Monday, November 24, 2014

Leg Two Complete - San Diego!!

Don't want to get in this guys way!
We officially arrived in San Diego harbour on November 18th.  A bit of celebration is in order as we have now completed leg two of three for our journey this year.

San Diego is the biggest navy port on the west coast and motoring up the channel is was obvious that this fact is true.  WARSHIP after WARSHIP passed us accompanied by all their sea and air support.

WARSHIP can only be written in capitols due to the fact that they make sure they pronounce their names ie: "WARSHIP 47" as intimidating as possible over the radio when identifying themselves.  We wondered why they didn't call themselves "Peaceships" but I guess that's just us being Canadians and why our country only has 2 of these.  (I think one tows the other one to where it needs to go...)
Very Hoity toity
 We docked at the Southwestern Yacht Club for three nights, but have now moved to an anchorage just outside the club.  SWYC was very welcoming and even has little posts on each guest dock filled out with the name of the vessel.  Free popcorn, wifi, showers and a beautiful clubhouse made it difficult to vacate.

San Diego has a bit of a bum boat problem, so they have very complicated rules about how long you can stay in each anchorage.
We are in the 'weekend anchorage' at the moment, but will have to move to one of the other 72 hour anchorages on Monday morning.  Luckily they have a reservation system, so at least you can reserve a spot in each zone.  This anchorage is restricted to 30 boats but we count about 45.

Hopefully the next anchorage doesn't have the same problem.  We've been taking advantage of being near marine chandalries, West Marine, good bookstores etc.  And we found a great place for sushi!

We have visited with our friends Pete and Karene, who we met years ago in Point Roberts when we owned Querida and they owned a powerboat.  They have since bought a catamaran and moved to San Diego last year, where they are living aboard and loving it.  They had initially planned to 'go Cruising' like the rest of us, but they like the lifestyle they have in San Diego and so are finding it difficult to leave.  The problem is that once you go south, it gets very difficult to go north again.  San Diego is a great place though, so I can see why they don't want to leave.  They certainly have a good thing going here.

Otto Sr and Jr.  We hope Sr teaches Jr how to steer
In amongst the visiting and provisioning (Pete kindly lent us his car to do a big shop before going south) we have, of course, done a few boat projects.  Our biggest priority was to replace our autopilot, which you may remember didn't survive the gale we sailed through on the way to Morro Bay several weeks ago.  Since then we have had to hand steer, which has sucked.  It made us appreciate "Otto" a lot more!  Anyway, "Otto Jr" was installed with only 1 major panic attack. After the new autopilot was in place, we discovered we could no longer turn our wheel - a bit of a problem for a sailboat.  After Gary disconnected the new autopilot and the problem persisted, the panic attack ensued... Gary quickly donned a bathing suit and goggles and got in the marina water (yuk) to check if something had gone wrong down below.  Nope, all looked fine there.  Phew.  After he dried off he realized the only thing he'd really changed with the new autopilot system was a big bolt.  A trip back down into the back lazarette (aka, the garage) confirmed that, yup, the new bolt was too long and so the steering quadrant couldn't turn.  A quick saw of the bolt later, and our steering had been restored.  All in all our 1 hour job only took 4 hours to complete.
Every boat needs a vice on board!

The second major job we tackled was replacing the 2 broken pieces of our poor, suffering windlass.  Karina got everything apart without issues, but couldn't get the replacement stripper to fit into the drum.  Hmmm... We compared the new stripper to old one, and lo and behold, they were different!! Of course they were... Assuming that we'd somehow ordered the wrong parts back in BC, we quickly set about getting the dingy ready to go to shore so we could visit the local chandalries to try to find a replacement (or at least order one).  Then we had the bright idea to check the second spare stripper we had ordered at the same time.  And it fit!! So at least the windlass could go back together.  We don't have a replacement part anymore, which is a bit of a worry, but at least  the damn thing is working now. Again, a 30 minute job only took 3 hours to complete.  At least we're not losing our troubleshooting skills while we are out here.

We also tackled our bow roller issue - basically we took it apart, switched the 2 rollers around and greased them up.  At least now the roller is spinning, which it wasn't doing before.  Hopefully this will help solve our chain twisting issue.  Time will tell.

In the land of tropical flowers.  YEAH!
There are a bunch of Bluewater Cruising boats in the anchorage this weekend, so we are having a BURP (no idea what is stands for) tonight.  There will be Dean/Lynn from Solastra, Gord/Mags from Kanilela, Scott/Tanya from Kialoa, Annie/Tom from Tappen Zee, and a new young couple we've just met - Austin and Christina, who are sailing on a friends boat for the season. I can't belive we are going to have 12 people on board tonight...for potluck dinner!!  Should be entertaining.  

