Arrival in Santa Barbara!

It is 5:30 am Monday morning and we have just pulled into the Arrivals dock in the Santa Barbara Harbor to await a slip assignment (hopefully!) – they are first come first serve, but still had two slips at 5pm last night. If they don’t, we will anchor.

To all our insomniac friends, thank you for coming along with us on the journey through your text messages and emails! We love having your company during dark nights. Now get some rest.

Looking to the head of the Arrivals dock.

570 nautical miles and 69 hours from our departure from Brookings, numerous Point passings and 3 really nice days and uneventful nights. Whale sightings too numerous to count. Several sea lions and lots of pelicans. Dolphins swimming on our bow for an hour last night while I slept. Lots of ramen noodles, frozen burritos and frozen leftovers.

Larry napping on the calmest day.

We passed San Francisco near sunset but it was hazy and we had to dodge cargo traffic. No stunning view of the Golden Gate bridge, but a fabulous sunset.

Moonrise over San Francisco
Sunset off San Francisco. The cargo ship looks tiny there but by the time we cleared the harbor behind another one it was within a mile or two of us, picking up its pilot to enter the harbor.

I don’t have any pictures of this but there are numerous oil wells off the coast now. It is a weird site to see these huge hulking brightly lit towers appear on the horizon. We gave them a wide berth.

We will spend a couple of days here exploring, sleeping and enjoying the warm weather!

At the Dock in Brookings

Our first day in Brookings we worked away on the standard tasks like cleaning up what had become a messy dirty boat. It’s kind of hard to vacuum or do much in the way of dishes when we are rolling around. Not to mention, our trash compactor had shorted out while compacting just after leaving Neah Bay and we had to wait until we were back on shore power to be able to open it again so our trash had accumulated.

It was a bit smelly on the transient docks. We were the only pleasure boat amongst the fishing boats that were also taking refuge from the weather. But, it wasn’t as bad as it was in Petersburg this summer with the cannery running full blast! This was a working commercial dock. No amenities other than the fuel dock and a huge dusty parking lot full of hundreds of crab pots. Very economical spot for us.

View from our stern to our neighbor.

We were right across from the Coast Guard station, and had full view of their basketball court. It’s a good thing they are so good at rescuing people because they could not earn a living playing basketball.

You can see both of the Coast Guard boats peaking out here. They were across the channel from us.

The first night we watched them doing exercises in the channel in front of us clearly practicing tying up to and towing another boat. They move fast!

The red small craft warning flag flying in the wind at the Coast Guard station. This was finally gone Friday morning when we departed.

We walked to explore the marina area and around the jetty to the beach side. The beach was the prime scenic view in the marina area. It felt wonderful to walk with short sleeves and feel the sun on our skin. We are definitely moving into the land of summer.

We several excellent shrimp meals out at two nearby places. Local shrimp are in season and are good-sized and very tasty.

A parking lot neighbor to us. Don’t worry Mom, we did not have any tattoo emergencies.

Our friend Judy, half of our friends Stuart and Judy from Anacortes, picked us up for shore leave to spend a night at her home and graciously chauffeured us around on supply errands and to the Redwood forest, which I have always wanted to see.

Panoramic shot attempt to capture the entire height of one of these majestic trees.
It was amazing to stand next to these gigantic stumps from fallen (not logged) trees.
Amazing bark overgrowth resembling a face! Must have been quite an infection or injury that made it grow so exuberantly.

Overall a fantastic stop!


We were walking by the commercial basin this morning when we saw a sign for Tuna off the boat.

Buying 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.

The far deckhand is cleaning my fish.

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.

My $12 trolling rig.

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.

Brookings, OR

Miss Miranda at the Transient dock in Brookings.

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.

The bar at Brookings just after 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.

One of the nicer oil disposal facilities that we’ve seenn.

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.

The yellow color on the oil absorbent pad is steering fluid. Uh oh…

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.

At anchor on Oregon Coast

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.

On the ocean side of the breakwater for Neah Bay.

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!

Lighthouse on the coast, day 1.

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.

We are anchored in front of this bluff hoping for some wind protection.

As I write this, I see wind gusts as high as 25 knots every few minutes. I know we made the right call!

Their breakwater needs some work. They do have a wharf but it dries so they haul out all the fishing boats that use it.
Huge rocks like this abound around the shore. We wonder what geologic process formed them.

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!

It starts out in pieces like this. (It is actually stored in the towel as provided by the company!)
Then we have to hook up all the lines, push and pull it out to the middle of port side.
Then it gets lowered into the water, where it will move into a horizontal position and resist the water movement, significantly reducing our rolling.
Nicely suspended in the water from the pole on our port side today. Worth all the struggle!

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!

Dawn at Sea

We’ve made it through our first night at sea and all is well.

First light along the Oregon Coast just North of the Columbia River.

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.

Gwen getting some well deserved rest.

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.

Engine RPM Variation – Fixed!

Fuel flow reading for our main engine at cruising RPM.

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.

New Fuel filter assembly (white, on the left).

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.

The new fuel supply hose (black, on left).

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.