"Sea Trial By Delivery"
A Winter Delivery Up The West Coast Is Full Of
Adventure, Weather, Sealife, A Boarding, Even A
Reunion. Did I Mention The Waffles?
By Bill Parlatore
FALL 1997 PASSAGEMAKER
Would you like to join us on a March delivery up the notorious North America West Coast? Wanna come and get seasick, while being bounced around out on the great Pacific Ocean?
Was this an offer or what!?! Sure thing-after all, this is a great way to experience a trawler. As Captain Ron once said (in the movie of the same name), "If anything is going to happen, it's going to happen out there!"
So started a pleasant adventure aboard a brand-new NORDHAVN 62 being delivered from Dana Point, California, up to Campbell River, British Columbia. The journey was the
completion of a sale that had the new owner, Ron Bridges, waiting a full eighteen months for his new passagemaker. Anxious to conclude the final stages of commissioning this magnificent ocean motorboat, both the builder and owner had a schedule to follow, and the checklists were now down to a single piece of paper.
It's never really done, P.A.E.'s Dan Streech told me, and it's always nice to have just a couple more days to really get things sorted out. The systems and myriad details beg for another round of tightening, diagnostics, leak checks, and last minute detailing.
But never mind all that, the boat needed to be delivered to her new home in Canada. Not yet named and her transom bare, she stood proud; among the other yachts at her slip in Dana Point-waiting for a crew to take her on what would be a 1,500 nm trip up the West Coast into British Columbia.
I was to be the third member of a three-person crew, which also included P.A.E.'s Jim Leishman and Naval Architect Jeff Leishman. The two brothers were chiefly responsible for the design of this new boat, and it is P.A.E.'s general policy that its staff go on many of these deliveries to wring out the smallest problem, learn how the boat handles in different conditions, ultimately improving what is already a fine product.
Our overall plan was to make a nonstop passage directly to Campbell River. Dan Streech, who has logged more miles than anyone delivering N62s throughout the world, confidently predicted we would likely take a full ten days to complete the journey. (Perhaps he's seen Captain Ron more often than the rest of us, and: knows what things are really like out there.)
I arrived in Dana Point a couple of days before our intended departure, so I had a chance to witness the insanely frenetic activity that occurs before a delivery. As Dan repeated over and over, just one more day, and things will be perfect. (As it turned out, several things conspired against us and we didn't leave for three days.)
Provisioning-It's A Guy Thing
In addition to being nameless, Hull #5 also had nothing in the way of galley utensils, cookware, or anything used to actually live on the boat while under way, so we would have to either eat disposably (with paper plates and plastic utensils) or lug everything back with us in checked cases on commercial airlines. Being a trio of guys, the choice was easy--ditch the pots and pans for extra tools and more seizing wire!
Those of us on provisioning detail drove around Dana Point buying paper towels, frozen casseroles, frozen waffles, lunch meats, gallons of milk, cases of Coors Light, more frozen waffles, nuts, mustard, Oreo cookies, chips, and, to be on the safe side, more frozen waffles. We bought so much stuff that it seemed to take forever to get all of these supplies out to the boat and stored safely aboard.
Final Outfitting Activity
The commissioning team spent the last few days fixing the electrical power supply to the starter motor, isolating and fixing small leaks found while testing hydraulic equipment under pressure, installing antennas and a huge commercial searchlight, as well as bringing aboard fenders, dock lines, and safety gear.
To protect the boat's interior surfaces while in transit, all horizontal surfaces got covered in either protective foam or self-adhesive plastic wrap. It i would not do to have a beautiful but slightly dinged saloon table when the boat arrived in Canada, so they made it virtually impossible for the delivery crew to damage the boat's luscious teak interior. One of the outfitters laughed that all the plastic-covered saloon carpeting would be great for us to sleep on during rough weather, and that the plastic would further protect the carpeting from the seasick crew when they couldn't make it to the rail! Ugh! I hoped he was kidding, but he had recently done a similar trip north...
Leaving Dana Point
Following Jim Leishman's edict that we really needed to be off by late morning, all work finished up magically by 1100. Jim's insistence stemmed from conversations with Walt Hack, who runs the weather forecasting service P.A.E. uses for such offshore passages. Walt's company, Ocean Marine Nav, has successfully kept P.A.E.'s Mason sailboat and NORDHAVN deliveries out of harm's way all over the world. It looked like we had a window of good weather, but it wasn't clear how long it would last. So we slipped our lines at 1150 on Wednesday morning-bound for the Great Northwest.
