Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Point Conception and points south

We needed fuel before we left Morro Bay. The fuel dock at Morrro Bay is a tall fuel pier more setup for commercial fishing boats than us yachties. We grabbed the loaner fender board from MBYC and Steve off of Saben to help us at the dock. It wasn't blowing, so the docking drama was relatively low. A few sea lions came by while we were there to check it out.

Morro Bay otter wishing us a good journey offshore of the sea buoy

Rounding Pt Conception is a big milestone in getting south. It is the last of capes that are likely to give you weather heartache. In local exaggeration it is known as the Cape Horn of California due to the wind and sea conditions. There's really no reason to get nailed at Pt Conception, other than rushing. You can sit it out in Morro Bay going south or in Santa Barbara or Cojo going north and access tons of detailed weather info. We waited in Morro Bay for four days to let the winds to die down, then had a smooth, easy passing. Less sailing than I would have liked. We left MB around 3pm and arrived in San Miguel Island in the Channel Islands at sunrise after an uneventful trip.

Diablo Canyon nuke plant

We passed the nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon, then as it got dark the gantries at Vandenburg Air Force base. In the middle of the night we started threading our way through all the offshore oil platforms. These are strange, giant platforms lit up in an ugly orange hue at night, intimidating!

Platform Harvest from a safe distance

Early morning approach to Cuyler Harbor, San Miguel Is.

Morning beach walk

We added to our karma bank account by helping pull these guys out the kelp. They had tried to enter Cuyler Harbor with their Lancer 26 by cutting straight through the dense kelp bed off the point. The kelp grabbed them and they were pretty solidly stuck. We rowed the dink into them, grabbed a line and rowed it out beyond the kelp. We tied this up to a larger dink who was able to pull them out with his engine. Not a recommended short cut.

The sea lions are as curious as we are.

We left SanMiguel island and had a light wind sail to San Rosa island. The anchorage, Bechers Bay, is an open roadsted, with protection from the westerly cliffs. It blew like snot after we anchored, only to stop a little after dark. With the wind down, the swells came in and we rolled most of the night. At dawn it was calm and we were inundated with sand flies. Not one of our favorite anchorages.

Sailing to Santa Rosa.

Blowing in Bechers Bay.

We headed over to Santa Cruz Is in the morning to try and get into the Painted Cave. The cave is something like 600 feet deep and and 125 ft high in places. Here's the entrance. The swell was running too high to take a dinghy in there.

Saben hidden behind the swells in front of Painted cave.

Photo Shoot: A highly paid professional model -- note the pony tail- modeling Chris' students fund raising T-shirts for the ACNM Washington DC midwifery conference off of Santa Barbara.
"Midwives Help People Out", "Mom's Deliver, We catch!"


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What you hear close to a Humpback Whale

We were web (re)searching on whales while waiting out weather in Moro Bay. Came across this recording. It is close to what what we heard when we sailed through a pod of them. 

