Leg 1 - Vancouver BC, Canada to San Francisco CA, USA
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General Comments on the Leg

The leg started just before the end of Sept 06 and finished at the end of Nov 06. I think of this part of our trip as our apprenticeship but it was a rough one.

Although we had worked on our boat all summer, our house sale did not close until the 1st of Oct so we were definitely late leaving the north. However there was an indian summer through out Sept and Oct which did provide some beautiful weather at points in the leg. By the time we got to San Francisco the boat had been significantly changed in many ways, the crew had seen some serious weather and been challenged in ways none of us had anticipated.

There were many good and bad moments in this leg but it was our first experience with 'meeting the locals' as we call it. At virtually every port we stopped in we were treated extremely well. The openness and friendliness of the Americans is what caught us off guard. Along the coast of Washington, Oregon and Northern California the people were plain spoken and kind to a fault. I will never forget things like stopping to ask directions to an internet place and being told that there were no businesses locally set up that way. As soon as this woman say the look on our faces she immediately took us into her house and allowed us to hook to the internet from there. Numerous times these types of kindnesses occurred.

29 Nov 06

Sausalito, CA

We say the sights and took lots of pictures but for me it was not as much fun as I had hoped. San Francisco is a beautiful city and we were tied up at South Beach Marina which is a huge facility in front of the AT&T Stadium (San Francisco Giants and Barry Bonds). The Marina held over 700 boats and was just past the Oakland Bridge. It became readily apparent that only money matters here and after a few days we pushed off the very expensive dock and left to find a cheaper alternative.

Like any big city the locals weren't rude, they just didn't care. Both Laurie and I immediately missed the interchange between people which we had enjoyed so much along the coast. The kids were excited to see the sites and we now realized they had never really seen a big city before but they even grew tired of the hustle and bustle faster than I thought they would. Billy did discover that young men wearing tight muscle shirts in this city got quite a bit of attention from the same sex, which broke us up and got him changed into not quite so revealing of clothes at a lightning pace.

KC and Mandy on Boreas had relatives in the delta and they moved to Valejo to visit and hopefully find their elusive third member of the crew. Were hoping that we catch up to them at some point on the way down. Most marina's in the massive bay are set up for the small powerboat or sailboat and after checking we can not find moorage easily for our boat accept way up in the delta which puts us a long ways from the sea. We decided to start living on the hook as that will be the norm shortly. After wandering around a bit we ended up in Sausalito were Mooring Buoys are very cheap. Not unexpectedly we discovered problems with our house batteries and charging system. We had some problems on the way down and I knew we would have to deal with it at some point. In short we searched around locally and found a little local battery place where I got 4 new house batteries for 2/3 the cost of the big boys up the street. This with the new alternator we got in Crescent City and special regulators for both the alternator and solar panels will allows us to turn the lights on again.

Sausalito is a weird little place. It like San Francisco is the only place where the common vehicle on the street is a BMW or Porsche, but unlike San Francisco it is much slower paced. There are two sides to this place. On the one hand the most fashionable shops, boutiques, yoga places and dog specialty stores inhabit the main area of town. Million dollar yachts fill the marina's that run from one end of the bay to the other. But in the out of the way places little run down manufacturing and service shops are busy doing the actual work. In the harbour there is a small floating home community which would put anything on Salts Spring Island to shame for eccentric looks and behavior. The non-beautiful people as I call them are friendly and helpful and will take time to tell you their story if you ask. Out in the bay there are dozens of project boats that look like they would fit into the movie Water World quite comfortably. But all in all even here the cost to hang around it too high. Molly Stones, the local grocery store is as trendy as they get and a small box of cereal costs $5.00. My boys can polish that whole box off at one sitting. Mind you the nightly rummy games have been most competitive and fun with temporary strategic alliances struck and dissolved as required to overcome the current lucky one.

