- · Replace or clean/repair main and jib sails
- · Replace non-functioning autopilot
- · Replace functioning hot water heater due to rust concerns
- · Replace helm VHF radio due to static
- · Add solar panels to charge batteries to minimize engine use while sailing
- · Connect and test the holding and water tank gauges
We purchased Impulse in the summer of 2013. We set a goal of a significant coastal cruise in 2014 knowing that lots of improvements and sailing practice would be needed prior to shoving off. In 2013, we did a practice ‘Bar Crossing’ from the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean to test the boat and equipment. There is a previous blog entry that details that adventure. Chris, living in Portland, was able to sail Impulse with friends almost every weekend during 2013 and 2014 so he became an expert on boat docking, handling and navigating. Chris got to know the boat well and he personally did a lot of work on the above list. Chris made so many trips to the local chandlery (sail speak for a boat store) that he became a regular.
Doug was busy in Denver charting the course and that included researching marinas and making reservations in advance of our arrival. Cindy was planning provisions and menus and learning our new SSB communication system that allows email, weather information and voice conversations around the world. While underway, Cindy became the communications officer, checking weather and staying in touch with the fleet, friends and family. Chris mastered our waypoints on the chart plotter and kept us in the right direction while making course adjustments along the way. Our electronics are truly amazing.
Of course there is never enough planning, but we decided we were ready and could enter the Baja Ha Ha fleet in 2014 and that requires meeting certain experience and safety requirements. The ‘Ha Ha’ starts in San Diego, so we also joined up with the Coho Ho Ho fleet that organizes boats from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco. There were considerably less boats in the Ho Ho, but it was a good feeling to sail with and meet fellow cruisers along the way. Chris attended the Seattle Boat Show last winter to attend seminars on both group flotillas. We developed a trip itinerary that fit our work schedules and Chris’s vacation/sabbatical schedules.
Cabo San Lucas is not an inexpensive place to stay, so we decided on Puerto Vallarta as a final destination. PV, as Puerto Vallarta is called amongst travelers and sailors, is another 300 miles from Cabo, but worth the trip due to pleasant weather, more affordable slip fees, having lots of things to do there, and having direct flights to Portland and Denver at reasonable costs.
Getting Impulse from Portland to Puerto Vallarta is a 2,000 mile effort, so we split the trip up into four manageable legs. There was a month break in between two legs so we could get back to work and allow time to fix whatever broke on the boat along the way.
LEG 1 – COHO HO HO – PORTLAND TO SAN FRANCISCO
AUG 19 – ARRIVE PORTLAND
AUG 20 – PROVISION
AUG 21 – PORTLAND TO CATHLAMET (OVER NIGHT STOP)
AUG 22 – CATHLAMET TO ILWACO (OVER NIGHT STOP)
AUG 25 – ARRIVE IN NEWPORT (OVER NIGHT STOP – 2 NIGHTS)
AUG 27 – NEWPORT TO CRESENT CITY (FUEL STOP)
AUG 27-28 – CRESCENT CITY TO FT. BRAGG (FUEL STOP)
AUG 28-30 – FT. BRAGG TO SAN FRANCISCO (BRISBANE MARINA)
AUG 30-31 – HOTEL IN SAN FRANCISCO (BARB TO VISIT)
SEPT 1 – LEAVE SAN FRANCISCO
LEG 2 – SAN FRANCISCO TO SAN DIEGO
SEPT 25 – ARRIVE SAN FRANCISCO
SEPT 26-27 – PROVISION (BARB AND PAM TO VISIT)
SEPT 28 – SHOVE OFF DURING SLACK HIGH TIDE
SEPT 28-30 – SF TO MARINA DEL RAY, LOS ANGELES (OVER NIGHT STOP)
OCT 1 – LA TO CATALINA ISLAND (OVER NIGHT STOP)
OCT 3 – CATALINA ISLAND TO SAN DIEGO
OCT 5 – LEAVE SAN DIEGO
LEG 3 – BAJA HA HA – SAN DIEGO TO CABO
OCT 24 – ARRIVE SAN DIEGO
OCT 25 – 27 – PROVISION (JULIA AND JON TO VISIT) (CELEBRATE CHRIS’S BIRTHDAY)
OCT 26 – 11:00 – SKIPPER MTG – WEST MARINE
OCT 26 – 1:00 – HALLOWEEN COSTUME PARTY – WEST MARINE PARKING LOT
OCT 27 – 10AM – BAJA KICK-OFF PARADE, 11 AM START
OCT 27-30 – SAN DIEGO TO TURTLE BAY, MX (OVER NIGHT STOP – 3 NIGHTS)
NOV 1-3 – TURTLE BAY TO SANTA MARIA (OVER NIGHT STOP)
NOV 5-6 – SANTA MARIA TO CABO SAN LUCAS, MX
NOV 6-11 – CABO MARINA
LEG 4 – CABO TO PUERTO VALLARTA
NOV 11-13 – CABO TO PUERTO VALLARTA
NOV 13–20 – MARINA VALLARTA & WESTIN HOTEL
