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Thursday, September 30, 2010

9/30/2010 - Last day in Benicia

I can't believe this is the last day of September already. It's also our last day in Benicia. Tomorrow morning we'll sail down to San Leandro for the Northern California Westsail Owners' Rendezvous. We'll be joined by about 18 other Westsail boats although it looks like we'll be the only 28 footer. If the weather is as nice as it has been, should be a really good weekend.

We've had a nice time here in Benicia, albeit mighty busy for a couple slugabeds like us. Here we are, nestled among the big buck boats that are so prevalent in this marina.


This morning we arose fairly early (for us) so we could get a few chores done while we still had wheels. We did our laundry and then did a big grocery run. We got to thinking that it might be a little while before we're close to a grocery store again although if we manage to get to Santa Cruz before Scott and Sandy take off I'm sure they'd see to it we got to the store. But barring that, we're looking to anchor in Half Moon Bay then stop in Santa Cruz and maybe Monterey. After that it's Morro Bay, maybe San Simeon, possibly San Luis Obispo and then out to the Channel Islands before heading to Two Harbors on Santa Catalina. But those are all anchorages and trips to the store may not be feasible. So, we loaded up today. Kind of a hassle trying to stow everything but it's good to know it's there.

Once we got done with our chores, w drove to Sacramento to return the car to Lea and Gino. On the way back to Benicia, we treated them to lunch at Mary's Pizza Shack in Dixon. Very, VERY mall price to pay for the use of their car for a week and a half.


Our benefactors and our trusty steed.

Although it was cooler this morning than it had been the last few mornings, by the time we got back from Sacramento it was time to open the hatches and ventilate the boat.


We spent the afternoon lazing around in the cockpit, reading and dozing.


And, although you can't tell by looking, Lulu, multi-tasker that she is, is even defrosting the refrigerator while seemingly just sitting around reading. Amazing, huh?

We couldn't have asked for better weather while we've been here. We've been reminded time and again that this is really unusual weather for this time of year but we've also heard that this has been the coldest, weirdest summer that anyone can remember in a long time. Whatever. All we know is that while we were here the days were in the 80s and 90s. Even in downtown San Francisco. There was only one night that was a skosh on the warm side for sleeping but a couple of fans helped that until things started to naturally cool off after midnight sometime.

So, in spite of all my carping about parking costs and lack of food in taverns, I have to say that we have had a good time. However, we are ready to move on. Really looking forward to the WOA Rendezvous but after that it will be really nice to get back in the cruising groove. We're just hoping the unseasonably warm weather follows us right on down the coast.


9/30/2010 - Last day in Benicia

I can't believe this is the last day of September already. It's also our last day in Benicia. Tomorrow morning we'll sail down to San Leandro for the Northern California Westsail Owners' Rendezvous. We'll be joined by about 18 other Westsail boats although it looks like we'll be the only 28 footer. If the weather is as nice as it has been, should be a really good weekend.

We've had a nice time here in Benicia, albeit mighty busy for a couple slugabeds like us. Here we are, nestled among the big buck boats that are so prevalent in this marina.


This morning we arose fairly early (for us) so we could get a few chores done while we still had wheels. We did our laundry and then did a big grocery run. We got to thinking that it might be a little while before we're close to a grocery store again although if we manage to get to Santa Cruz before Scott and Sandy take off I'm sure they'd see to it we got to the store. But barring that, we're looking to anchor in Half Moon Bay then stop in Santa Cruz and maybe Monterey. After that it's Morro Bay, maybe San Simeon, possibly San Luis Obispo and then out to the Channel Islands before heading to Two Harbors on Santa Catalina. But those are all anchorages and trips to the store may not be feasible. So, we loaded up today. Kind of a hassle trying to stow everything but it's good to know it's there.

Once we got done with our chores, w drove to Sacramento to return the car to Lea and Gino. On the way back to Benicia, we treated them to lunch at Mary's Pizza Shack in Dixon. Very, VERY mall price to pay for the use of their car for a week and a half.


Our benefactors and our trusty steed.

Although it was cooler this morning than it had been the last few mornings, by the time we got back from Sacramento it was time to open the hatches and ventilate the boat.


We spent the afternoon lazing around in the cockpit, reading and dozing.


And, although you can't tell by looking, Lulu, multi-tasker that she is, is even defrosting the refrigerator while seemingly just sitting around reading. Amazing, huh?

We couldn't have asked for better weather while we've been here. We've been reminded time and again that this is really unusual weather for this time of year but we've also heard that this has been the coldest, weirdest summer that anyone can remember in a long time. Whatever. All we know is that while we were here the days were in the 80s and 90s. Even in downtown San Francisco. There was only one night that was a skosh on the warm side for sleeping but a couple of fans helped that until things started to naturally cool off after midnight sometime.

So, in spite of all my carping about parking costs and lack of food in taverns, I have to say that we have had a good time. However, we are ready to move on. Really looking forward to the WOA Rendezvous but after that it will be really nice to get back in the cruising groove. We're just hoping the unseasonably warm weather follows us right on down the coast.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

9/29/2010 - "I Feel A Blog Coming On"

Those are the words I said to Lulu as we drove through a seemingly endless residential area in Benicia. Let me preface this little tirade by acknowledging, especially to Ashlie, Sarah and Kay, that I realize that I've got it pretty darn good. I live on a boat with my truelove. We're traveling to warmer climates and are, in fact, in a pretty darn warm climate right now. And, most of all, I don't have to get up and go to work every day. Or any day for that matter. Okay, with that out of the way, I still have a complaint.

It started when we were on our way back to Benicia after visiting family in Marin County. It was early afternoon and I figured it would be nice to stop to get a bite before we got home. I started thinking about it in San Rafael but figured we should probably wait until we were a little closer to Benicia. What I didn't realize was just how few places there were between San Rafael and Benicia. At least there were very few places that I could see from the highway.

So, naturally, I didn't find anywhere to stop until we reached Benicia. Actually, I hadn't found anywhere then, either, but we started looking. What we were looking for was a nice little tavern where we could get a really cold beer and maybe a cheeseburger or something. Shouldn't be too tough. Although we didn't expect to find anything, we drove down 1st Street which is lined with lots of little chi-chi shops and restaurants. Way down at the end of the street was a BBQ place that was a possibility as well as Frank-N-Stein's Tavern which was also flying a sign for Frank-N-Burger. So, we drove over to the marina, parked the car and walked back to 1st St.

We took a look inside the BBQ place but there was definitely no ambiance there. It looked like it was primarily interested in catering. There were a few tables and chairs in an over-lit room that was not inviting at all. OK, down to Frank-N-Stein's. We had great hopes until we looked in the door of Frank-N-Burger which turned out to be affiliated with, but not actually part of, Frank-N-Stein's. Again, the place was too bright and not inviting. Disappointed, we walked back to the marina. We figured we'd seek out some local knowledge and check with the marina harbormaster.

After she got off the phone, we asked her, "If we were looking for a basic workingman's tavern where we could get a cold beer and a cheeseburger, where would we look?" Her answer floored us: "Vallejo" she said. WTF? She said that, as far as she knew, there weren't any bars in Benicia that served food. There were a couple that were affiliated with attached restaurants but that was about it. One of these was Frank-N-Stein's. Another was affiliated with a Mexican restaurant and another with a Chinese restaurant. We told her about how nearly every tavern in Oregon now serves food and she said that it's not like that in Benicia. We left disappointed.

I was determined to find something. Even a chain like Red Robin would be okay at this point. We headed back to the marina, hopped in the car, and started searching. We didn't really want to have to drive back to Vallejo. We figured we could find something in Benicia. We figured wrong.

There's a shopping center near the marina and we knew there were no likely spots there. There was another shopping center up the hill and I didn't remember anything up there either. I figured if I could flank the shopping center and then drive down the whole length of the street it was on I would surely find something. Again, I figured wrong.

We drove down Military Avenue and then, when I figured we'd gone far enough, I took a right and planned to hit the street the shopping center was on which I was sure must be running parallel to Military. Wrong again. We ended up driving through residential area after residential area. The houses went on forever. There were times I didn't think we were ever going to find our way out. When we finally did, we were back on Second Street, right next to the shopping center near the marina! I couldn't believe it. How the heck is this town laid out?

But that's not important. What IS important is that there doesn't seem to be anywhere in Benicia that is:
a.) comfortable and inviting,
b.) serves ice cold beer, and
c.) also serves burgers and other tavern food.
Mostly I like California but this just sucks. If we ever decided to stay in the state, I have a pretty good idea what kind of business we'd open up.

