Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
We are now going to the Devils Teeth. As a biologist it's a place that I have wanted to visit. The Farallon Islands are about 25 NM West of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and are home to the largest and densest population of Great White Sharks on the North American coast. They are there hunting elephant seals, which grow to over 4000 lbs! A large horse weighs about 1800 lbs. The sharks here kill the seals by routinely biting their heads off in one attack. These sharks are often over 18 feet in length and have been measured up to 25 feet. Our boat is 30 feet. Yowzaa, we will not be getting in the dingy at all! If you're interested there is a great BBC documentary and a book called the Devils Teeth which are both about the shark research at this place.
N37 42.1 W123 00.0
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
2245. No moon out tonight. Countless stars are draped above us. In my one-piece float suit, I can pretend to be an astronaut. But gravity is felt, mostly on my buttocks. I could use more padding on this float suit. In fact, why don’t I just stuff my sleeping bag inside this suit? It’s so bloody damp and cold outside. I ponder the idea of being a cold-blooded animal. Would it be beneficial if we could switch our modes? Metabolism is a pain.
On occasion, depending on the sea conditions, the unpleasant sensation of fear peeps its head and says hello. It’s a vile thing. Okay, miss furrowed brows, why don’t you try your Ujai breathing? Yes, my vile friend, you can disappear. Go join the stars up there.
0310. I put on my glasses and harness, munch on some dry crackers, and go back to the cockpit. Yay, Podcast time. …. Erika, thanks for this great idea. You have no idea how the quality of these shifts has changed since we’ve introduced this wonderful stimulation. Music and audio-books have their limits. But podcasts…why had I not thought of it before? Currently, I’m hooked on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. They are a funny geeky bunch. I stand up for a while and look around. Right heading, no ships or hazards, but a bit choppier than I’d like. I look up. The big dipper has tipped over to the other side. Never have I observed that before. What's this.... they're talking about super planetary nebulae. There are so many things that I have yet to learn!
Uh oh, the battery is dying. Bummer. Back to me and my thoughts. Introspection is a drug. Go easy on it, my friend. At this hour, though, I am simply musing upon random thoughts and events. I think about family and friends. Rumination on A to Z, you name it.
0600. Ah, it’s Japanese spa time. Inspired by the hot towels given in authentic Japanese restaurants, we have made this a treat. Hot water on a face towel, ring it out, then cover the face with the steaming hot towel. In one big exhalation, the fatigue melts away. The ugly combination of sunscreen and salty dampness goes away and I’m ready for some rest. Thanks to the cushion covers made by Lorna, I stuff myself in the bunk, snug as a bug in a rug. Mike, I’ll join you in three hours. Enjoy the sunrise.
Monday, September 21, 2009
“That’s a Roger there Coast Guard motor lifeboat, our bilges are empty, we are not taking on water and we are not on fire!"
The harbors along the west coast of the US are particularly dangerous places because many of them are placed in the mouth of a river. One would think that you could just simply leave the ocean with all its waves and enter the stream of the river. Unfortunately no! Each one has a “bar” in front of it, which can only be crossed at certain times in favorable conditions. Think of a typical ocean beach with waves crashing on it. As a wave enters from deep water into shallow water, it begins to interact with the ocean floor and gets pushed upward and slows down. To an observer on a beach, the wave becomes noticeably larger and the frequency of waves increases (more waves together). Now back to the river, most rivers carry much sediment and when they hit the ocean, they deposit this sediment at the mouth. This sediment deposition is what causes a shallow area, the bar, that must be crossed to enter the river. Further, to complicate matters, the flow of water out of the river is usually contrary to oncoming ocean waves. These two opposing currents further act to both increase the wave height and frequency and can result in breaking (surf like) waves that could easily capsize a boat. Therefore the safest time to enter is during the rising (flood) tide when the ocean waves and the rising tide water are traveling in the same direction, up the river. The result is usually smaller waves that are not breaking and hopefully a smoother ride in. To make things a little safer, the entrance channels are routinely dug out (dredged) to make them of consistent depth and one must follow these channels with little deviation in order to stay out of the breaking waves. Does this sound complicated yet? Well, in order to determine where the channels are, there are a series of shore-based transit lights that are only aligned when you are in the correct location.
