Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cheated Death Once Again- Strumpet

Moving about on OPB’s - (Other People’s Boats)

Oct 15 - Packing the bags again
A skipper friend called me up the other day, seems he was in a bind. Up in Seattle his management company has been moving boats around at a furious pace. I guess if you don’t get your boat out of Seattle by the end of the season, it gets stuck there. His normal crew has been worked pretty ragged and he called me for assistance on one last delivery. Sure- I'll go pack my bags.

Strumpet - Our 55ft Fleming for the next few days.
The owner wants it in San Fran for the winter.

I met two other guys(crewmates) up in Seattle, went to dinner and walked onto the boat. It is a real nice 55 foot Fleming that is only two years old. It has all the toys: long and short range radar, AIS transponder and receiver (which overlays target info on the radar as well as the Nobeltec Navigator mapping program), Four engine room cameras (and a few others positioned around the deck), and in motion satellite TV, any of which can be called up on any of the five flat screen monitors spread out across the bridge. This was all observed from the super cushy command chair in the center of the Com. This thing also has active stabilizers to keep the boat level in rough waters and thrusters for docking. Down in the salon there was also about a 42 inch flat screen also hooked up to the sat tv. Yes- nice digs indeed.

Aft- Main Salon looking forward. The galley is on the left, 3 steps down in the center takes you to the three staterooms, and a step to the right are 3 steps up to the bridge.

Fri Oct 16- Cast- off the lines!
We left out of Seattle early in the morning. It was raining, a bit blowy and a chilly morning but we had a day and a half of running in the protected waters of the sound before we get out to the real waters of the ocean. Outside is supposedly really bad right now(like REALLY bad) but a small weather window is predicted to get here in a couple of days and we have to be right at the corner to grab it when it shows. Otherwise it will be gone and the next one could be a week or two or maybe not. This is the tail end of the season. It only gets rougher out there till springtime.

All eyes were constantly watching the waters for debris. This area is infamous for deadheads (logs, sometimes partially submerged just below the surface) and “sometimes you get a whole dang tree stuck in the props”(so says the skipper), as well as a very high number of vessel traffic running around.

One of the many deadheads we were dodging. This one is an 8-bird.

Freighters and Ferries can come up on you real fast. This waterway is so busy it has traffic control always watching ALL boats on their land based radar. If you stray into a shipping lane they will call you and ask your reason for being there!

All day long we had pockets of light/heavy rain and varying winds that got up to 45 at times. We were lucky that it was mostly off our stern quarter and didn’t slow us down. It just whipped up the water for a while. The boat was handling it well. This was nothing compared to what it was doing out off the point. Reports were still quite miserable. We pulled into Pt Angeles in the early afternoon to top off the fuel and wait for our weather window.

This guy was flying all over the passage.
Apparently the extension helps him look for submarines

Saturday, October 17, 2009
We got moving as soon as it was light enough to see. There is still alot of debris in the water to dodge so we had to at least wait for the light. It was raining, mostly foggy and visibility was about 1/2 mile, but waters were calm.

We left Pt. Angeles and headed through the Straights of Juan de Fuca (about 65 miles) to the Pacific when the fog started to break up. This was our short term commitment/goal point. The water was still pretty calm, buoy reports from around the corner were showing smooth waters ahead and the predictions were for everything to lay down in the afternoon so we apparently timed it all perfect.

So we thought...
The water started to get frisky, but not bad. Throughout the next couple of hours it continued to build past sloppy, then progressed to plain old "snotty". We pounded 20 miles down around the corner (down past Cape Alava), the wind was a solid 30 on the nose, seas were 8 to 10ft at 8secs. This was NOT what was supposed to happen at all! The boat was handling it all quite nicely, but we were pounding every wave now and we slowed to 8 knots. The NOAA weather reports we were monitoring on the radio finally updated and NOW indicated it was only going to get worse in front of us for the next eight hours. Looking at the charts showed the next bail-out port was still 65 miles ahead! We decided to pass on the 8 hour bash-fest/beatdown and instead backtrack to Neah Bay and hide out till it got better.

