Sailing Mango

Left Turn

I am having a hard time remembering everything that happened during our seven day voyage. I want to remember it all, capture it, savor it, and relive it from time to time. The short story is we left Seattle, and six days later arrived in Half Moon Bay. The long story is longer. Get a beverage of choice, a good book, and read on!

We left on a Thursday, seven likely crew aboard Mango, our 43’ sailing ketch. We left the dogs with a friend, and took on as crew and captain Friend Karen, Friend Paul, and Captain Stuart. They arrived around noon, tossed their bags into the forepeak, and helped get a few last minute items organized. We moved the boat to the fuel dock, topped off the tank, and headed north towards Admiralty Inlet around 2:20 pm, just 20 minutes past our scheduled departure time. That is excellent time for us!

Paul, maybe having second thoughts about this crazy adventure?

And who didn’t make time for a haircut?

While we had nice and flat seas in Puget Sound, we talked safety, watch schedules, etc. Kristen made burritos for dinner while we had a stable galley, and everyone was feeling pretty optimistic. We settled on three rotating watches, each with two people, plus A with Kristen and Stuart. Karen and I were on watch together, and our first watch was pretty great, as in we didn’t die.

That first night we had the nine to midnight watch, which found us just outside of Port Angeles. A freighter was coming in behind us, heading right towards Port Angeles. They hailed us.

Them: “Mango, this is The Ever, Strong."

He said it with that pause between Ever, and Strong, in a deep voice, like the pilot could not pass the opportunity to be on such an awesomely named ship and not say it like that, with the pause.

Mango: “This is Mango, go ahead Ever Strong."
TES: “We are off your stern, two miles way, doing seventeen knots. What are your intentions?"

While relaying this story the next day, at this point Stuart chuckled and said “Well maintaining course and speed!" I was more in line of not getting smeared.

Mango: “Well, where would you like us to be?"
TES: “We would prefer to maintain our course and speed, so if you could just swing a bit south, that would be great."
Mango: “Roger that, we will adjust course south"

After The Ever, Strong passed us on our right, we headed more north, and passed their stern. Shortly there after:

TES: “Mango, this is The Ever, Strong"
Mango: “This is Mango, go head Ever Strong"
TES: “Mango we are about to drop off our pilot, and then this vessel will head North…"

So basically the pilot told us he is going to turn soon and might run us over.

Mango: “Ok… we will reduce speed a bit and pass your stern"
TES: “Roger that Mango, sounds good, you will reduce speed and pass our stern."

Karen and I were anxiously watching the chart plotter where we could see TES, watching to see what would happen. Then:

TES: “Mango, this is The Ever, Strong."
Mango: “Go ahead Ever Strong."
TES: “Just to confirm that you will reduce speed and pass our stern."
Mango: “Affirmative, we will reduce speed again and pass your stern."
TES: “OK, I will tell the master. And also the freighter Continental Shelf (I forget the real name) behind us has been trying to hail you."
CS: “Mango, this is Continental Shelf."
Mango: “This is Mango, go ahead Continental Shelf."
CS: “We are coming in right behind Ever Strong, will drop off our pilot, and then head North…"
Mango: “Ok… what would you like us to do?"
CS: “Well, just maintain course and speed, and we will watch to see what happens."

See what happens. The three of us where dancers in a triangle, and no one wanted to step on another's toes. The Ever, Strong was on one side heading north west, and the Continental Shelf was on another side heading south west, and we were the hypotenuse, north of them both, heading due west. These ships are pretty massive, 900+ feet long, 140 some odd feet wide, and cannot really manuver all that well. The Pilots were being nice, and trying not to hang Mango's masts on their anchor as a decoration.

Eventually both freighters made it out and back to the shipping lanes, while we tried to be slow in a three knot current. After those two passed in front of us, another ship was coming into Port Angeles. This time I hailed them, confirmed their course and we agreed on how to pass each other. It's so civil.

Us: "Excuse me old chap, I believe we are coming it a bit close, would you mind it if we pass on our port sides?"
Them: "Oh that is a jolly idea, so glad you suggested it! We will pass on our ports, What! What!"

After the dancing freighters excitement, we made excellent time, and passed Neah bay and out of the Straight in the morning. Cape Flattery was beautiful. The coast has a classic Northwest look, with a few cliffs, lots of evergreens and rolling hills. Mist had settled in the depressions here and there, like little airplane pillows. Our turn left around the cape went through the Hole In The Wall, which is a narrow channel between the mainland and Tatoosh Island, then just like that, we were in the ocean.

Most of that second day we sailed in 8-12 knots of wind, making around 6 knots. The log at 17:05 from Captain Stuart reads:

"Wind a bit shifty. Crew getting sea legs."

That is sailor talk for getting sea sick. None of us felt great, and one or two got sick. I'd say the consensus is that the sco patch (scopolamine) was the most effective preventative, though I had good luck with the meclazine.

Karen playing guitar in fine weather, sailing on the ocean. Nice!

The third day was a mix of sailing and motor sailing, always with at least the main sail up to help stabilize the boat. The skies were partly cloudy, with only a patch or two of rain, mild temperatures.

There were a fair number of fishing boats, but most of them were not close. You never know what a fishing boat is going to do, as they seem to change course frequently. At one point, I think during the second day out, we were closing in on a fishing boat, and it seemed like we would eventually hit. As we got close:

Me: "Does it seem like they are going backwards?"
Stuart: "Nah, see how they are motoring hard? They are just pulling their nets in."
Me: Inwardly, huh.
Me: "You sure?"
Stuart: “Well, ah, yea, they are going backwards. Wow, that is weird."
Me: "I'll adjust course 10 degrees."
Stuart: "Nah, that won't be enough. I'll take the wheel."

