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Sunday, October 31, 2010

10/31/2010 - The view from here

This is the view from our "back porch":

If we were to crane our necks to starboard, this is what we'd see:

And, if we then did a 180 and looked to port, we'd get to see this:

This last picture is, of course, The Casino, which I'm told, is not really a casino as we know it and never has been. In this case "Casino" refers to a gathering place of some kind. We haven't taken the tour yet. The museum portion is closed for renovation until February and the other tours are something like $15 apiece. Can't imagine that they have $30 worth of stuff to show us in there. Haven't ruled it out completely, but I'm leaning towards skipping the tour.

10/31/2010 -Hallowe'en in Avalon

I didn't realize it until I was told, but there are some 3500 year-round residents on Santa Catalina Island. Many of those residents have kids. Today, being Hallowe'en, the kids and some of their parents all got gussied up to go trick or treating. But before they went out knocking on doors, they had a costume parade down the main drag.

It was really pretty cute. You never saw so many Spidermen and princesses. We feel pretty lucky to have been here at the right time to see just how many kids this little island has.

10/31/2010 - Work, work, work

Even though today was Sunday, we both found ourselves with our noses firmly shoved against the grindstone.

Lulu decided that she really needed some cinnamon raisin bread. So she baked some. While she was doing that, I added oil to my leaky transmission to fill it up and get a handle on how much it's leaking (1 pint every 20 hours of run time). And then, as if that wasn't enough for one day, I had to do some macrame. We bought one of those 3-tiered hanging baskets to store fruit and such in. The baskets are OK but the chain that held them up was a serious piece of crap. Every link was just a wire that was twisted into a sort of open figure-eight. The ends of the wire were not secured to each other in any way. We've had three incidences where the chain gave way and all the fruit dumped all over the deck. The last time it happened we were bouncing our way over the bar leaving Santa Barbara. So, I vowed to make something better.

So, today, I slaved under the blistering sun macrameing new lines to replace the chains.

And you thought you had it bad.

10/31/2010 - Oil Platforms

Know what I like about oil platforms out in the channel? From a distance they look kind of like old sailing ships but they don't move. Never have to dodge them once you lay your course. I wish ships would sit still like that.

These 4 rigs are in the Santa Barbara Channel between SB and Santa Cruz Island. They actually have names like Harmony and Harvest and other names starting with an "H". I have no idea what the significance of that is.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

10/30/2010 - Avalon cam

Here's a link to a webcam in Avalon. It's not a movie camera so you'll have to refresh it occasionally to get an accurate picture. Tell ya what: if we remember, we'll try to be sitting on the end of the bench on the right and side of the picture tomorrow at 1:00 PM. We'll stay there for 5 or 10 minutes. Maybe you'll be able to see us. The marvels of modern electronics.

10/30/2010 - Catalina

First off, we lucked out. Nine o'clock came and went without our being asked to move to a different mooring ball. And, if the owner didn't come over today, I figure the rest of the week is pretty safe.

It rained last night but this morning it was just partly cloudy. Not particularly warm but pleasant enough.

We got a knock on the hull this morning. When Lulu looked out, there was our friend Lee Perry, another Westsailor from Brookings, OR. He's been here the better part of the week and was leaving later today for Oceanside, or Dana Point or one of those southern California ports. It was good to see a familiar face and visit with him for awhile.

We went ashore around noon-ish and, unfortunately, I forgot to take the camera. So no pics today. Maybe tomorrow.

We had lunch at Pete's Cafe, a walk-up, outside-seating place a block or so off the main drag. After that (and, actually before that) we wandered around town, such as it is. We went over to the Casino to look around but the museum part was closed for renovation and won't reopen until February. Guess we'll miss that. Not wanting to do the whole island the first day, we opted to save the Wrigley Mansion and Botanical Garden tour for later.

Met up with Bob and Sherry from s/v Ponderosa while we were out walking around. We compared notes on our respective travels since we last saw them in Eureka.

Later on, we headed to The Marlin Club, which our friend Adele (my classmate from WGHS) had recommended as a "real dive bar". It was perfect. Dark, padded doors, world series on the big screen, etc. While sitting at the bar nursing a couple of Miller Lights, we got in a conversation with a couple Canadians. Turns out that they're sailing down to Mexico as well. Pat is the owner of the boat, a 39' steel sloop. His crew is Sean who has his own 42' sailboat back in Canada. They've hit some horrendous seas coming down. At one point, when the engine had packed it in due to water in the fuel, the jib was ripped to shreds and the seas were way too high, Sean was airlifted off by the USCG. He met up with Pat again in Crescent City and continued the journey. They've been sailing and making repairs to the boat, which wasn't really ready to go when they left. But they decided they were going anyway and consequently have a full array of tools and lumber on board. While we were at the bar, another couple came in. Big Dave and his wife (didn't catch her name) live here in Avalon aboard their sailboat, Black Dahlia, which just happens to be moored right in front of us. They live aboard with two teenagers who kayak to school every day. Dave's a local contractor.

After a few brews, we went to Von's market (a Safeway affiliate) and got some milk and candy bars and then dinghied home. Now we've eaten and are hunkered in for the evening. Tomorrow I promise to remember the camera. We'll probably visit the Wrigley Mansion but who knows? Right now we're listening to Prairie Home Companion on a public radio station out of LA. Heard the weather report which is promising temps in the 90s by mid-week. Supposed to get in the high 70s to low 80s here. Ahhhhhhhhh.......

Friday, October 29, 2010

10/29/2010 - Santa Barbara to Avalon

We had a great trip down from Santa Barbara yesterday. We left SB at about 11:00 AM. The seas were a little rolly until we got over the bar and into deeper waters. The wind was pretty light and coming from exactly the direction we wanted to go but we decided to sail for awhile anyway. We hoisted the main and then unrolled the jib. Couldn't unroll the staysail as something was hanging it up and it wasn't worth investigating at the time. Sails up and engine off at Noon.

We tacked back and forth across our rhumb line for about 2 hours. We had a lot of fun and got to practice our tacks but, after all that time we had only gone about 2.6 miles towards our destination. At that rate it would take us 4 days to reach Avalon. At least. So we rolled up the jib, sheeted the main in hard amidships and fired up the engine. Within an hour or so, what little bit of wind there had been was completely gone.

The weather was excellent: sunny, warm enough to be comfortable in a long-sleeve t-shirt, and the seas were almost flat.

We motorsailed on through the afternoon and night and well into this morning. I stood most of the watches simply because I like to. I'm always afraid I'm going to miss something if I go below. Eventually, of course, I have to get at least a little bit of sleep and then Lulu comes up to relieve me. The seas were flat enough that Lulu was able to sit down below and read even after the first Bonine wore off. She felt good enough that she didn't even bother taking another.

As evening approached there was a sort of low fog layer hanging down across the horizon. It wasn't dense enough that you couldn't see through it but it was a strange yellow-green color. I was a little concerned. Chlorine gas is sort of that color but that's not what I was concerned about. All chlorine can do is kill you. No, I was concerned about something far scarier.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I was raised on bad science fiction movies. Of course I didn't think they were bad at the time. Most Saturdays during my 11th or 12th years, Mom gave us each thirty five cents and sent us off walking to the Garden Theater in Willow Glen. Twenty five cents was the price of admission and the dime was for snacks. You could, of course, blow the whole dime on a box of Junior Mints or Milk Duds but, if you were smart, you'd get the nickel candy instead. Ten cents could get you a box of Good and Plentys and a box of Jujy Fruit. Every Saturday, The Garden had a kidee matinee. There would be 2 or 3 cartoons, a chapter of a serial like Zorro or Commando Cody, and then a double feature, usually a western and a sci-fi flick. I loved sci-fi. Heck I was a buff. Even had a subscription to "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine. You can't imagine how happy I was when I found out that there even was such a thing.

Anyway, back to the green fog. From my experience watching movies, I knew that going through a green fog bank was not a good thing. Of course, most of the movies were black and white but somehow I just knew the fog in the movie was not normal fog-colored. As we're approaching this fog bank I flashed back to "The Incredible Shrinking Man". He, too, was on a boat going through a fog bank. In his case it was probably radioactive (that's what caused almost all the monsters back then, radioactivity). After he passed through, he started slowly shrinking. Eventually he was about the size of a house fly.

Now, I'm small enough as it is. I don't need to get any smaller. So, I was just a bit worried. Of course, as we got closer, the fog, or more accurately, "mist", dissipated. At least I hope so. If I seem to be decreasing in size, please do me a favor: KILL ALL THE SPIDERS!

Now, having read that little diatribe right in the middle of a journey, you have some idea of how life is for me during a journey. There's not a whole lot to occupy you and, if it's too dark to read, about all there is to do is go off on little fantasies in your head.

Safely past the mist, we continued on through the night. When I'd check the charts to see where we were, I'd see all these familiar names like Malibu and Redondo Beach, Point Hueneme and Point Mugu, San Pedro and Los Angeles. I found myself singing Beach Boys songs in my head.

