Thursday, September 25, 2014

Monterey, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Catalina Island

The few days we were in Monterey were spent socializing and relaxing on the boat. The anchorage, just outside the breakwater, can roll the boat in the swell, which was particularly bad on the first night.

Monterey Bay beach

There is a massive sea lion population in Monterey and they can be heard from the anchorage and you can also smell them if the wind is in the wrong direction. They occupy the rafters under the piers and wharfs and are quite an attraction for the thriving tourists. Sea otters are also in abundance and although they seem slightly smaller than the Alaskan variety are bigger than the river variety and just as amusing to watch.

We were set to depart Monterey at 7am but during my morning engine check I found a stray bolt sitting in the bilge of the engine room. I eventually traced it back to the 24v alternator bracket. So we delayed our departure and James kindly took me ashore in his dinghy and we both walked the 3 miles to the hardware store. Once I was back on the boat the bolt was replaced and off we went 2 ½ hours after our planned departure.

Santa Barbara is about 200 nautical miles from Monterey which would mean an overnight passage. Light winds, again, meant that we would be motoring but on the plus side the seas were calm and the swell insignificant so it was quite a calm passage. During the day a huge pod of dolphins crossed our bow. We estimated that there were over 200. Most carried on but some stayed with us for a while and played in our bow wave.

The sun set and the moon was not out so only the stars were visible until we neared Cape Conception where the oil rigs could be spotted lit up like Christmas trees. The rigs showed up clearly on the radar from over 12 miles away. As the sun rose we weaved our way through the rigs, Irene, Harmony etc.

More dolphins appeared on our bow. We lay down on the deck to get closer to them. They would turn on their sides and look at us. Some were performing acrobatics swimming upside down, leaping out of the air and streaking from one side of the boat to the other. The show seemed to go on forever and we were all elated to have seen them.

Santa Barbara is a Mediterranean style town and we all felt as if we had finally arrived in California. The sun shone, the water was clear and blue and the locals were scantily clad. We toured around the town looking at the mixture of rich and poor people on the well kept downtown street where mosaic adorned fountains flowed and beggars slept.

We met up with Richard and Gerri and had a few drinks in a nice bar overlooking the marina. Steve and Richard played pool with a couple of locals and won!

After two nights in Santa Barbara we left for the Island of Santa Cruz which is about 20 miles from Santa Barbara. The winds for once were with us and we had a lovely beam reach all the way to our destination with relatively flat seas we were making 6.5 to 7 knots is 7-10 knots of wind. Nice! Once we dropped the hook in Smugglers cove Steve and I went for a swim in the lovely waters and showered on the back deck. The night was a bit rolly again as the swell built and I spent the evening trying to work out a design for a flopper stopper to make once we get to San Diego.

Dawn departure
We awoke early and left just before dawn for Catalina harbor on the west side of Santa Catalina island 64 miles away. Dolphins played on our bow again and we saw a couple of flying fish. Arriving at Catalina Harbor on the west side of Santa Catalina harbor we dropped the hook near Abby Normal (Island Packet pilot house) and Rapture (Beneteau 40) both bound for Mexico. Jude went for a climb up the mountain and a 156 foot sail school tall ship came and anchored near us in the harbor.   

The following day we went into the town, or settlement of Twin Harbors which is across the narrow isthmus joining Catalina harbor and Twin Harbors. The island is very arid and looks so similar to outback Australia it is uncanny. It even has gum trees but the lone buffalo would be out of place in Australia. 

Santa Catalina Island - Check out the buffalo!

View of Catalina harbor - Santa Catalina Island

Isthmus Yacht club

Twin Harbors - Catalina Harbor

Friday, September 19, 2014

Elephants under the carpet

We did our final provision, placed our car in storage on San Juan Island and said our goodbyes and farewells to our friends in Friday harbor and departed our slip at 1:30 in the afternoon.

Having had a look at the weather forecast before we left we decided that we would not stop in Neah Bay but just head down the coast. The winds were light as we motored down the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. The westerly swells started to build as we neared the ocean and built further still as we headed about 60 miles offshore to catch the NW winds which would push us south strait to San Francisco. The fog set in after dark and another swell joined the existing one to give us a bit of a rolly ride. We had reefed both head and mainsail but were making good speed in the 20-25 knot winds.

We were working to 3 hour watches which gave us 6 hrs of sleep between watches. Sailing in fog and with radar can be challenging to the senses in rolly conditions until you get used to it. The morning came with a beautiful dawn and there was no sign of land. As you looked to the horizon you could see the odd rogue wave standing out amongst the rest which TC likened to “an elephant running under a carpet” Occasionally these waves came up behind us and lifted us up from the stern so that we would surge forward achieving 12 knots at times.

The winds died so we had to start the engine and motor along. The swell died along with the winds so I set the fishing line, lost a couple of lures, whether it was my poor knot tying or a large fish we will never know. On the third attempt, with TC’s knot tying, we caught a nice big eye Tuna, heaved it on the deck and filleted it. Jude bagged it and put it in the freezer for later in the trip.

We settled into a routine enjoying seeing the sun rising over the water and setting on the other horizon over the water, just us bobbing about in between.  

As we approached San Francisco we raised the sails having to head a little to the west but it was nice to have the engine off and hear the rush of water off the bow. Dawn came, the wind died and we motored down the channel into San Francisco bay with gray skies above us.

