Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Harbor and Blaine

Good Morning,

We are now in our winter berth in Blaine, WA.  Blaine is as far north as you can get on the West Coast of the continental USA.  We can actually see the border from the marina.  We will be living on the boat through the cold Pacific Northwest winter with the kids.  We will still be doing homeschooling but I am changing from the curriculum I have been using to my own curriculum, which I used to use when we ran our little school in Montana.

The Force 10 heater seems to heat the boat up nicely and I think with the addition of some electric space heaters we should be ok...  When I was 19 I lived in a camper here in Bellingham for the winter, so I am not niave to the bone chilling cold of a winter here.  We see it as yet another adventure for our family living on our boat.  I will keep blogging about our family's experiences this fall and winter.

When we first docked in Friday Harbor it was raining and cold but Rebecca wanted to be the first to touch land so she all but dove off the boat into the arms of the nice fella who was catching our lines.  When she tried to stand she almost fell over.  28 days at sea makes for jello legs let me tell you.  Just walking a couple of blocks made us so sore it felt like we had run a marathon.  Poor Kanyon was actually blue from the cold.  He doesn't have one oz of fat on his tall lean frame and I thought he might actually get hypothermia walking to the restraunt.  

We had cheeseburgers and fries at a little pub and I was VERY disturbed to learn about Washington States rules about cooking meat!  Apparently in this state you are only allowed to eat hockey pucks.  I was even more disturbed to find out that they only serve scrambled eggs here for the same reasons!  We'll be saving some money for sure since I cannot stomach ruined eggs or char broiled jerky burgers, I will have too cook them at home... I wonder how long it will be before the cooking police start checking our home kitchens for compliance with their rules...

It was amazing to walk on land and feel the firmness of Mother Earth.  That night when we went to bed we all lay there with no motion on the boat, no noise of water on the hull, no fans running to keep the boat cool and we were all amazed that our ears were ringing from the silence.  It was quiet enough that we could all talk to each other from our respective berths.

The next day we had to wait until 1:00pm to leave because we had to go with the tide in our favor.  when we left everyone else did as well for the very same reason.  The fog had rolled in and we were motoring along, socked in with fog, dodging boats.  EmilyAnne stood on the bow as my eyes and ears.  When the fog burned off we saw some little dolphins and seals and had a wonderful quiet trip the rest of the way to Blaine.

As we motored into the harbor we could see Becky's sister and Brother in law standing on the dock waving at us and her Mom met her at the dock.  It was pretty sweet to see them all balling and crying with happiness.  We had a great supper that night at a little Mexican place here in town.

The next morning, yesterday, we moved from the visitors dock to our permanent dock, N7.  I had to back WD into the slip and it was a port side tie.  WD is not a normal sailboat with a port walk in reverse.  Because of our V-Drive our prop turns the other way and because we have a Max Prop, which is a folding prop it has a LOT of power in reverse.  This combination makes her walk VERY hard to starboard in reverse.  We also had some current flowing in and pushing us to starboard as well. It was a HUGE challenge and took all of us working together to get her into the slip but we managed.  We spent the rest of the day putting everything away and scrubbing down the decks.

Rebecca's sister came out and picked her up to go in and do laundry.  When she showed up she had TWO Big Macs for me!!!  Yay!!

This morning the boys and I were up early.  We had our pancakes and are working on schoolwork now.

I have started writing a long and comprehensive report about what worked on our trip and what didn't.  It will be filled with some first hand ideas for your next passage.

I still pinch myself when I see WD sitting on the dock here...

Have A Wonderful Day,
Captain Tofer

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12 Position Report

8/12/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

0700 Seattle Time / 1400GMT
N 48 18.96  W 124 07.54 (The Strait of Juan de Fuca)
COG 097T
SOG 5.3 kt

Wind NW 5-8
Pressure: 29.60
Temp: 68F
Sky: overcast
Seas: 1-2 ft west swell
Sails: genoa

Good Morning from the Strait of Juan de Fuca!

Yesterday was a boisterous day of sailing with winds from the NW at 20+ all day.  The water started to get shallower so the waves were pretty big and it was quite a ride.  I was a little over confident about our ability to make it all the way to Blaine by tonight.  Current is the big negative factor for us right now.  Most of today it will be against us and with no wind our boat will only motor at 6 knots anyway so with a negative current approaching 3 knots for a while today and 2 most of the rest (5:30am-1:30pm) we'll be a slow boat for a while.  We have decided to stop in Friday Harbor for the night and continue on to Blaine tomorrow.

I had some questions about my comment yesterday in which I said I was thinking about buying a faster boat.  First off, that was said in jest really.  WD is a wonderful boat with a great combination of performance, light weight, and it is with it's modified fin keel and aluminum construction it is a very safe, sea kindly vessel.  We have joked around about getting an actual sled though, like an open 40 or something.  By faster boat I meant a very high performance hull and taller rig so we could fly bigger light air sails.  Our friends Evan Starzinger and Beth Leonard built their aluminum boat "Hawk" with that same idea in mind.  They found from their EXTREME offshore passages, and we have found this to be true as well, that the vast majority of your time offshore you are in light air and a boat that is set up for light air sailing and is light enough itself to move in light air is the way to go.  For our next long voyage in the Pacific we will at least have a new main and a cruising chute.  I will say a little more about this in my report at the end of this voyage.

The family is super excited to see land and get to shore.  This trip we didn't have any rainstorms to fill our water tank offshore so we have been using the fresh water for ONLY drinking so everyone is REALLY jonesing for showers.  Even the boys, who usually act like fresh water and soap combined might melt their skin off, are talking about showers.  The ladies are happy that we will be able to shower and clean up before they see family in Blaine.  For myself... I am like Horatio Hornblower, cold seawater and joy has mostly kept me fresh... If not itchy from salt and my hair and beard are pretty wild.  I could probably make some money panhandling in Seattle if I just stay as I am for a few more days.

The fuel has water in it from sitting only 1/4 full for so many days in the cold water.  Since our tank is aluminum and it's in the keel it gets pretty cold.  Anyway, I have already had to drain the bowl and switch out filters once this morning, I have four more... Hope we can make Friday Harbor before I'm out.

