We were walking by the commercial basin this morning when we saw a sign for Tuna off the boat.
F/V EZC was selling flash frozen Albacore Tuna for $3 a pound, plus another $6 to have the deckhands clean the fish. Too good to resist, so I had them do a 14 lb fish for us, which they estimated would yield about 7 lbs of filet.
We got to chatting and I mentioned that we were heading to Mexico on our boat. They said we should try trolling for Tuna (which we had planned to do when we got further South). The advice was simply to find 60+ degree water and troll a plug. I didn’t have one, so Captain Jimmy offered to put one together at his cost.
He said we can even hand line the setup, just drop it back a little ways off the stern. They troll around 5 knots but said that even up around 8 knots we should be able to catch some. However, they recommended using a bungee cord at the boat end to absorb some of the shock of the strike.
Maybe we’ll try some off the coast if we find the right water temps.
We arrived in Brookings on Monday, October 7th, after a very easy ride down from Port Orford. We knew that we would be here for a few days, as the forecast was for gale conditions along the Northern CA and Southern Oregon coast. Our friends and Anacortes neighbors Stuart and Judy have a place down here, and as it happened, Judy was in town while we were here. She took good care of us during our brief shore leave.
Crossing the Bar
All of the ports along the Pacific coast of Washington and Oregon are at the mouths of rivers, and all have a “bar” to cross, which is a shallow zone where the river outflow meets the ocean. It can be quite hazarous to cross a bar when conditions are poor, and it is always recommended to cross as the tide is rising (towards the end of the flood). We timed our arrival for the beginning of the flood and approached Brookings with some apprehension… this was our first bar crossing. We did not have time to take any photos on the way in, but got this one looking back out when we arrived.
As you can see, the only hazard was all of the fishing boats trolling in the entrance channel as we were trying to come in. We went straight down the middle, and fortunately, the boats moved (barely) out of the way.
Maintenance and Mechanical Issues
When we arrived it was time to change the oil on the main engine. The oil change interval is every 250 hours, and the last time we changed was in Hoonah, AK this summer. This change should be good for the remainder of the run down to Mexico. We have a built in oil transfer pump, so it is a pretty easy job. The biggest issue is finding the used oil disposal facility, which is right over in the boatyard.
As we were doing a general mechanical inspection after the long run, we noticed that there was steering fluid leaking from one of the autopilot pumps. It is not obvious where the leak is coming from… the fittings and hoses are all completely dry.
We cleaned up the area thoroughly and put down new pads. I cycled the pump a bunch of times to see if I could reproduce the leak, but no luck. I know the pump worked REALLY hard on the trip down, especially when we had big following seas. It turned out that it had leaked about a quart of steering fluid over the nearly 48 hours of continuous operation.
The astute reader will notice that there are two autopilot pumps in the photo above. We had a second, independent Autopilot system installed just in case of this type of problem. In consultation with the yard, we decided that on the next leg, we will run the primary autopilot until we can detect signs of leakage, and then switch to the backup autopilot. We also picked up another gallon of steering fluid in case more refills of the reservior were required.
Using the backup autopilot is fine… except that we have been experiencing problems with the new heading sensor (which tells the autopilot the direction the boat is moving in). We noticed that occassionally and unpredictably, the heading would be off by as much as 30 degrees. After more consultation with the yard, I discovered that the cause of this heading error was electrical interference from one of our DC circuits – the one that serves the lights in the master cabin. Turn that breaker off, and you can see the heading return to normal (in this case from 333 deg magnetic to 308 deg). Turn it back on, and the heading slowly increased back up to 333. Needless to say, this was not ideal placement of the heading sensor, but for now we will simply turn the breaker off while underway.
The Next Leg
It looks like a very good weather window is opening up starting on Friday. Our goal will be to move as far south as possible during that time. The major obstacles between here and sunny Southern California are the notorious Cape Mendocino, about 120 miles S of us, and then Point Conception, West of Santa Barbara. We are considering a straight shot from here to Santa Barbara, which is about 560 NM and about 3 days of 24/7 running. The other alternative would be to get to Monterey, which is about 375 NM and 2 days run. We will discuss with our weather router before we head out and then make an assessment along the way.
After leaving Neah Bay two days ago, we made excellent time down the Washington and Oregon coasts. We did two nights at sea, taking shifts of 3 hours alternating with trying with varying degrees of success to sleep.
I was surprised by how quickly I acclimated to the rolling and got my “sea legs”. We both took Gravol (a canadian seasickness medication) the first day, at full dose and I think that helped significantly with our ability to sleep during the first 24 hours. I also used my ginger candies whenever I had to go below to use the head, that was the only way I didn’t feel a lot worse!
