Our plan was to depart Friday Harbor on Thursday mid-morning to make the eight hour run to Neah Bay where we would anchor, have a great night’s sleep and depart the following day, for the direct run to San Francisco. All very civilised! However, that was not what happened due to some forecasted nasty weather off the Eureka coast in California forecasted to develop and our need to duck in front of it. As such, our departure from Friday Harbor was in the wee hours of Thursday morning with engines started at 3:30am – yuk! This departure would set us up for an arrival to San Francisco’s notorious bar crossing between 12:00 noon and 6:00pm on Sunday and ahead of the developing strong winds.
As the San Francisco bar is potentially very dangerous a 4:30pm Sunday arrival would coincide with slack water perfectly however, if we arrived earlier we could potentially see up to 4kts of current pushing us into the inner Californian harbor which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Never a dull moment boating!
I am happy to report that we were able to depart in the middle of the night without incident and hit our first target on time, which was slack water at the narrows between Lopez Island and San Juan Island around 4:50am.
As we continued, the sun rose and we were greeted with a lovely day as we motored Pendana toward the open water that lay beyond the Strait of Juan de Fuca. With the currents pushing us along nicely we were generally in the 11-12kts range for most of our run west which was fantastic until, we reached Neah Bay and Cape Flattery where the remaining outgoing current was met with the incoming force from NW swells from the Pacific Ocean and the 15kt NW winds. The result was about two hours of 6-10ft seas, on a 2-3 sec period making for a very uncomfortable ride. Once we rounded Cape Flattery things clamed and seas reduced to around 6-10ft with the wave period increasing to around 8 seconds making the run south more enjoyable. With weather conditions due to improve over the coming few days we were all set for a good ride south.
Pendana, as always found her rhythm and seemed to be pleased to be back in the open waters once again and she was making quick work of the ocean that lay in front of her. As conditions settled, Bianca did more of her horror themed make up and once again and in doing so managed to scare me half to death while I was on watch, much to her joy!
With nothing left to do other than be on watch for four hours and asleep for four, I went about reading all about the approaches into San Francisco and associated regulations. I must admit that I am a stickler for doing things the right way and enjoy the challenge of participating in busy waters. Our arrival into San Francisco was to deliver in spades.
To help paint the picture below is an image of San Francisco’s approach lanes, one to the north, west and south with the pilot boarding area just south of the SF Buoy (pronounced as “booe” here in the USA rather than “boy” in Australian).
San Francisco being one of the busiest ports on the west coast is controlled by Vessel Traffic Services (“VTS”) which is a little like the equivalent of air traffic controllers for aircraft although their targets move a lot slower! After contacting VTS and explaining our arrival intentions we decided to remain a passive VTS participant for our inbound leg. The required listen frequencies for SF are Ch14 offshore and Ch 13 inshore for those venturing this way.
It was evident that we were to experience a perfect storm of too many vessels arriving at the same time. We had two container ships from the south, two from the west, one pilot boat and one, little Pendana from the north. I guess I shouldn’t really complain as at least there was no outbound traffic headed our way.
It was clear that the container ship ‘Vancouver’ and Pendana were going to hit if we planned on continuing on our route. As there was no outbound traffic reported, (VTS report all traffic every thirty minutes so everyone knows where everyone is together with arrival times at particular navigational markers) I contacted VTS and requested that I be allowed to take up a course, east into the harbor using the outbound shipping lane to allow Vancouver enough time to pass. Once Vancouver has passed I would cross back over into the correct channel. VTS confirmed that this was approved and, as such, the dance began.
Now where is that fourth container ship? Thankfully, the fourth container ship was far enough back that it didn’t impeded our arrival under the Golden Gate bridge.
Long-time friends, who are too good looking for their own good and San Fran locals were on shore for our arrival and took these happy snaps of Pendana. Adam and Eve crossed the Pacific and we all look forward to catching up with them both while in town.
Once under the bridge we were immediately confronted by a plethora of sailboats, commercial vessels, whale watching boats and the odd ferry to boot!
As we made our way up the harbor and headed north we were confronted with yes more sailboats out and about and lots of commercial traffic. We also received two separate calls for a chat via VHF from followers of the blog who were on the water and wanted to say hello and welcome to SF! How nice is that? Anyway, I digress, the job now was to get Pendana to her new home and not touch bottom. The reason I was somewhat apprehensive was that the forecast was for 20-25kts of wind on our arrival making docking a challenge.
As we made our way to Richmond Marina we were confronted with ten, yes ten sailboats, some sailing and some motoring as we made our way to the marina. Oh what joy! Rather than beat a path between them we slowed Pendana to around 3kts to allow them time to move ahead and provide us with a clear run.
Why so many boats? Well, we arrived on Memorial Day long-weekend and as the wind was blowing I guess these guys thought, why not get out and enjoy it. Note to self, never arrive anywhere on a long weekend!
All that was left to do now was navigate the very narrow, shallow channel so that we could enter the confines of the deep water marina. By this stage we were facing 30kts winds with gusts of 38kts coming directly from the south. The channel leading to the marina itself is only 40mtr/130ft wide which is wide enough but with two sailboats and the insane wind it made for an interesting few minutes.
Once inside the Marina basin winds were now consistently around the 30-35kt mark and blowing like crazy. White caps were everywhere and we still had to dock Pendana. After a long run this is the last thing we needed.
I decided that I would throw Pendana’s bow into the corner, let the wind blow her stern north while keeping her snug into the corner. At precisely the right time would apply a significant dose of stern thruster to bring here around. Thankfully it worked. I guess we have a big engine, powerful thrusters and a mighty rudder so maybe nothing to much to worry about after all!
Pendana once again ran flawlessly on the 797nm run south. This trip took a total of 84hours to complete and we consumed a touch over 500 gallons / 1,892 litres of fuel, with an average speed of 9.48kts. In short we travel 1.58nms per gallon of fuel making Pendana probably the most fuel efficient Nordhavn’s around. Gotta love Pendana!
Now time to enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer, grab a rental car and catch up with a few friends we have made along the way.