Sitka Stopover

sitka

It’s been nearly three weeks since we stopped at Sitka and we’re definitely ready to head out. This is a wonderful town with marvelous people, but it’s time to start making our way south. We’ve been at the dock working hard on the boat finishing up the projects that weren’t done in Port Townsend. I can happily say that we have a new high capacity automatic bilge pump, the solar panels are wired up and pumping in 14 amps on a cloudy Sitka day, the SSB works and we can receive weather faxes and onboard email, the jacklines are hooked up so we can’t fall off the boat, and the lee cloth is done so we don’t fall out of bed on passage. And tomorrow morning we’ll fire up the watermaker and should have fresh water on demand now whenever we want.

We’ll rendezvous with Tim & Cindy late next week in the town of Craig on Prince of Wales Island. From there we’ll head to the south end of the island where we’ll wait for a weather window to make a passage offshore to Barkley Sound. We’ll be about 470 miles from Barkley Sound, so we expect 4-5 days depending on the weather. The summer northwesterlies have settled in, so we’re hoping for a nice calm downhill ride. We’ve hired a weather routing service to help us out on these first two passages so we can learn more about the weather faxes we’re reading. He’ll tell us when it’s a good time to go and what kind of weather we can expect. We’re ready and the boat’s ready, but this is still our first time for overnight sailing so we’re (mostly me) plenty nervous.

Alaska has been amazing, and it’s going to be hard to leave it again. We met some wonderful folks from Miami and South Africa who have been here three years, and the conversation did come up about wintering over. But, I’ve spent plenty enough winters in Alaska, and it’s definitely time for Mexico.

Today on Yohelah we’re finally ready to make our first offshore passage……

Sitka is here

Down The Outside

The trip down the outside of Baranof and Prince of Wales Islands has been spectacular. The anchorages are beautiful and almost completely empty of other boats. The ocean sailing wasn’t too special, as the winds were pretty light and we’re not happy using the spinnaker with the dinghy and kayaks both on deck (too many things to tangle spin sheets on). But Rob finally got the fishing monkey off our back and caught a beautiful and yummy 23″ coho. Fed us for three nights.

puffinbay

The kayaking in Tokeen Bay was excellent, with lots of little islands and rocks to explore. Didn’t see any black bears while we were in our little boats, though.

There’s a massive low pressure system out in the Gulf of Alaska that’s been messing with the weather for a few days now. Hopefully it’ll dissipate soon and the sun will come back. Luckily it’s not expected to come ashore here into Southeast. And hopefully the high will fill back in so our northerlies return for our trip south.

We’re headed for Craig today to make our last laundry and provisioning stop in Alaska. Then it’s south back to BC, where we get to see Rob’s brother Stann and my sister Leslie, who are coming to Barkley Sound for visits!

Today on Yohelah we’re going to get wet, as it’s just pouring rain and we have a 37 mile trip to Craig…..

Tokeen Bay is here

First Overnight Passage

One of the cardinal rules of voyaging is that you never make landfall at night. With the help now of radar and GPS, you hear people admitting that they do more and more, but I wasn’t even tempted. We were making a 580 mile passage from Alaska down the outside of the Queen Charlottes and Vancouver Island to Barkley Sound, which is truly the “Graveyard of the Pacific”. We had been sailing for three days and nights and motoring the last day, and were scheduled to come ashore at 6:00 am Wednesday. It should be light enough then, and if it wasn’t we planned slow down a bit and wait.

firstsunset

Our trip was quite wonderful, and we’re so glad to have the “first passage” under our belts. We used a weather routing service called Locus Weather since we were new to passage making and still in the North Pacific. Our forecast called for quite a variety of winds, but it was providing what we wanted – good winds for sailing without getting our butts kicked. And that’s exactly what we got, except the last bit of winds were delayed and we made such good time we ended up motoring the last day in no wind at all.

As expected, the boat performed marvelously. The windvane did all the steering, and with a nice balanced helm we easily stayed on course throughout the trip. We found a few shortcomings that need to be remedied before the next passage (reefing the jib needs to be easier), but they’ll get fixed here in Ucluelet. We sailed downwind, on a beam reach, and upwind, and on all points of sail the boat just charged on through.

