Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Isthmus, Catalina Island

We had the perfect conditions on the run from Channel Islands Marina to Catalina. Winds were off the beam 10-15kts and seas were relatively flat. We sailed using the Monitor to steer us. About half way across Paul wanted to try our new assymetrical “drifter” sail. It was the only new piece of equipment we had not been able to test. The set up was no problem and when we pulled the sock she billowed out the most beautiful deep sapphire blue one can imagine. It was really great. I tried to take a picture of it, but the camera angle and colors don’t translate well for this event. We are very happy with this sail and the size/shape that Carol Hasse suggested for us.

The arrival into Two Harbors “The Isthmus” was a whole new experience for us. The facility has laid out a mooring field that pretty much eliminates any chance of anchoring in a safe, sheltered zone. Mooring ball was our choice. How difficult can it be??? The balls are spaced closely together (I suppose so campers can share their poupon mustard over lunch). The lines that are pre rigged to allow boaters to slip the loop over the cleat on the boat, but it had knots so big that they were barely able to fit thru the chocks to place on our cleat. I wasn’t about to run it over our toe rail….After you secure the bow line you continue to pull the leader line aft until you find the stern loop. Meanwhile the neighbors moored 5 feet to the lee are helping to fend off the stern, the surge is so strong and closely timed that balance and footing is impossible except for those who choose to crawl the deck. Our helpful neighbors did remind me to be very careful pulling the leader line to stern as most are full of fish lines and hooks. (GREAT!!!) The harbor patrol finally motored over after assisting another boat and offered to pull our stern to windward so we could get the stern line secured. We gratefully accepted.

Honestly…This is the worst cluster I have ever encountered. The night was so rolling with surge we had to sleep in our off shore berth for security, but awoke to a beautiful morning.  They have a water taxi service here to get you to shore. Talos IV is moored spitting distance to the dock, seriously, it can't be more than 20'.  It costs 6 dollars each way, for a total of $12 bucks round trip to the dock. I think we are going to inflate the kayaks and take a long hike.

Where is Talos IV in this cluster.  We were stacked in
like sardines.

We finally had a chance to fly the assymetrical on our
way out to Catalina Island.

Channel Island Marina

We had a great stay in Santa Barbara! It was clean, friendly and very easy to walk around. Our departure in the mid morning was planned to put us into the Channel Islands Marina late afternoon. We planned to stay two nights, allowing us time to visit my brother Mark (the electronics genius). The run over was pretty flat and the winds only came up as we entered the channel. The next day Mark met us at the dock and we took the whole day to relax and sail around Anacapa Island. The western shoreline is very primitive looking, rough and full of sea caves. He pointed out all his favorite dive spots, shared stories of his latest adventures and spent a lot of time on the helm getting to know Talos IV. It was a very relaxing day for us with the type of sailing and messing around we hadn’t had a chance to do since early summer. The trip around Anacapa was well worth the effort. The lighthouse and sea arches on the southern shore were beautiful. We departed early the following morning planning to make Catalina Island by late afternoon.

Paul and Mark, Janet's brother (the ellectronics wizard).

The natural arch at the east end of Anacapa Island.

It was a beautiful day for a sail around Anacapa Island.
Light house above the arch on the east end
of the island.  Mark had an opportunity earlier
on in his career to actually do some work for
the park service solar panels and was able
to spend the night here.
Oil platforms offshore of Santa Barbara.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rounding Point Conception

