Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded Sockdolager (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016, Sockdolager found new owners, and we began cruising on Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. But in 2024 we had the chance to buy Sockdolager back (we missed her), so we sold Raven. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Crescent City, Northern California

It was a rainy, foggy, and sometimes bumpy ride, but we sure went fast. At around 11am we pulled in here after 56 hours and 283 miles. That's fast for our boat. We motor sailed and leaving SF when we did to catch the southerly winds payed off.

It turns out that the harbor here is being rebuilt - fixing damage from the last two tsunamis. We were I initially told by the harbor master that there was no room for us at a dock due to the construction. But after talking a little more she said that if there was room at the "work dock" we could take it. Well there was a Dana sized spot at the end of a row big commercial fishing boat so here we are.

We'll rest up for a couple of days and wait for the next weather window to continue north.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Heading North

We had really planned to stay in the bay longer but a rare south wind is predicted starting tomorrow (Monday) so we are going to take advantage of it. At 6:25am we should be passing under the Golden Gate Bridge - first stop Eureka (230 miles).

Part four of "the shipping news" is rumbling around in Karen's head and will pop out sooner or later.

Many thanks to all our friends here who have been so helpful and hospitable.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Shipping News, Part 3

The view from our cabin's porthole was always good.
For anyone new to this blog, we put our boat on a Hamburg-Sud container ship in New Zealand on May 19, and then boarded the same ship as passengers, and sailed for 19 days to San Francisco, California. In the last post we described the loading of Sockdolager (and one America's Cup boat) onto the M/V Hugo Schulte.  In this post we describe life at sea, and in the next post, the arrival and adventures we had as Sockdolager was lowered to the water by ship's crane.

Top of the wheelhouse. 
Life at sea aboard a container ship:  There’s a lot to look at on a 19-day voyage, even when the horizon’s all blue water and you’re so far out to sea that birds are a rarity.  In good weather you can stick your head through the forward hawse hole and watch the bow’s bulb keel plow through the water like a steel whale. 

Or you can enjoy the artiness of “industrial chic.”

You can look at the foaming fizzy wake and imagine little infinite galaxies in it.

Or, perhaps, sea monsters…

You can spend all the time you want in the wheelhouse, scanning the horizon for ships.  But few will be seen; it’s a big ocean.

A well-maintained ship is a joy to be on.  The crew is always busy, and on good weather days they can be seen high aloft in a bosun’s chair or on deck doing what crew on metal ships do:  painting.  This is the brake for the giant gear that runs the port bow anchor.

And this is part of the gear mechanism for that anchor.

Food, glorious food:  As it is with most vessels at sea, meals are the main event, which puts the pressure on Cookie.  Lunch is the main meal, with salad, soup, and a meat-and-potatoes, European style meal.  Dinner is another full meal.  Although a full breakfast is offered, Jim and I tended to skip it and have coffee and a snack in our cabin.  Just for fun, we asked RJ, our steward, to give us a tour of the ship’s freezers and food refrigerators, which are kept locked in order to prevent “unauthorized snacking” beyond what’s already available in the galley. 

Here we are communing with cauliflowers in one of the refrigerators.  You can see by the empty shelves that it’ll be re-provisioning time very soon. Hungry crew can consume a LOT of food.  Among the few fresh things left near the end of the voyage, Jim found a giant bag of beets, his favorite vegetable…Not. 

Communing with cauliflowers in the giant fridge
Jim found a fish in one of the freezers kept at minus 20 Celsius.  Brr!

Thank goodness for stairs.  For each mealtime we descended 5 stories to the Officer’s Mess.  Here’s Jim going down what the crew calls the “German Elevator.”  It’s the only way to go up and down decks aboard all the Hamburg-based Thomas Schulte line ships.  Ascending the 101 steps from A deck to the bridge is a good way to tone the legs and work off those hearty meals.  Because this is a cargo ship, and passengers, though well looked after, are more of an afterthought, there are no accommodations for wheelchairs or for the expectations that come with cruise ships. 

There is a noticeable vibration 24/7, and Hamburg-Sud, the company that charters these Thomas Schulte ships, says that people with artificial joints that could become painful after many days of vibration should not book travel aboard.  In order to travel on a container ship you need a medical certificate saying you are well enough to do it, signed by a doctor who has known you for two years.  Since finding such a doctor in New Zealand was impossible, we had to convince the doctor who finally consented to see us that well, hey, since we’d sailed to New Zealand on our own boat, there was a pretty good chance we were fit enough to travel home on a big ship.  He agreed.

Huge treat!  Captain Zoran Mufa told us that it was okay to go see Sockdolager down in the hold, and on a nice calm day, First Officer Alex led the way.

We donned gloves and hard hats and climbed up a ladder.   Then we climbed down another ladder, went along a catwalk and down another. 

