A decade ago, as we watched the America’s Cup races
on TV, we longed to watch a race
in person from the water. Last week, we got our chance. The current America’s Cup defender is the Golden Gate Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay. The races scheduled for October 2-7th have been on our calendar since we realized
our trip to the area would coincide.
We wanted to get Dirona within dinghy distance of the course, so we
anchored for the night
outside the South Harbor marina breakwater
off AT&T park, about three miles from the course. We were weren't sure
how rough our anchorage might get due to boat wakes and the afternoon winds,
but it turned to be fine. And our view, stretching from downtown San
Francisco and across the Bay bridge was amazing. And we could see the
America's Cup fleet moored nearby: in the
panoramic photo below, their 70-foot masts are visible at the west end
of the Bay bridge just left of the carrier
Before heading out to the course, we stopped off in "the pits" to check out
the boats. Crews already were on board most of them, either preparing the
boat or themselves for the afternoon's event.
The carbon-fiber AC45
catamarans are like Formula I race cars--just amazing technology. At
44' long, with a 900 sq. foot wing on a 70' mast, they weigh only 3,000
pounds and can reach speeds of over 30 knots. Their support boats are
pretty nice too.
Before the races, we got to see our
Blue Angels show of the year, part of the
Fleet Week festivities. We were a
little closer to the action this time and had an awesome view. The shoreline
and bay were full of people out to see the show as well.
And then for the main event. The racing was exciting--boy those boats move
fast--and it was just wild to be there watching on San Francisco Bay with the
Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
There even was some excitement off the course as well. The boat on the
right, maneuvering through the spectators, nearly ran us over in the dinghy
before colliding with the sailboat on the left.
After the races, some of the teams towed their boats back to their moorage,
but a few sailed back. The boats ran incredibly well in the rough
water--just skimming across the surface. We barely could keep up in our
30-knot dinghy, often having to slow down through larger wakes. And with
some impressive tight-quarters boat-handling, team Artemis even sailed right
onto their buoy.
Shortly after we arrived, the Prada boat was lifted out of the water by
crane. We could see a large dent in the side, but weren't sure if that was
the reason for lifting it.
The AC45s will race in several venues around the world as part of the
World Series. These boats are designed for quick assembly and
disassembly to fit in a 40-foot shipping container. The final races, for the Louis
Vuitton Cup and the America's Cup, will be raced in the
massive AC72s. The
AC72s are roughly twice the size of the AC45s: 72' long, with a 131' mast
and a 2,800 sq.-foot wing area, and weighing 13,000 lbs. Their crew size is
11, compared to 5 on the AC45s.
We'd seen defending champion team Oracle's AC72 out for its world open-water
debut a couple of weeks ago. We clocked them on radar at 31.5 knots, and it
will be capable of doing considerably more. We saw team Oracle's AC72 again
this past weekend. The huge mast dwarfed the eleven crew below it as the
boat sped across the bay.
Late last week, we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and cruised
south to our new temporary home at
impressive Westpoint Harbor Marina.
from Seattle started out with wonderfully calm conditions through the
Strait of Juan de Fuca--amongst the best we've experienced there. We originally had planned to run a good 50 miles offshore to avoid
boat traffic and crab pots. But a storm was brewing with gale-force winds
and 14-foot seas predicted between 60 and 250 miles offshore, so we instead
ran within 10 miles of shore where better conditions were predicted. The
winds still were 30-knot with 12-foot seas, but that was an
improvement over the alternative.
After about 24 hours of big winds, conditions settled back down and we
had a relaxing cruise into the San Francisco area.
To avoid entering the busy San Francisco Bay in the dark, we anchored for a night at
Drakes Bay. We had both navigation reasons for delaying our entry, in
addition to better photo opportunities. We'd have to first cross the San
Francisco bar, best done at slack or on a flood current. During large ebbs,
the current there can reach 6 knots. And when ocean storms are pushing waves
westward in the opposite direction, steep 20' seas can develop there. Once across the bar, Golden Gate itself is only 0.7 miles across and busy
with ship traffic.