The crew didn’t have quite as easy of a time, though! We’ve heard from friends that the first couple days of a passage are tough, and that is so true. We took some seasick medecine a freind got us in Thailand last year (thanks Shane) that all the yachties take. It made us totally lethargic, so we only took it for the first day and a half until we knew our bodies were acclimated to the conditions and we wouldn’t get sick (or so we hoped). We did two hour shifts, and on our off watches we just crashed instantly, foulies and harness and all. The watch scheduled totally messed with our sleeping rhythms, but eventually our bodies got used to two hour naps.

By the end of the second day we were starting to feel human again, and by the fourth day we were able to trade some sleeping time for showers. I had precooked and frozen all of our dinners before we left, so meals were simply heating something up.

The night watches were really incredible. It was cold and we had on four layers (thermals, two fleece layers, and foulies), and the first three nights were overcast with no moon so it was really dark. The last night was clear and starry, and it had warmed enough to rid ourselves of a layer, but we were motoring so some of the magic wasn’t quite there! But being out there in the dark while the boat is just charging through the seas is an awesome experience. The radar makes it easy to keep an eye out for other traffic, so it’s mostly just about watching your course on the GPS and monitoring the wind speed and direction and hoping you don’t have to wake up your spouse to make a sail change if the wind picks up.

Now we’re in Ucluelet waiting for Leslie to get here tomorrow. We crashed hard once we got to the dock and cleared customs. We’ll spend two weeks here visiting with my sister and Rob’s brother, and then head south again on our next passage. We’ll use the routing service one more time, since this will be a longer passage and a little more tricky to predict. And we’ll be checking the weather faxes he’s using for the forecast so we can learn more about it ourselves.

Today on Yohelah we’re glad the first passage is done and we’re getting ready for the second…..

Ucluelet is here

Sib Visits To Vancouver Island

It was so good to see our sibs. Rob & I have travelled and worked away from “home” much of our adult lives, but for some reason when we left this time it made me realize how important the families are that we were leaving behind. Maybe it’s just being all grown up now (sort of), or not having our own kids and family, or the fact that we’re all getting older now, but for whatever reason it’s harder being away from them now.

So having Leslie up for three days and Stann for a week was marvelous. To get to share one of our favorite places in the Northwest with them was special. We were sad Leslie could only stay three days, but we’re looking forward to seeing her in San Diego in a couple of months.

We went to Turtle Bay and sat on a hook, visited the little town of Bamfield, and took the hike on Effingham Island that I’ve always wanted to do. We also got a couple quick tours of Tofino, which is a town in Clayoquot Sound north of Barkley (it was nice to have cars after three months without).

But now they’ve gone back to civilization and we’re getting ready for our next big passage south. This is the one we’ve been thinking about for years and we’ve prepared ourselves and our little boat. We’ll get a forecast from the weather guy again and decide when to leave. We’re getting the boat ready for a Thursday departure.

North Pacific Passage

Of the eight hundred plus miles between the Pacific Northwest and San Francisco Bay, the ones around Cape Mendocino in Northern California are likely to cause the most trouble. The heat of the valley makes the winds blow strong and summer gales occur more frequently than not in that area. Our preliminary forecast Wednesday night called for light winds by the time we got to Mendocino. But, we’d have to pay for it in the meantime with big winds and big seas off the Washington coast. What we were going to see wasn’t gale force, though, just “bigger than you’d like”, as the weather forecaster put it. If we didn’t leave on Thursday, though, we’d need to wait until at least the following Tuesday, and by then there was no way to know what it would be like at Mendocino.

Of course by now you know what our decision was – Let’s go for it! With forecast in hand, 6 dinners in the freezer, fuel and water in the tanks, and everything stowed away we headed out into the North Pacific.

And for the second time the forecaster was right on. Unfortunately, the only variance was an underestimate of the winds and seas off the Washington coast! They started building on Friday as expected, and it blew 25-30 with sustained gusts of 35 knots all night and by morning there were mountains of ocean everywhere. Was I afraid? Of course I was at first. Than I realized I had nothing tangible to attach the fear to. The boat was solid, it’s systems were sound and we knew how to sail it. What we lacked was experience in big seas and the ocean, but it looked like our choices were little in that regard. The only twist was the horrible cold I was getting, and the strength it took from me.

