M/V DESERT VENTURE
Northbound – 2008
April 12, 2008
Thus far on this web log, I have uploaded our voyage north, from San Francisco Bay in the spring of 2005, and some logs on cruising in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Since that time we did another season in the PNW, cruising up through British Columbia and SE Alaska. On departure from SE AK in the summer of 2006, we voyaged to Mexico, where we spent a winter. In 2006 we did over 5000 nautical miles. In the spring of 2007, we started our voyage back to the USA, hopping our way up the coast, as weather permitted, ending up in San Francisco Bay for this past winter. I have logs on most of these travels and will work to get them uploaded. As bloggers know, it takes time to turn a document into a web blog.
And now, after a winter in the bay area, we are once again preparing to voyage up the west coast of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington headed for the Inside Passage. Our goal is to spend another wonderful season in SE AK. This time we will be taking our time at several favorite spots, and staying through the season.
We do not expect to have a total voyaging week of flat and mostly boring seas as we head north this season. So that means we will probably hop up the coast with every weather window that fits our requirements. We will go as long as the weather holds. We work very hard to never have a schedule – self-imposed or otherwise. That means we wait for those ideal (or mostly ideal) periods of acceptable conditions. Though many boaters will go in some fairly animated conditions, we limit the conditions that we are willing to tolerate. We prefer flat seas, but will tolerate up to 5 or 6 foot seas, as long as the period is long. In other words a five foot sea with a period of 11 seconds is fairly boring, and you might not even notice the condition as being anything but ho-hum. We do not tolerate a five foot wave with a five second period. We call that a square wave, and you do a lot of up/downs (what is commonly referred to as pitching) and depending on the winds, up/down/splash! We experienced some 7-8 foot square waves for a few hours, this last spring, coming up the Baja Peninsula. The waves came in sets of about three, so there was a slight reprieve occasionally, but very short lived. After a few hours that gets really old and irritating. It is doable, but just not that much fun.
Wind is an important factor in voyaging, too. We are a motor boat, so we don’t really want the winds that make the sailboaters happy. We limit our exposure to about a maximum of 25 mph winds. That will create a chop on the water and you will have a pretty bumpy ride as the winds create another layer on the waves. This is when you will get the sea spray that makes for the “splash”. We have been in conditions where the splash comes completely over the bow and tops the flybridge. That happens when the wind is on our “nose” or coming directly at us from ahead. Generally, we try to limit the exposure to this type of experience. Often it may be in the last hour(s) of a cruise as we arrive at our destination, or they are in the beginning and we know the conditions are short lived as we move on through the area, and we expect the conditions to lay down quickly.
Our wind speed tolerance is also a function of the wind direction. I just explained what happens if it is on our bow. But, if the wind is on our stern, it creates a following sea – something people wish upon you when you get underway. (Here’s to fair winds and following seas.) Of course it is mostly sailors that really like these conditions as it fluffs up their sails nicely. In our case, we like the “push” a wind can give us, unless it gets “too” pushy. When it gets “too” pushy” or from an unacceptable direction our autopilot starts whining – literally. The wind, pushing from behind, gives autopilot less control of the bow. When that happens the bow ends up being pushed from one side to the other as the autopilot attempts to accommodate the wind. When that happens it becomes much easier to hand steer the boat. “Auto” shouldn’t have to work so hard to keep on course. Here is a way to test this concept. Buy a little toy boat(or use a little rubber ducky) . Put it in water. Using your finger (the wind) push the boat from behind. How do you know which way the bow will go? If the wind is perfectly on your stern, it should push basically straight forward, but if you get too much push just off center then you start having problems. Pushing the little boat off center should cause it to make a right or left turn. Then how do you get it back to your course? You use your other hand to push the bow back to the direction you consider your course. Now, take the bow control away and keep pushing…the bow goes off course. And so your “auto pilot hand” has to come back…and as you push the bow back in line, it then drifts to the other side…oops, get auto to bring it back. Hopefully, this worked like I described. So, when the following seas get too pushy for “Auto” to drive properly, we give “Auto” a rest and we hand steer. We proceed much more directly, generally little or no over-steering, our speed is maintained, Auto isn’t whining, and life is much more serene aboard D/V.
This leaves one more basic wind direction issue. When winds come toward the beam (broadside) or quarter( back corner of the boat), they create beam or quartering seas. These conditions result in rolling. That means the boat is rolling from port to starboard. The condition can be mild, if the winds are light, but if the winds get up to 20 miles or more per hour, then the rolling gets more extreme. The effects on the body are much like the effects of pitching. It can be quite tiring. On our trip south from SE AK we had quartering and beam seas almost the entire trip from Washington to Southern California. You do tend to feel as if your brains have been lightly scrambled at the end of a 10 hour day of rolling. Hm…maybe that explains…oh, never mind. 🙂
Now to add another facet to the mix. Seas are waves generated by local wind. Swell are waves by a distant wind. Which leads us to where we are today. We are south of Point Arena. There is no wind and therefore there is no sea. However, we do have a 4 to 5 foot swell on a 10 second period coming from the northwest, generated from a storm in the North Pacific Ocean. By the way, the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day out here on ocean. We are running about three to five miles off the coast at an average speed of 7.5 knots per hour.
For those of you new to D/V voyaging you now have a brief, and simplified version of winds and waves and how they affect us. In future logs I will often give you the general information on wind and waves, and hopefully, you will be able to envision our conditions.
And now we are up-to-date. We are underway and have been since 0500 today. Stay tuned for more details of D/V and her crew’s voyage north.