NOV 20 – LEAVE PUERTO VALLARTA
NOV & DEC – CHRIS STAYS IN PV WITH SIDE TRIPS TO COSTA RICA AND CHICAGO BEFORE RETURNING TO PORTLAND THE LAST WEEK OF DECEMBER
FEB 14 – LAST DAY OF SLIP CONTRACT IN MARINA VALLARTA
Sailing is a 24/7 operation when off of the dock, so we invited additional crew on each leg of the trip except for the Baja Ha Ha portion where the 3 of us went it alone for various reasons including having more room to move around for the 2 weeks of that leg and being confident in our ability to cover the night watches. Warm nights had a lot to do that that decision as well. Regarding night watches, we rotated 3 hour shifts to steer Impulse through the night. We started with 4 hour watches but quickly learned that 2 hours was enough along the cold Oregon coast. Then we settled on 3 hour watches in the warmer climates of southern California and Mexico. Three hours actually goes by pretty fast when you are listening to music or podcasts with headphones, watching stars and not having heavy winds or seas to fight. Steering is a full body workout with constant core, leg and arm movement. The reason sailboat steering wheels are so large is due to the leverage you need to counter the force of wind and waves with a 6 ton boat. We mostly motored through the night to allow crew members time to sleep without waking them for sail adjustments. You cannot let go of the wheel even for a moment, so any adjustments needed crew to assist.
LEG 1 – PORTLAND TO SAN FRANCISCO
Portland is located 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean on the very wide Columbia River. We have sailed the Columbia many times and got to know its currents, tides and low bridges. It takes two days to travel to the mouth of the river with overnight stops. Why did we stop for over-nighters? Because the Columbia River is hard to navigate at night – too many buoys and sand bars to avoid, so we played it safe. Our first stop in Cathlamet resulted in a damaged dinghy outboard motor due to insufficient cooling water circulating through the motor. This is another story better told by Chris or Cindy as they were in the dinghy ‘up a creek without a paddle’ – really. Funny story worth hearing or reading if they will tell it. The second stop was in the small fishing village of Ilwaco. Chris switched out the fuel gauge because it wasn’t reading correctly. Turns out it was the fuel tank sender unit that needed replacing, but we didn’t get to that until later. Empty was full, and full was empty, so no problem. We sailed the Pacific in August, the warmest and calmest month along the Oregon coast. We had a cold, foggy ride that can be seen in this photo taken by a passing cruiser:
Dave Cooley, an experienced sailor and friend from Denver, joined us to share in the 4 hour watch schedule. Turned out the 4 hour rotation was a bit much so it was reduced to a 2 hour schedule. That allowed more sleep and warmth and was a good compromise. Dave was invaluable as crew. He came up with new solutions to old problems too numerous to mention. He kept our spirits high (inside joke regarding the amount of alcohol on board).
Perhaps the biggest issue we had on this leg was insufficient fuel on board. Due to low winds we motored to keep our schedule, and due to high winds we motored to keep pace with large waves that sometimes towered 10 feet above the boat. Without the motor, the waves could have turned us sideways and that could result in overturning. We stopped for fuel twice in unscheduled ports – Crescent City and Fort Bragg. Both stops were successful and interesting. The interesting part of the Crescent City stop was watching whales in the bay and nearly missing the closing time for the fuel dock. The interesting part of the Fort Bragg stop was waiting 4 hours for high tide to enter the fuel dock that was located deep into the narrow river entrance.
The Fort Bragg harbor is old and decrepit, making for some interesting pictures.
Okay, there was a slightly bigger issue and that was a malfunctioning macerator. A macerator is a pump that ejects poop from the holding tank and it did not work, so we manually pumped the nearly overflowing toilet out of the port window. This is legal as long as we are 3 miles from land, and we were. Stinky job however. We used our unscheduled fuel stops to use the land facilities as much as possible until we reached our scheduled stops.