Now unfortunately yesterday the flood tide began after dark and so we had to wait until dark to enter. Now combine these channel navigation lights with all of the city and radio tower lights in the background of the city you are entering, add a heaping of 12-foot waves and a little fog in the dark and what do you get? A call to the Coast Guard for an escort in to the harbor! We called, they came and guided us in through to entrance and into the correct channels and even right to the dock that we wanted. They even lit up the docks with a spotlight until we had moored safely. They then came aboard, did a safety check, and gave us a clean record. Overall they were a fun bunch of guys, so nice and provided such a great service. I admit, that of all the places we have been, as remote as they were, last night was potentially the most hazardous and I was sure glad for the guide in.
We are now in Eureka, California and are experiencing a heat wave. There are also more palm trees all over now. Getting closer.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
We have limped into Crescent City, California after taking a beating last night. We had hoped to leave Coos Bay with the northwesterlies blowing 10-15 kts, which would carry us for a few days deep into sunny So-Cal. At about dusk, the weather forecast changed to gales 30-40 kts! By the time the forecast had officially changed, we had already stripped all the canvas down to a reefed staysail. The building wind waves combined with the large westerly cross-seas pounded us. Everything inside IO was being tossed about. Everything that was not inside a locker was on the floor and everything inside the lockers was trying to get out! I searched three times for whatever it was that was being flung about inside the seat locker and kept banging into my back as I tried to sleep. Finally Hyo found it during her off watch – it was a huge jar of jam that had dislodged. Good thing it did not break. The worst weather we encountered so far was coming down from the Charlottes, but last night I think we set a few new records for IO.
Distance covered: 135 nautical miles
Max speed 14.7 kts
Moving average 6.2 kts
The haul speed of IO is 5.7 kts. That is a lot of surfing!
Of course, when we finally decided to head in to harbor, the weather abruptly turned from clear northwest winds to light foggy southeasters. We motored for 4 hours in pea-soup fog to harbor where we dropped the hook adjacent to the coastguard station in a whopping 12 feet of water. We are currently anchored in the protection of a large breakwater in a flat calm mill-pond surrounded by the very boisterous California sealions (and all their associated flies).
Today we are just tired and need a good nights sleep. We have not even gotten off the boat and are picking up wireless from our nearby benefactor!
We are also starting to form some strong and not necessarily positive opinions of how one should approach sailing here on the North American coast. But for now, to borrow Iwaasa’s words, let’s just say the fun to suck factor does not exactly tip the scale.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
September 16, 2009
We have been in Coos Bay for a couple of days now. Interesting place, lots of cheap tuna for sale on the docks. We hitchhiked out to Cape Arago yesterday and hiked back. Oregon State Institute of Marine Biology has a field station here in Coos Bay about 3 blocks from the marina. I dropped a few credentials and we have been made welcome guests. Finally all those expensive degrees actually have some use! The weather is supposed to turn back our way tonight so we may be off again.
September 10, 2009
No Wind, no sea legs and no land in sight. Motored for the first 10 hours of the day. At least a pod of Orca came to by to send us on our way. I think that my experience with seasickness up in Bella Bella has increased my sensitivity to this malicious malady. Not actually sick mind you, just a bit off in the guts. A north wind picked up and we sailed through the night. My mind races and I think to my self, that this sailing off shore business is just not that fun. Its long, slow, kinda boring and worrying about the weather and all the gear that could fail makes me think “I wonder how much we could get for this boat and where the nearest harbor is?”
Whatever. Long, some wind, lots of motoring. We have motored about half of the time and been making ok progress. A few interesting things along the way, a school of young Mola Mola this morning and the bioluminescence last night was unbelievable. We are currently feeling the swell from a storm that was about 500 NM north of us. It hit the Queen Charlottes and Alaska yesterday. Thankfully it was going north and not this way. Still its odd to be influenced by something so far away. The waves are 12-15 foot high and actually create their own wind as you roll up and down them. The period is long (11-14 seconds) so we just feel the rise only when you watch them coming, otherwise they are of no consequence.
