Landfall Learning
Why We Go
Social Studies
Ship's Log
Reading List
Frequently Asked Questions
Landfall-Learning > Ship's Log - Past Trips

Ship's Log - Past Trips

Below is the story of our October 2001 trip to bring Landfall from Olympia, Washington, where we found her, to our then-home port of Half Moon Bay, California. The next story describes how Landfall got from Half Moon Bay to Mobile, Alabama, our next home port.

Olympia, Washington to Half Moon Bay, California

We were living aboard Odyssey, our Hunter 36 sailboat, in Half Moon Bay, California, when we found Landfall listed for sale. She was listed as a "1978 Tiburon 36 center cockpit, cutter-rigged ketch". This means she was built in 1978, is 36 feet long, and the cockpit is in the middle of the boat, rather than in the stern like many boats. It also means she is a sailboat with two masts, one for the mainsail and one for the mizzen sail, and she has two sails on the bow, a jib and a staysail. We knew that she was our ultimate blue-water ocean cruising boat. She was docked in Olympia, Washington, at the very south end of Puget Sound. We quickly made arrangements to fly up to see her.

It was love at first sight. After several small repairs, she was ours. We quickly completed preparations to sail her home to Half Moon Bay, a trip of over 1,000 miles. It was already fall, and we needed to have her home before the harsh Pacific Ocean winter storms began.

After studying many navigation charts we decided on a two-leg trip. First, a quick weekend trip, north from Olympia, up Puget Sound, and around to Port Angeles. Then we would go back to work for a week. Then the next week, we could take some vacation time to make the long Strait of Juan de Fuca and Pacific Ocean leg to Half Moon Bay, a seven day and six night trip, non-stop.

The first leg began on a Saturday morning, a lot later than we had planned. We had to wait for hours for the dense South Puget Sound fog to lift. While waiting, we practiced docking maneuvers. Well, to be honest, we actually tried to leave twice, but the fog was still too thick, and we had to turn back. Every time we did, we had to practice docking the boat! When the fog finally lifted, it took us the rest of the day to motor in flat-calm seas up toward Seattle.

We had one panic-party when the engine alarm began screaming. We were halfway up the narrow Colvos Passage between Vashon Island and the Kitsap Peninsula. We turned the engine off and drifted in the deep water, warily eying the nearby shores. Going aground in a full keel boat is a very bad idea. We wanted to avoid that at all costs.

After checking every source of the alarm we could think of, we finally decided it was the alarm itself that was faulty, so we disconnected it. Not the solution we had expected, but it was certainly the most convenient one. We fired up the engine and plowed ahead, eyes nervously scanning the gauges for the rest of the day.

We anchored Landfall off the south side of Blake Island, a State Park in the middle of Puget Sound near Seattle. We arrived just as the autumn darkness fell. We found a spot not too close to the other boats anchored there, and laid out 120 feet of chain in 20 feet of mid-tide water. Two, 200-foot ferry boats crossing Colvos Passage every hour rocked us with their wakes until late into the night.

The morning sky was lighting up clear and cold as we made coffee and prepared to haul anchor. We'd planned a full day of motor-sailing against a north wind, aided by a strong ebb current. We wanted to arrive in Port Angeles by sundown. If we missed our goal, we'd miss our flight back to San Francisco. We got busy.

A half-hour after hauling anchor we could see the sun rising behind downtown Seattle, several miles off to starboard. Even with the engine running, with the current against us, it was slow going. But the current was moving, too, and we finally caught up with each other. With that favorable ebb current we were pulled along quickly. In the thick of the ebb, Landfall was easily making 9-10 knots over the ground.

Landfall slipped into Port Angeles on schedule, though just barely, and we tied her up to the dock just as the last light of dusk faded into a cold starlit night.

Our good friend Steve put us up for the night and then took us to the tiny Port Angeles airport in the dark hours of the next morning. That week, while we worked in California, Steve ran some essential errands for us: filling the propane tank, buying a water hose and filling the water tanks, and doing some provisioning from a list we'd left with him. He also found a used boombox and lent us some of his tapes. Landfall had no stereo, and Steve, a musician, just could not imagine anyone living for a whole week without tunes.

The day before leaving on the second leg was filled with final preparation chores: fresh food provisioning (which we ended up not eating, for the most part, due to the weather conditions); hooking up an emergency radio antenna; trying, unsuccessfully, to hook up the new radar antenna, and in general getting more familiar with Landfall's systems.

When the fuel dock opened the next morning we were first in line, fueled up, and were off. Our course took us west from Port Angeles on the 20 mile wide Strait of Juan de Fuca. The strait, 80 miles long, separates Washington from British Columbia and marks the international boundary between the United States and Canada. It's a very busy channel, with hundreds of huge ships coming from or going to Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, Alaska, the Pacific west coast and the Far East. Our biggest navigational chore all day was just trying to stay out of the big ships' way!

We reached the lumpy Pacific Ocean entrance to the Strait just before sunset, and once past the boiling waters of Cape Flattery, turned southwest. From there, and for five hours more, three sets of conflicting swells jostled Landfall. We felt like an errant tube of Chapstick floating in the wash cycle.