The sloppiness of the initial night improved a lot and we had a very pleasant day yesterday. We both felt good and didn’t need to take any medication. Early this morning we passed Coos Bay, and the conditions were so good that in consultation with our weather router we felt we could scoot the rest of the way to Brookings even though there were some predicted higher winds, not anything we haven’t been in before.
But, mother nature sometimes has other ideas. We rounded Cape Blanco mid-morning and by that time the waves were getting much larger and the winds were consistently above 25 knots, higher than predicted. Conditions can often be more difficult around a Cape, but once we get south of that and came closer to shore things still weren’t getting better and the winds were climbing. We knew the boat could handle things, but we were tired and didn’t know if it would continue to get worse. And, there is a small bar to cross in Brookings.
So, we pulled in to the one anchorage that can be a port in the storm on this part of the coast, called Port Orford.
As I write this, I see wind gusts as high as 25 knots every few minutes. I know we made the right call!
After trying to sleep for a bit unsuccessfully partly because of how much we were rolling, we got to work putting out one of our flopper stoppers. We had these added in August and had practiced it at the dock but this was our first time at anchor in wind and rolling conditions. It’s a bit tricky!
Tomorrow it looks like things moderate enough that we hope to make the 48 miles to Brookings, where it sounds like we will need to hang out for a few days until our next solid weather window.
Overall we are quite pleased with how we’ve done so far!
We’ve made it through our first night at sea and all is well.
Conditions were a bit sporty exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca yesterday afternoon, but as predicted, calmed down overnight to 10 knots or less from the South. We passed several fishing boats overnight and Gwen talked to a couple of them on the radio to negotiate safe passing distance. We made up a berth in the salon with settee cushions and pillows, and both of us managed to get some sleep.
We’ve been running against an adverse current that ranges from .5 to 1.5 knots, but we planned on a knot all the way, so should be in good shape.
We’ve covered about 140 NM since leaving around 3 PM yesterday. Our goal is a 7 AM arrival at Coos Bay tomorrow, but if the weather holds we will continue on to Brookings.
We departed Neah Bay about 90 minutes ago. The weather was stormy this morning and we debated waiting until Saturday, but carefully watched the bouy reports from outside Neah Bay and watched the wind speed drop to 5 mph and the wave height return to manageable levels. After a conversation with Bob our weather router we decided this afternoon was an opportune moment to head south.
After tidying up, reviewing our checklists and checking oil and various fluid levels, we brought up the anchor.
Our goal is to come into port in Oregon on Sunday, potentially at Coos Bay depending on how long the good weather holds out.
Finally! We have a clear identificaiton of the cause and have fixed the issue. Following my earlier post in this topic, I sent along the writeup and video to the Nordhavn Owners Group, which has some 750 members including owners and top marine experts familiar with Norrdhavn systems. This group is an incredible resource representing a wealth of experience, and sure enough, I got some very good suggestions for potential causes and methods to troubleshoot the issue. I shared these with the Philbrooks staff and they started in on it Monday morning, Sept 30th.
The key was the “bucket test” suggested by Bob Senter of Northern Lights/Lugger (the engine manufacturer). The idea was to get a bucket filled with fuel and run short supply and return lines direct, bypassing the entire fuel delivery system. If everything is fine, you know that the issue is with fuel delivery. If not, you suspect the engine (fuel pump, inejector pump, etc). The philbrooks guys did a variation of this using clear hose so they could see what was going on.
Long story short, there were obvious, large, frequent air bubbles in the clear hose when connected to the boat’s fuel delivery system. No such bubbles (obviously) when straight to the bucket. Now the issue was to identify the source.
By the end of the day Monday we were able to go out on a Sea trial on which we bypassed the primary fuel filter assembly (which contains two replaceable fuel filters and allows you to select which one to draw fuel through). The engine ran perfectly, not skipping a beat. The conclusion was that there was a leak somewhere in that manifold, so a new one was ordered to arrive mid-day Tuesday. Unfortunately, testing at the dock after installing the new manifold still revealed air bubbles, to be chased down on Wednesday.
On Wednesday we identified a problem with the fuel selector valve in the new manifold that allowed air into the lines. Tightening that valve elminated the problem, but there were still air bubbles getting through. The source was determined to be the supply lines from manifold to the engine. These were replaced, and the Algae-X filter removed just for good measure. A final sea trial proved that all of the air bubbles had been eliminated, and the Maretron fuel flow sensors, now reconnected, showed a very steady rate of fuel consumption. Here is a clip showing the display at our normal cruising RPM and another at WOT.
We are going to depart directly from Philbrooks to Neah Bay today (Thursday, 10/3/19) and will be making the passage down the coast on our own, with the help of our weather router, Bob Jones of Ocean Marine Navigation Inc.