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Hello, awesome followers of The Figure 8 Voyage.
Here are the final details for the return celebration for the event.

A couple of things to note first:
1. If you’re working with our PR team please ignore these instructions as you’re getting special instructions from Heather. You know who you are. :)2. If you know others (OCC members, other sailors and/or friends) you want to share this with feel free. 3. There is one RSVP invitation for the “shore” event at the Sausalito Yacht Club. If you are planning on attending you must RSVP on the invite or we’re not going to be able to let you in. If we don’t have your (and # of guests your bringing) name on the list we’ll be making sad faces. We don’t want to make sad faces. Please do not RSVP to this email. It will not get you on the guest list.

Timeline /Location: Saturday, October 19th, 2019

11.30 am: Moli / Randall estimate arrival at Mile Rock – Flotilla: Plan to be out there. 🙂 Please note we will have 2-3 media boats with cameras etc.  – People on land: You can drive out the Headlands and watch / take photos of Randall coming in. It’s quite a view but note that he won’t be able to see you. You’ll be too high up/tiny. 🙂

12.30 pm: Moli / Randall estimate sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge.
 – Flotilla: Please stay on Moli’s starboard side so the folks on land can get their photo opportunities. – People on land: We’ll be on the breakwater at the end of Travis Marina/ Point Cavallo, Lots of parking around the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Limited parking at Point Cavallo. It’s a short walk from the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

– People on land: We’ll be on the breakwater at the end of Travis Marina/ Point Cavallo, Lots of parking around the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Limited parking at Point Cavallo. It’s a short walk from the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm : Landing and official completion of the Figure 8 Voyage at Sausalito Yacht Club. – THIS EVENT IS AT FULL CAPACITY.

 – Flotilla: Please hold back until both the media boats have dropped off their guests on the dock. Once that is complete we’ll be waving Randall into the dock. The only boat allowed to tie up to the dock is Randall and Moli. There are about 8 white moorings that you can tie up to if you want to come ashore in your dinghy. This are fewer moorings than boats so plan to raft up! 

– PLEASE NOTE – we can no longer accept more attendees at this event as we’re at capacity. People on land: There will be no parking for guests at the Club. There are however several paid parking lots next to the club. Please make sure you RSVP to the invitation as we will have someone with a check-in list at the front door. Not on the list. They won’t let you in. Please don’t assume (and yes lovely family this includes you too) that we know you’re coming. 🙂
The landing and official completion will include an award ceremony from the Ocean Cruising Club. A speech of some sort (I haven’t told him this yet) from Randall and many opportunities to take photos. Please remember that Randall has not spoken a ton to people in the last 12 months so be gentle.

There are no longer any Sunday activities. We’re going to give Randall a moment to say hi to his family and take a shower.

Final Notes and next steps:

We already have several requests from multiple locations and groups for Randall to come in an speak about his adventures. If you’re interested in joining we’ll be posting the opportunities on the site so stay tuned. If you have a group or organization that might be interested in hearing Randall speak about his adventures please feel free to reach out. 

Thanks Team F8 (aka a bunch of awesome volunteers)

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October 10, 2019

Drakes Bay
Anchor down 1300 local, 2200 gmt

Days at Sea: 306
Days Since Departure: 375
Total Miles: 38,978

Slowly the gale releases its grip. Overnight and as I sleep the wind comes down; the sea relaxes. By dawn Mo makes 5 knots under jib alone on a gentle undulation I can barely perceive from my bunk.

I raise the main at sunup, but the wind continues to fall away until by mid morning the sails hang limply; the sea is glass. We are under power the last miles for Drakes Bay.

“I’m sorry, Monte,” I say. “It would have been nice to sail in.”

“These things cannot be helped, Senior. You must finish the knot before the strain comes back on the line.”

Then purple ranges rise above the sea to the NE; then that bold projection, fawn-colored Point Reyes; now the water is emerald and fouled with tangles of kelp.

Hours ago we left behind the last albatross; to take his place there are pelicans, cormorants, grebes and other birds of the shore. Porpoises race along the bow and further on, the misty blow of whales and the glimmering black of their backs.

Then the rounding of the green buoy; then the pale cliffs of Nova Albion and the hills of gray autumn grasses and the familiar whiff of grazing cows. Mo eases in. Next to the abandoned fish plant, the anchor rolls down into soft mud.

We are in home waters for the first time in a year. One step remains between us and completion of the Figure 8…to sail under the golden span and return to the embrace of San Francisco Bay.

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October 9, 2019

Days at Sea: 305
Days Since Departure: 373

Noon Position: 38 59N  125 37W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExE 7 – 8
Wind(t/tws): N 35
Sea(t/ft): N 10 – 14
Sky/10ths Cover: Clear 0
Bar(mb): 1019+, falling slowly
On-deck Temp(f): 64
Cabin Temp(f): 66
Water Temp(f): 60
Relative Humidity(%): 68
Magnetic Variation: 14.0

Sail: Working headsail 2/3rds or more rolle up.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 157
Miles since departure: 38,840

All night I let Mo run SSE so as to stay on the outer edge of the low. Winds here will remain under 30 knots and allow me a solid sleep before tomorrow’s long day and difficult decision. But at a little before one o’clock, I’m still awake. Winds are on port quarter and increasing hour by hour; the number two headsail, all we’ve had flying since before sundown, is already rolled to three reefs; Mo is beginning to hum.

