Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunny San Diego

What a sailor's haven this is.  There are boats everywhere, the sun is shining, and a nice westerly breeze comes up in the afternoon for some pleasant day sailing.  I could really get used to this town.  It's nice to get back to some bay sailing.  And this bay doesn't require you to put a reef in before you leave the dock.

We left Catalina on Thursday evening and had a relatively peaceful overnight sail.  A light breeze filled in just before the sun went down and stayed with us for the first half of the passage.  So, we were able to get some miles in under sail.  We fired up the engine for the last 25 miles or so and motored into the bay after sunrise with a navy warship and submarine just ahead of us. 

This is a very busy harbor with a large military presence.  We had a lot of targets on the radar as we approached the bay and kept a close eye on approaching ships.  Sunrise at sea is always a welcomed sight, especially in a shipping lane near land.  We motored down the channel in flat water to the police dock on Shelter Island where they assigned us a guest slip for the week. 

I'm not sure a week will be enough time for us here.  We have a few boat projects and some provisioning to do, but we'd also like to check out some of the sights before leaving for Mexico.  So, no departure date just yet.

The last time I sailed to southern California was in June of 2009.  That was on my friend, Gary's, boat when I crewed for him to the Channel Islands and then to Santa Barbara.  I haven't spoken to Gary since that time.  He continued south and dropped out of touch and I went back to Alameda and got married.  I tried to contact him on a few occasions without much luck but heard a rumor that he was living in San Diego so I thought I try to find him when I got here. 

A few hours after we tied up I was walking back from the showers and noticed a very familiar boat motoring past our dock.  Could it be?  I watched to see where the boat docked and hopped in the dinghy for a quick row over.  There was Gary, standing on the dock, chatting up his neighbor.  We had a laugh together and caught up a little on the past two years.  Turns out he was easier to find than I thought.  What are the odds of that happening again?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Avalon Harbor

We're still on Catalina Island, sitting on a mooring in Avalon.  This is a very  busy little harbor.  It feels like Disneyland after the last few anchorages we've been to.  It's always buzzing with activity here, which is why we avoided the weekend.  We're very comfortable at the moment, though. 

We've spent some time walking around and enjoying the little beach-front town.  On Monday morning we left Catalina Harbor (on the other side of the island) and spent 4 hours motoring in fog and flat seas to get here.  Then it was high-anxiety as we manuevered through the spider web of mooring lines to find our assigned spot.  Since then it's been very relaxing.  The sun finally poked through the marine layer today and we're enjoying the warm southern California weather.

It's been almost three weeks now since we left the bay area.  It seems much longer.  We've packed months of activity into those three weeks.  We're still waiting for the moment when we finally relax, kick up our feet and really start enjoying ourselves. 

At the moment we're still adjusting to the lifestyle and the challenges of taking care of a baby, a dog, and a 40-foot sailboat.  We knew we would be challenged but there are times when it's a little too much.  I expect a few months for the adjustment process to complete.  We're looking forward to getting south of the border where the water is warmer and the pace a little slower.

The next stop is San Diego.  We plan to leave here tomorrow afternoon for an overnight sail so we can arrive in the daylight hours.  We'll be spending at least a week there getting a few last minute things done and visiting family before heading south.  Neither of us have ever been to SD so we're looking forward to it.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pelican Bay

October 19th, Santa Cruz Island
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Santa Catalina

We tied up to a mooring buoy in Catalina Harbor after an all night sail from Santa Cruz Island. It was a long and sleepness night, but the sailing was good at times. We had to motor the last 20 miles when the wind died and dodge a few container ships getting in here but then we could finally shut down the engine, crack open a cold beer, and relax. We got a hot shower and a hot meal, Colin is bouncing in his jumpy chair and we're feeling pretty good at the moment.

We spent two peaceful nights anchored in the scenic little Pelican Bay over on Santa Cruz Island before pulling up the hook yesterday around 5pm. My estimate of 16 hours to get here turned into 22 -- sometimes the wind just doesn't want to cooperate. So, we were happy to finally get here.

This is a well protected harbor and pretty quiet at the moment, which suits us just fine. The plan is to spend a few days exploring Catalina Island before setting sail for San Diego. Tomorrow we'll go ashore to check out Two Harbors and then sail over to Avalon after the weekend crowds have left. We'll post some pics and video when I get an internet connection in SD.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prisoner's Harbor

We're sitting at anchor in Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz island after a nice day sail from Santa Barbara.

The plan was to check out Pelican Bay but there were too many boats and the wind was really blowing when we came in. So we made the short sail around the point to Prisoner's. The wind just dropped off and we have the place all to ourselves. This will be my third night on this island and this is the only anchorage I've been to. We plan to find another spot to drop the hook tomorrow.

We had a relaxing 4 days in SB, which provided a well-needed opportunity to wind down after our first week of sailing. Thanks to my very good friend, Monica, for playing taxi and hosting a fantastic dinner on Friday night where April and Madison joined us. And thanks also for the wonderful send-off. We had our own little cheering party on the dock. It made it a little hard to leave.

