The Voyage (finally!) Begins

Tomorrow afternoon we will water up, fuel up and head to Fairhaven (South Bellingham) to anchor and get a few hours sleep until:

  •  it is no longer Friday* and
  • the tides and currents start heading south (about midnight)

Chart of Neah Bay, Washington to San FranciscoThe currents head north from 8 am Saturday to 4 pm Saturday so we are going to get an early start and hope to be past the constrictions of Bellingham Channel which funnels the currents with ferocity. We will probably go to Port Townsend to break the trip and do any last minute tasks. At this point the weather appears to be favorable to leave Neah Bay on Tuesday morning, so we will keep our eye on that forecast and leave as soon as the weather cooperates reasonably.

The trip from Neah Bay, depending on how far out the weather suggests we stay offshore, is 800 to 900 miles. The chart at left shows the furthest offshore that we would go, but we will probably stay somewhat inside that. However we hate having land too close in case we have problems and need to heave-to.

Heaving-to is a time-honored maneuver that slows and quiets the boat’s motion. It is performed by heading close to the wind (“beating to windward”), tacking to take the wind on the opposite side of the boat, but not adjusting the head sail (genoa). This leaves the head sail on the “wrong” side of the boat and the mainsail on the “right” side of the boat, effectively braking each other. If you balance the sails well the boat quiets, the helm can be tied off, and a slick forms to windward showing that you are sliding off to the side a bit, not moving forward much. Properly done it is quite stable and gives the crew a rest as well as a quiet ride while repairs can be done. In a real gale it can be a lifesaver as author Donald Hamilton says:

“Being hove to in a long gale is the most boring way of being terrified I know.”

We generally travel a few miles to windward during a night hove-to. The last time we spent the night this way was on our way to Hawaii a few years back when our steering broke. We hope not to need it again, but there is no reason to be too close to a nasty lee shore, which is a fair description of the west coast of the US until you get to San Francisco. So we will stay well offshore until we get close to San Francisco.

Last night we had a very small gathering aboard Phoenix to say goodbye to some of our friends. We had luckily been able to visit many of our other friends over the preceding weeks. Even that small gathering had us at capacity down below and up above in the cockpit it was quite cold and later wet as well. So we were content to cuddle closely down below. It was bittersweet for me – how many folks will we still know as well after a year or two of voyaging? Will we meet folks that we love as much as our current friends? It’s hard to imagine, but we cannot ignore this traveling bug any longer.

I will try to post using our radio while we are underway, but never having done this there are several things that could go wrong!

*Note that mariners are a superstitious lot and it is bad luck to leave on a Friday. Of course it is also bad luck to have dressed women on board, which is why I’m not so much superstitious. It’s way too cold to be undressed woman on board! See Maritime Museum page on superstitions

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