The Friday Harbor to San Francisco Delivery in Pictures

Here are some photos from our trip down the coast to San Francisco. We had a great time, with a little excitement thrown in. We left Friday Harbor around 10:00 AM on Sunday, June 1, sailed well over 800 nautical miles, and arrived in Sausalito at 5:30 AM Saturday, June 7 — slightly under six days. The crew was Rich Jones, Jim Watts, Lee Youngblood, and Paul Elliott (me).
VALIS was in pretty good shape for the trip, having just come home from the boatyard in Anacortes where we had a thorough rig inspection, replaced some of the running rigging, scrubbed and painted the bottom, had brightwork varnished, gelcoat patched, and a general cleanup. A few days before we were to leave, I moved VALIS over to the dock at our house. Rich and the rest of the crew helped stow provisions and load gear:


(© Jim Watts 2014 )
As we left Friday Harbor we were watching the conditions and forecasts off the coast between Cape Blanco (Oregon) and Cape Mendocino (California). This is typically a problem area in the summer, due to the inland low-pressure and offshore high-pressure systems. This “squash zone” sometimes extends south beyond San Francisco, and gale conditions can persist for weeks at a time. Getting around the capes requires a compromise — close to shore the winds are usually lighter, but the seas can be pretty confused. Offshore the winds will be stronger, but the seas more regular. The offshore seas may be bigger, but this may be preferable to the jumbled-up waves caused by the shallow waters, uneven seafloor contours, and waves reflecting off the shore.
We had to pick a date to start, and as of June 1 the forecast wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it looked like the longer we waited, the worse it would get. The forecasts predicted gale conditions offshore, but within 20 miles of the shore the winds would be lighter, probably not exceeding 30 kts. 30 Kts and 12 ft seas aren’t particularly enjoyable, but we’ve sailed through worse with no issues. So on June 1 we started south. Here’s the track we sailed:


Here we are leaving Friday Harbor:


(© Jim Watts 2014 ) That’s Mary, Edie, and Ben on the dock, seeing us off.


(© Jim Watts 2014 ) Lee, Rich, and Paul. Jim is taking the picture.
We initially headed offshore, but the forecasts we were getting convinced us to move back closer to shore. The sailing was good, and the wind was gradually building. But the gale conditions were established much closer to shore than we had anticipated. The wind gradually picked up, from 25 kts, to 30, to 40, and eventually spiking to 60 kts. Here is a windspeed plot, taken near the height of it all:

June 4 wind 1.jpg

You can see a solid 45 kts average windspeed, with gusts hitting 60. This was well in excess of the forecasts (GRIBs, and human-generated).
The seas were 15-20 ft, with constant whitecaps and breaking wavetops. The spray was being blown flat and flying across the water as a white mist. The rigging was howling during the gusts:

_DSC5547 (2).jpg

(© Lee Youngblood 2014 )


(© Lee Youngblood 2014 )

_DSC5556 (2).jpg

(© Lee Youngblood 2014 )

photo 3 (2).jpg

(© Jim Watts 2014 )
The High Seas forecast was declaring gale warnings further offshore, but merely small-craft warnings and smaller seas within 20 miles of land. At this point we were heading slightly offshore. Actually, our heading was the same, but south of Cape Blanco the shoreline tends east. We were only 20 miles offshore, but we decided to try our luck closer to shore so we jibed, taking us closer in.
Things did calm down. The waves were a bit more confused, but in most cases we stayed about ten miles offshore, and off of the 100-fathom line. The winds were still in the high 20′s (and more sometimes), but by comparison, it was a gentle sail. Once south of Point Arena we tucked further inshore until the wind fell to practically nothing.


(© Jim Watts 2014 )
For the rest of the day we jibed inshore and offshore, trying to stay in good wind — not too weak, not too strong.


(© Jim Watts 2014 )
We sailed until the Farallon Islands, and sunset, when the wind died to less than 5 kts. We then motored the rest of the way, through the Gate and into the bay, arriving just around sunrise in our slip (just one dock away from our old Sausalito slip).


(© Jim Watts 2014 )
This was a good trip. The crew did well in challenging conditions, and we had a great time sailing together. It was an excellent shake-down for the Pacific Cup.

2 Responses to

  1. Steve Ludwig says:

    I believe we were in contact with you via SSB. I was helping Peter Heiberg, owner and skipper of “Scaramouche”, deliver his yacht from Vancouver to SF Bay. We talked to you a couple of times and despite your weather report we still hit gales as well ( 40kts and 14ft at 9sec) plus the soakings. It’s the nature of the beast.
    Anyway, good luck in the Pacific Cup. Looks like you have a nice strong boat and able crew.
    Send me an email if you ever need crew. I live and sail out of Humboldt Bay.
    Cheers, Steve Ludwig

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