We were super sad to hear about Robin Williams.  He made the world laugh but obviously wasn't laughing inside.  Thanks for passing on the news.

This run up these straits is pretty crazy.  It's as busy as our approach into Panama but nuts because with the fog it's a blind run.  I'm not sure I would do it without AIS.  My Navionics app and iPad with the Bad Elf GPS Pro (connects wirelessly via Bluetooth and is itself a stand alone handheld GPS) has been great this whole voyage and continues to be spot on here in this busy shipping area.  I can switch back and forth between it and my VESPER AIS plotter with ease.  It's a great way to go.  For those of you who have messaged me about it I highly recommend it as a system.  Not to mention I'm typing this email right now on the same iPad, while I navigate, and I'll send it off with the Iridium phone linked wirelessly to this same device in an hour or so.

I will send out another report in the morning from Friday Harbor and again once we get to Blaine.  We will keep the sat phone on for messages all the way too because I am not sure where we will start to get good AT&T coverage for the cell phones.

Thanks for all of your kind messages.  We sure have enjoyed your company on this voyage.  Some of you feel like old friends now and we sure hope we can continue to hear from you on Facebook after the trip is over.

InReach will be on all day today too.

Have a Beautiful Day!
Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmiyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11 Position Report

8/11/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

0600 Seattle Time / 1200 GMT
N 48 24.68  W 127 48.51
COG 094T
SOG 7 kt
DMG 98 nautical miles
DTG 238 nautical miles

Wind NW 20-22
Pressure: 29.75
Temp: 69F
Sky: overcast or foggy, can't tell yet
Seas: 6-8 ft
Sails: double reefed main, reefed jib

Good Morning,
Wow!  It's pretty cool to look at the chart plotter and see how close we are to our final destination.  This wind should hold out until Cape Flattery where it will all but die completely being blocked by Vancouver Island.  We should arrive at the Cape this evening about dark.  We will motor through the night and should be right off Victoria in the morning.  Our fuel situation should be fine to just continue on motoring through the day right on up to Blaine.  Our hope is to be on the dock in the evening and in showers within ten minutes of docking!  Beck's family lives in Bellingham so we have considered anchoring out in Bellingham for the night and going on up to Blaine later but the desire to stop at an actual dock so we can clean the boat and ourselves is too much temptation for us.

This trip will have been a 28-day trip.  I had hoped for 18-22 days when we left Honolulu but once again the wide areas of calm slowed us a lot.  These two super long passages have further confirmed my  belief that a performance boat, kept light is the way to go.  I really wish we had had a new main it would have taken days off the overall voyage.  A cruising chute would have been great too.  The Tri radial spinnaker is not as quick and easy to use so we tended to just be content to go a little slower rather than mess with it.  When a I was running Sweetest Thing on offshore trips we would use the chute all the time because it was so easy to handle.  (Usually ;).

When we get to the dock I am going to post a longer report that lets you know what really worked well and what didn't for this whole 9500 mile voyage.  One thing I will say is that I am very seriously considering selling the boat and purchasing an even faster one.  ;)

Yesterday was a full day of drift sailing at about 2 knots in 5 knots of wind.  There were these huge swells coming from the west but they had a very long (30 second) interval so they were not uncomfortable just cool.  The ocean had no wind waves on it so it was calm but with the huge swells it was like rolling hills.  The sky was a perfect blue and the ocean was tropical blue.  We had really missed the blue water.  It seems like it's mostly grey in these higher latitudes.  The other cool thing about yesterday was our reaction to the sun.  We have spent so many years in the tropics that the sun has become something we actually hide from.  We constantly put up shade and try to get out of the sun.  Yesterday the sun was shining but we were still a little chilly so we took the cockpit shade down and reveled in the warmth of the sun on our skin!  We sat in the cockpit, drifting slowly along in the sun, talking and looking at the birds fly around and the little funny floating things in the water that you normally cannot see because of the waves.

Beck had the great idea to go on Facebook with the Delorme and ask for a no bake cookie recipe!  Thanks Jim V.  The blondie cookies were amazing and hit the spot!  We liked them so much we're going to make them again today.

We ended up losing track of time because the sun stays up so long this far north and we found ourselves having supper at 8:30 and by the time we were ready for bed it was midnight!  Pretty crazy thing for us.

What a different place it is this morning!  Yesterday, calm, sunny, blue.... This morning, grey, rough waves, windy...  That's the ocean for you!

Almost There!
Captain Tofer, Becky, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10 Position Report

8/10/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

0700 Seattle Time / 1300GMT
N 48 20.16  W 129 57.87
COG 094T
SOG 2.5 kts
DMG 105 nautical miles
DTG 322 nautical miles

Wind: S 5-6
Pressure: 29.95
Temp: 72F
Sky: overcast
Seas: calm
Sails: main and genoa set barely drawing

Good Morning,

The good news is that with no wind blowing it sure feels a lot warmer!  I am sitting here this morning in the dark with a hot cup of KONA coffee waiting for the sun to rise.  It is foggy, misty and drizzly and cool but not cold.  We have the cockpit cover up so it is dry and I have my polar fleece on and a blanket wrapped around me.  Everyone is sleeping but me so I am listening to my music quietly but I can still hear Hubert coming up for a breath occasionally off our port side so he's still here.

AIS shows eight to ten ships on courses to and from Cape Flattery at all times now.  It seems we are about ten miles south of the main shipping channel.  Thank goodness!  Right now we are just ghosting along on a glassy sea at a couple of knots.  According to our weather buddy this calm is supposed to turn into NW wind here in another degree of longitude which will take us on up to Vancouver Island where it will die again.  At that point we have enough fuel to motor all the way to Blaine if we choose.

We haven't decided if we will stop for fuel in Port Angeles or just keep on going.  In the tropics I preferred to sit for extended periods with an empty tank because a full tank of diesel became a bio growth experiment in the tank in tropical weather but I am not sure if it is better in cold climates to have a full tank or if an empty tank fills with condensation and you struggle with too much water in the tank when you do fill it later.  Does anyone have any information about this for us?

