40′ Sailing Cat – San Diego to Sequim, WA

by Captain Woody

And it was back to San Diego to finish moving our friends 40′ Leopard cat up to Washington. We had a long leisurely trip up from the Panama canal. During the beautiful cruise north, I had done a respectable amount of maintenance on the diesels and Saildrives. Four years of brutal charter company servicing had taken their toll on the new boats underachiever drivetrain. It was time for some much needed professional servicing.

We were in the right place, if you can break it on the water, San Diego has a place you can get it fixed, if not cheaply. We finally found an authorized Volvo mechanic. These guys must have all the work they can handle. After tens of thousands of dollars and four weeks of servicing including new fuel pumps, rebuilding alternator mounts, replacing a cracked case (manufacturing defect) and even a haul out to fix a small leak in the starboard Saildrive, we were back at sea.

I’ve said it before, ‘Buy a fixer and you may end up doubling your investment’. One thing that worked great was the solar panels. We never plugged in and even in the yard, the boat maintained it’s own batteries and systems stayed online, unattended. Credit to the panels and the Blue Sky controller.

Paul took us out of San Diego bay while Sheila and I enjoyed the parade of boats traversing the waterway. Just out of the harbor we had problems with the cooling water. I wasn’t going back. We drifted for a bit while I coaxed water through the system. Was it sucking air? Time would tell. It was a quick beat to Catalina. I wanted to show the kids where the locals went for our sailing getaways.

We rolled into beautiful Two Harbors and took a mooring. I gave the kids the lowdown on what to do and, “Don’t forget the Buffalo Milks”. I dropped them ashore and went back to wrench … just for old time sake. That night, cleaned up, we had a grand dinner at the little Harbor Reef restaurant.

Bright and early we motored off and up through the Channel Islands, dolphins aplaying at the bow, whales lingering off to port. Off Santa Barbara we cruised through the oil slick I always find trailing off the rigs. We took a slip in Santa Barbara, nice people, cute town. Paul and I worked on some close quarters boat maneuvering.

But it was time for the big Oakland Boatshow, excuse me, the Pacific Boatshow, ya that sounds better. Which means I got to ride the train. Amtrak goes from downtown Santa Barbara straight to the boatshow in Oakland … perfect. I grabbed some snax and reading material and was All Aboard in no time – front-facing ocean-side of course. The kids didn’t need me for the short SB-SF leg. They made it up to the bay and to the show before it closed on Sunday.

I met the boat at the new West Point marina in SF’s south bay. They’ve done a nice job there. We had a big ribs dinner with the kids and their son Paul, our SF mechanic Lloyd and his beautiful wife. The next morning, Lloyd joined us for the short run up the bay to fuel at Coyote Point marina, nice spot.

We sailed out with the tide, the city on our portside lit up with the orange glow of the setting sun. That’s a beautiful town. The head wind and short chop kicked up to make us work for the bridge. We cracked open some headsail and shot off across the bay and into the lee of Sausalito. Tacked again and cruised out under the north end of the Golden Gate. Another epic scene.

We arrived at the entrance to Bodega Bay before sunup and in the thickest fog I could remember. I was alone on watch. I had been in the bay before. Using the radar as my eyes I eased up between the breakwalls at half a knot. The one on starboard was too low to show so I had to guess where it was. Once further inside, visibility opened up to a good 50 yards. That was enough to lay eyes on the marker posts.

We ended up at the end of B dock, for transients, where we chilled for a few days. It’s only $30 a night there plus a deposit for the bathroom with the solar-heated firehose-pressure shower. We had an out of season system pounding the coast just to the north, so we were not in a hurry to get right back out. We spent some time honing our close quarter maneuvering skills and even did the walk around the bay to the little town where The Birds was filmed. We ate dinner at the new version of the diner and then watched the movie back at the boat … and then slept fitfully.

We finally got back out to sea, into the big swell aftermath of the storm. We had a lucky couple of days before the normal 20kts on the nose kicked back up. We pulled behind the wall at Port Orford. I know, I’ve never heard of it either. It’s basically a 20′ sea wall with local small fish boats sitting on it. They lower the boats with cranes to go fishing – cool. I finally raised the locals on the radio and they said we could take fuel. We tried parking sideways but it didn’t seem safe. We went out a bit, dropped the hook and backed in. I got a line around a pylon and with the boat in forward to keep us off the wall, I called up for the fuel hose. The guy didn’t like my set up but agreed to fuel. We paid in a coffee can on a string, Turtle Bay style. It all worked out.

Back at sea it was rough going around the point. Alone on watch with the boat launching off waves and landing in holes, spray shooting aft with the strong breeze and Nickelback blaring on the mp3 player. The big roach main driving us ever forward as we headed for the last and most treacherous cape on our 4,000nm voyage to weather, Cape Flattery. I felt alive.

On that last ocean leg we saw ships, whales and found out that wooden fishing boats didn’t always show up on radar. We put the great Pacific behind us as we rounded the pinnacle, Cape Flattery and eased gently into the Straight of Juan de Fuca. A satisfying sense of achievement warmed me.

And what was that odd sensation? I almost forgot what tail winds felt like. But there they were, easing us gently to our destination. All the way up from San Francisco we had bitter cold and grey conditions and now, a quarter mile inland, it was warm and sunny.

We enjoyed some nice downwind running to Sequim Bay where the kids had a house over the water and the boat had its own home, a permanent slip. As we entered the marina triumphant, we enjoyed some odd stares from the locals who hadn’t seen a lot of adult catamarans in these parts. And there’s a reason for that.

As I type this I am sitting at the wide nav station of a big new Leopard 46 cat, watching the calm sea in front of Nicaragua slip by the rail. I just brought her through the Panama canal and will be relocating this work of art to Mexico. Two beautifully running Yanmars aft and a full length stateroom to myself in the starboard hull. I’ve earned this. Unless something more exciting comes up, I’ll be filling you in on the details next month.

-Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-

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