Plus it is time to move on as the weather here has become winter all of a sudden. A very cold North wind is blowing and it could freeze at night in the valley. We're off to Monterey for a day or two then all the way down to San Diego after that. It is time to make the run to Cabo. We have made many changes to the boat and feel comfortable taking the longer runs now. The weather reports for below us even had Laurie nodding her head with approval. It is time to put away these coats and put on some shorts. TTYL

Hard Rock Cafe, Pier 39

20 Nov 06

San Francisco, CA

Well we made it but of course the trip was far from uneventful. We set off from Eureka at first light to cross the Humboldt bar at the top of the flood tide and as we got in front of the Coast Guard station they called us directly to inquire as to what our intention were. Once we told them we were outbound they gave us the bar report which was particularly bad at that point. 12 ft rolling waves across the bar with 6 to 8 ft waves in the channel before the bar. We thanked them and waited for Boreas to catch up to see what the next step was. Frankly the only next step available was to drop the hook off the channel just north of the Coast Guard station and wait. It was frustrating to say the least as the weather was perfect for a run down the coast and we knew that it would only hold for a couple of days.

The picture at left is us, Boreas and Aquila at anchor around 9 am. The picture on the right is us in the same spot at sundown still waiting for the bar to improve.

 

At sundown the report was still the same but we knew that a day without wind and two tide changes should have moderated the bar so just before dark Boreas took a look around the corner and told us that it was down well below the report. We picked up the hook and took off like a train. Although there were some very big swells across the bar, none were breaking and the ride out was quite easy. Just follow the channel markers and Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt as they say in the movies (sorry for the blatant rip off of the Pirate's of the Caribbean).

The night run around Cape Mendocino was very rough and it was not until we got past it and on the SE tack to San Francisco did it start to smooth out. Until that point the boat was really pounding through it as there was a cross swell with some coming out of the NW, then West and just for good measure some from the SW. It felt very good to look back at the Cape at first light and realize that we had finally made it past the worst stretch of coast on the West Coast of the US. As if to prove that correct the seas moderated all day and the night run was an easy NW swell of 8 to 10 ft with a light NW wind. The stars were unbelievable and motor sailing we averaged 6 kts all night. The watches were not that cold and porpoises came to play around the boat periodically all night. Phosphorescence outlined them clearly as they shot through the sea in and around the hulls for long minutes, seemingly to appear and disappear as if by magic.

Pt ReyesWW2 bunkersFirst light on the second day put us off Point Reyes which is the last major point before San Francisco.

Once below that we threaded our way through Bonita Channel. I suddenly noticed on the hillside what we think is some WW2 gun emplacements.

 

An nice east wind had picked up and under sail turned the corner to suddenly see the Golden Gate bridge ahead. We tried to sail under the bridge as all good sailors want to do but the winds were fickle and keep dying at the wrong times.

Close to the end of the ebb tide we grew tired of the constant tacks and decided to push on through. Also off in the distance I could see serious tanker and freighter traffic coming.

The picture at right is as close as we got under our own power. At this moment I revved the engine up to counter the ebb flow and a heard a very strange sound under the boat. We instantly lost forward momentum and a quick check in the engine room confirmed my worst fears. The engine was running fine and the transmission u-joint was spinning. I feared we had lost the prop. Perfect timing as we were drifting into the traffic lanes. The wind had died and a fuel barge was inbound almost on top of us and blowing its' horn. Behind it were 4 large freighters approaching at speed. Boreas came to the rescue and throw us a line. At one point the barge passed us on one side blowing its' horn and the freighter passed us on the other. Quite an exciting time it was to say the least.

KC and Mandy took it all in stride and towed us out of the traffic lanes. We got the dinghy over the side and check under the boat. The prop was there so we checked the shaft and found it was loose in the u-joint housing. Not fixable there but once at a dock it would be. The following pictures are us under tow as we made our entrance into this magnificent harbour. Not the way we had hoped to get here but were here. After decompressing for a day and getting the boat mobile we will see the sights as they say. Leg one is officially over.

15 Nov 06

Eureka, California

The last few days here have been up and down weather wise. So far two big storms have slammed through here; both building all day and then roaring into us just after dark. The first included a thunderstorm that followed a strong SW low pressure area. One minute it was blowing SW 30 knots; we are protected a bit from that direction, the next it instantly changed to NW and was coming across the bay in the picture to the right, slamming us into the dock. At one point it was blowing well over 50 kts. Were on the outside of the dock with Boreas so things got very dicey. Everyone scramble to get more fenders out and double up the lines. By midnight it was calm. The next day it dawned sunny with light NW wind. This pattern has already repeated once and will again tonight.

