We, the SV Westy crew, recently sailed down the PNW Coast from Seattle to San Francisco, and here are a few things you can count on experiencing on this trip.
1) Seas That Are As Confused As Fart In a Fan Factory
The two night/three day passage from Neah Bay to New Port, Oregon is known to have seas that are very confused. On our second day of these dancing seas, Jason says "I told you that they nickname this the Washing Machine right?" Me "Uhmm, no." We experienced two different swells that did not want to agree and wind waves that were not helping things. The wind was pretty high for us and we ended up having to hand steer the whole time. Welcome to coastal sailing! I found that these circumstances helped me understand our boat much better and feel very confident on how it works with the ocean as it sails. I also became much more confident in my sailing.
Seeing sealife is a definite. You can expect to see at least a few of these: whales, porpoises, seals, sharks, sunfish, and salmon. We had a pretty epic first 12 hours. Leaving Neah Bay we had to motor into the fog that was like split pea soup. We rounded the corner buoy marking the entry into the Pacific Ocean (only seen on the chart plotter due to fog) and gave a toast to the sea and naming Westy. The fog started to let up after a bit and we were able to view some whales spouting and porpoises enjoying the currents. Then, as I was steering I heard a poof right in front of the boat and then was stunned to see a whale coming up to breath 10' feet in front of us. "Whale!" I shouted and I turned the boat 90 degrees to avoid hitting it. Jason was coming up the cabin steps in time to turn and see it. With our hearts pounding we went away from the whale for a good distance. My first thought as my first night shift was coming was hoping we don't encounter another sleeping whale again in the dark. Once the fog was cleared and the wind picked up, we started sailing. Within five minutes of sailing Aksel's fishline connected with a salmon. Fish was on for dinner and Aksel was super proud of his first ever fish catch within hours of our trip starting. Talk about epic!
3) Are Those Fishing Boats Stalking Me?
There are fishing boats everywhere in the northwest. At night it started to feel like they were stalking me as I noticed on our AIS that they were never leaving and seemed to be moving in the same direction or zig-zagging in an unpredictable pattern. After a while, I decided I would look at it as my own private fishing boat escort down the coastline. I started calling their blue boats on my chart plotter by name and wonder what kind of fish they were finding. We hardly ever really saw them besides on AIS and maybe faint lights in the distance, but one time there was a big fishing boat with crazy bright lights; it was my paparazzi. I have to say, it was nice to come into Californian waters and have the fishing boat extravaganza considerably less but the empty silent waters were only to be replaced with military missile range areas to be aware of.
4) Please Stop The Rattling!
Once a ship comes out into the deep blue ocean, it moves a lot more and in more ways then one might expect. I felt pretty lucky that we didn't really have much noise and rattling on our ship. The previous owners had used cut up non-slip rug mats and placed them between all the dishes and made cup holders out of foam swimming noodles to help keep everything in place and quiet. Also, we had our storage pretty packed so things couldn't move much! But we heard stories from other sailors who's bottles and glasses were rattling endlessly and noises of items that had shifted loose and rolled around with the rolling of the waves. Then, it can take hours sometimes to figure out what exactly was making that annoying noise, while you're trying to get a few hours of sleep before your night shift starts.
5) First Offshore Salty Sailor Badge
Once this feat of braving the open ocean, confused seas, and overnight passage making finds you finally at a safe harbor there is a strong personal sense of accomplishment. Of personal growth and inner strength that wasn't there before. We didn't sink, nothing broke beyond repair and we are still mentally sane! In New Port, OR. we pulled in and met a few boats we already knew from the CoHo Ho Ho sailing seminar classes and we met a few new boats that (we didn't know it at the time) would become great boat friends as we all sail down the coast towards Mexico. At the docks, there was a strong sense of celebration for everyone's achievement and comradery that we all made it through this first phase and now it is time to share our stories, rest and prepare for the next phase of earning our Offshore Salty Sailor badges.