Suddenly I notice that we have come dead before the wind and are not correcting. Then we gybe; the sail jerks to port and Mo lurches wrong-way to the seas. I grab a flashlight and dash on deck. Monte’s wind paddle is hard over and bent in the wind almost to breaking. The tiller is amidships and motionless. I give it a big shove. Nothing. It’s locked solid.

I climb to the stern and look over the side and here I find that Monte’s red trip line has fouled the water paddle. In Dutch, I installed a new type of clevis pin that should make disengaging the paddle in an emergency a quicker operation. But the pin is long, too long; it is shaped like a key and its ends stick out. They have grabbed the line as it swirled in Mo’s wake and are holding it fast. The water paddle can’t move, and this has jammed the tiller.

I work to free the line but there’s too much tension; it’s bar taught and I can’t understand how it hasn’t already snapped. I reach for the yellow knife and in a moment the line is cut. Monte eases back on course. The jib slaps back full. I move the line well out of danger and lash it to the rail.

6 am. For two days we’ve had mostly cloud and that cloud has been mostly squalls. But now the sun comes up into an open, white-blue sky. Good, I think. However hard it blows today, at least it will blow steady. I watch the seas for a long time. They are high, to the rail and then higher than the rail by the height of a man. But the break isn’t strong yet; the crests collapse at the top of the wave and fall backward. Only occasionally does a plunger throw its weight forward.

I think it’s worth the risk. Surely we’ve seen worse in the south. I reach for Monte’s tiller line and change our couse to ESE and direct for San Francisco 180 miles further on. Now seas are just aft of the beam. The gale isn’t due to peak until early afternoon.

At the noon log, I note: “On the edge. One knock to windows in green water. Took in more sail.” Now there is but a pillowcase of canvas forward. Mo makes 8 knots and surfs frequently to 11 knots. The rig’s moaning sound is so dire, so ghostly it takes an act of will to remember the sound itself isn’t indicative of danger. It does have meaning, though: winds are topping 40 knots.

By forecast, this is to be a quick blow, less than 24 hours of hard wind localized to a short run of northern California coast. Wind won’t clock around; it will just be N and it will be flowing over a current that is also from the N. All this has led me to risk cutting through the low; to think that winds will have neither the time nor the space to create the kind of steep, crashing and confused seas that we are now getting.

The higher sets are to the spreaders, two stories above the waterline. Sometimes they roll gently by, giant and benign, but more often now they contract vertically as they rise and their tops collapse heavily forward in a roar of surf. Sometimes the white water rushes straight down the wave; sometimes the crest falls at an angle to its train, sending a large sea off to the SE or SW as it collapses. The water is streaked with white.

That I have chosen to put Mo in harm’s way so close to home, that having been through so many gales, I could mistake the power of this one–this angers me. But the anger does not cover a low and gnawing fear. Could we fail to make it home at all?

Again and again Mo is pushed over by a crasher. If it catches her on the flank, there is the sound of a cannon and then green water flows over the house. Many times the leeward windows go under and the cockpit scoops up a sea. And each time Mo rights herself without trouble; each time Monte puts Mo quickly back on course. The boat seems merely to dip, to bend, to shrug and then to sail on.

And then I think that boats have many names and one of Mo’s is Surefoot–she can be pushed, but she won’t fall. Then I relax a little. I prop myself into a corner and watch. By evening the barometer is still dropping but the wind has come down. The rigging no longer wails. I have unrolled the jib. We fly homeward over dark seas licked by moonbeams.

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October 7, 2019

Days at Sea: 303
Days Since Departure: 311

Noon Position: 43 17N  127 55W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExS 6
Wind(t/tws): W 15
Sea(t/ft): NW 3
Sky/10ths Cover: Clear 0
Bar(mb): 1022, steady
On-deck Temp(f): 70
Cabin Temp(f): 72
Water Temp(f): 63
Relative Humidity(%): 71
Magnetic Variation: 15.2

Sail: Main to port; working jib poled to starboard, broad reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 103
Miles since departure: 38,561

Finally we are running right down hill. The days are warm; the breeze, gentle. The jet contrails, of which there were five at dawn, all stream by us on a parallel path, as if to confirm our course is a good one.

During the lazy afternoon I shot a video, likely the last one from sea. I hope you enjoy.

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October 6, 2019

Days at Sea: 302
Days Since Departure: 370

Noon Position: 44 48N  129 03W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): 0
Wind(t/tws): Variable <5
Sea(t/ft): S4 W2
Sky/10ths Cover: Clear 0
Bar(mb): 1026+
On-deck Temp(f): 78
Cabin Temp(f): 73
Water Temp(f): 63
Relative Humidity(%): 67
Magnetic Variation: 15.6

Sail: Sail down. Drifting.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 81
Miles since departure: 38,458

Overnight the breeze stayed just strong enough to keep the sails quiet and Mo in steerage. But with sunrise, the sea went flat. I drowsed sails at eight o’clock, and we drifted until after noon.

One ship. One albatross, blackfooted. A deep blue sea below our hull with pale columns shimmering downward.