Yesterday was a great sailing day.  We were reefed and still averaged 6-7 knots through the daytime.  The wind started to die down around supper time and continued to die through the night.  It made for a nice quiet and peaceful night, great for sleeping but we sure didn't make a lot of miles last night.
We have developed a very small oil leak in the Borg Warner V-Drive.  The V-drives are known for these and it's a pain mostly because it taints the water in the bilge so you have to keep a fresh oil catcher in the bilge at all times.  It hasn't even leaked enough to show a drop in the level on the reservoir yet but just a little oil makes the water look like all oil.  It reminds me again of a notorious recent delivery.  The owner knew he had a bad leak and had like eight extra quarts of tranny ATF fluid stored on board but didn't think it was a bright idea to tell the crew about the leak before we took his boat out for a 2000 mile offshore delivery... Anyway... Gotta let that stuff go, not good for my blood pressure.

Anyway, Emily cleaned the bilge yesterday, not her favorite job but especially with an aluminum boat it's an important maintenance chore.  Today I will check all of our fluids and make sure the filters are ready on the engine for a 24 to 36 hour run on up to Blaine from the Cape.  I sure like our new Beta Marine engine.  I would definitely recommend Beta if you are doing an engine  replacement especially if you're switching out an old Perkins.  Painless switch, awesome engine.

So with the wind blowing 20+ and the sun out and it being Saturday the kids had no school and the boat was producing power to burn so they turned on the inverter and had Halo battles on the XBox throughout the midday hours while the boat bounced along at 7 knots in the 8-10 foot following sea.  The laughter and screeches from Emily as her brothers hunted her down was really sweet music in the cockpit and Beck and I just sat there grinning as we listened to them play.  Pretty cool offshore memory.  It made me wonder what Hubert was thinking.  We have surround sound so the noise through the hull, especially from the big base box, must have carried through the water pretty good....
Hubert to WD:
    " OhooooAaaaaoooooo.. Honey.... Bad gas?  Was it something you ate?  Sounds like a battle going on in your belly there baby... One time I ate this bad krill.....ooooooooAaaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooOOOOOOO...."

In the afternoon we heard a Canadian aircraft out here 350 miles offshore calling all of the ships one after another on the VHF and then taking all of their vital information and last port of call and next port.  They must have been using AIS to get the info for their calls and sure enough they called us.  I'm a Wyoming guy whose first response to any government questioning is, "What authority do you have to butt into my business?"  But before I could say anything like that my wife just gave me her cold pretty blue eyed stare that said, "Behave!" And I must say, it was pretty fun to answer last port of call as Honolulu, Hawaii 23 days ago and hear the fellas surprised, "Could you please repeat that Eh?"  Anyway, they took everyone's info then informed all of the ships that it was a no discharge area... Hmmmm 350 miles offshore.... International waters... Canadian plane... I'm not really sure what that was all about but it sure seems like a colossal waste of money and time to send a plane out that far to try to enforce something that is un enforceable in the first place.  What would Canadian enforcement look like anyway?  "Do what we say or we'll give you a very firm scolding!"  So I pissed off the bow and waved at them.  Kidding.  (Disclaimer by the way... I went to all of High School in Canada, I still say "Eh" and am mocked by my family for it and over half of my Facebook friends are Canadians so I mock in jest and I still love Canada.)

The spaghetti lasagna was great!  Benny wants to make it in the future and he calls it "spaglanya."

After dinner we watched "Spies Like Us" that old comedy with Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd.  I forgot that I had it and the kids had never seen it so it was fun to laugh with them at yet another movie I knew by heart.

Well here comes the sun.  Maybe it will burn off this fog and mist.  Hope your day on your spot on the globe is as great as ours is going to be!

"Three more Days!!"
Captain Tofer, Becca, Emily, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9 Position Report

8/9/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

0700 Seattle Time / 1300 GMT
N 48 29.46  W 132 32.82
COG 085T
SOG 5-6 kts
DMG 220 nautical miles (2-days)
DTG  414 nautical miles (all the way to Blaine)

Wind SW 16-18
Pressure: 29.9
Temp: 66F
Sky: mostly cloudy
Seas: 4-5 ft in W swells
Sails: double reefed main and slight reefed main

Good Morning,

First let me apologize for not sending out a report yesterday.  I was reminded by a couple of you on the sat msgs that when we don't send one out you fear something might have happened.  I assume that those of you who think that only get the blog and not our Facebook posts through our Delorme InReach.  We did post on Facebook throughout the day yesterday.  If you have not liked our Facebook page it is called "Wandering Dolphin" and we post real time on it throughout the day and also a lot of pictures when we are in Internet land.

Yesterday both Rebecca and myself had terrible headaches.  Hers is from a sinus infection and mine is from a change in temperature and pressure.  Basically we put Emily in charge of the boat and we slept all day.

There has been at least one whale who we have named "Hubert" following along with the boat for a few days.  He comes up often right beside the boat and follows in our wake.  Then he will disappear for a few hours and show up again later.  Today we thought maybe he had a friend with him but I still think it was just the same whale.  He is a small humpback.  He must be an adolescent and have gotten separated from his family or something.  He seems to think the black bottom of WD looks like a hot whale chick and he has decided to keep her company.  Today he swam off in front of the boat and then came right back toward us and down the side.  None of his actions seem aggressive just curious.  It does make me happy again that we have a metal boat.  He's big enough to hole a wooden or glass boat if he did decide to get ticked off.

The wind changed to the SW night before last and increased to 15-18 and the steady blow has boosted our speed.  We have the jib reefed for comfort and the main is double reefed.  We could put out more sail and make a lot better speed but in these following seas it makes for a pretty uncomfortable ride if we do.  It has been cloudy and cold and we are already missing our warm little Honeymoon Bay.