We enjoyed the stop at Drakes Bay--steep hills surround the
anchorage on three sides, with a view south towards San Francisco.
And the entire peninsula forms the
Point Reyes National
Seashore. Had we not been so eager to reach our destination, we
likely would have spent some time exploring ashore, particularly
visiting the Point Reyes Lighthouse we'd passed on our way into the
But eager to arrive we were, so we left Drakes Bay early the next morning
and arrived at the San Francisco bar about an hour before high-water slack.
an easy cruise under the bridge, past the city, and south through the Bay. We'll be spending the next
few weeks here exploring the area, before continuing on to Hawaii.
Our log for the trip is below. You also can display
these, along with a detailed route, on the map view.
09/07/12, 8:00pm: Dusk
We're at the east entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Conditions are excellent: 6 knots of wind, calms seas and clear skies. The cruise ship Amsterdam just passed heading to Alaska and still is visible in the distance, aglow with light.
09/08/12, 4:22am: Tatoosh Island
Conditions in the strait stayed wonderfully calm the entire time.
We're now in thick fog off Tatoosh Island, and southerly winds are generating a tight chop on the bow.
09/08/12, 5:00pm: Off Ocean Shores
A salmon fishing opening is in effect--we're seeing a lot more traffic than on our previous run to the Columbia River. Conditions settled a bit, but now we're in S 15-knot winds with tight 4-6' seas on the bow. We've got gale-force winds predicted for Mon-Wed, so its definately going to get worse.
09/09/12, 1:00pm: Heading closer to shore
We're past the Columbia River bar--this is the southnernmost we've ever been with Dirona. Winds have been steady 15, but its been doing that for days, so waves are pretty close together. There's a gale coming with winds up to 35 knots and 14-foot seas. The conditions are predicted to be better close to shore, so we've hading that way now and will continue that distance from shore down the coast. Heading towards shore also lets us run diagonaly across the short swell, which is both more comfortable and much faster.
09/10/12, 4:30am: Off Cape Blanco
We're just over halfway to San Franciso now--we've got 365 mile left out of 837. Conditions are exellent now--calm seas and we're making great time compared to bow-into the waves yesterday. The weather prediction for within 10 of shore has worsened, but still is better than offshore.
09/10/12, 1:00pm: Winds 25-30 knots
The bad weather has arrived. Winds are N 25-30, generating tight 7-9' seas. The only good thing as that we are running with the waves, rather than against them, so we're still able to make decent time. Conditions are expected to worsen, with 10-12' seas tonight, and then start to ease off tomorrow morning.
09/10/12, 6:30pm: 15-degree rolls
Winds are steady 30 with 10-12' seas. The range in the roll guage pictured is from -20 to +20 in 5-degree increments. Even with hydraulic stablizers running at maximum output, we're still rolling 15 degrees each side.
09/10/12, 8:30pm: Approaching Cape Mendocino
Conditions much improved. The wind has dropped to 10-20 knots and the waves to 7-9'. The waves still are big, but aren't nearly as fierce as a couple of hours ago.
09/11/12, 5:10am: North of Fort Bragg
Conditions were reasonable rounding Cape Menocino, but worsened not far south. Winds blew 30-knots most of the graveyard shift, with 10-12' seas to match. The wind has again settled back down into the 20s, with mostly 7-9' seas again.
09/11/12, 7:00am: Sunrise
The sun just rose on what promises to be a good running day: winds are down to around 10 knots, the waves are 5-6', and the sky is clear and blue.
09/11/12, 12:05pm: Fog
The clear skies gave way to a thick fog late this morning. Winds are blowing around 10 from the SW--not much of a problem except we're getting a good saltwater bath from the spray. Our ETA to Golden Gate is the middle of the night, so we're thinking of stopping in Drakes Bay tonight and proceeding through Golden Gate tomorrow morning. Hopefully the fog will lift and we'll actually be able to see the bridge.
09/11/12, 6:20pm: Land ho!