A lovely way to spend the middle part of the day, frankly. I cleaned the cabin and washed; changed into clean, lighter cloths for the warmth and read Will Durant’s The Life of Greece until I fell asleep. A faint wafting of air through the cabin woke me, announcing it was time to make sail. 

We are 200 miles W of Salem, Oregon and 500 miles NNW of San Francisco.

Wind is light again, now W. Mo makes 4 knots SSE.

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October 5, 2019

Days at Sea: 301
Days Since Departure: 369

Noon Position: 45 53N  130 56W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 6
Wind(t/tws): SExS 10+
Sea(t/ft): SE 3
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast (but no rain) 10
Bar(mb): 1027, rising slowly
On-deck Temp(f): 66
Cabin Temp(f): 70
Water Temp(f): 62
Relative Humidity(%): 73
Magnetic Variation: 15.7

Sail: Main and working jib, one reef (no need for speed in this direction); close reaching

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 128
Miles since departure: 38,377

The rain that fell lightly but without remission all yesterday and last night finally eased to a drizzle by breakfast and then dried up altogether before noon. However, the S wind we’ve had for two days shows no signs of following suit.

By now we’ve run our easting down and are not in need of more. In fact, with a mere 250 miles remaining between Mo and the Oregon coast, I’m wondering if I should heave to. I’ve been on that coast. There are no all-weather hiding spots that are not also bar harbors, and of those there are few.

Once, when sailing home from Alaska late in the year, I decided to harbor-hop the coast between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Francisco so as to avoid the embrace of early-season gales. Avoid the gales I did and most of the fine sailing days too, because the Coast Guard, who controls the harbor entrances, kept the harbors closed to “recreational” traffic at the slightest whiff of a swell form the W. “You can check in, but you can’t check out,” should have been the sign posted directly below “No Wake.”

For weeks I was stuck in Grays Harbor, a fine place to stop for an afternoon of beach combing and an ice cream, but the one taffy shop and the one burger stand and the one gift shop lose their charm after three or four days, not to mention a fortnight. Newport was another prison on our way S. Admittedly, we did weather a substantial storm there, and the brew pub uphill from the marina was an improvement over taffy and burgers, but they were hardly home.

I recall planning an escape. Well before dawn, I put out to sea thinking that at that hour the Coasties in such a small town would surely would be asleep, but I had barely begun to reach the steep and crashing bar when I heard a siren from astern, and soon I was escorted back into the harbor with a reprimand from the Commandant.

Murre, the little ketch I was sailing then, didn’t make it home until Thanksgiving that year.

It is an odd final few miles. First a whimper and then a bang. The whimper will come later tonight when, per the forecast, we run smack into a ridge of calm lasting a day. The bang will be the northerly gale, winds to 35 plus, I expect on our last two day’s run to Drakes Bay.

The fates, it seems, have a sense of humor and a taste for surprises.

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October 4, 2019

Days at Sea: 300
Days Since Departure: 369

Noon Position: 45 14N  133 55W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 6-7
Wind(t/tws): S 15+
Sea(t/ft): S4, NW4
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast 10
Bar(mb): 1021
On-deck Temp(f): 65
Cabin Temp(f): 67
Water Temp(f): 62
Relative Humidity(%): 68
Magnetic Variation: 15.8

Sail: Double reefed main and jib. Nice easy close reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 131
Miles since departure: 38,249

A year ago today Mo and I departed Drakes Bay and headed S toward Cape Horn.

Today we are 700 miles NW of Drakes Bay and close reaching into an autumn southerly. Winds yet lack that hard edge of winter and they are warm. The sea is small and Mo makes her speed without pounding.

All day I sat by the lee window and wondered what I should think of all these miles under the keel. So much water. Almost a year of perpetual motion. Only to return to where we started. Without a hold full of gold. And not feeling that much wiser.

But satisfied. Is that what this was about?

Though not fully, not yet. Now is not quite the time for reverie. A very stiff wind off the coast next Tuesday/Wednesday may make that final approach tricky.

Better to stay focused. After the anchor is dug in, then philosophy. For now, sail.

Overnight we drifted on the remains of the northwesterly. While I slept, wind held to its quadrant and kindly did not back to the S until first light. I even got the first cup of coffee down before having to take the deck.

The shift from running to reaching required a full change. Roll up headsails, down and stow poles, make up pole lines (there are eight), move sheets to on-the-wind positions, swap running backs, let out reefs in main and haul away, unroll working jib, make up cockpit lines, adjust sheets, adjust Monte.

Breakfast well earned. A bear claw and a bowl of oats.

The sky brightened as the day came on, not with a clearing to blue but less cloud and a disk of sun smokey white. But it has thickened throughout the day and grown dark. Rain now and for the last two hours. If anything, wind seems to be diminishing and backing into the E. Time to don foulies and let out reefs.

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Hello all!

Quick update on the return plans. Yes, Randall will arrive in Northern California in plenty of time to make it to the GG Bridge for his return. He’s going to gently potter down the coast and get prepared for his return to civilization so the official return date of October 19th is still firm.

We’ll be posting the schedule for the weekend by mid next week along with both the Saturday shenanigans and Sunday reception. Keep an eye out as we’ll need your official RSVP for a couple of the events so we can get you into various locations.