The boys are looking forward to Saturday no school today.  They will sleep in and I will take a double watch and let the ladies sleep too.  When Beck gets up around 10:00 she will make pancakes and we have a can of apple pie filling left which she will mix with some sweetened condensed milk (it's just like caramel after being in storage for a while) and that will top our pancakes.  Last night we had baked beans and biscuits for supper because we were all out of pizza stuff.  Tonight we are going to make a spaghetti lasagna with leftover pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and cottage cheese that was frozen and sauce from a can.  We have no lasagna noodles so we'll layer cooked spaghetti noodles and bake it... Might be tasty... We'll let you know.

Jim V.  The sea life and smells do change as you get closer to shore... However we are still 500 miles out so not yet.  We will let you know how far out we are when we first start to get the hint of land.  Usually one of the first indicators is little land birds that have been blown offshore will land and rest on the boat.  When we were approaching Hawaii we smelled land about three days out.  One of the other indicators is radio chatter.  We heard our first ship to ship chatter today and once we start hearing the regular US Coast Guard chatter that always tells us we are getting close.

Brent-Gilroy: Sorry again for no POS.  To answer your question; We have not seen any of the stuff that is supposed to be floating out here.  We have seen hardly any trash and no floating junk from Japan.  The only interesting man made stuff has been several of the large fishing buoys.  We really expected to see a lot of trash and we went right through the area where they say it all is but we must have missed it.

Aline: we sure wish we could have met you guys in person too.  I'm sure there will be a time.

Len: not sure the Marine Traffic thing will pick ours up since it doesn't send out any actual report by anything except VHF signal.  The big ships transponders do but ours will only send out a report when we are within VHF range of a shore tower.  Unless ours uses a big ships to report which I doubt.  The amazing thing about this AIS though is the range.  I use the antenna at the top of the mast with a power booster in line and it picks up other ships sometimes at 100 miles away.

Alex:  exciting to hear about your plans.  Before you spend a ton of money on a new chart plotter you might want to talk to me about what we use now.  We exclusively use an iPad in a waterproof Lifeproof case with Navionics app and a Bluetooth bad elf for our GPS link to it.  Even though we have two Garmin plotters on board we haven't even used them for the entire voyage from St. Thomas.  I have used all of the various plotters on different deliveries and the iPad with Navionics is the best chartplotter I have ever used.  I'll chat with you about it when we get to shore if you are interested or have questions.

Terri:  I will try to get a nice photo of the Supermoon but most times the pictures don't really show the true feel of a large moon.  It looks pretty small in the photos no matter what.  Also we need a clear night.  Last night we could see its glow through the clouds but it hardly ever peeked through.

Steve: please tell K. that B. liked the msg and will email her back tomorrow.

Well it's sure nice to be moving!  Hubert is still with us this morning.

Have a Great Day!
Captain Tofer, Becca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb and Benny

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 7 Position Report

8/7/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

0900 Seattle Time / 1500 GMT
N 48 06.10  W 137 49.31
COG 065T
SOG 4-5kt
DMG 105 nautical miles
DTG 580 nautical miles

Wind W10-12
Pressure: 29.9
Temp: 75F
Sky: overcast
Seas: 1-2 ft swells
Sails: main and genoa set

Good Morning,

Last night we were hit by a sudden squall.  Squalls are a part of life offshore.  They march across the horizon constantly in the tropics but in these higher latitudes if you are not looking closely they are sometimes very difficult to distinguish between all of the other clouds in the constantly overcast sky.  Being surprised and hit by a sudden squall used to happen to us fairly often and I actually didn't realize until we were surprised last night that this is something that doesn't happen to us with any regularity any more.

I never actually set out to attempt a seamanship cure of the problem of sudden squalls but just the experience of so many days at sea has done it.  So what are we doing different?  Well I can tell you right now that it is not the common answer to this problem which is reefing in all the way every night before it gets dark.  I used to do that the first couple of years we were out and it is not a bad answer in truth especially at the beginning.  I stopped doing it, again because almost all of my offshore miles were on deliveries where I am paid by the day.  In a situation where I am being paid I am motivated to get the boat to its destination in a timely manner.  So what is it?  The difference now is a very subtle one.  Everyone on board is attuned to the weather and the motion of the boat.  When it's dark out and we cannot see the squall coming we all notice when the boat gets a little jump in speed, even a tiny one, or the wind in the rigging whistles a just little higher, sometimes it's a sudden cold breeze on our cheeks that wasn't there a second ago that is warning of a cold wind shift.  Our minds have learned to interpret these little signals for what they are and without any discussion it's our rule that when ANYONE calls for a reef we do it right then with no discussion or waiting.

Reefing used to be a chore too.  If it is difficult to reef your boat you need to change your reefing system.  We have jiffy slab reefing and roller furling and everything is run back to the cockpit, no one ever has to go on deck and with two people we can reef in less than a minute.  I have delivered a lot of boats with roller furling mainsails and I know all of the negative press these things get but I can tell you from actual experience (I have at least 50,000 miles offshore delivering boats with roller furling mains) that this system is probably the very best for shorthanded reefing of a mainsail.  I have heard the "What if it gets stuck in the track?" concerns and I can tell you that this happens only if you don't know how to operate the system or you don't keep up with maintenance on your furling lines or sails.  We have had them jam on two different boats only two times total and in the first case it was my fault back when I didn't know how to use the system correctly and the second because the sail was old and worn.  In both cases we were able to free the jam within a couple of minutes.  I have never used an "in boom" reefing system but I do like the idea of keeping the weight of the sail low and being able to use it as a normal boom if the system did jam.  I love the fact that with both in mast and in boom furling you get infinite reef points and can make your sail exactly the size you want for the wind conditions.

I would change WD to either of these systems if I had the money.  I used plain old jiffy reefing on Sweetest Thing for a couple of years and it was great but with jiffy reefing someone has to go forward and take care of the luff of the main at the boom.  Sweetest Thing is a catamaran so going forward was not such a big deal.  I do like our jiffy slab reefing which is a one line version of the same system, it means the luff and the leech are both tended from the cockpit.  It's easy but takes a couple of people working well together to handle the reefing line and the halyard.  When we order our new main it will have three reef points rather than just two.  The third reef would be great in winds of 35-40 knots on our boat and would mean we could wait a little longer to put up the trisail and heave-to.

