Sunday, October 14, 2012

Traveling the Southern California Coast by Boat

Sunrise in Coho.
Way back on the 29th of September (which feels like about 2 months ago instead of just two weeks ago!) we pulled out under the Golden Gate and said goodbye to San Francisco.  One thing we hadn’t really thought about was how long getting down to San Diego would take as we were so focused on just leaving and getting down to San Francisco.  Well San Diego is another 450 miles away and when you only go about 6 miles per hour, it takes a LONG TIME to go that far!  We’re hoping to be (and it’s looking like we will be) in San Diego by October 17th.

So in our travels thus far, one thing I can definitely tell you is that the days of wonderful, quiet anchorages where the boat barely moves all night are GONE, GONE, GONE!  Welcome to the new world of serious bobbing and rolling around at anchor!  I cannot believe (having never been in it) how much the boat rolls from side to side and forward and back in the frequent combination of ocean swell, wind and tide.  Think about a cork in a big bowl of water being shook by a 3 year old and you’ll have the picture.  But I’m pretty happy to report that it’s amazing what you can get used to.   While it was disconcerting at first, we quickly became used to it and thankfully most places get a little better at night – so at least you don’t feel like you are going to fall out of bed! 

While we’ve stayed at many spots as we’ve been making our way south to San Diego, one of our favorite spots was Santa Cruz.  We anchored right off the beach to the south of the big pier – so we had a great view of the big amusement park on the beach.  We ended up staying two nights so that we could walk into town and re-provision (have I mentioned what a good workout it is to schlep all your groceries 2 miles back to the boat?). 

One of MANY!
One of the craziest things about Santa Cruz is how many sea lions there are here.  I have never seen so many of these HUGE creatures in one place and man do they make a LOT of noise!  From where our boat was anchored we could easily see about 50 of them at any given time and the sound of their barking at each other is incredibly loud – and pretty much never ceased.  They definitely own all of the space around the pier – so landing or getting back to your dinghy can get a little interesting. 

Which brings me to…….THE GREAT SEA LION FACEOFF!  Yes, my handsome husband had to go to battle with one of those huge sea lions so that we could reach our dinghy and take our provisions back to our boat.  This guy must have weighed over 800 pounds and he was positioned directly below the ladder that you have to climb down to access the dinghy dock.  So we walked down to the spot right above the ladder and there are like 10 other people there looking at all the sea lions and taking pictures (because there were actually about 5 of them on the landing area – but only one between us and our dinghy) and we’re like uh oh…..he’s totally blocking us……this could get interesting!  So Brett tries talking the beast off the dock, which definitely doesn’t work and only seemed to be upsetting the big guy as now he’s starting to show us his rather large teeth.  Then Brett starts waving his arms and showing the beast HIS teeth.  This approach definitely is NOT effective and now the sea lion is really getting pissed (and did I mention how many folks are watching this whole exchange?).  So there is more barking/yelling and waving and nothing is getting any better until Brett realizes he must make bigger noise and appear more threatening or we will never get back to our boat.  So he pulls off his flip flop and starts banging it on the metal ladder above the sea lions head.  More teeth, but clearly the big guy is feeling a little threatened.  So Brett shows his teeth and bangs even louder until finally the beast dumps off into the water and the path is clear.  Have I mentioned how much I love my man?  My hero!  I’m pretty sure various versions of that story will be told by the tourists that watched for years to come… 

After Santa Cruz we had an absolutely fantastic sail over to Monterey – which is just across the bay about 4 hours away.  We stayed there for several days and I think we must have put on at least 15 miles walking all over the town.  What a great little place and it’s amazing how much they have put into the parks and historic information so that you could learn as you walked.  There is also a very large aquarium here, but at $70 for the two of us, we decided we’d be better off seeing the marine life in person through snorkeling down the road.

Note Hearst Castle on the hill.
Originally we had hoped to sail from Monterey directly to the Channel Islands, but after about 24 hours (which was a fairly rough go overnight with some higher winds than we like) we changed our mind and decided to just do day trips down the coast – so into San Simeon we pulled at dawn.  This is a beautiful spot and is also the location of the Hearst Castle – which looks pretty amazing perched high up on the hill above the bay.