Later, I decided to use my time constructively. So I pulled out my harmonica. What better time to learn to play the harp? I was working mostly on "Home On The Range". I can get the first part pretty well (Oh give me a home) but "Where the buffalo roam" kind of throws me. I can get most of it but there's one note that I just can't seem to find. I kept working at it, making the same mistakes over and over, until I got frustrated and tried something else. I show some promise on "When The Saints Go Marching In" and can almost do a halting version of the theme from "Bridge On The River Kwai". Finally, I pocketed the harmonica and went back to wool-gathering.

Sunup found us passing along the NE edge of Santa Catalina Island. Avalon is way down at the bottom and it takes a long time to get there at 4.5 knots. But, eventually we did get there and that's when the fun began.

There isn't any dockage at Avalon. Everyone is tied to mooring balls. When you reach the entrance to the harbor, you call in on the VHF radio and one of the Harbor Patrol guys meets you out there on a boat. Somehow you're supposed to remain on station while he gets your particulars and, get this, collects you money! It was windy at this point and I was having a tough time staying put. much less maneuvering so we could hand him some money. This can't wait until we're tied up? Apparently not. Lulu handed him the money and he told us how to get tour our mooring ball, number 115. The mooring field is packed with mooring balls and the harbor isn't really all that big.

Now, picture yourself in a boat. To get to your mooring, you drive between the sterns of the moored boats and the row of mooring balls behind them. Look at the picture closely (you can click on it to get a larger image) and notice that the mooring balls aren't always in a neat little line. Sometimes the space between the stern of a boat and the ball behind it makes it look like you're going to have to bump one of them. But, happily we didn't hit anything and we did manage to get successfully tied up, partly due to the help of one of the Harbor Patrol guys who used his well-fendered boat as a mini tug. But it was very stressful although looking back I'm not sure why. I might get to find out, though, because if the person who owns the mooring decides they want to use it, we'll have to move to a different one. This could happen on a daily basis if you're unlucky. The Harbor Patrol comes around the boats between 7:30 and 9:00 every morning to let you know whether or not you have to move.

After we'd been tied up for an hour or so, we assembled and launched the dinghy and went ashore. But I'll cover what's ashore in another blog after we've been here a little longer.

Oh, and not long after we moored, s/v Ponderosa from Issaquah, Washington arrived. We first ran into them in Brookings and then again in Eureka. It'll be interesting to get together with them to find out what they've been doing since then and to compare notes.

BTW, most of the trip "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills and Nash was running through my head. Especially the line. "From a noisy bar in Avalon, I called you".

We're Heeeere...

Arrived at Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island about an hour ago. Pretty
stressful place to land. You have to pay the guy in the boat while
you're waiting on station at the entrance to the harbor and the wind
doesn't help at all. They don't take plastic. ONly checks, cash or
travelers' check. Then you enter this huge mooring field but the
mooring balls are awfully close together. As you meander up the
fairway, sometimes the choice seems to be to either hit a boat or a
mooring ball. Happily, we did neither. But we're all tied up now and
hope to stay that way for a week. However, every day is a crap
shoot. The moorings are privately owned and, if the owner decides he
wants to use his, you have to move to another one. Could happen
daily. But, at least they let you know by 9:00 AM every day whether
or not you're secure for the day.

Wifi is available, at a cost, naturally. Well, more late. Right now
we need to assemble the dinghy and go ashore to check things out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

10/27/2010 - A day late but still on schedule

We had planned on leaving Santa Barbara today. But, believe it or
not, we've been very busy this past week and needed one more day to
comfortably get everything done. So, now we won't be leaving until
tomorrow. Checkout time is noon so we'll be underway about 11:00 AM
or so. We're getting awfully used to this warm weather and don't
want to take a chance on losing it so we're going to head south a wee
bit faster than we'd planned to a few days ago. What that means is
that we're going to skip Santa Cruz Island and head straight for
Avalon on Santa Catalina Island. The off-season mooring prices are
excellent: $27.00/day for the first 2 days and then the next 5
consecutive days free. So, 7 days for $54.00 or $7.71/day. Hard to
beat a deal like that. So we'll spend a week at Avalon, enjoying the
island, and then we'll scoot down to San Diego for our final stuff
before crossing the border.

The trip from here to Avalon is right at 100 miles so it will
certainly be an overnighter. Hoping to get some sailing in and the
prospects look good.

I doubt I'll blog tomorrow morning. The wifi connection today has
been dicey. So, the next time you hear from us we should be "Twenty-
six miles across the sea" on the "Island of romance".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10/26/2010 - Mission Santa Barbara

Yesterday's weather was back to gorgeous after Sunday's big blow. After a few minor chores, we headed out. Although we took long sleeve stuff just in case, I was comfortable in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. Lulu also wore sandals but opted for long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, albeit with the sleeves pushed up to her elbows.

We hopped on the $0.25 trolley and rode it to the end of its downtown route at Solas and State. Armed with a map from MTD (the bus people), we continued north and then east-ish towards Mission Santa Barbara. Turned out to be lass than a mile from where we got off the bus.

Now I'm not a big fan of the mission of missions and missionaries (leave the indigenous people alone!) but the California missions are sort of a big part of my past. Having grown up mostly in California, we studied early California history in elementary school. And, the building of the missions from San Diego to San Francisco and the Royal Highway (El Camino Real) along which they were located, is a significant part of California's past. In grade school, I remember drawing pictures of the individual missions as well as coloring pictures of them. I was always impressed that each was different and I could identify many of them by sight. I can't anymore but could then.

This was 10th of the 21 missions built and was built after Father Junipero Serra had died. As history, it's a very cool structure.

central courtyard:

entrance to the church from the graveyard:

kitchen (sorry about the blur - no flash photography allowed):

laundry (lavandería) - sort of a man-made stream. The channel was filled with water for soaking and rinsing and the clothes were scrubbed on the sloping surface alongside. The laundry, of course, was done by the local (Chumash) indians:

After we finished our tour, we walked back towards State St. through some beautiful residential areas. Lulu is particularly fascinated by the plants that grow so healthily here. Lots of different kinds of palm trees, an amazing variety of cacti, many just-plain-exotic-looking flowers, trees and shrubs, and more Birds of Paradise than you can shake a stick at:

From down town, we hit a grocery store to stock up on some items and then headed back to the boat to unload, only to head back to town since we'd promised ourselves a pizza at Rusty's (another "Best of Santa Barbara..." winner). The pizza was outstanding.

Finally, about 6:30, we walked back to the boat. By this time the long sleeves felt good but I was still comfortable in shorts. We're loving Southern California so far. As Lulu said, "It's a good thing the marina is expensive, otherwise it'd be awfully easy to get stuck here."

Monday, October 25, 2010

10/25/2010 - Yesterday

Sorry about no blog yesterday. Just didn't feel like we did anything worth writing about. But, longtime (and probably even short-time) readers know that that seldom slows me down. Here's what we did yesterday:

I had planned to raise the mainsail at the dock. Last time we used it we had trouble getting the boom high enough to clear the gallows. Not sure what was up with that as it was too dark to see the top of the mast very well. I suspect I had some kind of fouling up there that prevented the main from reaching the top of the mast but I wanted to find out for sure. Well, the best laid plans...

Unlike the rest of our stay in SB so far, yesterday was down right windy. There are a whole long line of flags along the breakwater and I tried to use them to judge the wind speed. According to "The Complete Sailor" by David Seidman, if the flags were snapping, the wind was between 22 and 27 knots. If the flags were extended, the wind was between 28 and 33 knots. Well, the flags were snapping some of the time and extended some of the time so the winds should have been between 22 and 33 knots. So why couldn't I get any reading higher than 16.6 knots on my handheld Kestrel wind gauge? Granted, the flags were a little further off the ground than I was but could 10' or so make that much difference? Anyway, it was way too windy (and coming at us from astern) to raise the main.

So, being the industrious fellow that I am, I turned to other pursuits. First, I fired up the engine to get the oil nice and warm so I could change it. While it was warming up, I helped Lulu get the Portabote dinghy off the boat and semi-assembled. She's been itching to clean up the inside ever since we folded it back up the last time.

Oil changing went smooth as silk. After I went on about what a great tool the drill pump was for changing oil, it naturally failed me when we were in Ft. Bragg. While there I bought a piston pump to use instead.

I don't want to jinx the deal by saying it so I won't tell you that it worked great and left no mess whatsoever. I also used it to drain the oil in the transmission. After adding new oil to both the engine and the tranny, I laid down new oil absorbent pads under both and also built a little tent out of the pads to put over the transmission to catch the oil it's flinging. This should help keep the bilge clean and give me some kind of handle as to how much oil the leaky seal is losing.

After Lulu got done cleaning the dinghy, she wanted to attack a couple of long oil/dirt scars we picked up when docking at the check-in dock here. Rather than put the Portabote the rest of the way together and then try to squeeze it between our boat and the one next to us, we decided to inflate (for the very first time) our Sevylor Fiji 2-man kayak.