The plan is to hang out here on Santa Cruz Island for a few days and then sail for Catalina Island. Rick and Maria are going to try and meet us there next weekend. I really hope they make it. It should be fun.
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life at Sea

Approaching Point Conception

Dolphin Play
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Santa Barbara

We're currently sitting peacefully in the Santa Barbara marina.  It's been a busy and eventful week with little sleep and much anxiety.
After the second of two storms swept through the bay area last week we made a run out the gate on Friday.  As sailors know, it's bad luck to leave port on a Friday but we threw caution to the wind and took a chance. 

We had an easy exit in sunny skies and made our final left turn down the coast.  The forecast called for light winds and lumpy seas, so we planned to duck in at Half Moon Bay if the ride was too uncomortable.  But by the afternoon all was well so we made the decision to continue on to Port San Luis -- a two-day sail away. 

Neither of us had done much sailing recently so we were a little rusty with our boat handling skills.  And, given that I was the only one on the boat that had ever done an overnight passage, there was an understandable level of anxiety with the crew.  As the night progressed the wind and swell increased, heightening the tension on board. 

We had a minor meltdown off Santa Cruz when the depth sounder suddenly dropped to 10 feet and the captain convinced himself that the chartplotter was leading us onto a beach.  It turns out that depth sounders aren't very accurate in really deep water -- like the Montery canyon.  I should have recognized this behavior since I'd seen it before on other boats but the combination of darkness and sleep deprivation resulted in an abrupt course change and upwind beat away from the coast.  I've been much more attentive to navigation since that first night.

We were both happy to see the sunrise and had mostly uneventful although lumpy sailing over the next day and night until we finally approached Port San Luis where the wind shut down and a thick layer of fog fell over us.  We crept in to the anchorage using GPS and radar as the sun came up on Sunday morning, dropped the hook, and sipped coffee as sea otters played in the kelp nearby. 

The plan was to spend a couple days unwinding and visiting family nearby before making a late night departure for the Channel Islands.  Point Conception, otherwise known as the Cape Horn of the West, stood between us and sunny southern California sailing.  This landmass is best approached in the early morning to avoid the strong winds that typically blow around it.  It was a good plan, a prudent plan -- a plan we quickly scrapped when I checked the weather again.  The forecast showed two high pressure areas converging on Tuesday to create windy conditions along the coast.  We decided to get south as soon as possible so we went back to the boat, got some sleep, and pulled up the anchor on Monday morning.  We added a much welcomed crew member when my brother, Rick, joined us for the sail to Santa Barbara.

We sailed all through the night passing Conception around 10 pm.  We saw moderate wind and the forecasted 6-8 foot swells but the boat handled it without issue under a conservative sail plan.  I was expecting more weather as we rounded the cape and felt relieved that it didn't show. 

My relief was short-lived, however, as a few hours later the wind began to blow.  I turned off the autopilot and took the helm as the wind speed hit 30 gusting to 38.  Again the boat handled it well and an hour later the wind fell off as quickly as it came on, leaving us with moderate conditions again. 

As sunrise approached we were sailing along in flat water and a gentle southern California breeze.  We steered for Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz island and dropped the hook.

The next day was spent relaxing in the cockpit.  We decided to hang out here for the night, do some fishing, and fire up the BBQ.  Again, these plans were laid to waste when an evening NE breeze came up leaving us on a lee shore in 15 knots of wind. 

Staring at rocks off the stern as the boat swings in the wind is not a comfortable feeling.  So, we pulled up the hook and motor-sailed out into the channel.  I was betting on the wind dying off with the sunset so we sailed around in circles for a while waiting for the anchorage to settle.  If it didn't we were in for another long night at sea.  Luckily I was right and the wind died off as the sun went down and we dropped the hook again a boat length from where we spent the day. At least we could all get some sleep.

In the morning, after coffee and a hot breakfast, we pulled up the anchor again and motored off into the channel.  Rick had set up a ride home from Santa Barbara on Wednesday afternoon, so we made our way back to the coast and a snug berth at the harbor.  We plan to spend a few days here visiting friends and taking care of some unfinished business before sailing for Catalina Island.   But you know how it is with plans.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Throw Off the Dock Lines

Well we finally did it.  After a couple extra days to provision and pack we threw off the dock lines and sailed away from Alameda -- just in time for the first winter storm of the season.  I can't believe the timing. 

So, at the moment we are anchored in Clipper Cove (Treasure Island) waiting out the weather before making a run down the coast.  It's very peaceful here and we're enjoying a little down time at the moment.  We still have our cell phones if anyone needs to contact us.

Colin did very well on his first sail, strapped in his car seat and watching everything happen with an intense gaze.  He's been very comfortable on the boat so far -- a natural sailor.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the potluck.  We really enjoyed the chance to say goodbye and spend time with our friends.  Hope to see everyone again next summer.

For those who want to follow us, I will be updating our position report soon.  Stay tuned.

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