Monday, September 28, 2015

San Fran to Monterey

Angel Island with GG Bridge in background

Kids are back on board!

We reunited with kids in San Fran (thank you Aunty Whitney for flying them down!).  Since then we have seen everything from China Town to the Jelly Belly factory to a wonderful winery in Napa (yes, we did the jelly belly factory and winery on the same day!). 

After almost a week in San Fran, we felt ready for our first leg down the coast with kids.  We decided to expose the kids to all of it at once - coastal sailing and an overnight combined.  The energy aboard was palpable as we went under the Golden Gate bridge.  I resisted the urge to tell the kids to calm down and just soaked it up.  They were in life jackets and harnessed in for the first time.  The bridge, the light, the dolphins - they were all part of the magic.

Homeschool begins!
With an outgoing current and decent winds, the seas kicked up just as the sun went down.  Not the best combo for the first night at sea!  Before long, Maggie had hurled her dinner in the cockpit and both other kids came back above decks to try and rid themselves of the seasickness.  It was a tenuous first night at sea, wondering if we had done the right thing.  But, within a few hours the seas had calmed down considerably and all kids were sleeping on deck and we were able to migrate them downstairs where it was quite comfortable. 

We pulled into Half Moon Bay just after midnight and navigated the entrance buoys beyond the breakwater until we found a little spot to put down our anchor and get some rest.  The kids awoke to a world filled with pelicans and fishing boats and after we fueled up - lots of flies!  Fly swatting and dodging shrimp pots filled the first few hours of our journey to Santa Cruz.   Santa Cruz did not disappoint with whales, dolphins a great beach and a fun boardwalk to entertain.

After a few days in Santa Cruz, we headed off for Monterey.  As soon as we were off the dock the winds picked up to 20-25 kts and with a double reef and a partially furled headsail off we flew at 7-8 kts in big swell and white capped wind waves.  Simi eyed us warily - as if to ask "is it always going to be like this?  Big wind, big waves."  We aren't sure yet, but did enjoy the sail after everyone got used to the rhythm of the wind and seas.  Monterey seems like a hard place to leave with its endless cultural history, amazing marine diversity, 5 star aquarium and a walking/biking path that is the envy of any good city.
Kids at Monterey Aquarium with Herring ball in background.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Seattle to San Francisco

Sailing Into the Storm

Coastal Crew:  Cranston, Morgan, Niko and Cory
After a summer of carefully navigating tides, currents and avoiding long passages with poor weather I had to wonder to myself - did I try too hard to avoid inclement weather?  How will we learn unless we push ourselves a little bit?  I know the thrust of my efforts were to introduce the kids to sailing full time without turning them off with bad weather.  So, when it finally came time to head down the West Coast without kids and with a crew eager for adventure and experience - we took the opportunity to sail into a storm, push our comfort zone and see how Agamere performed.  We were not disappointed.

Visiting pod of Dahl's Porpoise's
We knew it would be a few days until some good winds picked up off of the coast of Washington and Oregon but we were eager to get started.  Our plan was to head 40-50 miles offshore to see the deep blue water of the Pacific, knowing that we might have to head inshore to hideout in Coos Bay or Newport while the wind and seas off N. California abated.  On Sept. 5th we needed to make the call - to head inshore and wait or keep going and see what 25-35 knot winds were like out in the ocean.  We finally made the call after much crew discussion and decided to continue heading South where within 24 hours we would encounter building wind and seas. 

The gradual onset of the storm was a perfect intro to heavy weather sailing.  Winds built on the evening Sept. 6th from 10 kts to 20 kts and seas grew accordingly to 5-7 ft.  By noon the following day the wind had increased to 25-28 kts and seas had grown quickly to 9-10 ft.  By early afternoon the waves had taken on a new look with large sets of 20 ft waves picking up Agamere and rushing past her.  The effect on deck was one of awe - intense wave watching all day.  The crew was officially in the biggest Pacific Ocean waves of their life!

Below decks was another realm- loud, shuddering, with the mast jerking loudly during wind gusts and wave action, the autopilot groaning and the wave motion from all directions rattling even the most securely packed dishes and boat accessories, not to mention the crew off watch who were trying to rest.

As the evening progressed, the winds picked up continually until we were seeing 28-34 kts of wind and gusts up to 40 kts.  The waves just kept towering higher and higher and started to blow over at the top.  It was most impressive. 

Heading into dusk as a storm is peaking is certainly not for the faint of heart!  The four of us sat together in the waning light wondering what the starry night would bring (I liked to think of it as Disneyland's Space Mountain ride on acid).  Suddenly we realized that a larger wave had picked up our fully reefed 40,000 lb boat and we were momentarily surfing at 15 kts (twice our avg cruising speed)! It was the perfect parting gift of this particular windstorm.  Our eyes were wide and our adrenaline was running thick.

After exiting the windstorm, the waves took about twelve hours to settle down at which point we were able to head directly East towards San Francisco between beautiful, large, well spaced swells with full sails up and 15 kts of breeze (which seemed suddenly like child' s play). We unwound, ate real food including the delicious tuna Cory had caught just as the storm was picking up, and reveled in our new found experience - both humbled and impressed by the Pacific Ocean.