Since the kayak didn't come with an air pump, I had bought a Coleman foot pump at Ace Hardware in Silverton before we left. There are 3 different inflation fittings on the kayak and the Coleman attachments fit 2 of them. Naturally. Lulu checked at West Marine but it didn't look like what they had would be of much help. So, I burrowed down into one of the lockers and came up with a hose that made a perfect bushing. With that kind of luck, I really should have bought a lottery card.

So, while she was working on the stains, using baby oil as recommended by our friend, Rod, I started filing the diesel tank from our jerry jugs. I like to do this if I can because it cycles the fuel in the jugs, it means I don't have to stop at the fuel dock, and I'm much more likely to be able to fill the tank without overflowing it. We've had overflows the last 2 times at the fuel docks necessitating quick action with paper towels and absorbent pads to avoid a messy and costly spill into the water. I believe I also waxed on about how good the drill pump worked for transferring fuel. yeah, until the last time I tried it when it wouldn't work at all. That time I also tried a shaker siphon:

Which didn't work at all.

Ultimately I ended up using the ol' tried and true mouth siphon, which, although it worked, left something to be desired aesthetically. BTW, diesel tastes better than gas. Anyway, I vowed then that I was going to come up with something else. And I did. I bought one of those priming bulbs that are used on outboard motors:

Added some hose to each end and voilá. A few pumps to get the siphon started and then just sit back and watch the jerry jug empty. The restricted orifice size means that it takes longer but the fact that it takes longer means the fuel doesn't foam up and want to leak out the vent. Hopefully I haven't jinxed this setup by praising it.

Once our jobs were done, we went up to Brophy Bros. and treated ourselves to an overpriced Corona. We had dinner onboard: green salad, steamed broccoli & carrots, and a couple of Nathan's hot dogs. Nathan's are the best. Started watching season 1 of Mad Men which we got from the Newport (OR) Public Library and we're also re-watching Deadwood which we got from Lucas.

And that's what happened yesterday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

10/23/2010 - We're not in Oregon anymore, Toto

I almost hesitate to write this because our friends Jay & Judy on s/v Wind Raven are currently stuck in Charleston, Oregon waiting for a favorable weather window to make their escape. I checked the NOAA sites and it looks downright stormy up there. But, maybe this will keep them enthused about getting out of there.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day here in Santa Barbara today. The temperature was in the mid-70s, the sky was mostly clear, except for the always-seem-to-be-present clouds over the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains. It being Saturday, the streets were filled with lots of beautifully tanned southern Californians riding bicycles, walking their dogs, eating at sidewalk cafes, or just hanging out. Santa Cruz Island, our probable next destination, was clearly visible across the channel.

One of our missions today was to get some groceries. So, armed with our list, our backpacks, and each clutching a shiny new quarter for the trolley, we headed out. We decided to get off the trolley a little early and walk along State Street. Lulu wanted a new pair of pants to replace the ones that she finally wore out after only 10 years. And I wanted to stop at The Green and Yellow Basket which is a hat store. All along State Street there are lots of interesting little places. Oh, there are the usual suspects: Macy's, Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, Border's, Starbuck's, Starbuck's, Starbuck's, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc. But there are also a lot of small independent places. One is called "The James Joyce" which is apparently an Irish Bar. Seems like there were several Irish bars along State.

At Carrillo Street, we turned left and headed over to Ralph's Supermarket. This is when we really knew we weren't in Oregon anymore. And, actually, this may only happen in Santa Barbara. Here's what passes for a supermarket in downtown SB:

Can you believe that? The architects, Lenvick & Minor, won several awards for it. Matter of fact, I borrowed these photos from their website. They have several other photos of the market on the site. You really should check it out. Ralph's prices were not great but they weren't all that bad either. And, they're only a block from the trolley to cart us back to the boat.

Our next clue that we were no longer in Oregon (or Washington or even Northern California) was when we tried to find the pants Lulu wanted. She has been wearing Carhartt work pants for years now. We both have although I switched to Riggs Cargo Pants a few years ago. Even though Carhartts started out as work pants that carpenters and plumbers and such wore, they've been adopted by nearly everyone that wants comfortable, long-wearing, good-looking britches. Or so we thought. They're ubiquitous in Oregon. We also saw them frequently in Eureka/ Arcata. But, truth be told, I can't say we've seen them since then. But everyone's at least heard of them, right? WRONG! Everyone we asked in SB returned a blank look and had absolutely no idea what the heck we were talking about. Not sure what Lulu's going to do about trousers now.

After we returned to the boat and dropped off the groceries, we headed back to town to get some Chevron Delo 400 30W motor oil. Shouldn't be too tough to find. I wanted to get several gallons to have on hand. I need 1 gallon right now for an engine oil change. Our first stop, Carquest, had one gallon although his computer said he should have had nine. He had several gallons of 15W-40 but the engine manual specifically says not to use multi-grade oils. Bummer, too, since the Delo 400 was on sale at Carquest. "The good news is that we're having a buy-one-get-one sale on that oil. The bad news is that we only have one gallon." From Carquest we walked over to Milpas Avenue to O'Reilly's Auto Parts. Lots of 15W-40, no 30W. So we walked to The Auto Zone. Lots of 15W-40, no 30W. WTF? Finally, as a last resort we walked to West Marine. I'll be an SOB if they didn't have GALLONS of the stuff! So we bought three more to go with the one I got at Carquest and headed home happy.

But let me backtrack a bit. On our way to West Marine, we just happened to happen across one of the 4 locations of The Habit, which won the Best Of Santa Barbara award for hamburgers. So we stopped for a bite. They were indeed very good burgers. Nothing fancy, just good burgers. They didn't hold a candle to the burgers we got at the Sandbar & Grill in Newport, Oregon, or the ones we got at 101 Camp in Beaver, Oregon, but for a place that's just a burger place, they were pretty darn good.

And let me backtrack even further. Remember how I said we had to try a couple of the "Best of Santa Barbara" winners? Well, yesterday afternoon we went to Brophy Bros. right here in the harbor for their award-winning clam chowder and Bloody Mary. The restaurant was packed, even at 4:00 PM on a Friday afternoon. The clam chowder was actually quite good. Lots of clams and it definitely tasted like it was something they put together there rather than buying it from Sysco's. I'd be happy to eat another bowl of it right now. But, if we go there again, I might have to try the cioppino just because I've never had cioppino. As for the Bloody Marys, they were quite tasty. The glasses had pepper on the rim and the drinks were nice and horse-radishy. But you know where we had the best Bloody Mary ever? A few years ago we had flown to Reno to see Todd Snider in concert just for the pure hell of it. While we were at the airport waiting to board our flight home. we noticed some folks drinking some good-looking Bloody Marys. They said they got them at some bar that was inside the security area. Lulu went and got us a couple and they were great. Limey, horseradishy, spicy, lots of Worcestershire sauce. Besides, there was just something about having a Bloody Mary while waiting in line to get on your plane at 9:00 in the morning that made them extra special. But I digress. Suffice it to say that we had a great day today. Tomorrow we may have to get a little work done. Like changing the oil in the engine and transmission and cleaning up the engine room a bit. Lulu plans to clean the decks and the dinghy. But that's tomorrow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10/21/2010 - Santa Barbara

We decided that a good way to spend our first full day in Santa Barbara would be to get a lay of the land. We started out with breakfast at the Shoreline Cafe which is conveniently located right here in the marina/harbor complex. During breakfast we talked about how we were going to attack the day.

We asked the Harbor Patrol office where the nearest laundromat might be. Apparently there's one that's operated by the marina but, the marina being as big as it is, the facility is way the heck over on the other side from where we're at. Far enough that it'd be uncomfortable to just carry the bag of dirty clothes. We'll need to use either our backpacks or our fold-up dock cart. And now, get this: the marina, in their apparent quest for more money, runs the facility like this: You need your access card to get in the laundry door. And, by the way, the access card is purchased in addition to your berthing costs. And, unless you plan to stay on your boat and not even use a bathroom, you kind of have to buy one as they get you in to the showers, the bathrooms and the gate at the end of your dock. A lot of marinas have charged us a refundable deposit for the bathroom key but this is the first place we've had to buy one. Granted, it's only $7 but still.

So anyway, you need your $7 access card to get in to the laundromat. Then you have to buy another $5 card to use the machines. The machines don't have coin slots, just a slot for the card. So, you put your $5 card into another machine in which you also insert your credit/debit card. Then you add money from your debit card to the $5 access card which you then slide into the washing machine or dryer to pay for your time. What a racket!

So, after finding the laundromat, we boarded the $0.25 trolly (we'll be sure to ride this bargain bus enough to help offset the sting of the cards) and headed out to see where it goes. As it turns out, there are 2 trolleys. One goes from the marina, along the beach, to the zoo. The other goes from Stearn's Wharf straight up State St. (the main drag) and back. You can get a transfer between the buses. We rode both. Had great bus drivers for both runs. Very helpful when they found out we were from out-of-town. The one on the State St. run was even telling us about great places to eat. Like for instance, Thursday just happens to be Maine Lobster night at Enterprise Fish Company. You get a 2 pound Maine lobster with all the fixin's for $29.00. Not bad since a 2 lb. lobster ought to feed both of us. But, we passed. The driver also told us about the local freebie paper. The latest edition, which came out today, had the results of Santa Barbara's Best Of readers' poll. We picked up a copy and now we know we have to go to Brophy Brothers (here at the marina) for the best clam chowder and Bloody Mary, to Rusty's for the best pizza and to The Habit for the best burgers. There were about a jillion other "best of" categories but these are ones we're likely to actually do.