So what did we do? We ended up getting a couple of bacon cheeseburgers and fries TO GO at Nation's Giant Burger and took them back to the boat where we could have them with an ice cold beer in a comfy setting.

Maybe Benicia is an anomaly but, if it's not, this is a warning, especially to Oregonians: don't expect to find your friendly neighborhood tavern where you can have a beer and a bite in California.


9/28/2010 - Footloose

Yesterday, after having breakfast with Carol's family in Marin, Lulu and I were free to do whatever we wanted until we all were scheduled to meet again around 6:00 at (niece) Molly's apartment in San Francisco.

One thing I wanted to do was return to Vallejo to see Mare Island. I was stationed at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard from November '69 until May '70 while attending Fire Control Technician school. When we were going to San Rafael on Sunday, I could look down on the island and I was pretty sure it was no longer a Navy base. It looked like you could drive around and I kind of wanted to do that.

So, the first thing we did was head back to Vallejo. We got off the road at the northern Mare Island exit and drove right on to the "base". Most of the old buildings were still there although many looked like they had been bombed out years ago. I finally found the old school building, which had been the base hospital maternity ward before that, but we were asked to leave by a security guard who said it was private property belonging to some private college. Geez, we were just looking. Didn't even get out of the car.

The rest of the base was pretty run down and it was really hard to recognize anything, although I did see my old barracks which, of course, are now condemned. Oh, and I saw a Diesel Duck that was either all finished or in the final stages of construction.

Wish I'd taken some photos of the base.

Back in the car, we decided to brave the Bay Bridge and City driving. We headed back over to SF to have some lunch and then to maybe go on the Alcatraz tour.

The traffic was pretty light and I didn't get too freaked out driving across the Bay Bridge or driving around in downtown SF. After our trip over there on Saturday with Randy, we decided to have lunch at Tommy's Joynt, the site of an occasional meal by my high school friends before going to a show at the Fillmore.


Upon entering, I knew that this was not the kind of place at which I do well. As soon as you enter, before you've even had time to gather your wits or adjust your eyes to the light, you're standing in a queue getting ready to order.


(sorry about the crappy focus - I was trying to take the picture without having the flash give me away)

So we're quickly advancing to the head of the line. The only thing we have for a menu are a bunch of signs up behind the counter and precious little time to read them. We quickly decide on something and order it from a guy whose poor command of English does not stop him from talking way too fast for me to understand. Next thing we know, we each have a tray of food and are some $20 poorer. We find a table, order a couple of beers and then find a menu that we can read at our leisure. The food was okay but we hate that kind of pressure. We decided that what we should have done was to come in, grab a seat at the bar, have a leisurely beer and peruse the menu. Then, and only then, should we get in line and order our food. Had we done this we both would have ordered something other than what we had.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the parking. We found a metered space a half a block away from Tommy's Joynt. Parking is not a bargain at $2.00/hour. Between us we managed to scrounge up enough coins for an hour and a half or so. If we'd known that Tommy's wasn't that conducive to a long stay, we could have spent less on parking. So we're into parking for about $3.00 so far. Keep this in the back of your head as it will become a theme.

After Tommy's we decided to go wholly tourist and take the tour out to Alcatraz. We drove down to the Pier 39 area and found parking at the bargain price of $7/hr. At least there was a $35/day maximum. We started hunting around trying to find the Alcatraz boat only to find out that it sells out early in the day and it would be best to get our tickets now for tomorrow. Well crap-o-rama! I guess we'll skip Alcatraz.

Now what to do? After retrieving our car ($7 poorer for a total so far of $10 for parking) we decided to head west to the vicinity where we thought Molly's apartment might be, find a nice little tavern and have a beer or two to pass the time while soaking up some local color. We reached the area with no serious problems. Well, there was that really steep hill that some yahoo was stopping traffic on while he maneuvered his way into a parking spot. That hill may have added years to my life as I'm sure it knocked excess plaque from my arteries in the process of freaking me out. I'd have taken a photo but, like waves at sea, the photos of such things never look as bad as they do in real life.

We found a little place called Dirty Trix and, after gathering enough change from two different vendors to allow us to plug the meter ($3.50, $13.50 total so far) we went on in. The place REEKED! Talk about your local color! Geez! To me it smelled like someone had spilled some bad homebrew and decided not to bother cleaning it up. Lulu's nose detected a somewhat sweatier funk mixed in. But dammit, we were thirsty! Besides, after 32 years in the wastewater industry I know all about olfactory fatigue. We'd be fine in a few minutes.

I kept a close watch on the clock as I didn't want to get a ticket. We had two beers and meanwhile Carol texted me Molly's coordinates. As luck would have it we were only about 1/2 mile away. We headed back to the car with time to spare. Figured we'd go over to the vicinity of Molly's apartment and just kill the remaining hour or so.

Once we found a (thankfully) unmetered spot a mere block and a half from Molly's, I noticed something under my windshield wiper. Let's see, who's selling what? Wait a minute. This can't be right. A parking ticket? A PARKING TICKET??? You have got to be freakin' kidding me! I'd have sworn we had plenty of time on the meter. Too late to check it now. How much is it for? FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS?! This may not seem like much to you but, in Silverton, we're used to $5 parking tickets, not $55 ones. Damn! Total parking for the day: $68.50. Such a freakin' deal! Thank you San Francisco, for the warm welcome.

Things got better after this. We had a brew (Lulu got a free one since it was her birthday) and some chips and 3 kinds of salsa at a little bar/restaurant a block from Molly's. Then, a whole bunch of friends and family showed up at Molly's to go out to eat. We walked down to Yum Yum's Asian restaurant. There were about 10 of us around the table and we each ordered something different and shared among ourselves. I learned a valuable lesson during this. You know how you look at a big menu and have such a hard time deciding on one thing. You're just sure you want the jellied eels but the salmon brain in ginger sauce sounds mighty good, too. Well, next time, if you see something, anything, described as "spicy, salty, crisp...", stop right there and order it. I don't care if it's bat lungs. If it's "spicy, salty, crispy", it's going to be good. Period. Needless to say, my order of Spicy Salty Crispy Pork Ribs was the best thing on the table. We had a superb meal and then reconvened at Molly's before wending our separate ways homeward.


Before actually getting home, we joined Carol and her friend Robert for some open Mike action in Fairfax. The house band at Peri's Bar was enjoyable but there were some real doozies as well. "James The Mystical Poet" among them. Finally got home and to bed about 1:30 AM. Zzzzzzzzzz


9/25/2010 - Protecting the Gate

We spent Friday night visiting with my old high school classmate, Randy, his wife Andrea and their daughter, Kate. Also visiting Randy & Andrea were their friends from Germany, Martina & Blanca. The weather was perfect in Walnut Creek and we spent the evening sitting around a campfire digesting the sausage-chicken-shrimp gumbo Lulu had made for dinner.

Saturday morning we all went to San Francisco for a brunch of dim sum at the City View Restaurant just outside of Chinatown. Although the traffic was quite light for a sunny Saturday morning, I was still really glad that Randy was driving. Way too many cars going way too fast across way to many lanes of traffic for me.

After we ate we headed out to the western edge of the base of the Golden Gate Bridge to visit Fort Point. The traffic definitely began to increase as we headed there. This was a very rare sunny AND warm day in The City and everyone was out to enjoy it.

Before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, there were forts on both sides of the San Francisco Strait to control who could and couldn't pass through the Golden Gate. BTW, the Golden Gate does not refer to the bridge. It refers to the opening to the Bay and was named because it resembled a similar opening in Turkey which also had the word "gold" in its name. The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill a few years later just reinforced the name.

Anyway, the Fort on the south side of the entrance, Fort Point, is a very cool old structure made of an incredible amount of brick.


Although they're gone now, the top of the fort was once bristling with cannons like these and others:


The structure itself is built sort of like a castle. The outer walls are very thick and house all the living and working quarters as well as the powder magazines, the brig, etc. The walls surround a central open area:


At various times through history the fort also housed the lighthouse warning sailors off the point. And, btw, those raised cylindrical things were all gun mounts. This baby flat bristled with armaments!


As you can see, the fort is right under the bridge. It was originally planned to tear the fort down when the bridge was built in the early 30s. Fortunately, the bridge designer took a shine to the beautiful example of the masons' art that the fort exemplified and redesigned the west end of the bridge so the fort could be saved.