Our friend Martha was right. San Simeon was one of the most beautiful spots we have encountered on the California coast. A perfect anchorage for scenic beauty. I hated to leave but we had a good weather window with gentle seas forecast to get around Point Conception. This land mass has a reputation as being treacherous to mariners for several reasons. There is a collision of currents, changes in temperature and often gale force winds that whip around the jutting land mass. The changes that occur on the sea state are sudden and well defined according to the Coast Pilot. The Pilot also describes this rounding as the "Cape Horn" of the Pacific Coast. That got my attention! We had a 21-24 hour passage to get to Santa Barbara from San Simeon. We planned our departure to arrive in Santa Barbara mid to late morning. That put us rounding the cape at around 2-3 AM. I'm beginning to think all gnarly passages must be made in the wee morning hours. We had a great sleep and were ready to head south. The winds were light so we motored initially until conditions freshened. Finally we were sailing in consistent 15 kts making 5.5-6 kts SOG. The trip was uneventful and we approached Point Arguello without much change in conditions. As we rounded the point we received a call from "Zoe" advising us they were rounding Point Conception and had a weather update for us. This was a surprise as we thought they had gone into San Luis Obispo Bay. They were advising somewhat heavier conditions then what was forecast, giving us peak wind gusts and sea state. It was a welcome bit of news and much appreciated as we were discussing the need to reef and tighten things down a bit. Their report left no question. We reefed, just getting Talos IV settled when the sea state suddenly became very confused. The winds began to whip and gust with peaks already hitting the mid to upper 20s. Talos IV handled it very well. By the time we made the point we had seen peak gusts 31-33kts, the seas were certainly confused but I don't think they were more then 10 ft. There were wind waves on top of this but I am not sure how much. The forecast was for 1-2 ft. It is had to say since you can't see anything at night. I only judge this by how the boat felt. Talos IV stayed dry in the cockpit thru the ordeal. She just seemed to hunker in and move thru it. Overall, this was probably the easier of our difficult roundings. If this was "light sea conditions" for Point Conception then I would absolutely not want to make this passage when the conditions were any worse. As we made the turn into Santa Barbara Channel the seas mellowed almost to a flat gentle state. Winds dropped to around 5-8kts. The transition thru the channel approaching the harbour is very creepy at night. There are huge city size oil platforms off shore which we passed. They are all alight, looking like a set from a sci-fi movie of drilling operations on an alien planet. They have official names on the charts. "Heritage", "Harmony", "Grace" seem a little odd when you view the actual structures. It must have been a marketing move during the approval process. Calling them "Belcher" or "Blowout" probably would not have sounded so loving on the prospectus. We started the motor and motored sailed into Santa Barbara arriving around 10:30am. The marina environment here is very "Southern California".

It was a grueling run around Point Conception and
some members of the crew just couldn't handle it.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Good Bye Monterey ... Hello San Simeon

We departed Monterey at 3:00am making passage to San Simeon, a 90nm trip. The weather forecast was for 3-4ft swell and wind waves 1-3ft. Winds to 15kt. It was pretty much as we expected and we had a great sail downwind until we approached Pt Sur and conditions became frisky. The seas came up and were very confused, winds gusted to 30kts and we set the reef. The excitement lasted for about another two hours (I went downstairs and went to sleep, so this is an approximation…) until the wind completely died and we had to motor. The nice thing about our arrival at San Simeon was seeing other sailboats we had met in Monterey, the gorgeous sunset and smelling the eucalyptus trees that are on shore. We are both glad to be here, having arrived at 7PM. Today we commented on feeling warmer weather, having sunshine and what a grand thing being able to see this part of the coastline for the first time from off shore.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Monterey Update

Yes, we are still in Monterey.  Tonight will be our last and 5th night here.  I could go on about how much we enjoyed Monterey, which we did tremendously, as the reason why we stayed so long, but in the end, it was the offshore weather that kept us here.

While weather in Monterey was quite comfortable, the offshore conditions were just a bit more than what we would prefer.  Winds were in the 30's to mid 30's, on the upper end of our go no go model, but more importantly, the swell and combined wind wave was in excess of 10' with a period of about 7 - 8 seconds.  In other words, very steep and short waves would make for a very uncomfortable passage and possibly even a bit on the dangerous side.  So here we are.

The bonus of staying as long as we did is that we were able to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor make a pass over Monterey Bay enroute to her final resting place in Los Angeles.  There was a large crowd on the pier to witness the event.  It was quite a site to see.  As she passed overhead at about 1,500 feet the crowd burst into applause.  Also, the Air Force Thunderbirds were practicing for the Salinas Air Show this weekend, so we were able to see the planes coming and going all day long.

