Sunday, June 8, 2014

Southbound passage Part 1: San Francisco to Santa Barbara in 52 hours

As of Friday evening, Terrapin is safely berthed in her slip at Harbor Island West, completing her maiden voyage from San Francisco.  The trip down went as well as I could have imagined.  We kept all crew members onboard, had almost zero mechanical issues, and kept our wits about us despite some scary weather and seasickness.

We motorsailed out the Golden Gate right on schedule at about 10:30am on May 31st, taking advantage of the slack current.  Dave, Todd, and myself were in high spirits, taking lots of pictures and having a great time.

This all changed pretty much as soon as our stern cleared the bridge.  We suddenly found ourselves in the very confused and choppy currents of the mouth of the Bay.  This was compounded by incoming 8 foot swells that were hitting us on the beam.  Todd went from all smiles to horribly seasick in about 3.5 seconds and stayed that way for the next 24 hours.  We put on our foulies and tethered ourselves in for the ride.  The ride was very uncomfortable for that entire day and through the night with swells hitting us on our stern quarter and wind coming from the wrong direction (SE).   During my night watch I could see just the whitecaps of these swells towering over the solar panels just before they rolled under the boat.  In addition to the wind and swell, it was very cold.  We were all in long johns, multiple fleece layers and foul weather gear and still freezing, especially at night.  Unfortunately not many pictures were taken during this next 48 hours, since we were either queasy, freezing, or holding on for dear life. 

The next day we were finally able to give the engine a rest and sail for most of the day, averaging about 5.5 knots.  It was still cold and bumpy, but we were all happy to silence the motor and let the wind carry us.  We stayed anywhere from 10 - 30 miles offshore and almost never saw land, even when we were close in.  There was a band of fog that hung right over the coastline, squashing our hopes of seeing the Big Sur coast from the ocean.  That evening, we fired up the engine again and motorsailed past Morro Bay to make up some time.  By this time, Todd was feeling a bit better and was able to join us topside periodically.  Around midnight,  as we were making our approach to Point Arguello and Point Conception the wind picked up again, so we killed the engine and hoped for some great sailing around the points.

One of several oil platforms off Point Arguello.

We had a great downwind run between Arguello and Conception in about 15-20 knot winds with the only light around us coming from the oil platforms.

Chartplotter showing our course around Point Conception

  We turned South about 6 miles off Point Conception and found ourselves on a nice beam reach with the boat doing 6.5 - 7 knots.  This is where I made my first mistake.  I thought about dropping the mizzen sail and didn't.   Dave and I soon found ourselves in 25 knot plus wind on the beam with full sails up.  It was fun at first, but when I saw the rail of a 40,000 pound boat go into the water, it occured to me that I may be in deep doo-doo.  My fears were confirmed when we suddenly turned into the wind.  This is called a broach in the world of sailing and occurs when the rudder is at such an angle that it can no longer keep the boat on course.  Fortunately, we were able to recover and regain our course and I hand steered us the rest of the way until the wind layed down a bit.  Lesson learned.  Reef early.

The wind eventually died out and we cranked her up again for the last few hours to Santa Barbara.  We witnessed the most glorious change of weather as we pulled into port, going from long underwear, fleece and foul weather gear to shorts sandals and t shirts. 

We picked up a slip at the marina, grabbed a burger and a couple of beers (that tasted like heaven) and slept like the dead for the next four hours until Aimee and the girls showed up.  This leg of the trip took us almost exactly 52 hours.

A big thanks to Dave for being the most solid and cool-headed first mate I could have hoped for, and to Todd for sticking it out despite horrible seasickness.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

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