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Goodbye to Seattle: Seattle to San Francisco

Written by Cathy Siegismund
August - September 2000


It was mid-August, and time for our Bon Voyage party. The crew of Felicity, Layla (Drew and Vernita Lytle) and Rainsong (Jason and Tamara Suess) threw a party at the Bluewater Bistro on Lake Union. It is always interesting that most of your friends and family fall into two distinct camps when you try to explain cruising to them. The first understands the lifestyle and is excited for you and maybe a bit jealous. The second, gives you the most perplexed look, and says -- so how long are you going to do this? They want to be happy for you, but there's always that look in their eyes that you're certifiable. 

Rainsong (Taswell 43), Layla (Panda 40) and Felicity (Tashiba 31) rafted up at the Bon Voyage Party

Ken down below

Frank and Trish Schattauer talking to Ken

Lauren & John sporting our stylish t-shirts

Sophie & her better half

Dave & Linda Allegre

Ken and his brother Pete

After the party, we spent the night in Lake Union, and the next day motored out through the ship canal and through the locks with Layla.

Going under the Ballard Bridge

Following Layla through the ship canal bridge

Canoe coming out the locks

Felicity in the locks that go from the lakes to Puget Sound

Leaving the locks heading for Puget Sound

We had originally planned on going to the Perry Rendezvous at Port Ludlow, but we couldn't get our projects completed and we ended up missing the Rendezvous and leaving 5 days later than we'd planned.

We finally cast off on August 22, the first of the three Ta Shing boats to leave the dock. We had a wonderful send-off by Ken's Dad and Gigi, Jason and Tam, and Drew and Vernita. The ceremony Gigi created included having everyone over to Felicity for a reading of Sea Fever by John Masfield.

We didn't feel prepared to leave and still had projects to complete and a crate of stuff to stow down below. However, as everyone says, the hardest part of leaving is to cast off the dock lines, so we made ourselves leave. The sun was setting over the Olympics as we sailed out of Elliott Bay. We decided as it was dark and we were tired that our first stop would be Shilshole Marina -- a little embarrassing as it was only about 1 1/2 hour motor from our slip, but at least we'd officially left!

The stop at Shilshole wasn't' really what we'd planned but we did need to discuss our trysail leads with Frank Schattauer. We got a good nights sleep and met with Frank at 9am. He quickly made us some webbing straps to give us a better lead for our trysail sheets. The day was warm and sunny with a pleasant North wind and we had a great sail on a glorious Northwest day.

Shilshole Marina, Seattle, WA

Cath Sailing in Puget Sound

Ken sailing in Puget Sound

Sailing in Puget Sound on a beautiful sunny day, Mt. Rainier just visible in the distance

We sailed North under full sail and were trying to point to Port Townsend, however, we weren't making good enough time and our wind started to die some by the afternoon. We had an invitation to meet Karin Venator, Felicity's last owner, at Port Ludlow for dinner, so we turned West onto a beam reach and practiced with Jimmy (our Monitor windvane and Jimmy Buffett's namesake).

We got to Port Ludlow that evening and rafted up to Ensemble, Karin's new Swan 391. We had a great dinner and a few bottles of excellent wine with Karin, and Patti Whelan, a Kiwi who had done extensive cruising including a circumnavigation.

Felicity rafted to Ensemble at Port Ludlow

Quiet morning at Port Ludlow

We slept in, awaking to no wind and took a leisurely motor up to Port Townsend. We arrived in Port Townsend midday and got moorage at Point Hudson, by Carol Hasse's sail loft. We took some long overdue showers, got the weatherfax programmed, and caught up on some laundry. That night we met up with Ginny Harvey, a Mahina Expedition alum, for dinner at her house in PT. We wandered PT and then had to move the boat over to the commercial basin for two additional nights to work on boat projects. I serviced the winches and we completed stowing the rest of the gear.

We were in contact with Dave and Linda Allegre who were preparing to leave Seattle in a couple of days for San Francisco as well.

On Sunday morning, we left PT for Friday Harbor. We still had boat projects and we wanted to meet Tracy of Tracy's Homebase, who was going to be handling our mail.

