle and eye splices on both sheet lines. I will keep the existing sheets as spares in case the new ones fail, or I need extra line for something else.

Gärhauer LLC-3 sheet lead cars
Gärhauer LLC-3 sheet lead cars

Last summer I attempted to adjust the mainsail  foot tension using the outhaul system that came with Satori. It was a simple external 3:1 system with steel wire that makes a few turns and then runs along one side of the boom to a block. The whole system was full of friction, and did not work properly. I replaced the wire with Amsteel line to reduce some of the friction, but that did not seem to work. I decided that the whole system was just not meant to be adjusted more than once, while at the dock. The foot of the sail stayed tight even in light winds, so the sail shape was compromised and the outhaul proved to be useless. After reviewing a few different options, I decided the best approach would be to remove the end cap to gain access to the inside of the boom. Then I would be able to cut the entrance and exit block holes and make the new outhaul completely internal. This would reduce the clutter along the boom to three lines on each side, and make the outhaul adjustment available at the gooseneck with a simple cleat to secure the bitter end. I used the Harken formula for a 6:1 advantage.

Harken 6:1 Outhaul
Harken 6:1 Outhaul
Internal outhaul system
Internal outhaul system

I asked friends and people online about cutting into my boom. “Simple”, they said. First I had to cut into the slide track so the block insert could fit through, then cut through the actual wall of the boom. Both cuts needed to be precise in width and length, but also allow the sheave pin rivet to clear. This meant I had to cut grooves to allow the sheave pin rivet to pass through the first cut, then slide forward a quarter inch, and finally slot the block into position. Before I made any cuts, I also had to figure out how to remove the end cap that had been attached to the boom for almost forty years. None of the screws came out with a screw driver, so they all had to be drilled out with a cobalt bit. When I installed the end cap, I just added one set screw to hold the cap in place. Next time getting the cap off will be cake.

Internal outhaul sheave just after completing the slot
Internal outhaul sheave just after completing the slot

Fortunately the internal rigging was pretty straightforward. I already had an attachment point inside the boom, using the mainsheet bail thru-bolt. The original install did not include a compression sleeve so I made sure to oversize the hole and install the sleeve with the outhaul rigging attached. The lines to secure the internal outhaul are spliced Amsteel. The handling line will be 5/16″ yacht braid. The attachment to the mainsail will also be Amsteel soft shackle and a velcro webbing strop to keep the pulling angle low and prevent any excess load on the foot sliders. Instead of repainting the boom, I decided to just clean up the work I did, apply zinc chromate on the raw aluminum parts, and paint with a semi glossy aerosol paint. I plan on removing the mast in the near future, so I will wait when I have a place and good weather so I can prep and paint the spars with more detail and permanence.

Completed outhaul system with a simple jam cleat near the gooseneck
Completed outhaul system with a simple jam cleat near the gooseneck

Installing the cheek blocks was pretty straightforward. I already had the set location from the previous reef turning blocks, so I just needed to tap the threads again and drill the additional holes. I marked the location on the opposing side of the boom, and then added the boom end blocks. The rope clutches and winches took 1/4″ fasteners, so I drilled the winches first so I could use it as a guide to leading each line fairly without causing interference. The rope clutches were mounted in a cascade with the top closest to the winch, and each preceding one further back. This allowed the lines to run fairly close together and prevented the clutches from sitting too high or too low on the boom. Because the winches are both right hand turn, the rope clutches on one side cascades up, but the other side cascades down. I’m glad I measured and checked the line routing instead of assuming that the rope clutches mirror on either side.

Rope clutches for topping lift and reefing
Rope clutches for topping lift and reefing

Back when I overhauled the bathroom and plumbing, I did not install a direct overboard for the toilet because everywhere in the Salish Sea seems to require a pump out. The few times I’ve pumped overboard have been when crossing the Straits where it’s legal and less of a chance of causing environmental harm. There is a proposed no discharge zone for the American Salish Sea, which includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca where I would normally cross to enter the San Juan Islands. Currently the law allows for discharging of waste three miles from land, so is very limited to most places in the American Salish Sea. While I’m here at Shilshole I pay for a weekly pump out, and stop off at the pump stations while cruising away from the marina. While passage making I want to be able to pump directly overboard, but also be completely safe and coast guard compliant. To be safe, I need to make sure the discharge still passes through a vented loop before passing through the boat. I also need to make sure that the junction from the vented loop does not pass effluent back into the toilet when pumping overboard, or allow the overboard system to pass into the holding tank. Finally I need to make sure the Y valve can be locked so it meets Coast Guard regulations. This means I have to use two Y valves; one for switching from holding tank to overboard, and the other to switch the flow that passes over the vented loop from the holding tank when pumping overboard, to the flow from the toilet. The cost was a little more than $120 to add a direct overboard, but now I have a very reliable and legal septic system.

Overboard discharge valve, showing the overboard selection
Overboard discharge valve, showing the overboard selection

I bought and installed a freshwater pump two years ago but the solid state variable speed sensor has already failed. It’s a Jabsco Sensor-Max 5 gph, 40 psi VSD pump and has been great for on demand water. The pump sensor couldn’t control the pump speed so the pump cycled on and pressurized the plumbing until the hot water pressure relief valve opened on the hot water tank (about 100 psi). I didn’t realize this until I observed the inline pressure gauge ramp during one of it’s malfunction cycles. Fortunately the whole system is pex so it can handle the pressure, but I’m losing a little bit of hot water every time this happens.  I bought a replacement pump, and am in the process of getting the old pump replaced or repaired under the three-year warranty. I hot swapped the pump with almost the same Jabsco pump (upgraded model) while I get the warranty squared away. Now that I have an exact spare in my inventory, I can use the diaphragm pump to run pressurized seawater for the galley and to wash/rinse above deck. I decided to remove the old manual freshwater pump from the galley sink, and replace it with a non-mixing faucet. This spring I will add a faucet hose connection in the cockpit so I can connect a hose and wash down the decks, clean the anchor and chain, or even clean up a mess from cleaning fish. I will also add a freshwater hose connection so I have both seawater and freshwater in the cockpit.

On demand freshwater and seawater faucets
On demand freshwater and seawater faucets

I have a few more tasks before the boom is completed. I need to add an additional boom bail for the preventer and soft vang. I need to add more fairleads to the boom to prevent the lines from sagging or catching on the dodger. I have the second reef lines to splice and install. Eventually I need to plug the original holes and repaint the boom. For now I will try out the new rigging, and make sure it’s all working the way I want it to. In the next couple of months I will replace all of the halyards, and that will complete the rigging overhaul. I replaced the bobstay, but still have the whisker stays and chainplates to replace. I will wait until I haul Satori out of the water to make it a simple project. The next wave of projects will not be until April or May, where I will put Satori on land, remove all of her bottom paint, and fair her hull. She will need to be smooth for her ocean voyage so she is able to reach hull speed and still sail at a reasonable speed in light winds. The deck drains will be repaired so they no longer leak inside of the boat. Finally her prop shaft will be overhauled and if my budget allows, I will install a feathering propeller to help reduce drag in the water. Until then I will peck away at many of the small project that need completion for blue-water sailing. We’re getting close to the left turn…