San Fran and her Golden Gate!
Mayaluga and her crew arrived in San Francisco on Monday, August 29 after an almost 7 day trip down the coast from Victoria, BC. After many days of being “missing in action”, our buddy boat Nightide and her crew Ian and Helen, were waiting for us just west of the bridge. What a lovely surprise! (We found out later that Helen was tracking us by texting her family via Satphone in New Zealand, who were in turn following the online tracker and texting her back our position. Go figure!) The two voyageurs passed under the Golden Gate bridge together – such a fitting end to the first leg of our adventure – at 1030 hours under sunny skies and light winds. A celebration was had by Mayaluga’s crew as we toasted with bubbly given to us by our mentors, Connie and Peter from the Blue Water Cruising Association. The experience knocked one more thing off of Tony’s bucket list!!!
The sun was shining when we left Victoria harbour at about 1600 hours on August 22 and met up with our buddy boat Nightide off the waterfront. Our friends, Anna and Jim, were waiting at the end of Ogden Point to see us off. Standing on the bow, leaning over the staysail, I waved with tears running down my face feeling so sad to leave this place I had called home for over 30 years and the people that we loved – so many good friends, my daughter Kristen and grandson Silas. We had worked so long and hard to make this adventure come true yet the sadness was so overwhelming that I couldn’t be with Tony to share what should have been a totally exciting and happy time – the beginning of our Adventia before Demenia. I made an attempt at some photographs, turned and looked to the west. Nightide and Mayaluga motored out to Race Rocks Passage, arriving early and powering through against 2-3 knots. Like it or not, we were on our way.
I pulled myself together. We were greeted with a nice breeze on the far side of the passage, so we hoisted our sails and headed for the US side. By midnight, the wind disappeared leaving us little option but to power up the “iron jenny”. The two boats motored side by side through the night on the quiet sea out Juan de Fuca Strait on the southern side of the shipping lanes, heading for the Pacific Ocean.
Turning southwest at Cape Flattery during the early morning of August 23, the winds remained calm with a 3 foot Pacific swell. Finally at about 1400 hours, the winds began to pick up, so we hoisted the sails and cut the engine. By 1800 hours, we reefed the main and were making 4.5 knots. The wind continued to build to 17 knots and the swell increased to 6 ft making the ride uncomfortable due to the beam roll. Besides the rolling, the sailing conditions were idyllic. Sunny skies, good wind and a consistent broad reach.
The winds held and we continued to sail throughout the following day under a few different sail configurations – wing on wing with the Genoa and main followed by a double reefed main and only 60% of the Genoa flying. Steady broad reach throughout the night, NW winds holding at about 15 knots. We all settled into life on Mayaluga albeit with a few bruises along the way. Nightide stayed within radio range on and off. They were faster than us and waited at hove to for us on a couple of occasions. By Thursday, we lost most communications with them.
Everything changed later on Thursday, August 25. Winds built to 30 knots from the NW, seas became very confused by Friday with swells reaching 20 feet, often hitting Mayaluga broadside from 2 different directions. Keith manned the wheel as Ben and Tony went forward to reef. Having to turn Mayaluga into the wind was a chore in and of itself and keeping her there was not easy. The “boys” were all stars! Kudos to Ben given that he is fairly new to sailing. He handled things better than I did. We reduced our sails all the way down to flying the reefed staysail only. The ride was noisy as stores bashed around inside cupboards, and completely uncomfortable. Sleeping was virtually impossible and we wondered how many broken things we would find once things settled down. I didn’t cope with this very well. It scared me and even the simplest tasks became almost impossible. Our gimballed stove even lost its ability to cope, flinging the kettle across the boat. Luckily it was cold with little water. At times I wondered what the hell I was doing. This wasn’t what I signed up for. Maybe the hardest thing for me was not knowing if conditions would worsen and when they might settle down – our SSB was totally useless and we couldn’t retrieve a current weather forecast. We changed course to more easting so we could at least maybe get into VHF range.
Thankfully things settled down by late Friday but so much so that we were forced to turn the engine back on….and on it stayed until we reached San Francisco. It turned out our crew had some unanticipated schedules to maintain, so we didn’t really have the option to drift and wait it out. Our sunny skies disappeared, the fog visited a few times and the skies remained cloud covered. Our brand new Tiller Mate worked brilliantly for a short while and then packed it in. We hand steered for almost 3 days which required that we change our watch schedule (6-6-4-4-4) to 2 on, 6 off.
During our passage, mostly along 126 longitude, we were joined by Humpback and Gray whales, very spirited Whitesided dolphin, albatross, sea turtles and some shark (at least we thought they might be shark). Our AIS and radar were invaluable, especially during the night and when we were crossing shipping lanes. After thousands of dollars and countless hours spent, the SSB radio and Pactor Modem were complete disappointments. We managed to listen to some weather information and receive a totally fuzzy weather fax through the Sailmail system but unable to send or receive any emails. This was particularly bothersome because we were unable to receive any current weather forecasts which was the main reason for installing the system. We were so lucky during the almost gale conditions of Thursday and Friday that Keith’s tracker was able to provide some weather information and emails so that crew could communicate with family in Canada. This all needs to be fixed before we leave San Francisco!
Setting aside Thursday and Friday, I enjoyed my time out on the Pacific. It was a good first leg of our journey for me. I learned a lot during this past week, not least of which was about myself. As usual, Tony was a great skipper and husband, always looking out for me even when the demands on him were extreme. Our good friend Keith, capable as always, someone you can count on at sea, fell into the roll of first mate and carried out his duties brilliantly – a smile on his face and a song in his heart. Our new friend Ben, stretched himself to take on unfamiliar tasks during very onerous conditions even though he struggled with sea sickness. He held it together, kept smiling and threw in the odd joke and funny story. I’d sail with him again in a heart beat!
We took some dock space in Sausalito at Clipper Marina for a night. Caught up on basic things like laundry, sorting out the boat and, most importantly, some luxurious shower!! Today we anchored a short distance out where we may stay for the next week or more before we take Mayaluga closer to the city of San Francisco. We look forward to Nightide joining us at anchor tomorrow with plans for some pot luck appies here on Mayaluga! Let the good times roll………..or maybe roll isn’t such a good thing!