July 27, 2000
When we arrived in Half Moon Bay, in calm conditions, the forecast for that period was for a small craft advisory. Obviously they had gotten that wrong. When we checked the forecast for the following day, prior to our planned departure, it also called for a small craft advisory. The difference this time though is that the buoy reports were showing six foot or greater seas with a 6-7 second period (6x6). The charter fishermen were staying put, canceling with their paying customers. If they weren't going with that kind of an incentive, neither were we.
So we sat out the day, caught up on some repairs, and generally relaxed. Checking the forecast for the following day didn't look too promising either. With the our time running out, it began to look like we would leave the boat in Half Moon Bay. This was pretty disappointing, here we had been on this thing for well over a week and had managed only 60nm. Discouraged, I suggested to Debbie we should just throw a For Sale sign on her and go home, it didn't look like we were ever going to get O'Baby!! home.
We were awakened in the morning by the sound of all the charter boats leaving. Not thinking too much about it until we went to the harbormaster's office and saw the buoy reports. All the stations north of us were reporting seas of 2-3 feet, particularly Pt. Reyes, which is notorious for severe conditions. Unfortunately, there was still a small craft advisory for the area north of Pt. Reyes, but with our experience coming into Half Moon Bay, we didn't give it too much weight.
This turned out to be a mistake.
Leaving Half Moon Bay at around 11:00am, we motored out into very friendly conditions. There was little wind, the seas were calm, and the sun was warming up toward a nice day.
Still a little cautious, we set course for Drake's Bay, a prospective anchorage just short of Pt. Reyes. If the weather did turn sour, we could hole up there till it changed. Or Plan C, we could head back to Half Moon Bay, were the moorage rates weren't too bad, and wait for our next vacation around the end of August.
But the weather held as we headed out across the entrance to the Golden Gate. At about a point just past half way we ran into a squall that was all wind and fog (no rain) and which stirred up the seas pretty good. (I have to imagine that this is what it would be like sailing into the Bermuda Triangle.) The swells didn't grow much, but the wind waves did. It made a pretty trip turn nasty. This lasted for about an hour to when we just as suddenly sailed out of it. Most definitely an odd phenomenon.
The weather returned to the calm conditions with which we had started. The buoy reports from NOAA radio were still looking favorable (with the exception of that persistent small craft advisory), so we felt confident enough to shift our course westward toward Pt. Reyes.
Abeam Pt.Reyes the seas began to pick up a bit, but not more than expected with the forecast of 5'x14". It wasn't too bad at all. As we progressed through the area it was obvious there was some current mixing going on here as the swells seemed to be coming from everywhere. O'Baby!! didn't know which way to go.
The seas settled on a quartering sea on the forward beam as we set course direct to Bodega Bay. Here is where we made a mistake. We should have stuck with our tried and true method of hugging the coast line, rather than taking the direct (shorter) route.
As we progressed direct to Bodega Bay, and further and further off shore, the winds began to pick up. Really pick up! Before we knew it, we were in 25-30 knot winds, and the consequent wind wave that blow brings. And now we were in a position where turning toward the shore presented some danger from a beam and/or following seas. There was little option but to hold course and work our way toward Bodega Bay.
The wind just continued to make the seas miserable, punky, grumpy, and all the other adjectives that the fishermen use to describe these terrible conditions. The waves at times approached 10-11 feet and would splash up over the flybridge (about 17' off the water!). The sea foamed as the wind would cause the waves to break. The tops of the waves that didn't break would turn a luminescent green as they pounded our forward quarter. This was absolutely miserable, and scary. The boat pitched and rolled to angles we had previously not witnessed. Stuff we had never imagined would need to be battened down slid and rolled all over the boat. By the time all was said and done, the cabin of the boat was a wreck. As were our nerves.
With Bodega Head in site, and only a few miles till we were out of this maelstrom, the problem now became one of getting the boat to go where we wanted it to go with out getting into a beam sea (where fear of capsizing was very real). It was necessary to watch the swells closely, point it toward our destination between smaller swells and just as quickly get it pointed back into the bigger swells. I played this game for what seems an eternity, all the time wondering if I could make the necessary progress to Bodega.
Obviously I did, but most definitely with huge amounts of trepidation thrown in. Getting abeam Bodega Rock saw the seas diminish to the point that we began to relax. The wind still howled though and knowing how hard this boat is to dock wouldn't let us let down our guard. But we made it. We didn't take the slip they assigned us at Spud Point Marina as it was too confined for these conditions, opting for an end tie instead.
As I type this we have sat for two days waiting for the weather to allow us to progress further up the coast. It doesn't look like the weather is going to break. We're now preparing to leave tomorrow (Sunday the 30th) and plan to return on the 25th of August. Getting only 120nm in almost two weeks is very disappointing. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that we'll make it one of these days and that safety is the paramount concern in this venture.
Stay tuned, there's more to come....