Whatever type of reefing system you have make sure you know how to use it before going offshore.  On deliveries with new crew or on a boat with a different reefing system than we've used before the very first day is spent doing reefing drills until we all feel confident that we could reef in a couple of minutes in pitch dark in rolling seas.  I would recommend you do the same.

Enough preaching.  So yesterday Beck made us pizza for supper and we have leftovers!  That never happens.  EmilyAnne also made some brownies with the last of our eggs.  Twenty-four days is the answer to your question Jim V.  It has been quite a bit cooler here than on a counter in Texas though!
The boys made forts all over the boat again after school.  It's downright funny to watch those boys have wars in such a small space but they don't care.  I got nailed in the cockpit by a nerf arrow and laid up there playing dead until they came up to retrieve the arrow then I came alive, pretended to be a troll and attacked their forts?

Terri from Florida thanks for the encouragement and if you want to avoid the tourist areas in Hawaii go to Hilo!  It was our favorite stop for that very reason.  Rent a car and see the Big Island!

Jim V.  Hope you like the Kestrel Saga, the writing is kinda cliche but it's a fun read.  I really like the Odyssey One, and Valkrie series by Evan Currie much better but I'm all out of new ones by him.

We are getting close!  I can almost taste the Big Mac.

Have a Wonderful Day,
Captain Tofer

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August 6 Position Report

Aug 6th and 21 days at sea,
1100 Anchorage Time / 1800 GMT
N 47 37.02   W 139 37.66
COG 090T
SOG 4.5 - 5 kts
DMG 105 nautical miles
DTG 658 nautical miles

Wind: S8-10
Pressure: 30.05
Temp: 75F
Sky: overcast
Seas: 2 ft west swells
Sails: main and genoa set

Good morning friends,
Hey Ladies!  Just because you are living on a boat doesn't mean you will need to give up your girly side.  Things you might want to bring along on your adventure would include one pair nice of sandals (heels), two or three nice dresses, earrings (I buy cheap hoops because they rust out in a few months) and anything that will make you feel special.  I also spend time in the salon along the way for beauty days, a girl needs to look good while at sea.  I also started with a short pixie cut that didn't even require a hair brush.  This style is great for the hot tropical weather but will need to be cut every four to six weeks to maintain.  Please, please don't let your hubby try his skills at cutting your hair.  Haha!!  Emily and I both have grown out our hair past our shoulder so we can wear ponytails and braids.  This works well too but now we shed and we find hair balls everywhere just something to think about.  Side note, I cut the boys hair myself and now after 10 years I do a pretty fine job.

Yesterday I found the boys searching their cubbies for lost treasures.  It all started as a result of wondering where a lost game might be.  It was fun to listen to them as they found Lego bits and pieces, missing pencils and erasers and the lost games.  What transpired after the treasure hunt was a nerf war and fort making afternoon.  Kanyon made his fort in his cabin using all the stuffed animals as a barrier wall that he hide behind.  Benny used the starboard settee, lee cloth, blankets and pillows to make his fort and shooting range.  Kaleb was the the lone gunman and collected bullets and ran the operation.  It was hours of fun, nerf bullets flying, rearranging of fort and trading guns.  This excitement all took place in about a 10x3 on WD, not much bigger than some of your closets I am sure.  I was even brought in to fix the machine gun when it was malfunctioning.  Benny said, "Mom, how do you know to fix guns?"  I just laughed.

EmilyAnne and I had some girl time in the cockpit while Captain was sleeping and the bullets were flying.  It was moments of laughter as we whined about not being there yet.  I love the silly times we spend together.  Yesterday was just a silly moment of two girls being girls and playfully complaining about whatever came to mind.  We covered everything from food, sweets, boys, wanting a shower to just making stuff up.  It will be these moments that I will remember about our passages and our family time.


Jim V; we're not sure about school for the boys at this point.  We'll have to look into it.  Yes the boys and Kristofer are HUGE "Firefly" fans!  If you like that show you might want to read "The Kestrel Saga" by Stephen A. Fender.  He says it's a pretty fun read, typical space cowboy stuff.  He's reading it right now as a matter of fact.

Cave;  Thanks for the weather, that little storm coming our way might just give us the boost we need to get to shore!

Have a Wonderful Day,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 5 Position Report

8/5/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

1100 Anchorage Time / 1800 GMT
N 47 31.82   W 142 05.29
COG 090T
SOG 4.5 - 5 kt
DMG 102 nautical miles
DTG 757 nautical miles

Wind: S 8-10kt
Pressure: 29.95
Temp: 76F
Sky: mostly clear
Seas: 1ft
Sails: main and genoa set

Good morning,

The wind has died down so we are going slow again but the sea state is beautiful so the motion of the boat is peaceful.  It's quiet enough that all you can really hear the sound of the gurgling water as it flows along the hull and just a whisper of the wind flowing over the sails.  The sun is shining through the dodger window and has warmed up the cockpit enough that I am back in a t-shirt for the first time in over a week.

Thanks for all of your well wishes while I was undertaking that cold water dive on the prop.  It took me most of yesterday to really warm up afterwards.  I thought I might talk a little bit more about that this morning.

I have been in situations of flat calm many times on offshore trips.  On many of those deliveries we would decide to go for a quick dip in the ocean, mostly to cool off because they were almost always in super hot weather.  No matter what precautions you take it always feels wrong to jump off of a boat in the middle of the ocean.  That was always part of the thrill of it though.  When you are in that seemingly fathomless water the rational side of your brain never quite stops screaming at you to get back on the boat.  When we were drifting in the South Pacific, one day I decided to just get in the water and hold on to the swim platform with my snorkel on and look for fish... It didn't last long because I just felt like bait.  Ever since  my son Jimmy almost jumped right in on top of a huge shark while we were drifting along one time I can't get those big creatures out of my brain either.