We’re still looking for folks who are planning on sailing (or motoring) out to Mile Rock to welcome Randall and Moli in who might have space for those who’d like to join him. Please send a note to figure8voyage@gmail.com if you have space with # of people you can accommodate plus your departing location.

Thanks! Team F8

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October 2, 2019

Days at Sea: 298
Days Since Departure: 367

Noon Position: 47 12N  140 03W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 7
Wind(t/tws): WNW 20+
Sea(t/ft): W 10
Sky/10ths Cover: Cumulus tending toward squalls  5
Bar(mb): 1022, steady
On-deck Temp(f): 62
Cabin Temp(f): 67
Water Temp(f): 60
Relative Humidity(%): 63
Magnetic Variation: 15.7

Sail: Twins poled out, 3 reefs

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 160
Miles since departure: 37,961

Randall: Hey Monte, have you heard this one? “A guy walks into a bar…”

Monte (perspiring at the tiller and concentrating hard): SENIOR! PLEASE!, if this is no an hemergenthia, then the god of wind and waves and your pilot appreciate you talking only when necessary.

It’s been a challenging day for Monte. Winds are fast and the sea is high. Holding a course is real work, and even with three reefs, the bow is being tugged around a bit too much.

But I want the speed more than balance. Two days of 160 miles or better. Now that’s something. And too, if we can keep up such mileage, we may scoot just far enough E to miss the hard edge of the coming low.

The afternoon gets strange, though. Yesterday squalls built up after lunch such that I had to be on watch as their racing winds approached. Every hour I’d roll in sail and roll it back out again when the sky cleared. Luckily, when their heat source went down below the horizon, the squalls melted away and we had a quiet night.

This afternoon, the squalls have taken over the sky. They are heavy and dark, and an hour after sunset they are still crawling up Mo’s skirts. I’ve stayed in foulies. It may be some time before I can relax.

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October 1, 2019

Days at Sea: 297
Days Since Departure: 366

Noon Position: 48 29N  143 35W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 8
Wind(t/tws): W 25+
Sea(t/ft): W 8 – 10
Sky/10ths Cover: Cumulus/squalls 4
Bar(mb): 1019
On-deck Temp(f): 59
Cabin Temp(f): 66
Water Temp(f): 58
Relative Humidity(%): 66
Magnetic Variation: 15.4

Sail: Triple reef in main, out to port, triple reef in working headsail poled to starboard.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 167
Miles since departure: 37,801

Overnight, wind veered WNW and hardened to 25 knots. I slipped a third reef in the main and hauled the jib sheet tight and left wind on the starboard quarter all night.

Stars. The Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Arcturus. In the wee hours, Orion. “Stars,” I said, “stars!” We had not seen them in so long, the word felt foreign.

In the morning, I poled out the jib to starboard, tucked in three reefs and we flew at 7 and 8 knots. Towering, cathedralesque cumulus, obsidian water; seas whose break was almost too white to look at. Black footed Albatross. And Mo on a bobsled ride.

Today 48 North is very like 47 South.

And the strategy is much the same now as well. In the south, the goal was to surf the top of passing lows. Here we are riding the bottom of a low whose center is near Homer, Alaska. We are way out on the perimeter of this spinning giant; the barometer reads 1019 mbs, but the winds here are fast.

For days I’ve been targeting a region of 25+ knot winds whose angle would slingshot Mo directly homeward. The goal is to embed inside the low and ride it until it disappears over the horizon or fades. Current forecasts say we may ride it until Friday.

Grand, but not quite long enough…

This afternoon, squalls. Now we are running with the twins poled out. Winds are up and down. I’m rolling in and rolling out as the thunderheads roll over us. Rain. Hail. But who am I to complain? As the sun sets, twenty black footed albatross swing around the boat, around and around, until I lose them in the dark.

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September 30, 2019

Days at Sea: 296
Days Since Departure: 365

Noon Position: 50 21N  146 46W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExS 7
Wind(t/tws): W 15
Sea(t/ft): S4 W3
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast (i.e. not foggy, not raining) 10
Bar(mb): 1011+, rising slowly
On-deck Temp(f): 63
Cabin Temp(f): 67
Water Temp(f): 56
Relative Humidity(%): 75
Magnetic Variation: 15.1

Sail: Working jib full, main one reef, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 116
Miles since departure: 37,634

Mo and I began the Figure 8 Voyage 2.0 one year ago today.

September 30, 2018, 10:30am. The sun lit brightly the hills above Horseshoe Cove, and the water was as still as a lake. I said goodbye to friends, had one last affectionate moment with the wife, and then Mo and I were off under the bridge and out to sea.

A mile past Mile Rocks, the escort boats peeled off. About then so did the wind.

I bobbed for an hour pretending to wait but knew it was futile. The forecast called for several days of calm. So I slunk off to Drakes Bay and stayed at anchor for four days waiting the return of the northwesterlies.

Not an auspicious start.

Jump forward a year, and here we are, 1,300 miles from a San Francisco return; 37,634 Figure 8 miles to the good. We’ve been around the bottom and over the top and are on final approach, more or less.