We leave in the morning at 3:30 AM.  The early departure is timed to get us into San Simeon, where we plan to drop an anchor for the night, before it gets dark.  It is a 90 mile run and at 6 knots, that's about 15 hours.  Winds have dropped to about 15 knots and the combined seas are now about 7 feet at 9 or 10 seconds.  With sunset at just past 7 PM, we should be able to get in before it gets dark and drop the hook for the night.

From San Simeon, we will make a run for Santa Barbara.  That run will be about 125 miles and require a one night passage.  We will go around the infamous Point Conception sometime in the wee hours of the night.  It is at that point that the colder currents meet the warmer and milder currents from the south and can make that passage a bit nasty.  The forecast is for quite settled conditions, so we don't expect much.  The good news is that we should be into warmer conditions, which after the run north and the passage down the coast will be most welcome.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor passing over
Monterey Bay enroute to Los Angeles.
As the old saying goes, "Red sky at night sailors delight ...".
 We are leaving in the morning so this was certainly
a good omen.
Paul taking in a bit of Monterey history at one of
the many adobes scattered around town.
Typical Monterey adobe, just up from the marina.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


We've arrived in Monterey.  It was a long 12 hour day of motoring, all the while hand steering.  Fortunately, the seas were flat, which facilitated maintaining a stable boat heading.  Winds came up to a respectable level only has we approached the harbor, so no sailing today.  Had we had any wind, we could have sailed and used the wind vane to steer the boat.

We had removed the hydraulic ram for our auto pilot while in San Francisco to have a progressively worsening hydraulic leak repaired.  The folks at Svendsens in Alameda did an amazing job of getting it done in less than 24 hours.  The cause of the problem turned out to be a small piece of paint from the units casing that had some how worked its way up into the ram and under the seal.  The fix was simply removing the ovending piece of paint and reassembling the unit.  The seal was not damaged.

That was the good news.  What I thought would be a simple re-install turned out otherwise.  Apparently in the process of removing the unit, the rudder reference unit (an electronic device that tells the auto pilot computer what position the rudder is in, an important part of the operation) wiring was twisted internally to the unit rendering it inoperable.  This we determined after multiple phone calls to B & G and various attempts to get it to work.  I'm learning how to use a multimeter.  In the end, we packaged the unit up and set it Fedex to Janets brother in southern California who owns and operates an electronics shop.  Miraculously, he was able to gain access to the internal portion of the unit and  make repairs, something B & G said couldn't be done.  He is some kind of a miracle worker.  We are expecting the unit to arrive here in Monterey this morning at 10:30  AM.  It should be a relitively simple reinstall and then we will need to recommision the pilot, which the manual explains in very logical steps.

Assuming all of that goes well, we will enjoy what Monterey has to offer.  Among other things a farmers market on Tuesday, that's today, and a walk up to Trader Joe's.  Looking at the offshore weather, we may stay three nights to allow a passage around Cape Conception in slightly lighter conditions a bit later in the week.  Monterey is a pretty cool place to hang out, so a few days here will be good.

Mama otter cuddeling and licking her baby.

The docks at Monterey Harbor.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Departing San Francisco for Points South

After family visits, dental care, boat maintenance and auto helm failure we have finally left San Francisco. We had about a six hour run with minimal swell and minimal wind all the way to Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay. Tonight we are at the dock enjoying our quiet time with the furry crew. The marina was a stop over for us during our sailing instruction on coastal cruising. It was fun walking about this afternoon, seeing things we had missed the first time here and exploring new places. The dock is active with tuna fishermen and charter boats. A small charter boat pulled into the slip next door. The picture we took of their catch is much more impressive than words. When we get wifi we will post the photo. Tomorrow we plan to leave early for Monterey. The sea conditions are settled and it will probably be a motor experience. We are planning for about 66nm and 11 to 12 hours passage.

