Leaving in the Fog

Morning Fog

Morning Fog

Leaving in the fog presents a variety of safety challenges to many mariners.  I certainly am one of those persons that looks seriously at going out in reduced visibility!  Fog is frequently experienced in Puget Sound since the dew point & ambient air temperature are frequently close.  The hazards in our area are container ships, tankers, tugs with barges, ferries, recreational boats, kayakers.  Yes, I’ve seen kayakers in the fog once & was amazed.  I tend to think kayakers in the fog are darwinian selection candidates!  There are several steps one can take as a skipper to promote a safe outcome.  I’ll talk about these later.

 

Que Linda 1980 Catalina

Que Linda 1980 Catalina

 

We have had our new boat, Que Linda, for a year and have spent many hours in Possession Sound learning how she behaves in conditions.  She is a 1980 Catalina 38 with a delightful background. Her predecessor was the Yankee 38 an IOR design for racing by Sparkman & Stephens.

Yankee 38

Yankee 38

 

The tumblehome shape is distinctive from this era and earlier.  When Yankee Yachts went out of business, Catalina bought the molds for the hull, changed the rigging, sail plan, deck & cabin spaces.  This then became a racer/cruiser.  She remains to this day a fast boat as a cruiser and requires attention when the wind really pipes up (30 knots).  Over the last year we’ve  sailed her in Possession Sound in conditions up to 50 knots.  Truly, in conditions starting at 20 knots and above we progressively reef both the main & the jib and over 30 knots I would like to have a third reef point in the main.

After a year of getting to know her, Judy & I decided it was time for a week long trip from Everett to Victoria, BC.  I had seen pictures of the Victoria harbor with the floating docks on the waterfront & was charmed.

Everett to Port Townsend

Everett to Port Townsend

Our first leg was 35 nm from Everett to Port Townsend and then onto Victoria, San Juan Island & return home during mid August 2016.   Due to fog we lost two days in Port Townsend & needed to change our plans.  On the evening of the second day I decided we would leave on the third morning despite the fog.  My safety concerns were the Port Townsend ferry & ships around Admiralty inlet since these are the shipping lanes from the Pacific down the sound to Seattle.

On the morning of our departure we got out the compressed air fog horns.  Judy & I discussed her role as a lookout on the bow with the fog horns.  She would vigorously point to starboard or port if a course change is needed and she would do a 5 second blast on the horn every 2 minutes.  I fired up the radar and selected 1.5 mile range for close in objects and would use a longer range after Point Wilson.  Finally, I plotted a route the that followed the shoal area out to Point Wilson.  It is the red dotted line on the chart below.

Fog Route from Port Townsend

Fog Route from Port Townsend

As we approached the shipping lanes I called Seattle Control on channel five to inquire about ships in the area of Admiralty Inlet & state our vessel name, course, & speed & size.  To my very pleasant surprise two different commercial vessels responded very professionally and inquired about our position, course, speed & fixed me on their radar.  We headed NE & crossed the traffic lanes without incident before turning north toward Victoria. The final video is from that day.

 

 

 

 

Recovering a Tethered Man Over Board

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S/V Thalia off of Beaufort, NC

I am hesitant about blogging/publishing work that is not my own.  However, we all uncover excellent work by others.  The article on this link is from a British magazine “Practical Boat Owner”.  This article is worth multiple reads. Recovering a tethered man overboard.   Several years back I also read an article that suggested attaching and running the jack lines down the middle of the deck instead of the walk ways.  

Salish Sea Journeys, Nanaimo thru Mansons Landing Provincial Park

A day in Desolation Sound

A day in Desolation Sound

A major attraction for local cruisers beyond Puget Sound are the areas north from the Straits of Juan de Fuca which is the beginning of the inside passage to Alaska. In Seattle you can always tell when the cruising season has started by the appearance of three large cruise ships in downtown Seattle. Each of these cruise ships are engaged in taking you and two thousand of your closest friends up the inside passage. For those of us that are more insular, I would be in this group, we choose a more intimate means of transport. A 40’ sailboat will do nicely for me. Then there is the more adventuress who choose the Race to Alaska which started in Port Townsend and ended in Ketchikan, Alaska. There is excellent coverage in 48º North.

