Monday, August 29, 2011

Ben's Guest Blog from San Fran

We've arrived in San Francisco from our roughly 56 hour run from Newport, OR!  Recall that we were trying to squeeze past Cape Mendocino before the serious weather moved into that infamously tricky point by Tuesday night and Wednesday and we were able to do just that.  As we approached the latitude of Mendocino Sunday afternoon, well off the coast about twenty miles, the USCG weather reports curiously started giving forecasts for less severe weather in the near coast range (0-10 miles) than for the offshore range (10-60 miles).  Go figure!  So we changed course slightly and maintained a 6-8 mile cushion from the shoreline through the night.

Although this was the right move, it didn't mean that we escaped one hundred percent of the rough stuff - a 'near gale' joined us for dinner and stayed for the sunset.  Thirty knot winds and seas of 8-10 feet, both following us from the north luckily, made for a moderately bumpy ride for a while.  It seemed as if the cockpit was going to be swallowed up by each approaching wave, nearly cresting onto the swimstep (see photo).  Nothing the stabilizers and an extra pillow (to keep from rolling out of bed!) couldn't handle, and by mid-day Monday the seas had calmed to an easy 3-4 feet, perfect for our passage under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Besides that slight weather hiccup, the transit was more or less straightforward and easy.  Noteworthy for me, however, was one of the most memorable birthdays I've spent, complete with one of Susie's famous three-layered carrot cakes!  (If you're planning a birthday, try to schedule it while you're on board Last Mango - you won't be disappointed!) 

Now in San Francisco Bay, we've stopped at KKMI Boatyard for some troubleshooting of the house battery bank which doesn't seem to be holding a charge and to look into the anemometer (wind indicator); it's nonfunctioning forcing us to use more primitive devices such as the 'door-ometer' (the arm strength required to open or close the pilothouse doors under the force of the wind).  Hopefully we'll be able to move on to our planned mooring at the Oakland Yacht Club tomorrow, where David and Susie will stay until next week before they head further south. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time onboard Last Mango and I'm deeply thankful to my hosts for their hospitality along the way.  I'll be following the blog as their journey continues and will be wishing I was going the full distance with them.

Written by Ben

Friday, August 26, 2011

Washington to Oregon

Mercifully, our time in Port Angeles was brief. Since we had a free afternoon the waterside trail beckoned but, although the burghers of PA have tried their best, it will probably be a while before the trail is truly scenic - the smoking towers of the paper mill do tend to dominate the landscape. In the morning we were delighted when UPS delivered our precious hydraulic system part at 1000 and within an hour it was fitted by our guest engineer, Ben. Excellent! So, it actually took less than 24 hours to diagnose the problem and get the part shipped from the Californian manufacturer. It is a shame that Last Mango can be brought to her knees by a $150 switch 2 inches long but if you want the stabilizers to work................. such is boat life.

By midday we were on our way again up the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the right is our view of the water - not a bad day at all! Glassy, smooth, perfect. We headed to our last anchoring stop, Neah Bay, before we head round Cape Flattery and turn South. Looking forward at the weather, I could see that the most difficult part of the trip is going to be Cape Mendocino, California; from midnight Tuesday the wind forecast is in the 30 to 40 knot range so that certainly is going to mean we have to have crossed the San Francisco bar by then. So, first thing yesterday morning we were on our way at first light and headed out and round the corner.
And here is what we encountered straight away - fog. Visibility was around a quarter of a mile so we watched carefully for the local salmon boats on the radar. The fog cleared around noon. Afterwards the weather got better and we had a good run down the Washington coast. In the late evening, first watch, there was some traffic some 20 miles off the Columbia River, then the traffic died out as we headed South. With three of us on board, we can neatly divide the nine hours of darkness into 3 three-hour watches; 2100-2400; 0000-0300; 0300-0600. In the morning we cruised down the coast and headed into Oregon and one of the less menacing bars to enter, Yaquina River, Newport. I had been recommended this stopover by another Nordhavn owner who has his home port here. On the Oregon Coast, all the ports are on rivers and each river has its own sand bar. The bars are impossible to enter in rough conditions and can be difficult to enter in good conditions, especially on an ebb tide. It takes some planning and listening to the weather and the bar condition announcements made by the Coastguard, along with a study of the tide tables.
Ben and I are here at the most important bar! It just so happens that the famous Rogue Brewery is next to the marina. And we can vouch for the IPA which is called 'Brutal"; I have a worrying feeling that is what it feels like the morning after. In the morning we are going to leave as soon as we have the flood tide - sometime after 0600. The weather at Mendocino is up to 40 knots from Tuesday pm so we are going to get out of here and head South; we have a two-nighter run to San Francisco and should arrive there Monday evening - I have booked us a guest slip
at our favorite yacht club, Oakland, for a while to recover.
We just have to wait and see what the weather gods are going to throw at us. We have a small craft advisory here in Oregon for the next 36 hours which we believe we can cope with.  And we have a situation where the offshore waters (over 10 miles offshore) should be better than the inshore waters. And we have the deteriorating situation at Cape Mendocino. We hope to get through the area before the problem develops. this space.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Port Angeles Diversion

Half way up the Strait of Juan de Fuca we have diverted to Port Angeles for an unscheduled engineering stop.