A huge orange full moon rose from behind the Olympic mountains as the glorious sunset colors faded on the endless horizon to the west. And while admiring all that stunning beauty, Capt. Sharon felt the first pangs of a seasickness that was to last for the next 36 hours. Oh, man!

We wanted to get offshore quickly, to avoid shipping traffic, fishing fleets and a rocky lee shore. As we sailed further southwest through the moonlit night and the breaking dawn, beyond sight of land and past the shipping lanes, the seas became more regular and the wind began to fill. And fill. And fill. And for the next two days, the seas continued to build.

By the third day, about 120 miles offshore and 350 miles south of the Strait, we had reefed down the main and mizzen sails entirely and completely furled in the jib. With just the storm trysail straining in the 40 knot winds, we were surfing down 8-14 foot waves. Flying down those bigger waves at 11 knots was better than an E-ticket ride at Disneyland, and Landfall was enjoying every second of it. And, so were we!

It was impossible to cook in those conditions. Anything would have flown off the counter while trying to prepare it and flown off the stove while trying to cook it. The waves surging on Landfall's starboard stern quarter were rocking Landfall like some evil nanny trying to hush a crying child. Fortunately, we had "MREs," Meals Ready to Eat, the kind of food they feed our military troops in combat. Though our conditions were far less hazardous than war, we were simply unable to cook, and very grateful for the hassle-free, zip-and-squeeze rations.

We did brave scaldings to boil water for hot coffee and tea, though. Strong fiddles held the shallowly-filled, tall, covered pot on the stovetop, and gimbals kept the stove mostly level and the hot water (mostly) in the pan. We quickly learned to pour everything over the sink, as we tried to match the rocking of the boat with the trajectory of the pouring liquid. We also learned to heat more water than we thought we'd need, on account of spillage!

Close encounters with Pirates?

While underway, twice, in the dark hours of the early morning, we had close encounters with other ships. On our third night out, a large ship began to chase us. As its lights grew closer, we altered course to get out of its way. But it followed our every move, coming closer and closer. We'd heard of pirates on the high seas, but we hadn't expected them off the coast of Oregon! The looming high bow surged up close on our stern, someone shined a huge spotlight on us, and then it bore away, leaving us frightened and confused. In the reassuring light of the next day, we speculated that perhaps the ship's captain had simply been concerned about us. We were a small boat in a big sea. We were over a hundred miles offshore. We were unseasonably late for the southbound migration. It's possible. And as the sun shone brighter, it seemed ever more probable. But we'll never know.

A couple of nights later, approaching the Continental Shelf in the black of night, the encounter was probably more our fault. We'd come upon a fishing fleet, lights ablaze and dragging huge nets. Although we tried to avoid them, it was hard to tell which way they were moving in relation to our course. Only when we were too close did we realize that one ship was headed straight toward us, on a collision course! A hasty surge of Landfall's 40hp engine and a hard turn of the wheel brought us slowly away, but only in the nick of time. Once again, with shaky knees, we realized the hazards of encounters on the high seas.

The Final Leg Home

On the fifth day, as the winds began to moderate and the seas began to subside, we'd settled into a comfortable rhythm. The sun was shining. The windvane, which had seemed so intricate and complicated on the first day at sea, had become a named and trusted First Mate. We could cook real food, and making coffee involved no risk at all. A Gray Whale surfaced and exhaled just off our starboard side. Ahhh...

A day out of San Francisco, the wind died completely. We fired up the engine and motored on glass-calm seas past the Farallon Islands, small rocky chunks 50 miles off the coast. The area around the Farallones is notorious for harsh winds and bad seas, but it was not living up to its reputation on this day. A small pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins came to play with us, their gleaming white-and-black sleek bodies cruising in our bow wake and fanning out beside our hull. Frisky, gregarious juveniles leapt out of the water, crossing under Landfall's bowsprit. We stood above them, squealing with delight, hoping they would play with us all day.

Just a little bit further south and we'd be home. We faced a decision: Do we continue on, knowing we would arrive in Half Moon Bay after dark, possibly in the fog, and with no radar? Or do we head back offshore, heave-to, "park the boat" and wait until daybreak?

We were exhausted after seven days and nights of non-stop sailing, night watches, and four days of big seas. While it would certainly be dark when we arrived, the area's lurking fog bank was well offshore, though there was a risk it could creep in at any time.

We also knew that Half Moon Bay was our home harbor and we'd sailed into it often. We decided to head to the outer marker and make a final decision then.

Five hours later, the night was dark, crisp and still clear, and we let the channel markers guide Landfall to her new home.

California to Alabama

This is a very short story. We sailed Landfall from Half Moon Bay to Alameda, on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, about a 6 hour trip.

Then, a big crane took the masts off Landfall. A "Travel-lift" picked her up out of the water, and she was placed on a big flatbed trailer.

A truck pulled her 2,300 miles across the country, all the way to Mobile, Alabama. She was put back in the water and her masts were put back on, and she was ready to go!

Back to Current Log