Crossing Straits of Georgia toward Desolation Sound

Crossing Straits of Georgia toward Desolation Sound

The seductiveness of this area is rich with possibilities. There is the big open deep water of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Straits of Georgia to the deep fjords of Desolation Sound and the San Juan and Gulf islands. Orcas, dolphins, and sea lions are frequently encountered.  There are many small coves for a quiet evening anchorage.

Seamanship/Cruising Challenges

From my reading prior to the trip several issues became apparent.  I had never used a stern tie anchor along with a bow anchor, nor had I any experience with 16′ tidal changes.  The other issues that surfaced during the trip were places for food, fuel, fresh water, garbage disposal, pump outs and showers.  Finally, it is a small area and “in season” it can be very busy and “out of season” its empty!  The last factor might be whether to go in a sailboat or a motor vessel.

Anchoring in many of the small coves requires good skills & technique.  My first choice is to survey the area for suitable depths/sea floors and noting both the tidal range with current depth and charted depth.  In many anchorages the sea floor only shallows up very close to shore and the seabed angle may be acute (20-40°). Typical depths away from shore may be 50 feet or greater.  The other problem with 16 foot tide ranges, is an area with a current depth of 20 feet based on your depth sounder may be exposed rocks & wetlands at low tide.

Rocks at low tide.

Rocks at low tide.

We passed over these rocks, in the above picture, with 20 feet of depth at high tide.  The chart showed wetlands but no rocks.  We also evaluated the scope of our bow anchor rode.  We used a 5:1 ratio at high tide on the bow.  Once the anchor was dropped and set , by backing on it,  two persons took a line off the stern to shore and tied it to a tree, rock of ring in the rock.  At low tide allowed a small amount of slack for the rising tide and also tied a floating fender at the mid point.

In planning a trip to Desolation Sound fuel, water, groceries, and pump out should be done at Lund on east side of the Straits of Georgia or one of the areas close to the Campbell River on the island side.  The Waggoner’s Cruising Guide is invaluable for this sort of information.  Frequently, you can download the pdf version from there website at no charge!  My advice is minimize your garbage.  The barge in Refuge Cove is the only place that will accept garbage for money.  All the small marinas will not take garbage and frequently do not have extra water to fill your tanks.  Planning ahead and conservation are the best options.

Garbage Barge in Refuge Cove

Garbage Barge in Refuge Cove

The busiest season is July thru early September.  Make you marina reservations in advance.  Although June is frequently cold and raining, it is an opportunity to meet many of the locals and have fewer concerns about finding anchorages and marinas.

Navigational & Weather Challenges

I began to understand the challenges of traveling to Desolation Sound and the Broughtons early in my reading about Johnstone Straits.  Anecdotal statements of “I would never do this again” to “No worries it was beautiful” capture the wind and tidal dynamics of this area.  When you are pushing 16 feet of water though channels with considerable topographic/bathymetric changes and add 35 knots of wind you have the makings of a bad time for sailboats that can only move at 5 knots.  Timing is everything.  Seymour Narrows at 13.9 knots is the extreme example.

Desolation Sound & Broughtons

Desolation Sound & Broughtons

This chart provides an overview of the entire area.  Since tidal current and timing is a primary factor, understanding whether the flood & ebb are from the Georgia Straits of the Queen Charlotte Sound is a good beginning.

Current Sources

Current Sources

The channels on the “A” side of the dashed red line flood & ebb with the Georgia Straits.  Channels on the “B” side of the dashed red line are linked to the Queen Charlotte Sound.  This helps for channels that are oriented in a north-south direction.   Those channels oriented in an east-west are more problematic.  The NOAA tidal current predictions for Canada were also helpful.  They state the direction of ebb and flood in degrees.  The Canadian Tide and Current Tables volumes 5,6,& 7 are available both in print and on the internet.

