Down the West Coast of the United States - August 21 to Septmeber 26, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010: Ready to Leave Olympia
After months - years, really - of preparations, with the last few weeks being hectic, to say the least, we are finally ready to slip the lines and leave Olympia. Well, we are not 100% ready, but as the old saying goes, "If you wait until you are completely ready, then you will never leave." We are ready enough, and what we have yet to do we can do somewhere down the line! We have had lots of great help getting the last of the important projects finished up, most notably from Tim Laur of Gull Harbor Yacht Service in Olympia, and from David Ames, an old friend and great boat repair guy who now lives in New Zealand, but who just happened to be in Olympia visiting and catching a few odd jobs before heading back to Kiwi Land.
When the last of the projects were done, and everything was aboard but us, we decided we were just too tired to safely head out tonight. So, we had a nice dinner at a local Thai restaurant, and went to bed early - one last time at Slip 123, Olympia Yacht Club. Tomorrow we will head out to Port Townsend, where we will get the rig tuned, top off the tanks, collect our crew, and "head out to the end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and turn left" - with our destination for this leg of our journey being the San Francisco Bay area (Alameda), where we will drop off our crew, spend a few days relaxing and doing maintenance, then head on down to San Diego. We hope to be in San Diego by the end of September. Then, on October 25, we will join about 150 other boats in the XVII Baha Ha Ha and cruise on down to Cabo San Lucas, to start our exploration of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.
Saturday, August 21, 2010: Olympia to Kingston
By 7:00 am we were away from the dock; a rather emotional moment for both of us! It was a bright sunny morning, and oddly quiet - there was no one else around that we could see. And as is frequently the case in the South Sound, there was no wind - so we motored on out Budd Inlet.
We had been warned to expect things to break - but we did not expect it to happen so soon. As we pulled away from the slip, the knot meter was stuck, and none of our usual tricks would free it.
We arrived in Kingston, after a leisurely and uneventful day of motoring (when the wind finally came up, what little of it there was, was "on the nose"). We got a slip one down from another South Sound boat, Roger and Suzie Shaffer's Boru. We enjoyed visiting with them, and our other dock "neighbors." We got the name of a local diver from one of the ladies in the Port office; we called him, and he came down and pulled a stick out of our knot meter impellor! What are the chances of that happening?
And, what are the chances of your crew calling you, like ours did while we were in Kingston, and pulling out at the eleventh hour? What a shock - and no amount of libation and karaoke at the local pub seemed to make it any less so. At this point we are not quite sure what we are going to do about crew, or whether we will go-it-alone. We'll have to figure that out tomorrow in Port Townsend.
Sunday, August 22, 2010: Kingston to Port Townsend
The morning was damp and dreary - raining and foggy - rather like our spirits. But by the time we got to Port Townsend's Point Hudson Marina, where we had reservations through Wednesday, August 25, the sun was out, and the wind was up - although we did not feel much like sailing.
Monday, August 23 - Saturday, August 28, 2010: Port Townsend
On Monday morning we began exploring possibilities for finding replacement crew. We also worked on a few more boat projects, and began re-stowing things on the boat in preparation for going to sea. We contacted our riggers, Dan and Lisa at Port Townsend Rigging, and made arrangements to have Dan go out with us to tune the rig, which he did on Wednesday; on Thursday afternoon he finished up work on the rigging. On Thursday morning, we went over to Boat Haven, Port Townsend's other marina (that has a fuel dock), and topped off our tanks. When we came back to Point Hudson, we moved to the linear dock because the all the slips large enough for boats our size we reserved through the weekend. But things were definately looking up, because we had found new crew!
On Tuesday, our friends Steve and Teri Mason from Olympia, who were out cruising on their Hans Christian 43 ketch, Galletea, came into Point Hudson. We had been talking with them about the possibility of their going with us down the coast to San Francisco, but over dinner that evening it was firmed up. They would take their boat back to Olympia on Wednesday and Thursday, and drive back up to Port Townsend and join us on Friday. They arrived Friday evening, got settled in, and we began a serious "weather watch." On Saturday, we got Steve and Teri familiar with all the details of our boat and its safety equipment, and continued analyzing the weather. We decided we would leave Sunday morning for Neah Bay, where we would have to lay-over and wait for better weather to head out onto the ocean. We are so happy to have Steve and Teri on board; they are both good sailors; Steve has off-shore experience, and they are both great fun to be with. This is going to work out just fine!
