Saturday, August 10, 2013

True North - Anacortes to San Francisco

Here is a log of our trip from our home in Anacortes, Washington, to San Francisco.  The trip took eight days, which is about as quick as we could have hoped. We had some stiff headwinds, some light tailwinds, and a lot of no wind. The usual westerly winds that make the trip a delightful sail never materialized.  So we did some sailing, and motored a lot. There were no frightening moments on the trip, for which we are thankful.  It all came to a climax with a spectacular reach into San Francisco Bay on a sunny day with our spinnaker flying!

Wednesday, 7/31

We left a foggy Anacortes for Friday Harbor in the morning, catching favorable current in Rosario Straight.

Departing Skyline Marina, Anacortes - the trip begins!
We snagged a slip at the Friday Harbor marina and checked out some of our favorite haunts while we waited for Lance, our crew, to arrive via Kenmore Air.  Lance is a Coast Guard licensed skipper with lots of on-the-water experience, including sailing to Hawaii.  So it felt really good to have him on board.  Plus, he's a good friend and great fun to be with.  (Ask him to tell the Sven and Ole joke with the church and the dress.)

Thursday, 8/1

Departing Friday Harbor, we caught slack water at Cattle Pass. From there, Juan de Fuca Straight was pretty calm, with a nice southerly wind, so we sailed a few hours on our way West.
Sailing in Juan de Fuca Straight
Soon, currents built against us, and the wind shifted west, so on went the engine and we motored west.  It's a long way out to the Pacific, and you will encounter both ebb and flood currents whenever you depart.  The smoothest ride was with the current flowing eastward (flood) with the wind.

The roughest ride was with the current ebbing westward, against the highest winds we encountered in Juan de Fuca, over 30 knots right on the nose, with 5' wind waves also on the nose.
Motoring into wind and waves, Juan de Fuca Straight
Very slow going, in spite of the lift from the current.  Nevertheless, we motored on and the winds and waves died with the daylight.

Friday, 8/2

It was eerie passing Tatoosh Island just after midnight, in the black moonless night, with it's light flashing twice every twenty seconds, bright enough to illuminate the entire island - but not the sea or the rocks guarding the island!  We were now in the Pacific Ocean.  We set a SW course to intercept the 125W meridian and motored in the calm seas. Our intention was to follow the 125W meridian south to around Cape Mendocino, then angle southeast to San Francisco.  It was amazingly calm this day, with just a low swell and little wind - and what wind we had was a SE headwind.  So we motored.
Motoring south on 125W meridian

Anne and Lance saw humpback whales. We all saw others later, including a number of sounding tail fins.  What little wind we had died with the daylight, and we motored on.

Saturday, 8/3

Still motoring...
Another mostly windless day to start.  A bit of excitement occurred at 1415 when we hit a small log and the boat speed indicator went to zero.  It seemed the log had taken out the little sensor wheel that sends speed signals to the electronics. Fortunately, the sensor began working again just outside of San Francisco.

Lance tried fishing for a couple of hours, but no bites.  I guess our "gear" wasn't to the fish's liking!
Lance fishing
Late afternoon, the tailwind started to build close to 10 kts, so we decided to deploy the spinnaker. Unfortunately we had some issues as the sail had been packed twisted, at the same time the wind rose to 20 kts, well over the speed for which the spinnaker was designed. As the wind was nearly directly from astern, we deployed the jib only, and made a decent 5.5 kts over ground.  The boat seemed to wallow a bit, so we double reefed the jib and sailed all night at around 5 kts over ground.  At last, we were in the Pacific and sailing!
Gregg heats up Anne's special recipe stew
Sunday, 8/4

The sailing was short-lived, as around 0730 the wind died and we started motoring again.  Later in the day the wind picked up from astern again and we sailed with the mainsail and the jib.
Sailing down the 125W meridian
This lasted until about 1800 when the wind died altogether and we fired up the 'iron wind' yet again, motor sailing with just the mainsail.  At 1930 we dropped the main as well and motored on.  On the other hand, the seas were confused and largish, making the boat jerk and slam, so it was very uncomfortable. Unfortunately, Anne became a bit ill at this point, not just seasickness.  And to top it off, the marine forecast included a Hazardous Seas warning for the day ahead, as well as forecasts for light and southerly winds in the following days, requiring more motoring.  So we decided to abandon the 125W meridian and head more inshore to avoid the seas. Shortly thereafter we decided to stop at Crescent City, California, for fuel. Still motoring, we set course for Crescent City.