 

With significant tidal currents, rapids, and whirlpools the wind can make the sea state conditions easier or ugly.  Forty knot winds out of the northwest are fairly common on Johnstone Straits especially in the afternoon.  Checking the weather on either the VHF or internet and then the tides can lead to really nice transits.  Remaining in port during forty knot winds opposing the tide is a sound decision.  Enjoy the place where you are instead of creating a epic that is driven by schedule.  I’ve made that mistake and have been blessed by good luck.  A careful retrospective analysis has said to me “if one thing went wrong” you would be calling the Coast Guard.  That is a poor decision!  If you check the canadian weather online be aware that under the “current conditions” tab you can access buoys & land stations the provide weather in the last hour.  There are two buoys in the straits of Georgia.

Log Entries

0600 hours 6/16/2015 @ Everett, Washington.

Judy & I are up for showers, coffee & breakfast before heading to the Kenmore air base on the north end of Lake Washington.

Sea base for Kenmore Air

Sea base for Kenmore Air

After an 0800 checkin we boarded the plane at 0900 for an hour and a half flight to Nanaimo, BC.  I got the copilots seat as you can see from the video below.

There were low clouds until we were north of Port Townsend and then it was blue skies & sunshine.

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Sea Plane Dock in North Nanaimo

Despite planning before the trip, we landed three miles north of the city marina.  So I taxied to the city marina by the ferry landing to meet Ken and the crew at the fuel dock.  The crew was a mixture of both experience and talent.  Jon had sailed with Ken on the previous trip north and is an experienced sailor/navigator frequently spotted with a big camera.  Some of these pictures are his shots.  Wendy was a source of prior experience in these waters and had used maps before GPS. She came with maps, guide books and local information.  Geoff was the boats “MacGyver”.  He had good knowledge about the boats mechanical & electrical systems and would frequently improvise. Irene brought several talents.  Most notably joy was frequently shared with all crew. Not only is she a capable seawoman but also prepared some lovely meals. Everyone was busy.  Taking on fuel, water while others went for groceries.

Gallows Point leaving Nanaimo

Gallows Point leaving Nanaimo

At 1330 hours we were out of the harbor and passing Gallows Point on an NE heading to skirt Wiskey Gulf and then turn NW for Secret Cove marina.  Before crossing the strait check with the coast guard if you plan on transiting thru Wiskey Gulf since it is a live fire area.

Route to Secret Cove marina

Route to Secret Cove marina

We motored across the straits, no wind, and skirted the south end of South Thormanby Island before turning NW thru the Welcome Passage and then NE into Secret Cove marina around 1900 hours to tie up for the night.  The marina, part of Sunshine Coast, has lovely showers, got grocery store, fuel and a lovely resturant.  This would be our last chance for snack food favorites, beer, showers before heading north to Desolation Sound in the morning.

0800 hours 6/17/2015 @ Secret Cove BC

With showers done we glided out of the docks and headed NW up the Malaspina Strait between  Texada Island and the mainland.  Our destination for the day is Mansons Landing (N50°04.494′ W124°58.898′) on the west side of Cortes Island.  It is about 55nm NW of Secret Cove.

Secret Cove to Manson Landing

Secret Cove to Manson Landing

At about 1700 hours we reached Mansons Landing. We settled down for an evening of dinner in the cockpit and admiring the late evening light of the north.

Evening light at Masons Landing BC

Evening light at Masons Landing BC

We were now at the north end of the Georgia Straits and in the morning we will pull the hook and head east for Refuge Cove,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A blind date at the Columbia Bar

A Coast Guard Boat on the Columbia Bar

A Coast Guard Boat on the Columbia Bar

5/29/15 @ 2345 hrs, Everett, WA.   The alarm wakes us. I get up and put my sea gear in the car while Judy makes coffee.  Then its the drive in the dark south to Portland.  0400 hrs we arrive at the Thunderbird marina, sounds like a Las Vegas casino, where the games begin.  Judy drops me off and I head down to the boat with my 1112 liter dry bag with shoulder straps.  Judy drives home in the dark and early morning back to Everett.  I can not thank her enough for her support of my craziness.  The crew is up and stowing things.  A crew of Ken Snow the owner, Geoff a McGiver fixer, Brandon an agile seaman & new boat owner, Chris a good helmsman, and myself.