Sunday, August 29, 2010: Port Townsend to Neah Bay
The trip to Neah Bay was basically uneventful, but gave Steve and Teri a chance to get familiar with handling the boat underway. We had winds right straight out of the West most of the day (the direction we were heading), but later in the afternoon they veered enough to allow us to do some motor sailing.
We called ahead and got a slip assignment at the Makah Marina in Neah Bay, where we arrived just after sundown. It took us a while to find our slip on "B" dock, and when we did, we discovered there was only 50 amp power on that dock; we are not equipped to use 50 amp, so the next day we moved to "C" dock, which has 30 amp service. Lesson learned - ask about the power when calling ahead to an unfamiliar marina.
Monday, August 30 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010: Neah Bay
It does not take long to explore all there is for visiting boaters to see and do in Neah Bay - even if you are on foot! There are a couple of decent places to eat (at least from the looks of them - we tried one, the other was closed), an espresso stand, and a wonderful general store - Washburn's, which is just across the street from the marina. We did some provisioning, bought a few other supplies, worked out a watch schedule, planned a route down the coast, and studied the weather. The weather looks good for a Wednesday departure - favorable conditions for at least the first two or three days out, although the grib files were showing some strong winds off the northern California coast early next week. We will keep our eye on the weather as we go, with the option to duck into Newport or some other port along the way if things start to get bad. We finalized our float plan, sent it out to our contact persons, and turned in early.
Wednesday, September 1 - Saturday, September 4: Passage to Crescent City
We left Neah Bay at 8:00 am, after topping off our fuel one last time at Big Salmon resort. By 9:30 am, under partly cloudy skies, we were abeam Tatoosh Island, and 30 minutes later, at 10:00 am, with the sun starting to break through and Linda at the helm, we made "The Big Left Turn!" We have been planning and working toward that change in course for such a long time, and the moment did not disappoint! We truly felt like we were "underway." By 6:30 am the next morning, after a gorgeous sunrise, we had left Washington astern and were heading down the Oregon coast.
Initially, we stayed about 12-15 miles off the coast, but we were constantly dodging crab pots in what was supposed to be a "crab pot free" lane. With darkness approaching, we decided to change our course to a route that was 25 miles off shore. This would keep us away from the crab pots, and inshore of the tanker traffic.
We did not make it all the way to Alameda in one hop, as we had planned; instead, we came into in Crescent City, CA – and are now waiting out the gales that are supposed to blow themselves out by Tuesday morning. From here down past Pt. Arena there are gales forecast and “hazardous seas” warnings posted through Monday. Tuesday through the end of the week the weather is forecast to be much more "boater friendly."
We must have cracked the code on mal-de-mare (we stopped drinking alcohol and started taking meclizine a day or so before we left) – no one even came close to getting seasick! And all those stories we had heard about only eating crackers and cup-of-soup for the first few days out was not life as we knew it – we ate like kings: pesto chicken pasta the first night, sweet and sour pork over rice the second night, chicken burritos the third night; great sandwiches for lunch every day, and either hot oat meal or eggs and bacon on English muffins for breakfast. It seemed like there was always a pot of hot coffee available, too. We were dressed for really cold weather, but it never seemed to get that way – most complaints were about being too warm with all the fleece and multiple layers of clothes!
We motored for a day and a half - until Thursday afternoon, when we were somewhere off Tillamook, OR - before we got enough wind to actually sail; we rolled out the jib and motor-sailed for the first time around 0600 that morning. We sailed for about six hours Thursday, but as the winds began to build that evening, we decided to drop the sails and resume motoring. The wind and waves were straight out of the north with NW swell, making it difficult to set a sail combination and course that would be manageable throughout the night for a single person on watch; besides, we were about 25 miles offshore, and did not want to reach in too close – crab pots – and we did not want to reach too much further out – tanker traffic. Occasionally there were plenty of fishing boats, especially around places like Newport and Coos Bay, but they were not hard to maneuver around (thank heaven for AIS and radar!). At times it seemed like we were in the middle of a big city, with all the big lights on the fishing boats!