Daybreak Ocean sailing out of Coho anchorage.
 After San Simeon we made our way to the bay at San Luis Obisbo and to our delight discovered our new friends on Daybreak Ocean.  Frank, Caroline, their daughter Lea and their Portuguese Water dog are great and we’ve enjoyed spending time with some fellow cruisers.  Since we were only staying overnight, we had them aboard for drinks and then made plans to “buddy boat” around Point Conception (often called the Cape Horn of southern California due to the high winds that often occur there) and then have dinner together.    We had a great sail the next day (it’s always a race when two sailboats are involved!) and as we pulled into the Coho anchorage we discovered the winds were not going to die down much at all as they were about 20-25 knots even when we were tucked in close to the beach.  But thankfully our trusty Rocna anchor was set in no time and we were good to go.  We had a great dinner on Daybreak and thoroughly enjoyed their company. 

I can touch him?  Seriously???
Next stop after Coho was Santa Barbara – which is actually where we bought Bella Vita (though she was Carpe Diem at the time).  How bizarre to pull into a place that we actually recognized!  I found myself wondering if Bella Vita could tell she was back at her old home?   After one night there it was on to Ventura, where we got to stay at the lovely Ventura Yacht Club.  We have been trying to make the most of our membership with the Seattle Yacht Club by enjoying the privileges of reciprocal clubs as often as we can as our dock access will be extremely limited (too expensive) after we leave California.  We are able to stay at the yacht clubs for FREE, so it’s a great way to travel and it’s fun to see and compare all of the clubs with SYC at home.  Plus there are showers (REAL showers where you don’t have to worry about how much water you use and the hot water is seemingly endless!), we can get rid of trash and we meet LOTS of friendly boaters as most of the guest docks are right in front of the club, so everyone stops by to chat on the way to their boat. 

So cute!
We have seen an amazing amount of wildlife, including a few whales, beautiful brown pelicans (one was so used to people I even touched him!), more dolphins than I can count and some really cute sea otters.  The sea otters are so fun to watch as they could do something completely boring and still be adorable doing it.  As long as they are in the water and not on your boat that is!  The fellow in this picture had a friend that followed him everywhere he went – I think hoping to get some of the castoffs as he was working on smashing up a crab he had caught.

Speaking of which – we had the weirdest thing happen when we arrived at Marina Del Ray.  That evening we are sitting below and we start to notice this really weird noise – kind of like a snap, crackle, pop sound.  What the heck?  So we start investigating, but we can’t figure it out.  Come to find out it’s crabs!  Apparently small shrimp like to dine on the algae that grows on the boats and then the crabs come along and eat them.  The clicking we were hearing was their claws on the hull as they grab the little shrimps. I can hear them right now as I'm typing - bizarre, huh?  

As I write this we are staying at the Del Ray Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey and I can honestly say it is the nicest club we’ve stayed at yet!  Beautiful wood interior (with LOTS of trophies), super nice people and they even have a pool!  This is our last night here and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay and have met a LOT of friendly club members and had lots of good conversations.  It’s amazing how interested people are in what we are doing.  We also hear many stories – like spending a few hours with Bruce Kessler, who bought us lunch and told us about his adventures in being one of the first people to circumnavigate the globe in a powerboat.  Bruce was also a Formula One race car driver and a director of TV and films – some of which you might recognize, including The MonkeesMission: Impossible, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Rockford Files and The A-Team.  And he bought US lunch!  What an interesting guy who has led an amazing life – and he couldn’t have been nicer.  Thanks Bruce!

Tomorrow we’ll be at Dana Point and then it’s off to San Diego for final prep before the jump into our first official new country!  Better start boning up on my Spanish, eh? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sailing Through the Fear

So this month’s Raft Up topic (which I'm totally behind on posting - sorry!) is fear – which I think is a pretty interesting topic right now as I’ve experienced more of it lately than I think I was expecting….

