September 13, 2005

Bodega Bay to Half Moon Bay

After checking the updated weather report at 0545, we got ready and departed at 0700 with a forecast of 5 to 15 knots of wind, 1’ to 3’ wind waves and 3’ to 5’ swells, all from the NW.

I have decided to take the outside route straight south from Point Reyes as the inside route would still put us over 7 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge so it is doubtful we could even see it or at least not well.  The tide will be starting to ebb from SF Bay and with the prevailing winds and swells, could get rather choppy in close.  Further out should be better though we will have three Vessel Traffic Lanes to cross and there is typically a lot of ship traffic in and out of SF.  Right now, visibility is good with light fog, especially towards land.  Winds are 5 to 8 out of the W.  We will be passing by the Farallon  Islands and will be in their lee as we pass through the traffic lanes.

We decided we will probably stay over at Half Moon Bay a day or two, maybe more.  We both want to get into cruise mode and out of transit mode and HMB seems like a good place to do it.  That will also be a good place to fuel up and check out systems on Dreamer, especially in the engine room and the steering/autopilot systems, they have been working hard.  Probably time to pull some fluid samples and mail off to Titan Laboratories for analysis.

I am very pleased with the Gulf Coast bypass oil filters on the main engines and genset.  Oil is kinda black, but obviously much cleaner.  After getting the lab results from Titan, I will establish initial filter change intervals.

We can’t believe how cold, foggy and damp this trip down the West Coast has been!  I generally try to stay in shorts and tee shirts all summer, but put my jeans on yesterday and have kept a long sleeve denim shirt handy since leaving Oak Harbor.  Definitely not warm summer weather yet!  But that will change soon….we hope. 

We are presently (1020) crossing the first of three Vessel Traffic Lanes in and out of SF and so far, no close encounters of that kind.  Thick overcast but good visibility, about the best we could hope for.

I have been experimenting with the Digital Antenna wireless cell phone signal boosting (supposedly) system and have found absolutely no increase in signal strength unless I get to within 3' of the little antenna inside and then only what might be expected using a remote outside antenna.  That is helpful at times of marginal signal strength, but falls far short of their claims, IMHO.  I will be contacting them to see if they can resolve this problem satisfactorily and will write a full report here when I have all the information.  Based upon my past experiences with them after purchasing their equipment, I am not hopeful.

In the meantime, if I were asked my opinion, I would suggest waiting until I know more and perhaps looking at some of the other products out there.  If you find any worth considering, please email me with the info.

Spoke too soon!   We just had a close encounter with that kind (BIG ships).  We had just crossed the outbound lane of the Main Vessel Traffic Lane and were just entering the Separation Zone (that's like an ally ally in free zone for little boats like Dreamer).  I had been monitoring one ship coming in about ten miles out on our starboard side as well as another ship outbound about ten miles to port.  There was another tanker to starboard about 12 miles out.  I had to calculate their speeds and positions to determine whether we could pass in front of them or wait for  them to pass before continuing to cross the inbound lane.  I had just finished making the calculations and concluded that we could safely pass in front of the first ship.  To get a little extra margin for safety, I advanced the throttles, expecting to see the tachs increase from 1850 RPM to about 2200 RPM, which I intended to run at for about 20 minutes.

Nothing happened!  No increase in RPM!  Now I have Mathers electronic controls and had to process what had happened or not with that fact along with checking the gauges to confirm.  I brought the throttles back to see if they responded and they did.  However, the starboard engine came down way too fast and almost quit but caught and idled.  I could not get it above idle.  Vacuum gauges showed zero vacuum.  So, I altered course to a parallel course with the ships in the separation zone, checked to be sure the port engine was operating OK, Kath took the helm and I went into the engine room with the port engine at about 1200 and the stbd at about 600.

All looked OK, controls connected, no air bubble in the secondary John Deere glass filter, main Racor filter looked clean and I saw no water in the bottom of it.  The only thing I could think of was a fuel problem at that point.  So I switched main Racor filters and went back up to the helm.  Advanced the throttle in neutral and the engine slowly advanced and came up to maximum RPM.  I put it in gear and brought both engines up to 1500 and all was OK.  So, at this point, I have to suspect either water or a clogged filter.  Air would have shown at the secondary.  If a clogged filter, the vacuum gauge is not working and it is new.  Will pull some fuel off the sumps in Half Moon Bay tomorrow to see what is going on and will probably change the main Racor filter, at least drain off any water.  We stayed in the separation zone and passed the stern of the second ship and continued on our way.

As we were approaching the third and last VTL, our radar picked up another large ship about 12 miles to stbd coming in.  I tracked it for a few minutes to get an idea of its speed and I calculated close to 28 knots!  Uh oh, time to pay close attention.  I continued to track and time it and confirmed the speed and the fact that we may have a problem with our course.  We entered the outbound VTL and continued to monitor figuring it would pass in front of us and we could slow down or hang out in the separation zone.   As it came closer, I checked it our with the binoculars and it was a large fully loaded container ship and it was heading straight for us which didn't make sense as that would put it out of the VTL.  I continued monitoring it with radar and the binoculars and finally I could see its stbd side which meant that we had passed its course and it would pass behind us.  As time went on and we entered the separation zone, I could see more of its stbd side and my concern was that it would make a course change and enter the VTL.  It didn't and appeared to be heading for the main channel VTL, so we dodged that bullet!  We arrived in Pillar Point Marina at 1600 and tied up to assigned our slip without any further events.

September 14, 2005

We have checked the weather reports and have decided to stay here in HMB today, take a walk into town and check it out, maybe pick up a few supplies, fuel up and drop the hook out in HMB which is really Pillar Point Harbor.  The weather reports were generally good and we intend to leave tomorrow for either Santa Cruz or Monterey.  If Santa Cruz then on to Monterey the next day and hang out there for a few days.