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Offshore Tales

Hello from the high seas:

Tom Abbott

Joins Rory MacLysaght, Kevin Dundon and Maeuve MacLysaght sailing north SD to SF in January 2021.

Taiko, formerly known as "Tiger Shark," is a new boat to Rory, and he had come down to San Diego to learn as much as he could from the previous owner and prepare the boat for the delivery to San Francisco. Rory has owned three boats previously, and is a very capable marine mechanic and electrician. Once Kevin and I showed up, we touched every safety system on the boat and calibrated what we could.

When we left San Diego, we worked our way through large fields of floating kelp, and several fog banks the first night out. Motor-sailing was rather challenging in full darkness as all we had was a number in the Garmin chart plotter for the heading, and sailing a new boat with a full-keel. Rory also wanted to start slow and make sure the engine did not overheat as the water temperature alarm was going off. He checked it regularly with a heat gun and it was not overheating, and the alarm could be overridden, but we still were being abundantly cautious. Another reason for going slowly in the beginning was we each needed to adjust to how the boat behaved and turned. We all were swinging way off course and over-steering in a zigzag pattern and needed to time to dial-in.

As we got further offshore and behind Catalina Island, we were greeted by several large schools of playful dolphins. When the fog cleared and the water turned that sunny navy blue, we had some nice and easy sailing. That evening, the sky was clear and bright stars filled night.

After the first 12 hours, Maeve started feeling seasick so we slowed down and took our time heading straight into the head wind. She was a trooper and drove her two hour shifts, for awhile. She took some Dramamine but it was too late, as her body was already in that mode. We had a discussion about the bucket becoming her best friend, and what does the phrase "bucket list" really mean.

Everything is different at night on the water, as it is hard to judge distances. We knew crossing the LA/LongBeach shipping channel could be dangerous. The Radar and AIS was working and as we ran parallel to the in-bound channel, AIS alerted us of a vessel within 1.3 miles, so we waited. and watched a boat pass by, low in the water. As we entered the out-bound channel, Kevin was watching a boat that came up quickly from behind. He realized that he needed to take evasive action and turned back into the middle of the separation zone to make sure that Captain did not blow his horn at us.

Friday night we were all in full foulies as the night was cold and the winds came up to 18-21 and gusted-up to 24-25 knots. Every layer mattered, including full fingered gloves and ear-muffed hats. The gusts suddenly collapsed the bimini at some point, over Kevin's head, and Rory had to come uip and tie it down. All this happened while I was sound asleep. When I came on duty, I noticed immediately that the stars were now visible overhead and I drove better.

The massive oil platforms stand out in the Santa Barbara Channel looked like massive factories, all lit-up and flaming at the end of large arms. We followed a series of them leading toward Santa Barbara, each one seeming to be larger. I was driving several hours still from SB when the first light started to change the color of the sky behind us. I love being aware and watching first light on the water as the glow spreads over the sky.

By the time we were an hour outside of Santa Barbara, the instrument panel in the cockpit faded and I thought the display just needed to be adjusted and I could not do it because of my full-length fingered gloves. I also noticed that the wind indicator was not accurate, yet the wind speed was still working, but it did not occur to me why. After I went down to get a nap, Rory discovered that the batteries were dead and we had no instruments. The engine continued to run, and the manual head still worked, so we were okay, but we suddenly realized that we all the paper resources we had available in the cockpit, and got Charley's Charts, and the binoculars. This scenario is why the Coast Guard still requires the navigation using charts, plotters and pencils. Rory got out the binoculars and spotted the red/while channel buoy, and beyond that the green and red channel markers for the channel into the harbor so we knew where to go. I called the Harbor Master and he told us to go to the guest dock, that he had a slip for us.

After lunch and short naps, Rory, with Kevin and I asked every question we could imagine, analyzed the electrical system and determined that a bumped-switch for the two alternators had been the cause of the instrument failure. We then plugged-in the AC to recharge the batteries and did some tests to determine that the batteries could still hold a charge. We then knew we could relax and had a few beers and debriefed with some stories. Maeve decided to jump ship and they made arrangements for her mother, May to drive down to spend the might on the boat and bring Maeve her. After getting back on land, and taking a long walk, Maeve recovered enough to cook a nice dinner a nice dinner on the boat.

The Iridium satellite phone is not wanting to connect to my Windows10 laptop, After struggling with this, I have learned that this is known issue, that Iridium has issued USB drivers for Windows10, but Microsoft has modified them, and they do not work, so I cannot download more current GRIB files as we sail, but I am confident that the forecast is accurate and should hold for us. There is a virtual COMM port solution, but I do not have time to resolve this before leaving, but I have decided not to worry about it. The Iridium is still valuable as a phone in an emergency.

I spent some time looking ahead at the question of when should we leave on the next leg of the trip. I have learned over 20 years of sailing that if you see a weather window, you jump on it. Expedition is good for planning a route based on weather data over time. I downloaded 4 days of GRIB files and we looked at a route from SB to Monterey, leaving Sunday verus Monday. We looked used the Pacific Briefing Package for the next 24 and 48 hour forecasts for surface weather and wave patterns, and looked at the currents using WindyTY. In summary, we concluded that there was no difference between a Sunday or Monday departure, but if we delayed until later in the week, there was a risk of heavy weather up around San Francisco. The wave patterns are predicted to be around 15 feet with a period of 16 seconds, and the coastal currents actually flow north. All the data points to "go now".

Our group decision is to leave by around 12 noon today. This leg is about 220 miles over roughly 40 hours of motor-sailing. We expect to get around Point Conception in 15 knots of wind tonight. If we stay close to shore we should have light and variable winds as we work up the coast to Point Sur and into Monterey Bay. We have a list of safe places to duck into if the forecast changes, including Moro Bay, Avila Beach and San Simeon and Phiffer Cove. We will aim for Monterey itself rather than Moss Landing, but might keep going to Half Moon Bay if conditions are favorable. As I write, we are topping off the fuel tanks, and we will be underway shortly.

That's a quick summary.

Look for us on SPOT again soon.


s/v Taiko, previously Tiger Shark


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