So of course my biggest fear is exactly what you would expect – fear of big seas.  I have been amazed at how different it is to sail in Puget Sound versus sailing out on the ocean.  Over the years in Seattle we had been out in 25-35 knots more times than I can count.  Often enough that we even got a bit cavalier about it – at least until we got caught in 45-50 knots off of Rosario Straights – that made us a little less cocky for sure!  But now that I’ve spent the last month doing a LOT of sailing – all out on the ocean, my perspective has changed dramatically.  Now 25-30 knots is a BIG DEAL.  And 30-35 knots is just out of the question if I can help it.  If you’ve been reading our blog, you know we experienced about 30 hours of 30-40 knots with some pretty big waves coming down the coast and I have definitely become very friendly with fear in that situation.  More recently we did an overnight and while it only got into the 25-30 knot range, it’s amazing how scary that can be in the dark.  It also takes a lot out of you physically as you are tenser; worrying about the effect the winds will have on your home – what damage may occur that will have to be fixed.  There is a whole new set of noises that come into play when you are in that kind of wind – and they are not good noises!  And so we get better and better at reading the weather and try to be as prepared as possible whenever we leave the anchorage for our next destination.

Another fear we both feel, but Brett more so than me, is the fear of leaving our careers behind and being able to still make a living when we are done with this adventure.  Brett left at the height of his career, where he had developed a completely new way to help doctors track tumor growth in cancer patients.  He doesn’t talk much about it, but it was a pretty big deal and he helped multitudes of patients.  Not only is it very hard to walk away from something like that, but the medical field changes so fast that the chance of him being able to go back years later is fairly slim.  That’s a scary thing to face when you’ve just arrived at your 50’s and are wondering how you will support yourself if you live to be 90!  And so we wonder how we will support ourselves as we get older – telling most people that after taking this trip we’ll just have to “work until we die!” – which we say in jest, but may very well be true!

My last big fear is a little harder to define, but it basically comes down to being forgotten by the people you’ve left behind.  When you are getting ready to leave, it’s a very intense time and we made a point to spend as much time as possible with the people we care about as we didn’t know when we would see many of them again.  We have made so many dear, dear friends over the years and I already miss some of them terribly.  I know that as we travel farther away, they will continue on with their lives and we will be a smaller and smaller part of their life.  We’ll miss the many things that happen to them, just as they will not be here for the things that happen to us.  We’ll also miss seeing our nieces and nephews grow up and it’s tough to accept that the relationships we have with them will not be as strong over time.  I love my family and we are all very close, so it’s tough to say goodbye and to not be an close part of their lives anymore.  I don’t want to lose them – which I know is crazy to think – because family is always there, right?  That’s what makes them family – but that’s a fear nonetheless.

But this is the path that we have picked – so I can only hope that the bonds we have forged with our friends and family will be stronger than distance.  That when we come back to visit or when we return at the end of the trip, that we’ll be able to pick back up where we left off.  Perhaps those relationships will not be exactly the same, but maybe they will be even stronger from having survived the distance.  

For other posts on this topic - check out the other blogs in the Raft Up:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Finally Under the Golden Gate Bridge

After arriving under the Golden Gate Bridge, our first job was to figure out where we could go to get some repairs.  Since we had no idea, we decided to anchor in Clipper Cove on Treasure Island to do a little bit of research.  Before leaving, my folks had leant me their Verizon wireless hotspot and I can’t tell you how amazing that thing has been.  We plugged in and got online and shortly had phone numbers and reviews for people that could meet our repair needs.  We also had a place to stay!

Alameda Marina is located exactly where you would expect – in the heart of the marine district on Alameda Island.  It is part of a huge complex of buildings that covers about 5 city blocks, all owned by the Svendsen family.  This is also where (surprise!) the Svendsen chandlery is, along with the Svendsen boat yard, which can pretty much do anything under the sun that you need done.  Also on the property is every marine business you can think of, plus a few more – a perfect spot for us to get our repairs! 