The lighthouse at Pt Reyes, hung of the cliff, makes a dramatic display. Land actually has been ho for a while, but this particular land is more interesting to us because we plan to anchor at Drakes Bay for the night.
09/11/12, 7:15pm: Our first California anchorage
The engines are off after four days straight, the anchor is down, and the wine is poured. Time for a relaxing meal and a full night's sleep. For our first California anchorage, it's a pretty nice one. Steep hills are on three sides and we have a clear view south towards San Francicso.
09/12/12, 6:44am: Heading to Golden Gate
Got up just before sunrise and we're all excited to be heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge (even Spitfire).
09/12/12, 9:20am: Pilot Boat San Francisco
We're in the lanes with the Golden Gate Bridge just visible in the distance. Conditions are overcost, but not socked in.
09/12/12, 10:00am: Approaching Golden Gate
09/12/12: Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge
09/12/12: Fort Point
Masonry fort under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
09/12/12: San Francisco
09/12/12: Alcatraz Island
09/12/12: Port of San Francisco
09/12/12: Passing under the Bay Bridge
09/12/12: Westpoint Harbor Marina
Lunch on deck in our new temporary home. Westpoint Harbor Marina
is an impressive new facility with excellent services.
Today we set off from Seattle to do some longer-range cruising. Our goal is to cross over to Hawaii, and we'll figure out the next step from there. Insurance restrictions discourage travel in the area between June and November, during the northern hemisphere hurricane season. May was too soon to leave, and we didn't want leave Seattle and travel through the North Pacific in November during the winter storm season. So we'll first be travelling to the San Francisco area to stay there temporarily for 4-6 weeks until we cross over to Hawaii in October. This also puts us
200 miles closer--Hawaii is about 2,200 miles from San Francisco and about 2,400 from the Seattle area. The prevailing winds and currents are better on this more southerly route as well.
We've just finished a new feature on the web site that shows a real-time plot of
Dirona's location. A small version of the live chart is on the blog site above, and a large one is at:
In the image at right
(click to enlarge it), the blue line is the plot of our track. Each blue square on the line shows the time and speed at that location if you
put the cursor on them. And the red square with the star shows our current
location. The blue paddle icons represents a log entry along the way, the red one being the most recent.
Click on a paddle to see details for that entry.
Each map also has a refresh button that you can click to refresh just the map data (rather than the whole page).
As we sail south, we're leaving one of the most beautiful cruising areas
in the world and perhaps the nicest marina we've ever stayed at.
Bell Harbor Marina, in the core of downtown Seattle, is a special
place. Below are some of what we've seen since our cruise on the
Columbia and Snake River system. You also can display
these on the
05/17/12: Echo Bay, Sucia Island
Sucia Island is one of our long-time favorite anchorages in the San Juan Islands. A few early-season boats are here, and the beautiful tractor tug Lindsay Foss preceded us in. We suspect it is waiting for a ship to escort into Anacortes.
05/18/12: Cap Sante Boat Haven, Anacortes
At Anacortes for Trawler Fest
. We'll be presenting Saturday morning.
05/19/12: Padilla Bay
Maersk Cameron at the Anacortes refinery near our anchorage in Padilla Bay
05/21/12: Pier 57 Ferris Wheel
05/25/12: Tramp Harbor
Beachcombing during low tide at Point Heyer.
05/26/12: Morning sun
Calm waters off the KVI tower.
Scuba divers at the fish haven off Point Heyer.
05/27/12: Murden Cove
Landslide off our anchorage at Murden Cove. Shoring that up looks like an expensive operation.
06/01/12: Celebrity Infinity
Celebrity Infinity leaving its berth at pier 66 as we leave ours.
06/08/12: Hanjin Geneva
The Hanjin Geneva en route from Seattle, viewed from our anchorage at Murden Cove.
06/15/12: Bell Street Classic Weekend
The classic wooden yacht Olympus
coming alongside for the Bell Street Classic Weekend
shortly before we left the marina for Murden Cove.