After we got off the bus we started walking in search of a large grocery store (Safeway?), a Rite-Aid, and Trader Joe's. We found the latter two but the grocery store was eluding us. Eluding us, that is, until we found a phone book and realized that, although there isn't a Safeway, the California equivalent, Von's, was about 30 blocks away. We decided to give that one a pass and, when we got back to the boat and looked at the stuff the Harbor Patrol gave us yesterday, found out there's a Ralph's only a block or so off the trolley route.

This may all seem terribly mundane, but this is kind of what cruising is. You get to a new town, you have to find your supplies because, even though you're living on a boat, you still have to eat. Besides, it's a good way to learn about the town. While we were walking we noted how pretty SB is

Just east of the entrance to the harbor is Stearn's Wharf. It's quite old and, although ships used to tie up to it, now it's restaurants and gift shops. If you choose to not stay in the marina, you can anchor east of the Wharf.

Wouldn't want to be there during a southern wind as there's no protection at all. And how's that for an ominous looking sky?

After Stearn's Wharf, we walked back to the marina for a visit to the Maritime Museum. Today just happened to be free admission day. The museum was pretty cool although I wasn't really in the mood to read all the cards in all the displays. Lulu said that this should be the Diving Helmet Museum. You never saw so many different diving helmets in one place. I'll bet there were at least 20 of them, all different.

Finally got back to the boat in the late afternoon and settled in for the night. I suspect that tomorrow will be laundry and shopping day now that we know where stuff is.

Oh yeah, I also installed a new foot pump in the galley. I wrote in a previous blog about the old one crapping out on us and then leaking to boot. Well, whenever the boat was heeled over so that the water tank was above the pump, guess what. Yep, water on the deck. As luck would have it, there's a West Marine Express right at the head of the dock, just downstairs from the Harbor Patrol office. They didn't have the pump in stock yesterday when I checked but they got it in for me by this morning. Pretty convenient.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/20/2010 - Port San Luis to Santa Barbara

We've successfully rounded yet another "Cape Horn of the Pacific".

We left our Port San Luis anchorage yesterday about 12:45 PM. As soon as we cleared the harbor, we unfurled the jib and raised the main. Our course put us on a beam reach. We were seriously motating. Lulu was driving and she had the rail almost down in the drink a few times. I was busy trying to figure out how to trim the sails so the boat would be more balanced and she wouldn't have to work so hard to keep it on track. We even got a chance to try out the Cape Horn windvane for a little while. Seemed to work great once I got the vane set right. It was plenty rolly out there but with the sails up we barely noticed. However, after a couple of hours of this, it was like someone hit the OFF switch and the wind died away to nothing.

We left the main up, furled the jib and fired up the engine. It was fun while it lasted. Now that we weren't actually sailing we began to feel the boat roll back and forth. It's weird what a body can get used to. This incessant rolling, while uncomfortable, was really no big deal. We took it in stride. This is not to say it wasn't a big PITA but we just rolled with it. What else could we do really?

After running the engine for a couple hours, I looked down in the engine room and, sure enough, there was the sprayed-oil pattern that indicated a leaky rear main seal on the transmission. Crappage! Well, I knew it was going to take a very long time to spew out the entire contents so I didn't worry about it. Too much.

The plan was to go around Pt. Arguelo and Pt. Conception during the night when it was supposed to be smoothest. Well, if what we experienced last night was supposed to be smooth, I'm glad we didn't attempt it during the day.

As we approached Pt. Arguelo, the wind was fairly mild and mostly out of the north and northwest. We were still motorsailing but, when I saw 2 other sailboats that were sailing in these conditions, I was shamed into rolling out the jib. We tried sailing for awhile but we were having various problems that I need to work on. We were also only going about 3 knots.

Because of our lack of experience, we don't like to sail at night when only one person is on deck. So, about 6:00 PM we struck all sail. We didn't even leave the main up for steadying because it's been our experience that, if the wind is abeam or aft of the beam, the hoisted mainsail (by itself) makes the autopilot work too hard. Striking the sails was fun (not). We turned into the wind to lower the main. Naturally, stuff got hung up but it mostly came down without incident.

However, rolling up the jib proved to be a bit of a problem. With Lulu holding tension on the sheets (for a nice tight roll) I stared yarding in the furling line. All of a sudden, I couldn't make the line budge. I looked around and saw that the jib's lazy sheet had gotten itself wound around the windlass. Once I freed it up, we were good to go. At least we were good to go for a few seconds. The jib was almost completely rolled up when I hit the wall again. Couldn't budge the furling line.
Now, if you're not familiar with Spin-Tec furlers, here's a picture:

As you can see, they don't have a cage around the drum like most furlers do. The idea is to make the unit dead simple and simple to repair as well. Well, I found one teeny-tiny problem with not having a cage. If you don't keep some tension on the line, the loose part can flop off of the spool and get jammed below it. Might even get tangled around the cranse iron (the metal piece at the end of the bowsprit that the various supporting cables are attached to). Naturally, this is exactly what happened to us.

So, I strapped myself to the boat with my safety tether and headed forward to untangle the mess. Again. Of course this means going out to the end of the bowsprit. And, of course, the bowsprit is going waaaaay up and then waaaay down again. Nothing but ocean below. Granted there is the bow pulpit to hang on to but that's about it. Wouldn't be too tough to slide off between the pulpit and the bowsprit platform. But, I hunkered down and kept one hand for myself and one hand for the ship and managed to get the tangle untangled. Back in the cockpit, the sail finished furling quite nicely. Detractors of roller furlers are right now wagging their index fingers and saying, "Seeeeee? I told you roller furling was dangerous if it screwed up." But I'm thinking that this is the only time I've had to venture out onto the platform while underway. Without furling, I'd have to go out there every time we decided to put the jib up and every time we decided to pull it back down again. As well as whenever you wanted to change a sail. No thanks. I believe I can learn to keep tension on the furling line.

As we approached Pt. Arguelo, the seas got a bit rougher and the wind picked up. We were getting another free roller coaster ride. Fortunately, the moon was out and, even through the clouds, it kept the night from getting too dark. It even peeked through the clouds occasionally. And, there was no fog! The seas off both points were pretty rough although we never took any water on board.

I was bound and determined to stay on watch until we passed Pt. Conception. However, I only made it to the waypoint that was off the point itself before I had to call Lulu to relieve me. When she came up I told here where we were and that, according to most of the sources I read, the seas should miraculously calm down after rounding the Point. I then headed below for some sleep.

I managed to get almost 4 hours of sleep and, from where I was laying, the seas seemed far from calm. When I finally relieved Lulu, it was a bit calmer. However, she said it took another 2 hours from the time she relieved me until we were actually around the Point. Sunrise found us motoring through very calm seas and light winds. Also found us motoring through a huge oil sheen. Big surprise what with all the offshore platforms around here.

One of the highlights of the trip was when we were visited by multiple dozens of dolphins that hung with us off and on for over an hour altogether. Not sure what kind they were. They were fairly small and might have been long-beaked dolphins. I didn't get any pictures of them because they moved around too fast. Best I would have gotten is maybe part of their backs as they dove back under. A couple of them jumped completely out of the water a few times.

About the time the dolphins were entertaining us I noticed that boat speed was down to 1-2 knots, sometimes even slower. I checked the engine compartment to make sure the transmission hadn't frozen up but the propshaft was still merrily turning away. So, assuming it must be a very strong foul current, I boosted the rpms to 2500 and brought the boat speed up to 4 knots. A strong counter current would certainly explain those waves that kept slamming into our bow.

As the morning progressed we had to divest ourselves of some of our foul weather clothes because it was a very nice 70 degrees or so. I'm so glad we're finally in Southern California.

We pulled in to Santa Barbara Harbor and registered for a guest slip. It's funny, in Oregon, you usually get a better rate at the marinas if you stay longer. Here, it's $0.90/foot/night for the first 14 days. If you stay longer, it shoots up to $1.80/foot/day.

Looks like we'll be here at least through the weekend. Have several boat projects to do, we need to do laundry and get groceries, see about having some prescriptions refilled, etc. There's a trolly that will pick us up outside the marina and deliver us to any number of places and it costs a whole quarter. The run every 1/2 hour at a quarter after and a quarter to the hour.

Well, that's about it for now.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. I asked the Harbor Master if there was wifi here. He said they didn't have wifi but then went on to tell me about all the places in town you could get it (Starbuck's, Library, the usual suspects). Well once back at the boat, I connected my external antenna and cranked up the ol' MacBook. Guess what. I found at least 3 unencryted networks and another one that was a pay-as-you-go site. Guess it pays not to believe everything you hear.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2/18/2010 - Chillin' on the hook

The weather was much nicer today. Bright and sunshiny, albeit a little chilly when I got up at 7:30. But it eventually warmed up. With no big crises to deal with, we decided we should dinghy over to the other public pier and see what was shakin' over there. We loaded the dinghy with our backpack (containing the handheld VHF radio and some rope for hauling stuff up to the dock if this was another ladder landing (it was)), a couple bags of garbage, a couple bags of recycling and our lifejackets and climbed aboard.

