After several days in Newport, there were quite a few other boats moored around us that had all bottlenecked in Newport Marina on their journeys South as well. We got to know several of them as well as a delivery captain on an 80′ power boat. It was great to chat about weather with him and other sailors. The general consensus on the dock was that Thursday, August 18th looked like the best opportunity to leave and continue on. We studied the weather for several days and agreed with this consensus as well. The plan was to leave at slack that morning to make our trip out of the Newport channel as uneventful as possible. Slack was at 8am but it turned out that at about 6am, Bloom’s keel touched the bottom of her slip and tipped us slightly to starboard. We had to wait until we were free with some more water underneath our keel (and more water everywhere else) before we could attempt to leave. Finally, around 10am we had some more depth and were able to get out of the harbour.
We lead the way out of the Newport bar with several other sailboats following behind us, beginning the next leg of their journeys as well. Large waves were coming into the bar and crashing into the jetties on both sides while the current was flowing into the channel, pushing against us as we drove Bloom forward. Off to our port side, near the end of the South jetty, a small humpback whale emerged several times- it was incredible and made for a very momentous exit from this fishing port.
Continuing out of the bar and beyond the jetties, Bloom and the following sailboats began to slowly scatter, each finding their own place within the vastness of the open Pacific. The waves and deep swell continued and Lisa took the helm for several hours, practicing her hand steering (ie. not relying on the autopilot). The wind was steady and we were able to hoist Bloom’s sails and let her fly! With only a 29HP motor, Bloom is really happy when she is sailing, and we were thrilled to please her.
We continued along for some time, pleasantly bobbing along with the building swell and steady winds. The winds and swell eventually built to large proportions and Carson (who typically reads down below when underway and seems to have an ‘iron gut’) finished his latest book and got sick just after closing it. Out in the cockpit, Jason, Lisa and Warren tended to steering and tuning the sails- quickly reefing Bloom’s main down to her third reef and furling in her genoa. Jason then too, succumbed to mal de mer and was sick as well. Since Bloom does not heave-to, we set her sails as described and let her steer herself- ‘standing on’ the weather and riding out the large swell for a little while. This allowed the crew to rest and regroup, grab some water, etc.
Things calmed down some and Bloom settled into a surf forward, roll-slightly-sideways motion for several hours and calmed a bit more into the early morning. That evening on night watch, we could see the lights from several of the other recently-departed sailboats all around us, reminding us that we were not alone, which was a nice feeling. We took 2 hour shifts on watches that night- each of us waking the ‘next in line’ to helm a few minutes before their shift started so that they could fill up their tea and put on their foul weather gear, etc. It was very, very cold out there and we do not have a fully enclosed cockpit, so we were all wearing toques (for our American friends that’s a beanie!), gloves and several layered jackets. Brrr! It was common practice for us all to sleep in our clothes also, so as to be ready for next watch session and to keep warmer as well. Lisa even slept in her full gear one night- shoes, life vest and all! She thinks perhaps she was a little exhausted, so perhaps that had something to do with it? 😉
Winds eventually died and we found ourselves motoring a LOT. So much that we dipped into our ‘reserves’ and poured the two 5 gallon jerry cans of diesel we carried on deck into our tank. We ended up motoring past Cape Blanco (Port Orford) and Cape Mendocino (just south of Eureka) in smooth, seas of satin.
Around dinner time one evening, we were surrounded by humpback whales. It was surreal. We stopped Bloom’s motor and bobbed there for a while, taking in the splendor of the experience. The sun was trying to shine through the fog as the whale’s swam all around, showing their tail flukes and letting their fins poke through the surface while spraying mist into the air.
Upon continuing further under motor, we did a few calculations and determined that we’d need to stop for fuel. The closest port with fuel was Crescent City, California. We arrived in the early morning, around 9am and searched and searched for a fuel dock, but couldn’t find one. Turns out it is on the opposite side of the entrance from the boat harbour, AND turns out it is CLOSED on Saturdays…. Say wha?? Never heard of a fuel dock being closed on a weekend, but such was our luck. So, Lisa made breakfast for everyone while we were stationary and food prep was easy while Jason and Carson walked with the empty jerry cans up to the local gas station to fuel up. Luckily, there was a kind soul at the gas station who offered them a ride back, since walking with the now heavy jerry cans would have been impossible. We fueled Bloom back up and headed back out into the Pacific to continue our journey while the weather window was still wide open. With 390 nautical miles still to go- we were anxious to keep moving as well.
Pushing forward, we spent another night motor-sailing and hoping for a little wind. Unfortunately, no love on the wind and we just keep moving along, burnin’ the fossil fuels (sigh). We then had to top up from our jerry cans again when Bloom dipped down to half a tank.
Continuing on for another two nights from here, we continued our two hour night watch schedule, with all eyes open as we were between 5 and 15 nautical miles from shore and needed to be constantly watching for other vessels. Night sailing proved interesting these nights when we did encounter some large fishing boats without proper lights on. It was impossible to tell which way he was headed as we couldn’t see his stern or bow lights. We held our course and watched and were able to steer around him easily, but encountered several more fishing boats as we continued along. Running low on fuel again, we decided to do a quick ‘NASCAR’ style pit stop and fuel up our main diesel tank as well as our two 5 gallon jerry cans. We came down the VERY long channel into Bodega Bay and waited for a spot at the fuel dock. We were greeted by our friends from sv Muskoka as well as our friends from sv Adventurer, whom we’d met in Newport. We zipped in, fueled up again and then turned around and kept going. With our calculations, we’d be approaching the Golden Gate Bridge around midnight if we kept pushing on.
With lots more humpback sightings as well as a quick encounter with several dolphins, we started getting very close to San Francisco! We came around Drake’s Bay as the sun was beginning to go down and the crew was getting giddy with excitement- I’m not sure what caused the most excitement, the thought of showers or seeing the Golden Gate…?
We tried to time our entrance to San Francisco perfectly, and ended up there just after slack tide and the waters were flowing into the Bay, which was perfect. In the wee morning hours of August 23rd, we motor-sailed underneath the brilliant splendor of the Golden Gate Bridge. She appeared to sparkle brighter than all of the other city lights surrounding her. It was a shiny welcome from the darkness of the night sky and the black seas we were leaving behind.
A momentous event for all sailors, sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge is a huge milestone- definitely something to be celebrated! We continued on past Alcatraz Prison, which was really fascinating to do at night with the light house shining out into the dark waters surrounding the island. Approaching our marina in Emeryville, the crew found it very challenging to identify the red and green light channel markers from the twinkling lights of the city right behind them. Going very slowly, we made our way through the channel, marker by marker and into our slip. At one point, even with the rising tide, we had one foot under our keel coming into the channel to the marina. (With a 6’7″ draft, that was some shallow water! There is not a lot of depth in the entire Bay, actually) We tied up at about 3am with a feeling of accomplishment, excitement and relief. We had made it to San Francisco!
Update: A quick note on this marina- we stayed at Emery Cove Yacht Harbor for almost 3 weeks and absolutely loved it! The staff were extremely friendly, the facility was well kept and clean, the restrooms and showers were some of the nicest we’ve seen and it was cheap! We paid $428 for the month (even though we didn’t stay for the month) which was an awesome deal! It is also close to lots of shopping: Trader Joe’s Petco, Marshalls, a movie theatre and lots of restaurants. You can also take a cheap and quick Uber or the Emeryville’s FREE shuttle to the BART station and shoot around to anywhere you need to go in San Fran quickly and cheaply as well. We highly recommend it!