Our last night out (Friday) was exciting to say the least – 25-35 kts of wind with occasional gusts to 40 – again straight out of the north – and BIG seas (maybe 10-15 feet). The wind began to subside around 1:00 am, and by 3:00 am it was back to a much more comfortable 15-20 kts; seas were still a bit whipped-up, but not as bad. About 3:30 am the fog descended upon us – and stayed for the rest of the night. We got into Crescent City at 7:30 – just after sun-up, which lightened and lifted the fog slightly. When we came into the harbor, visibility was about ½ mile. Saturday was pretty benign here, but the winds started to pick up over night. Today (Sunday, September 5) there are white caps even in the inner harbor – our fenders are basically flat against the dock, we are heeled over 5 degrees at the dock, and the wind (even with the land and hills behind us) is blowing a pretty consistent 20-25 kts, with gusts to 30.
We are tied up at the “work dock” (the transient dock is gone – victim of a tsunami a few years back). There is only one other visiting pleasure boat in the marina - a big power boat in front of us on the work dock that is being delivered from Victoria to San Diego for the owner. They plan to leave Monday, at the earliest.
We lost our crew again today, but for understandable reasons. Steve, who is a free-lance professional photographer, ended up getting a job for later this week – up near Index, WA – for Columbia Sportswear – and they wanted to stop by and see his dad in Portland, who unexpectedly had by-pass surgery two days ago. They caught a bus from Crescent City to Medford, where they could get a rental car one-way to Olympia. So we are on our own from here! We had a great time with Teri and Steve and we will miss them – they were wonderful crew, and great company!
We need to get busy and figure out the itinerary and route for our next leg, and tomorrow do some maintenance. But we can definitely say that Bright Angel is a fantastic boat out on the ocean, and everything worked great! We are looking forward to starting out again, soon.
Tuesday, September 7 - Thursday, September 9: Crescent City to San Francisco
We left Crescent City at 11:00 am, after topping off the fuel tanks at Citizens Dock - which is really a pier, and was our first experience tying up to a "camel barrier" (a floating ring of old tires next to the pilings) and having a fuel hose lowered to the boat from the pier. And no, we did not get a late start because we slept in - it was based on an estimation of how long it would take us to travel the 283 nautical miles to San Francisco (at 6 kts), and arrive at the Golden Gate on a flood tide.
When we left the harbor, the winds were almost calm - the gales of the day before had really blown themselves out! In fact, the winds remained light for almost the entire trip to Frisco - except for the night before our arrival, when they piped up to around 20 kts, from the NW (dead behind us), with waves of 6-8 feet, and WNW swell of about 8 feet every 8-10 seconds. We tried using the headsail to "motor sail" briefly (more to steady the boat than for boat speed), but found it was difficult to control in the wind and waves, so we rolled it back in. We opted not to sail only, as sailing directly downwind would have been dicey under the conditions, especially with only one person on deck. And we did not want to bear off onto a broad reach, because we needed to stay pretty much on course to avoid getting too close to shore (we passed Pt. Reyes only 4 miles off), or too far out into the shipping lanes, especially as we got closer to the Gate (as it was, a large cruise ship, the Sea Princess, which was lit up like a small city, blew by us doing almost 20 kts only 4 miles to starboard when we about 20 miles away from the entrance). So we ended up motoring the whole way from Crescent City to San Francisco!
As this was our first passage with only the two uf us on board (We miss you, Teri and Steve!), we had to work out a new watch schedule. We settled on a four-on, four-off schedule, starting at 6:00-10:00 am. This seemed to work pretty well, especially by adding some flexibility as circumstances dictated, i.e., when Linda prepared dinner after her 2:00-6:00 pm watch, I stayed on-watch until 11:00 pm (with a pot of coffee!), so she could get some rest before coming on for her late night shift. We might tweak the watch schedule a bit before our next over-night passage; we'll see.