Though still far from home, I’ll admit a sense of pleasure at the accomplishment to date. And I can almost smell the lavender in the back yard garden.

Pleasure compounds: we have wind in our favor for the first time in days. A westerly is filling in. We are happily positioned at the bottom of a low that may carry us on for the next three days. Three reefs in the main and three in the jib and we make eight knots in silence.

Early this morning was another story. Still rainy and foggy; Mo pounding into a heaving south swell. But I got the batten car fixed before coffee, and we were on our current ride by 10am.

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September 29, 2019

Days at Sea: 295
Days Since Departure: 364

Noon Position: 51 41N  148 59W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 5
Wind(t/tws): S 20
Sea(t/ft): SE 7
Sky/10ths Cover: Rain Fog 10
Bar(mb): 1016+
On-deck Temp(f): 60
Cabin Temp(f): 64
Water Temp(f): 54
Relative Humidity(%): 75
Magnetic Variation: 14.9

Sail: Main and working jib, two reefs, close reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 138
Miles since departure: 37,518

Rain and fog, drizzle and fog, or just fog. A strong and contrary wind. All we do is pound, pound, pound.

The boat crashes and bangs and shudders right down to her very soul. It makes one wonder about metal fatigue and the stability of welds in an old boat. Would I even have time to grab the EPIRB when they finally call it quits?

We’ve taken so much water over the bow that the bag holding the storm jib to the inner forestay finally flew apart. I looked forward at one point to see a bright orange drapery dragging in the water over the lee rail and was unsure immediately what it was. I’ve since lashed the sail to the rail three times only to have the constant beating of the sea loosen my lashings in a few hours. Thus the incentive, today, to sew the zipper on the sail bag back together and get it redeployed.

Previously, I have entertained a fantasy of sailing solo around the world in the wrong direction and against the wind–a feat only accomplished by a few hardy souls. But I believe these last days have cured me utterly of such an idea. I would go mad within a month.

Wind is finally coming out of its stubbornly held southern position. Slowly it veers into the W. By tomorrow this time it will be W 30, and we’ll be on rails right for San Francisco for several days.

About 1,400 miles remain of the Figure 8. And yet, they are such long miles…

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September 28, 2019

Days at Sea: 294
Days Since Departure: 363

Noon Position: 52 06N  152 38W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxE 6
Wind(t/tws): S 20+
Sea(t/ft): S5
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast, drizzle 10
Bar(mb): 1023+
On-deck Temp(f): 59
Cabin Temp(f): 63
Water Temp(f): 54
Relative Humidity(%): 73 (wet inside)
Magnetic Variation: 13.7

Sail: Main and working jib, two reefs, close reaching

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 125
Miles since departure: 37,377

Conditions stable overnight. Winds S 20; two reefs and Mo close reaching comfortably in a subsiding sea. I slept long and hard, nearly ten hours in the bunk, though up every 90 minutes. To be dry and in the warmth of a sleeping bag–all needs met.

Conditions same all day. Sails full, Monte pulling at the tiller.

The only occurrences of note: one, a passing ship just over a mile S of us felt awfully close. The AIS alarms did go off, a nice confirmation that they function. And two, at noon we hove to briefly to correct a pre-departure error.

The crewman in charge of the pre-departure check list failed to pull the anchor off the bow and stow it in the anchor locker while we were in Dutch; neither did he stuff the windlass hause hole with an oiled rag, which he could not do, having failed to remove the chain.

This is standard pre-passage protocol aboard Mo, is clearly stated in all the handbooks and has been a part of the training procedures since I came aboard.

The effect of this error is that during our last two days of being close hauled in very stiff southerlies, each time a sea came over the bow (about once a minute), the anchor knocked around in its chock creating a noise below akin to the bow being ripped off by a passing train. The anchor is captive, but there is no way to lock it down tightly. So, there is no danger, as such, but the charm of this racket wore thin quickly!

The second effect is that although the windlass is designed to keep spray from entering the hause hole, it cannot resist–even when wrapped, as it is–taking on water when it is entirely submerged. This has also occurred frequently over the last days, the result being that twenty strokes were needed to clear water from the forward bilge.

This failure is a serious breach and had the skipper spittin-dry mad at times, but it has been corrected. The anchor and chain are now both below; the hole has been plugged. The seaman whose laziness caused this unusual need to heave to the ship has been reprimanded, and his beer has been stopped for a week.

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September 27, 2019

Days at Sea: 283
Days Since Departure: 362

Noon Position: 52 31N  155 58W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxW 6 – 7
Wind(t/tws): ESE 25+
Sea(t/ft): SE 8-10
Sky/10ths Cover: Rain, Drizzle, Fog 10
Bar(mb): 1022, falling
On-deck Temp(f): ?
Cabin Temp(f): 57
Water Temp(f): 52
Relative Humidity(%): 71
Magnetic Variation: 12.7

Sail: Three reefs in main and working jib, close reaching on port

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 84
Miles since departure: 37,252

I tacked at 2am when the wind went into the SE so as to grab some southing while I could. Rough night close hauled in winds 25 – 30. Rain, drizzle, fog; spray everywhere. On deck every hour to reef again, adjust Monte, recoil a line pulled down by the constant water over the boat. Was soaked through well before sundown. Didn’t even attempt the sleeping bag.