5/30/15 @ 0430hrs, Thunderbird Marina. We cast off the dock lines go out onto the Columbia river come to a westerly heading for Astoria which is 70 nm downstream.  We slide beneath the I5 bridge with 2 feet of mast clearance and on to the railroad bridge.   Contact is established with the bridge tender and in 20 minutes the bridge will open.  Its a pivoting bridge rather then a bascule bridge.  We circle a respectful distance upstream.  Thru the bridge, we continue downstream.  Many hours pass as we motor down the Columbia.  Breakfast, lunch, drinks, afternoon snacks and talk of the trip.   I reflect on my navigation planning for the trip.  I had never crossed the Columbia bar.  The stories are things of legend, perhaps Disappointment Cape sums it up completely.  From the McKenzie Head at R8 (red sea buoy #8)  out to R2, the end of the bar, it is 3.4nm.  In a sailboat this means about one hour to transit the bar in favorable conditions.  The bar is southwest in its orientation and is flanked by Peacock Spit to the north and Catsop Spit to the south.  Favorable conditions are slack tide and 5kts of wind or less.

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Bulk Carrier on the bar in breaking seas.

Unfavorable conditions are 15-25 kts coming out of the SW during an ebb tide of 7 kts.  Twenty foot short stacked seas are fatal.  Just imagine twenty foot beakers close together(5 seconds apart).  So timing and weather are everything when crossing the bar.   We arrive in Astoria at 1930 hrs with time to refuel, water up, and pump out.  No party crew here, we are all really tired and head to bed by 2130hrs.

5/31/15 @ 0530 hrs,  Astoria

Up to the marina for showers.  After that its coffee and check weather, tide times, and the offshore Catsop weather buoy.  Winds 5kts north, slack tide is 0753hrs and 4-5foot seas with a period of 12 seconds at the buoy.

Astoria Megler Bridge

Astoria Megler Bridge

0600 hrs we depart Astoria turn to 249 degree (magnetic) heading at 5 kts and slip beneath the Astoria Megler Bridge. A cantilever bridge with a span of 6,545 meters opened in 1962.  We are 10nm from the mouth of the Pacific as we pass under the bridge, clearance is 60m at high tide,with plenty of room.  At Tansy Point we come to a 2790 m heading to Sand Island.

Breakers on Catsop Spit

Breakers on Catsop Spit

As we skirt the edge of Catsop Spit, you can see the breakers on the Pacific side.  With Sand Island off the starboard we come to 2550 m and 3nm to the mouth.  0800 hrs we are at the R8 buoy.  The new heading is 2090 m we start out across the bar with slack tide.  Sea state is 4-6 foot rollers with a 10 second period wind out of the north at 5 knots.  Sea lion heads are popping up frequently and all around us.  They do have a large population in this area.   In Astoria they have purchased an Orca sculpture to keep the locals off the pier.  I suspect the sea lions are smarter then the fake Orca and eventually we’ll have a picture of an Orca sculpture surrounded by basking locals!  All over the place in the water…heads popping up every place you look.  A large container ship is heading in fishing boats going out.  0825 hrs two grey whales surfacing & diving off the port.  0900 hrs we are at R8 buoy and across the bar.  Our depth has changed from 50 feet to 104 feet.  At the 250 foot contour line we come to a new heading of 2550 m as we turn W toward deeper water.

