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!
The trip was approximately 2,331 miles long. We didn’t keep a running tally so I recreated the path to get that estimate. It turns out that we were at 1,000 miles as we rounded Cape Scott, and 2,000 as we entered the Humboldt Bay bar.
I put together a Google Earth path that integrates some pictures from Flickr as a slideshow. The idea is that I could use the combination of map and slideshows as a prop to talk about the trip with friends. But I haven’t used it that way yet. The placemarks reveal Flickr slideshows that cover the trip up to the placemark. They are sometimes unreliable and you may need to open and close the placemark more than once. They can be “maximized” to fill the whole screen.
There is no correlation with how interesting or picturesque an area was and how many good pictures there are. Sometimes we were too busy or scared to capture the scene. The trip from Vancouver Island to southern Oregon featured incredible scenes of shooting stars, phosphorescent sharks and distant fishing fleets with strange and ominous lights that were too dark to capture. The ocean itself can’t be photographed well even in full light.
Some technology really helped out along the way. I would not want to go out without my VHF radio with integrated AIS receiver. Mine is the Standard Horizon GX2100. When you see a big ship on the horizon, it tells you if you are heading the same way or not. You could watch carefully to find that out, but you’d be nervous the whole time. With AIS one glance tells you the thing is 8 miles away and not headed your way. And then there are the times when you can’t see anything, and the AIS alarm alerts you to a possible collision with far greater precision than RADAR can provide. My one complaint is that the AIS alarm lacks the finer points of usability. Once you are aware of the ship you don’t want the beeping to continue (you will already be stressed, and the beeping doesn’t help), but there is no way to acknowledge and dismiss the alarm. As the waves slosh both boats around, you will sometimes be on a collision course and other times not be. You can turn the alarm off, but only if you can operate the user interface fast enough between waves, as the new alarm interrupts the attempt to turn it off. Very frustrating. We will probably take the NMEA AIS data and use it with some form of chartplotter in the future, and hopefully that product will have a better UI/Alarm system.
Another huge hit was the Kindle. There are several models of these now, and perhaps some are better suited, but we have the E-Ink 3g model. The first obvious pro-boating feature of the Kindle is that compact way it stores books. Real ones get dog eared and moldy, and you can only fit so many aboard. But its the second feature, a cumbersome web browser that uses the Kindle’s 3g cell data service, that really comes in handy. It is slow, hard to use and frustrating, but it works for free in Canada, the US, Mexico, and worldwide. It works on all compatible networks, so you don’t need to know the difference between Roger’s and T-Mobile, etc. We used it to find our new starter motor when stranded in Effingham Bay. We used it to email our friends from just about anywhere. We used it to get weather when in Noyo, as our VHF reception in that canyon was poor. It cost less than 200$, and has no monthly charge. It is essentially free if you value remote internet access but have no working smartphone.
Our high efficiency DC fridge uses something like 15 amp hours a day. I added 2” of insulation to the outside of the Coolmatic CB40. In the cool sunny weather of British Columbia our meager 100 watt solar panel more than kept up with all our DC power needs. Which is good, because our alternator worked about half of the time. We always had milk for coffee and a place to keep all the fish we came by (we mostly ate what we caught that same day, but on several occasions got more free salmon than we could eat in a day from lucky fisherman).
We didn’t leave town with a sea-anchor, but had one delivered while we were underway. That cost more than it would have if we had just gotten it up front. We never used it, but it is nice to know that if all else fails you have a plan D. If the rig was down, the coast near, and the engine non-operable, we would have the ace-in-the-hole sea-anchor to keep us out of trouble for a while. With a mizzen and a sea-anchor we should be able to get comfortable in nearly any conditions. I’m glad we had it, and i’m glad we didn’t have to use it.
I didn’t get my wind-vane to work while we were underway and was surprised by how well the Autohelm-3000 worked for us. I still plan to use the wind-vane long term, but the wind is consistent enough out there that steering by the compass is good enough. It also used way less power than I thought, perhaps 20 amp hours a day.
The fishing pole did its job, the crab hawk wasn’t great and I don’t know how often I would use a big crab pot. I didn’t catch anything with my shrimp trap. They stink and take up space, so I wouldn’t take them again.
Our depth sounder broke just before we were due to leave so I installed a new one (Hummingbird 365i gps) that shoots through the hull rather than needing a thru-hull of its own. It worked wonderfully, reading down a few hundred feet reliably, and sometimes as deep as 800-900 feet. It got confused by motorboat wakes, and in deep water it would sometimes read very shallow because of different currents. It has a gps and rudimentary charts. It became our primary navigation tool. A proper chartplotter would have been better, but because the charts are so simple it kept us honest and we always had a paper chart out as well.
We had no idea what we’d be in for and there was no way we could find out without actually doing it. I expect planning for our next trip will be much easier given our experience. Looking back I wish I had crewed on someone elses boat on a trip of at least a week in length. It might be hard to get the chance but it would be most valuable. I still plan to seek out chances to do offshore passages as crew, but the first time is when you learn the most, and we did it the hard way. It was amazing and I could do it again and again and it would never get boring. But that part of the world is upwind, up-current, and far from here so I likely wont. But if I did, I would try to spend more time in the Broughtons, and just south of the Brooks Peninsula and in Kyuquot sound.