I purchased the Intrepid IV, a 43-foot Sceptre sloop, in May of 2014. I plan to take it offshore – if all goes well – in the late summer or early fall of 2016. VICE was an excellent opportunity for me to ensure that the Intrepid IV was ready for offshore sailing.
Don Hutchison provided a list of members of the Bluewater Cruising Association who were prepared to volunteer to crew boats taking part in the VICE trip. We were able to crew the Intrepid IV entirely from this list of volunteers. Our crew consisted of Ian Rowe, Michael Morenomich and Soren Almansan, all of whom were excellent crew members.
The VICE 2015 fleet was initially to consist of seven boats, two long haul trawlers and five sailing vessels. Of these boats, only two sailing vessels, the Intrepid IV skippered by me and Arcola, skippered by Wes Whiting, made the trip.
Don Hutchison, who was unable to make the trip for personal reasons, served as weather coordinator, departure coordinator and departure date coordinator for the trip. Peter and Susan Jacobs acted as vessel traffic coordinator and Coast Guard coordinator. They contacted the Coast Guard and were advised sail plans should be filed with a responsible friend or family member and were provided with a list of the channels to monitor while en route.
The VICE trip was scheduled to commence on July 5, 2015. Intrepid IV docked in the Victoria inner harbour on July 4th for departure on the early morning of July 6th. Arcola weighed anchor in Beecher Bay late on July 4th for departure on the 6th.
Don Hutchison provided by email a copy of the weather forecast from NOAA’s POC for offshore waters. It indicated that, as of July 4th a high pressure ridge west of the Washington and Oregon waters, from 60 to 250 nautical miles offshore, would persist throughout the night of Saturday, July 4th and slowly weaken from Sunday to Tuesday night. A low pressure trough was to continue along the coast of Vancouver Island through Saturday night and then slide west over the offshore waters Sunday into Wednesday. Another high pressure ridge was to build over the west waters Wednesday night.
The result, for the area from Cape Verde to Cape Shoalwater, between 60 and 150 nautical miles offshore, was that the gale force winds which were experienced on the night of July 4th, 2015, from 20 to 25 knots, diminished on Sunday to 5 to 15 knots and further on Monday until the winds were variable less than 10 knots, and expected to increase from 10 to 20 knots on Wednesday. The forecast on Sunday, July 5th indicated that a low pressure trough along Vancouver Island would weaken Sunday and Sunday night and then persist into Wednesday. A high pressure ridge west of the offshore waters would slowly weaken Sunday into Wednesday night. A weak cold front would move into the waters from Thursday to Thursday night.
The forecast for Cape Flattery to Cape Shoalwater on July 5th, 2015 indicated that winds would diminish from north winds of 15 to 25 knots to northeast winds of 15 knots. Sunday night, the winds were to change from north to northwest to 5 to 15 knots and, Monday, the winds were to be west to northwest knots at less than 10 knots. The forecast for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was for the winds to be between 5 to 10 knots on Monday, 5 to 15 knots on Tuesday and 5 to 25 knots on Wednesday.
The Intrepid IV left Victoria harbour at approximately 0500h on Monday, July 6th so as to avoid the 4 to 6 knots of tide which would be flowing against us later in the day. The Intrepid IV met with Arcola outside of Beecher Bay at approximately 1000h. The winds in the Juan de Fuca Strait at Race Rocks were approximately 20 knots north to northwest. As the VICE group moved north, the winds increased to approximately 30 knots north to northwest with steep waves due to the low pressure ridge which had been generating weather on the west side of the island for some days.
Arcola started taking on water and Skipper Wes Whiting discovered that the lower opening portlights on Arcola leaked when going into heaving seas. The Arcola returned to Sooke Harbour to seal the opening portlights and then continued the VICE trip, sailing north in the Juan de Fuca Strait to Port Renfrew.
The Intrepid IV continued tacking north in the Strait until approximately 2000h on July 6th when it became apparent that we would not be able to reach the northern entrance to the Strait that evening if we continued to sail. We motored for a few hours and reached a point north of the outbound traffic channel located north of the Juan de Fuca Strait where we planned to turn west for the offshore portion of the trip. At that point, the wind was variable between 2 to 4 knots. It seemed unlikely that there would be any significant wind in the area between 60 to 150 nautical miles offshore and, rather than motor westward for several hours only to discover that there was insufficient wind to sail, we turned south and motored slowly towards the northern entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait. We reached the northern entrance at approximately 0600h. As we travelled south in the Juan de Fuca Strait, the winds increased to up to 20 knots, north to northwest.
While traveling downwind in the Strait, we had the opportunity to sail the spinnaker without the jib, which worked very well, enabling the boat to reach approximately 8 knots. We also experimented with the newly-installed hydrovane. We were able to sail the boat using the hydrovane with very few adjustments, despite the fact that the wind was almost directly on the stern.
We arrived in Victoria at approximately 2000h on the evening of July 7th. The Arcola left Sooke harbour on July 7th and travelled north in north to northwest winds ranging up to 20 knots while in the Strait. The wind died after they left the Strait and did not return. Ultimately, they motored back to Port Renfrew until the following morning when the wind came up at about 0930h. They then sailed nonstop from Sooke to Sidney arriving at just before 1:00h on Friday.
From my point of view, as the skipper of a newly-acquired boat which I plan to take offshore, the principal benefits of the VICE trip were twofold:
- Preparing for the trip enabled me to focus on taking those steps which were necessary to prepare the boat for offshore sailing well before the offshore trip was scheduled to commence.
- The trip served as a shakedown cruise for the boat.
Prior to departure, we replaced a leaky through hull on the Intrepid IV, had the shaft machined and maintenance done on the propeller, installed a hydrovane, obtained a second computer for navigation and obtained a satellite phone number. We did not manage to complete all connections between the satellite telephone and the SSB radio to enable us to use sail mail. We expect to be in position to receive sail mail shortly. During the trip, the alternator on the Intrepid IV would not charge. This caused other difficulties, including the loss of our navigation equipment at certain key junctures. As a result, we had an electrician look at the electrical system after the Intrepid IV returned to Vancouver. The problem turned out to be a blown fuse. I think that the VICE trip was well worthwhile and that it served its purpose for us. We were able to determine that the Intrepid IV is seaworthy and well-equipped for an offshore voyage. The difficulties which we experienced on the trip were easily rectified on our return to port. It would have been very difficult to reach the stage of readiness which is required for an offshore trip as early as we did unless we were taking part in this event. This has enabled us to take a more leisurely and careful approach to the final preparations needed to go offshore.
Those who participated on a volunteer basis in the preparation for the VICE trip are to be commended for their efforts.