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Thread: Baja Bound Beetle

  1. #111
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    The Beetle's Northward Migration

    Rob MacFarlane stopped by his old home in the Alameda Estuary and relaxed a bit, visited some friends and reprovisioned then wasted little time getting going to Beetle's newest destination in the PNW. Here's the lastest as he heads north!

    *********************************************

    Headed North

    Beetle is departing San Francisco in about 40 minutes (2AM) this quiet Thursday morning. First stop is hoped to be the Humboldt Bay fuel dock - perhaps by 5pm Friday evening.

    Weather is forecast to lay down along the coast, the forecast says we want to be north of Pt. Arena by Friday evening.

    John Guhl is joining Beetle for the run northwards, hopefully this is fun!

    I will send more information once we get underway.

    - rob

    May 8

    *******************************


    Thursday with Cape Mendocino Up Front

    It's Thursday afternoon and we're trundling along up the coast in the misty afternoon low fog and drizzle, wind is out of the south at 10-12 knots and that makes for a very pleasant ride northbound. John is asleep in his bunk, I'm up on watch sort of beneath the dodger and I've got my little Samsung unit and Apple keyboard set up on top of the sliding companionway hatch - the hatch makes for a convenient table in these conditions and I can keep watch whilst typing my note.

    We departed Alameda at 2AM this morning and have made good time since then. There are a few crab pots still out and about, they mostly look like abandoned pots (lots of green growth on them), the pots that the fishermen could not find when they went out to retrieve all their gear at the end of the crab season (I believe that crab season has ended on this coast, though I could be mistaken).

    Off Bodega Bay, in the fog, we ran into a whole heap of fish boats tooling around very slowly in search of salmon - looks like salmon season must be here! Also made for dodge-em fish boats and John has now learned a great deal about how to operate the autopilot he finds on Beetle. Certainly don't need sunglasses here though wool caps and full foulies are in order.

    For my part I'm mostly keeping busy staying warm and monitoring everything while letting the boat run north - keep the fuel up in the day tank, maintain course, and watch out for the fish boats.

    The weather window we're enjoying right now is the driver we're out here at this time - there's a lightweight front moving overhead and through at the moment and the front is bringing light southerly winds with it (plus fog and drizzle). When the front departs to the east the wind is forecast to fill in from the NW; all the forecasts have suggested that if one is north of Pt. Arena before the front clears then there is going to magically appear a large bubble of High pressure all the way up to Cape Flattery at the top end of the coast in Washington. It's that bubble that we're hoping to travel in as we proceed north. To do that we're running at 2150 RPM to try and keep speed around 67.5-7 knots over the ground despite bucking the Humboldt current, and so far that's going about right.

    There are two planned fuel stops: Humboldt Bay on Friday and Newport Oregon on Sunday. The fuel dock in Humboldt closes at 5pm Friday afternoon and if we're there in time then we refuel and keep going. If we're slow then there is another fuel dock 56 miles further up the coast at Crescent City - so all we would need to do is skip Humboldt and move on up to Crescent City for fuel Saturday morning (when the fuel dock opens) and then be on the road north again. Currently we're 23 mils from Pt. Arena as of 2:20pm running at 7.4 knots (must be some good current behind us) and that would have us on schedule for fuel in Humboldt.

    All is good, nice to be on the road and feel the boat moving with the small waves, and it's been interesting to watch the temperature fall as Beetle moves north. I wonder if an Eskimo would think of this as warm t-shirt weather?

    - rob

    May 8

    ************************************************
    Midnight off Fort Bragg


    It has continued to be a most excellent run north - it's midnight and we've already rounded Pt. Reyes and Pt. Arena and are now just north of Fort Bragg and headed for the next point: Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino. As I spent the winter studying Mexican navigation charts, I now know that Punta means Point. I've never heard of Punta Gorda but most folks that have listened to NOAA weather radio have heard of Cape Mendocino.

    It's fun to be north of Point Reyes, as this is all new territory for Beetle and me. That said, mostly what I've seen of this new territory is low clouds and fog - running along 5 miles off the coast and still no coast in view. That's why it was fun when the lights of Fort Bragg popped up from under a cloud and now I can see the town. The cell phone also worked there, and Kristen gave me the low-down on the current weather forecasting up the coast. So far it looks like all systems are go and I continue to hope that Beetle will be around the top end of Washington and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca come Monday night.