The next NW period is going to be a bit longer so were going to move on to San Francisco. Eureka is a cool town and the old part had been rebuild into Gas Town like shops but overall the area is quite a bit bigger than Gas Town. It is about two blocks from us but the area in between is quite run down and full of problem people as they say around here, not safe at night.

We want to thank Kathleen and Tracy on Magic who are here for all there help getting around the area and of course their friendship. Below is some pictures of the dock area and the downtown. See you in San Fran.

My new ride!

14 Nov 06

Eureka, California

KC passed along some pictures of the trip to Eureka. This is Pacific Cloud on a reach with not enough headsails up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is Pacific Cloud when a swell gets inbetween us.

 

 

 

 

Sunset after crossing the bar and turning up the Channel towards Eureka.

 

 

 

KC and Vienne aboard Boreas.

 

 

 

12 Nov 06

Eureka, California

Were about 65 miles south of Crescent City as there was only a one day weather window. We left CC at 4 am to get the right tide into Humboldt Bay and across the bar. This bar has a particularly nasty reputation so timing is everything. Were trying to get closer to Cape Mendocino and shorten the overall next jump to San Franscisco.

On the recommendation of others we all took a new sea-sickness pill as the sea was suppose to be quite rough. Unfortunately it turned out to be a big mistake. We all got very violently sea-sick and had a miserable morning. Only Iron-guts Laurie was sick once. The rest of us were sick multiple times and I was sick so many times I quite counting. Billy stayed in his bunk all day until we were past the bar. Tommy spent the morning sitting beside the rail to shorten the distance. The irony was that the weather was quite lovely and seas were big but the period was long so the boat went up and down with a easy motion.

By mid morning I was able to eat again and the wind had come around from a light SW to 10 to 15 kts W. The sun was shining and I finally put up some sails. We passed within 3 miles of Trinidad Head, a spectacular rocky headland with surf crashing upon it. The sail down to the bar was beautiful and we made a good 5 to 6 kts. This photo is of KC and Mandy on Boreas who traveled with us on their Pearson 36.

Due to a head current we arrived a bit late to the bar and crossed it 2 hours after the start of the ebb. It was rough but we had little trouble due to our very high transum. Laurie could not look back because of the big surf coming up behind. It is quite exhilarating to surf down these big curlers between two rock jetties being pounded by the same waves. However the bar is wide and over 40 ft deep at its' shallowest at that time so Pacific Cloud had no difficulty. Tommy thought is was really cool. However the Admiral was not amused. On the way up the bay channel she spotted a Pulp Mill and a big mall at which point she stated that I could work in the mill and she would work in the mall so there was no need to go back out across the bar. I'm still trying to determine if she was joking.

There was a nasty ebb current slowing us down and we could not make the public dock until night fall. KC made it in first due to his Chart Plotter and he guided us in via VHF. It was a stressful approach due to the very limited lighting on the channel and the surrounding confusing city lights. Were now exploring purchasing a Chart Plotter.

Overall were glad we moved as Crescent City was really a dump compared to this dock. Eureka Public Dock is in excellent shape and very clean. The staff are friendly, professional and always on top of things. There is plenty of very hot water for showers and the toilets work; our biggest complaint with CC. The Old Town of Eureka is an amazing place with tons of beautiful old shops. It looks like we're here until the end of this week as storm after storm is approaching CA. Cheers to all.

6 Nov 06

Crescent City, California

Yup it is Winter out there now. Heavy rains for the last three days and lots of wind. There is a short weather window arriving in the middle of the week for a couple of days which will allow us to get below Cape Mendecino and most of the really heavy weather. Were set to leave for San Francisco on Wednesday morning but weather will dictate.

In December here in Crescent City the crab fishery opens and already the hugh parking lot is filling with crab pots. Thousands will be stored here until season opening. Apparently this is the richest port for landings of crab in the lower US. I could not imagine fishing off here at that time of the year given the weather we have seen in the last few days.

