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Dawn’s First Offshore Passage

Posted on Wed 31 August 2011

I decided to write a blog post about the things that people don’t really tell you about sailing offshore cruising. I am going to talk about the nitty gritty of my personal experience of my first offshore overnight sail aboard Deep Playa. In addition, I will discuss some interesting commentary of some good and bad experiences.

First off, I must preface this post with a huge disclaimer after reading several of our fellow sailors who are taking the same trip down the coast on or about the same time that Pea and I are taking. We did not experience the following on our trip from Neah Bay, Wa to Newport, Oregon (knock on wood):

  • Heavy gale force winds
  • Heavy confused sea states
  • Rain
  • Long periods of heavy fog
  • Engine malfunction
  • Sail malfunction

These are the following conditions that Deep Playa and her crew experienced:

  • Sunshine
  • Clouds
  • 5-15 knot winds
  • No wind
  • Steady 5-7 foot seas on a beam (rail to rail rolling)
  • Fishing Vessels
  • Crab Pots
  • Light/moderate fog

Some things fellow sailors seemed to not openly write about or discuss in person (without some prompting).

  • Puking
  • Seasickness
  • Boredom
  • Transitioning from one day to the next

If you don’t know me, let me first tell you that I am a Type A personality with somewhat of an anxiety disorder. I am a little bit of a perfectionist and worry wart (thank you Mother!) I get anxious about pretty much everything! So for my first offshore trip I was anxious about my short comings. Would I like sailing offshore? Will I desire to continue this journey after all of the blood, sweat and tears of several years? Would I get violently ill and be completely useless to Patrick? Would one of us get badly injured? Would a whale breach our boat and sink her? (Yes, I have seen the pics)

Here is a recount of my experiences for the 55 hour journey aboard s/v Deep Playa from Neah Bay to Newport.

First Night Shift: It sucks. Don’t sugar coat it. It sucks. You are totally exhausted and rocking back and forth and all you can think about is that warm cozy cocoon of lee cloth and settee below. The world is a completely different place then it was just a few short hours prior. Everything seems sooo much smaller and all things in the distance look like they will be an imminent danger to you and your boat. Luckily I did not get seasick. Patrick and I both applied a Scopace patch prior to leaving Neah Bay. He, however did puke, at twilight, once. He seemed fine after for the remainder of the evening. In general, I felt complete malaise. I didn’t want to do anything but sit in the cockpit and watch the waves go by. I thought I should be reading and enlightening myself to the new worlds I will be soon experiencing, but no, it didn’t happen. Accept it and move on. I did see an amazing moonrise though! It looked a HUGE golf ball on the horizon. I could see the details of it using my binoculars. And the bioluminescence was so incredibly cool!

First Night’s Sleep: The sounds of the boat, rigging and the wind kept me awake most of my down time. That sucked. Exhausted for my shift.

Second Day: Woke up to a very warm and pleasant husband telling me that he needed to take a much needed nap. I slept great after my 0600 shift ended and took a quick couple hours nap. Hopped out of bed and up into the cockpit with my jacket, foulies, PFD and tether in a couple minutes flat.

On and off throughout the day we would take shifts and naps and it seemed to work pretty well.

Second Night Sleep: I slept much better and awoke again to Patrick stating that we needed to jibe to stay on course. Jibing at night in very rolly seas and not quite awake is much more difficult than you can imagine. Self-steering the boat while trying to stay on course is much harder if you don’t have a reference out in the distance to sail toward. It increased my anxiety and it stayed there throughout the night.

Second Night Shift: Patrick got sick again at twilight. We figured it must be the inability to differentiate between the sea and the horizon and that he should nap during this time frame on future expeditions. This shift was much better. I slept a bit during the day and we decided to put on the Sirius XM Radio to keep us awake. What a huge difference that made for me. I listened to the 1980s top 40 countdown with the original MTV VJs! The horizon this night was light up with 5-8 fishing vessels just past the horizon. They threw off this amazing orange glow that seems to be right off your bow but you could never quite catch up to them. I started referring to them as the cockroaches because you can never actually catch them and as soon as day broke they seemed to scatter and run toward their safe havens.

By the third day we started to feel a little better about our experiences and looking forward to a good night’s sleep in our bed in port. We were both relieved that we had made the decision to head towards Newport, Or instead pushing all the way to San Francisco.

Some things I learned:

  • Accept that you are going to, in general, not feel well. You won’t want much to eat and will have decreased appetite
  • Pay attention to your body and be honest about your symptoms, if you have any, with your partner. There may be a remedy just a pill away!
  • Transition yourself like you would on land from day to night (if current conditions allow). Brush your teeth and wash your face before bed. What a difference it makes.
  • In the morning change your clothing and your underwear! Yes, I wore the same underwear and clothing for two days. Not good.
  • Wash your face and apply new sunscreen in the morning.
  • Have two bottles full of water for each of you. We would fill the bottles for each other prior to ending a night shift.
  • In general, after three days you will start to get into a rhythm.
  • Trust your boat, she knows what she is doing.


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