We made it to San Francisco in daylight, opting to keep the boat in the Brisbane Marina, a very nice modern facility located in SF Bay closest to the San Francisco airport. Sister Barb met us and offered to take our damaged outboard motor to the Suzuki shop in Sacramento which was much appreciated. We checked into a hotel to wash up and rest.
LEG 2 – SAN FRANCISCO TO SAN DIEGO
After a month break, we met up at the marina late September with a new macerator in hand. A mechanic was hired to install the unit and we discovered that not only was the impeller on the old macerator broken, but the O-ring on the pump out cap was missing causing a suction break, so that was installed. Back in business. (Side note: Cindy was promising to ‘jump ship’ if this item wasn’t fixed, so it was a very high priority item).
We met up with Barb and Pam for a day sail in SF Bay. Great sail and a great time. Barb brought us our clean laundry and a repaired dinghy outboard motor that was given her when we arrived a month earlier. After sailing 7 miles across the bay to Alameda, we missed the fuel dock closing time by 5 minutes, so we had drinks in the yacht club instead. We sailed back in gusty SF Bay winds and went out for a Mexican dinner. Barb and Pam drove back to Sacramento after dinner.
Cindy and I celebrated Cyn’s birthday (September 26th) in SF by walking Fisherman’s Wharf. Good food, great scenery and a nice way to spend the day.
Chris met us the next day and we prepped the boat for our next leg to San Diego. Chris’s college friend John joined us to help out with the watch schedule. The watch schedule was modified again to 3 hour shifts due to warmer nights. We left the dock at day break for the Sausalito fuel dock that we had trouble finding, but eventually, after a light grounding, found. A funny memory is the old timer at the dock making fun of our destination of Puerto Vallarta by mispronouncing it several different ways. I’ll try – Puta Valuta, Pota Valota, Vuta Poluto, etc. etc. Very funny. We repeated his humor several times on our way to PV.
Back under the Golden Gate for a brisk sail down the coast.
When sailing south along the coast, there are northerly and northwesterly winds consistently pushing us with a 1 to 2 knot current. Hence the name Baja Ha Ha. The return trip is called the Baja Bash, but that’s another story if we ever go north. We used our downwind sail called a Reacher that sometimes moved us along at 8 to 9 knots – pretty fast for a sailboat. To avoid potential sail and hardware damage, the sail sometimes was taken down in strong winds. Taking down the Reacher was always a challenge. It carries a lot of wind and it doesn’t cooperate when forced down. Cindy was the willing and enthusiastic ‘Sail Wrangler’, doing the dangerous work of being on the bow bagging the sail as we both wrestled the sail down. Imagine lots and lots of noise with a sail that whips you and tugs at your arms. John would handle the halyard at the mast and Chris would steer. If a line wrapped around your leg, the sail has the power to pull you overboard. It didn’t, but could have. We didn’t always wear our life jackets, but should have. We sometimes ‘clipped in’ with tethers to a life line so if we did go overboard, we were attached to the boat.
Memories on this leg included ‘Super Pods’ of dolphins that numbered in the hundreds. We sailed through several of these pods and they didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes they would chase our bow for several minutes, playing with our wake and looking at us while swimming just under the surface of the water. And whales were occasionally seen, but not as much as on Leg 1. Locals say it’s the water temperature that is keeping whales north of their migrating schedule. Water temperatures were up 10 degrees over normal.
We scheduled an overnight stop in Las Angeles in Marina Del Rea, a wonderful facility that allowed us a peaceful night at the guest dock. We had time to walk a bit so we set off for a three mile hike to Venice Beach where we got a taste of southern California. If you haven’t been there, just imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger in the muscle beach area surrounded by people of all types and styles on the beach and on the malacon proudly strutting their stuff on roller blades, Segway’s, bikes, as well as walkers and joggers. The outfits were sometimes so minimal that you had to look twice. We knew we were in southern California for sure.
The weather window was good to sail on to Catalina Island the next day, so after a refreshing shower, we set off for the ’26 miles across the sea’ island. We arrived in time for a nice dinner. Chris and John stayed out late and found the ‘cougars’ in the town could be aggressive, so they had funny stories to tell the next morning during coffee in the cockpit.
