SIDNEY TO CRESCENT CITY
August 26, 2003
The big day has finally arrived! We sold our house in the Okanagan and everything in it...we quit our jobs...moved onto the boat in Sidney, sold our cars, found a new home for our beloved dog....to follow our dream. There were many tearful goodbyes to our friends and family.
Friends Jack & Lynn McCarthy saw us off as we officially untied the dock lines. It was with sadness and not a little trepidation that we backed Ascension out of her comfortable slip and headed for the unknown deep dark waters of the Pacific.
August 27, 2003
Our crew of three, Ginny, Gord and Marv, were all anxious to begin the adventure. The weather faxes had been looking good. 15-25 knot winds and 5 to 7 foot seas. Our plan was to make the first leg of the trip on a course of about 125.5 west, putting us about 50 miles offshore. Our first landfall would be San Francisco.
We left Sidney and headed out the Strait of Juan De Fuca at night to catch a favourable tide. During our first night we contended with winds on the nose, very lumpy seas and thick fog. We were grateful for our radar as we dodged ships and rocks. We reached Neah Bay in the morning, entering the harbour under a blanket of thick fog with radar.
Unbeknown to us, Neah Bay is not a port of entry and we couldn't clear in, but were requesting instead to go back to Port Angeles or to go to Aberdeen to clear. Gord spent some time on the phone with the Customs officers and finally got permission for us to clear in at San Francisco instead. Before heading out to the wide open waters again, we all had a nap and then Marv climbed up the mast to replace the trilight bulb which had been shaken loose from a large wave.
We compared our "goodie bags" which would be our treats to keep the night watches interesting. Rounding Tatoosh, we could feel the ocean swell. The fog was rolling in again.
Morning brought lumpy, boisterous seas but my Stugeron from Mexico proved to be the seasickness drug of choice for sure. Sunny skies. Moderate winds. About 60 miles off the coast now, south of the Columbia river bar. Wind over night was about 20 knots, sometimes a little more. Great sailing, but a very uncomfortable rolly point of sail, dead downwind, averaging over 6 knots with about 3 meter seas and 5 meters of swell. We had been downloading the weather faxes everyday and the forecast looked favourable.
Saw a whale and some sharks following us beside the boat. We decided to try our hand at fishing and, after only 10 minutes we hauled in a beautiful albacore tuna (20 lbs. guesstimate!) so invited him for supper. He also stayed for lunch the next day and several meals after that! Gord has been experimenting with new hairstyles bed-head (a unique surprise each morning).
A huge pod of dolphins came to visit us. There were hundreds of them. Looking out around the boat in every direction, dolphins were jumping and frolicking. Pacific white sided dolphins streaked through the water and spinner dolphins put on a humorous display as they jumped and twirled out of the water in formation.
Making good time at about 8 knots, about 50 miles offshore, 400 miles from San Fran. There have not been any sightings of other sailboats or ships for 3 days but lots of fishing boats at night. Temperature getting noticeably warmer, however barometer is dropping. We made radio contact with another sailing vessel heading south called "Reaction". It was good to hear another voice out there in that lonely environment.
At about 4 in the morning, Gord went up to the cockpit for the watch change, when Marv was concerned about a fishing boat on the radar who's course was very difficult to track. As our course changed, so did the fishing boat's, and we were continually heading for a collision course scenario. Finally we had visual contact with the fishing boat and attempted to contact him on the VHF, no answer. We shone a million candle power spotlight on our sails to make ourselves more visible but still no response. We finally ascertained that the fishing boat was just going in circles, possibly the skipper was taking a nap! We'll never know. Keeping in mind most of these fishing boats are steel and in excess of sixty feet long, we certainly had no desire to get that close.
We continued to download weather faxes and listen to forecasts on the radio. Gord was concerned about a front indicated on the weather fax. There wasn't any mention of inclimate weather on our radio but we had an ominous concern. The seas were building fast.