Now that the Nissan is burning new fuel, it started on the first pull of the rope. Kept running too. We set our course and headed off under the Cal Poly pier and through the permanent (as opposed to transient) mooring field. As we neared the other side we came on several extensive kelp beds. One of them had at least 6 or more southern sea otters hanging around it. We kept our distance but they still dove under on our approach. Then, as we got closer, they popped back up, one-by-one, to watch us pass. The way they popped up to take a look was very reminiscent of prairie dogs

The Avila Pier, where we went ashore Saturday, has a ladder about 1/3 of the way along its length. It's a nice wide stainless steel ladder that dinghy riders use to climb up to the pier since we're not allowed to land on the beach. The other pier, which I think was called the Franklin Pier, has a narrow plain steel ladder on almost every piling. There were a few places where several dinghies were tied to the same piling but there were a lot of pilings completely unoccupied. We chose one of those to tie up to. I climbed up first and lowered a line. Lulu got to practice her bowline-tying skills by tying the line to the garbage bags so I could hoist them up.

Once we were both up on the pier we found receptacles for both garbage and recyclables. Then we went off to see what all was here.

Down at the seaward end of the pier were two seafood restaurants, one fancy-ish and the other not. There were also some fresh seafood outlets. As we turned around and headed toward shore we passed a hoist where little fishing boats are lowered and retrieved since there isn't a launch ramp. Boatowners just back their trailers out under the hoist and the operator lifts the boat off the trailer and lowers it down to the water, maybe 15-20' depending on the state of the tide. Seems sort of weird but I guess it works.

We passed a boatyard where we spied a Westsail 32, and talked to the owner for a little bit. He was pretty disgruntled as he'd been here for over a year and had only stopped in originally for a few weeks while he waited for a new tiller to be built. Apparently, the harbormaster assigned him to a mooring ball that was too close to the beach in spite of his protests and he went aground, doing a fair amount of damage to his boat due to the water he took on. Ended up having to replace his engine and numerous other things in the boat. Then, when they were pulling him off, a chain got caught on his prop, bending it and bending his propshaft as well. He was not a happy man. He's all fixed up now and just waiting to be put back in the water. Apparently there's a long waiting list for the travelift. If you happen to read Latitude 38, watch for an upcoming article by him with a working title of "The $38,000 Tiller". He's got it all written but isn't going to submit it for publication until after he's back in the water and on his way out of here.

We continued walking and found another restaurant (FatCats) and then we found the motherlode: PUBLIC SHOWERS!!!!! Hot damn! It's still too cold to shower in the cockpit so, when we're anchored we're never quite sure where we'll get our next shower. It's been a few days since we left Half Moon Bay and we were both kind of thinking that we'd have to put up with dirty hair and such for at least another couple of days. But NOOOOO. We headed back to the dinghy so we could go back to the boat and get our gear.

On the way, the local Harbor Patrol stopped us but seemed pretty pleased once he noticed that we were both wearing life jackets. He asked about the registration numbers on the boat (apparently California registrations have 4 numbers and Oregon only has 3) and that was about it.

We got back to the boat, got our shower stuff and headed back. This time, Lulu drove. She decided that she needs to learn to run the dinghy and I couldn't agree more. I'd like to be able to go into a long funny story about how bad she did but I can't. She did just fine.

Once we were tied up to our chosen piling, we climbed up and beat feet to the showers. They were probably the nicest showers we've seen so far. Well, the ones at Half Moon Bay were pretty darn nice but these were a close second. There were three of them and each was its own little room with a lock on the door, a bench, clothes hooks, a shower stall, a mirror, and a coin box. Took 4 quarters and it must have run at least 6 minutes. I had plenty of time to let the water heat up, take a full-fledged, no-holds-barred shower and still step out to start drying off before the water quit running. Usually, if I have time left when I'm done showering, I just stand under the warm water until it shuts off. Today, although I started to do that, I actually got bored before the water quit flowing.

Now that we were all clean and smelling sweet once again, we decided to have lunch and a beer at the not-fancy restaurant on the pier. And speaking of piers, are they a California phenomenon or what? Seems like when I was a kid and we went to Santa Cruz or Monterey or any other California beach town, there was always a pier going way out into the water, straight out from the beach. Just for people to walk on or fish from or go to a restaurant on the end of. I don't think I ever saw such a thing on any Oregon beaches. Once in awhile there'd be a little short fishing pier or something but nothing like these. Hmm. Anyway, we went to Pete's Seafood (I think that's what it was called) and ordered fish and chips and a couple of beers.

The fish and chips were excellent and the Tecates were in 24 oz. cans, the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. What could be better?

Lulu drove the dinghy back home where we hoisted it aboard and folded it back up since we're likely headed out of here tomorrow. This afternoon I plotted our course around Points Arguello and Conception to Santa Barbara harbor. It's right at 100 miles so it will take 20-24 hours, depending on our speed. Since we don't want to get there in the dark or way early, we're not leaving until 1:00 PM. This will have us rounding THE CAPE in the dark but that's when it's likely to be calmest so it works out fine. Be a shame not to be able to see it but, since it's 7 to 8 hours from the cape to Santa Barbara, we'd have to round it not long after sunrise in order to still get to SB during the daylight hours and before the marina offices close. Besides, with our luck it'll be foggy anyway.

Oh yeah, I fired up the diesel again this afternoon partly to satisfy Lulu that yesterday's start wasn't a fluke and partly to convince myself. It started up just fine using only the starting battery again. Didn't see any oil spraying in the engine compartment either so I think we're good to go.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

10/17/2010 - Whew!


I started out the day dragging my feet because I really wasn't looking forward to twisting myself into weird shapes to work in the engine room. But, eventually I had to do it. First thing I did was remove the big cable that connects the engine block to the starting battery's negative post. Well, there is a shunt and a big honkin' buss bar between the engine and the battery but you get the idea. I started to do this the other day and found the bolt to be pretty freakin' tight. So, it's been steeping in WD-40 since. Today I applied the wrench and pushed. Nothing. Pulled out the rubber mallet and gave the wrench a little whack and that was all it took to loosen things up.

The connection was kind of crusty so I wire-brushed and emery-clothed all the mating surfaces. Put it back together nice and tight, sprayed it with corrosion inhibitor and called it good. Now to the next connection. To tell the truth, I looked at and yanked on all the other connections and couldn't see any reason to loosen them up and check them. They're all fairly new connections and are up where they can be easily seen. All were very tight and completely clean. I sprayed a little more corrosion inhibitor on them and decided to leave them alone unless all else failed. Checked the battery connection and it too was nice and tight and clean.

At this point I tried a test-start. No joy.

The next suspect was the starter and/or the connection between the starter and the engine. I decided that, if I was going to go ahead and pull the starter I was going to replace it with my spare rather than reinstall it after a clean-up and then find out the starter itself is the culprit. So, I dug down to the bottom of one of the v-berth lockers and pulled out a shiny red starter. I think it's new rather than rebuilt but I couldn't swear to that.

The bottom bolt on the starter was a piece of cake to remove. The other one, not so much. It was in a spot that allowed about 1/16 of a turn before the wrench was up against something hard and had to be repositioned. Of course, it was inaccessible to a socket wrench. And, even when it finally got finger-tight, there was no room to insert fingers so, slowly it came out. 1/16th of a turn at a time right up to the very end.

Now you probably can imagine how tough it was to get this same bolt started again when it came time to install the new starter. It's almost impossible to start a bolt using a wrench. You almost HAVE to start it with your fingers until it takes a bite. But what if you can't use your fingers because the available space just isn't big enough? Well, you grit your teeth, cuss like a sailor, and, after many attempt using various combinations of wrenches, fingers, and hemostats, you finally feel the bolt start mating with the first set of threads in the hole. You then back away slowly and then sneak back up on it with the box-end wrench and start ever-so-slowly tightening, praying all the while that you won't accidentally undo your progress. I did finally get it but I swear I could probably have translated this whole paragraph to Spanish in less time than it took to get that stupid bolt started.

But, ultimately I did get the new starter mounted (what choice did I have?) and wired up with nice clean connections. Time for a test-start. Transmission in neutral, throttle about 2/3 open, turn the key, hold down the preheat button for 5 seconds, press the start button and SHE CRANKS OVER A COUPLE TURNS AND THEN STARTS RIGHT UP!!!! And that was with the starting battery only. Hot damn!