The most difficult thing about having that wrapped prop was the waiting.  I had to wait for almost 24 hours to get in and fix it.  That whole time I was thinking about the cold water, sea monsters and being beat to death by the boat as it lifted and dropped suddenly in waves.  I am also not the type of person who waits very well.  If there is a difficult or unpleasant job that needs to be done I do it NOW.  I cannot relax knowing that something has to be done and I get all worked up and nervous with the procrastination of it.  Well it's fixed now I can relax until the next thing breaks.

To answer a few questions about yesterday's post:

Alex:  Heaving-to without the sea anchor actually works fine too.  That is what we were doing once the drogue was wrapped.  The problem is that in winds over 35 knots or so you have to reduce sail to smaller and smaller sails and if you don't have a storm trisail for the main and storm jib you cannot heave to because at some point you have to go bare poles.  Under bare poles even with the helm hard over to windward the bow gets pulled downwind and you are no longer taking the waves from the forward quadrant.  We noticed immediately when the drogue was no longer holding our bow into the wind as a sea anchor and although we were still heaved to with the stays'l and helm hard over to windward and the boat was still pretty comfortable there was suddenly more motion because the boat was no longer drifting down wind at an angle creating that nice slick which breaks the waves before they reach the boat.  A sea anchor is definitely worth the money and in my opinion, so is a drogue.  If we had faced that same gale with the heavy wind behind us blowing us toward our destination I would have deployed the drogue in its proper fashion (behind the boat) and sailed under storm sails toward Washington.

Cave:  We lost the drogue.  I had to cut it away in order to free the prop.  If I could have stayed down a little longer or done two or three dives I might have been able to unwrap it but I am certain that I couldn't have even gone down one more time.  The current was similar to the current in Lahaina when you and I were cleaning the prop too... Only this time Japan was my next stop if I drifted away.

On other topics:
I'm going to beg for pizza tonight!  And since we are out of the Lonesome Dove we are watching old episodes of Saturday Night Live.  Everyone is daydreaming about hot baths and showers.  My bypass fix on the head is still working fine and... We saw lots of whales yesterday.

Keep the messages coming we enjoy them.  Jim V.  No exercise.  We just lay around like Romans.

Have A Great Day,
Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4 Position Report

8/4/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

10:00 Anchorage Time / 1700 GMT
N47 04.44  W144 18.92
COG 031T
SOG 4kt
DTG 852 nautical miles

Wind: SW 8-10
Pressure: 29.85
Temp: 71F
Sky: overcast
Seas: 4-5 ft
Sails main and jib set.

On A Gale and a COLD Swim in the Deep Blue

The day before yesterday we prepared the boat for a gale.  Now the interesting fact is that in nine years and about 25,000 offshore miles under Wandering Dolphin we have never been in a Gale on her.  This is mostly due to good weather windows and routing as well as relatively short sails (10 days or less until the big passages started in March).  On our passage from Costa Rica to Hawaii we did have some weather when cold fronts passed through but never a sustained gale.  I have been in gales multiple times on different deliveries with our oldest son Jimmy, EmilyAnne and even Benny but those were deliveries and by their very nature you don't get to pick the perfect windows and usually the time of year is not ideal.  We often left the NE coast of the US with ice on the decks on different boats we were taking south.

On this passage, from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest, you are guaranteed at least one gale so we were prepared.  I have often been asked about my tactics in storms and, again, mostly because most of my offshore miles have been on deliveries, my tactic has been to turn and run downwind under storm sails.  This tactic has worked well in everything from full keeled mono hulls to catamarans and in wind up to tropical storm force (60 knots one time) and 25 ft seas.  The biggest danger when running downwind in huge seas is the tendency of the boat to pick up speed and surf down the waves which could cause a pitch pole or end over end flipping of the boat.  If that happens you can K.Y.A.G.B. (Kiss Your Ass Good Bye).  To avoid this you use a speed reducing drogue off the stern to slow the boat down.  I chose a Delta Drogue which can also be used in an emergency to steer the vessel.  My tactic for Wandering Dolphin was going to be the same.

I have read "Storm Tactics" by the Pardey's in which they make the case for heaving-to with a sea anchor as the best way to handle heavy weather.  I have heaved-to many many times for all kinds of reasons from diving to fix the prop to just having a nice dinner without the offshore motion but have never used it in a gale.  This time the gale force wind was going to be from the north east so to turn and run would have meant losing ground so we decided to heave to for this storm.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the extra money before we left for a sea anchor so I decided to just heave-to in our normal fashion but put the drogue out off the bow as a sea anchor.  It seemed like a pretty good compromise and worked well in up to 30 knot winds but as soon as the wind hit 40 and the 45 the bow was pushed off and the drogue just did what it was designed to do, pull behind.  In the highest winds the drogue pulled all the way under the boat and snagged on the prop.

Heaving-to for the gale was by far the very best way to handle a storm, even without a proper sea anchor the boat just shrugged off the seas and created its own slick to windward which prevented the big waves from breaking near the boat.  Believe it or not it made riding out the storm a comfortable experience.

When the storm was over I was faced with the problem of the drogue being caught on the prop.  Part of the problem, of course, is that you cannot see anything under the boat so you can't tell if the rudder is in trouble too or what.  Beck had the idea to put the Go Pro on its long stick, stick it under the boat and have a look.  This worked perfectly!  We could watch the video and see the problem.  The drogue had indeed wrapped the prop and was actually trailing behind it pulling.  It was, however, not a danger to the rudder.  My fear was that if we increased our speed at all it would pull the prop shaft out and then the boat would sink through the shaft hole.  We put out a little jib, just enough to give us steerage but the auto pilot didn't like to hold the course because the drogue kept messing up the water which was flowing over the rudder and the boat would lose steerage every ten minutes or so.  Our Auto is a smart old guy (really old by the way 1989) and he soon figured out that the steerage would come back so he would just beep at us every ten minutes or so to let us know what was happening and then get control himself again.

There was no way I was going to get into the water in the 10-12 foot seas right after the gale so we just sailed slowly through the night always checking the prop shaft.

