Light wind was the meteorological theme
of Kuewa's sea trial, sailed Monday through Wednesday of this week.
Had I known it would be that light out there, I probably would not
have left the dock. I'm so glad I forged ahead, blithely optimistic,
as usual. The desired mileage plan was ludicrous, given the
conditions. But what is a mileage plan? Just numbers. What I received
instead was the most amazing farewell to California waters from the
Monday's fluky northerly wind pushed
us, off and on, out past the Farallones by mid afternoon. There were
many whales, seven different groups of them spouting and working. No
breaches or other playing.
Way out past the Farallones, I was
standing at the helm in beautiful sailing conditions when I noticed ahead some kind of buoy-looking
thing, but it was sort of undulating and flashing a shiny reflection.
Time passed and we seemed to close with it quickly. Eventually I
determined that it was actually closer than I thought, a mylar party
balloon. Blown off a cruise ship or something? It's speed downwind
varied a lot. Sometimes it was slowed by its contact with the water,
and then a wave would launch it into the air, helped by the helium,
and it sped along, restrained only by its length of ribbon tied to a
plastic toy, skipping along the water. It was a bit of work to try to intercept it, but it was
Erin's birthday and a balloon seemed the right thing to bring aboard,
especially considering the environmental issue. We (Kuewa helped a
lot) succeeded in positioning just downwind of it as it accelerated and snagged in the starboard shrouds within my reach.
Happy Birthday Erin!
Sunset was amazing.
The northwesterly held until
10pm when we were near Gumdrop Seamount, then died completely. The
water went glassy with undulating swells. The best tactic seemed to
be to furl all sails, secure the boom against banging back and forth
with the rolling, and get some sleep. At 2am I came on deck to a
magical night. The sky was cloudless, a mass of stars with the
glowing band of the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. It was so
quiet and the whales were spouting all around. There were also some
small fish trying to escape their predators and would boil to the
surface in a glowing mass of bio-luminescence that mingled with the
refection of the stars. We were suspended in sparkly space.
At dawn it was still glassy and we were
joined by four albatross, Robert, Mira, Caddie, and Rory. They were
around most of the day, paddling to keep up with our drift, occasionally flying off. Each time they left, I thought they had moved
on but a while later they would return, one at a time, execute one of
their ski landings and paddle up to the stern again.
Robert, Mira, and Caddie
Rory flew around a lot.
At one point, a 6-foot shark came
slowly towards us, its swimming pattern and speed indicating some
sort of problem. It was going too slowly and there was some seaweed
trailing from its dorsal fin. Several times it swam right under the
four albatross, nearly touching them. The albatross behavior was
interesting. They arched their necks, tilted their heads and looked
down at the shark as it passed but showed no excitement or perception
of any danger. I could now see that the shark had a severe
entanglement wound, likely from some monofilament fishing line that
was embedded around its torso a long time ago. The tissue was in bad
shape. Entanglements are affecting everybody out there. I think it
was checking to see if Kuewa was a dead whale that it could feed on,
and checking if the birds might somehow be digestible.
The whales were a constant presence. I
think they were all humpbacks, feeding deep down on the seamount, on
the schools of squid that were drawn there by the nutrient-rich
currents around it. These whales were working so hard that there were
no breaching or tail displays. They would surface and take three
long, deep breaths, and dive for a long time. There were enough of
them around, though, that there were almost always some on the
surface. A couple of times they came over to check us out.
There were also many mola mola (sunfish) around. Picture not very good, but you can see the weird shape, upper middle.
After 16 hours of absolute calm, we had
drifted in a rough circle, sort of around the seamount. At 2:30 pm, a
fresh southwesterly came along and we rushed off to the south,
leaving the Gumdrop party behind. It was nice to be sailing again,
but sad to leave all our new friends. Just before 9pm (Tues.), we
were 75 miles due west of Santa Cruz, and we tacked back to the north
northeast. The wind went light and sporadic from the southwest until
about 10pm again, then tapered off completely. Once again, sails
furled, AIS collision alarm and VHF radio on, and off to bed. This
time I slept solidly for 5 hours.
When I awoke at 3:30, there was an 8
knot northwesterly blowing. Kuewa was pointed directly at San
Francisco. The tracker showed that she had been pointing that way for
5 hours and made 5.5 nautical miles towards home. She's good at
watch-standing all by herself.
The moon had set, the sky was cloudy
and it was very dark. We made sail and the wind pushed us along
nicely, up over the Continental Shelf. The dawn was spectacular. The
water began to boil again with bait fish being chased by something
below. There were huge patches of this for several miles. We sailed
right through one of them, and the water turned black with their
bodies, but they were too shy, both predator and prey, to be close
enough to see how big they were or what they looked like. There were
some sea lions nearby so they were at least part of the fun.
The wind died again at 8am. The AIS
alarm went off and showed a target, “Ocean Defender”, only 2
miles ahead on collision course. I couldn't see anything at first,
but then could just make out a tiny craft, like a very small fishing
As we slowly came closer together, I
could see that the sole occupant was paddling towards Kuewa. I
thought it was a fisherman in distress and would need a tow. He
eventually paddled up to within conversation distance and introduced
himself as Antonio de la Rosa, from Spain, having left San Francisco
three days earlier to be the first to “paddleboard” to Hawaii.
That's in quotes because his vessel is a small version of one of
those boats you see that set rowing records across the ocean, with a
pod forward big enough to crawl into, another enclosed storage space
aft, and low amidships for reaching the water. Instead of rowing,
though, he was definitely stand-up paddling the thing. Wow! We had a
long conversation in his broken English. He estimates 60 to 90 days.
I think about that and Kuewa is so luxurious by comparison. What a
feat! When I head off to Hawaii, my shore team will send me his
position from his tracker. I'll see if it makes sense to stop by and
see if he's OK. He may be a lot further south than I want to go,
I'm looking forward to shaking his hand
when he steps ashore in Hawaii in late summer or early fall.
Shortly after this amazing encounter 30 miles west southwest of Half Moon Bay,
the wind finally returned, this time from the south southeast. The
whales were still all over the ocean. In this area though, they were
breaching, and tail-slapping, trying to make as much noise as
possible. It sounded like artillery fire as they pounded the water.
Sometimes it sounded as though two of them 5 miles or so apart were
trying to out-boom one another. I wonder what their motivation is. So
much we'd like to know about these incredible critters. Unfortunately,
this behavior was all too far away to get pictures.
Then, of course, some dolphin sped by
for a visit and briefly played in Kuewa's bow wave. They were working
too, chasing down some breakfast.
The wind continued to build throughout
the day from the south southeast up to about 15 knots. Kuewa rushed
back to the Bay with the genoa poled out to starboard. After some
very boisterous conditions under mainsail only, with the wind in the
mid 30s from the Golden Gate all the way to San Rafael, we tied up in
her slip at 6:20pm. What a fun 3 days!
This sea trial didn't test everything
to the limit, but I found some improvements that need to be made.
I'll be working on those and completing the provisioning for the next
7-10 days. I'm hoping departure will be sometime during the last week
Thanks for your interest!