Thursday, August 28, 2014

San Francisco!

First, just let me tell you how great my wife is! I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I am to have Jan as my soulmate. As you will read, we were put to the test and Jan showed her metal. She has struggled over the last couple of years getting involved in the operation of the boat, but when the chips were down she was the best!

Now on to the story.. Tori arrived in Port Angeles Wednesday night as scheduled. We showed her around the boat, got her settled in, and then went to bed to get a good night's sleep. We dropped our lines at first light Thursday morning and got our adventure underway. It took most of the day to get out the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Unfortunately there was no wind so we had to motor all the way. We pulled into Neah Bay around 2:30PM to top off the fuel and then head around the corner. Our goal was to get offshore and settled in before dark.

Darkness came and oh what a sight. This was the only night on the whole trip that was clear. You just don't see stars like this anymore because there are lights everywhere. But at sea, it is pitch black so the sky is really lit up. Just beautiful! The first day we got some great shots of the sunset.

Cape Flattery is the farthest most north western point on the Olympic peninsula (the point on the left side as you exit the Straight of Juan De Fuca). There is a big rock there just offshore. Normally you go around the big rock, but because it was daylight and the weather was calm we cut between the rock and the mainland and got some awesome pictures of some incredible rock formations.

Nothing is really quite like being on the open ocean at night. It is the darkest, blackest black. It is exciting and a bit creepy all at the same time.

We got word from Robbie at Signature Yachts that we might encounter some strange jelly fish along the way. Sure enough these little guys are really strange. We took some pictures but you really can't see them very well. They are about the size around of a silver dollar and have a half round "sail" on top of them. They float along on the top of the water and are blown by the wind. From time to time we came across masses so thick they looked like a lawn floating on the ocean.

I have to apologize for not having any pictures over the next 2 days, but as you will read, we had our hands full. I thought about pictures often but I knew that the camera would be destroyed and/or lost if I tried to bring it out. Besides, there is no way a picture could even come close to reality.

We had mostly light air for the next 2 days. We motored most of the time but did get in a little sailing. At first light Saturday morning we were set to pull into Newport OR for fuel. The sun was just coming up and we had quite a bit of fog. Also, the wind had kicked up so the bar was a bit of a challenge, but we got in just fine. We fueled and walked around on dry land for a couple of hours and then launched off again. After we got back out across the bar the fog really set in, but the wind picked up as well - a welcome sign! So we hoisted the sails and shut the noise maker off. All was good as we sailed with a 25 knot wind on our stern until the evening hours. Then the wind started building. When it was a solid 30 and still building we thought we might have made a mistake and should look for shelter. Going back to Newport was not an option, so we checked the bar report for Coos Bay - not good - closed due to heavy weather conditions. Now we are trapped and have no option but to continue on. By this time we are getting a solid 35 knots with gusts to 40 and seas well over 10 feet. These conditions are too much for our autopilot to safely handle so Tori and I took turns hand steering all night - long night in the cold fog! But believe it or not, it does get worse... a LOT worse!

By morning the weather had built to a solid 45 knots of wind with gusts into the mid 50's. The seas had grown dramatically. Tori estimated 20' but compared to our mast I believe they were at least 25' and most likely 30'. We now have a serious problem on our hands. The next town coming up is Brookings OR. We check their bar conditions and find that they are open. But we are 25 miles offshore and must cut across the weather to get there. So we get started weaving our way between waves. It takes us 7 hours to cut across this storm and get to the Brookings bar, which has just 4 to 6 foot waves - no problem for us now!

When we were about 5 miles out and still seeing 40 knot wind and huge waves I had Jan call the coast guard to verify once again that the bar was open. We just couldn't believe that it was open when we were seeing these conditions just 5 miles out. They confirmed that the bar was open, but then started talking about boarding our boat. Okay, I don't have any problem with that, but they want to know our registration number right now. I told Jan to tell them that we were really busy but they replied that we would be denied access to the harbor if we did not provide the number right now. Holy crap, are you serious!? So I dug up the number and had Jan relay it in.

Generally speaking I have a lot of respect for the US Coast Guard, but the guys at the Brookings sector are clearly the exception to the rule. We were squawking our AIS so they could easily see who we were from their desk. But they insisted that we take time to find our registration number while dealing with 40 knots of wind and 25' seas. Then within 5 minutes of us tying up they were standing beside the boat wanting to board us for a "safety" inspection. Thanks guys, your concern for our safety was admirable.