This morning the seas had dropped to five feet or so so we raised the main (for stability) and heaved-to.  We put a big fender on a 30 foot line behind the boat and I put on my shorty wet suit, fins and mask and got in the freezing cold water.  I knew from the second I got in that I would only have one shot at freeing the prop.  The water was too cold to stay in long enough for a second dive.  Saving the drogue by unwinding the prop would have taken multiple dives so I knew I would have to cut it away.  I carry a saltwater SpiderCo knife with me at all times offshore and it proved its worth today.  I dove under and cut through about five lengths of webbing that were wrapped on the prop and freed the prop.  I was in and out of the water in about three minutes but still was very close to hypothermia even with the wetsuit.  Rebecca had hot water waiting and ready and we padded my body with hot wet towels then dumped the rest of it over me, I rushed below, dripping water all over and dried off in the warm cabin.  Even with all of that and drinking hot tea it took about twenty minutes for my shivers to go away and for me to feel warmish.

Lessons learned:
*Drogues are great but not to be used as sea anchors.
*I will buy a proper sea anchor and use the "heave-to under sea anchor" tactic in storms.
*GoPro is a useful piece of equipment.
*Stay out of the cold water.

Hey! Whales!  Swimming right beside the boat!

Ave a Great Day!  Warming Up,
Captain Tofer

Saturday, August 2, 2014

August 2 Position Report

8/2/14 Wandering Dolphin POS

1100 Anchorage time/ 1900 GMT
N46 21.32  W146 02.29
COG 041T
SOG 3kt
DMG 96 nautical miles
DTG 934 nautical miles

Wind: SE 5-8
Pressure: 29.75
Temp: 72F
Sky: overcast
Seas: 3-4 ft swells
Sails: main, jib and stays'l set

Good Morning,

Tonight we will be up against gale force winds coming from the NE, which is, of course, our destination heading.  We don't want to turn and run and lose ground so we will be setting a sea anchor and heaving-to with our double reefed main and stays'l.  It is a fast moving system so we should only be sitting here for 24 hours or so.

We have spent the past few days doing what we now refer to as "drift sailing."  This is what we call it when the wind is light enough that the boat moves through the water just enough that the auto pilot can keep her on course but it feels like you are drifting down a River in the current because there is no wave action.  When the wind dies altogether you cannot even heave-to because it actually takes wind to hold the jib backed and the helm hard over so what we do in that case in just put the wheel hard over and sheet the main all the way in and the boat just finds a direction which it wants to point and the current, if there is any, carries you along where it wants to.  If you can be patient and look on the bright side these days can be a beautiful addition to your passage but if you are eager to make landfall or concerned about provisions or anything it can become nerve wracking.  We spent so much time drift sailing on our passage from Costa Rica to Hawaii that we really don't let it get too stressed over it now.  These few days have been a lot of fun and overall pretty relaxing but the wind has now filled in and we are once again moving along at a respectable pace.

Yesterday we had almost a full day of blue sky and sunshine.  It was still cold enough that we were all wearing our sweatshirts but just the feel of the sun through the dodger windows was great.  The fine weather gave me an opportunity to have a really good look at all of the rigging and check the boat out for problem spots.  I didn't find any so we should be good to go for the final run into the coast. EmilyAnne and I had to do a midnight gybe and I was again super impressed with my teenage daughter.  She is such a great hand.  She jumps up in the middle of the night from a sound sleep and she and I just do the deck work without even having to talk about what needs to be done.  Kaleb has really stepped up this passage too.  He has asked if he can help with watches and stuff even when he doesn't need to.  We were talking about what he wants to do when he grows up and he said, " I'm not sure but I know I want to ride a bicycle across the United States."  He must have liked my stories of my rides from Wyoming to Canada and on to Alaska when I was in High School.

Becky made an cherry/pineapple pie for dessert yesterday!   Mmmmmmmmmmm nothing tastes that good after so many days at sea... Well maybe a cheeseburger.....  We still have quite a lot of food so it looks like our provisioning lady did an awesome job once again.

Becky also heard her first offshore night voices at sea.  She has heard us (Em, Ben, and I) tell stories about hearing people talking out at sea or in my case kids laughing and I'm pretty sure she just thought we were overly imaginative and that it could be explained away by the wind in the rigging... Until the other night when she plainly heard someone calling for help from off the boat!  She quickly turned off her music, jumped up to the edge and heard it again and just as she was about to go down and get me she heard laughter from the same spot since she was pretty sure that anyone who was in danger in a life raft wouldn't be giggling about it she pulled the covers over her head and turned up the music.  I'm not sure what your take on this might be but it is pretty well a universal thing for people who spend a long time at sea to hear voices and these stories go back in time as far as written records of voyaging go back... My personal choice is to believe in Mermaids out there getting a real kick out of messing with us.

"There's only one on watch!  It's a woman too!"
"You think we are close enough that she can hear us yet?"
" Just try."
"OK, what shall I say?"
"Yell for help, that always gets their attention quickest."

"Help!!  Help!!"

"She turned off her music and she's looking over the edge!"
"Help!" Followed by uncontrollable giggling........

I like that a lot better than the ghost story ideas others have told me in the past so I'm sticking to mermaids.  Wish I could see one though...

Messages: answers:

Aline: animals we have seen since we left St Thomas-
10 Humpback whales
15 spotted dolphins
6 or 7 white sided dolphins
A pod too large to count of Spinner dolphins
4 common dolphins
3 Mahi Mahi (we ate two of them)
A whole school of Tuna
Countless flying fish (Tofer ate one of them)
1 marlin or some type of sail fish
4 green sea turtles
1 loggerhead sea turtle
Countless jellyfish and Portuguese Man-O-Wars
Countless little sea birds (we don't know what they are yet)
4 Albatross
10 or 12 sea gulls offshore
1 huge White Sea monster
1 squid
An undetermined number of mermaids

Also Aline, #1 We found a remedy for sea sickness, go to the pharmacy in Canada and get Stugeron Forte.  It's a once a day pill taken with a meal for the first three or four days of your passage.  I can give you more details if you wish.  #2 Homeschooling our own child is tricky at best.  However, this lifestyle allows you to be flexible and creative.  #3 One of our favorite quotes, "There are sailors that shit when they can see land and those that shit when they don't."