Catalina Island is a busy place so we were politely asked to check out by 11AM so others could use our mooring ball. Okay with us so we set off for San Diego. It’s a 24 hour passage so we had the option of slowing down and getting in the SD marina the next morning or staying on course and having a night arrival, something that is not advisable in a strange port. I called ahead and the marina assistant said the channel was well marked, so we decided to go in, arriving around midnight. All hands were on deck with flashlights to light up the crab pot and sea weed infested waters around the channel entrance. Chris expertly steered around the obstructions, keeping our keel, rudder and propeller free of debris. Once in the channel, no problems were encountered except for heavy fishing boat traffic. We arrived at our slip safely and went to sleep, only to wake up to neighbors who were concerned that we were lost by using so much flashlight power needed to find our dock.
With hotel prices high, we opted to stay on the boat a couple of nights and use the excellent marina shore facilities. We met up with Baja Ha Ha cruisers who were also staged at this marina. We could identify them by the flags we all flew high in the rigging.
LEG 3 – SAN DIEGO TO CABO SAN LUCAS
This was the start of the Baja Ha Ha, a group of 130 sailboats and over 400 sailors that signed up to ‘caravan’ to Cabo together, a distance of about 700 miles. Their reasons were about the same as ours; strength in numbers, reliable weather forecasting from different sources, communicating with fellow cruisers via SSB and VHF radios, the planned stops along the way for socializing, learning together about ocean cruising, and taking advantage of the best time of year to head south without fear of hurricanes and winter storms, though the hurricane factor didn’t pan out as expected. Hurricane Vance was looming south of Cabo so the voyage was held up a day, but the storm dissipated prior to our sailing in its proximity.
We arrived in San Diego a couple of days early to provision for the two weeks on the water. Julia and Jon met us for a couple days of partying, including a kick-off Halloween costume party where we took second place. If you look closely, Chris and I are holding smoking incense bundles that are mostly sage but smelled and looked like marijuana. It fooled most people and we think it contributed to our second place finish.
The scheduled parade of boats was impressive and was featured on local and national news broadcasts. The flotilla spread out by night fall but their lights were evident all night long, making our watches even more attentive. Not all boats have AIS, a type of radar that shows our boat and others on the chart plotter. Watching our boat move in real time on the chart plotter is comforting as we follow a line that was plotted to our next way point. But sailing by the stars is better so we don’t get too mesmerized by staring at the computer screen. Having headphones with music or podcasts passes the time and makes the 3 hour watches seem shorter than they actually are.
A highlight of this leg was a simultaneous sunset and near full moon rise. These photos don’t capture the moment as well as being there, but it was majestic. It’s rare to have a cloudless sky in both directions with sailboats in the foreground. Seems nearly impossible. These photos were taken minutes apart.
I saw 2 ‘green flashes’ during our voyage. The Green Flash is a split second of green as the sun sets in a cloudless ocean. It happens when the very last piece of sun is visible. The flashes were verified by other cruisers on the radio, but Cindy and Chris must have blinked because they didn’t see either one. They suggested I was hallucinating, but I wasn’t – really!
Recall that there were only 3 of us on board, so night watches were 25% more frequent, but we were used to the rotation by now and really appreciated the extra room in the cabin where guests had to sleep and store gear. At no time was a watch missed or was the reliever late to their post. We spent 3 nights on the water getting to Turtle Bay. We weren’t the last boat to anchor, but almost last due to our relatively small boat that goes proportionally slower than boats even slightly longer than ours. This speed issue is due to the physics of sail area and wake dynamics than controls our maximum speed. Oh well, sailing isn’t about speed anyway, it’s about cruising safely and comfortably, and we accomplished both.
The stop in Turtle Bay allowed us to use our dinghy for the first time with a properly running outboard engine. The dinghy preformed beautifully, shuttling the 3 of us to shore and to the fuel dock with jerry cans. We shuttled to the scheduled beach party and to tour the town with its dusty streets and beach bars.
Hurricane Vance kept us in Turtle Bay for a day longer than we were scheduled, but we were not in a hurry to leave. We enjoyed the rest, scenery and cold beers.
