I'm Matt, a software engineer and boating enthusiast based in Washington State (but on the move). I started Hermit Cove Boats, offering cool skin and frame boat plans and kits. Check it out!
We set out from Ucluelet with water and diesel tanks full at 9 am. The weather was calm, and we motored out past the salmon derby boats and feeding humpbacks, and turned south. Due south. That took us further from land with each mile. Which is good, because south lies the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a very busy waterway. We motored even after the wind got up to make it past the strait quickly. Boats everywhere, but AIS kept us sane. An east wind had been blowing hard out the strait, and the waves were jerks: east waves coming out to combine with southwest swell and northwest wind waves. It was a hypnotic pattern of constructive and destructive interference. We had sail up though and the light east wind kept us steady.
Soon we were out of the shipping lanes and the wind was filling in from the north. The batteries were charged and the engine was off. We were doing 4-5 knots downwind and we were on our way. The next few days we worked in shifts from 8pm to lunch the next day. Each night a new person would start at 8 so no one got the bad shift every night. We couldn’t agree on which one was bad. It was either midnight to 4 or 4 to 8. Those shifts it was a struggle to stay awake, though after one day we could each sleep anytime. Afternoons were for free form napping.
When the stars were out, they were out in force. It was a little queasy, but worth it, to watch the mast and sails pitching around with the heavens stationary behind them. I saw a shooting star explode in the atmosphere and the shooting remains continue on before burning out. Our wake was phosphorescent, and big waves put off enough light to make the boat glow. I saw a shark come from behind and check the boat out, its tail breaking the water just astern before its 10 foot glowing shadow sped off. It’s form was still visible 100 yards away.
During the day we saw wildlife on occasion. Albatross circled the boat on their long narrow wings. Or rested on the ocean. They seemed like gulls until you realized they were further away and much bigger. We saw puffins and some sharks. But mostly it was quiet out there 30 miles away from land. We had a strange visitor - a finch or sparrow of some kind. We called it a boat finch. It showed up on Kristin’s night watch and Haskell went nuts. He finally had to be restrained, or he might have gone over. The bird needed a rest I guess and stayed with us for at least 24 hours. He eventually got comfortable enough to land on our legs and peck our feet. Then one night on my shift he flew away, visible on his way in our LED stern light.
The weather couldn’t have been better, but by the third day the constant motion and strange sleep was taking its toll. We were sailing downwind, but the waves come from other directions, and the boat would sometimes roll a lot. Downwind the sails don’t stabilize the boat as well as off the wind. It was nothing like the terrifying endurance trip north, but not exactly fun either. We started to plan making port earlier than San Francisco, and when the weather started to sound iffy, we made our plan to land in Coos Bay. There we arrived, 80 hours and 340 nautical miles after we set out. We averaged 4.3 knots and are pretty happy with that. But we are glad to be back near land, and plan to do some harbor hopping between here and San Francisco. After all, land is where all the stuff is.