1100 hrs at 0460 13.663’N   1240 1321.746’W we turn north to 3270 m for the layline  north to Cape Flattery.  Our next way point is 110 nm to  a buoy north west of LaPush.  Sunday, 6/1/15 @ 0030 hrs 25nm west of Greys harbor the diesel dies and will not restart!  Chris suggests we pull out the gib since we have no motor.  Its done.  Really no wind and small seas.  0130 hrs the conclusion is the fuel filter….We can’t find the filter wrench on boat.  A good hour of searching commences while one member mans the helm as a lookout.  NO FILTER WRENCH!*#  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Geoff is a true McGiver & rock star.   Duck tape , a fiber strap, a locking leatherman and we have a filter wrench. Its now at least 0230 hrs. While Geoff and Brandon are working on the filter Chris & I are in the cockpit as lookouts.  Earlier we had spotted a fishing trawler with all its lights  off our starboard beam at a distance of 5+ miles.  It has come closer and is still on a heading for us.  Really no wind currently.  All nav lights have been on including the deck lights which fully illuminate the genoa. I take the radio mike and on 16 broadcast “Large fishing trawler about 25 NW of Greys Harbor this is the sailboat in front of you with the illuminated foresail”.  Two broadcasts on 16 and two on 13 with no response from the trawler.  Another sailboat about a mile away did respond but nothing from the trawler!  Fishing trawlers are always a problem.  I think they use autopilot a lot and are out of the wheel house doing what ever!!  The trawler continued to approach until you could start to see its bow wake before it turned to starboard.  The more I dwell on this incident the more threatening it becomes.  I wish I had a solution but with no motor and no wind I’m gobsmacked.  0330 hrs the filter is done.  Back to motor sailing. Everyone was pleased to hear that noisy deisel! The remainder of the night was quiet as we motor sailed towards Cape Flatter.  

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Cape Flattery

1300 hrs and we are off Cape Flattery.  1500hrs we round the Cape and check out the Duncan Rocks passage.  Whitecaps in the passage so we go north and around Duncan Rocks. 1800 hrs we are on the approach into Neah bay.

Neah Bay Marina

Neah Bay Marina

The marina is occupied by small fishing boats and several docks full of sea lions.  We tie up fix dinner and prep for sleep.  Sleep comes amongst a cacophony of sea lions.

 

Crewing, Meetups, Blind Dates & Personal Safety

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Shilshole Marina Puget Sound

 

One could pose the rhetorical question “What does a sailor bring to a blind date?”.  Based on the title some search engines will be here for the wrong reasons!  My experiences with crewing & sailing meet-ups are very similar to blind dates.   Some can be wonderful and the beginning of new friendships while others are problematic and to be avoided in the future.  Certainly, my experiences with the crew of S/V Duck Soup have been auspicious.  A new network of friends who are well skilled sailors of even temperament.  I can only hope that I give to them the same friendship and courtesies they have extended to me.

 

S/V L'Amarre an Alberg 37 in Charleston Harbor

S/V L’Amarre an Alberg 37 in Charleston Harbor

Other settings have stretched me into areas of “more challenge than I anticipated” resulting in considerable discomfort.   Moving L’Amarre from Charleston to Marthas Vineyard via the gulf stream in early April is the prime example.  Three days, out of five, that required “one hand for me & one for the boat” along with only bottled water and power bars quietly characterizes the last 3 days approaching Marthas Vineyard.

SV Tate

S/V Tate @ Royal River Maine

Finally, there are times to just get off.  I consistently need to appraise the balance between aspiration, discomfort, & safety.  There are times of self honesty when the answer is simply…….just get off.  So….An appropriate question for me had been “What do you take on a blind date?”.

Personal Safety Gear

 

These are my choices for personal safety gear.  My life vest, a retaining strap to keep the life vest from escaping over my head, and D rings to clip off my dual tether are with me every trip.  Since I’m in Puget Sound, the life vest is aways worn.  If I’m working on the deck, especially offshore, the tether is always used.  The other devices (radio, compass, gps, headlamp, Spot satellite communicator, knee pads, & weatherman) are equally important but will not keep me on the boat.  I understand that this list my not be yours and may well be adjusted based on the setting of your voyage.  This for me is a situationally based bare bones kit.  Let me know what your experience has been.   I welcome your thoughts.

 

Be well…..Fair Winds…..