I have no idea how many times we broached (rolled the boat on its side). Our boat will go about 8 knots flat out - the fastest it can possibly go. We were going 18 to 19 knots as we surfed down the faces of these huge waves! WAY TOO FAST! Then if everything wasn't perfect when we got to the bottom of the wave our stern would be driven sideways and roll the boat onto its side.

If this sounds terrifying to you, well, it was. I was so focussed on getting us through the event that I did not feel terrified at the time. I have no desire or intention to go through anything like that again. But honestly, I am glad I had the experience. It is really not something that you can describe to a person - you just have to live through it. I have always told people that our boat is an ocean rated boat and can handle 20' seas, now I have the experience to prove it. Jan and I both have a new appreciation for the abilities of our Beneteau 40 - we LOVE our boat!

Through all of this Jan and I were praying that the Lord would bring us through. Cell service is pretty much non-existent 25 miles off shore, but Jan was able to get through to her mom to get her praying for us as well. Funny thing - when it got really bad Jan went downstairs and at that moment I knew in my heart that she went down to call and get her parents praying for us. And as always, He brought us through another difficult time! Thank you God!

I started this blog off praising my wife Jan. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of her. She was a solid rock during this entire ordeal. As Tori and I were struggling to get the boat through these grave conditions, Jan was downstairs making sandwiches for us. She never showed an ounce of weakness during the entire time. That being said, she fell into my arms crying the minute we were tied up to the dock.

As you might imagine, the entire house was "tossed".

We pulled into Brookings Oregon on Sunday afternoon. We walked down to the local greasy spoon for some quick dinner and then we all crashed into bed.

Here is a shot of Tori at her best (sorry Tori, we love you!)

We spent all day Monday cleaning the boat and repairing damage from the storm. 55 knots of wind can really tear things up.

The weather report for Tuesday was for very light wind and calm seas all the way to San Francisco. That is good and bad - good because we don't need or want another storm situation, bad because we also don't want to have to motor all the way to San Francisco. But no matter, we launched and motored almost all the way. We arrived in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon to fog and overcast skies.


Mike and Jan just after going under the Golden Gate Bridge
I would love to say that we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, but there was no wind so we motored. Oh well, it was still REALLY COOL!

Tori got us a spot tied up to the dock with the local Beneteau dealer. Beneteau people are really just the best!! We plan to stay here for a couple of days to get the boat cleaned up and then off to explore San Francisco for a couple of weeks. Then we will head back out to sea on our way to San Diego.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Off We Go!

No pictures today - just a quick update. We are in Port Angeles today. Tori is on her way and we plan to head out at first light in the morning. We should be in San Francisco in about 1 week.

We had quite a trip getting to Port Angeles. We left Port Ludlow yesterday afternoon heading for Sequim. We found 30+ knots of breeze directly in our face when we rounded Pt Wilson (Port Townsend). To make matters worse the tide was ebbing which made the seas very tall, close together, and breaking. We stuffed the bow pretty good twice and then REALLY good on the third try. This sent a river of green water over the forward deck and down the rail. After that I decided to get a bit more serious about throttle management and pretty much kept the bow mostly above water for the rest of the trip.

After about an hour of this pounding we slipped in behind Protection Island and got a break. The sea calmed quite a bit and the wind dropped to 20. Then we came out the other side and were right back in the heat of the day. Things got real serious when we got to Sequim. There is a narrow dredge passage that you must follow with the wind and waves on your beam to get in. We held on and finally rounded the breakwater to calm wind and flat water. Time for mass alcohol and a good night's sleep!

We left Sequim for Port Angeles at 6:00AM in order to prevent a repeat of our excitement from yesterday. We had to deal with some fog, but light wind and nothing more than the normal swell with an occasional roller. Much better trip.

Sorry about no pictures - we had our hands full with the boat! Next stop - Golden Gate Bridge!

