At sea from Neah Bay to San Francisco

Oct. 10-14: Just before dawn we found ice on the decks in Neah Bay — is that a hint we need to be sailing south? We took the hint, departing with windless, blue skies and eight foot swells out of the northwest.

After motoring for ten hours, we were able to set full main and jib, sailing comfortably at 165 degrees true wind angle. The Olympic Mountains displayed their craggy, snowy western side all day, and black shearwaters circled the boat. A gibbous moon rose off our port bow after an orange sunset had entertained us to starboard. The true wind speed increased to 21 knots, and we sped along at 7 to 9 knots. Our only problem was that we were unable to send out messages over either Sailmail or Inmarsat-C. Since pre-passage testing in Victoria showed both were working fine we had not activated our Iridium satphone. So for the first time on ADAGIO we were down to just short range VHF communications. So Rick Shema and our daughter were wondering what happened to our usual daily position reports.

During the night, numerous ships and fishing boats appeared on our radar, and on Joe’s AIS system. On Saturday, the wind dropped to about 10 knots, but we maintained our speed of 7 to 8 knots, under blue skies.

We were unable to celebrate Joe’s Sunday birthday with a real cake, due to the sea state, and at 1700 hours, we put 2 reefs in the mainsail. On Monday morning the 13th, at 0200 hours, Joe was at the helm when ADAGIO surfed to 18.8 knots in winds gusting to 29 knots true. Joe thought it was a fun birthday present. But continuing to take it easy and sail conservatively, we put the fourth reef into the mainsail and the boat settled down.

Then shortly after Dorothy came on watch at 0300 auto pilot #2 decided to take a holiday. Fortunately we designed ADAGIO with two completely parallel B&G Hydra pilots — so we flipped the pilot selector switch to pilot #1, and quickly regained our course. As we rounded Cape Mendocino, the true wind speed dropped from 20 to 17 knots, and we hoisted the mainsail to the first reef. Dolphins joined us, and played in our bow waves for 30 minutes. We were finally able to send a couple of position reports out via Sailmail over HF email. During the night watches ADAGIO was surfing to 10 to 12 knots in 17 to 20 knots of breeze, and four meter seas. Between surfing, the boat speed averaged 8 to 11 knots.

On Tuesday, I phoned our daughter as we came into cell phone range north of Point Reyes. We were surprised to hear that she had notified the Coast Guard after not receiving a position report for 48 hrs. The CG contacted Jim Corenman, who checked our Sailmail activity and told the CG that it appeared to be a communications problem. Steve had spent many hours trying to send position reports through Sailmail and Inmarsat-C, so it was clear we had some trouble-shooting to do in San Francisco.

Four days + five hours from Neah Bay we were fortunate to be sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge on a lovely, fog-free morning — and this was ADAGIO’s first time to sail under the “Gate”. We had been away for fourteen years, so we looked forward to seeing all our San Francisco friends again.

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