Sunday, August 2, 2015

Insanely Epic Crazed Sail

So the crazy part of this journey was supposed to be crossing the Nawhitti Bar or going around Cape Scott or sailing past the dreaded Brooks Peninsula. We timed all of those really well and they were a breeze. At this point we realized that we could handle a little more wind on these downwind passages, so we thought a wind forecast for 20-30 knots from the northwest sounded perfect for a sail from Rugged Point to Nootka Sound.

The day started sunny with moderate breezes which made for a gorgeous sail. We were all relaxed as we soaked up the sun and dazzling scenery. I noticed something in the water off the port side of the boat which I mistook for a dead manta ray. I was so excited I sputtered and tried to get everyone's attention. Isaac realized right away that it wasn't a dead manta ray, it was actually a giant sun fish which had come to the surface to bask in the sun. We had a hard time believing this since they are tropical/temperate water fish but then we caught glimpses of two more later on. As the day wore on the swells increased in size but our day going around the Brooks Peninsula had gotten us used to 10-12 foot waves so we settled into a groove in these waves, three miles off shore. I spent hours standing at the back of the cockpit working on my balance as Marinero moved, up and down, back and forth with the rhythm of the waves. We watched other boats in the distance heave and buck through the water and we thanked our lucky stars that Marinero was taking such good care of us. Late in the afternoon it came time to jibe back towards shore and into Nootka Sound and this is when things got a little crazy. As we set our course towards Nootka Sound, the waves started to stack up steep due to the current ebbing out of the sound. Now we were seeing 12-15 foot super-steep, curling waves with the occasional 20 foot wave looming over our heads threatening to swallow us up. Our autopilot, Otto von Bismark, had performed beautifully up until this point, but as I stood watching backwards from our open cockpit, one of these monster waves reared up and boiled towards us. At this point Otto became overwhelmed and the boat started to turn sideways to the ginormous wave, threatening a broach. I turned and yelled to Jason, "What's happening?" He immediately turned Otto off, grabbed the helm and corrected us. Phew! I stood there and shook for a while as adrenaline pumped through my system. At this point we had 30-35 knots of wind behind us and we were screaming along at 10 knots except for when we were surfing down waves at 12 knots. At one point we actually hit 13.5 knots. It was insane. We knew we only had an hour to go so we opted not to turn into the wind, bucking around like crazed lemurs, in order to reduce sail. In retrospect we would should have reefed a little sooner before boat speeds got so high. Jason continued to man the helm, throwing his weight against the wheel to keep us on track as we surfed down the waves. While this was all occurring, I noticed that one of our deck lines was dragging in the water. Not wanting to lose it or have it go into the prop when we started the engine back up later, I clipped in forward and went to the side deck to retrieve it. At this point Marinero surfed down a huge wave, heeled over and a wave of knee deep water boiled down the side deck. Jason watched in horror as I scurried up onto the cabin top to try to avoid getting wet but still got dowsed up to my knees. Eventually the motion calmed down as we neared Nootka Sound and her red-roofed lighthouse at Friendly Cove was a welcome sight. We gratefully took the last spot on the dock and breathed a sigh of relief.

Here's a GoPro video of sailing around Cape Scott, Brooks Peninsula and Nootka, although video never does the waves justice....

Click here for photos.


  1. Great photos and video. It is indeed really hard to capture wave heights accurately on photo or video. Your photos do a good job here though.
    What kind of autopilot do you have? I didn't see a wheel mounted one so it's either below decks or a windvane?

    1. What kind of boat do you have by the way? Looked for an "About The Boat" on the blog but couldn't find one. Must be more of a racer than mine if you can do 10 to 12 knots comfortably - that must have been fun!

  2. Thanks Patrick. Marinero is a custom, cold-molded wooden boat built in New Zealand by Brin Wilson in 1985. The builder sailed her to the U.S. and sold her in Seattle where she has been ever since. Our autopilot is a below deck Raymarine.