The marina harbormaster is Brock de Lappe and what an absolute delight he was!  When he found out we were newly arrived from Seattle and needed some repairs and groceries, he promptly gave us a tour in his car of all of the businesses that might be able to help.  He then told us to come back at 5pm (when he would be off work) and that he would drive us to the grocery store.  Not only did he take us there, he insisted on waiting for us to take us back so we wouldn’t have to walk the 2 miles with all of our stuff.  Now that is service!  Thank you very much Brock – it’s service like this that keeps people coming back.

And so you may ask, what repairs did we need?  Well, first off we had a 16” tear in our main sail on the luff, just below the 2nd reef point.  This was a critical repair and we chose Doyle Sailmakers to do it.  They were excellent to work with – coming to the boat to pick up and drop off the sail so that we didn’t have to figure out a way to haul the heavy thing across about 4 blocks of blacktop.  The repair they did was excellent plus they only charged us $85 and turned it around in TWO days!  How great is that???

The next repair was to our dodger, which had a bunch of seems blow out during the trip down.  Some I can repair myself, but the two front windows needed to be done by an expert as there was too much material to fit in my machine.  To the rescue was Jeff from Alameda Canvas.  Jeff also came right down to the boat and since we were just passing through, he put aside his other jobs and got ours done in ONE DAY!  Jeff did the repairs and re-stitched the entire dodger with Teflon thread that is basically bullet proof.  He convinced me it was the only way to go as all other threads (even UV protected) will only last about 2 years in the heat and sun of Mexico and beyond.  I’ve ordered some myself (that stuff is EXPENSIVE – you’d think it was gold!) from to reinforce the rest of our dodger/bimini and for all other upcoming canvas projects.  Big thanks to Jeff for doing such a great job in a quick timeframe!

Shuttle Endeavor Flyover
While staying at Alameda Marina something unexpected happened.  We were coming back from our morning showers when we noticed that a crowd had gathered nearby, holding cameras and all looking expectantly in the same direction.  What could this be we asked ourselves (having not read a paper or watched any news for a VERY long time).  Turns out it was a flyover by the shuttle Endeavor, which was on its way to its final home at the Exposition Park museum in Los Angeles.  We were amazed and delighted when it flew DIRECTLY overhead, likely to pass over the Coast Guard boats which were moored right across the way from us with all hands on deck saluting.  Now I’m not exactly super patriotic (just an average American), but I have to admit it brought a tear to my eye and made my skin go all goose bumpy to see the CG salute a piece of American history going by.

The final repair was kind of two-fold.  Our alternator belt had virtually exploded on the way down, leaving bits and pieces all over the engine room.  When Brett installed a new belt he noticed it got really hot, way to quick.  Something was not right.  He also noticed we had a new, very small oil leak at the head of the main engine shaft, which is behind the main engine pulley.  His (and Pat’s) theory was that engine shaft seal developed a leak when a piece of the belt got lodged into it.  So now we needed a new gasket and we needed to figure out why the alternator had gotten so hot…

After doing more research, Brett discovered the most highly recommended alternator guy in California actually had his shop in the same complex we were in – about 3 blocks down!  Liem Dao of L.T.D. Marine came right over after a phone call and figured out that the bearing s were starting to go on our alternator.  Really?  It’s only like 17 years old!  We had bought a spare, but if we used that spare, there would be no more spare!  No worries, Liem had an identical replacement in stock, so we were good to go!  Liem was excellent to work with and I would highly recommend him if you need any electrical help in the area.

After we ordered the needed gasket from Svendsen’s it was time to journey on while we waited for it to arrive.  It turns out that just down the way was the Oakland Yacht Club, where we could stay one night for free and then just $10 a night after that. So there we stayed for the next 5 nights.  The club is great and the members are super friendly.  After walking the docks, pet-starved Stacey insisted on talking to a couple with a beautiful green parrot.  Dan and Carol (owners of the parrot) quickly invited us on board and after chatting for about 30 minutes, invited us to be their guests to dine at the club that night – wow!   The food at the club was fantastic and the company was great too.  We met several other couples while there, including one that also had a Hylas on the docks, so of course tours of our boats were undertaken and much discussed before we called it a night.