Leaving Port Townsend, we spotted an unlucky sailboat who selected a poor anchorage

The Strait of Juan de Fuca was like glass so we had another day of motoring, which was OK as we did need to charge our batteries.

Motoring past the lighthouse at Port Townsend at Admiralty Inlet

We hit Cattle Pass at flood to have a fast ride to Friday Harbor -- a max of 11+ knots over ground.

View of Mt. Baker from our slip at Friday Harbor Marina, San Juan Island

We pulled into a crowded Friday Harbor marina, but got a nice 40' slip and tied up next to another sailboat. I stopped by the fresh fish pier and we had a leisurely dinner of fresh salmon and crab and a bottle of wine.

Monday was a big project day. We met with Tracy, who was very nice and we felt very comfortable having her handle our mail, etc. We picked up some mail and ran errands including the grocery and drug store. We then went to town on the boat; we secured our dodger handrails, re-bed a deck prism and finished up after 2300 by sending Ken up the mast to tape and inspect the rigging. He was up the mast for so long with his head lamp on, we had a woman and her son come down the dock off a power boat to see if he was stuck up there and needed help!

We went to bed early, as we had to be up at 0530 to catch the morning ebb back through Cattle Pass so we could get across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles before the afternoon flood. The Strait can be an uncomfortable place  when you get the tide and winds going against each other.

Tuesday we woke to cold rain, but only about 10 knots of wind. We motored out of Friday Harbor and I took the helm to give Ken a chance to finish stowing some last minute items. The idea was to let Ken take a nap; however, by the time everything was stowed we were reaching Cattle Pass and the wind was rapidly climbing to 20 knots on the nose. That combined with the outgoing tide was really turning the water into short and uncomfortable pounding seas. It was getting hard to keep Felicity's nose into the wind even at full throttle.

This had caught us a little unprepared as we hadn't completely stowed everything, so Ken ended up on the foredeck tying down the dinghy, tying the lifelines and stowing spare lines. We finally raised the main for stability, and as we got toward the center of the Strait the rain eased and the short seas smoothed out.

We motored all the way to Port Angeles, and arrived at about 1330. It was the Washington peninsula at its worst; it was gray, wet, cold and depressing. The harbor is protected by a hook of land and is populated by two lumber mills. There were several large freighters anchored in the bay. The marina was cheap and adequate, but not somewhere you'd want to stay for too long. We started to see a number of boats gearing up for the trip South, including a Pearson 32 hailing from Hawaii with two aging surfer dudes with a surfboard tied to the foredeck. John, the owner of the boat, is headed South and was a friend of David Burch. There were also several other sailboats and a mega yacht powerboat.

We tied up to a long pier, had some hot lunch and collapsed for a 3 hour nap that felt great! We needed to have an early departure to make it to Neah Bay, a 50 mile trip, with favorable wind and currents. We had a light dinner and showers and got an update from Rainsong and Crusader on our 1930 net on the SSB.

We got an early start at 0600 for Neah Bay in pea soup fog. It was our first experience really motoring by instruments alone. Ken watched the radar and I steered. At times visibility was less than 100 feet. It was creepy but Ken was reassuring and we easily threaded our way out of the harbor around huge freighters and then out into the Strait. We planned to motor along the coast on the US side to avoid the heavily traveled shipping lanes. It was very clam, but we had building swell as we made our way NW toward the Pacific.

Fog slowly lifting as we motored out the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Motoring out the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Neah Bay

The fog lifted and returned in patches most of the day. The swell continued to build but I felt great using the Stugeron for seasickness.