No, we did not catch these, but the charter
boat that pulled in next to us did.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

San Francisco, finally!

Well, we finally made it off Coos Bay and not soon enough.  We were there for 5 days and that was 5 days too long.  Our intent was to pop in for a day or so to let the weather settle and get some rest, but a persistent  weather system was stalled off the coast and just wouldn't cut us any slack.  And then on the day of our planned departure, the Coast Guard had the Coos Bay bar restricted.  We were ready to go, the boat was ready and we just sat there all day listening to the VHF for the bar to open, which it did late in the day around 3 pm.  That of course meant that once over the bar and heading south night time would be upon us.

Negotiating the bar was a bit tricky as it was foggy.  We had to motor out a narrow channel from the marina with sandbars on both sides and then make a sharp left turn to enter the bar channel.  Conditions were fairly rough going across the bar, but we made it out with no issues.

As it was only Janet and I on this leg, we set up our night watch schedule for 2 hours on and 2 hours off.  It actually worked out pretty good, with both of us managing to get a fair amount of sleep.  The only issue was the cold.  We were both bundled up with multiple layers and it was still cold.  We ran the diesel heater at times which helped.

This was a 72 hour run and we had hoped to sail most of the way, but as luck would have it, the wind was fickle and we ended up motoring for about 50 hours.  We sailed when we could and did have one stretch of good wind that lasted for most of the day and night.

We rounded Point Reyes mid afternoon and estimated the run into the bay would take another 3 - 4 hours.  As you should enter the bay on slack or on the flood and the timing just wasn't right, we decided to drop our anchor and over night in Drakes Bay.  What we thought would be nice sheltered anchorage was far from that.  The wind was blowing at 25 - 30 knots, so we set our anchor with plenty of scope and got a good set.  Our new Vesper Marine AIS had an anchor watch, which we put to good use and I think gave us the piece of mind we needed to get a good night sleep.

In the morning, we woke early to time our entry into the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a beautiful sunny day with good brisk winds on our stern that carried us all the way in.  It was a Sunday and I think everybody who owned a boat was out on the bay that day.  Even though we have sailed many times on the bay, it was still an amazing sight.  Once in we made a beeline for Marina Bay in Richmond, which is where we've been for the last week.

We've had family visits, boat maintenance, re-provisioning and a trip to the dentist.  We had hoped for a few days to just hang out and relax, but it seems that it just wasn't meant to be for this stop.

We hope to be heading south in a day or two.  The plan is to harbor hop down the coast with stops in Half Moon Bay, Monterrey, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Long Beach and hopefully the channel islands and then San Diego.

While en route and some 20 - 30 miles off shore, this
little guy payed us a visit.  He even flew down
below and gave the furry crew quite a surprise, you
can only imagine the excitement that generated.

Janet's head made for a nice place to hang.
Rounding Bonita Point and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge
was an amazing sight.
Janet was relived to finally be passing under the
Golden Gate Bridge.
Paul was pretty excited to be back on the bay again.

We had family visits.  This is my sister Arlene and my
brother Roger's girl friend Janell.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Coos Bay and holding

We arrived in Coos Bay this past Friday.  Today is Sunday and we are still here.  Wind and sea forecasts offshore look pretty nasty, so we've decided to wait it out and let things settle.  As we are in no particular rush, we have the luxury of going when ever we want.  So here we are.  At this point, it looks like our window to leave Coos Bay and head south opens on Wednesday morning and conditions all the way to San Francisco look like we'll be in for a smooth downwind sail.  If all goes well, we should arrive in San Francisco on Saturday morning.  The plan is to moor at Marina Bay in Richmond.  We'll be there for about a week before resuming our southward trek.

Until then, we are enjoying the break in the action and checking out what Coos Bay has to offer.  Today, we took a walk to the Coast Guard look out that they use for monitoring the bar conditions.  Tomorrow, we plan to go into town and see what kind of trouble we can get into and then on Tuesday, we'll spend some time making sure that Talos IV is ready for the next leg.