Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pants on Fire? Truth and Fiction

People who 'know' have told us a lot of things about what going down the coast in a sailboat would be like.  Some have been pretty accurate, such as, it isn't as hard to do as you might think, but other pieces of wisdom seem to be failing us.  The first that I'd like to de-bunk is that it gets warmer as you move south.  While this has certainly been true during the day, I beg to differ about the night.  Gary and I are still wearing our survival suits when we do night watches, and even then we are COLD!! Where is this warm weather that is spoken of??? (OK, compared to Canada, this is warm... but still).

The second myth is that 'everything gets easier once you get to San Francisco'.  Well, we've had our two hardest sails since we left San Francisco.  Our overnight passage from Sausalito to Monterey was uncomfortable, but the trip from Monterey to Morro Bay was definitely the worst yet.  Granted, we did leave when the winds were predicted to be 20-30 knots, so perhaps the 38 knot winds we were seeing could be expected.  But, it wasn't the winds that were the main problem, it was the swell. The seas were huge!  We got slammed by rogue waves every 15 minutes or so - let me tell you, it sounds like the boat has hit a truck when one of those things comes down on you.  We actually got 'pooped' by one of them - water all the way up to the centre cockpit!  We were amazed everything was still on deck afterwards. And stuff in cupboards that had traveled 1000 nm without issue suddenly decided to leap about trying to commit suicide.  I lost track of how many pillows and towels had to be stuffed into cupboards and lockers to stop the carnage.  Incredible.  Poor Charlotte didn't fair quite as well on this passage... Lets just say I had some laundry to do when we arrived in Morro Bay.  Serves us right, I guess.

Strangely, as you move down the coast from San Fran, the mantra then becomes, 'everything is easy once you get around Point Conception'.  This is the point where north meets south, so I suppose the saying might be true.  We'll be testing this theory over the next few days when we do our passage.  But as our friend Lynn on Solastra keeps saying, the 'people' who say this better have the fire department standing by 'just in case' their pants catch on fire from all the lying they are doing.  Stay tuned...

Out of the Bay Area and into Monterey

This one is for Libby - this is your weather buoy just outside Monterey
Our first flying fish on deck - Charlotte 'sampled' it later
Well, we did it - we managed to leave the Bay Area!  We left Sausalito at 1:00 am on the new moon so the stars were incredible.  We passed under the Golden Gate bridge at 1:30 am and watched the lights of the city melt away.  A beautiful sight. Unfortunately, all beautiful thoughts left both our heads as we were soon into huge, steep, and very uncomfortable seas. Needless to say, it was a long night.  We arrived in Monterey 16 hours later, then spent 45 minutes trying to maneuver our 14 foot beam boat into a 15 foot wide slip in 10 knots of breeze and a hell-of-a surge current.  Needless to say we've had better moments, but we got her parked at last and were all happy to be on solid land!   Charlotte survived her first overnight passage without incident - she is a real trooper.  
We moved the boat over to the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club and enjoyed their hospitality for 2 nights.  Unfortunately we had to move back to the main marina for our last night, but the Harbourmaster kindly gave us a wider slip so all was well.

Sea Rover at the Monterey Peninsula YC dock

Overall our stay in Monterey was great.  We met up with friends Dean and Lynn (and Lulu the dachshund) on Solastra, walked on the beach, shopped at Trader Joe's (again), and visited the local Farmer's Market in search of pluots (which we found and stocked up on).  Monterey is a great place to walk (they have a great boardwalk and huge beach) and so walk we did.  Poor Charlotte was exhausted every single day.

Enjoying the Farmer's market
Pluots!!!   And 8 kinds of apples - gotta love California produce
The only downside to our stay was trying to sleep through the sea lions which haul out on the marina docks and spend all night barking at each other.  Who knew 10 animals could be so loud???  

The sea lions recovering after 'barking' all night

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Work and Play in the Bay Area

Pulling apart the old foil with a 3:1 pulley system (Gary in his element)
Rigger attaching the new forestay
Up the rig
Time flies when you are having fun.  It is hard to believe we've been in the Bay Area for over a week now!  As usual, we've had a busy week.  We started with the most important job - getting our forestay looked at by a Rigger. Gary and I damaged the foil slightly during our emergency repairs in Astoria, and as expected, the Rigger thought this would cause us grief in the future (e.g. not being able to get the sail down when necessary, etc).  In addition to that, he pointed out that while we replaced every other piece of rigging on the boat 2 years ago, our forestay and furler were now the 'weak link' in the system.  I guess that is to be expected with a 30 year old piece of equipment.  So, we bit the bullet and replaced the forestay and furler.  Not in the cruising budget, but what can you do?  The best part is that the new forestay has a different type of fitting from the old one and so it will not come apart again!  

