Welcome to The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - July & August 2017

37 52 North. 122 29 West

It's time to build to build a new team and head off on a fresh ocean adventure.

Imagine a perfect Californian afternoon. Blue skies, steady breeze keeping the temperature down and Spanish music playing as I’m sitting in the Seahorse restaurant catching up on emails on their wifi network.

I’m 2 minutes away from the KKMI boatyard where Aretha, our 53 Yacht has been out of the water for the past 6 days. The boatyard has been my home in that time. Living 10 feet in the air and climbing up a ladder to get to and from home is a reminder of the different places we’ve been hauled out of the water - Portugal, Fiji and South Africa. There has been a steady cross wind blowing and although Aretha looks steady in the supports holding her up, she still wobbles in the wind. Its been very peaceful staying here - just the odd Mosquito for company in the evening (at least until I re-discovered our stack of anti-mossie kit on board).

It’s been a year since I’ve sailed Aretha and she has been in need of some TLC to bring her back to ocean ready state. We have some expedition ahead of us for the next month and she needs to be in fine form. The plan is an estimated 2,000 mile round trip sailing to British Columbia and back for the month of August. British Columbia an area that I’ve heard a lot about and is meant to be stunningly beautiful. Sailing through the San Juan islands, Orca’s, Eagle and snowy capped mountains as a backdrop. A common thread I’ve heard is that I won’t want to sail back down afterwards!

I have a brand new team to build for the sail North which will almost certainly provide the toughest challenge for us. We don't have long to gel together as a team before we hit the rough stuff so we'll be straight into how do we work best together. We have three strong and very different personalities. First up is Jani - not only is he great company and a brilliant sailor. He also happens to be a fantastic engineer and an amazing chef. Next up is my good friend Pete - he has more sea miles than anyone else I know from his time in the US Navy and we’ll be in his back yard as we sail up past Newport, Oregon. Pete was the Captain on Wayward Wind, one of the boats we sailed on the World ARC with and I’m looking forward to my first time actually sailing with him. Last and by no means least is Ellis - a man on his own mission to sail the worlds oceans with his family and an experienced sailor with an unquenchable energy and enthusiasm. 

The passage North from San Francisco has the potential to provide a baptism of headwinds and heavy seas making for a wet passage. It will be a wake-up call for all of us. Looking at the forecasts, it looks as though the weather gods may be smiling on us for the first few days and providing some benign conditions as we all find our sea legs and Aretha gets into the rhythm of the oceans again.

The plan is for the four of us to sail North, round Cape Flattery and then head downwind into the Straits of Juan De Fuca making our first stop at Victoria. From there, we’ll head out and spend a few days exploring the islands and the beautiful anchorages.

My second crew will then join me up there as my first crew fly back for family commitments in Europe and the States. My second crew will be my family. Nichola, Bluebell, Columbus and Willow. It’ll be the first time back sailing on Aretha for a little while - Bluebell last sailed into St Lucia, Nichola and Willow flew back from Panama whilst Columbus sailed Aretha all the way to San Francisco with me. We will also be joined by my youngest sister Jess for her first time sailing on Aretha too. 

As a family, we’ll explore the islands around Vancouver Island and get a small taster for the future. We haven’t a huge amount of time until we turn Aretha around and we’ll canter downwind back down the coast to San Francisco. It should be a lot faster going South than North. 

I’ve been onboard now for 8 days and have been working through a substantial list of never ending boat jobs - a small sample of what it takes to get an Ocean going yacht ready….

- Liferaft sent away for serving - Check.

- Hauled out and anti-fouled - Check

- Change the anodes - Check

- Change the cutlass bearing on the prop shaft - Check

- Fit a new forward head - Check

- Fit new windlass switches - Check

- Service lifejackets - Check

- Service winches - Check

- Service safety equipment - Check

- Inspect diesel tanks (and using Captain Stefan’s new Diesel Dipp System) - Check

- Top up the batteries - Check

- Flares and Fire Extinguishers - Check.

- Steering all working - Check

- Nav systems and Autopilot all working - Check.

Sailors are always an extremely helpful group of people and I’m super grateful for all the help I’ve had the past week from my good friends Neil and Rob. They have made my life a lot easier with the knowledge and expertise turning half day jobs into hour long jobs.

Rig checks, Engine and Generator Service to be done after we back in the water. Fixing up Satcoms and emails to be done too. Test sail planned to make sure all sails are working. We had a full service on the sails when we arrived here last year so fingers crossed all are good.

It’s not a comprehensive list but you get the idea. On the plus side, I’ve had no child distractions so I’ve been able to press on at good speed. Heaven knows how we used to do all this with three small children around us all the time. Just emptying the lockers for spares and tools creates enough chaos without a pile of lego and three kids thrown into the mix.

I think we are looking in reasonable shape. Can’t wait to welcome my fresh team into town this weekend, to slip lines and head out under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, turn right and head North on our expedition. We’ll have to get our values prizes going again and inducting our new crew into the Team Aretha way of doing things.

Have an awesome day everyone,

From an excited Team Aretha in San Francisco, Out.