Monday, October 8, 2007

Neah Bay to Eureka

Last Sunday night the 5 southbound sailboats holed-up in Neah Bay had a meeting aboard the boat of our new crusiser friends we call, "The Swiss Famliy Robinson." ( a long story) The five southbound captains discussed their plans for how many miles offshore they would go for the best weather, avoiding shipping, etc. and we all agreed on a radio call-in schedule to keep in touch. All other captains decided to wait until tuesday, but I thought we should be on our way as soon as the weather had cleared on monday. There is a mental trap that cruisers seem to fall into waiting for the "right" weather window. We found one person who said he had been waiting for 2 years to leave Neah Bay! Another flat out told us we were crazy to think of leaving with the endless train of lows bearing down on us. We were also the smallest of the five boats and I wanted to get South as quickly as possible before the next low swung down from Alaska. So, against the cruising conventional wisdom, we set out. We rounded the long awaited US northwestern most point in a moderate SW breeze, but as we cleared the cape a stiff chop from the SSE appeared as a remnant from the storm and mixed with the big W swell to produce a fairly confused sea. To add to the fun the wind began to blow into the mid 20s from the SW. Those three wave patterns created not a very nice ride. I won't beat around the bush, I threw up all night, Dan was scared, and John just stayed in his bunk. But maybe having a horrific first night at sea is a blessing, because everything else after that started to seem like gravy and our stomachs were like iron after the second day. After the blow, the wind began to veer to a more favorable direction, and the waves slowly became more orgainzed. We made mostly good progress southward, although the Oregon coast did start to seem almost as long as California. The sun began to shine brighter and our sprits climbed steadily as well. We had some amazing runs of perfect breeze. With a double reefed main and full jib Sula loves almost any breeze except a dead run. Then as the breeze builds, we just roll up the jib and she settles right into it. She is very fast for her length, and mountainous 17 ft swell from the NW only served as a surfing engine. As well as fast, she is also well mannered and stable, and hardly a wave ever threatened to come aboard. Her rudder is powerful, and she can steer herself upwind with the wheel locked for hours. She is quite simply an amazing sea boat and I'm relieved that those same lines that struck me visually, handle the ocean so well. The GPS hit 11.1 kts once as we carved beautiful turns down a wave face. The windvane also is amazing. He, (the windvane is a He), is a better helmsman that we are, and never gets tired or takes his eyes off the compass, and never needs one amp of electricity. No swell ever overpowed him dangerously. His name is Karuk. Thats one of many stories that I could descibe in more detail. It involves two great women we met in Port Townsend, Mary and Zhuvuya, who had just come from a session with their guru/spiritual/relationship advisor, a woman, who becomes a "portal" for a spirit force named Karuk. Karuk is a male though. We're very happy to have Karuk aboard as he makes long watches much more fun. We were not planning to stop before SF but John needed to get back and a nasty cold front is coming tomorrow, so we pulled over in Crescent City, CA for a night, then motored the next day to Trinidad Head, and Eureka CA. Although it is a bar crossing to get inside, this is the last best place to hole up waiting to make it around Cape Mendocino and make the final push to SF. As a crew, we did beautifully. There was not one harsh word the whole voyage, and after that first night we all began to enjoy the trip immensely. John loved looking at the ocean in all its ever changing scenes, and watching the huge swell running under, and sometimes towering over us. Dan never tired of squeezing each last tenth of a knot out of the boat, and he proved to be quite a force, making amazing meals inside the chaotic washing machine of the cabin. The ocean and the boat were all I expected them to be and more. I was constanly amazed at just how beautiful it all is, the waves, the sky, the stars, the moon rising behind the coast range. And pulling into a different, crazy, normal town, a new one each time, is a great way to see the world.

John and I hiked out to Cape Flattery on Sunday. An amazing place. I want to come back and kayak there when the swell is a bit lower. John's birdwatching urges were sated as well, as he spotted a sojurner Pelican, maybe blown by the storm, at the extreme northern end of its range. This one of those primal, land-before-time places that can't really be appreciated in a photo.

Karuk does all the work while we enjoy the view.

It started to look tropical as we approached California.

This kind of sunrise over the coast after a crystal clear night with brillant starts makes it hard to get a lot of sleep during a night of motoring from Crescent City to Trinidad, CA.

Sula anchored in the snug cove behind Trinidad Head.


Valerie & Alex said...

So glad your ship is seaworthy & fast - now you just have to wait out the next gale before you slip down south.

Thanks for sharing the adventure with us - it's almost like being there. We're also glad to be snug in our beds instead of sharing the seasick part!


M & D

DM said...

I went and threw up in my bathroom just to feel like I was part of the adventure. :)

I really enjoy keeping up with your story Nic & Dan.

The galvanized soul speaks the truth.

sorenson said...

Nic, Just had deener w/ j-hole, coco and the dodge. Heard tails of the glowing mermen, and life on the rez, sounds great and good luck.