We arrived in beautiful sunshine at Neah Bay at 1500. The marina is fairly new with new docks and shower facilities. However, other than that the people were not very friendly and although it was sunny it was quite cold. We tied up and saw some of the same boats we'd seen in Port Angeles. We also saw two of the infamous canoes the Makah use to hunt whales. Neah Bay is filled with fishing boats, transient cruisers, and small diving and sport fishing boats

We had hoped to do laundry, secure the boat and leave for San Francisco. However, due to weather we ended up spending longer than we'd planned in Neah Bay. We were on our 3rd day in Neah Bay, which was more than enough time to walk up and down the main drag and see the general store. Our weather window was less than ideal, but not bad enough to make us want to hang out much longer either. There was a low hanging over us that didn't want to leave. We continued to wake to Southerly winds. We still felt sleep deprived, so we continued our R and R and watched the weather faxes.

We continued to check in on our 1930 net and learned that Dave and Linda had made it to SF motoring all but 6-7 hours. This would be almost as bad for us as too much wind as we don't carry the fuel capacity of our larger "vesseled" friends.

Finally, the 96-hour forecast looked good, so we committed to leave on Saturday, September 2. This first step is unbelievably hard!

We finally felt ready to leave. It was a sunny and cool day, we got going slower than we had hoped, but we finally pulled out of Big Salmon Marina at about 1030. We had smooth seas and a small swell as we motored out the strait toward Tatoosh Island and the big Pacific Ocean.

Taking the big left around Tatoosh

We had very light wind, but gave sailing a try. We sailed for a few hours until after dinner and watched a great first sunset at sea.

First sunset at sea

We weren't making much speed, so we ended up motoring most of the evening. As I suspected, I wasn't too wild about the night watch. The freighters and blackness under cloud cover did creep me out. I was on watch until about 2300 and then Ken was a great sport and took the rest of the night watch.

We had very light winds and motored most of the way. We were in contact with Layla and Rainsong via our 1930 net. Layla and Rainsong were leaving two days after we did. Jason's weather router said there was a low off the Oregon/California boarder and we shouldn't be South of Coos Bay, OR for another 3 days. As we had also done a great deal of motoring and needed fuel, we decided to stop at Yaqina Bay (Newport, OR) the first stop Charlie's Charts recommended South of Grays Harbor, WA. We continued to mostly motor. We still had not worked into a formal watch schedule, which largely meant Ken was tired doing most of the night watches and I did most of the days, but was getting more sleep. On the morning of our third day at sea, I was on watch as the sun was rising when we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphin. This was one of the highlights of the leg. The least favorite part for me, was watching huge freighters cruise by us at night.

Our third morning at sea, was clear as we made our way to Newport. There was low fog on the coast, and as is always recommended we called the Coast Guard for a bar report. All the bays down the WA and OR coast are rivers with bars you need to cross to enter and these bars can be extremely dangerous.

The Coast Guard's bar report sounded fine, but they offered us an escort. This is a service they offer to all first-time visitors to Newport and as we later found out is how they meet their quota for courteousy inspections.

Coast Guard lifeboat escorting Felicity into Newport, OR

The Coast Guard was extremely helpful, they took us to the fuel dock and reserved a slip for us at the marina. We thought that was well worth a courteousy inspection.

We hadn't planned to stop from Neah Bay to San Francisco, but Newport was a pleasant surprise. As we arrived right after Labor Day, most of the tourists had left, so the town was quiet. The people were very friendly and helpful. We secured Felicity on the last pier at the marina, right next to the Rogue Brewery - so our slip always had a wonderful "hoppy" smell to it. We washed the inside and out of the boat, and took wonderful showers after 3 days at sea.

Newport Marina and bridge at night

Layla and Rainsong were by now also on their way to Newport and planned to arrive the next evening. We took a taxi across the bridge to the main part of town grabbing dinner and then turned a much-needed good night's sleep.

The next day after doing laundry, we "did" Newport. We had lunch and beer tasting at the Rogue Brewery, walked across the bridge to town, toured the lighthouse and walked the downtown tourist area with all its galleries.

Newport Bridge view from the park surrounding the lighthouse

That night at 2300 and midnight respectively we helped Rainsong and Layla tie up a few slips down from us, it was great to see everyone had survived their first offshore passage, even if it was short and consisted mostly of motoring.

