Ed note - This is the first installment of a six-part series by Andy Lund on his first year of cruising on board Resolution , the Nordhavn 46 he took delivery of in February 2004.
Almost ten years ago, I bought the British Admiralty's "Ocean Passages of the World" - I was prompted to do so after growing up on CS Forester's Hornblower novels of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars - and it was due, in part, to this book that the dreams of voyaging to far places on my own boat began to take shape. As a kid, I'd always been around rowboats and sailing dinghies and assumed I would find some way to travel on the water as an adult. A career as an Air Force officer took me all over the world, but I was still far from the water. I stayed in the service, but vowed upon retirement I would go back to the sea. I left the Air Force in the early 1990s and immediately bought a used Grand Banks 36, a classic trawler style cruiser. The passion thrived as did my need for bigger and better boats. I moved up to a Grand Banks 42 and later an Eastbay 43, the fast version of a Grand Banks.
Over the next ten years my cruising experience encompassed trips round Vancouver Island, out to the Queen Charlotte Islands, up to Alaska - Glacier Bay and Sitka, and numerous short jaunts in Desolation Sound, the British Columbia Gulf Islands and the San Juans of Washington state. No longer content with boating merely as a hobby, I decided to make a profession of it, and ended up building what at one point was the largest Grand Banks dealership in the country - with stores in Seattle, Portland and Bellingham. Not to tout my own horn, by my vast knowledge of boat building and cruising yachts had become considerable. After all, I was selling Grand Banks, Eastbays, and Kadey-Krogens and operating a Grand Banks charter fleet. I had to know my product so the job required numerous trips to Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong to visit boat factories. All of this taught me a lot about what worked in a boat and what didn't.
Preparing for the Voyage
After I sold the boat company I took an excursion down the path of custom design. But all three bids for the great 49-foot aluminum, single-engine, pilothouse, two-stateroom boat on the drawing board came in at twice the working budget. So I scuttled the project.
During my boat selling years, I'd become friends with Jim Leishman, one of the founders of Pacific Asian Enterprises in Dana Point, California. I'd also gotten to know Jim and Suzy Sink, who circumnavigated in their Nordhavn 46 Salvation II in the mid-1990's. Their story, part of Jim Leishman's update of Robert Beebe's classic "Voyaging Under Power" intrigued me. I'd also loved the salty look and cozy feel of the Nordhavn 46. Its single-engine, 2800-mile range, pilothouse style, and comfortable two-cabin accommodations were what I wanted. After detailed discussions with Jim about reducing the boat's height temporarily for European canal cruising, I bought a new Nordhavn 46 (hull number 81 of the series) in February 2004. Pouring a slug of good single malt Scotch over her bow, I christened her Resolution , after one of Captain James Cook's Pacific exploration ships from the 1780s.
Six weeks of commissioning work in Dana Point and tens of thousands of dollars later, I set sail for Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez. Joe and Margie Orem, Bellingham friends and owners of the 65 Nordlund Pelorus , made the trip south with me, and Mark and Nancy Haley, Tacoma friends and owners of the classic 40 foot wooden Alden sloop Cymra endured the Baja Bash back up to San Diego. The overnight passages on this break-in cruise were my first, and built my confidence. It was 96 hours of 9- to 12-foot short head seas, steady 25- to 30-knot beam winds (gusting to 40), and a nasty side chop on the way north from Cabo San Lucas. Not exactly your typical joy ride, but more important, I learned what the boat could take. I knew the run north would be sloppy, but I resisted the last minute opening on a Dockwise Express ship about to sail from La Paz to Vancouver, BC.
After more work in Dana Point, Jon Magill and Ivan Rice, more boating friends, helped me bring Resolution up the coast to Bellingham. Point Conception, west of Santa Barbara, California, was a little rough, and we saw 50 knots of wind on a lovely, sunny day off Big Sur. Overall the trip up was quite benign, especially compared to the Baja run. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay just after dawn, with the sun rising over the Oakland hills and the fog laying in tendrils over the city gave me goose bumps. I had the same feeling coming out of the fog, rounding Cape Flattery, coming home into a placid Straits of Juan de Fuca on a warm sunny May evening.
The summer was spent cruising to the north end of Vancouver Island, working out electronics bugs and upgrading equipment. I replaced the Globalstar satellite phone with an Iridium, which had far better worldwide coverage and a more favorable rate structure. I added a second radar, another GPS, a masthead VHF antenna and had a Seawise stern dinghy hoist installed for inland cruising. After a chat over dinner with Dennis and Julie Fox, who had just crossed the Atlantic with the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in their Krogen 58, I replaced the autopilot pump with a continuous service Accusteer pump, rather than put in a second autopilot.
My voyaging plans began to gel. I planned an early October departure for California, then an early November sailing for Mexico and points south, then made arrangements to leave the boat at Los Suenos, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica over Christmas. Next will come a late January Panama Canal transit, puttering around the Central American coast, a late March Florida arrival, a trip up the US east coast and an early June departure from Newport, Rhode Island for Bermuda, the Azores and Falmouth, England.
Andy Helgeson, my nephew and his friend Zack Blum, who have cruised with me many summers, agreed to ditch their spring quarters in college next year to join me from April through mid-September for the Atlantic crossing and cruising Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Baltic Germany. (It's no Psych 101, but the collegiates found the itinerary somewhat interesting.) Mike McFadden, whom I'd gotten to know in his five years of working for a marine service company in Bellingham while he finished college, became intrigued with the adventure, and signed up for six months - the slow season in the boat business - to go down the Pacific coast and through the Panama Canal to Florida. Ian Rolfe, a young Seattle cousin and his friend Mark McIntyre, will join us from Costa Rica through the canal to Belize. I expect other friends to meet up along the way.