There was significant comfort knowing the conditions weren’t going to last long, and they didn’t. Here’s a video Rob shot on Saturday after things had settled down considerably (there was no way we were thinking about the video cam in the huge stuff). We went nearly 100 miles off the coast and found little traffic. I saw a fishing boat on Sunday, but that was all until we got to San Francisco. We learned a ton about downwind sailing and used lots of different sail combinations, including our new spinnaker pole on our jib in the lighter winds, and a combination of our storm trysail and jib as the winds picked up again south of Mendicino.

passagemaking

Are we glad it’s over? Yes, but mostly because it’s just “been there” for so many years. Are we glad we went when we did? Absolutely. The experience was awesome and the passage overall was marvelous. There’s nothing good to be said about the 2:00 am to 4:00 am watch when it’s blowing 30 knots and the boat is screaming along in the dark, but it’s part of this lifestyle that we’re learning so much about and loving. We made quick time getting here in almost exactly 6 days, and only motored about 20 hours the entire trip (past Cape Mendicino and into San Francisco when the wind died on the morning of our arrival). The boat performed marvelously, and we experienced not a single piece of equipment failure or breakage.

Now we’re tucked into a city marina and got some seriously good sleep last night. Toady we’ll clean 3,000 lbs. of salt off the boat and get ready to enjoy the city and San Francisco Bay. Brittney is going to come down next week for a few days for a little pre-college jaunt, so we’ll have fun exploring the city with our neice. We’ve got a few boat jobs to work on (as always) and then we’ll start coast hopping down towards San Diego to get ready for the Baja Haha and our first winter in Mexico!

Today on Yohelah we’re several pounds lighter, as that North Pacific passage monkey is finally off our backs…….

San Francisco Bay is here

Finally – Warm Weather

After a quick two night passage from San Francisco Bay we’re in Santa Barbara this morning. And we’ve finally found warm weather (Yippee)! The passage was boring, as we waited for a trough of low pressure to pass through and ended up with not enough wind to sail. Listening to the motor for two and a half days was painful, particularly since we burn well over a gallon an hour of fuel. But as usual, the rewards are worth it.

Sausalito was a nice stop. We were at the dock for two days getting some rigging work done on the boat and some folks from our cruising club in Seattle saw our boat and came to tell us about some mooring buoys in the bay. Richardson Bay in front of Sausalito is very shallow, unless you’re anchored well out at the opening of it, which is really windy and bouncy. But there are three mooring buoys deep in the bay but right off the channel with 12′ of water under them, and they’re free for the first three days and $5 a day after that. Definitely in our price range. We grabbed one as soon as our riggers left and stayed on it until we left San Francisco Bay.

brittney

Brittney came down and we had to figure out how to get to the airport and pick her up. We ended up taking a ferry to San Francisco and BART (their rapid transit) to the airport. She stayed three days and we had lots of fun hanging out with her.

On Friday we went into the city and did the tourist thing. We found a dim sum spot that even the teenager thought was fabulous(when it’s packed and there are only six non-Asian people in the building you know it’s good). Saturday we took the bus and BART again and got her back to the airport.

Then we pretty much hung out for another week. One day Rob rented a car to go to a chandlery in Alameda to get another jib track (still unfinished work from the refit) and we did some Costco and shopping things. After that we were waiting for a good weather window to head south again. Our buoy was in front of the Sausalito Cruising Club, run by really nice folks who welcome cruisers on their way south.

Now we’re finally in the land of palm trees and warm sunny beaches! We’ll do some boat chores here and probably stay 4 or 5 days. Then we’re heading down to Catalina Island to meet up with T2 (Teresa Lennstrom), who is coming down for a couple of days!

Today on Yohelah we’re warm and dry and enjoying the sunny weather we’ve finally found……

Santa Barbara is here

Southern California Stopover

We’ve tucked Yohelah into a marina in San Diego for a month. We’re going to go on a little road trip to see the Grand Canyon, the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque (and Lisa Stewart Gunderson and Debbie Cook), and my dad in Yuma. We’ll be back here in a week and then Rob will fly up to Seattle to see his parents. Then Leslie & Fred will come down here for a weekend and after that it’s time to get us and the boat ready for Mexico and the Haha.

t2

Southern California has been wonderful. In Santa Barbara we bicycled and did some boat jobs, ran into friends from Seattle, and met some other folks headed for Mexico. After Santa Barbara we spent two days motoring and sailing out to Catalina. T2 (Teresa Lennstrom) and Linda came down and hung out with us for a couple of days. The Santa Ana winds were building when we were in Avalon, though, so we ended up sailing over to Long Beach. Carol Hasse (our sailmaker in Port Townsend) had put us in contact with Cherie, the owner of a Baba40 named Karma in Long Beach, and she found us a slip in her marina to hang out in for a couple of days. T2 flew back to Seattle and we headed south, sailing alongside Karma on a spectacular day down to Newport Yacht Basin.

karma

We sat on a hook in Newport for 3 days and enjoyed the harbor, then did two day trips down to Oceanside and into San Diego. We stayed at the city dock for a couple of days until the marina had a slip, where we came today. Amazingly, about 40 minutes after we pulled in, a boat that was across the dock from us at Shilshole pulled into the slip next to us. Chris and Dani on Kinship are also Haha-ing south. Yesterday we spent the afternoon hanging out with some other folks from K-Dock at Shilshole, Leigh & Peter on Marcy.

