California has had a drought this spring so it’s only fitting that the day it finally rains is the day we leave. Not just rain but a small low-pressure system, meaning winds. Nikki and I pulled away from the dock and were shadowed by a 45-foot sailboat. They followed Sakura our research vessel in the rain to the Golden Gate Bridge, took a few pictures of our departure and turned back. Not long after, the squalls hit.
We imagined sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge with the sun shining and a light breeze. Things often don’t go as planned. We worked our way out to sea with 30-knot squalls and sideways rain pelting us in the face making it hard to keep our eyes open. The waves are large in the channel and we were taking green walls of water over the boat, completely soaking Nicole and myself. We knew the weather was going to be bad before we left the dock but we were too far delayed to let some rain and wind stop us.
The first night it blew around 30 knots right on the nose with more sideways rain. It was actually kind of perfect if you think about it. We needed to do a shakedown cruise for the boat but didn’t have time. We were still close enough to land that if anything bad happened we could turn around easily. If anything was going to break it would have done so, beating into the wind and waves the first night. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been out to sea on a small boat in a breeze, I didn’t sleep much that night but I was having a good time.
It didn’t take long before we started seeing plastic trash floating around. A broken leg from a plastic lawn chair, black buoys (we saw nearly 10 of those in a day and a half), disregarded fishing gear, ect.
Last summer we spent 73 days at sea non-stop exploring the North Atlantic Gyre using a manta net. You had to slow the boat down to 1.5 knots to properly use the manta net. This time we have a high-speed trawl called an Avani net. Both nets have to be boomed out over the windward side of the boat with a spinnaker pole in what I call “clean water”. This is water that is not affected in any way by the vessels wake, as that would screw up our sample. The first time we deployed the Avani net we were going too fast and broke our spinnaker pole in less than 30 seconds. It’s a good thing we brought a spare pole. So now we drag the Avani net every day for a few hours at 3 knots, any faster and we might break something else.