Jim, Alex and I checked her over.  We were not allowed to climb aboard, but it was great to see her, and it made us all happy, including Alex, who was amazed that we had sailed that far in her.

Safety drill:  The Captain announced that we would be having a combined abandon ship and fire drill, so once the alarm sounded we donned life jackets and headed for our muster station, on the starboard lifeboat deck. 

Here’s the starboard lifeboat as seen from the level of our cabin.  It’s completely decked over to keep the water out (and, unfortunately, the vomit in.) 

Here’s the inside of the lifeboat looking forward.  That’s Barbara, the other passenger.  The seating area is lined with shoulder and waist straps, to keep people in place if it’s rough. 

Third Officer Igor asked if I wanted to try the controls, so I pulled myself into the helmsman’s seat, started the engine and put it into gear.  We were still hanging in the slings, of course, so we didn’t go anywhere. 

When the abandon ship drill finished, we passengers were led into the galley to yell “Fire!  Fire in the galley!  Hellllp!”  First Officer Alex also shrieked and beat on the door for nice effect.  It took awhile for the crew to don their special fire suits with self-contained air, but soon enough the door opened and they came in.  That’s Igor grinning in the background.

Here’s the underside of the lifeboat, which is a bit longer than Sockdolager. 

Engine Room!  One of the highlights of this voyage was a tour of the engine room.  The engine itself is several stories tall, and dwarfs any concept of mechanical propulsion held previously.  Here we are descending into one of its several decks.

Chief Engineer Lawrence guided us through.  It was necessary to wear ear protection, because the racket is well above the decibel level that would damage ears.  This is a row of injector pumps and fuel tubing.  This engine room is kept clean to yacht standards; no oil drips, spills or spatter were visible anywhere.

These are spare injectors! 

And these tree-trunk sized things are spare pistons.

We saw the generator room and Lawrence also explained the ship’s filtering systems, for fuel oil, fresh water, and bilge water.  Then we went aft to see the enormous prop shaft revolving—it must be two feet thick! Here’s a view from the catwalk.

And here’s a blurry photo of me standing next to it.  We actually ducked underneath the spinning shaft, and could see aft to the huge coupling just inside the hull.  It was five or six feet across.  The prop itself is probably 25-30 feet in diameter, and it moves the ship 7.5 meters with every revolution. 

With a little figuring back in the control room, Lawrence converted liters to gallons, and came up with 35 gallons per hour at low to moderate speed of 14 knots, double that for top speed of 24 knots.  That’s why we’ve been going fairly slowly the whole trip. 

World-Famous Equator Crossing Ceremony:  King Neptune made an appearance as we crossed the Equator.  Notice the spiffy nautical epaulets, and the fancywork around his trident. 

Isn’t this a spiffy crown?  The Hawaiian Punch Guy would approve, no?

Everyone wanted their photos taken with Neptune and Aphrodite!  Here’s RJ, the steward extraordinaire.

Here’s the Captain.

And here we are toasting the occasion with Third Officer Igor and Junior Officer Dimitri.

For a moment things got dicey with Neptune and the Chief Engineer.  Lawrence must have said something about the beard. 

But the Captain got things under control again, and presented passenger Barbara, the only Polliwog aboard, with her official diploma declaring her to be a Shellback.

After a nice dinner, which included a cake baked by RJ especially for the occasion, we all rushed up to the wheelhouse for the official crossing, and First Officer Alex sounded a sonorously satisfying long blast on the ship’s horn as we crossed.   Look close and you can actually see the Equator!  This is a very rare photograph, as it’s not always visible.

Neptune and Aphrodite donated their costumes to the ship, for future ceremonies.  The Captain was pleased, and we think he’ll make a good next Neptune.

The next Neptune!

To be continued…

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Shipping News, Part 2

Shipping Sockdolager (and ourselves) to San Francisco Bay on a container ship.

Our container ship, the M/V Hugo Schulte, leaving a straight wake in the tropics
View from wheelhouse 
Trucking the Boat to the Ship:  Our last few days in New Zealand were very pleasant.  After enjoying a nice brunch with our dear friends Alison and Stuart at the beach in Mount Manganui, we had dinner back at the boatyard with fellow yachties Robbie and Bev aboard Mersoleil.

A beachside farewell brunch with Stuart and Alison
Then it was time to get cracking.  Brian arrived with his travelift, ready to lift all ten tons of Sockdolager and her cradle and flat rack.  Our truck driver, also named Brian, arrived.  He looked at the height of our solar panel and said hmm, better measure that.  He measured it twice, then made a phone call to double-check height clearances.  Then he measured it again.  A very careful fellow, that Brian.  We liked him.