 

Here is the Crescent City Lighthouse just outside the breakwater on a rainy day. We should have taken a picture during all the sunny days but were too busy working and playing. The locals tell me the spray from the waves can break over the entire island during the winter storms. Not a sight I want to see.

 

 

Laurie and Tommy walking the beach between rain storms.

 

 

Many projects were completed in Crescent City but the most important was the new stern bimini system and of course the new Admiral's chair. I might be the Master and Commander but the Admiral had better have a comfy chair to sit in.

 

 

2 Nov 06
Email Issues: Were having difficulty sending emails back to Canada from our Internet location. Certain addresses are being blocked. Were not sure why but it seems all out of USA addresses have problems. It could be for security reasons but were not sure. We are receiving your emails and were hoping that your getting our reply's. If you don't hear from us please let us know so we can resend.

Thank you, Laurie and Bill

Crescent City, California

We missed the weather window and now the big SW winds and rain have arrived. We needed to get the bimini and other projects done and that meant we kept pushing off moving down south, oops. It is now blowing 30kts SW with Gale force SW winds predicted for the next 4 days. Oh well time for the kids to get more school work done and to catch up on the interior work if we can fit it in.

The other cruising boats here have been great, providing excellent advice and help through out the stay and good times all around. Kathleen and Tracy on Magic have now moved on but we thank them for all the help and great dessert parties. KC and Mandy on Boreas are still here and I receive excellent daily ideas on how to improve the boat. So many it will take a year to implement them all but what a boat it will be. KC is having fun with the boys and Halo 2 and takes his whooping very well (he is getting better very quickly - Billy beware).

Were looking forward to moving on as winter is now here. Cheers

 

24 Oct 06

Crescent City, California

We found the beach finally and the boys have discovered surfing. The engine work is finally done and even some of the painting.

On Sunday we went to the beach (south beach) about 3 blocks away and the surf was up. The weather was warm and sunny, a perfect California day. Mind you it still required wet suits to get into the water. Billy and Tommy loved it and now are begging for surfboards (yo grandma's take notes for Christmas). Of course there is a surf shop directly across the road from the beach; how convenient!

The weather is starting to change here and longer periods of strong wind have now arrived. It blew a very powerful NW gale all day today, shaking and rattling the boat around the dock. Winds out on the water are averaging over 30 kts for today and tomorrow so it is time to finish what we can and get the heck out of dodge before the big stuff really gets here. Picture of our new stove with a real oven (wow)!

 

 

Laurie at the Beach.

 

 

 

Surfer Dudes!

 

 

 

 

Almost standing. By the end Billy was standing almost every run, although he was so tired by 4 pm that he could hardly carry the board back to the shop!

 

 

 

20 Oct 06

Crescent City, California

Days of working on the engine with little else getting done. We bought a month's moorage with power and water for $176.00; can't find that anywhere in the Gulf Islands. Met quite a few cruisers here waiting out the crowd in the south.

It is a weird little spanish engine we have made by Diter now owned by Deutz. I knew some serious time was needed to be spend on it but unfortunately that is all I have been doing except a little painting. All the cooling hoses needed to be changed as well as the zinc's. Easier said than done. The engine oil and filters were due along with some electrical wiring. I scarcely had my head out of the bilge except to walk to town to take a bus to the hardware stores or Englund Marine Supplies. Englund has been a blessing with stores along the coast and excellent staff and prices. We have ordered a new stove and it should be here next week. It was half the price of the one we were looking at in BC but the installation should be interesting.

Crescent City is spread out along a plateau North of the harbor and is a pleasant sleepy little town. People have been friendly and helpful (as they have been in all the US ports we have stopped at) but there is little in the way of manufacturing here and therefore not a strong economy. Some areas are well looked after but much is a little run down such as the harbor area. Some things are definitely a step above the BC docks though, free garbage disposal, free oil disposal, (all the US docks coming down had these features) but the showers here (one) are simple and unheated. Both Laurie and I are losing weight fast as the boating life means walking to everything. By 5 pm were beat and can barely make it to 8 or 9 pm before we have to go to bed. The kids are getting bored with the staying put thing and will start agitating to move on soon I suspect.