    Most of the day was spent running north under the small front that has now exited to the east. Life within a cloud is chilly, wet, limited visibility and lots of wet. While at Fortman Marina in San Francisco last week I did a temporary fix to the forward big hatch on the foredeck; that hatch has leaked for a bit and the proper fix is to pull the hatch and re-bed it. I didn't want to get into that project in Mexico, nor did I in San Francisco, as there's a possibility of damaging the hatch frame and that would be a time consuming problem - so something to look into when I get to Orcas Island. In the meantime I purchased a tube of Liquid Life Caulk and squeeged that around the perimeter of the hatch frame and pressed it in with my finger (which became wonderfully black as a result). And it has worked out that the frame is now not leaking where it meets the deck - at least for the moment.

    Out here on the water I can see a bit of the moon poking through in between cloud bands, there are a couple of big back fuzzy drizzly clouds drifting about - one is behind (more wet on deck for a while) and the other is approaching. There are also two fish boats in the area, the one ahead seems to be running north at about the same speed and course as us, the one behind has been south-bound and is all lit up with the gigantic sodium lights that attract the squid.

    We're about 84 miles from Humboldt Bay, and hope to be there tomorrow afternoon to take on fuel and keep the show on the road. I'm going to send this note out over the SSB radio, then wake John for his 1AM watch.

    Nice that we're able to scamper north so quickly!

    - rob

    May 9

    *******************************************


    Fri at Point Mendocino

    It's Friday morning and Beetle finds that the Mendocino coast is nearby to starboard, the sun is up albeit a bit shy hiding behind the clouds, the wind has gone to somewhere else leaving zip here, and there are interesting white caps in the water where the big swirls of current collide with one another. A very nice morning to be up and looking for the buoy moored off the cape. Plan is to take the buoy to starboard thereby avoiding the reef inshore, turn right a bit, and run up the coast and enter Humboldt Bay. Humboldt sometimes closes, as in there are breakers clear across the entrance and the USCG will close the port and bar crossing to all traffic - that should not be an issue today as the swell is moderate and there's no wind and no storm on the way in.

    During last night's watch a pod of small black with white stripe dolphins came by to play in the dark. I did not get a good look at one, it being dark and all, but John had a whole ton of them come over later on during his watch and he got a good look at some of them. Neat playful animals.

    Today should be fun, as we're going to try out the new fender boards on the boat when we tie up to the fuel pier in Humboldt. The fellow I spoke with on the telephone last week said they do not have a floating dock for small boats, but rather a tall pier set up for fish boats in which you lay against the vertical pilings (often covered with creosote, barnacles, and other lovely hard things) and he passes down the fuel hose. Fender boards are the answer to that sort of arrangement for small boats when you prefer to not have the hull crunching up against the pilings. Not having such boards, I went and made some while in SF, using a 2x4 cut to 7' length (to facilitate storage by making the board long enough to span two stanchion bases for lashing-to-stanchion-base purposes), and cutting some lines to size for tying the fenders to the board and the board to the boat. I have two of theses 2x4s, and I hope they work as otherwise it's going to be a somewhat arduous job to run jerry jugs up and down the fuel pier while not actually tying up to the pier. Think somewhat similar to San Carlos pier, but hopefully not as windy.

    And while there in Humboldt I can check weather forecasts and then we can depart and put the show back on the road. This bit of coast has a well deserved reputation for being particularly nasty and it's really nice to be running out here with calm winds and moderate seas making good speed.

    - rob

    May 9


    ************************************************

    Northbound from Humboldt Bay Friday night


    Good evening, the pit stop for fuel at Humboldt Bay went well, I'm glad our arrival aligned with daylight as that would not be the most pleasant place to enter for the first time in the dark - big swell building up as you run in towards the beach that would not be well lit by buildings behind as the town is not on the beach. Running in towards a beach never seems like a good idea, though there are two large parallel breakwaters that extend out to sea which do provide some protection as you enter. Once inside you turn left and run 4 miles up the river to the Englund Fuel Dock - a building on a tall pier lined with concrete-filled steel pilings. Fender boards worked great, and I have figured out how to whip a dock line around a fat piling (which you cannot put your arms all the way around) such that the end of the line wraps around the piling and back into your hands - that's how we lashed Beetle to the pilings.