Tacked again at 2pm, having gained a full degree of southing. Good. More than I’d hoped. Now double reefed and heading E on a wind mostly S. Still rough as stink. If it eases at all, I’ll try to go close reaching. Must get down to 50S by Monday.

What comes after Monday I don’t have a plan for. 

More gear failure. Noted half way through the night that a main batten car had broken, spilled its bearings and come free of the mast. Like the tear in the main, the car was at roughly the second reef panel. Can fix, have the parts, but need a boat a little less wild stallion than Mo is currently. Was able to move a car up from lower down for this batten in the interim, but what is a ten minute job took an hour.

Looks like its only going to get rougher in coming days.

Night. Fog. Mo racing on the edge of needing a reef.

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September 26, 2019

Days at Sea: 292
Days Since Departure: 361

Noon Position: 53 19N  157 48W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExS 6
Wind(t/tws): S 10
Sea(t/ft): S 1
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast with low cum 10
Bar(mb): 1031
On-deck Temp(f): 57
Cabin Temp(f): 66
Water Temp(f): 53
Relative Humidity(%): 49
Magnetic Variation: 12.1

Sail: Main and big genoa, close hauled.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 120
Miles since departure: 37,168

Days from Dutch: 2.5
Miles since Dutch: 313
Avg. Miles per Day: 125

Light wind day. Both big sails up and close hauled. Slow. Wind can’t make up its mind. Our heading is E but snakes to the N and then S as the breeze meanders about. Mostly we are losing ground to the N. This makes me uncomfortable given the big blow N of us due the first of next week. We need and want this low as we’ll be able to catch its W winds for a fast course S and E. But I don’t want to be too far toward its center. May not have a choice.

Found two vertical tears in the main today, one of six inches and the other of three in the middle of the second reef panel. Patched immediately with sail tape, both sides. I cut thin strips of tape and “sutured” the longer tear together and then laid wide lengths of tape over that. Absolutely cannot be without the main, especially over this next, upwind week.

Lots of contrary wind in our future. Feels like trying to sail around the world the wrong way.

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September 24, 2019

Days at Sea: 290
Days Since Departure: 359

Noon Position: 53 38N. 164 54W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExS 5
Wind(t/tws): W 10
Sea(t/ft): S 3
Sky/10ths Cover: Clear 0
Bar(mb): 1024, rising
On-deck Temp(f): 55
Cabin Temp(f): 64
Water Temp(f): 49
Relative Humidity(%): 44
Magnetic Variation: 9.9

Sail: Spinnaker poled port; working jib poled starboard

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 60 (since Dutch departure at midnight)
Miles since departure: 36,915

Note: One photo because my main satellite system is down for the moment.

Three gates in the vicinity of Dutch Harbor connect the Bering and the larger Pacific; they are Unimak Pass, Akutan Pass and Unalga Pass, with Unimak being the largest and most distant and Unalga, the closest and smallest. Only Unimak is lit.

During an ebb, the pent up forces of the entire Bering are pushing S against these gates, creating dangerous rapids and tide rips; flows to seven knots are typical. During the flood, Pacific exerts at least an equal pressure towards the N.

Thus, the Coast Pilot dedicates pages to a careful detailing of the hazards found at these passes. Here are some of the choicer comments:

“[At Unalga Pass], under exceptional circumstances, currents and tide rips of unusual magnitude may be encountered; and treacherous seas…caused by wind opposing the current, often sweep a vessel without warning.”

“On the larger tides [at Akutan Pass], the flood creates such heavy tide rips N of Unalaga Island, even in calm weather, that it is advisable to be prepared to take seas aboard. Tide rips of 15 feet high have been observed.”

“Instances have been reported of vessels, hove-to N of Unimak Pass and waiting for clear weather, being carried through the pass by the current and finding themselves on the opposite side when the fog lifted.”

I had missed my tide for a Monday daytime transit, and as I didn’t want to wait the 24 hours required for the next, I was left with the unhappy prospect of riding the ebb at night. By this time, the gale was well over and the sea had had a chance to relax. Given this, it seemed a safe bet that the passes would be an easy ride. But still, it was a bet, one that could not be retracted. Once inside, there would be no turning back, and the well advertised tide rips would be just more dark water against the dark backdrop of an invisible but assuredly rocky coast. 

Thus, my two hour nap prior to our midnight departure was neither deep nor restful, and I woke with apprehension before the alarm.

Even in the early morning, Dutch Harbor and the nearby coast were busy with fishing boats. Two exited to the N as Mo and I rounded into the fairway and three were headed in. But out of the harbor, we were alone, and beyond the lights of the port, night was starry but otherwise black.

I chose Unalga Pass at the suggestion of the Pilot, not because it was likely to be any less chaotic but simply because it was smaller—one would spend less time in the grip of fast water. 

We made our approach at 3am, and Mo’s speed rose to 7 knots; she topped 9 knots as we entered and 12 knots inside. A crescent moon now cast a pale outline over the hills, but the sea was an indiscernible void. Twice we ran into walls of water, and spray lept up into the moonlight. Rips turned Mo’s head several times, something I could sense only by the pull on the tiller and the rapid movement of stars. But within an hour we had escaped unscathed.