Our loose plan at the moment is to stay here next week to complete our water maker install (and a few other jobs).  We'll probably leave for Ensenada just after Thanksgiving.  We have to get a vet certificate for Charlotte and clear out of the US 72-hours before arriving in Ensenada, which means we can't leave here until at least Tuesday, December 2nd.  We are taking it easy and enjoying what the city has to offer.  I know that the Sea of Cortez is our final destination, but we are in no rush to get there.  The journey is as important as the destination.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay.  Wonder how much these houses cost?
The work never stops
As the days are getting shorter, we are finding it difficult to put in long distances (ie, over 40 nm) without sailing overnight. So, we decided to stop in Mission Bay for a couple of days to break up our trip from Oceanside to San Diego.  We are really glad we did.  It is a bit like False Creek - a lovely little anchorage nestled amoung multi-million dollar houses on the beach and Sea World.  Yup, Sea World. A bit bizarre, but a great location, nonetheless.

Despite being less than 10 nm from downtown San Diego, you do feel like you are 'away from it all'.  In fact, we met someone paddling by on a SUP who said he lived 3 miles away but that his family had rented a house on the beach here for the weekend.  Not sure why you can't just drive to the beach instead if it is that close, but who am I to judge?!

We spent 2 nights there SUP'ing around the bay, walking the dog on the soft sand (only during 'dog hours', of course), and doing boat projects.  Of course.  As the weather was nice and the water warm, we finished cleaning the hull and dove the boat to check that the giant piece of kelp we'd hit the day before hadn't damaged the prop (it was fine).

At least we don't work in an office!
The anchorage has a rule that you are only allowed to stay for 72 hours.  One skipper had obviously figured out a loophole in the system and was able to stay longer by beaching his sailboat on the sandbar every day.  We decided we didn't like living on a 45 degree angle 50 % of the time so we continued on to San Diego.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island
As described in an earlier blog, it can get tiring having to find your way around a new place every 3-4 days.  So, when we heard that the mooring balls on Santa Catalina Island were "pay for 2 nights, stay for 5 nights free" (the off-season rate) we jumped at the chance to go there.  Santa Catalina Island is only 22 nm from L.A., and it is really the only boating destination for the whole of Southern California.  To accommodate the thousands of boats that descend on Catalina during the summer, the Parks people have installed mooring balls just about every place they can.  The water is pretty deep most of the way around, so anchoring is a challenge in most places.  As a result, there are probably over 2000 mooring balls scattered around the island.  As space is scarce, the balls are placed about 20 feet apart, and boats are required to tie up to a front and back mooring.  There is an elaborate line system on each mooring, which is quite intimidating if it is your first time encountering one.  Luckily there was almost no one at the island when we visited, because I can't imagine trying to maneuver our boat into place, in a cross wind, with 20 boats within a boat length.  From talking to other cruisers who go there a lot, it gets "interesting" in the summer.  Glad we weren't there to experience it.

The top, at last! Those tiny white things are all the mooring balls
Isthmus (left) and Catalina Harbour (right - where we stayed)
Pooped puppy
We spent the first 6 nights in quiet Catalina Harbour, which is not as touristy as the rest of the island. But, a short 10 minute walk from the harbour takes you to the small town of "Two Harbours", which is a much more popular tourist site.  Catalina is a rocky, mountainous, dry island that reminded us a lot of the Sea of Cortez.  Tons of cactus.  One of the main attractions is hiking, and so on day 2 we set off to climb to the top of one of the peaks in search of great views.  After a long, steep slog to the top (Charlotte was bagged by the time we got there), we found our views.  Truly magnificent.  Unfortunately the hike proved to be too much for our short legged, 9 year old dog - she hurt the doggy-equivalent of her pectoral muscle and was in pain for several days. She wouldn't let us lift her up, which is a bit of a problem when you live on a boat that has a 5 step ladder between the cockpit and inside of the boat.  Luckily she'd let us lift her if she was in her life jacket, so we could get her in and out of the boat (and, thankfully, in and out of the dingy).  A good lesson for us to take it easy on the poor girl, as a real injury with our current lifestyle would be a major issue.

Bocce tournament on the beach with fellow Cruisers
The chain/rode snarl...