    Took on 43 gallons of red-dye diesel no. 2, and three hours after passing the outer buoy on our way in, we were past that buoy on our way out.

    Once north of Humboldt we fell in with a fish boat that appears to be doing the same run north that we are, though he is taking time out periodically to stop and fish - perhaps that is a way to pay for the fuel costs of the run they are doing. Currently the boat is hanging about 2 miles to the west of us as we run parallel to the coast towards Cape Blanco, the next big point to round, currently some 66 miles ahead.

    There hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of sea life to be found out here so far, but today fixed that: found a large grey whale right at the entrance to Humboldt Bay, he or she was spouting and hanging out at the river mouth, lots of albatross winging around the boat this afternoon, and then early evening observed three different sharks pass by the boat very close as in 5-15' away depending upon the shark. My guess is we are seeing Mackerel sharks (a cousin of the Mako, according to my fish book) that is found up here in the colder waters. Definitely not a blue shark as it's way too cold for them and the fin didn't look right for a blue.

    Conditions are slightly more lively than last night, we're moving with 8-12 knots of breeze from the west, the occasional large rain cloud moving by from west to east that brings some rain and colder air, swell is up at 6-8' from the west, and we do the occasional BONG when a white cap plonks against the port bow.

    Running well, should be at Blanco sometime tomorrow morning, and that will put Newport Oregon squarely in our sights. Crescent City is to starboard and the border between Oregon and California is just ahead. Plus we're having a good solid moon today in between the high clouds, and the moon really lights up the water out here - nicer to run when you can see the waves as compared to running in total blackout conditions.

    All is well on board, hopefully it continues that way.

    - rob


    *************************************************

    Saturday morning off Port Orford and Cape Blanco

    It has been a good night's run up from Humboldt Bay, and with the sunrise we're out here off Port Orford with Cape Blanco in the offing not too far away.

    Had our first problem of the trip - the starboard fuel filter failed to pass fuel when Is wrapped over to it, resulting in shutting down the engine (fuel starvation). I was swapping filters in the Racor 500FG ganged filter set because the port filter was showing high enough vacuum (sucking too hard to get fuel through the filter) that it needed to be replaced. This has always simply meant swinging the fuel flow handle to point to the starboard new filter, the motor continues to run, and I can change the port filter at my leisure. Not this time. I swung the handle and within seconds the vacuum gauge goes way high and the motor dies... rats! We drifted around for 10 minutes while I swapped in a new port fuel filter paper element and the motor fired right up. I pulled out the starboard pap;er element to verify I had in fact replaced it (Marina del Rey? San Diego?) And it looked just fine - so at least I hadn't done something dumb like swap to the new fuel filter and forgotten to replace the old one. Will want to sort this out in Newport Oregon - our next port of call.

    There were several large black fuzzy squall clouds that we went through last night, though it's really more that they ran over us as we don't go fast enough to avoid them. Beetle got a good fresh water rinse with lots of rain falling out of several of them. And in the middle of the second rain cloud (which you can see easily on the radar, even to the point of knowing when you will exit the rain) we came into a bunch of south bound fish boats running with super bright lights on pointing forward. I called one of them on the VHF to ask what they were up to - fishing? Netting? Squidding? And I did not want to run into their gear. The first boat that went by us called over to the sailboat on his port side and he told me they were out shrimping, everybody was shut down, and there was no gear in the water for me to worry about. That was most nice of him.

    I talked with Kristen via telephone when we were abeam Rogue River - she's on the train headed for Newport, there to join the boat for the remainder of the run up the coast. She was seeing snow (!) Outside her window as they ran along the tracks through the mountains. I imagine the big black squally things we're having out here are turning into white fluffy snowy things in the mountains. These squalls should represent the backside of the front that went through last night to the north of us, I have now arrived at that latitude, and should see better conditions (as in smoother) as the front clears off to the east and we motor up what will now be the west side of that front line. Make sense?

    Weather forecast continues to look good for departing Newport on Sunday to continue the run up to Cape Flattery, nothing big is forecast to move in other than the High which is due to appear over Vancouver BC - the folks in Seattle are all excited about getting some sun! I wonder if they will know that Beetle brought some up in a box from Puerto Vallarta just for them

    All is well so far this morning, I'm now keeping a closer eye on the vacuum gauge on the port side fuel filter (running with no resistance at the moment), we are 10 miles south of Cape Blanco with a lalrgish swell running at 8-10' and 10-12 knots of wind from the NW - not too bad at all as the water is remaining fairly smooth over the swell.

