In Alameda – run complete

It’s a fine feeling to be at a quiet, not-rocking-and-rolling, warm, solid dock after three days of noise and commotion and general boat heaving and yawing and rolling in all directions (sometimes all directions simultaneously, depending on the swell interference patterns at that moment). It’s also a sense of accomplishment to me – that’s a relatively long run from Seattle (Port Madison) to San Francisco (Alameda) in front of a not very friendly coastline with weather systems that can set up and blow hard (30 knots or more) for days. So I’m pretty happy with how it all went; some things could have been done better but nothing broke that I can think of and there were some really nice periods on the water.

There were also not so nice periods on the water, such as last night on the leg from Cape Mendocino to Point Reyes. The forecast that I went in with was for N10-20 knots, and once you launch past Cape Mendocino there’s not a lot one can do with an 8 foot draft boat except get to the other end – if something breaks you can have a long way to go to reach a safe port. Fort Bragg is the first protected place to pull over but Beetle doesn’t fit depth-wise, at least according to the USCG guys and the charts, unless you arrive at high tide and don’t mind sticking the keel in the mud. And the second place is Bodega Bay which is just before Point Reyes; Bodega with many facilities is north of Reyes, Drakes Bay with no facilities but a wonderfully protected anchorage is on the other side of the point. So I was kinda bummed to clear Cape Mendocino 5AM Thursday morning and headed south only to have the wind build to N20-30 and hang there. Hmmm… perhaps NWS missed on their forecast. Better yet, conditions were forecast to lay down as I got around Point Arena and instead conditions built – another stretch of N20-30 to move through.

What’s fun is to watch Beetle move along with lots of wind from behind (and it was super helpful to not have big swells, only 3-5 foot wind waves with white caps, no breakers) – the boat just zooms along even with a tiny triple-reefed main boomed out perpendicular to our course. Belowdecks conditions are not so comfortable when running DDW, as the boat rolls continuously, and that makes walking around down below most interesting. Everything remotely loose in the lockers starts to clank and bonk as the boat rolls 20 and 30 degrees to each side; biggest complaint was a beer bottle in the ice box that made loud CLUNK noises every roll, and then there were the soup cans that got loose in two different lockers; they make all sorts of noises as they carom about. Takes more than a few socks stuffed in strategic locations to make those quiet. Socks are also really good for quietening the plates and cups that rock back and forth and make clinky clanky noises behind the fold up table, and lots of little towels were used to make things quieter. After a few hours of noise-chasing the boat starts to be quieter, and then a new swell train arrives and now, in addition to the roll roll roll twitch there’s a new bow up heave bow down plonk! going on, and that makes new noises below. I finally located two metal Monitor windvane spare break-away tubes stuffed in the bottom of a locker, and they had been intermittently rolling into each other and sounding for all the world like two people clinking together champagne glasses… took hours to find those two pipes and wrap them in towels.

The wind and sea-state died dramatically just outside Cordell Bank, and then it was up since 3AM to bring Beetle in and around Point Reyes in the fog, find the Golden Gate Bridge, then to the marina, check in with the office, then go to sleep. Yeah Team!

So we’re off the water for the moment, and tomorrow I’ll sort out what pictures I have from the run and see about adding them to these notes.

Fun run!

– rob

Thursday night and approaching Point Arena

Hola! – it has been a successful day here on board Beetle, and now I’m about 70 miles from Point Reyes, the boat is trundling along with 14-16 knots of wind from behind, moderate swell of maybe 4 feet, and wind-driven waves that have so far not tried to jump on board to join me, despite the whitecaps.

This morning’s filter and fuel problem was a real bummer, and I was considering stopping at Bodega Bay to sort it out. Then I went and checked the weather forecast for south of Point Arena, and the forecast was for stronger winds on the shore and lighter winds outside. As Bodega Bay is on the shore, in fact it is set up a channel inside the shore, that would be a windy arrival in the dark to a place I have not actually taken the boat in before, so that did not look like the greatest idea.

Then I went back aft and studied the fuel filter and flow and hoses that comprise moving fuel from the day tank to the filters to the motor’s electric fuel pump. In thinking about it, I realized the narrowest point in the setup is the valve that attaches to the fuel tank, through which all fuel flows out to the motor, and wondered if it was a reasonable expectation to have a plugged line at the narrow point.

With the motor running there is a mounted vacuum gauge on the filter manifold, so you can easily determine how clogged the fuel filter is (Racor filters are designed to have fuel sucked through them, so a negative pressure will develop on the fuel pump side of the filter). There was a fair bit of vacuum, which was not making the motor happy. I flipped the manifold lever to pull through the just-replaced-this-morning filter, then reached in under the filter setup and momentarily closed the fuel tank valve (moves easily), then re-opened it to see if anything would happen.

Boom! Shlurp! a small chunk of crud shot up into the glass filter bowl and fell down to the bottom, where crud is supposed to go, the vacuum gauge immediately went to zero (clean filter), and suddenly all is well with fuel flow. Happy Diesel! Means that I definitely need to clean out the fuel tanks, lines, and filter housings, also means that I am headed on direct to San Francisco, no need to consider Bodega Bay.