The view from the fort is amazing:


Hopefully this blog entry wasn't too photo-heavy. My apologies to the dial-up readers. I bought a new pocket-size camera so I could include more photos and may have gotten a little carried away. I'm sure I'll learn the art of editing soon.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

9/26/2010 - Blogo's still acting the fool

Even though it's now many hours later than my last attempt and I'm
using a completely different wifi network, Blogo still refuses to
cooperate and recognize that I AM TOO connected to the internet.
Drinkbrainjuice.com is still down as well so I guess there is a
connection. If this goes on much longer, I may have to post a text-
only entry the same way I'm posting this (via e-mail). Haven't had
much luck posting photos using e-mail. I guess I could do it the old
fashioned way on-line but I just tried that and remembered why I quit
doing it that way. It's WAY too much work to get the blogs formatted
correctly. Maybe tomorrow.

Blogo, again

Looks like Blogo's home site: drinkbrainjuice.com is down. Maybe
that's why Blogo isn't responding to my attempts to post. Maybe later.

Blogo's messing up

I have a blog ready to post but for some reason Blogo doesn't seem to
think I'm connected to the internet. But I am. So, if my luck
improves I'll get it posted later today.

Friday, September 24, 2010

9/24/2010 - Hangin' in California

The weather has been great since we arrived in Benicia on Tuesday. Nice and warm during the day and cooling off nicely at night for sleeping. On Thursday (yesterday) my aunt Lea and uncle Gino drove down from Citrus Heights to Benicia to loan us one of their cars for the duration of our stay. Awfully damn nice of them if you ask me. We drove them back home and then set our for parts previously unknown: Hidden Harbor Marina in the Sacramento River Delta.


Getting there was quite a feat. The directions given are either from Sacramento or Rio Vista. But the road in from Sacramento is closed, so that leaves Rio Vista. So, first, you have to find Rio Vista. Using the map and a few road signs, we managed and on the way found Walnut Grove and Isleton, both of which need further exploration (although we'll not likely get to it). Finally getting to Hidden Harbor required a ride across the river on the Real McCoy Ferry.


This ferry is run by CalTrans and runs year-round. And it's free. Well, technically you Californians probably are paying for it in taxes but it didn't cost us anything to ride.

So, why, you may ask, were we trying to get to Hidden Harbor Marina? Have we decided to winter over in the Delta instead of Mexico?

No.

We were going there to look up some folks we (sort of) know but had never met. We've been following Pat, Ali and Ouest's blog ever since we first heard about it. If you haven't checked it out, you really should. The recent entries are geared more to keeping their families informed of their activities, but if you go to the archives you can read about how they circumnavigated the globe in a catamaran starting out with virtually no experience. Later, they took part in the Great American Race in a vintage Porsche and then drove a restored '58 VW bus from Washington to Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego to Argentina before having it shipped to Europe where they continued their trip.

We've been hoping to meet up with them some day and, when we found out that their new boat was in the Sacramento Delta area, it seemed like the right time. A couple of e-mails were exchanged and they graciously agreed to let us invade their privacy.

Knowing Pat's affection for pizza, we stopped off in Rio Vista for an extra large pizza and a box of PBR for "lunner" (read their blog) and headed for the marina. This marina is the funkiest (in a good way) little place you ever saw. Lulu wants to find its twin in Mexico and just settle in. We had a great afternoon on the new s/v Bumfuzzle. Pat and Ali were very warm and friendly and we felt like we've known them for a long time. And Ouest was just as cute as she could be once she got over having been woken up from her nap a bit early (thanks to us).

At Ali's suggestion, I'll try to include more photos in my blog entries. And, Ali, I know the above photos are cheating since I didn't take them myself but, as you know, I didn't have my camera with me. I do think I'll get a smaller camera that I can have along all the time.

After we left Bumfuzzle, we headed to Bill, Jen & Juliette's house in Sacramento. Bill's an old friend from high school (over 40 years ago) and lived across the street from me for 6 years when we were teenagers. He fixed some delicious BBQ'd ribs and accompanied them with a whole bunch of vegetables from his garden. We had a very nice visit and spent the night in their guest house. This morning we had breakfast at the Tower Cafe. Very cool place.

Now we're back in Benicia living the glamorous yatista lifestyle: doing our laundry.

Okay, enough for now.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9/21/2010 - Either a day early or 2 months late

We're safely tied up to a dock at the Benicia Marina near the mouth of the Carquinez Strait. The ride down from Fort Bragg to SF Bay was, how shall I put this?.... rambunctious. The weather was beautiful until the sun went down and it got cold. But we did have a full moon almost all night. The beginning of the trip was pretty mellow but the seas started picking up in the afternoon and continued to build into the night. I did roll out the jib for an hour or so yesterday evening. We were making really good time with it but I was having trouble maintaining a course so I ultimately doused it just before it got dark. No need to make things complicated for Lulu when she comes on watch.

I programmed our route from Ft. Bragg to Drake's Bay into the computer and the GPS. The plan was to arrive at Drake's Bay about 10:30 AM and then drop the anchor and spend the night there resting up and waiting for a favorable tidal current under the Golden Gate. However, I must have changed the name of the route without changing the waypoints because, when I came on watch at around 0500, we had just passed Point Reyes. That meant that Drake's Bay was right around the corner. Huh? Looked at the GPS route and found that the route called Ft. Bragg to Drake's Bay was actually Ft. Bragg to Richardson Bay, which is inside SF Bay. Oops. No way did I want to sail into Drake's Bay and anchor in the dark.

So, I checked the tides and currents and found that we were in a perfect position to attack the Golden Gate if we just kept going. So that's what we did. By the time we motored under the bridge the sun was shining and the current was giving us a 2.5 knot boost Woo-Hoo!


It was really nice in the Bay today. The water was downright glassy and, although there was enough wind for SF hardcores to sail, they weren't getting anywhere very fast. It was nice and warm, too. We headed up through San Pablo Bay and then into the start of the Carquinez Strait where we secured moorage at the Benicia Marina in (where else?) Benicia.

Passed this cool looking place along the way:


You can actually rent it according to the signs.

Anyway, we're here. Now our whirlwind visiting schedule begins. It wouldn't have been such a whirlwind if we had gotten here back in August like we originally planned, but waddya gonna do?

Once again, the marina does NOT have wifi. Geez! So a posting requires a 20 minute walk to the nearest Starbucks. Otherwise it's a very nice marina. Maybe a little hoity-toity for us but the showers are clean and don't have coin slots so we'll manage somehow.

If this entry seems a bit distracted it's because I'm very distracted here in S-Buck's trying to compose something. Usually I write the entries on the boat and then just post them when I got to a connection. But I didn't have time to do that this time so, it is what it is. Sorry.


Monday, September 20, 2010

9/20/2010 - Ready to head out

We're having breakfast at David's Restaurant in the Boatyard Shopping Center. Just happens to be a wifi hot spot. Then we'll go back down to the boat and get ready for sea. We'll probably be underway by 9:00 at the latest. Figure 30 hours or so to Drake's Bay, anchor overnight, then head under the Golden Gate on Tuesday morning (depending on currents) to arrive at Martinez Marina in the afternoon.

Until then....

Oh yeah, the weather looks great today so far.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

9/19/2010 - A tale of two journeys

Scenario #1:

The rain that had been predicted for a couple of days ago finally hit Ft. Bragg on Saturday night. When we got up Sunday morning everything outside was soaked and the rain was continuing to come down. Undaunted, we headed out to sea anyway. Although we stayed fairly dry inside our foul weather gear, the same can't be said for the inside of the boat. Every time one of us went below, the water ran off our foulies and onto the deck, the seat cushions, the bedding, whatever they came in contact with. And on a boat this small it's very hard to keep from contacting just about everything. The ride was not unpleasantly rolly or anything but the dampness made everything pretty uncomfortable. The grey skies and equally grey seas didn't really improve things any. There could have been a whole gam of Blue Whales alongside and we probably wouldn't have seen them as all we did was stay hunkered under the dodger trying (in vain, I might add) to stay somewhat dry. After one's watch and a couple of hours of sleep it was time to climb back into clammy foulies and head back on deck for another wet, drippy two or three hours. Although we had some okay sailing winds, we didn't raise the sails because we could go faster under power and we didn't want to do anything to prolong this trip. Didn't even have the camera out when we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge because I didn't want it to get wet. Naturally, by the time we reached the marina at Martinez and the trip was over, the sun came out and the weather is expected to stay nice for at least a week or so. Good thing because it'll probably take that long for everything to dry out.

