How We Spent Our Summer Vacation
04 September 2014 | Bahia de Los Angeles
Joan-Marie aka Cricket Hot!
So, here we are --presently--for summer, or now the end of the summer, hanging out in the north part of the Sea of Cortez. Yes, it's hot and clothing is optional except when heading ashore or anchored in close proximity of other boats. Paying attention to the weather is a must...the summer Chubascos are here and the tropical storm season is in full swing. But, the breezes are everyday and plentiful, the water is cool and inviting, and the sailing has been better than great.
And, you may be wondering ---Chubascos. They are the storms that come up quickly and generally can last less or more than a few hours with high winds and usually some lightening and thunder, if you are close enough. It may conclude with some rain. The ones we have sat out have been at night, that is midnight and after, and haven't lasted but a couple of hours and no rain, just wind and lightening in the distance.
When I started writing this piece a few weeks ago, about the middle of July, we were on our way up north and anchored in a place called Bahia San Francisquito --- I dare you to say that three times fast! It is north of Santa Rosalia on the Baja. We were there just a day under two weeks and disconnected from the world, no cell or internet service, just a couple of other boats doing the same thing as us, on a stopover as we were heading north. We do have our SSB radio, VHF radio, and Sirius music to give a wee bit of connection.
We moved further north to Bahia de Los Angeles and the surrounding area, where we have been be for August and now September staying out of the above mentioned weather. We are starting to think about our trek home to La Paz, weather permitting. Although the hurricane season lasts until the first of October, we will take care to stay out of harms way.
The village here in Bahia de Los Angeles or BLA as it is known, is where cruisers are usually based for the summer when this far north in the Sea of Cortez. From here we can head out to a number of anchorages or head a little further north if we would like. Since the the distances in and around BLA are short and unless it is dead calm, we've been sailing. There is usually some bit of wind blowing from the right direction to take us where we want to go. It has been very nice.
The village is also where we can stock up on fresh veggies and any other provisions that we made need. The end of the week is normally the time you see the other boats --there are about twenty-two boats up here this summer by my count-- since the fresh veggies arrive late on Friday and the tiendas get stocked up for Saturday. There is limited internet, no cell service, bank, or ATM. Several of the stores have computers and phones, if you need to make a call. We seem to be surviving just fine with several wifi hot spots and Skype. And, if you run out of pesos for groceries, oh, well, there are plenty of fish to be caught, since the nearest larger town is forty miles west on Highway 1. I know it seems rather strange to be in places like this anymore. I can't discuss the latest news headlines with you. I don't know if it is a good or bad thing, but, it is refreshing to be disconnected.
If you are wondering what we do all day--as we get asked that question by our non-cruising buddies-- we keep busy. There is weather to listen to on the SSB radio in the mornings and evenings, fish to be caught for dinner, and books to read. But, yes, I think we have finally reached that point that we have started to slow down and have figured out that we are on that long extended vacation called retirement. Our biggest decisions for the day usually start with what's for breakfast ---oatmeal, cereal, or eggs-- and are we staying here or leaving for another anchorage, and, oh, which anchorage do we want to head to? Not necessarily in any particular order. I must add there are always boat chores to do, meals to plan and make, and anything else that may come up with life on a boat. We are just going at a slower pace.
Our eating habits have also changed this summer with the warmer weather. We are eating less and eating foods that don't require a lot of cooking. I've only used the oven twice since May and we tend to use the barbecue as much as possible. We even gone to iced coffee in la mañana. Although here lately the both of us have been enjoying a cup of hot tea. Go figure. We are on our third canister of the Costco size powdered Gatorade. A new batch gets mixed up every night.
Ron's turned me into a pretty good fisher person and we manage to catch fresh fish every few days. It seems that I tend to reel in a few more than he does, but he cleans 'em. We have gotten the bigger Dorados when we are under way, but in the anchorages, we catch the various sand bass, groupers, and California Yellow Tail, which is a type of tuna. I caught a fourteen pounder earlier this summer that fed us and friends for a few days. Most days fresh fish becomes fish tacos and sometimes I'll make fish cakes.
Our adventures this summer also took across the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos on the mainland. At the last minute, we decided to follow friends, Jonathan and Thea from Zwerver II as they had planned to haul out in Guaymas, just south of San Carlos. We thought it would be a good chance to check out this port town since many cruisers base out of these two locations hauling their boats in and out for the season.
We also thought we might catch up with Wendy and Mac off Kookaburra before they headed back up to Washington for the summer. See earlier blogs of our hits and misses. We once again kept trying to catch up with them the latter part of the Spring. We were successful and managed to have dinner together and introduce new friends all around. They will be back in the Fall and heading across the Pacific next Spring.
