It’s been a quiet winter. Covid-19 or not, winter in Wrangell, Alaska is quiet. It’s possible to go weeks, without talking to anyone, other than the cashier at the grocery store.
Coupled with the fact, that until summer 2019, I had spent most of my winters overseas, my friends got accustomed to not calling. No cards, no letters, no nuthin., Great for hermits, not so great for a kid born in Greenwich Village, in what seemed like the center of the world.
Sometime in February, I was contacted by a new Kadey Krogen 42 owner, who had bought the boat located just north of San Francisco and was looking for advice on bringing it up the coast to his home in Gig Harbor, Washington, just northwest of Tacoma. After a couple of emails and conversations, I offered to help the new owner, Ole, bring the boat up north.
We made some tentative plans to try to do this in April, as I needed to get Dauntless ready for its busy summer with my brother coming up to go fishing and cruising for the summer. That will be the topic of another blog.
So, I was committed to this delivery from Bodega Bay to Gig Harbor. The owner, Ole, had extensive sailing experience, even building boats, but this was his first power boat.
In preparing for the trip, I started watching the winds of the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts. It was the same old story, northwest winds 90% of the time. Day in and day out, the same thing. The idea of hobby horsing up the coast for a second time was not very appealing. In fact, it made me pretty worried. What happened if Ole wanted to leave under so-so conditions and I didn’t?
As we talked over the coming weeks and months, I felt he was willing to listen to my experience, which made me feel more comfortable about my commitment. (as when I give my word, I keep my word).
The winds were not as cooperative. Over an eight-week period, I saw only one or two decent weather windows, with the NW winds abating for a few days. It’s about 650 nm from Bodega Bay, where the KK was, to Neah Bay (just off the Pacific Ocean in the Straits of Juan de Fuca). That means almost 5 full days on the eastern Pacific with no stops. It’s another day from there to Gig Harbor, but I didn’t worry about that portion of the trip. Once we got off the Pacific, we would be in sheltered waters and better able to deal with whatever Mother Nature threw at us.
The weather window I was looking for, would have a low-pressure area and associated fronts, just off the coast, causing south to west winds at moderate strength. We needed to have a series of these lows, not just one, otherwise, upon frontal passage, with the low moving east, the high-pressure areas would build rapidly off the coast, bringing back the NW winds at 15 to 25+ knots off the coast.
That would be No-Go. My old body wanted no part of bouncing up and down the coast every 6 seconds for any number of days!
A few days before my anticipated flight from Wrangell to Santa Rosa, California, a two-day trip on Alaska Airlines, Ole called me to suggest a delay of 5 days, to better wait for our weather window. I was really happy to hear that, as I was looking at the same forecast conditions and was pleased that we were on the same page.
Looking 7 to 10 days out on Windy.com, it did seem that a weather window was developing for Saturday, April 24th. For the next week, the forecast stayed consistent, one of the best indications of a good forecast that has a good handle on the situation.
I arrived in Santa Rosa that Wednesday. The next day, we went to Svendsen’s Marine & Industrial Supply, a massive marine supply place in Alameda, that is worth the visit for anyone in the Bay area.
Friday, we spent provisioning, Ole was so generous in everything we bought and in fact we ended up buying far more food than we could ever eat, especially on a rolling ocean.
We were planning a Saturday morning departure, but it depended on the winds turning from the NW to the south, southwest or west. While the forecast still called for this big change and had been consistent all week, the proof was going to be Saturday morning.
It was with much relief that I woke Saturday, checked the flags in the marina, and was pleased to see that they were finally streaming northward. Our much-anticipated southern winds had arrived. It was time to go.
We couldn’t wait either, as the forecast winds were to become northerly again north of Eureka, California the following day. This meant we had to be north of that cape by the 24-hour point. It also meant that we would have strong westerly winds this first day, but those winds would become more southerly in subsequent days as long as we made progress north.
Now, a Kadey Krogen will roll on a damp lawn, and this boat had no stabilization. But neither did Dauntless my first year and 5,000 miles. A little rolling is good for the digestion in any case, and I was willing to put up with anything to avoid head seas and the hobby horse ride that entails on a full displacement boat.
As we left the harbor, we first had to go WNW for a few hours and then were able to turn NW to parallel the northern California coast. For much of the day, we had light southwest winds, with smallish seas off the port quarter. Again, this was just as forecast. As the day progressed, the winds were forecast to become stronger and more westerly for the nighttime hours. They did so that evening, so did the amount of our rolling. There was a cold front to our west, which caused the winds to increase to 12 to 18 knots. Seas built from less than one foot to 3 to 5 feet, so we were rolling like a … Kadey Krogen.
That first day with any open water passages, when the boat gets rolling, any thing not secured would let its presence be known and they did. But this boat was pretty secured; Ole being an old sea dog. We had a line securing the refrigerator and freezer. The furniture was secured in the salon and we had re-stowed the loose stuff on the salon shelves.
The rolling increased that night, often up to 30° degrees to the lee side, 20° to the windward side, I was wedged into the pilothouse bench seat, having seen this movie before.
A few things got loose anyway and as always; the noise is always worse than the damage (in a well-prepared boat). A small container of fruits having escaped and spread over the floor that took some corralling. But the real damage was unseen for a number of hours.
What could that damage be?
As I said, Ole is a real Sea Dog, unlike me, who is just a neophyte in comparison. But the rolling took its toll, and the initial problem was unseen for hours. By the time, Olé did find the problem, it was a real mess.
A real mess.
Inside our refrigerator, a jar of preserves was unended, and horror of horrors, its lid came off, so it rolled around for hours that night with no lid, distributing its sticky contents everywhere over everything in the entire fridge.
It took poor Ole, hours to clean up the next day.
Guiltily, I thought to myself, better him than me, for a change.
I suppose there are upsides to being on someone else’s bottom.