Scenario #2:

Wow! Am I glad we waited to leave Fort Bragg. It was raining when we got up Sunday, prepared to depart, but the predictions said it would only last through Monday or Tuesday at the latest and then we'd be back to sunny weather. So, we discussed it and decided that, since we don't have a schedule, we might as well enjoy our trip, and that did not include a sodden passage. Since everything was ready to go, all we had to do was relax, read, do crosswords, listen to music and generally wait out the rain. We're really glad we did. The trip down the coast was beautiful. The sun was shining the whole way and it was almost warm. We even had some decent sailing winds and, since it was nice and we were in no hurry, we took advantage of them for a few hours, even though it slowed our passage time down. We saw some whales and a few acrobatic sea lions along the way. The trip under the Golden Gate Bridge was amazing and our sail across the Bay to Martinez was awesome. Having no fixed schedule really paid off this time.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Okay, which one of these scenarios would you rather read? I would rather write the second one and I'm pretty sure that's the one that all but the most sadistic of you would choose to read as well. Who am I to bum you out with tales of a sodden journey? Who am I to depress readers who are planning to follow in our wake by relating another tale that points out the not-so-pleasant aspects of cruising? Weren't the stories about the seas off the Oregon coast bad enough? So, you see, it's not really for ourselves that we chose to stay another day or two in Ft. Bragg. No, it's for you all, our loyal readers. And we're happy to do it for you. Oh, that's all right. No, really, don't mention it.

So, we now plan to leave when the rain stops. That's predicted to be either Monday or Tuesday. Don't get us wrong, we're from Oregon so we know we won't melt out in the rain. It's strictly a comfort issue. If we don't have to get the inside of the boat all wet, we try not to. If schedules required us to get going, we'd go, rain or no rain. Fortunately, that's not the case.

Yet.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

9/18/2010 - Just to reiterate

We'll be leaving Ft. Bragg tomorrow morning. High tide is at 10:14 AM so we'll leave sometime around then. No crack of dawn stuff for us this time. Our plan is to sail all the way to either Drake's Bay or San Francisco Bay. We had planned on anchoring at Angel Island just inside the Bay but our friend Paul on S/V Jeorgia who is out there ahead of us warned us that Angel Island is full of mooring balls at $20-$30 per night. He suggested Sausalito instead, so maybe that's where we'll go.

Since we're not trying to make a port by a certain time this time, we have time to play with the sails if we get favorable winds. Anyway, I won't be sending anything out tomorrow before we leave so this is the last you'll hear from us until we're moored at the Martinez Marina. That will be Tuesday at the ABSOLUTE earliest. More likely Wednesday or Thursday.

Until then...

PS: for everyone who've asked about wildlife sightings at sea. So far we've seen a lot of murres and guillemots, seagulls and brown pelicans. Saw sea lions doing aerial acrobatics a couple times and Lulu may have spotted a small whale one day. May have been a dolphin. Too far away to tell for sure. And that's been it so far.


9/18/2010 - Listening to the radio

Whenever we hit a new port, I try to find a decent local radio station. My first choice would be a Public Radio station but I'm so spoiled by OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) that very few other stations quite measure up. But, absent finding good public radio, I like to find a good music station. Particularly in the smaller towns, it's fun to listen to the local happenings, etc. The station in Clarkston, Washington used to even have a "radio classifieds" session. Kind of a Craig's List of the air. Very small town and homey.

Mostly all I ever find are stations that are part of some big conglomerate with a few minutes of local news and advertising thrown in to make you think the DJ actually put the play list together himself (or herself). Once you listen for a few hours you've heard everything they are going to play.

But, here in Fort Bragg we happened across a station that sounds like they got hold of my iPod somehow. They're playing great stuff: Paul Simon, Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, CSN, Mark Knopfler, Heart w/Allison Kraus, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Jimi Hendrix, etc. And not just the expected stuff either. They play songs from deeper into the albums as well as live cuts I've never heard before. And they aren't just playing artists from my iPod. They play lots of good stuff that I've never heard before by artists I've never heard of. Oh yeah, they throw in the occasional Springsteen song but I can handle those as the price I have to pay to hear all the good stuff. Been listening all day and haven't heard one single song repeated yet.

So, credit where credit is due. Here's a big shout out for KOZT-FM 95.3, Fort Bragg, California.


Friday, September 17, 2010

9/17/2010 - Livin' on the Noyo River

We've decided to spend an extra day here in Ft. Bragg. We'll leave on Sunday morning instead of tomorrow. This was partly because today didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped. All I wanted to do was change my engine oil. Our sweet little Westerbeke has been treating us so well that I want to reciprocate and change its oil at the factory recommended intervals of 100 hours. And she was almost due.

I remember going on one day about how easy my oil changes went using my little drill pump. Well not today. I could not get that little bastard to pump no matter what I did. Even used a different drill pump and still nothing. I finally went to a local marine supply place and got a Jabsco hand pump. It did the job in about 3 minutes. Anyway, by the time I was done it was too late to do any grocery shopping or anything so we're going to hang for an extra day.

Our plan now is to skip Bodega Bay and head straight to Drake's Bay (about 25 miles north of the Golden Gate). We'll anchor there if we need a rest and/or to wait for perfect conditions for going under the Gate. Once inside the Bay we'll likely spend a night at anchor at Angel Island and then head to the Martinez Marina the next day. So, once we leave on Sunday morning, you may not hear anything from us until we reach Martinez and that could be a few days. So, once again, don't worry about us until it's been a really long time since you've heard anything.

FYI for those that follow: three nights at the Ft. Bragg Marina cost more than a week at the Woodley Island Marina in Eureka and there is absolutely no comparison. FB is small and funky and run down, which is fine with us but it would be nice if the cost reflected the facility.

BTW, in case I've never mentioned it, we really love getting comments from you all. Can't always respond to them but, since they come to us via e-mail, you can rest assured we read each and every one.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

9/16/2010 - Eureka to Ft. Bragg

On Tuesday afternoon, Lulu and I, along with several other fellow cruisers as well as a handful of commercial fishermen, met at the National Weather Service office located right on Woodley Island. Bryan, the senior forecaster in the office, gathered us together to give us the latest forecast on the conditions for rounding Cape Mendocino on Wednesday. Seas-wise, the conditions couldn't be better. Seas about 2' or less and a long period ocean swell. The downside was that there would be no wind at first and later, when the wind came up a little, it would be directly out of the south, the direction we're headed. Bryan also showed us a prediction on the bar conditions leaving Eureka. Everything looked good to go.

Doug and Jody on El Gitano were planning an early morning departure. Doug wanted to be crossing the bar by 0700 which called for an exit from the marina at 0600. Bob and Sherry on Ponderosa preferred to wait until daylight and were planning to depart the marina at about 0730. Lulu and I still had to settle up our moorage bill so we wouldn't be ale to leave until after the office opened at 0800.

I pent several hours plugging waypoints into the GPS. I entered routes for Eureka to Ft. Bragg, Ft. Bragg to Bodega Bay, and Eureka to Bodega Bay. Had all the various options covered.


And, just to be safe, I also entered the waypoints and created the same routes on the MacENC charting software on my laptop. Then I did a dry run through the routes to make sure I hadn't made any typos that would result in us trying to sail across jetties and such.

At 0500 on Wednesday, the alarm rang. Guess I could have skipped the alarm as Lulu was awake anyway. Seems she'd gotten all of 2 hours sleep all night. She laid awake worrying about us leaving the dock. In spite of her worrying, we are getting better at it all the time. I must not have had her same misgivings as I slept like a baby all night.

We got up, had some breakfast, applied our scopolamine patches to our necks, and started boiling water. We bought two 2-quart thermoses the other day. The plan was to fill one with coffee and one with (Lipton-type) chicken noodle soup. That way we could have some hot stuff along the way but wouldn't have to light any flames. A gallon of water is a LOT to boil, especially on a propane stove.

While the water was heating, Lulu busied herself with stowing things belowdecks so they wouldn't come loose in a seaway. She's gotten very good at this. Meanwhile, I was readying the decks, checking the engine's vital fluids, etc.

Eventually everything was stowed, checked and ready to get underway. I fired up the engine to let it warm up a little and went up to the office to pay the damages. The Woodley Island Marina is really quite reasonable. It only set us back a little over $12/day. And, once you've stayed 4 days, you get the weekly rate (which is basically the cost of 4 days at the daily rate). Our bill was something like $52.80 and we still had a few days coming to us just in case we turned back for any reason.

Nothing left to do but get underway. We looked over the situation, put the engine in gear both directions, while still tied to the dock, to see what she was going to do, and ultimately decided to walk the boat backwards about half her length before jumping aboard and driving her the rest of the way out. This way, when her stern started to swing to port due to prop walk, her bowsprit, which swings to starboard, wouldn't take out the neighbor's boat before we got enough way on for Siempre Sabado to answer her helm in reverse.

Well, I tell ya. I don't know what Lulu was losing sleep about. The undocking went as smoothly as could be. We didn't hit anyone. We didn't do anything to make us look really stupid. And the whole maneuver went just like we planned.

