Thursday, September 29, 2011

Santa Monica Bay

We had a bit of a rocky night at anchor in Paradise Cove, but it was a nice place to tuck in before making the trek across Santa Monica Bay.  Not to take anything away from the incredibly plush homes on shore, the most amazing thing about our stay was the impressive phosphorescence.  Tiny critters live in the water and when they are disturbed they put off green sparkles of light.  The light is called phosphorescence.  It is very common to see, particularly when flushing the head (toilet) or in the wake of the dinghy.  However, the phosphorescence in Paradise Cove was the most intense we had ever seen.  Late at night we went on deck and the fish swimming around the boat were creating glowing patches of water all around us.  It was pretty amazing to see.

The next morning we headed to Kings Harbor in Redondo Beach.  Foggy, chilly and uneventful until were about three miles from our destination.  About a hundred yards ahead, we saw our first blue whale.  It was truly awesome.  We’ve seen many whales, primarily humpbacks, pilots and grays.  This whale looked like a freight train coming out of the water – it just kept coming.

In Kings Harbor, we anchored behind the sea wall and put out a stern anchor to keep us from swinging against the wall as the winds shift during the night.  This was nerve racking and we checked our position every couple of hours.  The next morning, our friend Chuck came for a visit and to give us a hand provisioning.  We met Chuck through an ad we posted for crew to Mexico and he will be helping us sail the boat to Cabo in the Baja Ha-Ha boat rally.  He is an airline pilot and stopped by before going to work at LAX.  Thanks to Chuck, we hit Trader Joes, filled a propane tank, mailed letters, picked up some boat stuff, and got the five star tour of Redondo Beach.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Santa Cruz Island

Our stay in Santa Barbara was a whirlwind of activity.  We arrived Sunday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day chatting with new friends and recovering from the sleepless night passage.  First thing Monday morning, we got busy provisioning, refueling, doing laundry, making trips to the internet cafĂ©, tidying up the boat, blogging, etc.  Some of these items seem insignificant, but we are on foot and even minor tasks require a great deal of transportation time.  Using her pedometer, Trisha reported that the laundry facilities were 1000 steps away from our slip.  We enjoyed crossing things off the to-do list as we prepared for time at anchor.

At 0930 Wednesday morning, we set out motor sailing the twenty-two miles to Santa Cruz Island.  It was foggy, the winds were light, and the ocean was like glass.  Following the advice of a fellow at the marina, we set a course for the western end of the island.  Once to West Point, we turned east and enjoyed the scenery cruising ten miles or so along the coast.  The scenery was magnificent.  Mountains slope to foothills that abruptly end in cliffs that fall into the sea.  The cliffs are jagged with many coves and caves.  By 1600 we were anchored next to a spectacular cliff in Pelican Bay

The next morning we launched the dinghy for a closer look at the jagged shoreline.  We went ashore and explored the ruins of a hotel that last did business in the 1920s.  The plan was to move to another anchorage on the third night, but the weather report gave warning of a low pressure system approaching from the south that featured thunderstorms and gusty wind.  We decided that it was probably best to stay put.  That turned out to be a great decision because we met Ken and Monica from San Diego sailing on Endeavor.  We enjoyed a drink together and swapped boat stories.  It is always great to meet new friends.
Ken and Monica of Endeavor
Saturday, we underway by 0800 and on our way back to the mainland.  We saw pod after pod of dolphins.  They were amazing.  After fifty or so miles of motor sailing, we rounded Point Dume and anchored in Paradise Cove, better known as Malibu
Having too much fun?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Point Conception

We spent four sweet nights anchored at Port San Luis resting and waiting for a favorable weather window.  Our thanks go to Darrel and Sarah of El Tiburon for recommending this sunny anchorage.  The sea life was amazing and Trisha met a new friend on the wharf.  It was a great place for timing our approach to Point Conception.

Point Conception is often called the Cape Horn of the west due to its challenging winds and seas.  It is said that the Point keeps California’s northern sailors in the north and southern sailors in the south.  This intimidating reputation motivated us to spend many hours studying weather reports and forecasts.  On Saturday night, we agreed that it was time to go.

At 2000, we raised anchor, and set out on the ninety mile passage to Santa Barbara.  Leaving at this hour should have us rounding Point Conception in the lighter winds just after midnight.  The swell picked up as we motored out of the shelter of the harbor.  The winds were light and the main sail did little to stabilize the boat against five foot waves.  We rocked and rolled uncomfortably.  I assured Trisha that things would smooth out when we made the turn at Point Sal, hoping that the swell would then be on our stern.  Unfortunately, the seas clocked around with us waypoint after waypoint and we saw an increase in wave height and in the boat’s movement.  With twenty-three miles behind us, Trisha asked if we should turn back.  We hung in there, and at approximately 0100 we were at Point Arguello, the starting point for the anticipated nasty conditions.  The seas didn’t change much, but the wind piped up to 17 knots greatly improving the ride to and past Conception.  Now the seas flattened out and the wind became clam, confirming that we had arrived in Southern California.  Trisha got a little sleep as we motor sailed the rest of the way.  At 1330, we were tied up in Santa Barbara.  The trip took nearly eighteen hours.
View from our slip
One of the prominent features on the voyage was the eight or so oil rigs that we past during the night.  Their lights were visible many miles away like little towns perched on stilts.  They made great landmarks for confirming that our navigation was accurate.  After rounding Conception, the wind was on our nose and I noticed a strong stink of petroleum.  I thought this was some kind of exhaust from the oil rigs.  After the sun came up, Trisha discovered the source of the smell – a large oil slick.  We drove through several of them and were amazed at how thick the oil was and how large an area each slick covered.  When we inquired about them in Santa Barbara, we were repeatedly told the slicks were the result of natural seepage…