Play Humpback whale songs


On the Pacfic bird flyway

We left Monterey Bay at 3am. It was clear and calm. We rounded Point Pinos on the Monterey Peninsula in the dark about a mile offshore. It must have been low tide, as you could smell the decaying seal poop on the beach. The smell was strong enough that it set off our propane warning sensor on the boat. we motored along in glassy conditions until about 1pm. Then had a good sail down Big Sur all the way to San Simion bay.
Big Sur from the water side
Piedra Blancas toward the end of Big Sur.No one has cleaned off the guano from that rock since it was named 400 years ago.
Hearst Castle viewed from the anchorage
We headed into San Simeon bay for the night. It was foggy heading in but cleared up once we got inside. There's a small pier inside built by Hearst's father. The castle is on the top of the hills. The bay is small and basically an open roadstead behind a small point with breaking surf. Feliz was the only other boat in the anchorage. We anchored nearby. It is a little unnerving as the surf is breaking only few 100 yards away and it is the predominate sound. After dinner we went to bed and things seemed OK. Shortly afterward the insistent boat roll from the swells sneaking around the point started. Between the roll and the sound of the surf close by, I didn't much sleep at all. We left early in the morning to head to Morro Bay in the fog. I needed to get their by 1pm to do a work  call. It was motor boat ride. As we approached the outside sea buoy at Morro Bay we thought the fog was going to lift enough so we could do a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) landing.  Just as we got close enough in to see the surf breaking at the entrance, the fog closed in again. It was clearly going to be an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) landing. The entrance to Morro Bay is tricky because of the swells that tend to break in the near by sandbars and because they do not put the buoys on the charts, per the normal practice. This is because as the sand bars shift, the channel moves with it and the buoys are moved around accordingly. This is nice in clear weather, as you can see them and they guide you to the right place. In pea soup fog when you aren't a local, you don't know how many buoys are gong to be there or where they are. We hung around the sea buoy for awhile waiting to see if the fog would lift some. We spotted a target on the radar coming toward the sea buoy and clearly setting up to head into Morro Bay. It turned out to be a small commercial work boat. We figured he was a local, so we followed him. Just inside the  breakwaters are two small markers. He passed close by the green starboard side marker just inside the north breakwater. Much closer than I would have, as it was near the breaking waves on the breakwater. We followed him in closely, almost like we knew what we were doing.
This is all we could see of the Morro Bay rock coming in.
The Rock with its top
We tied up on the long dock at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. Great place for $20 a night (or $15 if you take a mooring ball). And, Feliz showed up awhile later. They got to the sea buoy and called into the Morro Bay Coast Guard for an entrance report. The coasties told them to stay put and they would go out and escort them in. They got an easy escort in all the way to the yacht club.  Then they got boarded for the standard CG inspection.The kids on board were stoked and proudly showed the coasties all their toys.
Morro Bay is on the Pacific Flyway and has an amazing amount and variety of birds. Chris had her birding binocs out while we were doing a dinghy cruise around the bay. The white pelicans were the hit of the tour!
White Pelicans on the spit at Morro Bay
And to stay PC, here's the brown pelicans, with a heron in the background
We visited Chris' nephew Christopher (aka: Chris, he's the tall good looking one). He's up in San Luis Obispo doing well. He has 3 more years, assuming good behavior.

We've covered over a 1,000 miles since we left Seattle -- the water temperature is still only 54*. Too cold for swimming still...


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cannery Row

After motoring out of the San Francisco shipping channel in the fog for a few hours we had a close hauled sail down toward Pillar Point. Had to start up the motor about an hour out and thread our way through the fog and the outside reefs. We dropped the hook in the outer harbor and spent a quiet night. Next morning we left in the fog again, motoring for an hour and a half or so in glassy seas. We thought it was going to be a motor boat slog all the way to Monterey but the wind picked up, the sun came out of the fog a bit and we set sail. We dug out the asymmetrical spinnaker and got the boat moving along nicely.
Note the CYC Edmonds club pennant
We put the spinnaker up to fool the wind. It tricks it into getting stronger. In an hour or so the wind picked up to 18-20 true and we decided to keep it mellow and dropped the spin. The wind stayed with us and the fog came back in. Chris was reading the unabridged Moby Dick on her Kindle. (It used to be our Kindle... but that's another story.) Just as she was getting to the serious stuff, I saw a splash in the distance and a weird sound came out of the fog. We were amazed as we were suddenly surrounded by six or so blowing and sounding humpback whales. Spray and flukes very near the boat and this occasional strange sound like canvas rubbing on canvas... whale songs? One very clearly stopped a few yards from the boat to check us out. Very cool. Not feeling like we were at the top of the food chain and knowing that hump whales have a propensity for J-Boats, we drove as we went through the flock  -- or the pod.
The closest we got to a whale shot. I know, no picture and it didn't happen.
Nope, these aren't whales. They're seal lions fishing as we entered Monterey Bay.
The Bay has a gazillion birds on it. We sailed through a continuous swath of these birds, thousands -- I'd tell you their name, but a I already forgot... getting old is tough.
Boaters try a lot of different methods in the Bay to try and stop the damage that the local sea lions can wreak.  This one just seems to encourage them, they were literally bouncing on this one!
Otter action in the marina.
We spent about 3 hours cruising the Monterey Aquarium. These sea nettles were in the aquarium and in the bay as well.
When evolution goes off track... a sea horse disguised as kelp. It should have just stayed a plant.