Having stayed 3 nights at the South Beach Marina we decided that we needed a change of scenery so we headed over to the Sausalito Cruising club, which had been recommended to us by Richard and Gerri on Panthera We had heard that Sausalito was a good place to visit but the fact that the wonderful cruising club was FREE to stay for 4 nights then only $10 a night thereafter. I think I mentioned all that before.

Sue heading back to her boat

The Cruising club gang

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Great sadness

It was with immense sadness that we learnt that our very dear friend Paul died in tragic circumstances in Byron Bay Australia whilst having his daily swim. Jude and I have shared many great times with Paul and his wife Victoria and he will leave a huge void in our lives. It is hard to comprehend of his loss and we are thinking of Victoria. 

San Francisco

It’s good to be in San Francisco after the good passage down. We met up with Steve who has hired a car and he kindly drove us around some of the sites of the city.

TC departed back home and we spent the next few days doing some more sightseeing in San Fran and also taking in delicious, and spicy, Chinese meal in the large China town district.

We decided to visit Sausalito on the north side of San Francisco Bay and were recommended that we stay at the prestigious Sausalito Cruising club and we were very glad to be able to get in. The club house is a charming ram shackled float house and the docks dry out at low tide leaving you sitting on the mud but as a cruiser you are allowed to stay for 4 days free of charge and then
it is $10 per night. There are free showers and you can plug in. They also have $10 buffet nights and live music several times a week so it’s a bit of a cruisers paradise in San Fran. We felt privileged to be able to stay. Thanks Richard and Gerri for the suggestion!

We gingerly made our way to the cruising club, watching as the depth shoaled to less than 4 feet beneath us and rafted up to a young Canadian couple, James and Sarah, on their steel sloop, Tatu. They gave us a wonderful greeting. They are on their way to Mexico so we will no doubt be seeing them again along the way.        
Rafted up to Tatu in Sausilito Cruising club

Arrived in San Fran

The first leg from Friday Harbor to San Francisco is complete! 799 nautical miles in 115 hours or just under 5 days non stop.

It was a great journey especially if you compare it to the one coming up the coast back in 2012.  We had some great sailing with full moons and clear skies. Some confused seas to start with that made all of our stomachs churn, except for Katya that is. She must have Jude's father's sea legs. We caught a nice tuna along the way, had close encounters with whales and dolphins and are pleased to be here in San Fran.

Our friend TC who joined us was a complete Godsend. Without him the journey would have been a harder and we would be completely exhausted.

We now look forward to celebrating and exploring the city and then meeting up with Steve and Sandy for more frivolity. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Departed Friday Harbor

Yes we have finally left wonderful Friday Harbour on our way to San Francisco and south to Mexico.

The sun is shining but there is no wind so we are motoring up the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. All being well we should be in the Pacific Ocean by midnight as we do the big left turn south.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I think we are ready if the Cruising Gods decide to let us go.

As most cruisers know you never feel truly ready to leave on a long passage. There is always something you would like to do or have forgotten to do. There is always the never ending boat list. As soon as you strike one task off invariably another task, or two, goes on the list. There are frustrations in finding solutions to problems and finding parts, particularly for older systems and i out of the way places.  

Jeeves, our faithful autopilot, has been showing signs of rebellion this season. Long days of motoring in flat seas seem to have taken its toll and Jeeves has occasionally gone on strike. Without reason he will sound an alarm: "Rudder Response Failure" and hand the helm back to the skipper. A few weeks of trying to identify the problem by fiddling with the settings, reading the Operator Manual (yes, a last resort most of the time) I think I finally identified the problem as a faulty Control Unit (the computer) which when the fault alarm sounding seems to want to switch the output voltage to the hydraulic drive unit from 12v to 24v. Hmmm.

When we arrived in Friday Harbor the first thing I did was to pull out the Control unit and post it off to Simrad for evaluation and repair. They said it would be back in 3 weeks. Two weeks went by and they had still not identified the fault. This is probably quite hard to do as the problem is intermittent. Navico, the Simrad agent were great. Emails were flying around the office but no response could be found. Eventually, feeling my frustration, the Navico technician decided that enough was enough and the said that they would send me a new one. Great! marvelous! In the meantime I had been hedging my bets and ordered a new Garmin autopilot head unit, compass and computer unit just in case Navico could not fix or replace the old unit. This duly arrived two days after ordering it, having spoken to a number of Garmin technicians to see if it would be compatible with my existing drive unit and heading sensor. Yes they said. Well it arrived but with a cable missing. I set about figuring out how to install the new autopilot which involved more discussions with Garmin technicians when one finally told us that it would not be compatible with our Simrad drive unit. Oh b****r. we would have to return it.

Navico sent off a new unit, Fedex overnight, will be there Friday. You guessed it. Friday came and the unit did not arrive. More frustrated calls and Fedex apologised and said that they would get it to us on Saturday, which they don't normally do. Saturday morning arrived and I received a call to let me know that they had delivered it. Thanks I said. Where did you deliver it? To Blue Bonnet lane in Olympia the rep said. OMG. Lost. Well to cut the story short it arrived this afternoon. I installed it, set it up, and did a dockside test and all APPEARS to be OK but time will tell.      

Now that it is tested we are frantically getting the last minute projects done and getting ready for the 800 mile passage to San Francisco. Hopefully tomorrow will be the day.

We shall miss Friday harbor and the wonderful friends we have all made here. We will be back though as we left our car here, but it will be at least 12 months before we are back.