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Vancouver to San Francisco - 1 to 8 October 2009

At 1100 on Thursday the 1st of October, we slipped from the float at the False Creek Yacht Club and headed out, beginning our cruise on a bleak day, in a cool drizzle with no wind to help us along. Bram braved the drizzle and walked out to the middle of the Granville Bridge to shoot this photo of our departure, and as we motored out under the Burrard Bridge, Edi released thirteen helium-filled balloons.

We motored in still airs and fog out of English Bay, passing the bell buoy at 1202 and turned left to begin our southings, the first of what we anticipate to be many. Winds remained very light the whole day, so we continued to motor, transiting Porlier Pass at low water slack at 1530. By the time we had secured alongside the False Creek Yacht Club float in Ganges at 1805, the skies had cleared.

Friday dawned clear and it had warmed nicely by the time we left Ganges at 1055. There was virtually no wind, so we motored again, all the way to Sooke, arriving at 1805 to find the marina full. We were invited by David Carswell to secure alongside his large sports fishing boat, The Rig. The three onboard had just returned from a day of fishing, having quickly caught their limit of salmon and spending the remainder of the day doing catch and release. We chatted and sipped wine as David cleaned the catch, and he gave us a lovely filetted spring.

Edi and I then walked over to the Sooke Harbour House for dinner. We ordered the seven-course Gastronomic Adventure and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to celebrate our departure from Canada and the beginning of our adventures. By the time we had finished our superb dinner, we were the last diners in the restaurant. We walked back to the boat in the moonlight.

We slipped from alongside The Rig at the Sooke Harbour Marina at 0750 and headed out in clear skies, calm seas and not a breath of wind. As we motored across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Edi brought up the bagel toaster and we enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit. At 0955 we crossed into the US and at 1110 we secured alongside the Customs float in Port Angeles. We were quickly cleared and for US$19, were issued a Cruising Permit.

We moved to the fuel dock and took on 725.8 litres of diesel for US$502.36. Then we moved over to the guest float and walked about a mile up to the Safeway and bought fresh provisions for our passage to San Francisco. I hanked-on the US flag on our starboard halyard and we were ready to go.

We slipped from the guest float in the Port Angeles Boat Haven at 1505 on Saturday, the 3rd of October and set off for San Francisco. We caught the tail-end of the flood, then washed out the Straits on a strong ebb, rounding Flattery at 2147 under a full moon and clear skies.

We headed south west to clear the continental shelf and find strengthening northerly winds. We sailed southward in following seas and winds, which were generally 20-25 knots from the N and NW. By mid afternoon on the 6th, we had crossed the latitude of the Oregon-California border, and we were about 100 miles north west of Cape Mendocino. The winds were up to 35 knots, the swell was in the 4-5 metre range and we were surfing off every second or third wave. In the evening, the winds were up over 40 with spikes above 45, and the seas were 5-6 metres and continued thus through the night. We kept watching the boat speed gauge as it went from the mid-5 knot range to up in the 12 and 13 knot area as each wave passed under us. We saw several surfs in the 14 knot range, and the fastest we saw was a 15.3 knot spike.

Throughout the blow, the skies remained clear and with the bright sun and full moon, we were very comfortable. It was not a storm; it was simply a funnelling of winds down the inside of the huge high stationed off the coast from northern Vancouver Island down past the tip of Baja. It seems we passed through the throat of a venturi.

During the trip we continued our breakfast routine of bagel toaster in the cockpit for bagels and cream cheese with capers and lox, dishes of yogurt and mugs of freshly brewed coffee. Our lunches alternated between hot paninis and arrays of cheese and crackers with fresh fruit, olives, artichoke hearts, nuts and so on. We made water to ensure the watermaker worked in rough weather and we even ran a couple of loads of laundry through the washer/dryer.

We maintained a course that kept the seas just slightly off the port quarter and the auto pilot was able to hold us with only two broaches in the 36 hours or so of the worst of the blow. Our speed made good was in the 8.5 knot range for much of Tuesday and through Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, the winds started abating, and the seas eased so that we could start bending our course back toward the coast.

At 0305 on Thursday morning, exactly four and a half days from our departure of Port Angeles, were at the entrance to the traffic separation lanes off San Francisco, and we were in the lee of the land and protected from the northerly winds. Edi made a wonderful Ghirardelli hot chocolate to sip as we dawdled north eastward into Drake's bay to kill time waiting for daylight and a tide change to make our transit under the Golden Gate. We motored into Sausalito Harbor and secured to a mooring ball at the Sausalito Yacht Club, a free reciprocal of the Bluewater Cruising Association.

 

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