We spent a couple of nights in the bay at anchor.  Its a little rolly, but ships have been anchoring here for over 400 years. Off to San Simion and Morro Bay tomorrow.
'Don't drink and derive!'   -Monterey T-shirt


Thursday, September 16, 2010

She's a pretty city, but a little stinky

Our friends Terri and Steve picked us up in Sausalito to show their place up in Santa Rosa and introduce us to the local wine. We left Jeorgia on a mooring in front of he Sausalito Yacht Club. We drove up to the Sonoma area and checked out some very cool small wineries. The pictures are few as the photographer was busy enjoying glasses of wine. Of course, it sure helped when Terri flashed her I'm in the wine biz business card. Steve graciously volunteered to be the designated driver and chef extraordinaire for dinner.
Headed off to checkout the grapes.
They're a couple of weeks from harvest.
Our hosts while in wine country, Samson and Paris
What good dogs!
Organic farming, Sonoma Valley style, at Red Barn Farms - think expensive but delicious lettuce.

We headed over to South Beach Marina under the Bay Bridge to get some serious city time in. The navigation notes for the Bay Bridge give the clearance going under the bridge with the proviso that it might be 10 feet less during heavy traffic and warm temperatures. We fit under this time with 100 feet to spare.
The night view from our slip in South Beach Marina
  The marina is right next to AT&T park where the Giants play. There was series going on with he Dodgers while we were their. Lots of folks waking around with their new bright orange t shirts: Duck the Fodgers. The marina is right near the Muni lines T & N, so two bucks gets you anywhere you need. And the Caltrans terminal is also just a few blocks away. $2.50 to get to the South San Francisco West Marine...to pick up boat parts.

If you are headed this way and want to stay in the city for a few days of being a tourist, the South Beach Marina is much nicer than Pier 39 on the Embarcadero. Pier 39 transient slips are basically untenable. The swells, surge and wakes make it one of the roughest anchorages you've ever been in. Not to mention the sea lions, who have the run of the place.
J-Boat parking at Pier 39
Original transient dock at Pier 39

We headed up to China Town with our friends Steve and Maria. I insisted that we ride the trolley car. Why else go to San Francisco?
That's the ticket taker on the right -- he thinks he's a conductor.
Chris and Maria shopping for weird things in China Town
Down from the restaurant we settled on, courtesy of Woo Hoo.
A gecko who escaped from the financial district hanging out at the rain forest in the Science Museum in the Golden Gate park.
Another SF character
We went out to a delicious tapas place, Lolo, with our friends Bill and Gary. Bill's sailing buddy David came along with his partner Patrick. We had some great dinner conversation and enjoyed the Mission District's local color. It must have been dark - no pictures... or it was the wine at dinner and cocktails afterward.
Looking for chocolate before we left SF
Rolex Big Boat Series was running on our way out of the bay
We couldn't see a lot of the bridge on the way out
A last view of SF
Off to Half Moon Bay and then Monterey.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cruising the Bay

We left the warmth of the east Bay to head up to the north Bay, San Pablo Bay. This is the home of the other famous prison on the bay.
San Quentin Prison, the other red meat
A few miles north of the prison is the anchorage at China Camp. This was a busy camp in the second half of the 1800's to early1900's. It was manned by Chinese who used stake nets in the shallows of the bay to harvest shrimp. They cooked and dried them onshore and shipped the product back to China. The Exclusion laws and habitat destruction  basically shut the place down. At its peak the camp had 500 people, all pretty much isolated from the rest of the community.
China Camp and pier
Checking out rusty things. Bud Manufacturing automatic gas water heater 1909
For the Saben followers on the blog. They aren't lost - here they are arriving in China Camp.
We headed off from China Camp after a morning hike. Sausalito, across from San Fran, was the destination. It has a large, open, anchorage filled with all variety of boats, from high end cruisers to junk pile derelicts. The views of the city make up for the rolliness of the anchorage.
Big guy container ship coming out of the fog. The fog has a very specific pattern during the day, but we can't figure out what that pattern is.

Night view from the anchorage of  San Fran
The wind got light in the afternoon so we decided to take the dink over to Angel Island for a hike. The trip turned out to be more of a minor heroic voyage battling man against the elements. The Bay, its weather and tides, are not to be taken lightly. We didn't make it to the beach at Angel Is as once we got there we figured we better get moving back to Sausalito before conditions got worse or the fog rolled in. Angle Is has a military history back to the Civil War, it was a major induction center in WW I and WW II, and until fairly recently it was an Immigration processing camp.
Army barracks on Angel Island