As we left Ctrescent City, we headed out to about 10-12 miles offshore, a distance we maintained until we rounded Cape Mendocino, when were about 6 miles off - where the wind and waves were docile for this otherwise dreaded cape - and when we neared Pt. Reyes, when we were 4 miles off. Our first "encounter" was with series of crab pots (about 8 miles off), which we thought was strange because crab season is over (no fresh crab in Crescent City - boo hoo!). And our second encounter was with WHALES - too many, too big, and way too close! They were gray whales, and some of them had to be over 40 feet in length! It was about 1:30 pm, and we were motoring about 6.5 kts, when suddenly they were blowing and surfacing all around us - and for about a quarter mile in all directions. We slowed to about 3 kts, but kept moving to get through the pod. Several of these huge whales surfaced within 30-40 feet of the boat - a little too close for comfort! And that was not to be our only encounter with whales on this passage. Later that night, when Linda was on watch, she encountered them again, and again very close to the boat. This time she could smell them before she saw them blowing, surfacing, and - as she described it - making "screeching" noises quite near the boat - a real "rubber-knees" experience! Without otherwise attempting to describe it, suffice it to say that whale breath has a garbage dump-like fragrance! I slept through the whole thing!
As we passed Pt. Reyes about 4:00 am and neared San Francisco, we had to decide how we were going to navigate the Golden Gate bar - either by going "inshore" through Bonita Channel, or by staying out and using the main shipping channel. The inshore route, which passes by the infamous "Potatopatch Shoal" and traditionally rough Point Bonita, is ill-advised for the newcomer in anything but settled conditions. Even though the wind and waves had calmed down considerably from their boisterous state of the night before, we still did not consider conditions "settled" enough to feel comfortable trying the inshore route. Therefore, we headed for the "precautionary area" west of the Fourfathom Bank (part of the shoal that makes up the Golden Gate bar). We had to cross the precautionary area to get the eastbound traffic lane in the main shipping channel into San Francisco Bay. The precautionary area is a 12-mile diameter circle that marks the western end of the main shipping channel, and is where ships approaching the Bay converge from - or leaving the Bay diverge to - the north bound, south bound, or west bound shipping lanes; it is also where ships pick-up or drop-off the obligatory bar pilot. This can be a very busy "intersection" and is controlled by the USCG Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) in San Francisco. The VTS broadcasts an update at 15 and 45 minutes past each hour on VHF Channel 12, giving details on all inbound and outbound shipping traffic and arrival times at the San Francisco Sea Buoy (in the center of the precautionary area). We had been monitoring these updates, and all other VTS traffic on ch 14 (and bridge-to-bridge traffic on ch 13), throughout the night. As we approached the precautionary area just before dawn, everything was quiet - the Sea Princess was the last ship through about an hour before. We slowed down to await first light, called VTS to confirm that there were no inbound or outbound ships, and then headed out across the precautionary area on a route that would take us 10 nautical miles (and almost an hour and a half at 6.5 kts) to cross.
All went without incident, and when we reached the main shipping channel, we turned east and headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge - the top of which was shrouded in fog, even though there was no fog outside. Even though we are veterans of innumerable trips under the Narrows Bridge(s), it was still a thrill to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time! We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge at exactly 8:42 am(Please see the video of that moment on the "Photo & Video Gallery" page).
Once inside the Bay, the fog quickly burned off, and the sun came out to welcome us to the Bay area. After a quick tour of the San Francisco waterfront, which included dodging passenger ferries, a look up the 10-12 story-high stern of the Sea Princess docked at Pier 35, and staying out of the way of two swimmers crossing the bay with an escort boat, we headed out under the Oakland Bay Bridge to the Oakland Inner Harbor, where we got a reciprocal slip at the Oakland Yacht Club (OYC, no less!), which is actually on the Alameda side of the harbor. The accommodations here are very nice, and the staff is very friendly and helpful. We will likely stay here for the next several days, while we catch our breath, do some laundry, boat maintenance and provisioning, and plan our next leg down the southern California coast to San Diego.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010: Alameda to Half Moon Bay
We left Alameda just after 9:00 am on a crisp, sunny morning; but, by the time we reached the Golden Gate Bridge, the coastal fog and overcast had given the day a "NW" feel. We passed under the Bridge outbound (not quite the thrill it was "inbound") at 11:00 am, headed for Half Moon Bay, a short 26 miles down the coast. The winds were light most of the way, so it was motor trip. The fog and overcast burned off as we approached Half Moon Bay, and the winds piped up - making maneuvering to the fuel dock an interesting exercise! I am sure we provided some entertainment for the spectators on the pier, as it took me three tries to come alongside to my satisfaction (I never hesitate to abort a "landing" if it doesn't look or feel right from the cockpit). Once tied up, we discovered something else we have never seen before at a fuel dock - "self service!"