Brian the Trucking Genius
Brian concluded that the boat would be too tall, or too close by mere millimeters, to fit under some road signs and bridges if we put the boat on his rig, so he called a mate named Ian, who had a lower truckbed, and Ian said he’d be right over.  Meanwhile Brian the Travelift Genius (now you see why we had to add the titles) moved Sockdolager to the center of the Hardstand yard.

Brian the Travelift Genius
The owner of the Bridge Marina Hardstand is Bruce Goodchap, and he lived up to his  name by making sure we had everything we needed.

Bruce, a Goodchap
We noticed that Brian’s knees were far dirtier than Bruce’s, and pointed this observation out.  Jim asked Bruce, “Look at those knees, man.  Does Brian work harder than you?”  It was the perfect intro for a chivvying session over who works harder.  Bruce and Brian decided on the spot to have a dirty knees contest.  The winner is obvious, no? 

The Dirty Knees Contest
This was a great way to keep our minds off the worry that the boat would be too tall for the road, and when Ian arrived and backed his huge truck under Sockdolager with the ease that you and I only wish we could even drive forward in, we were amazed.  Brian the Trucking Genius measured the boat’s height again, and said, hmm.  He told us it’d be closer than he normally likes to see, but he planned to drive his own truck behind Ian’s to make certain we would clear each obstacle.  A last resort would be letting air out of the tires, but he was pretty sure we didn’t need to do that, and he was right. 

Precision backing was a treat to watch. 
Time for the run.  Because of a series of low overpasses, we would have to take a roundabout route, getting off the highway and then back on, then off again.  Brian invited Jim to ride with him, and he asked Ian if I could ride in the other truck.  Amazed and pleased that we were both allowed to do this, Jim and I climbed into separate cabs.  Each time Ian needed to move to the center of the road to avoid something, Brian, driving behind, moved his truck to center position first, to clear the way and keep cars from interfering with Ian’s turns. 

We got us a convoy!
As we approached the ramp taking us to a roundabout, Brian radioed Ian:  “Better stop, we need to have a closer look.”   From where I sat with thumping heart, it was impossible to tell if we were going to hit or not, and I tried to hide my nervousness.  Then we heard Brian on the radio:  “Sweet as, keep going.”  Whew.

Sockdolager squeezes under a highway sign.
 Next obstacle was a foot bridge, but we cleared it with plenty to spare. 

Sockdolager goes under the foot bridge.
 Sockdolager sailed neatly through the roundabout, got back on the highway, and headed for the next obstacle: low road signs at the exit ramp. 

"Gybing" through the roundabout
Brian cleared the way for Ian to get to the center of the road in order to make a wide left turn onto the exit ramp.  Again, we held our breaths.

Wide turn under signs to Port of Tauranga exit ramp 
We were through!  With huge relief, we drove into the Port of Tauranga, and Brian and Ian dropped us off at the gate.  Security precautions allow only authorized people on the wharf.  We waved goodbye and walked back to our hotel room.

One option could have been to cut off the stainless arch and solar panel, but what a headache it would be putting all that back together again.  When we learned that we could do a “water discharge” by crane directly from the ship into the sea at the Oakland terminal, it eliminated the need to truck the boat by road to Svenson’s Shipyard and risk even lower clearances, so we opted for that. More on the water discharge later (it was exciting.)

Boarding Day:  With tickets in hand, we were driven to the Port’s security gate by our friends Robbie and Bev, and then got into an escort van which took us to the wharf.  On foot we threaded our way along a narrow yellow pathway that avoided the work area, and walked past two long, shrink-wrapped forms.  Glancing back I was surprised to see a small group of men with America’s Cup logos on their jackets, and guessed that these white shapes were the twin hulls of another AC 74, bound for the Cup races in San Francisco Bay. 

Here’s our container ship, the M/V Hugo Schulte, home for the next 19 days.  We initially thought it was an 18-day voyage, but because there were two Wednesdays when we crossed the International Date Line, the time at sea was actually 19 days in spite of the fact that we arrived 18 days after we left New Zealand. 

Our ship at the Port of Tauranga docks 
We boarded the ship via its narrow aluminum gangway that’s designed for footsteps at all sorts of angles, and a crewmember who helped us with our bags led us to the stairwell on A deck, which is the main deck.  We climbed an internal staircase way up to G deck, which is located  just under the “Nav deck” and wheelhouse at the top.

Our cabin had the two center portholes.  
After unpacking, we were called down to the Ship’s Office, where a pleasant NZ Customs agent cleared us to leave the country.

Loading the cargo:  We settled in to watch the busy cargo loading scene from our two large portholes, located front and center to the action. 

Jim peeks from one of our cabin portholes.
We each had our own porthole!

Our own portholes!  How cool is that!
We enjoyed a last misty evening’s view through the cranes, of Tauranga and Mt Manganui, an old volcano. 

