The Good: We left the west coast of Vancouver Island on August 16th and we were glad to be under way again. For the Captain, it was the urge to get back out onto the water sailing, for me it was more like, let’s get this show on the road. Initially we had a fog bank to get through but then it was clear sailing, then we had to motor for a long while. August 17th was a good sailing day.
The Bad: August 18th started off well enough. We were on course. By late afternoon you could see things begin to change minute by minute and a funny feeling for both of us started to creep in. We looked at each other and knew the weather was deteriorating. By now we were 70 miles offshore with little opportunity to make a quick exit to a port. Unlike the coast line around Vancouver Island which has multiple bays and inlets, along the USA west coast there are few. At our speed of 5 knots per hour, it would take us approximately 14 hours to reach any destination. The winds picked up very quickly with each passing hour and the wave swells were climbing. Still it was manageable.
The Ugly: August 19th and 20th. One of our biggest concerns were other vessels, mostly fishing boats as we noticed that once we were in USA waters the fishing boats did not have or were not using AIS (Automated Identification System). The AIS will show up on our navigation system and will give us their location, speed, size of vessel etc. We saw three or four boats in one area and not one transmitted their AIS.
Winds had now picked up to 40 knots from behind us, which was good but the waves were now taller and grew shorter in the amount of time it took to reach us. Many times, the boat was hammered broad side and then the boat would shake. I do not know which is worse, the increasing strength of the storm or watching the Captain put up the storm sail. “Storm Sail”, this is a much smaller version of the Genoa (most forward sail) and about 70% less in size as compared to the Genoa. The purpose is to help keep the boat under control and not become over powered. With the “normal” working sails up the boat would be propelled too quickly due to the size of the sails and loss of control would be the outcome.
Captain prepared the storm sail for hoisting by attaching it to a stainless-steel line that runs from the deck to the main mast. As it was being hoisted up, a pin to the steel rigging broke! Now he must in almost the worst of conditions rework everything by using ropes. I watched as the sail, the ropes and the boat were being whipped about with Captain holding on. As I looked around I knew then that turning the boat around to rescue the Captain, should he go overboard, would not be an option. This was a terrible reality. (Notice I mention that the Captain would be going overboard, not me. Thought a little humour should be added).
It was not safe to be outside, so Captain said all we can do is go inside and wait it out. He assured me the boat was fine and it was. We closed the hatch and began every 15 to 30-minute watches, mainly for other vessels. We were being hit fiercely by waves that were in the range of 13 feet and winds were now being recorded at 50 knots. We were “pooped” at one point, which means that water filled the entire outside cockpit up to the seat level and came in the hatch around the hinges and middle of where the doors close, water was everywhere inside.
At one point the boat heeled over violently to port, we were hit by one of many waves. Captain kept reassuring me, for I was not being very quiet at that moment. I know I will never forget the sound of the worst waves. It is like a small canon going off, the impact is so loud. I was certain we hit something rather than being hit. All night this went on.
Our exhaustion became so complete that we slept. The alarm was set for one-hour intervals. We were no longer concerned with vessels, no one else was out here. We had to make sure that we were still on course and that all was still well with the boat. A side panel of the dodger (covering over the hatch and cockpit area) was ripped and nearly lost.
Either the Captain or I would crawl out from the covers to check on things. By August 20th the winds and seas had decreased slightly. We crawled back into our blankets and continued our one-hour watches. No other boats could be seen on the navigation system nor with us taking a visual look.
August 21st, Solar Eclipse. I was so looking forward to that event. We were too far south to see it. Seas and winds had moderated compared to the last two days. We remain inside as it is not comfortable enough to stay outside. By 2100 we had to begin to motor, no wind, no stars and the sea was calm.
And the Good: We made it through a tough and for me a frightening experience. In future, a more thorough planning for weather. Only one pot from the stove went flying during our weather adventure and it only had water in it (did the happy dance, no not really but close). We are still on course for San Francisco. Now able to have a decent meal and wash up. Sea is like glass and you can see ships at ten miles.
I have hesitated about posting this blog as I know my son would be reading it and I worried that he would worry but thought that I should be true to myself and write about the not so nice things. I know my son understands the meaning of being true to ones self.
All is well and life is good. oo