Backing up a little on the story, on Monday morning we set off from Gabriola at 0600, first light. The weather had changed significantly and we were heading into over 20 knots of South wind. It was a Small Craft Advisory all day (Last Mango is not a "small craft" - Ed) and further up the Strait of Georgia there was even a gale warning. The seas were fairly flat but wind streaked. We had an easy passage into US waters and went into the routine changeover from Rogers to AT&T (for our internet and telephone) and swapping the courtesy flags. The weather actually got worse and worse and at the Friday Harbor customs dock yours truly was soaked by the driving rain. But our day was brightened straight away when the familiar figure of Officer Tarantino stepped out of the CBP shed, looked at us and immediately said "It's the Panamanians!". Since we already had our cruising licence (issued in Alaska) and already had our visa waiver stamp (from Seattle on Friday) there was, unbelievably, no paperwork at all. Knock me down with a feather. Just the usual questions, like do we have any of that Cuban rum Sir? Er, no. And we didn't have any peppers or tomatoes to cut open either. Ten minutes later we were on our way to Anacortes dodging the San Juan ferries, which I think actually have a location round some headland or other where they multiply in secret. On the way to Anacortes we wandered into a procession of Grand Banks who were obviously on a rally. In line, all with AIS on, faithfully following their leader. I stepped on the revs and rather unfairly did my 10 minute WOT (Wide Open Throttle) routine just before Anacortes and smartly tied up at the fuel dock while they all circled hopefully. Just to answer your question, yes, a GB will always need fuel. But what they didn't know is that I had not fueled up since Alaska! And that I still had over a thousand gallons in my tanks! But I am afraid that they did have to wait while I loaded up another 1,250 gallons. And the price..........had gone down by nearly half a dollar since April, so that was a good surprise. That fuel dock is the second busiest, apparently, in the United Sates, does a massive turnover of fuel. So it is (a) fresh and (b) cheaper than other places ($3.50 per gallon). While we were fuelling our crew member arrived - good timing to assist with docking in our slip in the marina since the wind had increased even more. Ben Lee is our crew - a very bright engineering graduate with a lot of hands on Nordhavn experience; in between advanced college courses at present.

This morning we started off on our 86 mile course to Neah Bay; the weather had flattened out totally and things were looking settled at least for the first part of the trip. But, at the first engine room check - carried out every two hours while under way - we immediately noticed a leak of hydraulic fluid from the stabilizer manifold. There have been the occasional drips here before but this is different; it is a persistent leak. After some inspection and observation we checked out the manuals available on the internet, and then called the TRAC service contacts to discuss the problem. The consensus was that the low pressure monitor was probably compromised or ruptured inside, and that what is now a small leak could easily worsen and become a massive leak as the system runs under 1,200 pounds of pressure. Not taking any action is not an option; the part needs to be replaced. It is really a question of whether we do this now, Neah Bay, somewhere on the Oregon Coast, or San Francisco. Having looked at the weather report for the Cape Mendocino Buoy, round which we need to pass in a few days, I want to be able to rely on my stabilizer system! So we have ordered the parts (thank you to Ernie Romeo from Trac for his most helpful assistance) and diverted to Port Angeles to await the Fedex delivery hopefully tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quick England trip and Goodbye Canada (sob!)

Yes, this is unmistakably London. It is August 2011 and as you can see the recent public disturbances were nowhere near Tower Bridge I am pleased to say. Susie and I wanted to get to England and catch up with family and friends; we started in our old stomping ground in London and had a few days strolling round old haunts and a leisurely walk in the City to places where I used to work way back. It was high tide on the Thames and we happened to be near St Katherine's Dock; it reminded us of our first Nordhavn viewing about six years ago. Time has certainly flown since then.

Our timing was pretty good since the first weekend was Susie's brother's 60th birthday party. Steve is a great collector of fine wines and there was a concerted but failed attempt to make inroads into the collection. A great time was had by all, and we even had an extra day to recover which was a bit of a bonus.
The wildlife photos in England are a little harder to come by but this year Bev's tortoise harvest has been exceptional as you can see below. There are many more stll to come from the eggs; the hatched little fellows are wonderful in minature - see the 50p coin in the foreground of the picture.

Off to Devon we went with Susie's grandaughter to see my parents who are keeping very well. There was very important news to deliver - they are going to be great-grandparents and I am going to be a grandparent! No doubt there will be more news on this in due sometime in early 2012. Well, although our England trip was fairly short, it was wondeful to see all our loved ones and make plans for the future as regards various visits to the New World to see us. Yes!

While we were away the emails kept flying in relating to various future plans; life's admin does seem pretty relentless. It is probably my fault, making life as challenging as possible. And it is important to do some advance planning; unfortunately, when travelling far and wide by boat, a lack of forward arrangments can leave you stuck somewhere. Metaphorically of course. On the return trip, we flew from London to Seattle and stayed a very comfortable night at the Red Lion Airport Hotel. And there is a great place for supper nearby, the 13 Coins (check the frittata). Entering the US by airplane means that we qualify for visa waiver and will be able to take Last Mango down the coast to California for the next three months. So there was some method involved. After a night in Seattle, we had a 33 minute flight to Vancouver and a short hop by seaplane to Gabriola. Today we have cleaned the boat inside and out, done the pre-departure checks in the engine room, examined the route and the tides. I have been looking at the weather on windfinder, passageweather, buoyweather, oregon weather, every weather I can find ......... today there is a small craft advisory in the San Juans, and the weather at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca is unsettled. But it looks better for Wednesday so the fingers are crossed that we can round Cape Flattery and head South. Tomorrow we have a 66 mile run from the Gulf Islands to the San Juans to Friday Harbor then Anacortes. Familiar territory for us and we are looking forward to this terrific adventure of taking Last Mango to Panama over the next four months.

It will be very hard to say goodbye to Canada. We can't believe that we are actually leaving. We first entered Canadian waters on 22 June 2010. In the last year we have made many, many new friends here. And we have travelled three and a half thousand miles. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Our memories are full of happy times, beautiful places, and wonderful people. Thank you to all our friends in Canada; we have so much enjoyed our visit to this wonderful country.