If the sun is out then there is usually a strong N wind blowing with a cold bite to it. Were not sure how long the sun will keep shining as they are overdue for rain, but while it is we will keep working and hopefully get a few of the projects struck off the list before the weather forces us to keep moving south.

Some Pictures of the Trip Down

 

 

Pacific Cloud at the transient dock in Westport, Washington

 

 

 

Westport in the morning mist. This was a pure fishing port with all of the colorful characters and boats. We fit in perfectly. Moorage was $9.00 per night which included water and electricity.

 

 

 

Newports (Yaguina Bay) finest greet us at the first buoy. There were dozens if not around a 100 of them on a breakwater in the harbor making a non-stop roar night and day. We were in a boat basin to the south about 1/2 mile away and they were a constant roar in the background.

 

 

Highway 101 (The coast Highway) crosses the entrance to the Newport harbor in quite a spectacular bridge.

 

 

 

On leaving Newport this is the entrance breakwater (North side) and the corresponding swells breaking on it (there is an exact copy of this to the south and we're in the middle of the channel). The conditions were considered light and we left just after the end of the ebb. In many public areas and restaurants along the coast they display pictures of the local bars in heavy weather with some poor fisherman coming across it. The pictures are quite unbelievable and send a chill down your spine.

 

 

Just after leaving Newport we spotted a couple of Sunfish as the wind was calm. Later we saw two Gray Whales a ways away but of course all of this was before the wind!

 

14 Oct 06

Crescent City, California

The general comment from the crew on this 180 mile leg was "it sucked!"

Yup Cape Blanco lived up to its' reputation. A nasty weather area. It was beautiful when we left Newport but by the evening the NW was up and the murk here to stay. By the morning there was a nasty swell and wind waves were 3 to 4 feet. By noon it was blowing 25 kts and a big swell was building. This picture was taken about 3 pm. Around 5pm it was howling through the rigging and there were truly scary swells coming up behind the boat. Billy and I spelled each other off watch and at one point when we were both in the cockpit, we had to bend down to look under the roof edge to see the top of the swell coming up behind us. They were averaging 15 ft with some really big ones every few minutes. We surfed occasionally to 11kts with no sails up and the engine just turning the prop over. I knew that if we set even the storm jib we would fly past Crescent City in the dark and there is really nothing between it and San Fransico, plus the wind was due to a low coming up the coast and SW winds of 25 kts were due the next day. We had to get into Crescent City.

We're learning that when the weather service says it will blow 20 kts with gusts to 25, they really mean it will get nasty. I knew the NW wind would go down after midnight and it did. That made for a lumpy ride into Crescent City next morning. The boat greatly impressed us. At no time did we feel like we were in any danger. No water came aboard except some light spray every once in a while. When a big wave knocked the boat sideways, the autopilot recovered us almost by the next wave. It was so bad around us that a little puddle duck spent almost an hour repeatedly trying to crash land on our deck; finally succeeding just before dark. It promptly crawled to the front windscreen and went to sleep and stayed there to well past first light next morning. Laurie and Tommy named her Dora on the late watch.

The next day we talked to two mono's in Crescent City who did the passage with us. One was 8 hrs ahead in a 37ft boat and he basically thought he was a dead man. He stayed in the nav station below decks and waited for the boat to broach or swamp. The second was a large mono who were on their second circumnavigation and he said it was gusting to 42kts. He had only seen waves that big in the mid Atlantic and no where else. My confidence in Pacific Cloud has gone up yet again. The hydraulic steering is wonderfully stable, even the power pig Navico autopilot is now greatly appreciated.

Once here some other cruisers let us know that there is no moorage or dock space left below us at a reasonable rate. The south of California is stuffed full of boats waiting to go to Mexico and Oct 31 is the go date. Even San Francisco is full and rates are high to tie up. They're staying here where rates are very inexpensive and waiting until the herd clears out. A sound idea and were going to talk to the marina tomorrow about an extended stay. The marina is a bit run down but it will give us time to get more projects done and we have lots of ideas to improve things now that we got to see how everything works in all types of weather.

We have to walk into town to get internet but were in California, cool!