Today on Yohelah we’re enjoying the Southern California fall weather and looking forward to our little road trip…..

San Diego is here

Grand Canyon Hike

A mile and a half with a 1500 foot dropThe forecast today was for an 80% chance of thunderstorms. The information center at the Grand Canyon advises you not to hike into the canyon to avoid being hit by lightning. And the ranger specifically told me the trail we had picked was the worst because it was on an exposed ridge with no trees. Rats again, since this was our only day here and the only chance to hike. So, of course, you know we did. Rob actually made the call to take the shuttle out to the trailhead and check it out. The bus was full of other hikers, so we liked our odds a little better. And the trip down a mile and a half and 1500 feet was marvelous. The storms were rolling across the canyon, but staying on the west and northern sides.

When we got to our turnaround point we looked back up the trail and realized the entire south rim of the canyon had disappeared underneath the oncoming thunderheads. We put on our rain coats and headed back up. When the raindrops got to be pea sized, we found an overhang to hide underneath for a while. The lightening rolled right over the top of us, and I realized I was greatful it was Rob’s decision to take the hike and it wasn’t my crazy idea this time!

San Diego Stop

The final to-do list is ready, and as always it’s long. But we’re scheduled to leave San Diego next Monday at 11:00 am with 181 other boats as the Haha fleet heads to Mexico. Hopefully hurricane Paul will weaken, pass by Cabo and not cause any damage. And certainly we hope Paul is the last of the storms in the Pacific this season.

We’ve had a busy busy time walbuquerquehile in San Diego. Rob went to Seattle to see his folks and do some last minute shopping. Leslie and Fred visited for 3 days so we got to sail in the Bay and see the San Diego Zoo. The road trip was fun, and the pix from the Balloon Fiesta are marvelous. And it was nice to hang out with my dad a bit in Yuma, too.

Today on Yohelah we’re checking off the last items on the list as we get ready to leave the country and head for Mexico…….

Ha-Ha-ing It South

hahafleetI’ve waited nearly nine years to hop off my boat into warm water, and on our second stop in Mexico when the temp gauge said the water was 80 degrees it was definitely time to do just that. And it was very very good.

We were in Bahia Santa Maria, about 3/4 of the way down the outside of the Baja peninsula, along with 162 other boats headed to Mexico for the winter. The Baja-Haha was living up to its reputation of providing lots of new folks to meet and good beach parties. We had our friends Lee & Kathleen from our cruising club in Seattle onboard as crew for the Haha. It was nearly a two week trip with 6 overnight passages and two stops between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas.

hahasailing

Unfortunately we’re into the light air passages Mexico is famous for now, so we didn’t sail the whole course. As we got further and further south from San Diego, enough good wind to push our 34,000 pound boat was impossible to find consistently. But we definitely had fun trying. And I can totally admit that Lee & Kathleen could generate food out of my galley that tasted better than anything I could ever conjure up. The day they caught a mahi-mahi and served it lightly pan fried on a bed of coleslaw I thought I was eating in the best restaurant on the planet. Hopefully I learned a thing or two while they were here. I do know that getting a massage (Kathleen is a professional massage therapist) on the midnight watch was a treat I’ll remember for a long long time.

muertos

Now the Haha is over and we’re working our way north to La Paz for Thanksgiving. We were going to go over to Mazatlan, but hurricane Sergio is hanging out down near Zihuat, close enough to Mazatlan to just make us nervous. It seemed more prudent to head in the opposite direction, rather than towards it. And we’ve got a few boats with friends from Seattle that left last year that are further north that we’re anxious to catch up with. After Thanksgiving we’ll cross over to the mainland and work our way south, getting to Zihuatanejo by Christmas for Leslie & Fred’s vacation.

Today on Yohelah we’re relaxing in the shade of the cockpit after another nice swim this morning……..

Ensenada los Muertos is here