After several days of boat projects (cleaning the hull, working on the water maker install etc), and some play (several Happy Hours, a bocce tournament in Two Harbours with the crews of s/v Kanilela, Kialoa and Greybeard), we motored over to the main town of Avalon with the intention of anchoring outside the bay (we were too cheap to pay the extra mooring ball cost).  The bay was deeper than we'd anticipated (150'), but as we needed to untwist our anchor chain, which had been causing us problems all summer, we decided to give it a try.  Now, the chain has been really bad all summer, but usually I can get 120 feet out with no issues.  On that day, it seemed worse for some reason.  Even though I was going slow and being paranoid about untwisting it as I went, I only got 100 feet of chain out before it jammed in the windlass (does this sound familiar??).  Needless to say, a lot of very foul language was said by both of us and a mini-meltdown ensued. Gary kept saying 'why doesn't this ever happen when I run the windlass?'  ...Then we saw the chain...  From 120 feet on-wards, we no longer had chain, we had a chain/rode ball.  There was no beginning and no end. What a disaster.  After we got the first jam out and realized the windlass still worked (ha, I didn't break it!), we drove silently out to deep water and set about untangling and dropping it all in the water.  It was a very long and painful process, which took almost 3 hours to complete. As we pulled in the rode, we broke the stripper arm on the windlass, but it seemed to work if I got in the anchor locker (which is very small) and pulled from below.  Luckily we only had to do that for the rode - the chain seemed to go through the windlass fine. After the untangling, we tried dropping and raising the anchor a few times and realized that our bow roller was causing the chain to twist 90 degrees between the roller and the windlass.  So, problem identified and fixed for the time being, but a final solution would have to come another day. As it was almost dark by the time we were done, we motored 3 nm north of Avalon and picked up a mooring ball there.  Despite our dark moods, we worked as a team to land the dingy in small surf on the beach so Charlotte could pee (in the dark) then went back to the boat for a tasty (?) meal...
Mmmm, dinner...

The next day we spent the morning fixing an alternator issue and topping up our batteries with water, then motored down to Avalon in our dingy to meet Gord and Mags from Kanilela, and Scott and Tanya from Kialoa for a late lunch/early dinner at a great hole-on-the wall Mexican place off the tourist track.  We celebrated making it this far by drinking margaritas (Gary had a smoothie) from styrofoam cups, with friends. Thankfully in Cruising, the 'bad' is always tempered by the 'good'.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I love it when a plan comes together

This past weekend Karina reminded me that it was Halloween.  Confused, I asked her how she thought I couldn't have noticed the date given the man skate boarding past us in a Spiderman costume.  “No Silly” she replied, “Do you realize we spent the first weekend on our Cal 5 years ago today?”  Oh right….  Karina is annoyingly exceptional at remembering special dates.
5 years ago to the date, we purchased our first sail boat.  A 1976 Cal 34.  At the time neither of us could possibly grasp our future but we had a plan.
a teamStep 1:  Buy a cheap little boat with a good heart
Step 2:  Pour enormous amounts of money into it under the guise of “education”
Step 3: Buy an expensive big boat with a good heart
Step 4:  Pour enormous amounts of money into it under the guise of “safety”
Step 5: Leave our lives as we know it and go out and see the world
Sure we had a few bumps along the way, like forgetting to sell the first boat before buying the second boat.  Looking back it was easy to see how powerful a vision can be.  We had a goal, it united our focus and we achieved what we set out to do in the time period we originally discussed.
That first night in our Cal five years ago was a memorable one.  We went out to a pub and were served by a woman in an elaborate Peacock costume.  On the way back to the boat we were forced to keep Charlotte from jumping off the dock as the fireworks started 50 feet before the safety of our new vacation home.  It was a cold night so we snuggled under blankets with a small ceramic heater keeping us warm.  Then the boat briefly caught fire.
Yup, the journey may have been different than we originally envisioned but we are out doing what we planned.
Who knows what the next five years will hold.

Its a hard life we lead

We have, yet again arrived in a new port.  After spending a wonderful 4 days in Santa Barbara we were finally getting to know the town.  We knew where everything was including the laundry, grocery stores, bakery and farmers market.  After careful scouting we decided on the best ice cream parlour and the cheapest place for good fish tacos.  We knew how to get to the beach, the pool and that damn die tab had finally dissolved from our head.
I can see how cruisers get trapped in a single town.  We are grasping why so many people have a hard time understanding what we are doing.  Sure, it’s easy to go on vacation for a few weeks to see somewhere new.  What we are doing is something completely different.  We find a nice place (that we would probably go to on vacation), but just when we get comfortable we feel the need to move to somewhere else nice.  Now we have to learn everything all over again.  Everything from wind patterns to tides to the lay of the land and where everything is.  To be truthful, it is a bit tiring.  Those on vacation get to go back to their normal lives where finding the place to get a loaf of bread doesn't take intense research and careful navigation.
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not complaining.  If we didn't like the challenge we’d just stop moving.  Every new place has things waiting to be discovered and different people to interact with.  We are slowly putting together a system of how to streamline the process.  Other cruisers understand our pain and we quickly band together to share all knowledge learned.  So far its working for us.
Next week we plan to stay put on Catalina island for a whole 7 days.  It will be nice to have 2 or 3 days available to return to the places we enjoyed in the first phase of discovering a new place.  Hopefully we won't get bored or worst, stuck there forever.