Monday, 8/5

During the night, while still motoring, the wind picked up to 30+ kts from astern, with big rollers.  No problem for True North, though!  Morning brought fog, with less than 1/2 mile visibility.  The fog did lift a bit as we approached Crescent City, where we fueled up, showered, had breakfast, and a nice dinner.
Fueling at Crescent City, California
Tuesday, 8/6

We departed Crescent City around 0900 in a light drizzle and fog.
Foggy morning, Crescent City
Now we had 18 kts wind directly ahead, and so we motored on again.  At some point we did raise the sails and beat to weather, however we were making only about 1.5 kt toward our goal, so after a few hours we gave up, dropped the sails, and motored on.  For the next full day, we experienced southerly winds 13-25 kt.

Wednesday, 8/7

Tired of motoring into the wind, we once again put up the sails and beat for a bit into the 15-20 kt southerlies. Not making much progress toward our goal, we were soon motoring again which held through the day. We did have one very special event:  Lance had bought three slices of pie at Fisherman's Restaurant in Crescent City, and at 3:14 ("Pie Time", courtesy Gary and Lynn) we had our slices of pie.
Pie time!
Thursday, 8/8

We were nearing San Francisco and abeam The Farallons at 1030.  A suggestion was made to put up the spinnaker, however the wind indicator read 3 kts from astern, too low to make progress. Then we discovered the wind indicator was set to 'relative', and when we switched to 'absolute', we had 8-9 kts, perfect for the spinnaker!  So up it went.
Lance rigging the spinnaker
It was a glorious day with sunny blue skies, and we flew towards the Golden Gate with just the spinnaker out, and a 1-2 kt boost from the flood current.

As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, the wind picked up and we did push the spinnaker well past it's 10-15 kt max wind, seeing up to 25 kts of wind, and over 7 kts boat speed at times.
Gregg with his Mexico sun hat!
She sure did fly!  It was incredibly exhilarating to sail under the Golden Gate with spinnaker flying, and True North in her element.

True North's spinnaker passes under Golden Gate Bridge
By 1600 we were fueled up and parked in slip 1001 at Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito.
Fueling at Sausalito, "Fish" cafe in background
We topped off the trip with a lovely dinner at Spinnaker's in Sausalito, with a great view of downtown San Francisco across the bay. 

It was an excellent trip!  It was terrific to have our friend Lance along, who is very knowledgeable, always positive thinking, and best of all, great fun to be with!


For this trip, we had three people:  Myself, Anne, and Lance.  We decided on four hour watches, and it went like this:

0000 to 0400:  Gregg
0400 to 0800:  Lance
0800 to 1200:  Anne
1200 to 1600:  Gregg
1600 to 2000:  Lance
2000 to 2400:  Anne

I think we all had sleep issues from the schedule, however we adapted pretty well.  For our night watches, we would don our warm clothing, safety harness and lifejacket.  We'd bring up any special gear like iPod, books, Chips Ahoy or tea, then settle in with a blanket on our lap to keep the chill away. Being 'on watch' meant a continual scan of radar, AIS display, speed, depth, iPad nav charts, and visual sightings, looking for other vessels and making sure the boat was going where we wanted.  Most of the time, True North was on autopilot, so we did not have to steer manually.
Anne on her 2000-2400 watch
Fuel Consumption:

We have a lot of data by now!  True North makes a great power boat, and she's very thrifty considering she has a four-cylinder, 55 HP diesel engine.  On the first leg of the trip, from Friday Harbor to Crescent City, we tended to run low RPMs, 2000-2200 (except for some of the worst going in Juan de Fuca, when we powered up).  This gave 0.58 gal/hr.  On the second leg, Crescent City to Sausalito, we ran mostly 2400 RPM, which gave 0.73 gal/hr. Actual speed through the water varies greatly with sea conditions, but 2400 RPM in flat water gives a boat speed around 6.2 kt.

Posted by Gregg

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