06/16/12: Ballard Locks
Returning out through the big lock after picking up a a load of fuel this morning at Covich-Williams. The small lock temporarily is closed. They sure pack a lot of boats in there--and this isn't even a busy day.
06/18/12: Old engines ...
... don't like starting.
06/18/12: Norwegian Pearl
When the cruise ships leave pier 66, you can almost touch them from the Edgewater Hotel patio.
Mini hydroplane tearing through Quartermaster Harbor.
07/06/12: Celebrity Infinity
Celebrity Infinity coming alongside at pier 66 early this morning.
Sunset from Yukon Harbor.
Looking west from Yukon Harbor in the early morning light.
07/08/12: Boat inspection
Department of Fish and Wildlife on a boat inspection.
07/13/12: Rich Passage I
Kitsap Transit's fast ferry Rich Passage I
en route from Seattle to Bremerton.
Sunset from the anchorage.
07/15/12: USCGC Stratton
The piracy threat level is probably about -2 at Bell Harbor today with the 418-foot US Coast Guard Cutter Stratton
07/16/12: Into the fog
The US Coast Guard Cutter Stratton
heading into a foggy Puget Sound this morning.
07/16/12: Fire boat
Testing the pumping systems off Pier 66.
07/20/12: Blakely Harbor
sent us this picture he took of Dirona
anchored at Blakely Harbor with the Seattle skyline in the background.
We're anchored at the head of Dyes Inlet for Silverdale's annual Whaling Days
. The public dock is packed for the event.
Friday-night fireworks at Silverdale's Whaling Days
. The show was impressive: we were only a few hundred yards away from the barge and felt like we were right underneath.
07/28/12: The Joey James Dean Band
The Joey James Dean Band on stage Saturday night at Silverdale's Whaling Days
07/31/12: Nearly-full moon
A nearly-full moon rising over the Seattle skyline next to the mast of the HMCS Oriole
08/01/12: Bringing in the colors
08/05/12: On the TravelLift
Racoons gathering breakfast at low tide off Blakely Island. At least a dozen are out there.
Parasailer just lifting above the city, viewed from the dinghy in Elliott Bay.
Sunrise over Seattle this morning.
08/23/12: And you think your salon is small ...
Last night we watched the occupant of this tent stow all manner of gear in his craft, moored along the tribal docks at Bell Harbor. It looks like he's heading of for a big trip.
Seattle at dawn as we approach Bell Harbor this morning from Blakely Harbor.
Moonrise over Port Madison.
Dawn as we leave Port Madison heading towards Hood Canal.
Fishers packed Point No Point this morning. Even more are outside the picture frame.
08/31/12: Sea monster
This driftwood sea monster has been on Pt. Hannon as long as we've been visiting Hood Canal.
08/31/12: Hood Canal Bridge
Heading under the Hood Canal bridge. The clearance is 30', but we had about 5' to spare on a 7' tide.
Fog lifting over the Ballistic submarine sevice hanger at Bangor.
08/31/12: Wild ride
Enjoying the warm weather and calm seas off Sunset Beach.
The head of Hood Canal is a much cozier-feeling anchorage than the chart implies--we quite like it. We were here two years ago for July 4th
and had a great time. A few small boats buzz about during the day, but nobody else is anchored--the place is calm and silent at night. And this time we had a visitor: Rachel, who co-owns one of the nearby houses, paddled out with a bottle of wine to introduce herself, and came on board for an enjoyable visit.
Sunrise from Lilliwaup Bay.
09/02/12: Whitney Point
We're tucked against the shore in a small cove off the Whitney Point spit. The anchorage is a little deep and tight for swing room close to shore, but its such a pretty spot that we had to make it work.
Last weekend, for the first time ever, we took in some
Seafair events up-close. Normally
we're on vacation in August, since that works best with both of our work
schedules, and are leaving the area just as Seafair is starting up.
The unlimited class hydroplane races for the
Weekend. The race and many of the supporting events take place inside
the Ballard Locks
on Lake Washington,
but one is located right at Bell Harbor Marina where we moor: the
Maritime Celebration. Two of the participating vessels, the destroyer
and the HMCS Oriole,
had been moored at pier 66 much of the week.