The fleet was given the ‘good to go’ on the radio one morning and we all left by 11AM to our next stop, Bahia Santa Maria, a protected cove on the Baja peninsula next to its bigger cousin, Magdalena Bay where whales go to have their young. We sailed for 2 nights and arrived in the morning in good shape with food and fuel to spare. Good thing because there is no town there, only empty cabins where drug smugglers hid out until the Mexican Federalies shut down their operation with gunfire and killings years ago. The ghosts of the past were gone, so we partied with our fellow cruisers. A rock band drove several hours to hook up their generator to blast music while we ate fish tacos put together by locals. We started to get to know the same cruisers that we met earlier. We were making friends instead of just acquaintances. Cruisers are known by their boat names more than their first names, but we got to know both. We tended to hang out with cruisers with boats the same size range as ours. Maybe it’s a class thing, but we had lots to talk about including break downs, where to cruise next, where you are from, and how is your cruise going so far.
We stayed in BSM for only a day and a night in order to make up the time lost in Turtle Bay to Hurricane Vance. We were all excited to shove off to Cabo San Lucas. It was only a night sail away. The entire Baja Ha Ha was staged nicely between stops with a 3 night passage, then a 2 night passage, and finally, a 1 night passage. Notice we don’t count days as much as nights. Days go by quickly without a watch schedule. We all pitched in to steer when we could see where we were going and there was much to do on deck and down below. The Ha Ha was a nice pace and left us with enough energy to enjoy the cruise around Cape Falso into the Cabo marina.
Prior to arriving, the engine light and buzzer went off during my midnight watch. Alarmed, I throttled down and called Chris up to investigate with me. We shut down the engine and decided to sail to keep pace and to look into the overheating problem in the morning. After Chris’s 6AM shift was over, and Cindy could take the helm, Chris and I inspected and cleaned out the fresh water strainer and inspected the water pump. Turns out the impeller in the water pump had broken and missing fins, so we replaced it with one of several spares we had on board. I ruined the gasket when separating the water pump, so we had to manually pump water out of the engine compartment every half hour until we reached Cabo. Once in Cabo, I bought a tube of liquid gasket that worked perfectly, and we now have lots of the stuff for future repairs. It sure is nice to have a mechanical engineer on board. Chris and I worked well together to solve problems.
We were lucky to be assigned a slip in this crowded marina thanks to Chris who signed us up early on. Slips were assigned in the order of the Baja Ha Ha sign-ups. We were number 17. We had to ‘raft up’ to another Ha Ha sailboat however, but they didn’t mind us walking across their boat to get to ours. Many had to do the same thing due to limited dock availability. Bad news however was we didn’t get to plug into shore power so we had to run the engine to keep our batteries topped off. Not exactly pleasant to our close neighbors with engine noise and exhaust for 2 to 3 hours a day.
We went through a long ‘paperwork shuffle’ with the immigration office and Port Captain, and that included putting money into an account at the bank. Very unusual, but very Mexico. We wondered who’s account that was . . . . the Port Captain’s perhaps?
The Ha Ha wound down with a beach party with awards given for various categories including most time sailing vs. motoring, most time spent naked while sailing, loudest snoring with wives imitating snoring husbands, etc. etc. We took third place, but everyone who didn’t finish the Ha Ha in first or second got a third place certificate. Fun time with our new friends whose first names and boat names we finally got to know.
New crew members Pat and Cathy met up with us for the next leg to Puerto Vallarta. We were once again delayed due to a tropical cyclone that was in our path. Cindy had the SSB radio working great to download forecasts and weather charts onto our laptop computer. Without it, I don’t know what weather services might be available in Mexico. No need to rush into heavy weather and seas, so we stayed put for a couple of days. We whiled away our time in the adjacent hotel pool, went out for lunches and dinners, toured the scenery by Ponga (Mexican open boat you see below), and re-provisioned our boat with food and fuel (diesel and alcohol varieties).
Prior to departure, we moved the boat to another dock location with electricity so we could leave with fully charged batteries. We were rested and ready to commence our final leg of the voyage. Because the cyclone was still a threat, we moved the boat to Cabo’s sister town of San Jose del Cabo, a 4 hour sail around the peninsula. We docked in time for happy hour at the local beach bar. By the way, arrival times tended to be around happy hour not by coincidence. Okay, getting in before sunset was the real reason, but having an ice cold cocktail or beer was a good reward after a good sail.
LEG 4 – CABO TO PUERTO VALLARTA
This leg was going to be 2 or 3 nights, but we didn’t know for sure due to losing our coastal current and following seas that added a knot or two to our speed. And fuel was a concern because we were at the limits of our motoring range, so sailing was an absolutely necessity.