I let her run for a few minutes while I readjusted the idle speed and watched for oil leaks. I never did see any leakage. Finally shut the engine down and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I'm really hoping that all my starting battery charging problems weren't charging problems at all but rather just a case of the battery not being able to overcome the bad starter. A guy can hope, right? And while I'm hoping, I also hope the whole oil leak thing was just a red herring. Granted, the transmission was low but let's just forget about that for the moment. The bilge in my engine compartment has always been a bit oily. I always have absorbent pads floating down there. Maybe, just maybe, when the boat was rolling around the output shaft coupling smacked a nasty oily corner of one of these pads and threw oily water up on the wall. Could've happened that way. Right? One of the things that leads me down this path is the fact that the spray pattern lines up nicely with the back of the transmission where the coupling is. I know, this is also where the rear shaft seal is but I can't find any evidence of oil leaking past the seal. So, I guess that for now, we'll just keep an eye on the oil levels until we find an actual culprit.

In other news:

The sun didn't shine long enough yesterday to make up for our amp-hour deficit and it isn't going to today either. So, out came the trusty ol' Honda generator. Check the oil, set the choke, give her one pull and she starts right up. Hot diggity dog! So the battery banks are getting topped off nicely.

They predicted a slight chance of thunderstorms today. Well, we got 'em. Had some hellacious thunder and intermittent showers. Saw some lightning but not too much. There's a Damian Marley concert over in Avila this afternoon and of course it's an outdoor concert. Bummer.

Now that we're up and running again, I guess we have to figure out our next move. This one's a biggie since it will take us around Point Conception. This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, Point Conception is known for having very rough, confused seas. It's not a for sure thing but it's something we need to be very aware of. On the other hand, supposedly once we round the Point, we enter Southern California weather. So, while we're not particularly looking forward to our trip around the Point, we are looking forward to being on the other side. Nice to have wifi here because I need to watch the weather more than ever this time.

Not sure where our next stop will be. We had planned to go out to the Channel Islands but we kind of need to do a marina stop sometime so that we can clean the engine room bilge, get a new foot pump for the galley, get the starter rebuilt or replaced, and get some more fresh fruit. We eat a lot of fresh fruit during passages. So, I'm not sure where we're going. I'll let you know after Lulu and I come to a decision.

In the meantime, I bet I sleep better tonight knowing that our engine will start.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10/16/2010 - Anchored at Port San Luis

Today was pretty much of a lay day. Maybe not for Lulu who made a batch of cinnamon rolls for our nephew, Thomas. But I certainly didn't get much of anything done. We knew that Thomas was coming over from San Luis Obispo for a visit but we weren't sure exactly when. I didn't want to get all dirty working in the engine room and then have to clean up quickly to take the dinghy ashore to meet up with him. At least that's my excuse.

Lulu got the boat ready for company and I helped her out by working on her crossword puzzle so she wouldn't have that to deal with as well as baking cinnamon rolls and straightening things up. I know, I know, taking on someone else's crossword puzzle is a big responsibility but, damn it, someone had to do it.

Finally, thomas called and said he was just now leaving SLO and he was bringing his girlfriend, Lindsey, with him. A little before I figured they'd be arriving, I fired up the ol' Nissan and headed ashore. The motor still has to be babied and it died a couple of times along the way, but eventually I got there. In this case, "there" is a ladder running up the side of the Avila Beach Pier. You can't land your dinghy in the surf (nor do I want to, at least until the water is warm) because there is a "No Boats" line protecting the swimmers and surfers from the boats. There's a special protocol for tying your dinghy up but I didn't have enough line to do it right so I just tied the painter to the ladder. I wouldn't have even known about the ladder if it hadn't been for the fact that I watched a guy from the only other sailboat anchored here ride his dingy in and that's where he tied up. It's a long climb up and you'd want to be sure to bring backpacks and ropes if you intended to get much in the way of groceries. Not that there is much in the way of groceries in Avila.

Once Thomas got it sorted out as to which of the three docks he was to meet us on, he made his way over. The three of us made our way down the ladder and motored back out to Siempre Sabado. Again, the motor quit once or twice along the way.

Once back aboard, we gave Thomas and Lindsey the grand tour of the boat. That must have taken a good minute or two. Then Lulu opened up the fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and they dug in. Thomas has always been Lulu's greatest fan when it comes to cinnamon rolls so, of course, she feels obligated to make him some whenever she sees him. We visited in the cockpit for awhile and then decided it was time to go ashore where we'd treat them to lunch. So, all four of us piled into the dink. It's rated at 3 persons or 485 lbs. We were probably a little overweight but couldn't have been by much. Besides, it's just one ride since the kids would be heading home after lunch. Again I fired up the motor and headed ashore.

Well, as expected, the motor died. I restarted it. It ran a few yards and died again. Repeat once more. WTF? Checked the gas tank and guess what. That's right, all that old gasoline had finally been burned up (how's that for putting a positive spin on running out of gas?). So, we rowed back to the mothership, I made up a fresh batch of 2-stroke gas and filled the tank. This time she fired right up. And, wonder of wonders, she actually kept on running once I took the choke all the way off. She ran like a dream all the way to the ladder. We tied off and one-by-one made our way up to the pier.

We strolled around town a little looking for some lunch. Avila looks like it was built by Universal Studios as a set for a "cute coastal village". There were a few restaurants, a couple souvenir shops and "The Avila Mercantile - Groceries and Delicatessen". It might be a deli but, we have a larger stock of groceries on Siempre Sabado than they had in their store. We did manage to deplete their stock of limes when we bought the only 3 they had.

We ate lunch at a little pizza place and then it was time for Thomas and Lindsey to head back home and get busy with their homework. Lulu and I strolled a little more but the wind was kicking up and the sun was behind a cloud so it was getting a wee bit chilly for our tastes. Walked back out on Avila Pier, descended the ladder and headed home. This time, with fresh gas, the Nissan never died even once.

Now we're back aboard and it's getting on towards evening. As they used to say at the City of Lewiston (ID) wastewater treatment plant: "Didn't get much done today but we'll give 'em hell tomorrow".

So here's my plan for tomorrow. I already wrote some of this in e-mails and responses to comments so you may experience a little deja vu.

I'm going to take every ground connection apart, from the engine block all the way back to the batteries. I'll clean and reassemble each connection and then spray them with anti-corrosion stuff. Once that's done, just like magic, all my starting issues will be solved. At least I hope so. I do have a spare starter that I can install if necessary as well. One of the really great things about the internet is that I can post something like my DC issues and then a bunch of cooler heads, some with a lot more knowledge than I, can sit back and dispassionately analyze the problem and suggest a solution. Then I can look at these suggestions and, if I see a common thread, I've got somewhere to start towards a solution. The common thread this time was a BAD GROUND. So that's where I'm going to start. But that's tomorrow.

Right now there's a feeding frenzy going on outside the boat. Pelicans are dive-bombing fish and, when they surface with a gullet full, the seagulls are all over them trying to get a taste. Very noisy. I love watching the pelicans dive. I don't see how they even see the fish but they do. Then they poise themselves right above their target and then drop straight down, head first into the drink. Very cool to watch. And, of course, before the frenzy was over, the sea lions showed up and added their acrobatics to the mix. Lindsey, you'd have loved watching this show.

It was pretty cloudy most of the day and the sun is getting ready to set. We still have about a 13 amp-hour deficit on our house battery bank. If it's still cloudy tomorrow, I might have to drag out the Honda again and top things off. Actually, since I'll be in the engine room most of the day, and when I do that I remove the generator so I'll have more room, I might as well run it since it'll be on deck anyway.

So, wish me success on tomorrow's project. Once the engine is up and running again, I still have to figure out how the (presumably) transmission oil escaped and what I can do about it. If it needs new seals, I'll probably have to remove it and take it to a transmission shop. The technical manual doesn't even acknowledge that there are seals and certainly doesn't provide any drawings or part numbers for them.

Hasta mañana.

10/16/2010 - Port San Luis photo

Looks like I got 2 pictures of our foghorn in yesterday's blog. Here's the picture of Port San Luis from our anchorage that I meant to include:

Friday, October 15, 2010

10/15/2010 - Half Moon Bay to Port San Luis

It was absolutely beautiful when we left Pillar Point Marina day before yesterday at about 1:30 PM. It was actually kind of hot. Hot enough that some of the locals, like the guy at the fuel dock, were complaining about it. We managed to get out of our slip and look like we knew what we were doing. The boat actually backed where I wanted her to instead of wherever she pleases. As we rounded the end of F dock, a local, who had been out sailing that morning, told us that the winds were 10 knots, although he didn't say from where, and that there were 8' swells and fog. I briefly contemplated turning back and waiting for better conditions but then decided, "What the heck? It's beautiful right now so let's go for it." . And so we did.

The swells were definitely not 8'. I've known 8' swells and you, sir, are not one. The seas were maybe 2-3 feet and spread very far apart, making for a really pleasant ride. The sun was shining and everything was jake. Well, not everything. Because we weren't on any kind of deadline, we figured this would be the perfect leg of the trip to try our hands at sailing. At first there was NO wind. I even stopped the boat to check and the burgee and the ensign hung limp. So, with the main up to steady the boat, we motorsailed on.