We then headed up the Napa River to the town of Vallejo.  Our plan was to stay at the Municipal marina.  We had called the day before and were told that although they were dredging the area around the guest dock, it would be no problem to put us in one of the slips inside the marina.  Great, we think, and up the river we go.  We called the marina when we arrived and were rather rudely informed that the whole marina was closed to guests because of the dredging!  But we talked to you yesterday and were told no problem, we say.  "Well you didn't talk to me"... blah blah blah.  Anyway, a very firm "no".  We then called the other public marina in town - and guess what?  They are full. So, now what?  My parents are arriving in Vallejo the next day and so we need a place to stay in the area.  
Docked at the Vallejo Yacht Club (Napa River)
Here comes the lovely Vallejo Yacht Club to our rescue!  Even though they have 50 single handed racers coming in the next day, they kindly agree to make room for us.  They offered us wonderful hospitality during our entire stay.  We attended a fantastic dinner at the club on Friday night and met some great people.  Everyone at the club was friendly and went out of their way to help us.  We couldn't have asked for a better stay. Until... the dreaded dredger (that was supposed to be next door at the Municipal marina) showed up to dredge their harbour. Now, we understand that the club has been waiting for this to happen for quite some time, but I don't think they were counting on it happening on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning in the middle of one their busiest club events of the season (remember those 50 single handed racers??).  Needless to say it was chaos with boats trying to maneuver around the dredger, guns going off for the sailboat race (gun shy Charlotte loved those...), the noise from the dredging 20 feet from our boat.  Not to mention, they kept having to move us out of the way of the dredger (the harbour is really small).  After the 3rd move we decided we were overstaying our welcome and decided to move on.  Great place to stay though - we highly recommend them for anyone doing this trip in the future.
Here comes the dredger!!
A bit to close for comfort...
Despite the chaos of moving boats etc, we did find time to drive up to Napa and Sonoma for some sightseeing and wine tasting.  We stopped at 3 wineries but only tasted at the last one.  After 6 rather large tastes of some very nice wine, we decided we didn't need to go to any more vineyards.  Gary took a 'shortcut' from the Sonoma valley to the Napa valley and so we got to see some very beautiful countryside (and drive one of those crazy California roads).

Don, Winnie and Karina in Sausalito (San Fran in the background)
The amazing Bay Model
Ecclectic Sausalito
My parents and I (and Charlotte) sailed back to Sausalito the next day while Gary did errands with my parents car. We spent the next day wandering around town, enjoying the eclectic scenery (funky houseboats and mailboxes), as well as viewing the "Bay Model".  The Bay model is just that - a model of the Bay made by the Army Corp of Engineers back in the 1950's so that they could simulate different scenarios like, what would happen to the bay if such and such a bay was completely dredged etc.  It is an impressive sight - it occupies an area equivalent to 3 football fields.  Probably the most impressive thing though was just realizing how many waterways there are in this particular area.  And how shallow the whole area is!  Definitely a good overview.

Funky houseboats on the shore
The Sausalito Cruising Club
Yesterday we moved from the expensive marina to the very welcoming (and free) Sausalito Cruising Club.  They don't have much space on the dock (the club is basically a building on a barge), but we shoe-horned ourselves into a 45 foot space - our friends Rose and Dave on s/v Aussie Rules ended up having to raft to us - thanks!.  Getting in to the club required passing over a small "bar" and can only be entered at high tide.  Despite there supposedly being enough water under the keel, we scraped through the mud for about 20 feet while on our approach to the dock.  As this is the 3rd time we've essentially run aground in the Bay Area (not to mention bottoming out overnight in several marinas), we were pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  Our depth gauge had a hissy fit, but the boat itself just trucked through the mud.  We are definitely going to have to clean the water filter before we continue on down the coast.
Front view - Cruising Club

Docked at the Sausalito Cruising Club
And now we wait.  We are waiting for our dingy to be repaired (hopefully by Monday), and then we will wait for the next weather window to start moving South.  So far the weather isn't looking good...we could be here for a while.  But, we have no where to be and all the time in the world to get there.  And maybe we'll complete a few more boat projects along the way... like our watermaker, for example....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leg 1 Complete - In San Francisco!!

Well, we successfully made it to San Francisco!!

Gary entertaining himself while underway
The passage from Crescent City was happily uneventful.  This gave Gary time to do boat chores, like sorting our miscellaneous nuts and bolts container (he was sooo happy).  This part of the trip included passing the dreaded and feared "Cape Mendocino", which can be quite nasty in any kind of wind and seas.  As you can see from the pictures, it was a millpond when we went past.
Coming up on Cape Mendicino at dusk

The first night out of Crescent City was clear and full of stars - the second night, not so much.  We got stuck in the notorious California coast fog for the last 36 hours of the trip.  We had pea soup visibility and so had to rely on our trusty radar to see us through.  We both got very good at picking 'targets' (and there were a lot of them) out of the sea clutter on the screen.