As we got away from the dock, stowing for the first time the large fenders, dock lines, and various buckets, brooms, and cleaning supplies from the final cleanup, Jeff Leishman toured the boat to make sure everything was in place, operating without leaks or forgot-to-open this or that. He also spent considerable time poking around the Holy Place, the beautiful white Lugger L6125A purring smoothly.
We also finished stowing our personal gear in separate staterooms, using three of the four staterooms aboard. Jim insisted I take the master cabin, which would give me first-hand knowledge of how well the cabin layout worked offshore. (I've been on a lot of boats, but I don't recall a trip where everyone had his or her own head. This motorboat had five!)
Captain Jim posted the watch schedule in the pilothouse. We would maintain three-hour watches during the day, and trade two-hour watches at night. This schedule worked out the following way:
As we moved along in the long gentle swells of the Pacific Ocean, I took the first watch. The boat felt like a true ship from the helm, and the aft location of the pilothouse provided a wonderful view of the entire boat.
From the beginning, the Naiad fin stabilizers nullified any tendency of the boat to roll, and the boat's motion was easy and comfortable in these calm conditions. The FloScan monitor on the console told me we were using approximately 7.5 gallons per hour at 1,700 rpm, with the boat traveling 10 knots. (The electronics hadn't been properly calibrated or adjusted, so the FloScan's measurements were close, but not exact. Final adjustment would occur after the boat reached her new home.)
Only a portion of the boat's electronics were installed for this delivery. We had a Furuno 2131 radar, Northstar 941X GPS, Furuno FCV-667 color video depthsounder, and ComNav 2001 autopilot. These units were mounted temporarily within the helm console, which minimized cutting holes in the teak. Once the boat arrived in Campbell River, the entire electronics package would be rearranged and integrated, with final cutting and positioning of all control heads and screens.
As the sun went down off Los Angeles, the big passagemaker running smoothly, we settled into life aboard-and the coming routine of standing watches. Dinner this first night was easy-vegetable lasagna and fresh vegetables and dip. We started moving into our own little worlds, each person adjusting his life to match the appointed hours of his responsibility. Jeff went to his stateroom to get some sleep, Jim and I talked a bit after dinner about boats and the impact they have on our lives-and then we, too, drifted off on our own as first his watch ended, then mine, with a repeating cycle of replacing and relieving each other of the duties of running the ship.
This first night, we were all glad that the night watches were held to two hours. Our bodies were still pumped up with the excitement of being on our way, away from office and distraction, yet we had not quite adjusted to the rhythm of the~ sea, and the on/off demands of a short-handed crew.
Sometime during the night, Jim noticed a small stream of water coming into the saloon from behind one of the overhead panels. It wasn't raining outside, but conditions were getting rougher as we approached infamous Point Conception. The wave patterns would occasionally slam into the bow and weather side of our little ship, sending an enormous sheet of spray all the way back to the pilothouse.
Sea conditions continued to get stronger and more contrary, with building winds out of the northwest, so our little leak got worse. When we passed Point Conception in the predawn hours, our course became more northerly, which had us taking even more water over the boat.
By early afternoon, we decided to pull into San Luis Obispo to see if we could find and eliminate this irritating dribble. A water taxi took Jeff into town for some additional leak-stopping supplies, and Jim and Jeff spent the rest of the day poking into corners, installing inspection ports, looking around, under, and over every joint and crevice on the boat that might allow water to come aboard. Unfortunately, we couldn't tell if these efforts were successful or not. We had a long way to go, and we wouldn't know for sure until we were once again at sea. Some things are like that, especially leaks.
We had dinner, then planned to rest until midnight, and get back under way.
On To Monterey
A restful couple of hours passed quickly, then all three of us got up to make the departure on schedule. We'd been on the boat together only a matter of hours, but were already starting to work together as crew, each of us adjusting his internal clock to rise and shine when he was expected, without needing to be shaken and stirred by a shipmate.
Once again out in the ocean, the boat's motion quickly fell into synchronized movement with the now growing waves. The fin stabilizers kept rolling to a minimum, but as day approached, it was becoming increasingly necessary to hold on while moving about the boat, as we pitched forward and backward in the rolling seas.
The entire boat would shudder as it slammed into a cresting wave, sometimes green water ran down the foredeck. Take a quick look at the NORDHAVN's profile and notice the size of the bow, then also notice how far back the pilothouse is located. Well, when we buried the bow, the spray would bombard the pilothouse windows, often going over the pilothouse.
We slogged forward the rest of the day, each person taking his turn on watch. Jim and Jeff had by now moved out of the forward staterooms, with Jeff taking up residence on the saloon settee, and Jim and I sharing the queen size master berth our sleeping bags side by side.
On my watches, I had to brace myself in the Stidd helm chair as the NORDHAVN 62 banged, shuddered, and punched into the rough head seas. The boat seemed to enjoy the contest-imagine a bull with a Marine Corps attitude. The bow would crash into a wave, then the boat would shake itself off, the stack and rigging reverberating from the shockwave sent through every foot of her 62 feet. We saw no other boats.
Each hour the person on watch would mark the boat's position on the chart, then fill out LAT/LON, speed, course, and engine room checks in the log, after going below for a visual inspection of the operating machinery.
(If you still don't get why I call the engine room the Holy Place, go offshore on a passagemaker in such conditions. The dictionary defines holy as "regarded or deserving special respect or reverence." Well, let me tell you, that is right on. With the ship making good but noisy progress in these seas, the respect and reverence for the Lugger L6125A was considerable. This engine, indeed every well-maintained diesel, deserves all the respect a crew can muster.)
The Lugger didn't miss a beat, the comforting drum of steady rpm moving us steadily forward, in conditions that saw us alone on the open Pacific.
Wearing ear protectors while sitting on the non-skid-lined shelf next to the engine, I could absorb and appreciate the design of this boat, and the careful placement of her machinery -down to the stainless steel grab rails for safety moving around.
Jim called Walt Hack about the deteriorating weather conditions. Walt told us not to go north of San Francisco, as a gale was building off the Oregon/Washington coast-it would be wise to stay out of its way.
It turned out our saloon overhead leak hadn't been fixed after all-as big as the NORDHAVN 62 was, sheets of water were now constantly breaking against the pilothouse windows, and the seas were sending plumes of spray clear over the pilothouse. Needless to say, we decided to follow Walt's advice...we changed course and headed in towards Monterey, which actually improved the motion as the waves now came on our beam. Love those fin stabilizers!
Approaching Monterey, Jeff recalled the tale of a near-disastrous trip into Monterey some years back when they were moving one of their big Mason sailboats from boat show to boat show. They had little navigation equipment onboard, and they raced ahead with hardly any sails up, in poor visibility. The story set the mood of the moment-listening to the two brothers argue about which rock they were almost killed on!
Jim contacted the Monterey harbormaster via VHF, arranging a temporary tie-up alongside a pier with many small shops and restaurants overlooking the harbor. Jeff and I went outside to get the dock lines and fenders ready, while Jim maneuvered us inside the breakwater. On the aft deck of the boat, I caught a glimpse of something directly behind us, as I dug a coil of line out of the lazarette. I turned to see what it was and found myself looking at a sea otter swimming along not twenty feet from the stern of the boat! His head would poke out of the water, looking right at me, then his little body would twist as he swam against our prop wash. It was the cutest damned thing- how different from crashing through waves less than an hour before!
Monterey-And The Leak Is History
We weren't missing out on good food aboard during our passagemaking adventure, but we decided to enjoy this unplanned stop with a nice dinner in one of the many restaurants only steps away from our traveling home.
Once seated in the cozy restaurant-I don't know if it was real or imagined, but it seemed the three of us sat bobbing forward and back, still very much in tune with the motion of the boat crashing up and down the waves. A complimentary glass of wine (the waitress was hawking a private label house wine) really put us out, and my dinner could have been good, great, or horrible as I don't really remember...
We turned this forced stopover into an opportunity to fix the saloon leak. Armed with a couple of tubes of Sitkaflex bought from a local marine supply store, we returned to the boat ready to tackle the dribbling once and for all. Within an hour, the leak was finally fixed, and the boat remained dry as a bone from that point on. (The entire leak affair was really pretty minor, but it was one of those irritations that never surfaces at the dock or in normal conditions. A near gale brings out the best and worst in a vessel-and as a result, this N62 got a very thorough and complete sea trial.)
We also spent time going over the machinery and plumbing, adjusting watertight doors, and tightening fittings and connectors that had loosened after either their first few hours of use or the incessant pounding of the past couple of days.
From the moment we first arrived in Monterey, the NORDHAVN attracted attention. The standard question was "What kind of research do you do?"
I admit the N62 looks much less like a pleasure boat than it does a workboat/research vessel, so this seems a natural question. Jeff rolled his eyes, telling me he gets this constantly wherever they go. (They ought to put some kind of logo on the side of the N62 pilothouse, maybe a round seal of the P.A.E. Ocean Motorboat Research And Exploration Society, with dancing dolphins or something in the middle. But then people would want to join the organization, and want secret decoder rings and T-shirts and hats...)
The sheer size of the NORDHAVN really stood out among all the other boats. Someone recently told Jim that the N62 looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Tokyo airport. That image fits perfectly.
The weather finally moderated up north, so we planned a midnight departure. After a final dinner ashore, we slipped out of sleepy Monterey.
Heading Up The Coast
We passed between San Francisco and the Farallon Islands by 1100, and the conditions were much improved. Thanks to Walt Hack, we had completely avoided what would surely have been a stomach-churning experience.
Life aboard returned to normal, as did the sea trial process. As air bubbles in the hydraulic systems worked themselves out of the lines, Jim or Jeff would add fluid to keep reservoirs topped off.
Three times each day, Jim would also set the fuel transfer timer to distribute fuel as we motored along. The midships tank was chosen as our main fuel tank for this delivery (because we had started with good, clean fuel in that tank with no water or dirt), so fuel was filtered and brought into this tank from the other tanks in the boat. This was a simple procedure since the fuel system plumbing was designed to be managed easily by one person seated in the engine room.
The Lugger ran like the proverbial Swiss watch at 1,600-1,700 rpm, and it was wonderfully reassuring to be on watch with strong GPS signals, the green glow from the radar showing the outline of the coast or any shipping along our route, and the unfailing throbbing heartbeat of the Lugger. The FloScan kept us informed of our ongoing fuel burn, totaling gallons used, and the entire boat seemed to get better with each passing hour.
As we powered through the calmer swells and sea conditions, now eight-foot swells 14 seconds apart with three-foot waves, the fin stabilizers kept our side motion absolutely rock steady. Show me a stabilized motorboat, and I'll show you a happy crew!
I asked Jeff about other stabilization options for the N62-apparently the boat is just too large for flopperstoppers. The size and weight of the vanes, as well as the heavy poles and rigging, make the whole affair difficult and dangerous to handle in rough weather.
The ComNav 2001 autopilot ticked away without fuss, and the rest of the electronics gave us wonderful service day and night, although the video depthsounder made no sense to me. Its glow was way too bright at night, and the information on the little screen totally uncomprehensible. I remained clueless the entire voyage as to what it was trying to tell me.
We passed the occasional fishing boat, but little else. Sometimes these workboats would show up clearly on the radar screen, other times we'd see the boats long before any target appeared on the screen. Perhaps a tuning of the radar unit would solve this, but it served as a reminder that standing watch was more than just staying awake in the pilothouse.
Jeff Leishman, the avid surfer, kept us laughing with his tales of the Red Triangle, a supposed area between California and Oregon with a high concentration of Great White Sharks. Mistaking surfers in black wet-quits for seals, the attacks are swift and deadly. He also told me my survival suit was made entirely of black neoprene...
Monday morning we were just south of Cape Mendocino when dolphins came to play in our bow wave, entertaining us with their speed and agility. Their presence added to our overall sense of well-being and good fortune to be at sea in a capable boat in nice weather. These charming creatures only stayed long enough for me to get a camera on deck-then they immediately took off. The same thing happened when we saw whales. They must hear the camera!
The coast of Northern California is breathtaking scenery, so we came in to within five or six miles of the coast to get a better view. We even opened the pilothouse doors for a time to view the coast with a foreground of clear green Pacific ocean. This wonderful experience was only briefly enjoyed, as we motored into a wall of fog a short time later, which stayed with us for hours. Oh well, it was great while it lasted!
Dana Point, We Have A Problem
Midway during my afternoon watch, the NORDHAVN swung off to port in a dramatic turn that took me by surprise. The autopilot was no longer in control of the boat. The red and green lights still blinked, but nothing seemed connected to the steering system. The ComNav unit had been working great for the last eighty or so hours, but now...nothing.
We tried the let's-turn-it-off-and-back-on-and maybe-it-will-work-again routine, but the autopilot didn't respond. We checked the manual for trouble shooting instructions, but none of the shooting seemed to fit our trouble. Jeff went below to check the hydraulic fittings, thinking a leak had perhaps developed. The steering gear was still functional, so I hand steered while they tried to locate the problem.
Since it was only mid afternoon, Jim called ComNav by cellular phone to get some help. A technician told Jim to check the wiring to make sure the sequence of wires was correct. Things checked out fine. While the diagnostic efforts continued for a couple of minutes, it was clear we weren't fixing anything over the phone. So Jim joined Jeff at the steering head/rudder, where they soon found that the autopilot hydraulic pump had self-destructed. They found an internal metal plate broken into pieces-a faulty casting. Sitkaflex wasn't going to help us this time!
Back on the cellular phone with ComNav, Jim was directed to call the pump manufacturer directly, as it wasn't a ComNav pump. So we called Accu-Steer in Bellingham, Washington. Yes, they did make the pump, and yes, they had replacement pumps. They also understood we were a short-handed crew at sea in a new boat.
Looking at the chart of the coastline, Jim reasoned that we could make Coos Bay, Oregon, by next morning. If Accu-Steer sent a replacement pump by overnight delivery service to the Coos Bay harbormaster, we'd be just dandy, without any significant delay. Jim discussed this proposal with the Accu-Steer representative, then called the P.A.E. office in Dana Point to update them about what was going on. (The electronics, including the autopilot, had been purchased by the new owner, so we needed to get paperwork from Dana Point for a warranty exchange.)
After several phone calls, it turned out Accu-Steer was unwilling to overnight a pump to Coos Bay, and they even went so far as to tell Jim that stopping in Coos Bay was a bad idea anyway, as we would probably be stuck there for "at least another ten days." We tried to convince them otherwise, but the best advice we got was to hand steer the rest of the trip, and then make a sidetrip to Bellingham once we got into Puget Sound where they would hand us a replacement pump. These guys knew we were at sea off the West Coast, and that we a short-handed crew on a brand new yacht. This made no difference. Accu-Steer'd us wrong. We were very unimpressed.
So there we were, in a completely unnecessary situation, having to hand steer the rest of our voyage. Certainly not a life-threatening situation, but what if the weather deteriorated again, or one of us got sick? The seas were clocking around to the west, and we were now taking the waves on our beam. Steering the boat wasn't difficult, although the fin stabilizers made steering much less predictable. The fins would counteract the boat's motion and swivel the hull around in an effort to keep the hull steady. At night this was difficult to anticipate in the by-then quartering seas, and the range of steering was often not much better than an arc of almost 75 degrees (A good autopilot is essential equipment for a passagemaker, and it is worth getting good components backed by solid companies. Perhaps a backup autopilot is a worthy investment, especially if the crew is a husband and wife.)
Right before my afternoon watch ended, we motored past a solitary otter on his back, watching us approach. As we got abreast of him on our port side, he seemed to wave at me in the pilothouse, then turn and dove below the passing wave.
Meals aboard continued to be excellent, if a little lacking in diversity. Frozen casseroles all seemed to taste the same after a while, and we had waffles for breakfast. Again.
On To Cape Flattery
The coastline of Oregon and Washington is a rugged reminder of the remoteness of this part of North America. Small towns dot the shore, some ~f them with bright white lighthouses to mark some unseen hazards. Sitting comfortably in the warm and friendly pilothouse, wearing just a T-shirt and jeans was a good way to see the crispness and raw beauty of this undeveloped region. When the clouds briefly opened up over the land mass, we would make our way closer in to shore-where we would occasionally identify an RV traveling along Route 101, the highway that weaves along the hills and shoreline.
Judging from the lack of boats we saw, and the long stretches of untouched wilderness, we realized this is indeed an isolated land. I suppose that is its appeal as well as its danger-there just aren't many places to go if you are caught in distress. You are on your own. (I sure couldn't imagine having fun doing this trip on a sailboat this time of year. Huddled in cold, wet foul weather gear, trying to hide from all of the spray coming over the boat...No Thank You!)
Running the boat at night was pretty routine by now, even with steering duty, and, in fact, I looked forward each night for an opportunity to see the magnificent collection of stars visible this far from civilization's lights. I even got a chance to see the Hale-Bopp Comet over the course of several days. There is nothing quite as spiritual for me than the stars offshore-staggering in their brilliance and sparkle.
We also started keeping a sharper lookout for floating logs and trees, as this area is notorious for such dangers. We would continue this vigil for the rest of our passage through the Pacific Northwest, although we did bump a log despite our watchfulness.
To conserve fuel, Jim reduced the Lugger's speed to 1,450 rpm, which also eased the steering effort somewhat. Our fuel consumption dropped down to just 5 GPH. This also brought us down to the NORDHAVN 62 s passagemaking speed of 8 8.5 knots, providing true transocean range.
A rainsquall overtook us as we approached Flattery Rocks. The squall lasted but a few minutes, but it left a beautiful rainbow painted just for us.
We Get The Once Over...
We were nearing Cape Flattery, and anxious to turn the corner into the Strait of Juan De Fuca. The boat was dry and comfortable, but we had another problem developing...Jeff announced we had run out of Coors Light! Poring over the chart, it was decided we would pull in to Neah Bay for provisions, the first decent-looking port after rounding the Cape Flattery Lighthouse.
