Friday, October 28, 2011

Mexican Odyssey

With the clock ticking down to the start of the Baja Ha-Ha Rally we put Interabang in a slip at Cabrillo Isle Marina near the San Diego airport.  We were busy for a solid week.  Days were focused on completing a long list of boat projects and provisioning for our voyage down the Baja California Coast.  Evenings were spent with great friends.  The car that Roy and Mary Roque loaned us was a godsend.  Ken and Monica of Endeavor loaned us a fabulous Mexico cruising guide, and gave us a ‘comal’ for warming tortillas and making quesadillas.  We had great fun with Jeannie and David and they gave us many great cruising tips, educated us on Mexican pastries, and gave us an awesome cruising cookbook.  Darrell and Sarah of El Tiburon had us over for cocktails and filled in many of the blanks about our entry into Mexico.  Marina life is expensive and cushy - no worries about making water or keeping the batteries charged – nice, but a little boring.  On Sunday, Chuck, our crew, landed at the San Diego airport and walked across the street to our marina.  Time to get this Baja party started.

Jeanne and David visiting us at Cabrillo Isle
The rally started on the morning of October 24 and it was time to shift into sailing mode once again.  A parade of boats was scheduled before the start of the race.  Wanting to avoid the frenzy of all the rally boats leaving at once, we were the first to leave the dock and creep our way to the parade staging area.  A half hour later we and one hundred fifty other sailboats were slowly motoring to the start line.  The Dolphin, a large sport fisher, presided over the fleet with TV cameras and local dignitaries looking on.  Trisha blew the horn wildly, trying hard to get us on TV.

With light winds, the race organizer announced on the radio that it was “time to get out of town” and start motoring to Mexico.  A few hours later, the fleet had sailed into Mexican waters.  We celebrated the event by drinking a Tecate beer and dutifully raising the Mexican flag on the starboard spreader.  There was still no wind to speak of, so the fleet motor sailed at six knots through the night and into the following morning.  The next day brought more wind and the most glorious day of sailing.  We raised the symmetrical spinnaker at about 1000 and spent eight hours screaming southeast.  At one point, Trisha heard a boat on the radio say, “The boat with the blue spinnaker is kicking my ass.”  It was a sweet ride.
Derrick and Chuck toasting the border crossing

Flying the "kite"
The next night we motor sailed with full main dead down wind with six to eight foot following seas.  Every three minutes or so we would catch a large wave and surf down its face.  Interabang’s hull speed is just shy of eight knots, but with the boat surfing we are able to reach much higher speeds.  At one instant, speed over ground was 10.6 knots on the GPS.  This is wicked fast and we had a great time surfing through the night.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the hook in San Diego Bay

Once we started cruising around Southern California, we began hearing vessels identify themselves as warships on the VHF radio.  A voice on the radio would say “This is Warship 52,” for example, and announce the coordinates for a live fire range or ask a civilian vessel to alter course around one of these areas.  We were intrigued by this new vessel description, and we heard it on the radio more frequently as we got closer to San Diego.  During our passage from Dana Point to San Diego we actually began seeing warships.  We spotted a gun ship of some kind and later an aircraft carrier, both about four or five miles away.  Our third warship observation was a bit more intimate.  We had made our way three miles up the San Diego channel and were approaching the first set of docks.  Suddenly, there was a great deal of commotion in our path.  High speed inflatable boats with machine guns and flashing blue lights were zipping all around.  Three large yellow tug boats were taking up most of the channel ahead.  We then heard the announcement of a departing submarine on the VHF radio.  And there it was.  The sub was about thirty yards away and an armed security boat kept us at a distance as we passed it port-to-port.  This was a nerve racking arrival in a strange port.

Welcome party?
Well before dark, we were settled into an anchorage off a golf course just south of the Coronado Bridge.  On our second evening at anchor, Roy and Mary came to meet us for dinner.  Derrick worked with Roy in the late 90’s and he has been a great friend and mentor.  Roy and Mary were very kind to loan us a car while we were in San Diego.  This was extremely helpful in getting prepared for our trip to Cabo San Lucas.  The next night we had dinner with David and Jeanne.  David is the owner and skipper of Siren, the Cal 39 that Derrick crewed on in the Pacific Cup race to Hawaii back in 1998.  It was great catching up with David and Jeanne and revisiting our Pacific Cup experiences.

 After three days, it was time to move to our next anchorage, La Playa on Harbor Island, several miles back up the channel towards the harbor entrance.  The harbor police control the anchoring at La Playa and allow a limited number of boats to anchor there for a maximum of 72 hours over the weekend.  We reserved a space when we checked in with the harbor police upon our arrival (just after the sub incident).  La Playa is an anchorage off Shelter Island that is essentially a wide patch of water nestled between three yacht clubs and a residential beach.