 Suddenly Bruce Goodchap and his crew sailed past on Squealer, the boat he’s racing to Fiji.  Squealer can do 17 knots.  We waved, but couldn’t tell if he saw us.

The 17-knot, hard-core ocean racer, Squealer
We were endlessly fascinated by the hustle and bustle on the wharf.  Look how high the driver is in this container transporter.  Wouldn’t you just love to drive one of these around in a Best Buy parking lot, heh, heh.

Container transporter.  White containers are refrigerated units.
And check out this guy, a hundred feet up, doing precision crane work.

Here comes the first hull of the America’s Cup catamaran.  That hold looked canyon-esque from our vantage point. 

Shrink-wrapped America's Cup AC74 hull
Workmen guide the hull in, leaving space for the next hull.

We kept watching for Sockdolager, and suddenly there she was!  Look between the wheels of that container transporter.

Sockdolager in container transporter

The transporter left, and she was ready for the crane.  Here it is lowering toward her.  There’s a yellow “spreader bar” atop the flat rack that will be used to lift her.

Ready to lift aboard!

 It locks on…

Crane locks on for lifting Sockdolager
And lifted her like a feather.  They placed her inside a hold atop some other containers.

Sockdolager is hoisted aboard.
Then, out came the spreader bar, and after a few more minutes the hold was sealed with a gigantic hatch cover that covers only 1/3 the width of the deck.  

Giant hatch cover over hold
Meanwhile, back at the America’s Cup, the second hull was coming aboard.

2nd America's Cup hull lifted aboard
The stevedores carefully stowed her next to the other hull, and those two hulls were the sole contents in a hold that can normally take about 33 containers.  What looked like the mast and foil were later hoisted aboard to be stowed amidships just forward of this hold.  Doesn't this photo look like a cubist painting?

Stowing and securing an AC74 in the hold
While all this was happening, another ship came in.  I counted at least eight ships on both sides of the river. 

Another container ship arrives at the Port of Tauranga
The tugs slid this ship into the wharf right in front of the Hugo Schulte. 

Tight fit ahead of the Hugo Schulte
Containers were stacked and then tie-rodded down.

Containers secured with tie rods and corner locks.
It rained and got dark, but operations continue 24/7 in shipping ports.  Suddenly the cargo loading was finished.  Cranes began to fold up, out of the way of the Hugo’s own cranes. 

Giant crane folds up.
Here they are, folded and out of the way.  The operators can get up and down in little 1-man elevators, and there are stairwells, too.

Cranes folded, ready for departure
Getting underway:  The wheelhouse was brightly lit until the ship was ready, then all but red night lights were turned off to ensure good visibility.  This is Captain Zoran Mufa preparing his ship for departure, with Jim and me quietly watching.

Wheelhouse of M/V Hugo Schulte
After the lights were extinguished, a curtain was drawn around the chart table so as not to interfere with night vision.  Here’s Jim in the chart area.

Chart and nav area in wheelhouse
The harbor pilot came aboard at 1:15 am, and a pair of tugs began to work us away from the wharf.

Tugs pull ship away from wharf. 
We looked astern for a last goodbye.

View aft from bridge
We’re underway, very slowly but picking up speed.

Leaving the wharf
Two tugs escorted us down the channel in the darkness.

Tug escort down the channel
The channel twisted and turned, and we listened raptly as the pilot gave helm orders that were repeated by the helmsman.  Buoys passed close by, and Mount Manganui slid past.  When we reached the open sea at outside the harbor, the pilot boat came alongside the partially lowered boarding ladder.

Pilot boat approaches in darkness.
Around 3:00 am the pilot climbed down the rope ladder hanging off the metal one, and leaped aboard the pilot boat.  It sped off to guide the next waiting ship into the harbor. 

Pilot climbs down gangway to jacob's ladder and waiting boat. 
Good weather followed us to sea, and we enjoyed the view from our cabin.

At sea.  View from our porthole. 
How about a little tour of our cabin?  Here’s the main area.

Owner's cabin.  We brought charts to do our own navigation, for fun. 
And here’s the same space seen from another angle.

And here is a view of the head and the bedroom.  Simple but comfortable accommodations.  Single cabins are studio-style.

Head and bedroom

To get to the galley and officer’s mess where we take our meals, you descend 5 decks.  There aren’t any elevators.  Our legs got lots of exercise. 

We immediately set up our handheld GPS and laptop with Open CPN charting software, and began plotting the course both electronically and on paper.  It’s fun, and for a couple of sailors, necessary to know where we are.

Plotting each day's run. 
That’ll do it for this post because there are so many photos to share that it would be much too long for one blog post.  More on life aboard a container ship coming very shortly in Part 3, and on our adventures with the water discharge in Oakland in Part 4.  Stay tuned!