And no, I’m not going to compete with Martin on parodies. I will up my popular cultural quotient by noting that I’m drinking “tea, Earl Grey. Hot” in what passes for the captain’s wardroom on Snow Shoo, the nav station.
About three hours ago, we crossed the Columbia River and entered Washington State. We are about 29 miles from Westport, motoring at about 4 to 4.5 knots with the engine at 2200 rpm. The wind is about 15 kts, right on our nose, and the seas are what they call “confused”. National Weather Service says that the primary swell from the west is 7′ and wind waves are about 3′ high from the north. For those mathematically inclined, swells are sine waves, but wind waves are basically sawtooth. When you combine those two forms with the hull of Snow Shoo traveling north, you typically get thirty seconds of smooth water where the turbulent interaction of the two wave forms sort of cancel each other, then about 15 seconds of increasing rocking, then a whack or three where the peaks and valleys coincide, followed by a few seconds of rocking. Repeat endlessly.
Then there is the California Current. Its normal rate is about 10 inches/sec or about 0.5 mph. We’ve experienced sustained currents against us of greater than 1.5 kts (that’s about 1.8 mph). Some of this increased speed is probably due to the collapse of El Niño, but that extra knot or so has been the continual bedeviler of this trip.
This brings us to the first decision I had to make as I rolled out of the sack to start my watch (note: we are doing a simple rotating watch system: each of the four of us does a four hour “seconding” watch, where we are available to help the helmsman, but we are typically doing other things: reading, writing a blog, cooking, etc. We then spend four hours on the helm which is really just watching; Snow Shoo pretty much drives herself, then eight hours off when we can sleep or do other tasks—like grading papers): How fast do we run the engine? Snow Shoo’s engine develops maximum power at about 3500 rpm, but burns about 2 gals/hr at that speed. At 2200 rpm, it burns half as much fuel. But fuel consumption is only half the equation. If we kick up the speed, the ride will be much rougher. So we stick at 2200.
But Snow Shoo is a sailboat. Why not sail her? From everything I’ve read, Snow Shoo should be able to point to within 40º of the wind, but I haven’t been able to get below 60º (I will, but there hasn’t been sailing time…) If you remember your high-school trigonometry, that means to get the same forward velocity, our 60º tacking would have to be 1.6 times as fast as our forward motion under power. We’d have to make 7+ knots (doable), but one of those legs, the one headed northwest, would be like you were in a washing machine agitation cycle. So on we go on the engine, but I sure hope that the forecast for tomorrow is correct, because that will put us on a broad reach down the Strait of Jan de Fuca. That sounds like fun!
It’s time to put on the PFD and head up to the cockpit and make sure Ken hasn’t fallen asleep. And on to Westport.