As you've probably figured out by now from this narrative, I'm single, so compatible and flexible crew are very important to making this great journey work. Young energetic crew are even better, since agility and stamina matter. As the trip unfolds, we'll see how the crewing goes, but I feel I'm in good shape on that front.
The Adventure Begins
After a great wine party with many friends on board Resolution at her Bellingham dock, and a farewell dinner with Tom and Barb White and Joe and Margie Orem at the Pacific Café, my favorite restaurant in Bellingham, Mike and I set sail just after noon on Thursday, September 30th. Scott Blake and Brian Pemberton, from my old boat sales and charter company, and some of the crew from Mike's marine service business saw us off.
We spent the first night at the Seattle Yacht Club outstation in Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands. I figured a short first leg and a good night's sleep were the foundation for a successful trip south. The next morning we motored away in brilliant sunshine down a glassy Straits of Juan de Fuca. Glacier-capped Mt. Baker, behind Bellingham and the Olympic Mountains to the south, were spectacular sights. I imprinted them in my memory, growing a little wistful at departing the familiar shores.
We traveled in loose company with Alex and Deb Haase aboard Kellie Anne and Mike and Sarah Wise, on Wayfinder , both Nordhavn 47s. They were bound for the Panama Canal and Florida by way of Dana Point (for some warrantee work) after having spent Summer 2004 cruising in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Rounding Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island in the gathering dusk, we ventured onto the broad Pacific. She actually lived up to her name, with light north winds, a low northwesterly swell and favorable currents.
As I write this on Saturday evening, October 2nd, after 36 hours underway, Mike has happily stood his first night watch and we're 30 miles south of the Columbia River, enroute to our first stop in Eureka, California, another day-and-a-half south. We've settled into a comfortable routine, and are enjoying the peaceful days at sea. The weather forecast is great, and the low swells are almost restful.
It's now Tuesday evening, October 5th. We left Eureka, California this morning in light fog at about 0730 for the 30-hour run to San Francisco. Eureka was a rest stop after the 73-hour trip from Friday Harbor. We'd originally planned to stop in Newport, Oregon, but the weather was so favorable that we pressed on. The tedium was relieved by long radio chats with the crews on the two Nordhavn 47s. We led the procession down the coast, with the others spread out in a 20-mile string behind us. On Monday morning we peeled off for Eureka while they continued nonstop to San Francisco with their three-person crews. Crossing the bar was uneventful, with 2- to 4-foot swells, just as advertised by the Coast Guard station. We checked in with them before entering - always a good practice, and one they encourage.
Eureka is a pretty town of lovely old Victorian houses and late 1800s style brick commercial buildings strung along the Humboldt River front. After mooring at the Woodley Island Marina across from downtown Eureka, we replenished water supplies, cleaned up a bit and taxied into town. Lunch at the Riverfront Café was pleasant, as was exploring some used bookstores.
Most of Tuesday was spent motoring south in glorious sunshine, with four-foot following seas and a 15-knot wind at our stern. Cape Mendocino was pretty placid, unlike its stern reputation. We saw the lights of Fort Bragg from ten miles offshore, but now, at 2230, 15 miles north of Point Arena, the wind has dropped off, the seas have moderated a bit and the fog has settled in. I couldn't even see the Point Arena weather buoy as we passed it a half-mile off.
San Francisco beckons tomorrow afternoon. I was able to arrange moorage for two nights at the St. Francis Yacht Club, halfway between the Golden Gate and Fisherman's Wharf. We've invited Alex Rolfe and his girlfriend Lauren Wilson for dinner aboard Wednesday, to share some tuna I bought fresh off a fishboat in Eureka. Friday we'll run up to San Rafael, where we'll moor at the Marin Yacht Club through Gordon and Ann Blumenfeld, boating friends from northwest cruising. Mike will go off for three nights to visit friends, I'll have dinner with Gordon and Ann on Saturday, and Zach Blum and his girlfriend Anna will come down from UC Davis Sunday for dinner and spend the night. It's been great to catch up with all my friends.
Mike McFadden has settled in as a great crewmate. He's pleasant, cheerful, patient, fun to be around, a good cook and most important, has picked up running the boat like he'd been doing it all his life. I've had him dock the boat in some pretty tricky situations, including backing it into the Bellingham slip. That involved two 90-degree turns and the challenge of no visibility out the rear of the pilothouse. With a little coaching, he placed the boat perfectly so I could just step off and tie her up. Night watches go well, and we both seem to be getting enough sleep. It would be nice to have three aboard, and Mike's talked his younger brother Ryan into joining us from San Diego down the Baja California coast and across the Sea of Cortes to Mazatlan, Mexico for two weeks in November.
So, I've had great weather, terrific crew, the chance to catch up with old friends and visit some cool new places. But none of that matters if the boat - and the boats components - aren't working properly. As previously stated, the structural integrity of the Nordhavn proved itself down in Mexico and the ride continues to be gentle with the favorable seas we've enjoyed. Mechanically the boat is doing just fine, with fuel consumption slightly better than two miles to the gallon at an average speed of about 7.5 knots at 1825 RPM. The watermaker wouldn't run on Sunday and I haven't solved the problem yet. Phone consultation with Yachtmasters in Seattle should do the trick. The Iridium satellite phone continues to go randomly in and out of service, and Ocens Mail claims my password is invalid, but the Skymate email works. The Furuno SC 60 GPS regularly suffers output errors in mildly rough seas, losing heading data. Furuno faxed me some instructions for a fix in Eureka, so I'll work on that tomorrow. In the meantime, the autopilot works well on its fluxgate compass, although it yaws ten degrees side to side in big following seas.