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Published: June 27th 2007
The Coast Guard Station at Bodega Bay. We love these guys.
On Wednesday, June 27, we powered out of Bodega Bay at 5am. We passed the base station of our four new friends, United, States, Coast and Guard, and continued out into the sea, where we met the winds and the waves we had anticipated: 20 knots of wind on the nose and 4-6 feet swells. It’s good that we ate early, because it was tough going. Still, we were prepared for that because that’s what had been forecasted. What wasn’t in the forecast, and continued to not be in the buoy reports, was the 40-knot winds that kicked over the bow from about noon to four in the afternoon.
This was extremely hard to get through. The swell wasn’t as bad as it had been on The Night Of The Coast Guard (we were getting 8-10 feet or so), but the power of the wind was debilitating for us. Our speed dropped down to 3 knots/hr, which is an absolute crawl. We were taking a lot of water over the bow and straight into the cockpit, so we both ended up soaked (again). Harry took the brunt of it, as his watch was from noon-3. I got the tail-end,
The right way to helm the boat.
This was after our bout with the 40-knot winds. Sometimes it's good to let the autohelm take over.
and the satisfaction of being able to say, “I think it’s falling off a little,” and being right.
Early on, I’d gone down below to get the wind reading and the barometer, to put on the Ship’s Log report. When I saw the wind meter at 38.7 knots, my heart absolutely leapt in my chest. I think I choked, too. While we’re fighting through these intense conditions, we’re not thinking about the severity of the description; just about how to get over the next swell, and how to keep the bow to the wind when everything is yanking us around. We also think about ducking when the water rockets over the bow right at our face. Seeing 38.7 on the wind meter made it seem much more intense, especially because when we’re sitting around all relaxed, a 40-knot wind is something we scoff at, as in, “We’d NEVER be out in winds that high.” But there we were.
We continued to monitor the weather and buoy reports on the handheld VHF and for the entire four hours that we were getting our butts kicked by high winds, the reports continued to say, “Bodega Bay buoy, 12 knots of wind, Point Arena, 9 knots gusting to 14”. We got a little pissed off about that.
It took us 12 hours to travel a distance that should have taken 6 or 7 hours. Our original plan was to sail from Bodega Bay to Fort Bragg in one day, and stay the night at the marina in Fort Bragg. This was a total distance of about 80 miles, which would be a long day but not at all impossible. While I was on watch around 4:30, and we’d just rounded Point Arena and found calm seas and wind, I told Harry I was looking forward to getting into Fort Bragg. He just stared at me with this stricken look. “We’re not going to make it to Fort Bragg. That’s still 10 hours away.” I got so angry I wanted to push him over board. But the smart side of me said quietly in my ear, “Let’s think twice about doing that, shall we?” We were both exhausted by this time, and looking at another 10 hours of hard sailing was just too much.
So I was very quiet on the outside for a while, helming the boat through 20-knot winds and 6-8 foot swells, which is normal but not relaxing and easy. Harry was quiet on the outside, too. Then, miraculously, the wind got quiet on the outside, too, and the swells leveled off and we were able to breathe and relax and rest a little. An hour or so later, after the storm on the inside had calmed, I asked Harry what the plan was, and we decided to sail through the night (the weather reports were still saying very low winds and seas) and make it to either Eureka or Crescent City by Thursday afternoon. Since the seas were moving toward flat and the wind was just whispering, we put the boat on autopilot, ate dinner and rested. Don’t misinterpret “rested”: we were still in the cockpit, in the elements, riding waves, paying attention and scanning the horizon.
Out here, food becomes a huge issue. That is, getting enough calories into our bodies is a problem. On the day we left Bodega Bay, we ate scrambled eggs and coffee cake at about 6am, and weren’t able to eat again until 12:30 or so, and then it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I was breaking off pieces and thrusting them at Harry while he battled the 40-knot winds). Conditions down below are dangerous in this kind of weather, so there’s no way to put together anything more sustaining. The food also needs to be hand-held: there’s no way a plate and fork are going to work in shifting water and winds. Fighting the seas at the helm is a lot of work, and we take three-hour shifts. Just sitting in the cockpit in intense weather is exhausting. We were able to eat again around 6:30, and with the calmer seas I was able to make us bean and cheese burritos. I’d spent the previous hour trying to think of what to make that would give us as many calories as possible, be warm, and taste good. I put lots of cheese and sour cream on those burritos, and fresh cilantro, which made me roll my eyes at myself, but which tasted good. All told, we consumed about 1,500 calories which isn’t nearly enough.
I took the first night watch, from 9 to midnight. It was quite beautiful out, with a nearly glassy sea surface, an almost-full moon and no wind at all. The fog drifted in and out, so at one point I could see perfectly well as far as the horizon, and when I glanced up from the GPS a minute later, we were surrounded by a wall of white fog. We had the autopilot engaged through the night, and popped up from our seat to scan the horizon every 10-15 minutes, which is about every 2-3 songs on the iPod.
A very tough day made better by the peaceful night.
Tot: 4.542s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 10; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0379s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb