Monday, January 11, 2016

Waiting for a window south

Virginia checks our position on her iPad during one of our weekly shake-down sails.
Finally, after more than three years of hard work, Oceanus is ready for sea. The problem is it's now winter. This time of year weather windows that will allow us to sail south from our home port of Newport, Ore., are few and far between.

During December, storm after storm with gale-force winds and waves 15 to 20 feet pummeled the Oregon coast. For a few days in mid December the waves reached 40 feet and sent mounds of sea foam filling beach parking lots and the yards of beach homes. It looked like dirty snow, prompting locals to joke about the sea providing a white Christmas on the Oregon coast.

Newport also got a record amount of rain in December, more than 19 inches.

We started keeping a log. Virginia's periodic entries are telling:
"Dec. 3, 2015 - Still here."
"Dec. 9 - Haven't left yet, too many storms."
"Dec 18 - Still here. Crew getting restless."
"Dec. 24 - Christmas eve in Newport, Ore., was supposed to be Mexico or Newport, Calif. I see a mutiny soon if we don't leave."

We are not discouraged, however. Last winter, as we continued to work on the boat, we watched and there were several times the seas were relatively calm and the wind out of the north or west. We are hoping for three or four days of good sailing weather to get us to California.

Every morning we check passageweather.com looking for a few days of good sailing conditions. We're hoping for seas below 10 feet with a fairly long period, say 15 seconds. It happens this time of year, just not very often. We got our hopes up for three days around Jan. 31. The forecast called for seas of around six feet and east winds. But winds turned into a gale out of the east with the thermometer dropping into the 20s at night. No thanks!

Of all the miles we plan to travel on our two-year sabbatical, the first 400 miles along the Oregon and northern California coast are the most scary to me. Many experienced world cruisers have had their hat handed to them along this stretch of the West Coast.

Oceanus and us are still largely untested in the ocean as well, so we try to go sailing at least once a week. With each day sail we discover something new about the boat, a better lead on the genoa sheet or something else we need to tweak.

We are also getting better at answering the question "Haven't you left yet?" or "When are you leaving?" This is particularly galling to Virginia.

"The next person who asks me that I'm going to poke in the eye," she fumed on more than one occasion.

Of course the people who have experience cruising never ask. "Schedules will kill you," said our friend Ted, who cruised in Mexico for two years and made several trips from there to Oregon.
Our friend Paul joins us for a sail. He is a great guy and a very experienced captain.
They also council patience. "You're already cruising," said Paul, another of our experienced voyaging friends. "You're living the life. Enjoy it."

And we do, I keep working on boat projects and Virginia helps with boat maintenance. She also started knitting a sweater for our daughter-in-law. Most of all we enjoy just being together.

In November we sold our small pickup. Not having a vehicle makes getting mail and groceries more difficult, but it also gets us out walking more. No vehicle also means no car insurance payments or vehicle tax bills.
Our "fake Christmas" on the weekend before Christmas at our daughter's new home. All kids and grand kids minus two who couldn't make it.
The week before Christmas we hitched a ride with friends going to the Seattle area so we could visit our kids and grandkids for a few days. We had a great time. We enjoyed the train ride back too, and the bus from the Willamette valley to get back to Newport wasn't bad either. But it did turn what would have been a five-hour drive into a full day adventure. It made us appreciate how easy we had it.
Our 97-cent Nativity scene aboard Oceanus.
Christmas on the boat was fun and peaceful. We did our favorite holiday things: watching the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and listening to corny old renditions of Christmas carols. We didn't worry about pleasing anyone but ourselves. That sounds selfish, especially during Christmas, but it was liberating and eye opening. Virginia missed going to stores to shop -- she did most of it online. I felt I escaped the commercial side of the holiday and focused just on what was meaningful and fun to me. It was one of my favorite Christmas's ever.

Winter on the Oregon coast, while it has its own beauty, is not what we signed up for. We both dream of sunshine and diving off the boat into warm clear water. We figure we have enough money for two years if we stick to a budget. The clock is now ticking, so we watch and wait for a weather window to sail south.