Today has been a spinnaker run with the high Aleutian mountains still visible to the N. Light westerlies are giving us a nice push E under clear skies and a warming sun. But such refreshing sailing cannot last. If the forecast is correct, we’re likely to be close hauled for the next week.

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September 23, 2019

Again, just passing through and quickly.

One day to sit out the blow, which pushed hard through the Iluilui Harbor cut, turning the water white. Mo was snugged up behind a big crab boat and almost entirely out of the wind. Thus, my two bow lines, two stern lines and four springs were overkill; I spent the day watching the gale from the equivalent of a hotel window. Spume flew two boat lengths out, but Mo never moved.

And one day to get ready. Refresh Monte’s tiller lines; refresh worn sheets, check running and standing rigging, repack the drogue (just in case); top off fluids; transfer last fuel from jerries to tanks. Shower. Top off the beer supply with some Alaskan nectar.

Truth is I missed my tide. I had wanted to be underway early today, but I’d misjudged the distance to Unalga Pass. So departure is now midnight. We’ll shoot the rapids in the dark. Never a dull moment.

In my brief wanders, the factory town known as Dutch Harbor presented here…

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September 21, 2019
Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Landfall. It creates a quickening in the heart of a sailor, especially when that landfall is something as grand and striking as an Aleutian Island–tall, craggy, covered in cloud; verdant near the sea, black and snow-capped further on. 

We had miles yet before us when the sun set into cloud over Cape Cheerful, and darkness was complete by midnight when we had worked our way into brightly lit IliuIliu Harbor.

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September 20, 2019

Days at Sea: 289
Days Since Departure: 355

Noon Position: 54 54N  166 48W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxE 7
Wind(t/tws): NW 15
Sea(t/ft): NW 2
Sky/10ths Cover: Squalls and cumulus, rain in the squalls, 8
Bar(mb): 1007, steady
On-deck Temp(f): 56
Cabin Temp(f): 65
Water Temp(f): 49
Relative Humidity(%): 61
Magnetic Variation: 8.7

Sail: Main and big genoa out full. Broad reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 150
Miles since departure: 36,787

Two things.

First, the sky is squally. Before and after the squalls, cottony cumulus fail to obscure a backdrop of pale blue. In the squalls all is dark and gray and the wind freshens and there is a heavy rain.

Squalls we had in the Arctic, but they were rare, cold and arid; their cloud was snow white and diffuse, without obvious border. If they rained at all it was a dry-mouthed rain and their hail was vanishingly light.

These squalls now are torrential, a downward facing river; these are squalls of the open ocean.

Second, we’ve returned to the world of the albatross. The fulmars we first encountered off Greenland are again with us. So too are the chocolate brown petrels so numerous in the southern ocean. But to my surprise, today we have seen several Moli.

You may not know that the name of my companion these last months is what the native Hawaiian calls the Laysan Albatross. This bird is endemic to the North Pacific; it roosts on the island of Kauai and has a range (I had forgotten) well up into the Bering.

I have seen two today, big birds, gray of back, long of wing, short of tail and with that grace of flight I shall now forever associate with the loop Mo and I made of that vast southern sea. There such birds were the common flier, often around the boat in number. 

So, two open ocean sightings–squalls and albatross. Thus this day I mark as our return to my home waters of the Pacific–this though I can see the heave of the Aleutians coming out of cloud to the south.

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September 19, 2019

Days at Sea: 288
Days Since Departure: 354

Noon Position: 57 24N  167 25W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxE 6
Wind(t/tws): ENE 5+
Sea(t/ft): E2, S4
Sky/10ths Cover: Drizzle, 10
Bar(mb): 1002+, steady
On-deck Temp(f): 57
Cabin Temp(f): 65
Water Temp(f): 50
Relative Humidity(%): 49
Magnetic Variation: 8.4

Sail: Working jib and main; what there is of wind is on the beam. 

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 143
Miles since departure: 36,637


Randall: Have you seen the weather forecast for the Gulf of Alaska, Monte? It’s looking pretty grim.

Monte: Senior, I do not consult your forecasts. A forecast it does one of two things. It makes you lazy, convincing you that you know something you do not, or it makes you afraid. To the inexperienced Jack, such as yourself, the usual effect of this latter phenomenon is that the ship it is reefed far too early, or maybe she does not leave port at all. No, Monte tells the weather by looking at the sky and feeling the wind on his face. That is enough for the true pilot.

Randall: Then I suppose you have a strategy for our coming passage home?

Monte: A strategy! Senior, do I look like that kind of man to you? I did not get these calluses by having a strategy! (Monte spits in disgust.) A boat it can only be steered from one wave to the next; it can only be sailed on the present wind. How can you plan for a storm three days hence when that storm may decide that instead of blowing it will spend the afternoon talking to the ladies by the fountain or maybe it will ride the horses up into the hills or maybe it will stay in its room with a bottle of madeira. Storms are that way, you know; what they will do cannot be known, and only a fool would have a strategy for what cannot be known.

Randall: Still, I wish I had a sense of how to slice the next two thousand miles after Dutch.