    Enjoy the day!

    - rob

    May 10

    ************************************************** **

    Monday morning at sea – Columbia River coming up



    That was a mister toad's wild ride for the first 6 hours after departing Newport Harbor last night. We had cleared the harbor entrance with the last of the sunlight at 8pm, straight into 20 knots from the north - exactly where we wanted to go. The wind would not have been so bad, but it had been blowing out there all day long and had generated a wicked 3-4' chop and we started to pound the moment we turned onto course 351True from the harbor's outer buoy. After a few minutes of this, which mostly involved banging into a steep wave and lifting up most of that wave onto the foredeck and watching the water come rolling down the deck and into the cockpit (plus a couple of deeper waves that rolled up and over the dodger) we turned west 20 degrees and slowed the boat down in an effort to get away from the coast and the crab pots and not to bang directly into the chop.

    Kristen doesn't do well in these conditions and promptly got seasick and emptied her stomach contents into a ziplock baggie she had in her hand expressly for that purpose, then managed to get some sleep in. John took first watch, I took second watch, and we tacked back towards the coast when we were 11 miles offshore. The NWS forecast called for stronger wind from the north outside and lighter wind inside - so we headed back inshore after going through a 50 degree tack (motorsailing with the third reef up). The swell was negligible, but the chop kept up slow and wet.

    About 2AM Kristen was back up feeling much better and stood her watch, and I kept running fresh fuel into the day tank with an idea to keep the fuel level higher in case there was in fact something going on with debris in the tank and keeping fuel high would lessen the sloshing effect in the tank. I have no idea if that helped, but the fuel filter I swapped into place in Newport harbor is working perfectly, 0 vacuum, and we're continuing to make good time moving along at 2000 RPM.

    And now I've just woken up, it's 8AM Monday morning and we're running at 6.8 knots through glassy conditions with a bit of left over motion about 29 miles from the border between Washington and Oregon. Washington here we come!

    Goal is to carry on up to and around Cape Flattery, hopefully arriving there 24 hours from now (Tuesday morning some time), and if necessary stop in at Neah Bay for fuel, and carry on for Port Angeles and stop there Tuesday night. If that happens, then it becomes a relatively shortly hop across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Orcas Island on Wednesday. NWS forecast indicates that all this will work well given the weather out here: we're north of the wind that is supposed to fill in today off Newport (same 20 knots we had yesterday), there's light 0-10 knots all of today and most of Tuesday, and we will be in the Strait before the wind fills in at 20 knots Wednesday off the west coast of Washington. Will be interesting to find out just how well the wind reads the forecasts.

    So, morning here, nothing broke last night, Kristen is sleeping, I'm typing, John is looking around for sharks and whales, the sun is up with a crispy clear sky, water is a shiny mirror with zero wind. Not too shabby given what we started out just outside the bar at Newport!

    - rob


    May 12

    ************************************************** **
    Monday afternoon, passing Gray’s Harbor, 100 miles to Cape Flattery


    It's been a super pleasant day today as Beetle tools along smoothly through the flat water off the coast; breeze has held at 0-10 knots from the NE and N, swell is running at 1-2', and wind waves are on the order of six inches - makes for kindly traveling conditions.

    The three of us have been taking turns hanging out in the cockpit to soak up the sunshine, read books, and tell stories. John's Nikon camera lens has magically come back to life after several years of having the autofocus mechanism not work - now it works and he's amazed! Kristen has been feeling better, brought Fred (the big beanbag chair) up to the cockpit and has been mountain-peak-spotting. I've been reading, along with resting/napping and keeping track of fuel usage - so far I've run two of the jerry jugs into the port tank as the port tank is the easier of the two tanks to fill, and we're doing fine at this engine RPM.

    There has been very little marine life visible out here, apart from the Murres and gulls. We did have a couple of people-related events today, namely a huge number of triple-float crab pots set SE of the Columbia River, and the case of the mysterious drifting bulk carrier. The crab pots were set in 450-500' of water, which is real deep in the world of crab pots, and there were hundreds of the floats set about the place. There was also a longline flag that we saw, and then beyond the flag and pots was a great big blue fishing boat- at 100 foot or longer it looked like the kind of boat that would have set tons of pots out here. I called him the radio, he answered, and told me that we were seeing either crab pots or long lines, and either way the gear was not on the surface and therefore don't be worried about running into any lines. There miles and miles and miles of pot floats! We only actually deviated course for two of them, which was not so bad.