While staying at OYC, we had a nice visit with our friend Patty, who drove a good 40 minutes to spend time with us in Alameda.  She took us into the heart of Alameda where we found a wonderfully quaint little place for breakfast and also happened upon a great farmers market – one where everything was actually reasonably priced instead of 3 times the rate in the super market.  It was great to see Patty and to stock up on some excellent vegies for a good price.

Wine Tasting with Sophia
Wine and cheese with Ted

The following day we decided to take a major foray into the local transit system to get ourselves out to Livermore to visit with my mom’s oldest and dearest friend.  After doing more research (there sure seems to be a lot of research going on!), we found a bus stop within walking distance, with a bus that would take us to a Bart station that would take us to Livermore, where Sophia and Ted live.  After successfully transiting all of that (over 2 hours), we arrived and were immediately whisked away to do some excellent wine tasting for the afternoon.  Then it was back to their house for a lovely steak dinner – what a treat!  After spending a fabulous day and night at their very nice house, we reversed our original transit and successfully arrived back at OYC.  A fun excursion and we really enjoyed spending the time with Sophia and Ted!

On Monday we were (happily) informed that the gasket came in, so back to the Alameda Marina we went.  We had contracted with Svensen’s Boat Yard to do the work, which they said would likely be a maximum of 2 hours at about $100/hr.  Their mechanic showed up on time and was clearly very knowledgeable, however he was back and forth to the boat so many times that Brett started keeping track of how long the mechanic was actually on the boat actively working – which came to just under 2.5 hours.  So imagine our shock when the yard tried to bill us for 5 hours of work!  While I can understand them wanting to bill some of his “walking back and forth time”, charging double what he actually worked?  I don’t think so.  After some major arguing with the “manager”, Brett got them down to just 3.4 hours.  Still not great in our books but I guess not getting a quote in writing was our fault.  Suffice it to say that I would recommend all of the folks I’ve mentioned, except for the yard.  If you choose to use the yard, I would do so with extreme caution and get a quote in writing up front.

The bar at the San Francisco Yacht Club
After getting those repairs done, we left for the Sausalito area and had a very nice stay at the San Francisco Yacht Club – which was is the oldest club on the entire West Coast.  We were allowed to stay a night for free – thanks to Jay Hooker – who claimed anyone who came under the GG Bridge for the first time was entitled to one free night.  I think Jay was making that up to be nice after I admitted we wouldn’t be able to afford to stay on our small budget, so thank you Jay for that!  The club was beautiful in that old fashioned club way – lots of dark wood and brass – plus more trophies that you could imagine.  We sat at the bar for one drink and had some of the best fries we’ve had in ages (which might have something to do with the french fry withdrawal I was suffering from) and a wonderful wedge salad that we split.  Great staff and beautiful accommodations – thank you Jay for letting us stay!

Lovely Tiberon
Corinthian Yacht Club
While at SFYC, we took the opportunity to wonder in the very quaint small area known as Tiberon – what a sweet little place.  We also wondered through the Corinthian Yacht Club, located in the same town.  What a grand old building that was!  I’ve included pictures of both as it was all very scenic. 

Fog rolling in over Sausilito
After a particularly rock’n and roll’n night in neighboring Richardson Bay we decided it was time to continue our journey southward.  While this bay was pretty awful considering the swell and the pitching and rolling, one amazing thing was to watch the fog roll in over downtown San Francisco.  I guess I’ve never really had the chance to really watch fog come in and I must say it is AMAZING!  It was like a huge wall, eating the city up.  And rolling over the town of Sausilito it looked like a huge wave cresting over the top of the land – just like a tsunami, but one that doesn’t do any damage.  Can you say speechless?
San Francisco is gone in  a wall of fog...

All in all I would say San Francisco was a great stop and we enjoyed our stay.