Getting to Shelter Island was more complicated than usual as we had to move a boat and a car.  Our plan was for Trisha to drive the car to the police dock where I would pick her up with the boat and she could help anchor.  The execution of this plan was made a bit more challenging as a thick fog blanketed the police dock and surrounding area.  Fortunately, I had been to the police dock a few days earlier and that experience helped me find my way through the fog.  We were soon on the hook and ready to explore Shelter Island.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dana Point

It’s a small world out there.  One evening, while cruising around Avalon Harbor in our dinghy, we came across Mark and Mimi on Mimiya.  They were our next door boat neighbors back at Marina Village in Alameda.  We knew they were on their way down the coast to San Diego.  Next thing you know, we’re hanging out on their boat in Avalon. 

The forecast said the high winds and seas from the passing storm would calm down on Friday, and it was time to move on.  Rather than make a marathon trip to San Diego, we decided to break up the distance with a stop at the highly recommended Dana Point (Orange County).  The thirty-two mile passage was an uneventful motor/sail and I spent most of the time running the water maker while Trisha piloted the boat.  As we neared shore, we got a first-hand look at the red tide that Southern California has been experiencing.  The color of the water went from blue to reddish brown.  There were occasional tide lines where deep blue streaks of clean water sliced through the red tide.

Once at the Dana Point Harbor entrance, we made a hard left turn behind the sea wall that protected us from crashing waves.  We were led to the west end anchorage by the harbor patrol and found a spot to anchor between the seawall and another anchored boat.  Things were pretty quiet when we arrived on Friday, but that all changed Saturday when we learned that the harbor is well loved by the locals.  During the weekend, there was marine traffic of all shapes and sizes: kayaks, paddle boards, out riggers, power boats, kids racing small sailboats, sailing lessons, an on and on.  We also learned that, at low tide, a beach appears about a hundred feet from our boat and this is the harbor hot spot.  We had a great time watching all the action.

On Sunday, Chuck, our crew for the trip from San Diego to Cabo, made a hundred mile journey from his home to meet us.  We showed him more about the workings of the boat, discussed the paperwork requirements for entering Mexico, and even worked out a watch schedule for our trip.  We also did a dry run for rigging the spinnaker.  We are very excited to have Chuck making the trip with us.
During the night we got very close to the sea wall.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Swinging in Avalon

As our week in Avalon comes to an end, we have to say that this has been our best stop so far.  Once we got past the boats being packed in like sardines, there was much to enjoy.  The harbor is well protected so there is minimal boat rocking.  The town is small and walking is the best way to get around.  The hiking is great in the surrounding hills.  There is a large grocery store for provisioning.  Off the beaten path, we found a restaurant that serves $1 tacos during Happy Hour.  The cruise ship people leave after a relatively brief visit.

Today we’re hunkered down waiting for an early season storm to pass.  Weather reports are closely monitored, particularly the size of the seas.  We need to decide whether to make the crossing to the mainland on Thursday or stay an extra day and let things calm down.  Trisha will make the call.

We took a fair number of pictures and some of the better ones are posted here.  Despite accusations to the contrary, the swinging shot was not alcohol induced.

View from Wrigley Memorial
Flying the battle flag on Saturday
Swinging in Avalon
How much farther to the top?!
View of Avalon from the Divide Road summit
Can we go back to the boat now?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Twenty-six miles across the sea

Click here to listen to the song from 1958, "26 miles (Santa Catalina)"

Avalon Harbor - Santa Catalina Island
On Wednesday at 0730 we left Kings Harbor and headed for Catalina Island.  We said goodbye to our anchor mate, Michael, as he was having a cup of coffee on Compass Rose.  As usual, we raised the main sail in the harbor and motored out.  Fortunately, we had some wind to work with.  Once we rounded Palos Verdes Point, we set the jib, shut down the main engine, and Trisha took the helm while I ran the water maker.  It is a little hectic making water while underway because there is so much going on – sailing, watching for traffic in the shipping lanes, and monitoring the water maker temperature (it can suck up a piece of kelp and overheat).  Trisha did a great job sailing the boat.  Winds were fluky ranging from three to ten knots.  At one point I heard Trisha cheer in celebration in the boat speed hitting six knots.  Making way under sail alone has been a rare treat.

There were dolphins everywhere!
Twenty-two miles goes by fast as the silhouette of Catalina soon came into view through the fog.  Before we knew it we were approaching Ship Rock outside of Cherry Cove.  By 1300 we were on our mooring and comfortably observing the struggles of the arriving boats (one of our favorite pastimes).  Elaine and Jamie on Tardis, old friends from Alameda that moved to San Diego, arrived in the late afternoon.  We had a great time on Tardis.  Elaine’s mole chicken was fabulous and Jamie shared the details of his sailing travels and electronic installations.

Elaine and Jamie on Tardis
At 0900 the next morning, we said goodbye to Elaine and Jamie, dropped the mooring, and made our way to our next port of call, Avalon.  It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed identifying the rocks and coves as we made our way along the coast.  Avalon is a busy place, and a harbor patrol boat guards the harbor entrance and enforces the first-come-first serve policy, assigns the moorings, and takes payment in cash.  This is the most efficient mooring operation we have ever seen.  The density of the moorings is very tight and it was challenging to slowly squeeze between the boats and the mooring balls.  We were soon tucked in and looking forward to a week of exploring Avalon.