And so it begins, with a run to Seattle
And so it begins! Ciamar made the 1000 mile trip from Vallejo to Seattle Elliot Bay
On the sage advice of Nikolay from SanDiegoCaptains.com, we pulled in our departure date a few days to get outside the Gate in time to make enough northern progress in order to avoid an incoming storm. Camo and Steve joined up with me aboard Ciamar for our 6:30 am departure on high tide from Vallejo, where we were greeted by wonderful rainbow just as soon as we pushed off. We all took that as a great omen for our trip.
We steamed down to the SF Marina and got there just as Captain Nikolay arrived from the airport. After meeting and pleasantries, and Captains confirmation that the vessel was ready to go on this trip, we pulled in lines and headed out toward the Golden Gate bridge. We’ve been outside the Gate many times, but this is the first time we were headed out with plans to keep on going.
It was surely a ‘nautical’ departure at this point. Steep, rapid 12ft seas rose in front of Ciamar as if to test our mettle and see if we were serious enough mariners to keep going. Although we thought that we stowed everything that moves before we left, we were wrong. All sorts of cabinets, drawers and the refrigerator jolted open and flung their contents all around the salon. Steve and Camo did a great job wrangling all the detritus while Captain managed the helm and I tried to debug why our radar went off.
We pressed ahead through those conditions all the way to the exit of the channel, and then turned north. Immediately once we were north of the influence of the SF Bay entrance currents the sea state changed markedly. We spent about the first 24 hours motoring into 12 ft seas, but with a long/slow period between each swell it was just like riding up and down a smoothly undulating road. Hard to walk around, but an easy ride once you were sitting down.
We spent the next few days and nights on constant watch for crab pots, and saw many. Captain and Camo had rigged a powerful LED light bar to the bow that gave us better visibility right in front of the boat at night. This was critical, as most nights were misty and one was downright fog shrouded. Sometimes the pots pop out of nowhere. But in the daytime, sometimes you see the entire string stretching on for miles.
The more north we went, the better was the weather. Nikolay's plan to race north of the incoming system worked perfectly and we found ourselves (after a refueling stop at Crescent City) running into every improving seas and weather. Now, north of the southern system and running east of a new incoming northern system of weather we even benefitted from a 180 degree shift in the wind that swung around behind us and pushed us north for the last few days before reaching the ‘turn’ toward Seattle. The wind shift allowed us to slow down Ciamar’s engines by 100rpm and save about 3 gals/hour of fuel but still run at the same speed we had maintained for the trip.
We made the turn into the Strait of Juan De Fuca around sunset on the fourth day and decided to anchor in the nearby Neah Bay and wait for morning to run the Strait. There can be a LOT of logs in the Strait, and we decided better to do the last 90 miles in mostly daylight. Running over a crab pot can ruin your day, but hitting a log can put you in the yard and ruin your whole trip.
The mood aboard the trip was very professional, and Steve and I enjoyed our turns doing night watches and even doing the few debug and repairs that were needed to be done underway. But as we all got to know each other, and fueled by the much improving weather, the trip evolved to feel more like a bunch of guys out for a joy ride in calm seas with following wind. And as we approached Seattle, we all got really antsy to finish the trip and everyone began feverishly working their phones to setup flights and sort out what’s next after reaching the dock.
As we approached Seattle, I got a text from a friend who knew we were coming that they were tracking us on AIS and were driving over to the west side of the island to see us transit through. So, I asked Captain to swing over closer to the right side of the channel in order to make a closer pass. After jokingly protesting the change of plans that would take him off his meticulously prepared route, he steered us over for a bit of a ‘drive by’ before pointing for Elliot Bay Marina and taking us in.
This could have been a much rougher trip, for sure. But I credit the professionalism and experience of our delivery team (Captain Nikolay and his first mate Camo the Pirate) with guiding this adventure safely through the eye of the weather needle. I am also delighted at the performance of Ciamar on her maiden northern passage, uphill. It took a lot of preparation. A LOT. And I want to thank and recognize Chuck of Admiralty Diesel in particular for picking up the pieces of a mess created by another service and getting Ciamar’s power plant in tip top shape and ready for this trip. I also had substantial help from Steve, Chad, my brother Mark and Audric on many projects over the last few months and Ciamar would definitely not been ready to leave on schedule without all of their help and that of many others.
This is the inaugural post of our bucket list trip to take our own boat to Glacier Bay Alaska and back. Subscribe to this blog to keep in touch with Ciamar’s adventures over the next few months. We will be northbound toward Juneau on May 16, as the mother ship of the ten boat 2022 Waggoner Guide flotilla to Alaska. From Juneau, we will visit Glacier Bay and then turn back south for an inside passage return to Seattle in time for 4th of July weekend. After that, we will see Nikolay and Camo again on a southbound return down the coast, back to our home slip in Vallejo.