While we were discussing our sans-beer survival strategy, an odd whooshing noise seemed to come from just outside the pilothouse. Looking out the door, we quickly identified the noise-a bright orange USCG helicopter had flown up behind us, and was now matching our course and speed, giving us the once-over. We could understand their interest-a commercial or research vessel-looking NORDHAVN 62 with no name or hailing port. There was nothing on deck to indicate our purpose or identity, not even a dinghy. While we had California dealer numbers and valid sticker taped to each side of the pilothouse (in fact, we were completely legal in every respect), we were a true mystery boat to those trained to look for the unusual.
The helicopter spoke with Jim for several minutes on VHF radio, asking about our origin, destination, last port of call, number of people aboard, registration numbers, and so forth. We must have satisfied their initial curiosity, as the HH65A Dolphin flew off after our brief interview.
The excitement over, we got back to the business at hand, and set our sights on rounding Cape Flattery as soon as possible so we could arrive in Neah Bay before dark.
The Strait Of Juan De Fuca
Turning the corner finally occurred at around 1630, and the waves subsided, the motion eased, and the ship and boat traffic increased-all at the same time. We had gone from a solitary boat on a running sea to a protected waterway with major shipping and fishing interests. Car carriers, fishing boats, container ships, tugboats and barges all appeared as soon as we got into the Strait. We started seeing large floating logs almost immediately.
We radioed Neah Bay to get instructions for moorage, but it seems Neah Bay wasn't the fun little resort spot Jim remembered-in fact, there isn't much of anything there except for a USCG station. Instead of a harbormaster, we got a reply from the USCG station, who also wanted to know about us, asking all the same questions as the helicopter. But the radio operator did at least give us some idea as to where we might tie up for the night.
An eerie calm settled over us as we motored slowly into Neah Bay. The smell from wood fires was in the still air, and the late-day sun cast a cold shadow over the town and waterfront. We heard the hushed sound of a few fisherman talking as they worked on their boats and we saw that the mountains of Vancouver Island were shrouded in low-hanging clouds-a perfect backdrop to the calm and quiet scene around us.
We spotted a grocery store as we idled farther in to the end of the bay, toward two fish processing plants. One of these facilities (built out on top of a pier) had lights on, and the crowded pier was ringed with fishing boats tied up for the night.
The second fish plant obviously had been out of business for some time, and the rusted remains of a crane stood over us as we tied as carefully as possible to the decaying remains of a dockside building with an almost down sign for the Northwest Seafood Company. Mussels the size of my fist were attached to the remaining but shaky pilings, and everything we touched was dirty or greasy with creosote. How do you tie up without touching anything? The whole scene was a bit unreal-wet and cold, the smell of burning alder wood in the air, rust, decay, broken machinery, junk everywhere, scraps of cable, parts from useless fixtures, probably rats the size of cats-and a gleaming new white million dollar trawler with no name. To top off the image, it started to snow.
As luck would have it, Neah Bay is situated in a dry county, so no beer is sold for miles around. Wouldn't you just know it!?! We licked the leak, we piloted without autopilot, now we faced another frozen casserole dinner without beer. Jeff made an attempt to keep our spirits up-he announced that we were no longer in the Red Triangle...
In The Strait
Our plan the next morning was to continue down the Strait of Juan De Fuca, stopping for fuel before heading on our last leg into British Columbia. We decided Friday Harbor would make a good fuel stop as it was on our way and known to be a popular port. But a more important reason was that all three of us wanted to meet up with Jim and Susan Sink, who were wintering aboard their NORDHAVN 46 Salvation II in Friday Harbor. A reunion with them would be the perfect ending to this soon-to-be-over delivery.
After leaving Neah Bay we saw ships of all shapes and sizes, including enormous car carriers enroute to Seattle. Fishing boats worked past us regularly, and we steered around a seemingly endless number of wood blocks, logs, and trees.
A couple of hours into the morning, we were again visited by a USCG helicopter. The bright orange aircraft seemed to come out of nowhere, and the pilot flew around us, and then hovered just off our pilothouse while we were again questioned. Same questions, same answers. The crew waved to us when they flew off on their appointed rounds and we continued eastward without delay.
Cheese It! The Cops!
A particularly unusual car carrier passed us, sending Jim and Jeff deep into an intense conversation about ship design and how this carrier differed from other ships. (They tended to drift in and out of boat design conversations throughout the entire trip-no one can ever say Jim and Jeff Leishman don't have a passion for boats!)