Way up ahead we could see a fog bank but, optimists that we are, we were pretty sure it would dissipate by the time we reached it. Yeah, that's how it should be. Well, our beautiful clear skies lasted until about 6:00 PM when we entered the fog bank that refused to dissipate. Now, sailing in fog is a drag for several reasons. The most obvious ones are that you can't see anything and no one can see you. But what really makes a watch tiring in the fog is having to blow this thing for 5 seconds every 2 minutes:

I found out that our new VHF radio has a feature that can send a fog signal automatically but, for that to work, I'd have to order an outside speaker (a loud hailer) and mount it on the mast. Obviously, I haven't done that yet. Don't know if I will. Do they have fog in Mexico? So, we just blew our horn as often as we estimated 2 minutes to be. We never heard or saw another souls throughout the remainder of the trip (which was foggy all the way) but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry.

The wind actually started coming up some in the late evening. However, as is our usual luck, it was coming right out of the SE. Which direction do you think we were sailing? Now, even though we had some time to kill, I couldn't see any good reason to kill it by beating to weather. Didn't much matter as two hours later we were cruising along on a windless mill pond once again.

Except for the lack of favorable winds and the fog, it was a really easy trip. The seas never got particularly rolly or uncomfortable. We had bigger, more annoying swells anchored at Angel Island when the high speed ferries roared past. Lulu was actually able to sit down below and read or crochet without suffering. Of course, we were both sporting scopolamine patches.

We eventually settled in to a 3 hours on/3 hours off watch schedule. By the end of 3 hours we were usually pretty sleepy and a wee bit chilly. But worst of all, 3 hours is just about as long as a body can sit in our cockpit using our crappy cushions. Lulu now has a new task: make us a couple of comfortable cockpit cushions. We were both able to read during our watches, looking up every couple of minutes to see if any thing had entered our 100' field of vision and to sound the horn. Having AIS aboard helped since, although we could still get run over by a fishing boat, at least we'd have a fighting chance of avoiding the big tankers and cargo ships.

Sunrise on Thursday found us a little south of Pt. Sur although we couldn't see it for the fog. By the time evening rolled around we were off of San Simeon. Couldn't see it either. The only respite we got was that, for a very brief time, the fog lifted a little and we could see how far offshore we were. Most of the trip we were 3-5 miles off. The furthest we got was when we skirted Monterey Bay, putting us 20 miles away from Moss Landing.

We saw a little more sea life than we usually do this trip. There were jellies, sea lions, birds, of course, and I even got to see a mola-mola, a sunfish. We were approaching a coupe of birds and there was something sticking up out of the water. I figured it was a piece of kelp as we'd seen lots of it that looked just like this. But, when we passed it, (and it was right off our starboard side - didn't even have to change course) the piece sticking up as a fin and attached to that fin was a fairly small mola-mola. It was about the size of a dinner plate. It waited until I got a good look and then swam away. Once we got anchored in Port San Luis, I saw a couple of southern sea otters floating around on their backs.

One of the pages on our GPS tells us things like the estimated time of arrival at each waypoint based on current speed, and assuming you sail the rhumb line and don't tack back and forth across it. We wanted to get to Port San Luis (near San Luis Obispo) sometime mid-morning on Friday. A look at our ETA page showed that we were going to get there too early, like 3:30 AM. Not wanting to enter another strange port in the dark and not wanting to cruise around in circles once we got there, we opted to just slow down. Normally I like to run the engine at 2200 rpms. This time we dropped to 2000, then 1900, then 1800 and ultimately to 1500 just to keep us from arriving before 7:00 AM.

Finally it was light enough to enter port. There's no marina at PSL but there are 2 places we could tie up to a mooring ball at $10/night, or we could anchor for free between he Avila Pier and The Cal Poly Pier. The mooring area looked sort of crowded so we opted to anchor. And that's when things started to go downhill a bit.

We were easing up to where I wanted to drop anchor. Lulu was on the helm and I was on the foredeck. As we approached the spot, I told Lulu to go to neutral/idle so we could coast to a stop. When she shifted, the engine died. I tried to restart it but it acted just like the batteries were almost dead. I've said it before and I'll say it again: WTF? Well, nothing to do except get that anchor down. We were in 30' of water in a designated anchoring area so that was all good. However, with no noticeable current running and absolutely no wind, I didn't want to just lower the anchor and then load a pile of chain on top of it. I let out about 90' and then waited until the chain was no longer hanging straight down, at which time I lowered another 30' or so. Since we couldn't back down on our anchor to set it (no engine, no wind), we just had to hope the Rocna was going to be worth its price and just go ahead and bury itself. By mid-afternoon, we were convinced that the anchor was holding so I attached the snubber and let out another 20' of rode. Looking now at the GPS, I can see that we are firmly attached to the bottom as our path describes a nice arc around a central point.

But back to the engine. I tried every battery combination I could but all I got was a single partial revolution and then a gasp. It was acting for all the world like the house batteries were too low to turn it over. How could that be? We'd been motoring along all night and the alternator was pumping out juice the whole time. Well, maybe not the whole time. My current hypothesis is that, with the engine turning only 1500 rpms, the alternator wasn't going fast enough to do much generating. This theory also explains why, even though we had a surplus of 40-some amp-hours when I checked it during the evening, we had a 0.2 amp-hour deficit when we arrived. With the alternator running we aren't quite as careful about our electricity use. So, besides the usual draws: running lights, autopilot, VHF radio, Airhead exhaust fan, refrigerator, etc., we also left lights on, charged the phones, etc, figuring that the alternator would take care of us. Lesson learned.

Once the anchor was set and I was pretty confident that we weren't dragging, I pulled the Honda generator out and fired it up so we could use the Xantrex charger, along with the solar panels, to get everything back up to snuff. Ran the charger for 2 or 3 hours but, even though all the indications were that all batteries were charged up, they still wouldn't turn the engine over. Occasionally I would try jumping straight from the house bank buss to either the starer solenoid or the starter motor. Sometimes the solenoid clicked and the motor whirred and sometimes they didn't. Now I'm suspecting a poor ground path. My friend, Rod (s/v Terrapin) was thinking along the same line and gave me a nice little to-do list to sort things out. In true cruiser fashion, I'll get to it mañana.

But wait! There's more. When I climbed down into the engine compartment, I noticed it looked kind of grungy and the deck was REALLY slippery. Motor oil! I checked the engine and the level on the dipstick was just as it had been when we left. That leaves the transmission. I checked it and the level didn't even register on the dipstick. It holds about a quart and I added about 1/2 quart which brought the level up where it was supposed to be. But how did the oil escape? The dipstick was firmly in place, there is no filler cap (you fill it via the dipstick hole), the drain plug is still in place. My first thought was a blown seal. Well, the front of the transmission is bolted up directly to the motor so, even if there was a leaky seal there, the oil still couldn't escape the housing. That leaves the hole where the drive shaft exits the housing. I felt around but it didn't look like this place was particularly oily and the pats breakdown doesn't even reference a seal.

So, I sprayed everything down with some Simple Green and I'll deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day. Hey, we may be forced into becoming sailors.

In anticipation of going ashore to meet up with our nephew, Thomas, we assembled the dinghy and lowered it into the water. Ever the optimist, I hung the outboard on the transom. Well, I pulled and pulled on that starter cord and guess what? It started!! And then died, but still.... Eventually I got her running nicely again. Now I figured I'd be slick and use the dinghy to pull the boat backwards to set the anchor just in case it wasn't really set. What a hoot! There is NO WAY this little dingy/motor combination is going to get Siempre Sabado moving. Especially if the anchor is set. Every time I thought I was in position, like a yoyo I'd get yanked back. You'd think that, if you could just keep the dinghy aimed straight away from the mothership, she'd eventually start to move. Uh-uh. Instead, you get to the end of the rope, the motor is running and the dinghy wants to go somewhere. Instead of just sitting there churning up the water, she starts going off at an angle and eventually ends up crashing into the side of Siepre Sabado. So, that plan went out the window. Turns out it doesn't matter anyway as we're both convinced the hook is set.

Port San Luis is very pretty from the water. Tomorrow we'll see what she looks like from land.

And we have free wifi right at the boat! Life is good.

PS: I didn't have time to proofread this so be nice.

This is too cool

Here we are, anchored at Port San Luis harbor and I'l be damned if I
don't have internet access. Way cool! So, I have a blog to write
about the trip down from Half Moon Bay. But since we have wifi, just
thought Id let you al know where we are and that we're fine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/12/2010 - Enjoying Half Moon Bay

So far we've had a pretty good time here in Half Moon Bay. The weather has been excellent. Nice and warm during the day and cooling off for sleeping at night. The Pillar Point Harbor Marina is a nice little marina.

(the view from the end of Johnson Pier back towards the marina office)

The showers are free but they could use a couple more of them, especially on weekends. The bathrooms are kept clean and the laundry facilities are the cheapest we've had since Newport. Like the showers, they could use a few more washers and dryers but that's kind of nitpicking. I'm still a little flummoxed by the attitudes of the guys in the office. They're uniformed, complete with badges, and are all either Harbormasters or Deputy Harbormasters as far as I can tell. Since this is a pretty common stop for sailors making their way up and down the coast, you'd think they'd be hip to what cruising sailors want. I already related how it didn't even dawn on them to offer a shower key until I specifically asked. Well, I also asked about buses into Half Moon Bay, which is about 3-4 miles down the road. They allowed as how there was bus service but they didn't really know anything about it and suggested that taking a cab was the best alternative. This in spite of the fact that they had a bunch of bus schedules in the office.

