Pacific Shakedown – Tony’s perspective!
A week away has the potential to change one’s life. A week away on the ocean does exactly that. It changed my view of Karin’s capabilities and her endurance and fortitude. I am so proud of you Karin…. well done!!
1600hrs Sunday Aug 23: We left our home-port of Victoria and put 80 liters of diesel into the tanks just in case we may need it. We had a brisk sail to Albert Head in 15 knots of wind and anchored in a nicely protected corner on a 4:1 chain rode. We both slept well, full of anticipation for the exciting week ahead!
0500hrs Monday Aug 24: Woke to a lovely morning and a Marine Forecast which warned: “Juan de Fuca Strait – gale force 25 to 35 knots from the west”. Hmmmm ….. well it IS a shakedown cruise, so lets just do it! After coffee of course! We motor-sailed through race Passage with one reef in the main, shut down the diesel and shook the last reef out in a wind from the west of about 10-12 knots. By 1230hrs we were abeam of Sherringham Lighthouse moving briskly and pleasantly. Made radio contact with ADAFERA, a fully laden bulk carrier about 2 miles away, and requested a radar signal profile. We have no supplementary radar reflector, so it was gratifying to hear that we had a “strong blip and good profile”. Very little wind in the afternoon, so we fired up the “iron sail” and chugged along for a while charging the batteries. So much for the weather forecast …. and, as it turned out a few days later in this story, has totally shattered my faith in Environment Canada Marine forecasts.
2030hrs Mon Aug 24: A slight change of “plan” after an exhilarating day’s sail. We decided to anchor for the night in Thrasher Cove, Port Renfrew. Being somewhat exposed to the open Pacific, it was a rolly spot, but afforded a good night’s rest before venturing out into the ocean tomorrow.
Tue Aug 25: Headed out into the open Pacific Ocean and within a few miles had a very close and unexpected encounter with a Humpback whale about 20 feet off our port beam. The loud exhale caught our attention and he/she swam with us for a while before heading off. What an amazing experience! The rest of the day was spectacular. Relatively calm seas and a 10-12 knot breeze out of the west which propelled us at about 5 knots.
The sun shone warmly, so in anticipation of long night watches, we both rested. “Monty” (our Monitor wind-steering system) was hard at work keeping us uncannily on course; Karin went on onto the fore-deck with a cushion to read; I crawled into the snug quarter-berth and dozed a while. The life of Riley at sea; 48’11.59N 125’50.30W. After sunset it got really dark and we tracked several ships on our radar making the turn into and out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After a while it became easier to determine their specific track and ensure we were not on a collision course.
0630hrs Wed Aug 26: We encountered thick fog-banks off Cape Beale and groped our way into Bamfield, tied up at Harbourside Lodge Marina by 0930hrs and enjoyed a lazy day … well other than the long hike on the boardwalk to the convienience store at the end of the peninsular where we treated ourselves to ice-cream in wafflecones. Yikes, that was good, and being diabetic was able to burn the requisite carbs off during the hike back.
Thur Aug 27: Late start, we cooked a full english-style breakfast, eggs, bacon, toast and fried bananas with fruit surround. Totally delicious! In the absence of wind, we motored towards the Broken Islands and found a little channel which was relatively protected from East or West winds. Nearby on the south side of Diana Island we examined a Humpback whale carcass through binoculars. A sunny and windless afternoon resulted in an afternoon hot enough to take our folding seats up onto the fore-deck and relax there for 3 hours. I think I snoozed a bit. We discussed strategy for the long sail back to Victoria in the light of a not-so-good looking marine-forecast with strong winds out of the East. We had to beat upwind coming out of the 80 mile strait, and now it looked like we would have to beat all the way back! Dinner was delicious Halibut on the BBQ which Karin “negotiated” from a fisherman in Bamfield.
Fri Aug 28: We put a reef into the main in anticipation of the strong wind-forecast, but nothing happened. We motor-sailed for most of the day back to the entrance to the Strait in windless conditions. Sails filled with wind in the afternoon and we beat upwind in variable conditions.
Sat Aug 29: At 0300hrs it started raining …. HARD. With it came some wind and suddenly things got wet and cold. So much for mid-summer in the Pacific Northwest! By 0600hrs we could make out Sherringham Point lighthouse through the binoculars and it started to turn ugly with squalls to 30 knots from the East. It was turning into a dark and stormy night – the start of a good story maybe? By 1100hrs we were off Sooke and without any warning at all, the wind shifted 180′ and blew from the West with a vengeance! We were under full white sail; main, staysail and 130% genoa. We had to round-up into 25 knots + in order to shorten sail. In so doing Mayaluga did come-about faithfully, but heeled about 30′ which was a first for us on this heavy vessel! very awe inspiring! I wrestled with the crocodiles on the fore-deck in the ever increasing wind. Three reefs in the main, genoa rolled up and we left the staysail up, un-reefed. At 1230hrs we whistled through Race Passage with the favourable tidal current pushing us ahead at breakneck speed. Ahhhhh, (I foolishly thought) once we are around the corner the wind (now well over 30knots will abate in the lee of Bentick Island and Metchosin. How wrong can a sailor be? Very wrong on this occasion! The wind simply increased in strength, eventually howling through the rigging. We made a bee-line for Ogden Point (Victoria Harbour entrance) and when we were still about 5 miles off, guess what? The wind just got more ferocious! I voiced to Karin my opinion, always conservative, that it must be blowing well over 45knots. We were the ONLY sailboat out there …. with good reason. The tops of the waves blew off horizontal with spume and Mayaluga became quite difficult to keep on track; it took some considerable physical strength to hold the wheel. We surfed into Victoria and rounded up opposite the Canadian Coast Guard Station, where Karin showed considerable skill in keeping up pointed into the full gale while I dropped and lashed sails. Whew! Off to the fuel dock under power to replave the 80 litres of diesel we must have burned. The attendant at Victoria Marine Fuels confirmed a radio report that winds off the harbour entrance had just been clocked at 59 knots! What a sleigh-ride! What an adventure! Karin you were a star, never showing any anxiety nor stress, although the adrenalin must have been flowing.
1530 hrs we tied up in our home-slip, thoroughly exhausted and spent. Good job Mayaluga (Hans Christian 38) in keeping us safe and sound through the gale.