After topping off the fuel tanks, and getting into our slip, we checked in at the Harbor Master's office, then headed off to check out the local brew pub - Half Moon Bay Brewing Company - okay, but it doesn't hold a candle to the Fishtale! (Boy, do I miss that Hodson's IPA!) After a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant, Mezza Luna,
recommended by the Harbormaster, we went back to the boat to turn in early. We have an early departure planned for tomorrow, heading for Monterey.
Half Moon Bay was where Linda and I were engaged - at a lovely bed & breakfast in an historic old home, the Zaballa House. We thought about going into town for a quick visit to the "scene of the crime" - but after looking the place up on the internet (to make sure it was still in business) and seeing how the lovely park-like setting it once enjoyed had given way to hotels and parking lots on all sides, we decided it best to leave the grandeur of the place to our memories!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010: Half Moon Bay to Monterey
We awoke to a drizzly, foggy morning. That did not discourage the charter fishing boats from heading out en masse at 6:00 am, as our coffee was brewing, nor did it delay our 7:00 am departure for Monterey. Outside the harbor, the wind was calm, but the seas were rather lumpy from the wind that had kicked up the evening before. We headed off shore five miles before turning down to Monterey; once headed south, the waves and swell, and what little wind there was, were from behind, so the ride was more enjoyable.
The weather forecasters at NOAA must have been asleep at the switch today - they forecast "lighter than normal seas and winds" with winds 5-10 kts, and seas 2-3 feet; however, by the time we were off Pigeon Point and just starting off across Monterey Bay, the winds were 25-30 kts, with gusts to 35 kts, and the seas were commensurately big - wind waves of 5-6 feet, and swell of 8-10. It was a boisterous ride, to say the least! But we did enjoy the (thankfully 1/4 mile + distant) antics of several humpback whales blowing and breaching. And, for quite some time, we were joined by numerous dolphins who were cavorting near the boat; swimming alongside, dashing under and ahead of the boat, bounding through the waves and jumping clear out of the water - often in tandem! It was quite a sight, and a real thrill!
We pulled into Monterey Harbor just as the evening fishermen and Wednesday night race fleet were heading out. Our assigned slip had been occupied by a fishing boat, so with the help of a harbormaster (in small powerboat behind us!) we were directed to a new slip - one that looked too narrow at first, but with the help of two guys on the dock - one on each finger pier - we "walked" our 12'4" beam vessel into a 14" wide slip, with just enough clearance on either side for our fenders! One our "helpers" was a sailor from Berkley, CA, who is also headed down to San Diego to do the Baja Ha-Ha - with a 4 year-old and 2 year-old aboard. Now there is an adventurous sort!
With the relative ease of two harbor-hopping day-trips behind us, we will set out from here to do a much longer leg, past Point Conception and into Southern California - Ventura or possibly Marina Del Ray.
Saturday, September 18 - Sunday, September 19: Monterey to Ventura
We left Monterey at first light on Saturday morning, with the plan to be in Ventura before dark on Sunday. Ventura has what can be a tricky harbor entrance, especially if the seas are up, because of breakers near the entrance, and shoaling that is typical around many of the breakwaters built to protect these man-made harbors. We always try to avoid entering a strange harbor at night; in this case, our fall-back plan was Santa Barbara, about 22 miles back up the coast from Ventura (or continuing on to Marina Del Rey, to arrive at first light on Monday).
Our first navigational challenge on this leg was encountered as soon as we pulled out of our slip in Monterey Harbor - a large aluminum skiff, half-full of water, was floating in the middle of the traffic lane between the docks! We called the Harbormaster, who was there in his patrol boat in a matter of minutes to tow the skiff out of the way, but we had already managed to wriggle by.
Our next navigational challenge was getting safely through the armada of fishermen heading out of the harbor at that time of the morning - in everything from commercial fishing boats to rubber dinghies! Those poor fish just don't stand a chance!
The real navigational challenge, however, was the fog. By all reports, it has been particularly troublesome this year all along the California coast, and we were in and out of some really thick stuff (down to 1/2 mile visibility, or less) all the way down the coast to Pt. Sur - then, out came the sun, and some stunning views of the rugged coastline. Throughout the day, we were periodically back into the fog - as we would see a fog bank what looked like miles away, and in a matter of minutes it was on us; and, usually, off of us again in a short time.