This is a good time to state that sailing was only 1/3rd of our moving time with motoring accounting for 2/3’rds of the trip. I mentioned earlier that too much or too little wind requires motoring, and the night watches kept the crew in their beds with the motor on, but this leg was different. We had extra crew for sail handling 24/7 and we needed to preserve fuel, so we sailed at least half of the 300 miles to PV. It was only a 2-nighter however due to good winds which translated into good speed, about 6 knots. We arrived in PV around 5PM (happy hour once again) on a Friday, easing Impulse into our reserved slip. We were anxious to check into our reserved hotel for a shower and sleep. As exciting as sailing is, getting there and getting off of the boat is also exciting. And eating out at restaurants with real tables and chairs, and ice, and side dishes, and service, and, and, and are good things too.
The next morning we went through a check in process at the marina but could not check in with the Port Captain due to Mexico Time (closed Friday afternoon, all weekend and for a Monday holiday). Chris took care of that logistic on a Tuesday with a minimum of hassle. He and Cindy were very prepared with copies of boat ownership and registration, crew list, insurance, passports, temporary import permit, equipment list with serial numbers and other documents that were not all needed but ready in case. Everyone we encountered was polite and professional with mostly English spoken. Our dock security guard recommended restaurants, helped with dock lines and looked after our boat. We felt very safe and comfortable in Puerto Vallarta.
Time in PV was spent walking and touring the town, taking Impulse to the Marietta Islands for a day cruise with snorkeling via dinghy, eating out 3 meals a day, enjoying the hotel pool with swim up bar, and walking the beautiful beaches. The weather was in the high 70’s night and day, and the ocean water was in the 80’s, so we were never hot or cold.
Puerto Vallarta is a charming, authentic, modern by Mexico standards, coastal town with a high mountain backdrop with a rain forest cover. When Chris inquired why no tours of the jungle were offered by the local hawkers, only one Spanish word was understood, “Jaguars”. Okay. No jungle tours.
Cindy and I had previously arranged a meeting with a couple of expats to discuss life in PV. We bought lunch at a nice beach restaurant for a 2 hour chat about life outside of America, costs of living, speaking Spanish and legal requirements for residency. We could live here.
Chris stayed on the boat all but 2 nights and was not happy with the marina facilities. Specifically, the marina bathrooms and showers were locked up from 6PM to 9AM. No other marina we visited locked up their facilities overnight so that was a surprise and a major inconvenience. With the high slip fees, you would think the marina would be a bit more considerate of ‘live-aboards’, but apparently not. Subsequently, Chris, Cyn and I set out for a day trip to a ‘sailor’s marina’ in La Cruz, only 10 miles up the coast. We took a bus with its low fares for a bumpy ride and walked to the marina through the small, dusty town. It’s nearly the same price as the PV marina but with relatively new and very modern 24 hour facilities, so we decided over lunch to move the boat in February to this more accommodating marina. We have a 3 month contract in PV, so the February 14th term limit will coincide nicely with Cyn’s and my 4 week return visit starting February 3rd.
This was a fantastic adventure with lots of unknowns before we started and while we were voyaging down the coast. We now have a great experience under our boat shoes that will be useful in future adventures wherever they lead us.
Here are a few more ‘reflections’, in no particular order:
- Impulse was well prepared and, except for a couple of surprise maintenance items, held up beautifully.
- We had fun. We were never bored. The entire crew got along great. We all worked well together. It’s amazing how time flies, even when you are relaxing.
- Nobody got sick. No sea sickness (though Dramamine was occasionally taken as a preventative measure), food poisoning or from drinking Mexican water. We weren’t sure about Mexican ice however, but, no issues.
- Drinking lots of water is essential when sailing to avoid dehydration. We only drank water from bottled, trustworthy sources. We had about 10 gallons on-board most of the time, and had many small bottles of water available but preferred to fill drinking cups from a handy dispenser.
- When filling our 75 gallon water tank with dock hoses, we added a few capfuls of bleach to kill bacteria (as recommended from many researched sources). We couldn’t taste the bleach but it kept the tank water clean, un-smelly and fresh. Tank water is for cleaning and showering, so we didn’t drink it or cook with it. We flushed the tank several times if the water sat too long, like between legs of our trip.