Rather than leave for a weekend anchorage as we usually do Friday night, we
opted to stay at Bell Harbor Marina to tour the ships Saturday morning.
The pictures below are looking across Dirona to the Halsey
from shore, and looking back the other way from the pier 66 breakwater just
before we boarded the destroyer. The breakwater is a secure area and, even
though we'd live at pier 66 for over three years, this was the first time we'd
actually been up there.
The 509' Halsey was launched in 2005 and is capable of speeds exceeding 30
knots. The firepower on board is formidable. The 5-inch gun below is
accurate to 13 miles. At right is a close-up view of the gun's
remote-operated guidance system, above the bridge on the ship's stack.
The ship can launch a variety of missiles, including Tomahawks, from the bay
at left below, and also has two tubes for launching torpedoes. And it carries two MK III Helicopters that are moved on and off deck on the tracks
shown below right.
Up to 11 50-caliber machine guns can be mounted on deck, with an additional
40-caliber machine bugs on the bridge.
The bridge is packed with navigation and control equipment. It also
has the only windows on the ship, but they aren't very large.
After touring the Halsey, we returned the marina to board the
moored inside the marina. The wooden sailing ship was built in 1921,
originally as a pleasure craft, and was later donated to the Canadian Navy. The
Oriole is both the oldest vessel in the Canadian Naval fleet, and the
longest serving. The vessel is used for training purposes and for public
relations. As you would expect from a navy vessel, the boat was maintained
We left Bell Harbor after our tours to anchor for the night. To provide security
for the destroyer, all vessels required a Coast Guard escort to enter or leave
Sunday morning, we locked through to freshwater en route to Canal Boatyard for
anti-fouling paint. The locks were packed with small boats, presumably heading to
Seafair on Lake Washington. At bottom right we are moored along the wall at the
We've never had any desire to take our main boat to the events at Seafair--it's
a bit of madhouse--but we figured it would be fun to take the dinghy to see the
US Navy Blue Angels
performance. We've not before seen so much traffic in the waterway en route to Lake
Washington--even with a 7-knot speed limit, the water was pretty chopped up from
wakes. And when we left the speed-limit area, the wakes from all the boat
were huge. At first we thought it was wind waves, but the water calmed
once we reached the area where most of the boats were stopped.
Literally thousands of boats were there for the Blue Angels show.
And what a show it was. The jets fly incredibly close to each other, and so
close to us sometimes we could clearly see the pilots inside.
When we were deciding on equipment for the
52, one of the things we
considered was replacing the standard Sub-Zero 700TCI
refrigerator/freezer with one
that is more energy-efficient. Home appliances, with self-defrosting freezers
and ice makers, generally are designed for applications where power is plentiful. We'd
heard complaints from other Nordhavn owners that the Sub-Zero power draw was excessive.
In our marine application, we'd often be off-grid on battery power, and would
need to run the generator to charge the batteries. The greater the power
draw, the more often we'd need to run the generator. In the Sub-Zero's favor,
other owners had raved about the quality of the unit, almost more than seems reasonable. After
all, it is just a refrigerator.
Another concern we had with the Sub-Zero
700TCI was it's unusual dimensions. We've tried hard to avoid having any
non-standard equipment that limits our replacement choices should the unit
fail. For example, we
increased the galley cabinet depth by two inches to accommodate a standard
Profile dishwasher instead of the 22" Miele that is the standard choice.
While the 15.3cu Sub-Zero fit made good use of the galley space, we couldn't
find another production unit that came close to matching its dimensions of
80" x W 27" x D 24". Side-by-side fridges, although also designed to be
built into the cabintry, were 4-5" deeper and 8-10"
wider. Some companies made a similar design of fridge on top and freezer
drawer below, but these units were still 8-10" wider and 4-5" taller. Standalone
fridges existed that were similar to the Sub-Zero in width, but they were
6-8" deeper. We would have had to make major changes to the galley layout to
accommodate a more standard unit.