10 Oct 06

Yaquina Bay (Newport), Oregon.

Well the best laid plans of mice and men.
This leg went wrong from the word go. The fuel dock in Westport was closed when we went to leave, even though we had called the day before to confirm it was open. This meant that the three men had to lug jerry cans about 1/2 mile from a local gas station. We then left on a strong flood tide which meant that is was a long slow run to the downwind leg. Although there was little wind the surf was up and it was very bumpy.

About 8 miles out I happened to here the bilge pump running in the port alma and investigated. In a number of frame locations there was water in the bilge; alarm bells all around. We opened everything up and bailed it out. An hour later it was back, not enough to flood the hull but worrying never the less. The decision was to proceed and keep an eye or two on the problem.

Still the predicted NW wind did not show. Were we going to run on the engine all the way to Crescent City and could we even make it that far with our fuel. By first light the wind had completely died and it looked like another sunny day. Not to be. The forecast still said NW wind but something was not right and sure enough around 8 am a south wind started to blow.

After it arrived the forecast changed to say S winds for the morning followed by NW or NE winds. By noon it was thumping into us at 15 knots. Visibility was 200 yd's and falling. I tried to tack into it a bit but my boat likes a 60 degree tack off the wind so yes were going fast but distance traveled south was not much, plus we were beating the boat up. We finally gave up and put the engine in gear and pointed her into the wind and left her there for the rest of the afternoon. Sometime later I heard an awful noise from the engine room and shut everything down. Very conveniently the propeller shaft u joint and transmission had separated. I fished the bolts out of the bilge, put her together and away we went again.

Around dark the wind let up (but not the waves) and we pushed into the gloom. Crescent City was out of the question and the leaks although not worse made me think the next available dock would do nicely, so Yaquina Bay it was. All night the fog or murk as I called it was very thick and the radar was our friend. At the end of Laurie and Tommy's watch, 3 am, it suddenly cleared away and there were the stars again.

At first light it was a perfect morning. the NW swell was behind us and just a gentle one at that. A light east wind and the sunrise over Newport was spectacular. Getting in over the bar was no problem and the transient dock was empty. We have been here for a couple of days. The leaks turned out to be from where the boat had been bashed into the docks (above waterline) in past, bow and stern, and the gel coat was crushed. Due to the size of the seas we were in it drove the water through the plywood and out through any available spot and then down into the alma. Both were easily repaired and the hull is completely dry now.

So were refreshed and ready to go again. The weather looks ok (we will see) and maybe this leg we can get some distance. By for now.

6 Oct 06

Were in Grey's Harbor, (Westport actually), Washington. About 100 nm below Cape Flattery (the baaaaad cape). The trip down was exactly what I expected.Big seas and lots of wind. We went around the cape at 3am as there was only a narrow weather window. It was rough but not much wind.

The run down to Grey's Harbor was big swells and a NE wind backing to NW of around 15 to 25 knots. Unfortunately we had to go slow or we would have gone right past the harbor and a cold front was moving up the coast from Oregon. After a difficult first night for everyone, not unexpectedly, we all settled down into our watch's and the skipper even got 6 hours of sleep the second night. Crew rotation was sorted out and went smoothly every two hours. Any longer and you would freeze to death. We stayed 15 miles off the coast which worked well as the commercial tugs and fishing vessels were inside of us and the big freighters were outside of us. The US Navy played hide and seek with us all the second night, appearing just over the horizon and then disappearing. At one point Billy said a big frigate appeared just off of us then sped away at an incredible rate. Sunrises and sunsets were beautiful and we had forgotten how many stars there are.

The tides have to be just right for a boat like are's to get in across the bar so we timed it for Thursday morning during the flood tide, but of course the fog set in just as we reached the first channel buoy. It was a tense go, especially when Laurie calls out that a big fishing vessel was dead ahead at a 100 yd's. Everybody swerved and a terse message was sent to the radar watch, Billy, to watch harder.

Everything ended well except for my unusually poor docking procedure (I think my heart was still somewhere out in the fog).

Much rest and relaxation later were gearing up to do it again. Were leaving for a three day run from here to hopefully Crescent City, California, weather permitting.

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