Uderway at about 0815, we started following the GPS waypoints as well as the channel markers. Sometimes it was a little tough to see the markers because the fog would get thick and then lighten up and then get thick again. Fortunately, by the time we reached the jetties, the fog had lifted enough to take any drama out of the bar crossing. Of course, as soon as we hit open water the fog set back in. But we only had to spend a half hour or so blowing our fog horn before it lifted. Once in open water we hoisted the main (for stability and maybe just a wee bit of lift) and set our course for the first waypoint. By about 0930 we were completely out of the fog. The sun was shining, it was fairly warm, and we were on our way.

The big deal today was rounding Cape Mendocino. This massive hunk of and sticks out into the Pacific Ocean a good 10 miles. Because of this and the very deep underwater canyons adjacent to the Cape, as well as the very steep underwater bank just offshore of the Cape, the sea conditions can be really nasty as one goes around it. A lot of things are dubbed "the Cape Horn of this" and "the Cape Horn of that" and I've heard Cape Mendocino called the "Cape Horn of the US Pacific Coast". Actually I doubt that anything is the equivalent of the real Cape Horn but I guess Cape Mendocino can create some really nasty conditions. So, of course we approached with a little trepidation. However, Bryan's forecast called for easy conditions so were put a little at ease.
Well, we were rewarded for taking Bryan's advice about when to leave Eureka. The conditions could not have been more peaceful. This is how concerned I was as we approached the Cape:


Yep. Sittin' on a bucket so I could see better, reading a book, and occasionally looking up. And this is how the whole trip went. The seas were smooth and almost flat. The air was clear. The sun shone most of the time and it was tolerably warm. I'm not sure if the north-running Humboldt current is located this close to shore (we were 5 miles off Cape Mendocino) but some kind of current was negatively impacting our speed. In the past, with the engine turning 2200 RPMs, we could always count on 4.5 to 5.5 knots. But on this trip there were lots of times where our speed was below 4 knots. EVentually, as we got below Punta Gorda, our speed returned to normal levels.

While Lulu caught up on the sleep she'd lost the night before, I rode along, reading my book, drinking coffee, having an occasional bite to eat and just generally enjoying life. Mid-afternoon she rallied enough to make us a couple of tuna sandwiches. I mean, it was THAT smooth that making sandwiches down below didn't even faze her. Just the way we like things.

I crashed for about an hour once in the late afternoon but got up in time to watch a beautiful sunset.

Now, the land mass the includes Cape Mendocino is huge. I didn't appreciate how huge until I realized that we had been motor-sailing along for 10 hours and we still weren't around it. For a little while during the night as we were sailing along the south side of the Cape, the swells got somewhat bigger but they were never uncomfortable. Lulu relieved me at about 2300 and I went below for some shuteye. When I got up about 2-1/2 hours later, the fog had set in a little bit. It wasn't really enough to bother blowing the horn but it was a little disconcerting just the same. The fog wasn't very thick as we had completely clear skies overhead. And the skies were filled with stars. And then, at 0330, the fog lifted and, except for a couple of small pockets, stayed lifted the rest of the night.

There was very little traffic on the water through the night. I had a couple of contacts with AIS-transmitting ships. One was bound for Chile and was about 10 miles further out than I was, and the other was bound for San Francisco and was also about 10 miles further out. That's the kind of info you can get off the AIS system if the transmitters are programmed right. I wish the commercial fishing boats were required to have AIS transmitters. It's so hard to tell what those guys are doing at night. They all sport these huge, incredibly bright metal-halide lights. Sometimes they point to where they're going and sometimes they point backwards to illuminate the fishing gear. They're so bright that it's impossible to see past them to their navigation lights which, if they could be seen, would tell you what direction they're headed. As it is, it's anyone's guess where they're going. Are they coming towards me? Are they crossing my path? Am I crossing theirs? Are we both going the same direction? So, you keep watching, hoping that the angle between you and them will change indicating that you probably will not collide. Last night, on my first contact, the angle did not change or, if it did, it did it at an imperceptible rate. Normally this would mean that, if you're not just paralleling each other, you're probably going to meet somewhere. I'm sure these guys are the salt of the earth but I have no desire to meet up with ay of them at sea. After about an hour I finally realized that the only way that we hadn't closed the distance between us was if he was indeed going the same direction that I was, and on about the same course and close to the same speed. After that, I relaxed a bit. But if I could just look at his AIS data and see which direction he's going and at what speed, I could have relaxed long before.

About an hour before sunrise, I roused Lulu to come on deck. We were right on schedule. We'd be reaching the Noyo River (Ft. Bragg) entry buoy at 0730, almost exactly at sunrise. It looked like a pretty short trip once the entry buoy was reached so we prepared everything ahead. Tossed fenders over both sides and rigged bow and stern lines on both sides since we had no idea where we would tie up.

As we approached the entry buoy, we started encountering sportfishermen heading out for a day of tuna fishing. Seemed like the space between the red and green buoys was awful narrow. We made our turn to head under the Highway 1 bridge and in to the marina just as the sun came over the hill. RIGHT IN TO OUR EYES! So here we are, approaching the narrowest harbor entrance I've ever dealt with (well, not as narrow as Pleasant Harbor Marina in WA but that was only 100' long, if that) and I can't see a thing! I keep turning the boat so that the mast is between the sun and my eyes but I don't have much room to maneuver. Meanwhile, traffic continues to exit the harbor and, of course, they can see just fine since the sun's at their backs. I have the entire entry programmed in to the GPS but everything is coming so fast, even with the boat moving at a dead crawl, and I'm so far away from my track due to having to share the channel with other boats, that the GPS is all but useless to me. So, we're under the bridge and I see a red marker on my right and a green on my left. Just right. Except directly in front of me is a scene right out of "Popeye". There are buildings on pilings stretched all across my path.

I ask Lulu if she sees an opening and she says she doesn't. Finally, she points out the red markers to starboard. We turn almost 90 degrees and head further upriver. Now the sun is finally out of our eyes and we can see again. But this is one seriously narrow channel. We manage to reach the marina without hitting anyone or pissing anyone off (or at least I hope not). Pull up to the first available slip and tie her off. Whew! At least it wasn't foggy.


After checking in, securing our stuff and changing into street clothes instead of our passage-making togs, we asked the harbormaster about wifi and a place to get some breakfast. He tells me about a place "just up the road" called the Dolphin. They have wifi and serve breakfast. He also tells me about another place on the town side. We head to the Dolphin. Well, "just up the road" is close to a mile. Our breakfast (spuds, eggs and toast) consisted of tepid coffee, adequate eggs, warm, but not toasted "toast", and the most appallingly tiny serving of home fries that you have ever seen. Both out servings together wouldn't make a decent normal serving. My warning to those who may follow in our path: DO NOT EAT BREAKFAST AT THE DOLPHIN DELI! There are many more interesting places along Hwy 1 up the hill from the marina.

After "breakfast" we headed in to town proper and looked around. We're now back at the boat and getting ready to head back in to town. I need to stop at Starbuck's and post this blog, we need to stop at Rite-Aid to get the rest of the prescriptions that they couldn't fill in Eureka, and we're going to catch the 4:45 showing of Avatar 3-d. Yep, we're the last people under the age of 80 who haven't seen Avatar.

So, hasta maƱana.

PS: didn't have time to proofread this so cut me some slack.


9/16/2010 - Fort Bragg

We arrived in Ft. Bragg, CA this morning about 8:00. It was a very pleasant trip. I don't have wifi at the marina but have to hoof it over to MacD's or Starbucks. So I'm going back to the boat now to put together a real blog and I'll post it later today or tomorrow.


Monday, September 13, 2010

9/13/2010 - Not sunny today

Eureka has returned to it's more normal grey skies after yesterday's beautiful, and unexpected, blue ones. Today we're off to visit the National Weather Service office here on Woodley Island. Then a quick trip to town for e-mail and blog upload and a stop by the Book Legger to see if he has anything that I want bad enough to either find space for or jettison something already on the boat. Then back home.

I have a few minor boat chores, Lulu has some sewing to do as well as the laundry and then we're meeting our friends Joe and Jeri for dinner here at the Marina Cafe at 6:00.

Two boats across the dock from us left this morning. We're finding more and more people on boats that are also on their way to Mexico. The conversation usually goes something like:

"So, where you from?"

"Well, Newport, Oregon, sort of. Spent the last 25 years in Silverton, Oregon but we've recently come down from Newport via Charleston and Brookings, Oregon. You?"

"We're coming down from the Seattle area. Where you headed?"

"Mexico."

"Yeah, us too."

"Well, maybe we'll see you down there."

"Yeah."