After the ship moved out of our immediate are~ we noticed a smaller vessel coming around from behind the stern of the car carrier in a hurry. In another second or two, it became clear it was a USCG cutter, complete with blue flashing lights, heading straight for us. Uh ohh...
There was no doubt now that the Coast Guard considered this NORDHAVN-with-no-name unusual, and it didn't surprise us that they wanted to verify that we really were who and what we claimed to be.
The 87-foot USCG Cutter Point Bennet asked us to follow them on a new course back toward the U.S., as we were currently on the Canadian side of the Strait. We were also told to maintain a specific course and speed while they prepared to board us.
(As professionals with a lot of experience delivering their boats around the world, PA.E. was right on the money in terms of proper safety equipment, survival suits, etc. All required safety and documentation materials were completely in order.)
The actual boarding lasted about an hour, and the five men who came over in the Zodiac were well trained, armed, and exceedingly accommodating. They went through their drill as quickly as possible, no doubt due to the fact that everything on the boat was in such good order. We complied with every regulation.
I spoke with several of the men, who told of the schools and training that was mandatory for boarding party personnel. I gather boardings in the Pacific Northwest are more safety and fishing-related than drug enforcement, but they were clearly prepared for everything. (The crew of Point bennet have one heck of a job to do, conducting about 160 boardings and inspections each year. I salute them, indeed all USCG men and women, for being out there.)
Once they finished up and headed off, we decided to head into Port Angeles for diesel fuel, rather than risk arriving in Friday Harbor after the fuel dock was closed.
Compared to Neah Bay, we found Port Angeles to be a vacation paradise complete with fuel dock, marine and other supplies. We took on about 300 gallons of diesel, more than enough to complement our remaining fuel supply. We were soon off again, bound for Friday Harbor on the other side of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. It would be our last stop in the U.S. before we entered Canadian waters, and the boat's new home in Campbell River.
We crossed the sometimes mischievous Strait in perfectly sunny, calm conditions. A piece of cake.
As we approached San Juan Island (Friday Harbor is located on the eastern side of the island), we passed through Cattle Point at flood tide, which put Jim into fits of jubilation-the N62 shot forward beyond hull speed. The full displacement yacht surpassed 15.5 knots SOG, and Jim just loved it.
Puget Sound is one of the most desirable cruising grounds in the world. The islands are lush with green, the waters clear and cold, and the ruggedness of the area is offset by the protected nature of the geography.
We wound our way through narrow passes between the islands, making the final turn to enter Friday Harbor just at dusk. It was an exciting moment, as we had come a long way, and our journey would soon be over-celebrated with friends in a delightful harbor town. The VHF radio crackled to life, and Captain Jim Sink officially welcomed us to Friday Harbor. Would we please be so kind as to tie up on the transient dock, just right of the U.S. Customs hut?
We had arrived.
Jim and Susan stood by as Jim maneuvered the trawler alongside the floating dock, and not a second later, we were all chattering like long lost friends. It was good to see the Sinks again, and wonderful to experience the obvious affection between the Leishman brothers and the Sinks. A lot of good times had been had by this foursome.
We planned a celebration in town, but first it was appropriate to give a tour of the N62 followed by a brief visit to Salvation 1l The 62-footer was enormous compared to the N46, but once aboard Salvation II, you forgot all that. This NORDHAVN had gone around the world, and there was a certain patina, a character, that you only find on realthing cruising boats. She was still home for the Sinks, and it was obvious to me why this boat had been so successful-she wasn't fitted out with every possible piece of equipment. Just the basics, the necessities.
The interior was heated by a couple of small portable space heaters rather than elaborate systems, and in the pilothouse you saw basic electronics. The bells-and-whistles stuff was bypassed for what would do the job with the least amount of fuss.
Susy told us how happy they both were with their new and quiet Northern Lights genset. During their circumnavigation they didn't even have that, relying strictly on 12VDC electrical systems, even their watermaker, a PUR 12-volt unit.
The five of us walked up into town, and had a marvelous Italian dinner at a small little restaurant right in town. Roberto's "Pasta From Hell" entree was an outstandingly opposite from our frozen casserole fare, and the laughter-filled dinner made for one very special and memorable evening.
Jim Leishman talked Jim and Susy into coming with us the rest of the way up to Campbell River, especially helpful since they knew the waters. We made a list of additional provisions for our continuing adventure-no, we didn't need more frozen waffles...we still had five or six dozen waffles in the freezer, but thanks for asking!
Jim Leishman, Jeff, and I agreed this evening had been a fitting end to the delivery, and the rest of the trip would be more of a sightseeing cruise with old friends.