I feel better. The general malaise and woozy feelings have gone. We are getting into the 3-hour night shifts. At first I could not sleep for more than an hour. I wake up to every noise. “What was that? Did we hit something? What just broke? Is the bilge full of water? Where is my spoon?” No wonder I cannot sleep. Some good advise from our friend Steve Clark: Don’t even try to sleep, just try to rest the first few days, lay down and close your eyes and just rest, eventually in a few days, sleep will come. Well last night it did. We have both slept for every minute of our 3 hour off watch shifts. Today was sunny and warm and the night stars were brighter than ever. IO is no longer for sale.
Are you a flying insect and are at least 40 miles offshore? Do you want a ride south? Well come aboard IO, all your friends are here. We have many guests aboard, dragonflies, damselflies, wasps and bees, all clinging to the rigging and heading our way. An offshore entomologists dream!
I think we will put in at Coos Bay this evening. Its only 40 miles away and the weather is supposed to shift against us tomorrow.
Hyo and mike are sitting in the cockpit. It’s cloudy but warm. An hour has passed without a word.
Hyo: Mike, did you fart?
Mike: No, If I did, you’d have heard it! I thought you did. It stinks!
Hyo: It was not me.
Mike: It might be a whale. Their breath stinks like that!
Mike: No seriously, whale breath smells really bad.
Hyo and Mike stand up and look windward to starboard.
Mike: Hey, there’s a Humpback!
Later: 20-knot south-easterlies are a day early and we are beating to windward. Even with a lot of work we will not make Coos Bay today. We will get there in the night, but there is a dangerous river bar to cross at the entrance, so we will have to heave-to and wait till morning to enter.
We saw an angel tonight. When we fist hove-to, a sea lion came over in the darkness and was glowing brilliantly in the bioluminescence. Her wings trailed a gown of light as she sailed under our keel just beyond our touch. When she left, she let in the wind and rain again. 25 knots from the southeast and surrounded in fish boats threatening to destroy our little vessel with there rigging here in the howling wind of the north pacific. No sleep tonight.
The entrance to Coos bay was incredible in the morning light. We motored through two huge jetties where enormous waves were breaking and crashing on each side of the channel. In the breaking surf the sea lions and giant pelicans were battling over the herring that fill these waters.
Safe along side the fisherman’s wharf we are having dinner with another Canadian couple aboard their catamaran tonight. There is a Palm tree at the marina office. True warmth can’t be far away now! The cruising lifestyle has begun.
358 nautical miles, 663 km
N 43 20.79 W 124 19.28
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
September 8, 2009
Hurry up and wait!
We have been stuck here in Bamfield for over a week now waiting for a decent weather window to open for our voyage south. Usually times like this I tend to go a bit crazy, mulling over the weather, wondering, waiting, planning and scheming. However this past week has been filled with wonderful time spent with old and new friends. We have had dinner with fellow professors of biology, my cohorts that are teaching here at the marine station this fall. A good dose of time was spent with our old friends Doug and Nicole who have dedicated their lives to monitoring and informing the public about safe boating practices around the whales of the region. (Straitwatch.org) It is interesting having intellectually stimulating conversations about whales and ideas about hot topics in biology and conservation and having these majestic animals all about us. Another treat that I have had the pleasure of is to write biology lectures for my upcoming course while actually observing these animals on a daily basis. This week I have been writing a lecture about the physiology of diving in marine mammals (whales, seals and sealions) and just this morning while anchored in a pristine bay in the broken islands we watched as several California sea lions preyed on the abundant schools of herring that are frequenting the coastal waters as spawning season approaches. On the way back, we sighted the now familiar spray of a humpback whale near Effingham island. We were able to share this past few days with our new friend Erika who is a documentary film-maker and lives on Helby Island near Bamfield. With such company and in this location, beautiful sights, great conversation and plenty of laughter has sped this past week away.
We are now standing on the precipice, the edge of the map, the end of North and the journey to South. The weather looks promising for the next few days. Tomorrow we will decide if we make the leap.