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Paint for Rapture's Bottom

One of the reasons we went to Pleasant Harbor was to be able to get a look at the bottom of our boat. We (well, Jan) tried while we were in the San Juan Islands but she very quickly discovered that 53 degree water is WAY too cold for swimming. Bless her heart, she jumped in but quickly came right back out. So while we were in 70 degree water in Pleasant Harbor I dove down and took a look at the bottom of Rapture. Needless to say, I didn't like what I saw! We had a serious growth problem and that explained our reduced speed through the water. So we decided that we better clean and paint our bottom here instead of the existing plan of San Francisco.

The reason we were planning San Francisco in the first place is that no yards in the Puget Sound have ladders for use. But it dawned on me that I have a friend with a business in downtown Everett. So I got on the phone to Rick and begged to borrow a ladder. Well, there really wasn't much begging.. Rick being the most gracious friend that he is quickly said he had 2 ladders and would even drop them off at the marina for me. What a great guy!! Rick - you truly saved the day.

So we took the boat to Everett and hauled out to the hard. Once out of the water she was pressure washed and then blocked up on jack stands.

Everything went really smooth. We washed, scrubbed, scraped, and cleaned the hull most of Thursday. Then on Friday we put 2+ coats of new bottom paint on. Then Saturday morning they came by with the travel lift and put us back in the sling. We took that opportunity to paint where the jack stands had been. Then launched back in the water Saturday at noon. A quick turn around for a couple of amateurs.
Jan standing under our new paint job
Of course we stayed on the boat while she was on the hard. I must say, it was quite a strange feeling being on the boat without any motion.

Friday night was a busy night for 2 bone weary sailors. A couple of years ago we bought a commercial meat grinder and vacuum packer. We have been making our own ground beef and sausage ever since. Right before we left the house last year we packaged up about 30 pounds of burger and sausage and loaded it in our 2 freezers on the boat. It is the perfect solution for a boat because it makes flat rectangles of vacuum packed meat the fit perfectly in a small freezer. Well a year later almost all of that meat was gone. So we took the opportunity of being in Everett to pack up another 30 pounds. Our renters graciously allowed us into our house to pick up our equipment. Then after spending all day working on the boat we spent the evening grinding and packing meat. But now our freezers are full again and we are ready to go!

Our plan for Saturday was for me to take the boat to Kingston and Jan to drive the car. Then I would meet her in Kingston and we would both sail to Port Ludlow and anchor up for a much needed rest. They had just put the boat back in the water when I looked up and saw Jan standing on the dock. She said "I just saw a lightening flash, maybe we should stay here today and head out tomorrow". To which I replied "no, it is heading north east and we are heading south west, it will be fine". Yeah, right! Way to go Mike. I am cruising along loving the extra 2 knots of speed from our fresh paint job when I notice that the clouds are building. I didn't think too much about it because I was still thinking it was heading away from me. Then about 45 minutes from Kingston a blinding flash of lightening followed immediately by the loudest thunder boom I have ever heard. It was so loud it hurt my ears and I could feel it in my chest. Then immediately alarms started going off on the boat. Next the autopilot stopped working. Not good...

It turns out that the near lightening strike fried the course computer for the autopilot. Fortunately I have a spare on board. So when I pulled into Kingston I went to work switching out the computer. 45 minutes later we were good to go again. The next day I called Raymarine to find out about getting the computer repaired so I would have my spare again. Raymarine tech support is really great. Your equipment does not have to be under warranty - you can call them anytime about any Raymarine equipment. Anyway, they told me that a near lightening strike will often fry autopilot course computers, wind instruments, and radar. Well, my wind instruments are working fine, but I have not tested my radar. So biting my nails I head out and turn the radar on. Thankfully, the radar is working fine. So we will see what the cost to repair the course computer will come out to.

We left Kingston in the evening and headed for Port Ludlow. We arrived at sunset and got a beautiful shot.

While in Port Ludlow a couple of tall ships came. They are quite the sight. You can tour them and I believe go out for a sail on them.

We are going to leave Port Ludlow for Brownsville on August 15th for the Beneteau rendezvous. Should be yet another great time!!! Then it will be launch time, heading south to warmer, sunnier climates - YEAH!

All Fleet Rendezvous

We went back to Port Ludlow for the Signature Yachts All Fleet Rendezvous. It was nothing short of wonderful! We are so very blessed to be part of the Signature Yachts family. And that is truly what it is – a family. Robbie's (the owner of Signature Yachts) mom Sharon attends most of the rendezvous and everyone just calls her “mom”. But more than that, it is completely clear and honest that the entire Signature Yachts crew sees and treats everyone there as family. What a great group of people! So if you are interested in a boat, seriously, do yourself a favor and call Signature Yachts to see for yourself. A truly honest boat broker is a rare thing and Robbie has a crew of nothing but honest hard working people... you can count on it because he won't stand for anything short of that.