On To Campbell River!
We were blessed to leave Friday Harbor the next morning in absolutely perfect weather. With a soggy reputation for rain and fog, Puget Sound treated us with sun and cloudless skies all the way into British Columbia.
With Jim Sink at the helm, we navigated our way through narrow channels winding between the many islands that dot the Inside Passage between Canada's mainland and Vancouver Island. Jim and Susy entertained us with some of the area's history, and little tidbits of folklore they had picked up when cruising here the year before.
Looking to beat Jim Leishman's record run of 15.6 knots around Cattle Point, we planned to pass through Dodd Narrows, a very narrow cut between Vancouver Island and Mudge Island that is noted for swift running currents. While we arrived at less than flood, it was still thrilling to shoot through such a slim passage between rocks, and I tried desperately to catch the moment on film as the N62 was tossed about in the whirlpools beyond.
From this point on, things started happening quickly. The cellular phone seemed to ring nonstop, as Tom Heisterman and Balint Pap, the Campbell River brokers who had sold the N62, were trying hard to get the new owner aboard as soon as possible. Apparently we had been expected the day before, and the excitement after eighteen months of waiting was unbelievable. It was decided that a party of three would come in to Nanaimo by float plane to join us for the remainder of the trip.
Arriving in Nanaimo late in the afternoon gave us plenty of time to wash the boat down and wait for the arrival of the float plane. The NORDHAVN shined in no time, and anyone looking at the boat would never know that we had just completed a delivery from Southern California. As it should be...
The float plane arrived late, and almost immediately Jim and Jeff Leishman were showing Ron his new passagemaker. Ron was so excited that he insisted we leave for Campbell River at once, running all night if need be to finally get her home. We could all understand his excitement, although some of us weren't so sure about running at night with so many logs floating in the water.
The Sinks and I settled in the saloon for the evening, while the now-crowded pilothouse was filled with activity and constant discussion aimed at transitioning the boat to her new owner while making a course to Campbell River.
The rest of the trip was a blur, as we ran all night up the Strait of Georgia, arriving in Campbell River at 0230. It was quite a bit colder here, but after the boat was securely tied up, the warm glow of a successful delivery filled the entire boat. Despite the hour, several of Ron's friends arrived to celebrate his new yacht, and with a boatload of people, the now-weary delivery crew retired to the forepeak stateroom to get some sleep, our last night on the boat. We would soon pack up the tools of our trade, the portable cellular phone, the backup handheld GPS, the toolbox that helped fix the leak, the sleeping bags and pillows, the charts and guidebooks, the plotting tools, the survival suits, and all of our personal belongings.
We graciously decided to leave the rest of the waffles….
A Delivery Done, Heading Home
The next morning it snowed, a complete departure from the previous day's gorgeous weather. It snowed and snowed. The sinks rented a car to head back south to Friday Harbor, and Jim, Jeff, and I were able to schedule flights out that same day.
Both Jim and Jeff spent a couple of hours going over all fittings and hoses, making sure the boat's systems were working properly. (P.A.E. would later send someone up to Campbell River to finish the check-out of the owner over the next couple of weeks, as well as to complete any residual commissioning activities. As Dan had said, just a couple more days…)
Overall, the delivery was a complete success, and the boat arrived thoroughly sea trailed and checked by builder and designer. The NORDHAVN 62 is a fabulous seaboat, and I felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to make a long passage in one. This is definitely a go-anywhere passagemaker, and if you feel the need to go really fast, just find a narrow pass somewhere with a strong current…it works every time.
After pulling together all our gear, we were whisked away to the airport by Tom and Balint, who had done a truly outstanding job of balancing the excitement of the new owner with the need of the delivery crew to get off in an organized manner.
The trip home was a dim memory of missed flights due to the snow, long waits at different airports, and essentially a 24-hour trip back to reality.
The Dreams Of Those Who Wake…
On the way home, I reflected on the unique human experience that is the short-handed crew. I've felt it before and it's always the same. Together for only a brief time, each person is truly and unquestionably responsible for everyone else. A team, working together. Forget those silly corporate slogans about teamwork-this is for real, this is where it's at. Anyone who has been to sea knows.
Even Captain Ron. Jim, Jeff and I said our goodbyes at the airport-this was great, lets do it again sometime.. and in a twinkling moment we were no longer a crew, a team, but back in a world of commitments, deadlines, and different interest and life directions.
The delivery was truly over, the adventure now just a memory to tuck back into one's mind to savor in years to come.
I wouldn't have it any other way…