Stuart was so calm. We were sailing, and at this point I would have turned on the motor. He just calmly sailed around them at approximately 1 knot of boat speed, and at one point we were probably 400 feet off their stern. Then they hailed us:

Fishing Boat: "Sailboat at 47N 125W" (now mumbling) "if you even have your radio on..."
Mango: "This is Mango"
Fishing Boat: "Yeah, you're right over our nets."
Mango: "Oh! Yeah, OK, I see now you are hauling in your nets..." Trying to stall as we slowly sailed past. "How about now, are we clear?"
Fishing boat, grumbling: "Yeah, you're clear now."

It was pretty cool being so close and able to see their operation, gears churning as they brought up their nets. The birds were swarming and having a feast! I think in the balance, while no harm was done, we were a bit close. But who expects a boat to be motoring backwards?

A few hours later another fishing boat, this time sailing with trolling lines out, hailed us just to chat. The guy built the boat thirty years ago, and was just finishing up his 29th season. It was a rough looking, salty gaffer, with mis-matched sails. I can get behind that kind of fishing. Just a bunch of lines out catching fish. The first boat was a trawler with a great big net that scrapes the bottom, catching who knows what. Legally they cannot throw fish back, so there are markets for just about everything they catch, but It just doesn't seem right to fish in that way.

Sunday was our fourth day out, and the sailing was fine. Wind speed varied between 10 and 18 knots, and mango just clicked off the miles doing between 6 and 7 knots. It was really sweet sailing. The sky was blue, the clouds little puffs of awesome, and smiles were on the crew. We raised the spinnaker and flew with it for hours. E steered Mango as we raised the sail, and then continued to steer once it was drawing. She did great, of course, and despite her protests, I think even enjoyed it a bit, if her giant smile was anything to go by.

Rough math and the logs suggest we did about 140 miles a day, more in the later part of the trip. I am pretty happy with that, and was especially happy with how well Mango did in light air. With 8-10 knots on the beam we were making 5-6 knots. Not bad for a cruising boat.

Labor Day saw us near Cape Mendicino, with winds up in the 20-25 knot range, gusts sometimes over 35, and the wind didn't drop much after that until we were a few hours out of Half Moon Bay. The jib was furled a bit, with a second reef in the main, no mizzen. The seas started to pick up, and porpoises routinely swam along side of us. A real treat were the night watches, when you could hear the porpoises breathing just beside the boat, and see their trails in the moonlight or sometimes the bioluminescent algae would light their way for us. It was magic, with glimmering pixie dust in the water and another intelligent species right along side.

Night time also brought out the Milky Way, and the little tricolor light at the top of the mast seemed to paint the sky as we rolled through the waves, like a drunken artist who cannot really hold a brush that well. I can relate. We also had two exceptional shooting stars, the kind that leave shadows on the deck and last for many seconds. I missed them both, but for the crew who saw them, they talked about them for the rest of the trip.

When the seas picked up, in the 6-9 foot range, the autopilot, Otto, routinely would just give up. It didn't seem to be struggling to move the rudder, but it wouldn't wait long enough to bring the boat back on course when a wave pushed us off course. We looked for a "Hang in there!" check box in the settings, but no go. Programmers usually don't put a green "Fix It" button in their software, so I wasn't too surprised, but it was rather disappointing. We adjusted many things, and some of them seemed to help, but we couldn't fully eliminate Otto bailing on us. So we took to staring intently at the "A" for auto, and as soon as if flipped to "S" for standby, it would be a race to press the buttons a few times and get us back on course before the boat rounded up into the winds and beam on to the sea. We usually won, but not always.

Stuart found that occasionally when he just touched the display Otto would give up, as if to say "Oh Captain I know thee and thine plots well, and chose not to abide!", and then while cackling madly with arms waving in the air, would scamper off into the sea. Two or three times the chart plotter just locked up and froze, and we had to reboot. Not good, but not tragic at that point. It would have been fairly tragic had the seas been higher and heading beam on would have been dangerous. As it was, the waves were not dangerous beam on, so no big deal, but we really do need to get this sorted out. Calls will be made, firmware updated, and settings explored more fully. Our little Otto is hurting.

Taking pics of wave height is tough, but in this picture below, the boat is in a trough, and more or less level. You can see the swell is up to the bimini, maybe 9-10 feet high.

One thing that surprised us a bit, but not Stuart, was how hard it was to prepare food. I thought it would be easier once we were a few days out, but no one really wanted to be in the galley any longer than necessary. It just made you feel slightly queesy, but not really sick. Fortunately Kristen had made a bunch of meals that we just had to throw in a pot, so we all ate fairly well at least once a day, with easy food like cup of noodles, cereal, baked potatoes and lots snacks to round it out. Karen boiled a bunch of eggs at one point, and they were gone in an hour. The apples moved well, and probably more fruit in general would have been good. Whole carrots were also good, as well as celery stalks and lettuce leaves. Paul brought four loaves of good bread, which was fantastic. We drank surprisingly little coffee (gasp!).

No whales were seen. We did see whale blows in the distance, but we could not make out their bodies. Too bad, I guess they didn't like the look of our jib.

My cousin kindly met us as we came into the marina on Wednesday, keys for their extra car in hand. I drove two of the crew to meet up with another friend, and later in the day drove Stuart to the airport. And just like that, we were the original Mango again, trying to process the trip. We are in California after 800+ miles of sailing. It's official, it's real, and holy crap, we are off.

Nice and easy sailing off of the Washington coast.

The trawler we passed behind and nearly ran over.

Flying the spinnaker!

Sailing in 20-25 knots, double reefed main, reduced genoa.

Porpoises off the bow!

Wave size is notoriously difficult to capture in camera. This wave in the video was roughly 9 feet from trough to crest.