Well, in spite of their help, we decided to try the bus system ourselves. We grabbed a couple of schedules and, after the laundry was done yesterday, we headed into town to Safeway for provisions. Now, I'll grant you that San Mateo County could use some help to make their bus schedules a little easier to interpret, but we managed. Of course, on the way back we got on the wrong bus and ended up way at the south end of town at the end-of-the-line. The driver cut us some slack and took us back through town and dropped us off at the right bus stop with specific instructions about which bus to take.

Since then I've figured out how to read the schedules and we had a very successful trip to town and back. Bus rides were $2 each way. So we both rode in and back for $8. If our one experience with cabs in Newport is any gauge, there is NO way that a taxi ride to and from town would have cost us less than $20. Probably closer to $35. And then the driver wants a tip on top of that! No thanks. And all our drivers were very nice and helpful

But c'mon San Mateo County, clean up those schedules. Even if you don't want to list every stop on the schedule (and why not?) at least put the complete list on your website so visitors could have a little better chance of figuring things out.

Tomorrow we're heading back out to sea. No particular hurry about getting underway so we'll probably leave either late morning or early afternoon. We're getting anxious to get down to Southern California waters so we're going to skip a few places that we've already seen from land at one time or another over the years: Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, Monterey, San Simeon, and Morro Bay. We're making a beeline to Port San Luis where we'll visit our nephew Thomas who's attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. There's no marina so we'll either anchor or pick up a mooring. I'm going to call the harbormaster tomorrow to get the lowdown.

This will be a 175 mile trip so, if we can average 4 knots in a straight line, we should get there about 30 hours after we leave. However, averaging 4 knots in a straight line may be a bit of a problem as we're planning on sailing as much as we can. The winds are supposed to be generally out of the north, northwest and northeast at about 10 knots which sounds just about perfect. Since Thomas doesn't get done with classes until 6 PM on Friday, we probably won't see him until Saturday anyway so we don't have to be in a hurry.

So, as before, we'll be incommunicado for the next few days. Been fun having internet access on the boat the last few days. Oh yeah, that was another thing the "harbormasters" didn't know about. They suggested I go across the parking lot and sit in front of the Ketch Jeanne Restaurant and access their wifi. They didn't tell me, probably because they didn't know, that a company called Coastwave provides wireless access all over town, including the marina. It costs, of course, but it's available right on the boat.

Hoping for a sunny, warm trip the next couple of days. I think the high temps of the last couple of days are over but maybe it'll still be warm-ish. That's why we're anxious to get south: autumn is approaching.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10/11/2010 - Calling all DC geniuses

(caution: The following is a technical blog which may be of very little interest to you if you aren't fix-it minded. I'll return to my regular fluff pieces tomorrow.)

Okay, I've got a problem and I just KNOW there's someone out there with the answer at their fingertips. Ever since I was in the Navy I've been doing electrical work and I think I'm reasonably good at it. I even basically taught myself how Programmable Logic Controllers work way back in 1985. So, I think I have an edge over the average joe trying to take care of his electrical issues. At least that's what I used to think. But I'm stymied. Here's my problem:

I have two battery banks. One is the house bank and serves all the electrical needs on the boat except for starting the engine. The other bank is the starting battery and it's only job is to start the engine. The house bank is made up of 4 Trojan T-105 6VDC golf cart batteries connected in series-parallel so that I essentially have 2 large 12 VDC batteries. This bank has a total of around 250 usable amp-hours available for running the lights, autopilot, bilge pump, refrigerator, watermaker, stereo, 2-way radios, fans, inverter for charging the computer and cell phones, etc. The starting bank is one 12 VDC battery with a humongous amount of cold cranking amps but not a bunch of reserve power.

The batteries are separated in use by a selector switch which, when ON, sends starting juice only to the starter and house juice only to the distribution panel. When the switch is in COMBINE, the two banks are connected together. This is in case the starter battery gets run down and the house bank is needed to start the engine.

To keep these batteries charged they are connected to the alternator when the engine is running, the 160 watt solar array all the time, and the Xantrex charger when we're connected to shore power or the Honda generator. The Xantrex charger can charge up to 3 banks individually. I can program it for the type and size of the batteries it's dealing with and each bank can have its own charging regimen.

When charging with the solar cells or the alternator, the batteries are combined through a Blue Seas Automatic Charging Relay (ACR). The downside of this set-up is that both banks are charged the same way even though they have different requirements. Also, the ACR can interfere with the "smart" features of the Xantrex charger which is why Blue Seas issued a technical paper suggesting the ACR be disconnected when a smart charger is in use. I've been following this advice for some time.

So what's my problem?

Well, the problem is that I cannot keep the starting battery charged. I'm not really sure when the problem started but it was before I bought the new starting battery. I was having the same problem with the pair of group 27s I used to use for starting. I figured back then that it was just because the batteries were so old, so I replaced them with a new battery.

Here's what happens when I'm charging with the smart charger: The charger checks the batteries and applies charging voltage according to the state of discharge. If the battery is really low, it starts with a BULK charge where the battery is receiving high current. At some predetermined point, the charger changes to the ABSORPTION mode where the voltage remains constant but the current declines. Finally, when the battery is fully charged, the charger enters a FLOAT stage where the charger continues to deliver a lower level of voltage to maintain the battery in the fully charged state.

Well, this is all fine and good on the house bank which works just like it's supposed to. But the starting battery is another matter. Even though the Link 20 battery status meter shows a -36.5 amp-hour deficit, the voltage on the battery is up around 13.65 VDC so the charger thinks it's just fine and applies a FLOAT charge. But, as soon as I push the starter button on the engine control panel, it's clear that the battery is NOT fine as it can't even crank the engine over once. And, as if that wasn't enough, even with the charger connected, by morning the amp-hour deficit will be -37.1 Ah. Obviously there is something using battery juice even when the engine isn't being started, but that isn't even the issue. The charger should have absolutely no trouble keeping up with this miniscule draw but ti doesn't. It just lets the battery keep draining.

And it gets even weirder. Okay, maybe the Xantrex smart charger isn't so smart, but what about the simple alternator, or the solar panels? We can motor for 24 hours with the alternator merrily running along and when we get where we're going, you think the battery will crank the engine? NO! How about the house batteries? Oh they're just fat and happy and showing a 0 Ah deficit. Which is good, don't get me wrong, but I wish the starting battery would be so cooperative.

Last week, while we were at anchor, I fired up the generator and turned on the Xantrex so I could "equalize" the starting battery. Equalizing is when you force a fairly high voltage (around 16.5 VDC) through the battery to dissolve the sulfates off the lead plates. This is a way of revitalizing a battery that has been chronically undercharged or is just getting old. Every hour or so you take a specific gravity reading to check the state of charge. When all the cells are reading correctly, the battery is charged and you can stop equalizing. This looked promising at first. The voltage to the battery was high and the amp-hour deficit started to fall. After about 3 hours, all the cells were reading good. My hydrometer isn't good enough to get an accurate specific gravity reading, but they were all in the middle of the green zone. The Ah deficit was still -26.4 or something but I decided I'd run the generator long enough.

Next day I tried starting the engine and got the anemic Rrr-Rrrr... of a nearly dead battery for all my efforts.

So, I can't seem to charge my starting battery. The only time I've had any luck was when I disconnected the leads from the battery and connected a standard 6A automotive starter to it for a few hours. The next day the battery was able to start the engine. Reluctantly, but it started. I'm trying that again tonight and watching the Ah deficit to see if it returns to 0. It's not a regimen I want to follow but it may provide another clue.

Oh, and before you suggest it: the Xantrex requires the battery to have a minimum Ah rating of 60. My starting battery is rated at 90 Ah if I remember right.

So c'mon folks, help a poor sailor out. I'm hoping there's an old battery hand out there that'll write in and tell me some not-so-obvious mistake I made that could be easily remedied. Right now I'm flat out stumped. And I don't like it one little bit.

Okay, I just checked the Link 20. With the automotive charger connected to the starting battery, with the positive lead from the battery disconnected (except the one to the Link 20), after less than a half hour of charging, the battery status is now (supposedly) fully charged with an Ah surplus of 0.1 Ah. That doesn't make any sense at all to me. The game is afoot, Watson. Just to add fuel to the fire, I just now reconnected the main positive lead, the one that goes to the starter, back up to the battery and left the automotive charger on. We'll see what that does. Just for the record, the Link 20 shows me that the automotive charger is charging at 16.15 VDC on "High" (6 amps). I switched it to "Low" (2 amps) which stared out at 15.30 volts bit quickly dropped to 15.10 and was looking like it was going to just keep slowly dropping. Switched back to high and it's maintaining between 16.10 and 16.15 volts.

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down.