Sunrise in the Santa Barbara Channel

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Port San Luis, at last

When we arrived in Monterey, the harbor master assigned us a 40 foot slip for our 45 foot boat.  He explained that sticking out into the fairway a little would not be a problem.  However, there was a challenge squeezing a 14.1 foot wide boat into a 14.5 foot wide slip during a sassy cross breeze.  Not much room for error or fenders.  We considered asking to be moved, but when we discovered that the daily rate for this small space was a bargain we were happy to make it work.  All went well until our departure.  All on board, dock lines off, here we go...  After about a foot of travel, we came to a perplexing stop.  We soon realized that our aft fenders had wedged between the boat and the dock and we were stuck like a cork in a bottle.  A gracious fellow held back a chuckle as he helped free us.  OK, one more time without the fenders.

Sally and David visited us in Monterey 
During our six days in Monterey we had dinner with friends, enjoyed a classic car show, attended the Italian Festival, and worked on boat projects.  We have visited Monterey by water several times over the years, so our stay had a familiar, homey feel.  Finally the weather window opened and we were ready for a completely new destination 120 nautical miles away, Port San Luis.  This 24 hour trip would be Trisha’s first night passage.

Trisha at Point Sur
We left Monterey at 1030 on a beautiful clear day.  We raised the main just outside the harbor and began motor sailing against a southerly to Point Sur.  A highlight was passing through a pod of pilot whales.  We made the turn at Point Sur at 1500 and the wind clocked around to our stern and piped up to 15 to 25 knots.  We killed the engine and spent hours racing down the coast under sail, making much better time than we anticipated.  The one big drawback was the seas.  Six foot waves with high frequency and occasional sets that caused the boat to twist violently.  No one was very happy, least of all Trisha.  Nightfall brought no improvement and no sleep.  We got to Port San Luis just before dawn and slowed the boat down so we could pick our way through the harbor in the light.  After three exhausting tries we got the anchor set.  As if waiting for us to be finished, a thick fog rolled in 15 minutes later that would have made our arrival all but impossible.

Port San Luis after the fog cleared

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do you know the way to Monterey?

We spent four cold days and nights at anchor in Half Moon Bay.  Our friends Catie and David made the trip down from Alameda with Scott and Julie on Ciao Bella and it was great to hang out with them before heading south.  The sun didn’t make an appearance until our last day there.

David, Trisha and Catie at the Half Moon Bay Brewery
We called Monterey Harbor and confirmed that open slips would be made available on a first come first serve basis.  They also told us that nine boats were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday so getting a slip may be tough.  We estimated that it would take ten to twelve hours to sail the 60 miles to Monterey depending on the wind.  We would need to get going early if we were going to get a slip.

On Tuesday morning, we bundled up in foul weather gear, raised the anchor and were on our way by 0500.  The northwest swell put the waves on our beam and the trip was foggy, dark, and generally uncomfortable until we made the turn at Pigeon Point.  The seas were then on our stern and the wind piped up to 15 to 20 knots, blowing us to Monterey.  Customarily, we got the fishing line wet and regularly cleaned off the seaweed it snagged.   Thanks to the wind for speed, the fog for dissuading the other sailors from making the trip, and the early hour of departure we were tucked snuggly into a slip by 1600 in time to check out the Monterey Farmers Market.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Finally underway

Thanks to Judy for the departure photo
We left the slip at 0630 in time to catch max ebb.  Despite the early hour, we were happy to have our dockmates Judy, Michael and Mark see us off.  Visibility on SF Bay was crystal clear, but we could see a thick fog bank blowing in through the Golden Gate.  I clicked on the radar and glanced up to just in time to see blossom rock buoy pass by about ten feet away.  If leaving on a Friday really is bad luck, seems I would have hit the buoy.  Is a near miss proof enough?  Hard to say.  One thing is for sure, I will no longer be making fun of my two friends who have hit buoys.

The fog bank slowly burned away in front of us and we got under the bridge with good visibility.  We enjoyed seeing an occasional dolphin.  As we left the protection of the bay and got into the open ocean, we got a good taste of the southern swell that has been causing havoc on the beaches.  Steep waves formed as the southern swell met the ebb from the bay.  The ride was rough and we cut the corner to get the bow into the swell.
With the Golden Gate Bridge behind us - we are officially underway!
The rest of the trip was foggy and cold.  We put out a fishing line, but didn’t get any action.  We got into Half Moon Bay and were anchored by 1300.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Delayed start

We told everyone that September 1st would be our departure date.  We worked wildly on the remaining items on our list but didn’t quite get them done, so we committed to leaving Friday, September 2.  Sailing superstition advises against leaving on a Friday, so we are mildly concerned about this decision.

We also wanted to recognize some of the people that have helped make our adventure possible.

Carol (Trisha's sister): thank you for designing our blog banner and boatcards
Rob and Debbie: thank you for letting us park the car at your house
Megan and Dave: thank you for the case of beer (enjoying a Trumer at this writing)
Frank and Carol: thank you for the walkie-talkies
Jen and Emily: thank you for forwarding our mail and taking care of our house 
Derrick’s Mom: thanks for not freaking out
Shawn who bought my truck: thanks for making the purchase in the dark

Rob and Debbie took us out for a farewell dinner