We were living in San Francisco when we bought Solstice in Seattle. In July, 2005, we sailed her to Sceptre Marine in Richmond, BC, (near Vancouver) for refit. Then in September, we flew to Vancouver and sailed back to Seattle to pick up our crew for the delivery to San Francisco.
This was a huge deal for us. Although we'd sailed a lot in San Francisco Bay, including trips to the Farallon Islands and Half Moon Bay, the Pacific coast between Seattle and San Francisco has killed people. Even though John was confident, I was a little nervous, and our mothers were concerned as well. Harbors are few, and conditions on their bars often prevent entry just when you'd really like to duck in to avoid a storm. We knew we would have some night sailing ahead of us — almost a week of it if we were to make it back to San Francisco in time to go to work on Monday.
We needed a crew. Fortunately, my sister and her husband are long-time friends with Jim Campbell, an avid sailor with passage-making experience between Oregon and Washington. Jim agreed early in the planning stages to make the delivery with us and was helpful in reviewing our plans. Jim also hooked us up with Dave Hanks, a real salt who had sailed the world with his family for eight years or so. John's dad, Tom, filled the last berth for us.
Jim, Dave, and Tom met us in Seattle. Pete McGonagle of Swiftsure Yachts loaned us the charts we needed, and we arranged for most of our provisions to be delivered to the boat by Safeway.com. A couple of trips to the chandlery for other essentials — such as jacklines — and we were good to go.
Everyone was on deck for our 0510 departure from Elliot Bay Marina on September 19, 2005. Jim organized the watch schedule, so we didn't all have to be there, but it was too exciting to miss. The weather was beautiful, and the wind was calm. Since prevailing winds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which connects Puget Sound with the Pacific, are westerly, we had to motor anyway and were glad not to have to fight the wind.
Jim had us keeping three four-hour watches during the day and four two-person, three-hour watches at night. During the day one of the experienced hands (John, Jim, and Dave) could stand watch alone because other people were around and often on-deck even off watch. At night Tom and I alternated watches together with one of the others.
My first night watch with Dave was fine. It was the 2000 to 2300 watch, so others were around, and I wasn't used to sleeping then anyway. The 0200 to 0500 watch with John was a different story. We didn't trust our auto-pilot then, so I took the helm in order to stay awake. At first, I sat. After awhile, I had to stand. When I started nodding off while standing, I alerted John that he'd better take the helm. Somehow I managed to stay awake for the whole thing. That was the worst night. Somehow it got better, or I got used to it.
We turned the corner at Cape Flattery at 2400 that day. (That's midnight, and I wasn't on watch, so I missed the excitement.) We motored along the whole Washington coast without seeing much traffic. As we approached the mouth of the Columbia, the fog came in, traffic picked up (mostly fishing boats), and we made good use of the radar and GPS that we added in the refit.
Somewhere near the Columbia, we picked up some wind. First we brought out the jib and motor-sailed. Then around 2200, we turned off the engine. Ah, the peace and quiet. Except that sailing isn't really all that quiet because the water makes noise on the hull. Still, it's much better than running the engine. We were able to sail until the wind died down in the morning. At one point, John, Dave, and Jim hoisted the spinnaker.
Since we had to motor so much before we caught some wind, we decided to pull into the harbor at Newport to top off our tanks. At least, that was the excuse. It may have been the lure of the showers at the Newport Yacht Club that Jim's parents belong to. In any case, it had been a couple of days without a shower, and Jim's folks graciously met us with clean towels. We do have a shower on board, but I guess no one was up to the adventure of a shower at sea if it could be avoided. It was good to be clean again.
When we came into Newport, we saw a sailboat with a Japanese flag leaving. It isn't easy to get from Japan to Oregon, so we were impressed. A few weeks later, we were able to tell them so when we saw them tied up at the guest dock at Oyster Point.
We left Newport at 1500 on September 21st. We sailed at first, but the wind died a couple of hours later, and we had to run the engine for a few hours before it came back. The wind really picked up as we continued south. No more spinnaker for us. Soon we traded the Genoa jib for the staysail. Then we double-reefed the main. Coming up for his watch, Dave reported that we just hit 9 knots, and we should slow down, so we dropped the main. Even with just the staysail, we hit some pretty good speed running down the waves. At Cape Mendocino, the log records winds of 30-35 knots.
That was exciting. John continued to provide excellent food from the galley, but it became increasingly difficult to eat. At one point, I used my harness to fasten myself in the galley so that I could dish up my dinner. But as I set the bowl down briefly, it went flying across the table and into Dave's bunk on the starboard settee. Neither Dave nor I were amused, but Tom thought it was hilarious.
Jim had some excitement in the storm, too, when a wave broke over the stern into the cockpit and inflated his suspenders. Fortunately, we had closed the companionway hatch when the waves started building, so we remained dry below. And Jim, always prepared, had an extra CO2 cartridge and was re-armed in short order. Only one other wave washed all the way over the deck, and it didn't make it into the cockpit.
I learned a lot personally in the rough weather.
- It is possible to sleep without lee cloths — if you're cross-wise in the v-berth. Tom and Dave in the settees were glad we had made the effort to install lee cloths for them.
- The order for donning foulies is bib legs, boots, then stand and complete dressing. Stocking feet, waves, and teak floors are dangerous when combined.
- Everything takes at least twice as long as when you're away from the dock.
- Non-skid is essential for dining.
The highlight of the voyage for me was my last 2300 to 0200 watch. Jim spotted a dolphin. I couldn't see it at first. Then he pointed out another, and I guessed that he meant the phosphorescent streak in the waves. As I watched, I realized that there really was a pattern aside from the breaking waves. The dolphins appeared to be sliding down the waves and then chasing the boat before diving under it and coming up on the other side. At one point, three or four were visible as shooting stars in the waves. It was magical.
We had to start the engine again off Bodega Bay, and that was our last log entry for the delivery (0500, 9/24/05). John and I felt like we were in our home territory, even though we'd never sailed that far north before. The weather was beautiful, and everyone was excited to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. Jim's sister and brother-in-law met us at Emery Cove that afternoon. We took Tom and Dave home with us for the night before taking them to the airport the next day. Solstice was home, and the next step was to make her our home.