We saw a number of other boats making the southern passage to California. Among these were a Tayana 47 which had lost to its rig about 80 miles offshore, not due to heavy weather, but a faulty tang or pin in the rigging. The owners were waiting in Newport for the insurance adjuster and then were planning to truck the boat to CA; we later saw them as we were leaving San Diego.

We also met three young crew members on Boread, a 30-foot boat from Alaska. They, too, were heading to Mexico and the South Pacific.

The next day we hung out with Drew and Vernita and did some more sightseeing. All six of us had a good dinner that night at a local restaurant. Having discussed weather with both the weather router we were using and the one Rainsong was using, they both said leaving the next day should be fine, with predicted winds not to exceed 25 knots.

We left the next morning at 0900, with Layla and Rainsong leaving later that afternoon. We headed out of Newport in moderate fog and swell. The Stugeron was still working wonderfully, so no Mal de Mer. We had no wind, but raised our main to steady us as we motored.

We motored for a day and a half through fog with little or no wind. We were extremely happy with our radar and got a lot of practice. Our second afternoon, we were again thinking we would have to stop for fuel, when the wind started to pick up. The forecasts were saying it would be 15 - 20 knots, and as we started sailing around dinner time we were all very happy. We had remained close enough to Layla and Rainsong, to stay in VHF range, although Rainsong was now a few miles ahead of us, and Layla was pulling ahead of us and slightly more offshore.

We started sailing with full jib and main in a nice 12 - 15 knot wind. We had a good dinner but by early evening, the wind was in the 20's and we had tucked our first reef in the main and slightly furled the jib.

Ken hadn't been able to sleep with the increased motion of the boat, so I went down for some sleep. Ken got me up at 0330 with the winds now gusting to 30 knots. We pulled in the jib and put a second reef in the main. We were making extremely good time on a broad reach, but the wind was continuing to build so Ken stayed up with me until it began to get light and then went below and tried with little success to sleep.

We had maintained fairly consistent VHF contact with Rainsong, who was still seeing strong winds. They were now about 15 miles ahead of us and slightly inshore. Neither of us had heard from Layla in some time. The morning brought beautiful clear skies, sunshine and still stronger winds. We were about 15 miles offshore as we rounded Cape Mendocino. The winds were now consistently in the 30's with 12' - 15' seas, and the windvane was still keeping us on course. It was amazing to watch the windvane steer us down the growing waves. We had a magnificent blue sky with sea gulls swooping around the wave tops and we saw a dolphin jump out of the middle of a wave face right behind us.

As the wind increased to the high 30's gusting to 40, occasionally the vane wouldn't get our stern directly into a wave and we would slide down the side of a it. We would then heal over and water would come in the cockpit around the turning block as we swung in a pendulum motion. Felicity, however, would soon level out and continue racing down the waves. The wind and seas continued to build and despite only being under a double-reefed main, we were seeing speeds up to 8+ knots as we surfed down wave faces.

We decided to drop the main altogether and run under staysail alone. An advantage of the small boat, even with our full batten main, we had been able to reef and were able to drop our main without turning up into the huge waves and wind to change sail. The Monitor steered throughout the sail change and our boat speed slowed to 5-6 and our stability increased.

The winds however continued to build, now consistently in the mid-40's. Ken was on watch and I went below, as I really wasn't feeling very comfortable in the cockpit. The waves were now getting really big, with a few curling at the tops. The vane at this point wasn't always keeping our stern square to the waves in the confused and steep seas. We wished we had switched from the light-air vane to the normal vane before the wind and seas built up as this would have enabled the vane to steer in the heavier air.

We had finally heard from Rainsong who were only a couple of miles offshore and seeing winds only in the teens. They were heading to Ft. Bragg (Noyo River) for the night. We decided to head inshore some and at least plot a course for Ft. Bragg. Ken was now hand-steering the boat keeping us straight down the huge waves, and then working our way East toward shore in the troughs.