We had Nascar on the Sat in the salon
and 10 ft seas outside.
Had chips & salsa too.

No- we weren’t pukin’.

We managed to get in just after dark and worked into a slip without problem. We made tacos. We have awesome Wifi, but picked up a slip so close to the jagged cliffs that we couldn’t get a satTv lock. I missed the end of the Nascar Race. We all agreed it was the better choice at this point to be tied up to a nice quiet dock instead of getting tossed around and all beat up in the dark. We'll see what happens tomorrow. The reports say it should all lay down again and we'll attempt another run for it.

Sun Oct 18
The next morning we got under way right at twilight to find the seas had indeed settled down to comfortable rollers covered by a light hazy fog. This was much better than returning the boat all beat up and probably creaky for the rest of it's life (this happens more often than not). Throughout the day the conditions kept improving and the further down we went, the day became more and more ideal. It appeared we hooked into our perfect weather window.

We ran this way all day, into evening and through the night. There was no need to stop, and in reality there was no place to stop at this point anyway. We were running the engines a bit harder than normal to stay in our weather and get through this stretch. Unfortunately we were burning twice the amount of fuel to do it. The next morning we timed it perfect and we pulled into Newport, OR for a quick fuel stop right as the day was getting light.

View from the Commercial side of Newport OR.

No extra time spent here playing around and we were off as soon as the hoses were hung up on the pumps and got back out. Weather reports ahead still look real good for the moment, but we can hear bad weather building in behind us that might catch up and things could go all "snotty" again.

We cruised past places like Destruction Island and Cape Disappointment and gave them a wide berth(12 miles off) by coincidence (not because we were paranoid). Then there were times we were running "one foot on the beach" cutting corners and drawing a line as the shortest distance to the next course change.

Spectacular conditions. What were they thinking? I’m in command!!!!

We saw a few whales, but mostly one-sight and gone, or way off on the horizon so photo captures were very rare. We also had an occasional pod of dolphin come by and play in the wake for a while. We even came across a strange pod we thought were seals, but were actually dolphin without dorsal fins. Wiki says they were probably Northern Wright Whale Dolphin.

Northern Wright Whale Dolphin
and Another frisky dolphin

Since there was no moon, the nights were incredibly dark. I was momentarily perplexed one evening when a light appeared out of the fog way off starboard side and I could not see it on radar. It wasn't long before I figured out it was a bright star (mars?) on the horizon. Even with the pilot house blacked out in night mode, the instruments were still a bit too bright to see most stars from the command chair. I did manage to get out of the chair a couple of times and poked my head out of the pilot house door to catch a bit of the meteor shower when it was clear. Other times we were running in varying degrees of fog, scattered showers, hazy sunshine then gorgeous sunny blue skies contrasted by inky blackness of night. We got into a bit of everything. Back at the HQ in Seattle, it hadn't stopped raining.

Continuous running put us rounding the point into SanFran around 4am Thursday morning. It was awesome timing between a few big freighters coming out and only one coming in behind us, but we hugged the side and out of the way enough not to freak anybody out.

Golden Gate at night ---- Snapshot of Radar into SF

We found our way over to the fuel dock just as it was getting light and tied up but had to wait till 8am for them to open. After our brief nap, we topped off all of the tanks one more time, got the boat into it's new home, and had Strumpet washed down, wiped off, and fully detailed inside and out by about 1pm. We were almost done when the owner arrived for the handoff and gave us the thumb's up. Our flight out was booked soon after our late lunch, had only a bit to sit and rest then off to the airport for the flight home. It would have been fun to run around SF for a couple of days, but that was not the intent of this trip.

According to Skipper Chris, we were hired to cheat death. Thankfully- this trip we did.