After that I felt much more chipper, so went topsides to survey the grey overcast marine layer. Eventually the morning fog had gone away, there was sun for a few moments but not much, the wind started to calm down as Beetle moved down the track. At that point a group of whitesided porpoises showed up and they went and played in the bow wake for a while before moving off, and later on a second group appeared and did the same thing. Always fun to see dolphins.

So now it’s about time to gybe the mainsail over and make the turn around Point Arena. I shall not hit Point Arena, it is large and big and nasty; friend Wen told me he did hit Point Arena with his Swan sailboat, jammed the keel in the rocks and actually bent the keel. Something I will aim to not repeat! Besides, I am 20 miles offshore and no where near the Point. It’s been grey all day with limited visibility, so I haven’t actually seen the shore yet – but hopefully nobody has moved things around since the last time I was here.

Not too much further to go!

– rob

Wind is up, diesel is not my friend this morning

Good morning – the breeze came up strong last night late, about the time I was clearing Cape Mendocino, and the *new* forecast is now calling for N winds 10-20 guesting 30 out where I am. And they’re right! It is breezy, we’re chugging along at 7 knots with just the triple reefed main (motoring main) set out to starboard. It’s 69 miles to the turn at Point Arena, and then it’s turn more easterly towards Point Reyes.

The fuel filters and fuel supply to the engine are acting up, and I’ve been in the back of the boat playing with filters and air and I’m quite pleased the Yanmar 4JH5E in the boat is a self-bleeding fuel design. I need to go read more about that to really understand what it is that makes some diesel engines self-bleeding and others not. At any rate, while I have lots of diesel, it is becoming difficult to get it from the day tank, through the fuel lines, through the fuel filters, to the motor. My suspicion is that one of the fuel lines leadings to the filters is partially blocked, or the outlet inside the tank is partially blocked. I replaced a second filter this morning and it didn’t look bad despite the vacuum gauge saying there was a lot of vacuum on the filter.

The rolly conditions out here are not conducive to playing with diesel, it’s too easily spilled and makes a super mess to clean up afterwards. At a stable dock the project is straight forward, empty the day tank into jerry jugs, pull the inspection port and fuel line, and start inspecting and cleaning. If it looks like I can’t solve the issue here on the water, the closest place to pull over, as it were, between here and San Francisco, is Bodega Bay. So I’m going to go fiddle with the fuel lines and let Beetle trundle along, we’re continuing to make good time through the water.

Enjoy the day, and keep the fuel lines clean🙂

– rob

A mellow day on the ocean

Today has been an exceptionally pleasant day out here on the pond. The winds started out light and then died away to zip, and just a few minutes ago (6PM) a light ENE wind has appeared, drifting out from the coast all the way to me. The gray overcast gave way to bright sun, therefore today has been sun hat day. I am 53 miles from my turn at Cape Mendocino, it does feel like I’m getting down the coast. Tonight is forecast to be light Northerly wind, tomorrow similar, with the wind beginning to fill again Thursday night at 15-20 knots. Hopefully by then I am approaching Point Arena – which may have a different forecast that I do not have at at the moment.

I’ve been obtaining the NWS text forecasts via SailMail’s SailDocs function, and that has worked well. It is useful to have the text forecast on hand so I can re-read the relevant parts based on Beetle’s speed and therefore location. Tonight I’ll be asking for the NWS Eureka marine forecast again, and add to that the NWS Monterey forecast (Monterey covers Pt. Arena southwards to at least as far as Monterey).

Swapped in another 2 micron fuel filter, which makes me think it would be a good idea to clean out the fuel tanks and lines when I’m in Alameda. I also want to pull and re-bed the forward deck hatch, as that seal is no longer as good as it should be. And I’ve been designing sausage bags for the jibs; the bags I have are old and the zippers are corroded, so no longer usable, therefore time to make up some new ones. I’m thinking ‘Z’ style in that the bag can be folded up and strapped to make a stuffed bag that is no longer than the distance & aft in the sail locker forward.

And now it’s time to turn on the running lights and head on into the evening. I sure hope tonight is a lot more pleasant than last night’s icky bonky southerly; it’s forecast to be most pleasant, and that will help with my 20 and 30 minute naps and banking enough sleep to be up and running come morning.

Right now the moon is just up, almost full, off to port, and directly opposite is the sun, almost into the ocean. Not often that one has horizon-to–horizon views, and I sure have that tonight.

May all sailors have a calm and pleasant evening out on the big blue.

– rob

Wednesday morning south of Cape Blanco

The day has dawned grey and overcast, breeze is light 6-9 knots out of the south, there are three swell trains running (N, NW, S) and they are all low at 2-4 feet. Beetle tracking well, I’m running roughly due south to stay offshore after I ended up moving in towards the coast last night to avoid banging head-on into the wind-driven chop. The course change moved the boat to roughlyl 20 miles west of the shoreline and I would prefer to be more like 30 miles out.

