09/25/2011, Santa Cruz
So what's up with this weather....?
Hmm, we've been in the state of California now for well over a month, actually about 5 weeks and for most of that time we've seen very little of it. Well, let me be more clear. We've seen about about 5 miles of the coastline, a ½ mile glimpse at a time, through the FOG! There have been times when I'm pretty sure that all we're doing is going around in circles. Well, other than the waves and rollers to keep you oriented....
Did I build up some bad weather karma? Was I bad as a kid? ( Mom, don't answer that!) Did we not do the right 'dance' upon the deck to bless this trip with good weather, WHAT? What did we do?
Yesterday we woke in Half Moon Bay to a glorious morning. No FOG at all, that is until 5:20 pm when all of a sudden the fog was there. And the temperature went from 79 to 59 in 16 minutes!
So,now, we're sitting in Santa Cruz in the small boat harbor. The Wednesday night race just came back because the fog rolled in and oh, there's no wind. Did I mention that we had to motor all the way today, AGAIN? I'm going to go put on another layer of polar fleece, my fuzzy slippers, and maybe I'll even pull out the heater! The butter is not melting yet, it's not even very soft!
09/24/2011, Santa cruz
We have mentioned a few times along the way, how incredibly happy we are with the new CPT Autopilot that we installed before leaving Seattle. It has been simply awesome! The system is built very rugged, is simple to install, and operate. In this day and age where every one wants the autopilot to be connected to rest of the navigation system, we wanted a simple, strong, and for the most part fool proof system. That's what we got. And, other than the very worst of the weather we faced, it has handled everything we have thrown at it. Now I have no doubt that there are a lot of great autopilot systems out there, but what we feel truly makes this one exceptional, is the owner. From the day we met Jeff Swedberg at the Seattle Boat Show, we were impressed with is dedication to service. When we ordered the autopilot, he went out of his way to make sure we got the exact parts that would be correct for our Freeport steering system. He communicated several times with us (in person) as we fit the system to the boat, and sea trialed it. If we had a question, he had an answer. If we called and missed him on the phone, he called back promptly, every time.
Now that we are in Santa Cruz, very near Aptos, where Jeff lives, he came down to the boat, checked to make sure everything was all right, and even had a couple of suggestions for improving the way we installed it. These changes will make the day to day operation of the system much easier for us by relocating the controller.
The next morning we had gone into town to correct a few shopping problems that we had from the day before, and got a call from Jeff. He was on the boat, had completely rebuilt the system to the new spec's we had discussed the night before. This guy is amazing!! If you are looking for a new system, give this guy a call!! As you can see above, even Lefty thinks Jeff is awesome!
So, if you are reading this Jeff, Thank You so very much.
09/23/2011, Down the West Coast
I have had a few weeks now to reflect on our journey from Seattle, down the coast to San Francisco. There have been many highs, a few lows, and a whole lot of stuff in between.
When we left the anchorage at Wescott Harbor, just south of Roche harbor, in the San Juan's we were filled with excitement, tinged with a bit of anxiety. The fear of the unknown that is sure to creep up on anyone starting out on this type of outing for the first time. For me it was the open ocean. I have been out 10-20 even 40 or miles out in charter fishing vessels. They have had experienced Captains with proven seaworthy vessels. We have just us, in a boat that is more than a boat to us, it is our home. Our everything. I have never gotten seasick, but then again, I haven't been out on sailboat. The thought of it was a slow nag in the back of my head. And you know who sometimes a song will get in your head and you just can't seem to get it out? Well for the first couple of days, I had a Brent Burns song very securely lodged there....a song about a fisherman who is sea sick, "I'm Seasick again". Despite the potential for that being a bad omen, it was never a problem.
The thrill of turning the corner just past Neah Bay, our "Big Left Turn" and heading out to the ocean, in our boat was a joy the I have yet to come up with the words to describe. Just think, our boat, one that we basically rebuilt all by our selves. The sweat, the worry, and even the blood from almost 5 years of hard work are about to pay off. Sailing off into the night, next stop San Francisco.
The days, and nights were filled with a lot of nothingness. Not really wanting to read, or write, for fear of missing something exciting, with that "something" turning out to be steady 6-8 foot wave after wave after wave... We had fog almost every day, and if it wasn't foggy, it was a very low marine layer that prevented any real ability to see very far. Not that it mattered as we had set a course for 100 miles off shore, and from there a pretty straight line into the Golden Gate Bridge.
We had hoped to see an abundance of marine life while we passed the time.At some point we did begin to see quite a few sea birds. The storm Petrels, Black Footed Albatross's, Shearwaters, and later some Northern Fulmars. We had several pods of White Sided Dolphins playing alongside with their laser like speed, a large pod of Gray Whales, and one huge Blue Whale all passed by to help kill the monotony the gray days.
In all of our preparations for this trip, I have to admit the one weakness that we had was an intimate knowledge of the off shore weather patterns, and how they are effected by in shore temperatures. Especially as we got closer to California. This well documented part of our trip, while it was not what I would call that much fun, is still not for the lowest point to me. Looking back now it was a true learning experience, not just a hard way for us to learn about weather. We gained a life time of knowledge about our own capabilities, the strength of our boat, and to trust what we are capable of as a team.
