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.


  1. Praise the Lord for keeping you safe and providing you with a fair amount of training for adventures to come. I think of you often and say a little prayer when I do. You need to get one of those GoPro cameras for adventures like you went through.

  2. Video sure would have been nice, but I seriously doubt I would have taken the time to shoot the video. Besides, there would have been a very good chance that it would have been washed overboard before we got in. Thank you for the prayers!!!!

  3. Mike it was a pleasure talking to you this evening. I read your blog. What a trip. Have fun and be safe. I will follow you and Jan as you make it to Mexico.
    Jim Giblin