Jim V:  What we are reading: Emily is now reading a couple of Dean Koontz novels, Benny is reading "The Beyonders" by Brandon Mull, Kaleb is reading a different series of books called "Seekers" by the author of "Warriors" and I am reading the latest Evan Currie Science Fiction novel in the "Odyssey One" series. We are babying the sails, so at this point no seam repair needed.
We learned to sail by chartering in the Pacific Northwest and taking the American Sailing Association courses, but we really learned by moving aboard and going to the Bahamas.

John on Dulcinea in Tacoma - Thanks for the warm weather update!

Cave: Shave Ice Still sounds AWESOME!  Thanks for the weather.

Alex S/V Pesto: We enjoyed your last nights notes, we even laughed out loud when we read you ordered a new Main.  We figured you don't want to sew while underway.
Len S/V Terratima: We should be there the end of next week so you should be able to pick us up on AIS in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Batten Down the Hatches,
Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Friday, August 1, 2014

August 1 Position Report

Aug 1st, 2014 Wandering Dolphin POS

1100 Anchorage Time/1900 GMT
N44 55.05 W147 03.56
COG 036T
SOG 3.5kts
DMG 70 nautical miles
DTG 1014 nautical miles

Wind: SW 6-8
Pressure: 29.75
Temp: 76F
Seas: calm
Sails: main and Genoa set

Thanks for your messages - answers coming in tomorrow's report!  Keep them coming!

Another one from Rebecca,

This morning as I sit in the cockpit with my coffee and the sun shining (finally), a blue sky as far as my eye can see, and a smile on my face, I remembered what it was like for me almost nine years ago when we first set sail from Florida and I decided to write to everyone who is at that point in their sailing adventure.  This morning I am writing to all of you who wonder if you have what it takes just to live aboard or do you wonder if offshore passages or even overnight passages are something you can handle or if you find yourself with an adventure in your heart a willingness to adapt and learn a new lifestyle (being just a smidgen crazy helps too).  If that's where you are right now I believe you are ready to throw off the dock lines and get the water moving under your kneel.

I find myself writing this to you over 1000 miles from the nearest land after sailing almost 8000 nautical miles in the past four months after living aboard and sailing the East Coast of the USA and the Caribbean for the past nine years.  I thought I might share my experiences, as a mom about what works for me and hasn't worked for me.

The only way to find out if living aboard works for you is just to do it.  You can read, read & read some more about what others say and what they do.  But the truth is that every boat is different and every family is different.  Some people hate electronics and think we are crazy to have an Xbox, Gameboys and iPads on board, others who sail heavy displacement boats scoff at my Captains ideas about ground tackle and jerry jugs and his obsession with keeping the boat light.  So for us, after many hours of reading, trials, and wasted money we have found what works best for us.  The only way you will ever find what works for you is to get out there (here) and do it.

One of our areas of struggle when we started is that I am not an organized soul, so chaos would be rampant aboard WD without our Captain.  Ok, if I could live in my fantasy world, it would be a perfectly organized one, but I could never make that happen.  Everything should have its place onboard, really it should, every single thing should have a storage spot where it always rests and that's what our Captain does for us.  The night we were motoring across the channel between Hawaii and Maui the fuel Racor filter started to sputter, he shut off the engine went right to the spot under Benny's bed where he KNEW the spares were, fixed the filter and we were underway in less than five minutes.  He is my Master of organization, Master of all drawers & storage.  Except for my closet, boys closet & Em's closet.  He even straightens up my costume locker.  (Yes, I have costumes...)

So do you have what it takes?  Are you willing to cast off the lines and head out?  I remember hearing Tofer's answer to my question.  "Bec, let's sail around the world with the kids before it's too late."  I am not sure if I even paused before I asked, "How do we make that happen?"  The excitement of Internet boat shopping consumed hours of our life for 2 years.  Of course I was always trying to push for a bigger vessel, while Tofer had his list of wants.  I had two things I needed, an indoor shower and the other one I have actually forgotten.  I have used the indoor shower a handful of times in 9 years.  I shower in the cockpit which is much easier for sure (I think cockpit showers are out for the stay in the Pacific Northwest).  So, before you buy your boat spend some time really thinking about what you need or think you need on board and remember, those things will change as you experience life on board.

So, to wrap this up, ten short years ago we lived on a prairie in Montana raising our babies in a huge farm house.  We all had "our" space.  Plenty of room to roam, to clean, to collect stuff in, plus three bathrooms!  I had everything a busy mom could want for her family of seven.  I also had a huge fear of the water and couldn't swim from one end of a pool to the other if I had to.  Yep, that's right, I moved aboard WD with my babies and with a fear of the water and lack of swimming ability.  What I did have was the spirit of adventure, the ability to adapt and the willingness to try something new.  With much prayer I moved  my young family onto WD.  It wasn't easy, everything was so stressful and difficult because of my fears.  Without the patience of Tofer and helpful spirits of other cruisers I am not sure how things would have turned out.

So here we are right in the middle of one of our longest passages ever.  I am proud to say, I can swim now and that my fear has turned into an awareness of the water and to make sure safety come first.  I know now that long passages are just about sailing, living, and enjoying where you are at that point.  Also, if I had been thrown into the seas we have sailed in over the last few months at the beginning it would have stopped my sailing dead in the water.  Pace yourselves, take it easy, don't push each other.   Make sure everyone aboard is comfortable with the up and coming passage.

On WD we have those who love to sail, those who love to travel, and those for whom it is now their whole lifestyle.  It takes all of us to make our home on WD work.  One of the things that helped me early on was that I chose to make WD our home.  In my mind she is not just a boat she is first our home.  It just happens that our Captain can make her move around the planet.

So do you have what it takes?  I can't answer that for you, all I can say is if you are longing for the sea under your kneel give it a go.  Start small, with a smart weather window and add to the difficulty as you become more comfortable and capable.  On WD we have an agreement that when one person is done sailing then as a family we look for the next adventure.  Family first, adventure second is our motto.

Wishing you the very best on whatever adventure you choose.  Becca