Our view for the last 36 hours
Aagghhh!  Which dot is a boat!!!
High fashion on the high seas
With the fog came frigid, temperatures and damp conditions.  We haven't been that cold in a long time - and this is California??  We both would have frozen to death without our trusty survival suits.  The cold was absolutely bone chilling, especially at night.

Matching outfits - how sweet
The highlight of the trip, of course, was passing under the Golden Gate bridge.  The fog started to clear just as we got within sight of it.  Although this may be hard for landlubbers to understand, passing under the bridge is a big deal for a sailor.  It is the culmination of years of dreaming, hard work and preparation.  If you can make it down the Washington, Oregon and California coast, the belief is that you can make it anywhere in the world on your sailboat.

We enjoyed our "bridge moment" to the fullest. Quite an accomplishment for people who really only got into sailing in 2009 (at least on Karina's part)!!

Third time under the Golden Gate for Gary...
...but, a 'first' for Karina
A major milestone for us as a sailing couple
Going under the bridge

On the other side!!

Overall it was a pretty good passage and much easier than expected. I guess that is what preparation does for you!  We can certainly credit the Bluewater Cruising Association with helping us in that regard.

It was great to meet other Cruisers in Port Angeles and Neah Bay before we left, and it definitely made the 'big left turn' from Neah Bay less scary to look back and see our friends Dave and Rose on s/v Aussie Rules right behind us.

Of course the trip didn't go completely smoothly as we had that little rig issue on the first night, but we dealt with it calmly and rationally.  Our watch schedule worked pretty well - we did 4 hours on, 4 hours off.  While Gary found it hard to entertain himself for this long (I was fine), it was invaluable to have that many hours of sleep in a row.  It kept the grumpiness level at a minimum, and kept us both pretty alert.  We both did really well on the sea sickness front, as well.  I was sick for the first few hours, but then managed to get over it by dinner time on the first day.  Gary felt better than usual as well.  My biggest worry was that I would be incapacitated by sea sickness, so it was definitely a relief to know that we were both capable, functioning crew members!

We are currently in Sausilito.  We anchored out for the first two nights in the very rolly, shallow anchorage at the south end of town.  It is a good thing we had just come in from off-shore and were used to being bounced around for hours on end or else we would have been sea sick for sure in the anchorage!  We met up with fellow Blue Water Cruising Association members (and friends) Dean and Lynn of s/v Solastra, and Gord and Mags of s/v Kanilela, both of whom made their way down the coast as first time passage-makers earlier this month.  It was great to catch up, talk about our respective trips and compare what broke on board.  Believe it or not, we didn't have the most 'expensive' trip down.  But, we all made it here safe and sound, and all feel well 'salted'.
Motoring into Sausilito

View from our anchorage in Sausilito, CA
Today we are having our furler and forestay replaced by one of the local riggers.  Not a cheap solution to our little rigging problem, but it will ensure we don't have an issue with the forestay in the future.  We will likely stay in the boatyard tonight (no rolly anchorage - yippee!!) and will then head up to the Napa river to Vallejo tomorrow to meet my parents, who are driving down the coast to deliver Charlotte to us.  Unfortunately it is "Fleet Week" over the weekend and so Sausilito is booked solid with all the Navy activities that go along with it.  We'll hide out in Vallejo with the folks for the weekend and will hopefully do some car trips to Napa and Sonoma from there.  We may come back to Sausilito next week after the all the hoopla has calmed down.

So, believe it or not we made it to San Francisco and are now looking forward to the next leg of the trip down to San Diego.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Arrived in Drakes Bay

After a very long night we have arrived safely in Drakes Bay which is just north of the San Francisco bridge. We plan to head under the bridge with the early morning tide tomorrow.
We are certainly looking forward to some warm bay area temperatures. After 2 solid days in zero visibility, seeing the sun again will be very exciting.
All is well on board

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Offshore Update: Safe and Sound in Crescent City

We have arrived in Crescent City.  Things got pretty exciting last night (winds to 30 knots and seas of about 2.5 -3 meters) but Sea Rover was more than up to the task and all is fine.  We will spend a couple of days here getting used to non moving surfaces beneath our feet.  We plan to make our move around Cape Mendocino (the place cruisers have nightmares about) on Saturday.  From there its a few days till we get to the end of Leg 1, San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Offshore Update: Coming up to Cape Blanco

We are screaming along under single reefed main and staysail with a nice following sea. Things are supposed to build later this evening so we are watching the weather very closely and will pull into Port Orford if need be. All is well on board (including Karina).