Ken hand steering in winds in the mid-40's gusts over 50! -- yes, that's a wave behind him

As the wind and waves were still building, I was putting in the clear hatch boards and just as I was sliding in the top one a wave broke right behind us sending spray below and onto our laptop - Doh! That was the end of the laptop with our electronic charts. I was now below in what felt like a washing machine, hand plotting on the paper charts. We continued this way for about 5 hours, as we neared shore the winds were finally down to the low 30's. After gusts in the 50's this felt like a walk in the park - I even made dinner! The seas were still very lumpy but the closer we got to shore the more they dropped until we were under 10 knots. We were exhausted and heading for Ft. Bragg. I had reached the Coast Guard there and asked for an escort as we were going to arrive around midnight.

Story of Boread

As were were rounding Mendocino, we heard a distress call on channel 16. It was the 30' boat from Alaska we'd met in Newport. Apparently, they had tried to deploy a sea anchor, which didn't open. While trying to retrieve it they got the line wrapped around their rudder and prop and lost all steerage. The CG ended up sending a boat out to them and towing them into Ft. Bragg. We listened to the whole operation on channel 16 for the next 12 hours.

I was back on watch as we continued our motor down the coast toward Ft. Bragg. Ken was below loading the charts on my Onyx laptop, as ours was now dead and trying to reach Layla on the VHF radio. We hadn't heard from them for quite some time and were worried. We finally hailed Drew and learned that they were about 10 miles ahead of us and 30 miles offshore and were getting hammered worse than we were. They were still seeing winds sustained in the mid-50's with a gust to 62! When we told them we were headed for Ft. Bragg, and currently were motoring in 4 knots of wind, they immediately changed course, and said they'd meet us in Ft. Bragg.

The Coast Guard met us at the entrance whistle buoy to Noyo River -- a very scary entrance no more than 60' wide with rocks on either side. They led us through the narrow entrance and said the marina was straight ahead and, by the way, "good luck finding a slip." The town looked stuck in the 1950's. It was a small fishing marina with no transient or guest moorage, and only a handful of permanent pleasure boats. Committed to finding a slip we wandered the aisles with our spot light, saw Boread, the Pearson from Hawaii we'd met in Neah Bay as well as Layla and Rainsong. We eventually spotted an empty slip and took it. We were exhausted and just hoped we wouldn't be awakened by an irate fisherman. We used our head shower for the first time to wash our salt encrusted selves and made up the two settees too exhausted to unpack the v-berth. Ken and Felicity had performed remarkably well in all the big weather, but the best feeling in the world was turning the heater on and collapsing exhausted into our bunks.

We were awoken out of deep sleep at 1000 by a rapping on the hull. Worried it was the resident of the slip we were in, we leapt out into the cockpit. It was the Coast Guard getting our names and documentation number. They told us we'd be wise to hang out in Ft. Bragg another day as the unseasonably rough weather wasn't going to clear out for another day or so. We were more than happy to oblige.

We spent the next day cleaning up and drying out the boat which was a mess inside and out after our roller coaster ride.

Ft. Bragg, aka Noyo River Marina

Felicity drying out at Ft. Bragg

Vernita on Layla working on drying out  everything as well

We had a good day hanging out with Drew, Vernita, Jason and Tam and touring the odd little town of Ft. Bragg and having overpriced dinners. We caught up with the other cruisers that were there licking their wounds and heard their war stories.

The weather was forecasted to be benign so we left the next morning for what ended up being a 128 mile overnight motor in pea soup fog and flat calm seas to San Francisco -- which was fine with us!

When we were motoring down Bonito Channel the fog began to lift and we got a spectacular entrance to San Francisco Bay.

Fog lifting as we headed down Bonita Channel

Fog lifting heading down Bonita Channel

Approaching Golden Gate Bridge

Passing under the Golden Gate, a significant milestone for Northwest cruisers heading South

Cath at the helm passing under the Golden Gate

     

Ken and Cath happy to having completed the first significant passage and shakedown cruise of their adventure

We managed to get a slip at Schoonmaker Marina in Sausalito. A tough thing to do, so the reservation I had made in March paid off. We arrived at the marina with Rainsong and Layla about 15 minutes behind us. Ken's Mom was waiting for us and I had to quickly shower and get to the Onyx office in SF to meet my replacement I was working with that week.

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