-later, at Starbuck's-

We just finished visiting the NWS office. What a great place. The people are way friendly and helpful. They spent quite awhile with us showing us various weather tools available to anyone on the internet. Then he analyzed the weather for rounding Cape Mendecino on our projected departure date of Wednesday. So far, Wednesday looks great other than we'll be motoring for sure since there's going to be virtually no wind. He welcomed us to check back tomorrow to see if things are still looking the same.

So, back to the boat right after we pick Lulu's glasses up from the optometrist (she took them apart and couldn't get them back together). Then boat chores in anticipation of a Wednesday departure. Tomorrow we'll pick up our prescriptions and then go to Winco to get beer. We figured the bus system out so we won't have to tote the resultant heavy packs all the way back on our backs, just part way.




Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/12/2010 - Yesterday in Eureka

Yesterday was a pretty typical Eureka day: mostly foggy. We headed to town around 9:00 to look for a wifi connection and to get some groceries. The first step in the trip in to town was to cross the first Samoa bridge. I assumed there would be sidewalks but, not so. There was a fairly wide strip between the fog line and the edge of the bridge but that was it. We walked facing traffic but I'm not sure what good it would have done since, if we had seen a car headed straight for us, there was really no where to go to get away. Maybe over the side of the bridge, but I don't know that drowning is any better than getting creamed by a Toyota. We just held our breaths and proceeded across and hoped the drivers would stay where they belonged. And, since I'm writing this, obviously they did.

The marina had provided us with a nice little map and we were able to find the library easily. Unfortunately, the library was closed until 11:00 and the free wifi they provide either did not extend outside the building or they turned it off when they were closed. Either way, no connection. Well, that's not entirely true. I managed to connect to someone's Belkin wireless router long enough to download e-mail but not long enough to upload the blog.

As we were starting our walk, my brother-in-law, Nick called to say that he still had a $50 credit at the Book Beggar bookstore in Old Town and I was welcome to use it. Coool. So, we headed to Old Town, mostly to locate the store. No plans to peruse the stock until Sunday or Monday. Old Town was apparently holding some sort of Saturday Market/Car Show as there were little booths all over, the streets were closed and there were quite a number of fancy old cars as well as some not-so-fancy project cars.

After Old Town, we headed south to try to find Rite-Aid so we'd know if it was a walkable distance when we needed to go pick up our prescriptions on (hopefully) Tuesday. It turns out that Rite-Aid is quite a ways away but Eureka is very walkable. I swear it's dead-flat. The only time we gained any elevation was when we crossed the Samoa bridge. We found Rite-Aid and then headed west to go to Winco to get our groceries. We had to be a little careful about what we bought as the weight adds up quickly. We got a bunch of produce, some cheese and meat, and a few other items. Once our packs were loaded, we were glad we stopped shopping when we did. They didn't seem that heavy at first but, by the time we got back to the boat they were plenty heavy enough.

After Winco we headed back to the library. By now they were open and I downloaded e-mail and uploaded the blog. I was also downloading some blogs we follow but the connection was painfully slow. When I was just about to give up, things suddenly sped up. Not sure if someone was hogging bandwidth with a huge download or what.

After the library we stopped at Burger King for lunch and noticed that the MacDonald's across the street as well as a Mexican restaurant nearby both offered free wifi. Have to keep that in mind.

Back across the bridge. This time, the idea of having to abandon ship over the side into the slough was even less appealing seeing as how we both were strapped in to 20 lb. backpacks. We arrived back at the boat safe and sound.

Later in the afternoon we went over to D dock to visit new friends Doug and Jody on their Westsail 32, El Gitano. Had a nice visit comparing notes about our trips down the coast. They started in Anacortes (just like we did although we made the Anacortes to Newport leg about three years before they did). They encouraged us to visit the National Weather Service office which is right here on Woodley Island. We'd planned to anyway after reading Mark & Vicki's blogs from a year ago. Doug and Jody said that the folks over at NWS did a great job of explaining why Cape Mendecino can be so dangerous as well as explaining what the various predicted wave heights really mean. Apparently you don't just add the wind wave height to the swell height. We plan a visit to the office tomorrow. Doug and Jody are also headed to Mexico and I'm sure we'll run in to them many times.

After we got back to the boat, fellow Willow Glen High School classmates Jeri & Joe, who live here in Eureka, stopped by with their grandson Carlos for a brief visit. We plan to get together for dinner and a longer visit before we depart Eureka.

Today it's beautiful. Sunny and clear. We're about to head to town to locate a Target store which we sort of think we know where it is. Need to get a few miscellaneous items that can't be found at Rite-Aid or Winco. We'll stop by MacD's and post this as well as get our e-mail.


An uncommonly sunny day in Eureka.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/10/2010 - Eureka! Our first California port o' call

Although I'm writing this on Friday the 10th, I'm not sure when I'll get to post it. We're at the Woodley Island Marina in Eureka and, while it's by far the nicest marina we've been in so far, there are a couple of missing items: no bus service in to town and NO WIFI! It's not even available on a pay-as-you-go basis. There's just no internet access available. My computer can find a few networks but they're all locked. So, we'll probably have to walk to town to be able to post blogs, pick up e-mail, etc.

But you don't want to hear about that, you want to know about our trip. Before I get into details, let me say it was a very smooth trip except for the fog and my total lack of planning, time-wise.

We left Brookings, OR on Thursday morning (9/9) about 10:15. There was no real hurry since the flood tide would be running until noon and we only were planning to go as far as Crescent City, some 18 miles or maybe 4 hours away. Well, we did reserve the right to go on to Eureka if things looked good and frankly, that was really our intention.

The Brookings bar was easy to traverse and we were out in the ocean by about 10:30 AM. The weather was nice: partly blue skies and reasonably warm. The seas were relatively calm. We had some long ocean swells but we expect that and they're not hard to cope with. We both opted to go with the scopolamine patches this time, with Lulu even using a whole patch.


Once we cleared the bar I went forward and raised the main to stabilize the ride. In the past I've gone on at length about how much I like having steps on the mast for climbing to the top. And they really do make climbing the mast easy. But if a line is even slightly loose, one or more of them WILL grab the line and wrap it around the wrong side of the step. It took 3 tries to get the main up because I kept getting lines caught on the steps. I'm going to try the trick of running a light line along the outside of all the steps, connecting them together. This should make it much more difficult for the steps to foul a line but if they persist I will definitely consider removing them and reverting to a bosun's chair rigged with a 4-part tackle (gantline) that I can use to haul myself up the mast a la the Pardeys.

Anyway, after several frustrating attempts, I finally got the main hoisted and we continued on our way. Because of some things I'd read and also discussed with Lee Perry, we had decided to use the close-to-shore route down. For those of you that use the "Pacific Coast Route Planning Map" by Fine Edge Productions, this is the route described as the "Inshore Route". So far, on all our previous trips (Anacortes to Newport, Newport to Charleston, and Charleston to Brookings) we have opted for the "express route" which puts you 5-10 miles off shore in an area that is supposed to be mostly fishing and crab pot free. However, we've heard and read that conditions tend to be milder in close so we opted to try the "inshore route". This route was more interesting but also a little bit scarier as I'm not used to being able to see land while we're traveling and this route puts the land pretty darn close in a couple of spots.

We crossed 42°00'00", which put us in California waters, at about 11:00 AM or maybe a wee bit later.

The first, and really the only spot on the route that I was a little dubious about was the passage past Pt. St. George, just north of Crescent City. Beyond the point itself is a reef that extends almost 8 miles out into the ocean from the point. At its end, to seaward, is an old lighthouse which is no longer in use.


(photo provided by Nancy Perry)

Between the lighthouse and Pt. St. George are a bunch of nasty rocks. some slightly submerged but many sticking out of the water. The submerged rocks create breakers in the area. This area is called St. George Reef. There's also a clear path between the point and the reef called St. George Channel. It's advertised as a "viable shortcut in settled weather". My general tendency is to avoid these shortcuts and opt for the longer, but safer passage around the outside. However, both Lee Perry and Gary Burton advised me that it's a piece of cake and more than a mile wide. And we certainly had settled weather so I went ahead and plotted our course through the channel instead of going outside the reef.