We were also treated to numerous whale sightings - humpbacks - as we traveled down the coast, only about 5 or 6 miles offshore - but that was out between the 400 and 500 fathom line (2400 - 3000 feet of water). The seas were really mellow - a "soft" 3-4 foot swell from the NW, and very light winds (less than 5 kts). It wasn't until afternoon that the winds increased to 10-12 kts out of the west. We rolled out the jib to "boost" our motoring speed, but wind that light is not enough to sail with and still maintain the 6.5 kt boat speed we needed to make our destination before dark, and one other important waypoint - rounding of Point Conception early.
Heading south, Point Conception is the last of the major California capes that can cause mariners fits with nasty conditions; Point Conception, along with Cape Mendocino (north of San Francisco) are the worst of the bunch - some have even dubbed Point Conception the "Cape Horn of North America." Our rounding of Cape Mendocino was fairly benign, and we were hoping for the same at Point Conception. The conventional wisdom is to plan your passage to make the rounding early in the morning, before daybreak if possible, because the winds have a tendency to die down during the night. We were not quite going to make it before daybreak - but close, around 7:30 am or so.
The NOAA weather forecast for the morning of our rounding of Point Conception was not particularly encouraging - west winds 20-30 kts, with gusts to 35 kts. This was based on a forecast that was revised at 0855 on Saturday morning - several hours after we left port - the previous forecast, calling for 15-25 kt winds at the Point, and one that most other weather sites we studied were based on - was last updated Thursday night! However, the same Saturday morning update was calling for 10-20 kt winds in the area north of Pont Conception - where we were - and what we were experiencing was considerably lighter than that; in fact, as the evening wore on, the winds died off even more - to less than 5 kts. We looked at the possibility of putting into Morro Bay, but that would have required negotiating an unfamiliar and tricky harbor entrance at around 11:00 pm - a "no-go." In any event, we had experienced at least the conditions forecast for Point Conception further north (the night before putting into Crescent City), so we were confident we could handle it. However, there was one additional wrinkle that we had not dealt with before - "mixed swell." Because of a low pressure system well-offshore, the prediction was for both a dominant westerly swell (based on the prevailing weather pattern) and a south swell from the low.
Throughout the night, as we motored south, the winds were essentially calm. When we reached Point Arguello at 6:30 am (about 15 miles north of Point Conception) the wind was beginning to build - NW at 10-12 kts. By the time we rounded Point Conception at 8:30 am, they had veered to the west and were up to 20-25 kts. However, the wind waves had not had time to build yet, so the waves were moderate, and if there was a pesky southern swell, it has hard to tell! Shortly after we entered the Santa Barbara Channel, the wind died back down to 10 kts or so, and progressively got lighter as the afternoon wore on. Point Conception was trying to live up to its reputation, but we got lucky again!
Something else is supposed to happen once you round Point Conception - a dramatic and palpable change in the weather - you are "officially" in Southern California at that point! And did we ever experience that! About 10:00 am it was a scramble to get out of our long-johns and fleece, and into shorts and t-shirts! Later in the afternoon, shortly before we arrived at Ventura, a chilly breeze piped up out of the south and the sweaters went back on.
The Santa Barbara Channel brought us two very interesting sights - at opposite ends of the delight spectrum - the lovely (and large!) Channel Islands to the south, and the numerous and not-so-lovely off-shore oil wells that seemed to be every few miles along the coast. It was amusing to note on the charts that each one of these huge and obtrusive structures is dubbed with a euphemistic name, like "Heritage," "Habitat" or "Grace!"
We pulled into our slip at the Ventura Isle Marina at 6:30 pm, after 231 miles and 36 hours at sea, amidst some very large and classy yachts (and, as almost everywhere, some less than well-cared for boats). We had dinner aboard, and turned in early for some well-deserved rest!
Tuesday, September 21: Ventura to Marina Del Rey
The short 50 mile trip to Marina Del Rey started with a trip to the fuel dock in Ventura, then at 8:30 am back out into the Santa Barbara Channel and into the fog (that had settled back in the day before) - thick fog at first (1/4 to 1/2 mile visibility); but by noon, when we were off Pt. Mugu, it had lifted considerably, to where visibility was 4-5 miles. The wind was in hiding, but the dolphins (really big ones this time!) came back to play and keep us company for a while off Pt. Dume. We looked for two and 1/2 men as we went by Malibu, but they were in hiding, too!