The only other option was to have a custom unit built. This we could get
with a more efficient, remote 24-volt compressor. We'd get better power
efficiency with improved servicability. The
refrigerator/freezer would just be a box with few points of failure,
and the remote compressor would be relatively easy to service or replace.
The main downside of these units would be food quality--the custom units generally
are not frost-free and don't control humidity as well as a standard fridge.
In that regard, we expected the custom units to be similar to the 12-volt
refrigerator/freezer we had on our
The boat appliance did not keep food nearly as well as the
side-by-side that we had in our house at the time, and we expected the
Sub-Zero would be better than the GE.
In the end, we stuck with the Sub-Zero 700TCI for the galley. We did, however, change the grill design
while we were at the yard. The standard install includes teak panels, with
a teak grill below to hide the equipment. Several owners felt the grill
restricted the airflow, increasing power consumption, and had removed or
replaced theirs. And we'd been told that Sub-Zeros installed with the
original stainless steel and no teak panels were more
efficient. The teak should provide some extra insulation, so this didn't make sense
until we saw a stainless steel unit installed on a Nordhavn 55 in the yard:
the space below was open with no grill. So we changed our design to match,
with just a teak piece that extends from the bottom freezer drawer to
partially cover the equipment, and no grill. In addition to improving
airflow, this also makes cleaning dust buildup there much easier.
did make one refrigeration change to install a 24-volt
Dometic RPF-50 freezer in the lazarette. At the time, the separate
freezer option for the 52 was a
Sub-Zero UC-24C fridge/freezer combo installed in the stairwell to the
staterooms. We didn't like the idea of having the unit in the stairwell,
partly because that's conveniently accessible space to give up for something
that we'd not have to access frequently. But, more importantly, a freezer
failure could send smelly meat fluids down into the cabinetry and be near
impossible to clean. And we wanted a full freezer, not a combo unit, so we
opted for the Dometic instead.
Having had the boat for over two years now, we are very happy
with the decision to keep the Sub-Zero in the galley. Those who extolled
it's virtues were correct: food keeps incredibly well. When we go on longer
trips, we use the same tricks that we did with the previous boat to keep
food fresh. In particular, we use Evert-Fresh or
Debbie Meyer food-preserving bags. The
bags allow gases to escape, and keep fruit and vegetables fresher longer.
Since moisture can speed up spoilage, we put a paper towel in each bag and
replace the towel when it is damp. We’ve had good luck with all kinds of
produce, including green onions, lettuce, corn, lemons and artichokes. With
the marine refrigerator we had back then, this doubled or tripled the shelf life, depending on the
product. With the Sub-Zero, the shelf life is quadrupled or more. The
picture taken below is a head of Romaine lettuce four weeks after purchase,
and it still was fresh even after six weeks.
We're also happy with our choice of the Dometic for the lazarette. We only
use it for longer trips, but it allows us to stock up on bread, meats, etc
and not need to stop for groceries for well over a month. The Dometic isn't
frost-free, however, and we have found that food such as ice cream doesn't
keep well long-term there compared to the Sub-Zero--more support for keeping
the Sub-Zero. The marine fridge/freezer on the previous boat was not
frost-free either, and we'd annually need to defrost it to remove thick ice
build-up. So far we'd not had to do that with the Dometic--ice just doesn't
build up. This may be partly due to our not opening it frequently when in
use, that we only power it on for a few months at a time, or it might be
a higher quality unit.
While the Sub-Zero does consume more power than the other options, we're
very happy to have it.
The boat is pretty power hungry, and while we've not measured it, we don't
feel the Sub-Zero is a major a contributor to the overall power draw. Having
fresh produce last longer makes us more self-sufficient--diesel is much more readily available in certain parts of the world
than is fresh produce. This also allows us to last longer between stops, even if fresh
produce were readily available. We've designed the boat for self-sufficiency,
and having to the run the generator to top off the batteries is comparatively not that big an issue.