Monte: My friend, you do not ask the cook what is for dinner before he has done with the breakfast. If the crew does not falter and the gear does not fail, the boat she will go where she is meant to go and end up where she is meant to end up. What will happen cannot be foreseen by special inquiry.
Besides, I will always be there to grab your back.

Randall: You mean you will *have* my back.

Monte: Yes, that is what I said.

A heavy and threatening sky all day. Drizzle. Mostly calm. Light wind is now filling in from the NE. It is due to strengthen overnight and swing NW. A nice sailing wind for our last 170 miles into Dutch Harbor.

At this rate, we should arrive before sundown on Friday.

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September 18, 2019

Days at Sea: 287
Days Since Departure: 353

Noon Position: 59 45N  168 97W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxE 7
Wind(t/tws): NE 18
Sea(t/ft): NE 10+
Sky/10ths Cover: Mostly clear; post-low cumulus astern. 3
Bar(mb): 997
On-deck Temp(f): ?
Cabin Temp(f): 57
Water Temp(f): 52
Relative Humidity(%): 68
Magnetic Variation: 8.1

Sail: All three sails flying. Wind on port quarter

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 152
Miles since departure: 36,494

The barometer got as low as 991, but by 4am wind velocities hadn’t changed in hours and neither had the seas, which only rarely threw over Mo their loving embrace and were each time rebuffed with grace and charm. Having satisfied myself I’d seen what the low had to offer and that Mo could take care of herself, I finally went to bed.

Nights are growing longer, a full 12 hours at last count, and day feels slow to break. By 6am, the horizon is just hinting of light and sunup isn’t until around 9am. Aside from hourly status checks, I stayed in my bunk until full light.

Wind has been slow to diminish today, but slowly diminish it has. Now it is early evening and we’re in a lumpy calm and back on the engine. Must keep pushing the for miles.

The near-term goal is Dutch Harbor, 650nm from Nome and still 300nm further on as I type. And we’re on a schedule: arrival is planned prior to the next hefty low that will swing through the Aleutians on Saturday. We don’t have much time to spare.

From Dutch, we’ll launch for the final homeward leg, which looks to be a boisterous run of about 2,400 miles. The Gulf of Alaska is a chaos of strong and rapid systems, and to be frank, at the moment, I’m not sure how to slice it.

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September 17, 2019

Days at Sea: 286
Days Since Departure: 352

Noon Position: 62 16N  167 36W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxW 7
Wind(t/tws): ENE 30
Sea(t/ft): ENE 10
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast 10
Bar(mb): 1005, falling fast (995.5 by 8pm)
On-deck Temp(f): N/A. thermometer broken.
Cabin Temp(f): 54
Water Temp(f): 48
Relative Humidity(%): 58
Magnetic Variation: 8.4

Sail: Working jib rolled up by half; broad reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 146
Miles since departure: 36,342

I rode the twin headsails all night and Mo burned up the road. But by dawn, wind had veered too far into the E to hold them longer. I doused the poles before coffee and while the sky was still red at the margins and only then noticed wind was already well over 20 knots. Even with half a jib, we were fast.

That’s been the configuration all day–a double rolled jib pulling at the bow and Monte holding sway over the tiller at the stern.

With the masthead anemometer out of commission, I can’t tell you exactly the day’s wind speeds. From experience, I can say that 30 – 35 knots with higher gusts would fit the seas and the sail configuration.

The seas, however, are of the stocky, stand-up variety (except when I try to get them on camera), and there is the feeling of randomness about them. Working through is more like shooting rapids than maneuvering in a gale at sea. Not too surprising as the seas haven’t really room to move, room to mature. The water hasn’t been any more than 80 feet deep all day.

Mo is doing well. Monte is pulling with heart. But the skipper is uneasy. The barometer just goes down and down…

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September 16, 2019
Nome, Alaska

I was climbing down the pier ladder to the boat when I heard a hail. “You’ve been one-upped,” yelled a man standing over where Tecla had moored the previous night.

“Not likely,” I replied before I could check myself.

Tekla is an unusual vessel, a steel-hulled gaff ketch built in the Netherlands in 1915 and recently restored. Now she’s a sail-training vessel that’s just completed the Northwest Passage. A small crowd had gathered to admire her, and among them, this man; gray-haired; short of stature and wearing a blue jacket and sock cap.

“Isn’t she beautiful is what I mean,” said the man walking toward me and sticking out his hand. “I’m sure your boat is a beauty too. My goodness look at that,” he said, leaning over the pier to stare at Mo. “By the way, I’m Richard Beneville. I’m the mayor of Nome. Thank you for visiting our fair city. We are so honored to have you and the other adventurers in town. When I was young, I used to have a local TV show–your story would be so perfect for our seniors–I mean, you do what we all dream…”

A pleasant, ten-minute conversation ensued during which I was only required to nod and smile.

Mo and I departed Nome after lunch. The goal is to get to the Aleutians and Dutch Harbor, 650nm south and a touch west, before the next big storm. Sadly, we will have to plow through a gale to do that. The gale will come on tomorrow around noon and last a day. Winds will be 30+ from the E and NE.

Granted, those aren’t big numbers, but when the current is strong and the water, shallow (50 miles off shore now and the depth is 70 feet), seas get heavy in a hurry. I’m all for going fast as long as nothing (more) carries away.