Things have certainly changed

We are in Palm tree land now
For the first time since way back in July at Roscoe Inlet we are now seeing water temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius.  To be fair, Roscoe was a big anomaly in the land of really cold water, in fact Sea Rover probably hasn't seen consistent water temperatures above 20 for almost 20 years.
We are now in the land of sun and sand and can really feel it.  Everyone told us it would get warmer south of Point Conception and when we did round it we scoffed and laughed at them.  Our first weekend in Santa Barbara saw us wearing toques and rain slickers.  In fact our arrival in most of these Californian ports has been greeted with happy locals thanking us for brining the desperately needed rain.  Santa Barbara was certainly no exception with a deluge of just over an inch in 2 hours on the eve of our arrival.
Birds of Paradice
Wandering around Santa Barbara we started noticing things…  Is that a palm tree?  Are those Frangipanis and Bird of Paradise flowers?  Now that the cold front has passed we are expecting to see air temperatures in to the 90’s.  It's shorts and sunhats in November!  Yes things look like they are finally changing and we are happy to be free of our long underwear and parkas.

Rounding the Cape of the West Coast

Endless sand
All the guide books call Point Conception the “Cape Horn” of the west coast with tales of woe and disaster.  Given we’d just had our roughest passage of the whole trip, we decided to spend a few days in Morro Bay, watch the weather and make sure Point Conception wasn’t memorable.
This turned out to not be a bad thing, after a couple of early to bed late to rise days we recovered nicely from our trauma getting to Morro Bay and ventured out into the town and surrounding sand dunes.  Morro Bay is a classic coastal tourist trap for those driving Highway 1 north or south.  Quaint shops selling sea shell fridge magnets and mugs line both sides of the well kept main drag.  Given the number of “Quaint” shops, we felt fortunate that it wasn’t tourist time and had the place mostly to ourselves. 
Across the small bay is a long peninsula of sand dunes protecting the town from the ravages of the Pacific.  We took a number of long walks over the dunes to play on the beach.  Charlotte was most appreciative to be off the constantly moving boat and get to play in the sand.  Like a small child she darted left, right, up and down, not knowing where to run next.  She slept well every night.

Sand Dunes of Morro Bay
Tell-tale Morro Rock
How do I get from the ladder to the dinghy?

When the weather started to look good for our next big hurdle we continued on to Port San Luis in order to be positioned as close as possible for our rounding of the cape.  In the early 1860’s a far sighted business man built a long pier on the north end of the bay in an attempt to steal ship traffic away from Morro bay ports further south.  Shortly after that the railway went in and the pier prospered.  Although the major commercial ship traffic is long gone the pier still stands today and is now used for small sport boat fishing.  We anchored just off the pier and used it to get Charlotte to shore for a wander.  There is a small platform to drop off passengers/gear but the boat must be secured elsewhere.  This necessitated me finding one of the ladders to tie up to and time the surge properly to make death defying leap.  Walking on shore we discovered a small boat breakwater with a boat launch and used that afterwards.
Leaving early the next morning we motored around Point Conception in flat calm seas and anchored just at dusk on the south side of the point.  Yup, there’s nothing more to say about that.  Despite the anchorage being a bit rolly that night we had rounded the cape and were now officially into calmer waters.
Rounding Point Conception in flat calm seas
The next day we motored yet again to Santa Barbara where we secured one of the last empty slips before a big predicted storm passed through in the early evening.  Happy in the knowledge that the hard cruising was over for at least a little while we relaxed with other friends who had succeeded just like us.
Its all down hill from here.

Mea culpa

It's all good
We are both very sorry for not being diligent about posting to our blog on a regular basis.  To be honest, we've found it more and more difficult to spend time below (in doors) now that the weather is soooooo much better.  We also might feel a bit guilty posting about how sunny and warm things are when most of our friends and family are dealing with rain, snow or both. 
To get back in everyone’s good books, the following posts are a few updates as to what we’ve been up to and our plans going forward.