Dakota’s Big Left Turn……

Sunrise leaving Port Angeles

Well….we’ve been in San Fransisco for 5 days now and we are now rested, showered, toured, provisioned and all together feeling much better. I think it’s time to sit and update the blog. This time, Dave is having some input in the blog and I’ll put his writings in italics.

We left Port Angeles after clearing into the country and provisioning (a very long, steep climb to the Safeway). We stayed at the dock overnight and left with a beautiful sunrise to motor to Neah Bay. It was 50 nautical miles but it was beautiful, calm day to get that done. Neah Bay was easy to approach and we anchored there for 2 nights and left on the Tuesday morning to head south.

Cape Flattery

We left in light winds, just to ease our way into the passage. Of course, just as we left the Straight of Juan De Fuca, our auto pilot stopped working. But Hey!, we have a windvane, and we set that up (turns out it is like having a third crew member that doesn’t sleep). We had a couple Stellar Sea Lions come wave us goodbye and off we went. The first night was uncomfortable…..I got sick (gravol to the rescue), I couldn’t go down below so we made a bed in the cockpit so we were together for all the watches….the fog and mist rolled in and we got damp! Ugh.

We slept in 2 hour watches and for a couple of hours during the night, we had to had steer because the winds picked up. Once we switched out the light wind paddle for the heavy weather wind paddle all was right again. We did a sail change in the middle of the night and ran the whole night with just the staysail.

“Isn’t this what sailing is about? Achieving difficult things together as a team. Karen insists on having me rest first. I wake an hour later and see such an exhausted face smiling at me. Her turn to rest. Eight foot waves be damned…”

“How can I describe the sometimes subtle changes that have happened during the days. Catching up on sleeping in the mornings and trimming the sails throughout the days. Our wind dropped out today leaving us in light shifting conditions with large confused seas. Ran the motor for a bit to make hot water and had wonderful showers. Just in time for the wind to return at 12 knots. Just doing dishes was challenging. I woke from a sleep as the large wave attacked for the side and it felt like Dakota dropped into the next trough….”


The days blur together and Dave is writing a daily log in his Ipad and I’m keeping the ships log updated. The nights are dark but with AIS we see the ships coming and can make adjustments as needed and we see the big tankers adjust their course to go around us. (AIS…don’t leave home with out it!) We are starting to get 3-4 hour sleeps, and feel pretty good between sleeps . Most of the time we have just a double reefed main and poled out gennie out for sail trim….and for days.

One day we saw about a hundred or so dolphins that converged on our boat and played in our bow waves. I crawled out to the bow to get pictures. Dave saw more wildlife than I did….”The other night as I was leaning over the transom, my headlight would pick out reflective eyes. It’s the bright lights attracting squid, I think.”

We busied ourselves on our watches but reading, playing games, practicing knots, watching the sea and listening to podcasts. Most of the time the days were bright and sunny enough to charge our batteries, and even one day we were able to dry out everything and relax in the sunshine.

“I’ve been doing well with the rough seas and Karen has been putting all her sailing knowledge to the test. We found sailing at five knots relaxing, though last night I enjoyed going over eight knots for a couple of hours.” We averaged about 4-5 knots daily and were hitting over 100 kn/miles daily. Most of the time the wind was anywhere for 5-15 knots with the occational 20 knot gust. We barely had to change the sails and kept our main double reefed, and it was easy to reef the staysail or gennie as we need.

sunset at sea

We were only about 120 nautical miles from San Fransisco and we were calculating the timing for arrival….we didn’t want a night arrival. So we did plan to stop at Drakes Bay- just 20 nautical miles north of the San Fransisco entrance. So we turned into land and planned our arrival in the evening at Drakes Bay. Best laid plans……The winds were building and so were the waves….and our windvane paddle kept falling off. We hove-to a few times to put the paddle back on but then within a few minutes of turning back onto our heading….off it came again. By the forth time we decided to leave it and Dave had to had steered for 6 hours.

Pitch black overpowered, confused seas, waves so large we are swept form side to side in the cockpit. AIS stoped working. Hours of hand steering, not being able to anticipate the waves. Exhaustion is profound. Anchored in Drakes Bay. Slept til five thirty pm.” We even called the coast guard to just let them know we were caught out in the gale, we were NOT in distress (yet) and it was just a heads up. As it was, our AIS stopped working just as we entered the shipping lanes. I’m keeping watch for ship lights, dave is steering in horrific waves and wind, and I’m also helping by monitoring the Ipad and tell Dave to turn left or right….just to keep us on track. It was so confusing to try to steer in the dark. Also we were almost glad not to fully see the waves….we figured they were up to 20 feet, but Dakota was riding them like champ.

Drakes Bay

We finally set anchor at 7 am and after letting the coast guard know we were safely anchored, we just went to bed. We slept all day and awoke to see other boats come into the large bay to get out of the winds. We were able to move closer to land once the fog lifted and we were very surprised on how large this bay was. Then next morning we set out for our much anticipated arrival under the Golden Gate Bridge. We motored the 20 nautical miles and come under the bridge in the early afternoon. There was fog…surprise….and we could only see the bottom part of the bridge, but it was exciting all the same.

First sight of the Bridge

The wind accelerated to 25 knots as we passed under the bridge….luckily we had just furled all our sails, but the seas also got pretty sloppy. We anchored in the large Richardson Bay by Sausalito and basically fell into bed again.

We got to a dock for a few days to do much needed laundry, get some provisions, and visit the nearby West Marine store. We also figured out the bus system and took the bus to the city for the day and then took the ferry back. We have noticed the the winds are pretty high during the day here but drops off at night and morning. We are planning our next achorages and plan to stick around for a few weeks then head south again.

Pier 39
San Fransisco skyline
Our trip down broken down in 24 hour periods.

Well….that’s our journey here….it took 8 days (with the day at Drakes Bay) and Total of 749 nautical miles. Average speed over the journey was 4.3 nmiles/hr and at the least amount traveled in a 24 hours was 85 miles and the most 116 miles. The two must have pieces of equipment is the windvane and AIS, and a very comfy seat….truly made our passage not only safer but easier.

Now to play tourist for the next week or so….Cheers from Northern California!

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