One of the things I'm learning is to trust my GPS. I don't trust it implicitly but, if it's getting good info and I've done an accurate job of programming waypoints into it, it's pretty darn reliable. The trouble is, it shows you where you are from a map view, that is, from above. What you actually see when you're on the ground looking at all these map features from the common plane of the ocean's surface, things just don't look as clear as they do from above. I had to keep reassuring myself that we were going the right way when I saw this to port:


I kept repeating, "Lee and Gary say it's OK, Lee and Gary say it's OK, ..." As is typical in these cases, items that look really close together when you're a long way off have a tendency to move much further apart as you approach them, especially if your angle of vision changes as well. At one point as we approached the channel, I could see the St. George lighthouse off in the distance to seaward. There came a point when, if I were to chicken out, it would be too late to just hang a right, I would have to actually do a 180 and retrace my path until I was far enough north to head out to sea. But, it was a sunny day, the weather was settled and Lee and Gary say it's OK, so on through the channel we went. Now mind you, I'm going through all this angst by myself because Lulu's down below snoozing. The scop patch, while keeping her from getting sick, was doing its usual number of making her sleepy. No matter since all she could do if she was topside was reassure me that Lee and Gary say it's OK. Well, turns out that Lee and Gary were right. It was OK. Matter of fact it was a piece of cake. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

After clearing the St. George Channel, we were in a position to head in to Crescent City if we wanted. But it was way too early to stop given the mild weather we were getting. And speaking of weather, this was another motor-sailing trip. For most of the trip the only wind we had was apparent wind, made by the fact that we were traveling through the atmosphere at 5 knots. We did get a wee bit of west wind and a tiny bit of north wind later in the night but never enough to bother unfurling the jib.

As we traversed the bight south of Crescent City, we started seeing crab pots. These can be a problem if you run over one. All you see is the float that is connected to the pot that is on the bottom by a line. Many are the boaters who have gotten one of these lines wrapped around their prop. This usually results in the engine coming to a dead and sudden stop. Then someone has to don a wetsuit and go overboard to cut the offending line off the prop shaft. And you're lucky if there's no damage to your engine and driveline. This is to be avoided at all costs. So we were keeping a good lookout. The further south we got, the thicker the floats became. We were doing OK but had to make a few course adjustments now and then. Finally the floats became so thick that all we were doing was dodging them. At that point we opted to head west and pick up the express route through the "crab pot free zone". As we got a little further west, in to deeper water, the crab pots did indeed peter out. Thank goodness.

Things were going smoothly and Lulu kept trying to get me to go below and get some shuteye. Well, I wasn't the least bit tired but figured that it probably was prudent to catch a nap now rather than wait until I really needed one. So, down below I went. But , since I wasn't tired, I wasn't about to get out of my gear and crawl into bed, so I just laid down on the settee.


As the afternoon wore on, the fog began to set in. We were glad to be on the express route at this point since we had no intention of going in to Trinidad and the express route gave us a little sea room which made the fog easier to handle. By the time we were opposite the mouth of the Smith River, the fog had set in with a vengeance. Visibility was maybe 100 feet or so. So, with the autopilot steering a much more straight-line course than we could, we sat back for the ride and hoped nobody came out of the gloom to smack us. We turned on our running lights and started ringing our bell every minute or so. The rules call for a 5 second blast every 2 minutes but I wasn't aware of that at the time.

So here we are, tootling through the fog, ringing the bell every minute or so. Lulu's down below snoozing again when I happen to hear something but I'm not sure what. I do a little look around and, is that an orange stripe off my port quarter in the fog? Now it's gone. Now it's back. Holy crap! It's a full-on Coast Guard cutter and he's trailing behind and to my port side maybe 100' or so away, occasionally visible through the fog. I can hear something coming over his PA but it's mostly unintelligible although I do hear what sounds like the word "sixteen". So I key my handheld VHF and call them on channel 16 to find out if they're hailing me. I'm pretty sure they are as it would be unlike the CG to just take a look and move on.

They ask all the usual questions: documentation number, number of people on board, our last port of call, our next planned port of call, when we plan to get there, my name, when were we last boarded by the USCG, etc. To this last question, I answered that we've never been boarded by the Coast Guard but that we had a voluntary inspection by the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Newport in July. They asked if the inspection turned up any deficiencies and I answered that it had not. They asked if I had running lights and I replied that they were on. They asked if I was using a sound-signaling device and I replied that I was ringing my bell until I started talking to them. This seemed to satisfy them. They said that they had picked me up on radar but couldn't see any lights or hear any sounds so decided to investigate. They then wished me a safe voyage and headed off. I asked if they knew whether the fog was supposed to lift later or would we be facing this all night. They said that the "forecast calls for patchy fog but this sure doesn't look patchy to me." I agreed and we signed off and they disappeared back into the fog like a ghost ship.

A quick word in favor of voluntary safety inspections by the USCGA. If you're a boater I would recommend you asking for a courtesy inspection. If the Auxiliary find any deficiencies you still have to fix them but at least you'll know how you stand before you get a full-on Coast Guard boarding and inspection. I was told at one time that, if the actual CG sees your voluntary inspection sticker posted on your boat, they will often opt to not do one of their own inspections. I don't know if this is true or not but this is the second time that we haven't been boarded after answering the "when were you last boarded?" question the way we did.

We continued to slog through the fog the rest of the afternoon, evening and night. We took turns sleeping and standing watch. Standing watch consisted of making minor adjustments to the autopilot occasionally, looking around for other lights and ringing the bell. By the end of each watch we were cold and tired and ready to switch. I have to say that it is so nice to have the autopilot working again. It keeps a really steady course and it's great not to have to hand steer, especially at night when it's hard to see the compass. Lulu was reminded of this one time when she tried to adjust the autopliot, got it screwed up and then proceeded to hand steer until I relieved her 2 hours later. On previous trips we could at least find a star or something to steer by but with the fog, there was nothing but the compass (too dim to see) and the GPS (too far from the tiller to see really well.

Since we had originally been thinking we might stop in Crescent City and, since we wanted to traverse the Chetco River bar on a flood tide, we left Brookings mid-morning. But we didn't stop at Crescent City. This meant we found ourselves off the entry to Humboldt Bay (Eureka) at about 1:00 AM. Would have been there even earlier except that, once I realized the timing, I slowed the engine down so we were doing about 3 knots instead of 5. I have GOT to do a better job of route planning. This is the second time this has happened. What to do? We briefly toyed with the idea of bypassing Eureka, rounding Cape Mendecino in the dark while we still had good weather, and then heading to Ft. Bragg. But a quick look at the chart showed Ft. Bragg was 100 miles from Eureka. That means we'd get there about 1:00 AM Saturday so we'd still be biding our time waiting to enter. And the wind is supposed to start picking up tonight so... . As far as I was concerned it was far too foggy and dark to enter a strange port so we needed to kill about 6 hours since sunrise wouldn't be until almost 7:00 AM. The last time we found ourselves in this predicament off Brookings, we motored in circles for a few hours. But this proved to be sort of a sickening experience as we never got settled in to the sea motion since we were always changing direction. So this time we opted to motorsail at about 3 knots between 2 waypoints about 7 miles apart. No matter where we ended up along this line when the sun came up, we would be in a good position to enter Humboldt Bay. The worst part of this was that it was so freakin' cold sitting out in the fog-damp cockpit. Ringing the bell made us have to sit toward the back of the cockpit where we couldn't even use the dodger to get out of the cold breeze. Finally it dawned on me to break out the lung-powered horn. We could blow this from anywhere and it was actually a better sound device than the bell. The sound carried further, it was easier to sound it for 5 seconds and it sounded right. But, even under the dodger it was still cold. When I came topside for my final watch at about 7:30 AM, it was light out but still totally socked in. Since we had not seen or heard any other boats all night, I decided that we would start heading in. After all, we had a good route laid out on the GPS.

So we began heading towards the entry. We were still going pretty slow (about 3.5 knots) because I figured that the fog might lift later in the morning. As we got closer the fog was definitely not lifting. Oh, it thinned out a couple of times but mostly it was quite dense. I saw a small sportfisher at one point but the only other traffic we sort of encountered was some sort of ship. I could see its AIS (automatic identification system) image on the GPS and it looked like it was heading out of the entry channel just about when we were getting situated to head in. For some reason my equipment didn't show its relation to me as in "closest point of meeting" etc. But I could see that it was traveling 5.5 knots and its course was veering southerly as it exited the entryway. I kept blowing my horn and, sure enough, I heard his horn as well. It was a very good feeling when the sound of his horn not only placed him south of us but started to diminish as he got further away. The AIS is supposed to tell the size, name, etc but this one didn't have that info programmed in. This leads me to believe it was a smaller vessel that had an AIS transponder but wasn't required to.

As we approached the bar, the fog lightened a little. I kept following the GPS path even though at times it didn't look quite right (but it was right). The trip up the channel is pretty long. You have to follow the buoys and, since I hadn't programmed this part of the trip into the GPS, we just had to search for, find, and follow the markers. During this time the fog got thick again and then lifted.