- The Oregon coast was the worst for weather. It was cold, foggy and wet (dew and fog moisture – no rain) most of the time. You can’t be too warm when on the helm, so lots of layers were needed. A typical wardrobe for me at night was a long sleeved winter underwear top, sweater, fleece vest, and a very heavy marine waterproof overcoat. Legs were covered with the other half of the long underwear, jeans and rain pants. My feet typically don’t get cold, so just heavy socks and rugged tennis shoes were worn. BTW, classic boat shoes get wet and don’t dry out very fast, so hiking shoes with non-slip soles were preferred by me. I also wore large waterproof marine gloves that went up over my sleeves. Glad I bought those. Head gear was a stocking cap covered with a hoodie from my overcoat. I was able to zip the large collar from my overcoat up to my nose and pull my stocking cap down to my eyes. I sometimes shivered uncontrollably, but eventually warmed up because of the shivering and managed to keep ‘warm enough’ through the night. I would alternate standing and sitting to keep moving, and that added another opportunity to stay warm. Fortunately, the Oregon and Northern California coasts only lasted a few nights.
- The flip side to the Oregon and Northern California coasts is when the temperatures got into the 70’s and 80’s night and day. That’s when a swim suit, tee shirt and sandals were all that were needed. Very welcome and comfortable attire.
- For most of the night watches, we ‘clipped in’, meaning we wore tethers from our life jackets (aka PFD’s) attached to the helm. Purpose being, if the steer’er went overboard for any reason (hitting a sleeping whale for instance . . . yes, it happens), the crew member would be recovered and a search and rescue would be avoided. When on duty, we wore headlamps and a whistle. We dispensed with the safety gear on the last leg of the trip, though we shouldn’t have. We fell into a ‘we can do this’ lull after completing most of our voyage and being more sea savvy, whatever that implies. We were confident and perhaps cocky. Nothing happened, but if anything were to happen, it would have been when we were unprepared. In the future, safety first.
- Food was plentiful and tasty. Cindy made certain we had at least one hot meal a day. Snacks (in our pockets) were essential during night watches. Drinking wine, rum and vodka was moderate while sailing in order to stay alert. Drinking after anchoring or docking was another story. We went through a lot more than we provisioned, so shore bars were sought out frequently.
- I lost 5 pounds on this trip, but it wasn’t for lack of eating. Sailing on the ocean is a constant workout but not too tiring.
- Speaking of ‘tiring’, sleep was good. Sailing requires stamina, flexibility and muscle, but not too much of each. So when naps and bedtime came around, no problem with a deep sleep. I was alert and awake when necessary, but so sound asleep when not necessary that I was hard to wake up as Chris and Cindy can attest. Both tried to get my attention to deal with semi-serious helm matters but alas, I was in dream land.
- Sailing on the Pacific Ocean wasn’t as scary as we expected. We watched the weather very closely so we avoided storms. Chris even sailed around a dark cloud to avoid potentially heavy wind and rain. Our navigation was perfect with charts, cruising guides and a ‘state of the art’ chart plotter. We were very cautious by staying far from shore to avoid fishing boats and crab pots, to avoid unmarked hazards and to allow ‘wiggle room’ for course changes. When sailing close to shore, we were vigilant and perhaps lucky because not all hazards can be seen or avoided. Examples are kelp beds that can foul the prop, floating debris (didn’t see any, but . . . . ) and buoys. Not all buoys show up on the chart plotter.
- If we could do it all over again with near perfect success, we would have tested and replaced our macerator, but who would have thought that item needed replacing. And we should have noticed the dinghy engine wasn’t cooling before it over heated. We assumed the store where we purchased it would have checked it out. We couldn’t pre-check it ourselves without putting it in water, so that was a surprise. Though we never ran out of fuel, having more jerry cans of diesel would have eliminated worry because we checked the (sometimes backwards reading) fuel gauge way too often. I wish the water tank gauge was working because we often wondered how much on board tank water we had left, though we never ran out.
- Taking salt water baths in the 85 degree ocean and rinsing off on the swim platform with 85 degree fresh water was delightful. We felt clean and could simultaneously wash our clothes for another day or two (or three) of wearing. Cindy made me toss my stinky shoes into the dinghy, along with our bags of trash. My sandals didn’t smell (as bad) however, so I was allowed to wear those for most of the trip.
- Deciding our own schedule and course was really liberating as compared to airports and highway forms of travel. Granted, the pace was slow, but moving slow on the highway is frustrating whereas moving slow on the water under sail is fascinating. I highly recommend it.
THE END (for now)