    And the Columbia River is a pretty busy port, lots of traffic in and out, including big full size container ships. We went by to the west of the pilot area, and watched on the AIS, and then later just by looking over the bow, a giant bulk carrier that didn't seem to be doing much - circles, perhaps? - at speeds reported via AIS to be 0.2 knots. I called up the Zambesi and they told me they were drifting, I told them I would avoid them, and they were pleased I was not asking them to turn on their engine and move out of the way. So we got to motor right by their bow and got some fun pictures of their ship.

    It's now around 6pm and we're organizing our gear after a decadent day of lounging in the sun, in preparation for running tonight. Fred's bag has been put away, food bags are stowed, shoes have been put in their places so we don't trip on them, and foulies and tethers and hats are being arranged so they can be found in the dark. Tonight should be our last night-run on this trip, and it would be good to go through the night uneventfully; at the rate we're traveling we should be around Cape Flattery in the daylight tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and then carry on to Port Angeles by early evening.

    - rob

    May 12

    *********************************************
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"



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  2. #112
    That boy does get around.................

  3. #113
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    The Further Adventures of Tiger Beetle continues as Rob and Kristen embark on their great Alaskan voyage of 2015!







    It's a fine Saturday evening, Beetle is happily riding at anchor in 45 feet of water, and the US Customs and Border Patrol let Kristen and I back in to the country. They also took away half of our dinner (the uncooked chicken), but we perservered what with smoked BarS sausages and salad. Seems that avian flu is to blame for us having our chicken taken away.

    The day started with a walk ashore to check out the insect population along the road-side at Montague Harbor (some particularly nice yellow furry syrphid fly bee-mimics were present), Kristen took a harbor tour in the dinghy and discovered where the Canadian Geesers and Goslings hang out (to the north side of the Montague Provincial Park, on a rock ledge that created a pool of water for them), and the wind filled. It filled rather a lot, up to 22 knots through the anchorage which is heaps more than we've had all week.

    We upped and outed, narrowly avoiding the Queen of Nanaimo BC Ferry boat - these boats are huge, fast, white, and sneaky - they like to appear abruptly from around the rocky point/corner and are traveling way quicker than anybody else - so you have to be on your toes when BC Ferries are about. A couple of hours later we rounded North Pender Island the wind died away, leaving behind funky current-driven chop for the hop over to Roche. Whereupon we discovered an unexpected side-current traveling under the US Customs Pier, which kept pushing Beetle away from the dock - took three tries to get tied up! But they let us in anyway.





    The interior as it looks at the moment. All our gear is stacked port and starboard behind the lee cloths, the floor boards are in temporarily, and the forward floorboard isn't even the correct floor board - but we're out having fun on the water anyway. Note that the fold-down table is no longer baltek balsa core color, and the overhead is a nice shade of new white paint.

    We are now at anchor and have had a chance to push two of Kristen's videos to the zenfolio account, should people be interested in short clips of Tommy Transit's bus (from the inside), and the sea plane taking off as it roared past us...

    http://tbeetle.zenfolio.com/p212517058/e487d633b

    Tommy Transit. We are driving back from the Hummingbird Pub, and the chef is the one in the back seat wearing the superman shirt and the hula hoop. He has been practising hula-hooping whilst Tommy drives folks around, and he's pretty good at it - he can stand up, no hands on the ceiling, and keep the hula hoop going for a while without falling down as the bus spins and turns around the country lanes.

    http://tbeetle.zenfolio.com/p212517058/e487d6355

    this is what a De Havilland Beaver looks like when, on departure from Montague Harbor, it lines up aimed at you, revvs up the motor and then accelerates through the boats on its way into the air. There are big hi-tension transmission power lines on each side of the entry/exit to Montague, so the planes get airborne and then stay real close to the water until they fly *under* the power lines on their way out.

    So we are back in the land of AT&T connectivity, and the little Sierra Wireless aircard has done the trick of getting the videos up and out.

    Enjoy the evening!

    by rob macfarlane


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    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"



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