Next big feature is clearing Cape Mendocino, currently 106 miles to the south, so Beetle will be out here plugging along for the day. The forecast from this morning calls for the wind to shift over to the SW this afternoon, and that should improve our speed slightly – currently making 5 to 5.3 knots speed over ground.

Last night was uneventful, which was nice, was able to catch sleep in 30 minute increments, and it’s a bit chilly here what with not having any sun. And in the course of the evening have run through the first 150 miles of the trip to San Francisco; something like 300 miles to go at this point. Plugging along is a good thing, even if slightly slow.

No big plans for the day, other than to get in some more sleep. So I’m back to the bunk for another nap, and will most likely hop up by mid-afternoon and be up for a while at that time.

Enjoy the morning!

– rob

Going upwind to San Francisco?

Something is not quite right with the world – the trip from the Pacific Northwest south along the coast to San Francisco is advertised as a downwind trip; right now I am about 35 miles north of Cape Blanco and am bumping along in 15 knots out of the south – rats! At least the sea state has remained down, though it was incredibly confused and lumpy bumpy when the abrupt switch happened from North at 15 to South at 15.

There is an isolated Low located somewhere between Cape Blanco and Cape Mendocino, the Low is producing winds from the south, and unfortunately that’s right where I wish to go. So what I’ve down is kept the boat moving but more slowly, and we’re motoring along with the third reef in the main (good motoring reef, that third reef), and turned due south as the wind is actually about 30 degrees to the west of south. This course still puts me 14 miles off Cape Blanco, and if memory serves the NAM model had the Low drifting north and west and petering out tomorrow afternoon. Of course the Low might not be paying attention to the model, so I get to find out empirically what the wind is going to do.

The nice thing is that at least now, three hours after making the jump from North to South breeze the sea state has straightened out a bit so it’s not completely higgilty piggilty – kinda like the washing machine effect one gets at Point Bonita when the ebb tide his the northerly, only it went on for miles and miles and miles.

It talked briefly with Cody on Purple Dream, he has discovered a weak link in the downrigger/stabilizer paravane setup the boat has – it flies fish in the water, one off each side, and one of the fish decided to leave the boat and head for the bottom. Turns out there are swaged galvanized wire connections between the chain and the fish, and the wire snapped at the swage. He’s now on a mission to replace everything with straight chain. He said it’s OK but not great with just one fish in the water, and is kinda bummed about the southerly cause the waves are making his boat jump. I think things will improve for him once he gets through the washing machine.

Elsewise all is good on board, not much water on the deck, and Beetle is plugging along through 2-3′ wind waves and chop as we bonk along south.

The earlier part of the day was marvelous, nice sun, good speed, running along downwind. Hopefully that will return some time tomorrow!

over and out for the night from Beetle🙂

– rob

Tuesday morning and Beetle is off to sea

Good morning – it’s a fine morning out here on the ocean off Newport, headed south-ish towards San Francisco. Conditions are bright sun, moderate North wind at 15-18 knots, swell is perhaps 4-5′ from behind; all in all a nice way to start the second leg down the US west coast, aiming for San Francisco.

The forecast so far is for continuing N winds less than 20 knots all the way to Pt Reyes, and most of the forecast is for less N10-20, so I’m expecting that when I turn south from the current ‘get away from the shore’ course that is 230 True (next leg should be 200T) I may not get as much push from the jib and instead may be back to motor-sailing with a reefed main out. There is something of a desired schedule on this run, in that we’ve got a nice weather window that holds through to Friday night between Point Arena and Point Reyes – come Saturday the millibars should squeeze up again and it should become windy through that stretch; so I’d like to be around Point Reyes and into the Gulf of the Farallones some time Friday afternoon.

Departure from the marina was slowed somewhat while waiting an hour for the tide level to rise to make sure that Beetle would clear the marina entrance shoaling (Beetle wants 8′ of water to remaining floating), and at 8AM we were off. The Canadian couple were out an hour before, then the 20 ton steel trawler Purple Dream headed out, then Beetle, then the folks bound for Brisbane with professional delivery captain Clint on board were next up. I did not see the singlehander Richard this morning, I expect he’s going to hang out in Newport a bit longer to spend time with his brother, and the gang on the Hans Christian also bound for Sausalito should be out today as well.

I’ve seen no traffic so far out here other than the NOAA or Woods Hole ship Atlantis headed in to Newport. No crab pots, and Clint mentioned that if we’re in water deeper than 600 feet we’re unlikely to have pots – according to his conversations with commercial crab folk their gear usually isn’t set up for more than 100 fathoms. Hopefully he’s correct, I would not mind having zero crab pots.

So it’s time to make my turn to 200 True, this should set the wind up almost dead astern. I expect the jib won’t like that, and to keep speed up and maintain simplicity I’ll probably use the engine and mainsail to push along. I’m aiming to maintain a bit of 6 knots boat speed, if I can do that then getting around Point Reyes Friday morning will work.

– rob