Monday, July 28, 2014

Underway - Leaving Bodega Bay and Northern California

July 21

We were set to get underway this morning. The day was started with coffee and yesterday’s breakfast burrito. The microwave went on for a couple of minutes, and no heat was generated.  A few minutes more and nothing. Various settings were tried, and nothing. So, it appears that we’ve got a dead microwave. A microwave on a boat is a bit of a luxury, but a dead microwave on a boat is annoying. Interesting how quickly perspective changes. I had been hoping to use that to heat up a coffee or a tea before a chilly watch.

We slipped our lines and headed over to the gas bar, where we topped off our tanks with diesel. A lot more went in than expected, which also causes me concern with our fuel gauges. We won’t trust them until we have been able to properly verify their accuracy. The tank is supposed to hold 55 gallons, and we’ve got a 55 HP engine. (I’ll have to check those numbers. Seems a little too pat.) Cuno says a good rule of thumb is that an engine uses 5% of it’s horsepower in litres of fuel, at a moderate RPM level, per hour. So we’d be looking at 2.75 litres per hour, or about ¾ of a gallon. So our engine should be good to go for a bit over 70 hours. But we’ll fill up well before then.

We had done weather and navigation planning the prior day. The weather over the next few days was looking fine. Not much wind, which means we’ll probably end up motoring a lot of the way. And that wind that there will be will likely be coming from the North, which isn’t a lot of help when we’re trying to go to the North. In about three days some strong winds will hit, perhaps a little stronger than we’d like to be out in. We’re going to keep a close eye on things and remain aware of where our back-up harbours are.

We left the dock and set off, out of Bodega Bay, which is a lovely place after all. There’s not much complex navigation here on the West Coast. Head out of the bay, turn right, and keep going. That’s the way North.

The day before Cuno had calculated all the waypoints on his plotter. Once on the ocean we input all the points into the ships GPS and autopilot. There were about 20 waypoints required between Bodega Bay and Victoria.

Did I mention that our final destination had changed? I’d been told we’d end up in Vancouver, but it appears that our delivery is to Victoria. It’s close, but not quite. I’m not sure if it’s the standard confusion between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, or just a bit of misinformation. That, the lack of third crew-member, and the life-jacket situation have been my three surprises so far. Not much you can do about it, and none of it intentional or Cuno’s fault.

Once underway we made a few more discoveries of things that weren’t working quite right. Our speed measurement is down, as is our windspeed indicator. It’s spinning, but the numbers aren’t making it to the cockpit. Also, our log showing distance travelled isn’t working. It’s connected to the speed indicator, so something’s going wrong with those two. Fortunately, none of those three are dealbreakers. We can, and do, primarily measure our location with GPS. There’s the ships GPS, failing that there’s Cuno’s iPad plotter, and failing that there are iPhones. Failing that there’s dead-reckoning and charts. And the wind direction finder works fine, we just don’t have speed. But if we can’t handle that then we’re probably not very good sailors. So it’s fine.

So now we were at sea, motoring along with little wind, with our nav plan input for the next week or so. Nothing to do now but go. We switched into our shifts, alternating 3 hours on and 3 hours off. Cuno took the first shift, and I went to sleep in the cockpit, enjoying the sun.

A while later it was my turn to drive for the 1:00 to 4:00 shift, and Cuno took a nap. It was a lovely day, but we were a fair bit off the coast, so there’s not that much you can see. I discovered towards the end of my shift that I had 3G coverage, so I sent off a few notes and instagrammed a few photos. I wrapped up my shift, as I will all shifts, with a log entry, giving location, heading, speed, conditions, barometric pressure, and all the other things required in case we need to sort out our location due to failure of other systems. It’s just good practice.

After my shift I took a nap while Cuno drove. I then took over for the 19:00 to 22:00 shift. We’re cruising along about around 5.8 knots on average. 1600 RPM. The seas were calm overall, but some big rollers. Very little wind. Very little 3G access too, which was too bad. But time to do some reading, and some writing. We had turned on the lights at the start of my shift, and by the end they were really needed. Cuno took over at 22:00 and showed me how to turn down the blinding light on the GPS display. Much better. I went in for some sleep.

The next shift was graveyard. July 22, 1:00 to 4:00. Ugh. We wake one another up 15 minutes prior to our shift to get ready. I grabbed a water and an apple and headed out. When I had come off the night before you could see the lights of towns on the coast and even the light in the sky from San Francisco in the distance. Now it was pitch dark out, with no visibility of the shore. That probably meant that there was fog or low cloud out there, but we couldn’t really tell. It had also gotten a lot colder. I was now using all my foul weather gear. Boots, jackets, pants and helmsman gloves. The one thing I didn’t bring was a good hat. (Colleen, the toque queen, would kill me.) I know where it is, ready to be packed up, but somehow it didn’t make it into my bag. All I’ve got is my white baseball hat, which is great for the sun but not so good for the night shift. Frankly, the shift was dull. You can only look out into pitch black for so long. We now had our radar on, which was great because we couldn’t tell what our visibility was like. I would check it and the GPS every few minutes. And I’d read my kindle and write a bit of a blog entry.

Three hours is a good amount of time for a shift. It allows the guy not on to get some proper sleep or do something else, but it’s also short enough that the end eventually comes. Having a third person on board would be great, but with just the two of us this will do fine.

Cuno took the 4:00 to 7:00 shift and I slept. At 6:45 he woke me and it looked pretty wet outside, but wasn’t really raining. It had just been misting through the night. The ocean was dead calm and there was little wind. It was still pretty socked in and we couldn’t see shore. The grey of the sea blend into the grey of the sky. It wouldn’t make a great picture, but it’s incredibly beautiful. Very peaceful.

There’s been a bit of wildlife so far. Yesterday Cuno pointed out some dolphins breaching in the distance. Beautiful, but a bit far away. And there are seabirds, skimming the water and seeming to play with the waves. It’s a beautiful sight. 

More to come...

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