This year's All Fleet was held the same weekend as the Port Ludlow festival. Robbie always has a few perks that he gives to people and this year was a free admission to the festival. That being said, I am a bit surprised that they charge a fee to enter the festival in the first place. It is pretty much the same as any other street festival that are generally free admission. We spent some time Saturday afternoon walking through the festival to see what we could see. We walked into an artist's booth – Susan Fox. She does painting with acrylic and had some really great nautical work. As we were getting to know each other we told her about our cruising adventure. She got really excited and started telling us about her years cruising. In the end she autographed a small book that she sells of drawings she made while cruising. What a really great treat!!

They had a classic car show with the usual fare of Thunderbirds and Cobras. But they did have a few really unique cars.

Beautiful Edsel

Unfortunately I don't remember the name of this car, but I have never seen or heard of the make before

Timeless Studabaker

This lady had a lot of really nice hand made clay objects

There was a lady walking around through the fair playing a harp. I stopped and shot a picture of her. Then she stopped, smiled, and said to be sure to get her plastic shoes in the shot

We came across a GREAT idea for the boat! Every time we go ashore for a walk Jan pics wild flowers to bring back to the boat for a little color. This plant is growing in a ball of moss wrapped in twine. I would have just bought one from her but I just couldn't bring myself to part with $39 for this little plant. So I am going to pull up a clump of moss out of someone's yard and put a $2 plant in it. I figure we can make a few of them and hang them around the cockpit. They should do really well.

One of the booths had a small golf putting green. If you sunk 2 in a row you got a free shirt. Jan went first – girl has quite a swing! She ended up running across the lot chasing her ball after she gave it a good smack. Then it was my turn. I sunk the first one, then missed wide on the second. She said I could try as many times as I wanted so I tried again. I took 6 shots and sunk every other one. I guess that is what pressure does to a person.

Saturday afternoon Robbie put on a few informational seminars. These were pretty much old news for me, but I am certain that someone got some good information out of them.

Saturday evening it was time to break out the “bow thruster blender”. This thing is a BEAST! It is an actual bow thruster for a boat. For the nonboating reader – a bow thruster is a very powerful motor with a propeller attached that is mounted on the front of a boat below the waterline. The skipper can use it to drive the front of the boat to the side. They are very powerful! Well some genius with a bow thruster laying around and too much time on their hands decided that it would make a great blender. And as a matter of fact it does. I will just say this is the “Tim Taylor” blender of blenders. Everyone has a great time when this unit hits the dock.

Jan getting a refill

Tori at the controls

Tori the mad scientist having WAY too much fun!

We left Port Ludlow Sunday afternoon and headed for Pleasant Harbor. We have heard that the water in Pleasant Harbor is quite “pleasant”. Actually, it is 70 degrees, as opposed to 53 in the rest of Puget Sound. And we want to go swimming!! Pleasant Harbor is about half way down Hood Canal and has the Olympic mountains for a backdrop – absolutely stunning.

To get to Pleasant Harbor we have to go through the Hood Canal Bridge. That's right, “through” the bridge. It is a floating bridge with spans in the air on both ends. Unfortunately the spans on the ends are not nearly high enough for our 65' mast. So the bridge has to be opened for us to go through. You get a really powerful feeling when you stop all traffic and open a bridge to pass through. Well, it is really powerful for the people on the boat, not so much for the people in the cars. Watching the bridge open is quite an amazing sight. They raise a section of the bridge and then slide the adjacent 300' section in under the raised portion.

We have been in Pleasant Harbor for 2 glorious days now. We swim every day off the back of the boat. It is absolutely wonderful!! We noticed an old boat along the shore near where we are anchored. I don't think it is seaworthy anymore. We got brave and swam over to check it out.

This is the view looking out of the harbor

Tomorrow we are leaving Pleasant Harbor (so sad) and heading for Everett. We are going to “make hay while the sun shines” and haul our boat to remove the crud and put a fresh coat of bottom paint on. Then we will be ready for our trip out to sea.