There were things that happened along the way that I don't feel that I need to experience again, if I can avoid it. The trip out of the Straight of Juan De Fuca was stressful, and tiring with dense zero visibility fog for almost 12 hours. We had several large commercial ships passing in and out of the straight. Then we had a strong 18-20 knot incoming wind pushing against a large ebb tide. This made for very steep seas, causing the bow of Eagle to bury itself up to the anchor roller about every third wave. Bashing and crashing for several hours, we took a lot of water over the top of the boat. Once we got off shore we had north west winds most of the trip, which gave us a beam reach most of the time, but we also had 6-8 foot westerly rollers, with 3 foot wind waves, all at 6-8 seconds. All of these waves hitting us on the beam made for a very uncomfortable ride. Every part of the boat was in constant motion. And then there was the storm...in short we had 18 hours of 20-30 knot winds with seas 18-20 feet. Throw in a few higher gusts, and few higher waves and it made for a nasty ride. Even then we were not ever worried or afraid. We just kept sailing. Prudence told us that we should check in with the Coast guard, if nothing more than to let them know we are out here, find out what the what the weather forecast was and where we might find some shelter should we decide to bail on San Francisco and head towards shore. We have both discussed this at length, and realize that we got more concerned about our situation, after talking to the Coast guard that we ever had prior to that. The fact that they questioned us about our life raft, our EPIRB, wanted a contact phone for our next of kin, wanted information on the boat, and was our engine working....and then they informed us that we were in, and I quote " Extremely Dangerous Boating Conditions! What the hell is that? I have heard of a Small Craft Advisory, I have heard of gales Warnings, Storm warnings, and even Tropical Storm Warnings...but never have I heard of Extremely Dangerous Boating Conditions. At this point, and only at this point did we begin to be concerned about our situation. Being 100 miles off shore, with limited crew is not something we will do again. You just don't have room to react to any sever change in the weather. At 100 miles out, we were the better part of a full day before we could reach the shelter of one of the bays. Despite everything, this part of the trip was really only 18 hours of the seven days on the ocean, from Washington to The Golden Gate Bridge. I am not able to condemn a trip for such a small percentage of time spent in an uncomfortable position.
We had a some great days, and some great experiences out there, with 24 hour sails, going nearly 150 miles each day. We had an afternoon where the sun came out and we sailed with some of the northern California coast line in sight. This was such an emotional lift, as we were really ready for some sunshine. We dropped anchor in Drakes Bay, our first true ocean anchorage. With all of the experiences from this leg of the trip,I believe that in many ways we are closer now as a couple than ever before. We have experienced, we have learned, and we have accomplished something together that few ever will. An off shore passage.
And now we prepare for the second leg of this grand adventure of ours, San Francisco to San Diego. We do so with a new found sense of well being, a little less fear of the unknown, and a giddy excitement to see whats next!! Warm Sunshine would be a great thing!
09/23/2011, Santa Cruz
Once we arrived in the Santa Cruz, and Monterey was a trip to the Monterey aquarium. Now to attend to the transportation issue. We have been using either our legs to get us a round, or public transportation, the buses!! With that in mind we contacted the local Santa Cruz MTA (Mass Transit Authority) to find a route schedule for our trip to the Aquarium. This turned out to be a little bit more complicated than we thought. This trip was going to required a bus from the marina, then a transfer to the bus to Watsonville. There we have to jump to the Monterey MTA for a bus to some point, where we catch another bus to Monterey. This was going to take approximately 3 ½ hours to make the one way trip., and $12.00 each. Now it is time for Plan "B" a rental car. We are always pretty conscious of our budget, but with a total of $24.00 and and 7 hours to take the bus, versus $39.99 to rent a car...well it was a no brainer.
We made our trip to the aquarium, which we will cover in another post, made a stop, although a short one to the Elk Horn Slough Bird Refuge, and did some shopping since we had a car to transport our purchases
The Elk Horn Slough was awesome, and I could see hanging around there for days, but that really blow our "get down the coast to warmer weather" schedule. I did get to add two new birds to my Life List, a Cedar Peewee and the White Tailed Kite.
This was my first time behind the wheel, of a car, in over 5 months. We pulled out of the rental lot, went a few blocks and merged right on to the freeway. OH MY GAWD!!! after 2000 miles at 5 knots! 65 MPH seems like you are going warp speed! I had a little adjusting to do. But after a few minutes we were just fine. On the way back, we got caught in our first full on traffic jam in as many months, so we had to add a picture...so see above!! I know you have all seen traffic jams...but this was unusual for us!!
Once we got to the boat, we discovered that the two things we bought were both either broken or wrong, so instead of having the day to play, we will now have to run around in our now un-returned rental car and get these things replaced!!
By the way, did I mention that we are still fogged in.....yup nice thick fog, that has not relented!!
09/21/2011, Santa cruz
We arrived here in Santa Cruz, after what can ony be described as a very boring day. The weather guessers called for 5-7 knots from NW, and so we had a very nice 3 knots from the south. Yep, right where we were heading. They also called for patchy fog, and they were right, very big patch from Half Moon Bay all the way to Santz Cruz. So we motor sailed the whole way.
We got to see some Sunfish floating on the surface, and we had what we are pretty sure (now that we got to look at the pictures) are Risso's Dolphins!! They swam right behind the boat!! They have fins that look like sharks, and when we first saw them we thought we were seeing a school of sharks!!
We are going to catch a bus, to Monterey tomorrow, and visit the Monterey Aquarium!! we are both very excited to get to see what is considered one of the best aquariums in the nation. If we get any cool pictures we will post them this weekend.
09/20/2011, 1/2 Moon Bay
One of the hardest things about long term cruising, and making plans to meet some one along the way is being put on a schedule, with out getting Mother Ocean's prior approval. So....with the really big storms up in Alaska, pushing a large swell this way, in excess of 10 feet, we are going to try to out run it and head out tomorrow. By getting to Santa Cruz a few days early, we will push up our visit to the Montery Aquarium, by catching a bus from Santa Cruz. Then after the weekend, providing the afore mebtioned swells have abated, we will continue south, probably to Port San Louis.
We have a 6 AM departure scheduled, and will send an update once we arrive in Santa Cruz