We opted for Woodley Island Marina which is across a bridge from downtown Eureka. We chose Woodley Island over the City docks because it had been recommended to us and because, after the really crappy accommodations in Brookings, we wanted someplace that had a good shower and nice bathrooms and I wasn't sure the City dock would provide those. Not knowing where to pull in, we just grabbed the first open dock we saw. I nosed the boat in, Lulu jumped off with the bowline and, with the bowline cleated off, the boat proceeded to spin around 180°. An open boat was heading out about then and said that the flood was really wicked right then. No kidding! But we got tied up and were heading up to the office to find out where we should be when we got stopped by the security guy who took our info and told us we were assigned to F19. With the flood being so wicked, getting away from the dock and getting Lulu aboard could be a problem. But she's so smart. She offered to untie the lines and set me adrift and then walk down to F19 to wait for me. Why didn't I think of that? She had a fair piece to walk so I was trying to make my way upchannel very slowly. But, the flood was fast enough that, even just coasting I was going to get there before Lulu. The bad thing about entering a new marina is that, even if the docks are well-marked as to which one is A, B, etc., the slips are usually not marked very well from the water side. It's anyone's guess which slip is 19 until you have a chance to count them. Or, until Lulu is standing there directing you. To give her time to get there I went a little beyond the opening to F dock. When I got sufficiently far away I turned around. I tried to do one of the short-radius turns I'd learned but the current was fighting me all the way. I did get turned around and without mishap, but it wasn't that easy. As I pulled in to F dock, our slip was the second one meaning that I had to make a sharp right turn fast. I didn't like my first approach and backed out to try again. This time it went as planned and, at a little before noon, we were safely tied up. Oh, and guess who's tied up on the end of our dock. The afore-mentioned Coast Guard cutter, the ghost ship.

We've started a tradition that says, after an overnight, or longer passage, once we're all secured, we treat ourselves to a restaurant meal followed by a long nap. And so, that's what we did.

We plan to be here through the weekend at least. But we need to get a prescription for Scopolamine and, since our refills have expired, a call to the doctor will be required. That won't happen until Monday so it will probably be Tuesday before we get our drugs. I suspect, weather-permitting, a Wednesday departure.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

9/8/2010 - Time to go again

The weather is shaping up nicely for a departure tomorrow. We were going to just go as far as Crescent City which is only 18 nm away but, I suspect that, if the weather holds and we get in a groove, we'll bypass CC and head straight to Eureka which will be an overnight trip. If it turns ugly after CC and we don't want to continue on to Eureka we can duck in behind Trinidad Head, but that doesn't seem likely. Got the boat all squared away and ready for the next leg.

I may or may not send out a blog before we leave tomorrow. Probably not. So, once again, don't worry about us. We're on a stout little ship that's proven she can take a bunch of punishment without hardly noticing. We'll make contact when we can.

Wish us fair winds and pleasant sailing.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9/7/2010 - A wet one

We got rain today. I guess that's pretty normal for the Oregon Coast but, after a perfect Labor Day weekend we somehow expected the warm and sunny weather to continue. Oh well, the rain just served to remind us that we need to keep moving on south.

Lulu did the laundry today and I attacked the electrical gremlin issue. I've got the finest minds in the land working on this. Lee, fellow Westsailor and retired water/wastewater operator (and we know how smart those guys are), Gary, fellow Westsailor and professional electrician, and Scott, former classmate and general brain all agree that the most likely cause is a flaky ground. My job was to either find and fix the ground or prove that everything was so copasetic that it couldn't possibly be the ground.

I climbed into the engine room since that's where a lot of the connections are made. And, by the way, the engine room is way drier today than it was after our previous passage even though we had a lot of water sloshing around in the cockpit on the way here. I guess my new tie-down strategy worked. It wasn't what I originally envisioned but it worked better. I used a couple of the latches that Westsail used on the forward hatch of these boats to secure the cockpit sole hatch. I have to climb into the engine room to tighten or loosen the latches but that's a small price to pay for having a watertight hatch.

But, I digress. I was talking about checking the ground connections. I checked all the connections on the main buss and both sub-busses and all seemed plenty tight. I didn't remove every wire to check and see if there was any signs of corrosion around the terminal ends but, even if there was, it wouldn't cause the problems we've had where all the lights and the stereo shut down. It needs to be a connection that is common to all the lights, radio, etc. I did find that the wire connecting one of the sub-busses to the main buss was loose because the stud it was attached to would turn along with the hold-down nut so that the connection was never really tight. I fixed that and, while I was at it, replaced the connecting wire with a robust #8 copper wire with big beefy terminal ends. Went ahead and did that to the other sub-buss as well. Now it's just a matter of waiting to see if the problem recurs. Even if this fixes the problem, I'm not sure how long we'll have to wait before we're convinced that the problem is fixed.

Tonight we had fellow Westsailor Lee Perry over for dinner. His wife is out of town so we figured we'd feed him up although, being a guy who does ocean crossings single-handed, I'm sure he's perfectly capable of feeding himself. But we just wanted to visit with him some more and pick his brain. He brought his computer with him and showed us several slide shows of his trips down the coast, cruising in Mexico, and cruising in Hawaii. I'm inspired all over again. Never really considered a stop in Hawaii before but Lee's pictures convinced me that it'd be worth the trip.

Weather's improving (although it's raining) but we're going to stay here one more day anyway. Thursday is calling for only a slight chance of rain. Wind and seas should be good as well. We still have a couple things to take care of while we're here. I need to enter a bunch of waypoints on the paper chart as well as plot the courses in to several harbors along the way. I also need to build a short stool to use in the cockpit so I can see over the freakin' dodger better. Lulu wants to get her hair cut and would also like another day to let things dry out. When she did the laundry today she didn't want to dry our foul weather gear in a hot dryer so she just tumbled them for awhile. Now they need some hanging-up drying time. So, one more day in Harbor. The flood tide (when it's safest to cross the bar) is from 7:00 AM to 12:50 PM on Thursday so there's no all-fired hurry to get up early and get going which will be nice.


Monday, September 6, 2010

9/6/2010 - Cruising

Sometimes I have to remind myself that we are already cruising. I tend to think of cruising as something you do in foreign ports with exotic names and lots of palm trees. But really, getting there is also cruising. Here we are in Harbor, Oregon where we've never been before, the sun is shining, it's at least in the mid-70s and we're exploring our surroundings. How is this not cruising?

This afternoon we mixed with some locals at the Voodoo Lounge. Met some nice older folks who've chosen this as their retirement place. Of course, it helps when they hear what we're doing and say how much they admire us. Gotta love 'em.

However, since cruising is often defined as "fixing your boat in exotic places", here's what we did before ambling over to the Voodoo Lounge. Granted, Harbor may not strike one as an exotic location but what the hey?

Anyway, this morning I dug into the electrical systems to find out what was up with the autopilot. Sure enough, there was no voltage coming from the breaker marked "autopilot". Why? ¿Quien sabe? Anyway, I connected the autopilot to a known good source and, sure enough, it worked. More and more I'm suspecting the original Westsail breaker panel as the source of all my electrical oddities. You remember the deal where all the lights go out when you happen to turn on a light somewhere? I think it has something to do with the breaker panel. I've started shopping for a replacement. Anyhoo, I got the autopilot hooked up so it should work next time out.

My next project is one that's been bugging me for some time. One of the prior owners apparently liked to fly a flag from the backstay. This is a tried and true nautical tradition but it presented a problem on Siempre Sabado. The hardware that had been clamped to the backstay to hold the flag halyard continually fouled the topping lift and, most recently, the SSB antenna. I've been meaning to remove the hardware for some time now. Today was the day. I could either hoist myself up in the bosun's chair and then swing over to the backstay to remove the hardware or, I could unhook the lower end of the backstay and move it up next to the mast so I could do the work while standing on the spreaders. After thinking about it for awhile I opted for the latter option. I removed the backstay and used the main halyard as a temporary stay. Then it was just a matter of climbing up the mast steps and removing the flag hardware. Once the hardware was removed, it took me about 3/4 of an hour to untangle everything and get all the lines secured in a nice shipshape manner.

While I was doing all this, Lulu was sorting out the fabric that she'd cut out for the new cushion covers. This is no small feat in a tiny little space like the saloon on Siempre Sabado. But she got it done. Why are we changing cushion covers? The old ones, while very nice and tropical looking, did not wear very well and showed the dirt really badly. The new fabric, a variegated green striped awning pattern, will completely change the look of the cabin.

We're still watching the weather and it's still looking like Thursday will be the day we shove off. We'll be doing a short run to Crescent City. Should give us plenty of daylight to try out or sails and try to get comfortable with them.

In the meantime, Harbor (Brookings) is just alright with us.