The approach into Marina Del Rey was pretty straight forward - past the breakwater and jetties and then into the very wide entrance channel. We took up our designated place on the right hand side of the channel - for boats entering under power - the wide center of the channel being reserved for boats under sail! (Hopefully we will use that going out!) We pulled into a slip, with reciprocal privileges, right in front of the beautiful Del Rey Yacht Club club house.
Thursday, September 23: Marina Del Rey to Avalon Bay, Santa Catalina Island
Today we enjoyed a sunny, but otherwise uneventful trip a short "38 miles across the sea" to Santa Catalina (isn't it supposed to be only 26 miles . . . ?) and unique Avalon Bay on the southeast end of the island. We ended up motoring the whole way - the winds were taking the day off, again.
When we arrived at the harbor entrance, we were met by the Harbor Patrol and were assigned to one of the 250 moorings in the harbor. This is the first time we have used a mooring system like the one here - there is a pick-up pole floating near the anchored and numbered mooring can (ours is #157), which is attached to a bow hawser that is in turn attached to the can. You pick up the pole, pull up the hawser and attach it to your bow cleat, and then grab a "spreader line" (that is attached to the bow hawser) that leads to a stern hawser, which is also anchored, in line with the mooring can. Once you have the stern hawser on your stern cleat, you are parked - like one of so many "ducks in a row." Quite a system, and a very efficient and orderly way to shoe-horn the maximum number of boats into the harbor!
There is no guarantee that we will remain on mooring #157 for both days we have paid to stay here, however - you see, these moorings are privately owned (the harbor patrol officer who helped us get set up on the mooring told us they cost as much as $800K), and the owner has until midnight to notify the harbor patrol that he/she will be using the mooring sometime after 9:00 am (check-out time) the next day; in which event, between 7:30 and 9:00 am the next morning, the harbor patrol rousts you out and assigns you to another mooring. Here's hoping we stay put!
P.S. - No such luck! The next morning we had to move to mooring #189. Oh well, the good news is we are "old pros" at picking up a Catalina mooring now!
Saturday, September 25, 2010: Avalon to Oceanside
On Saturday morning, at 7:30, we slipped the lines on mooring #189 and bid farewell to Avalon, where we spent a wonderful day on Friday exploring the town and neighboring Descano Beach, which could easily have been in the Caribbean! We had a fabulous dinner at an outside table at the upscale Avalon Grille, then boarded a "Shore Boat" (water taxi) for the short trip back to our boat.
We set a straight course for the short 48 mile trip to Oceanside, and motored all the way across to the mainland under sunny skies on dead calm seas - it looked like a mill pond; there wasn't even any noticeable swell until we were close to shore! Several groups of dolphins came to check us out, but none stayed very long.
We got reciprocal moorage at Oceanside Yacht Club (another OYC!), and had pizza and beer in their nice clubhouse. We met several interesting people, including some Baja Ha-Ha vets, three of whom are going again this year!
Sunday, September 26, 2010: Oceanside to San Diego
After another short hop of 46 miles, on calm seas under sunny skies, we rounded Point Loma at 3:00 pm (after staying well off to avoid the infamous kelp beds - which we did not see, so we must have been far enough off) and entered Mission Bay. San Diego at last; the final destination of our trip down the west coast - 37 days and 1415 miles after leaving Olympia! What a sight - boats everywhere, planes taking off and landing at Coronado Naval Air Station o North Island, and the San Diego skyline just a few miles away. We entered Shelter Island, dodging kayakers, sailboats and runabouts, and made our way to the guest dock at the Southwestern Yacht Club. After checking in, we headed straight for the lounge in their fabulous new (opened this past April) clubhouse, had a drink (or two - but who was counting?) and watched the Seahawks beat the Chargers! Sweet!
We will stay here until Wednesday morning, when we will head over to the Sun Road Resort Marina on Harbor Island, where will stay until we leave for Mexico with the Baja Ha-Ha on October 25. Until then, we will relax, do some maintenance on the boat, relax, do some sightseeing, relax, do some reading, relax, visit with family and friends in the (somewhat nearby) area, and relax. What a great trip this has been! Thanks for going with us on our website!