San Carlos turned out to be a place to get a very necessary project completed. We had on board the materials to make our sunshades for the boat. Since it gets pretty hot up in these parts, we needed something to provide shade over the boat, so it would help lower the temperature below. I kept referring to it as her prom dress since we were dealing with meters and meters of material. Ron kept calling it her sundress. It was a three week project of varying hours and days as we would take a break every few days. It was something that we could have managed at anchor, but it was much easier working at the dock. When completed, we had two top pieces that now cover the house from our cockpit to the bow and side curtains all around that attach to the top pieces and come up and down as needed. And, it has made a vast difference in temperature below decks.
The weather in San Carlos offered an interesting change for us, triple digits when we got there the second day of June and very high humidity. We found ourselves up by 5 am to start work on the sunshade or anything else we wanted to get done before it got too hot and sticky. Our hose from the dock facet hung down in the shower hatch as we would rinse off several times a day. It was here that we started drinking iced coffee in the mornings.
As usual, we found plenty of time to explore and check out the area. Wendy and Mac, as well as Thea and Jonathan had hauled within a week of our arrival and were well on their way north. We decided that this would be a good place to do some additional provisioning for the rest of the summer before we headed back across. The local bus stopped right by the marina so it made easy for the heavier, bulky things that we needed to get on board.
Despite the rather warm weather, and the pesky mosquitos that love to chew on me, we were glad we made the trip, but we were happy to get back on the Baja. Although, we have had a few humid days here and there, the Baja tends to be drier in the humidity house.
So, your probably wondering about the picture that I selected to post with this blog. . .it's a whale shark. Our first encounter was in the village a few weeks ago on our way back to the boat. Ron killed the engine on the dingy so that we could row and not disturb their feeding. They were all around the boat and we watched these majestic creatures gracefully move through the water. There were about five that day varying in size and they stayed for a few hours.
This encounter and picture was taken across the bay in an anchorage called La Mona. This guy was a wee bit shorter than the boat and hung in and around for about hour and I finally got one decent shot. Some people do swim with these creatures as they are known to be harmless, but we prefer to give them their space. This particular shot shows the whale shark coming to the surface with its wide mouth open. The wide large mouth is one of the characteristics of these whales sharks for feeding. This picture doesn't even bring justice to these beautiful, graceful, marine creatures.
As I wrap this blog up and post it, we are leaving the village for an anchorage in a few hours. We haven't decided which one yet, but it will be one that gives us protection from higher southeast winds expected today and tomorrow. So, off we go for a little sail, some more fishing, and, of course, reading.
Fast Forward, La Segunda Parte --Part Two
08 July 2014 | Santa Rosalia, BCS
Joan-Marie aka Cricket
We arrived Ensenada mid afternoon on November 7th and settled at Marina Baja Naval. It was too late in the day to get ourselves and the boat checked in, so we kicked back for the evening and went to bed early since the 0259 start time had caught up to us.
We were sawing logs early on, so we didn't noticed that our friends, Wendy and Mac on Kookaburra had arrived. But, the next morning I did noticed that we now had three Island Packets lined up in a row on the dock; Kookaburra, Frog's Leap, and Mystic Island. It didn't register with me earlier the previous afternoon, when the owner of Frog's Leap had thanked us for bringing his upgraded Island Packet down to him. He had an older, late 70's, smaller model IP. Ummmm, two or more Packets sitting side by side on the dock. . .sounded like another rendezvous in the works.
The next morning Wendy and Mac joined us on our quest to officially check into Mexico. The harbor master at Baja Naval, Rogelio, organized our paperwork and went through it with us before sending us on our way. We stopped for a nibble of breakfast and then headed to the office building that housed the various governmental agencies that needed to know we were now in Mexico. I might add that the sunshine was abundant and warm. It took about an hour or so to complete the process of checking in and paying our fees. Since it was technically just after noon, Cervezas were next on the agenda to celebrate our official arrival.
We had planned on being in Ensenada for a few days before we started the last legs of our journey to La Paz. We had arranged to meet up with Nancy and Nid, our friends from San Pedro, who were coming in on a cruise ship that was scheduled to stop in Ensenada. It was great fun to see them again and they steered us to the original Who-Song and Larry's --complete with sawdust on the floors and bullet holes in the walls-- and then to a little restaurant on the water front that had great cerviche. We managed not only have lunch with them, but we went back for dinner that night with Mac and Wendy. It was the best cerviche I've ever had and way better than I can make.
The next morning we saw Mac and Wendy off as they continued their journey. We were running a day or two behind. We wanted to make sure that our Banda Ancha (Mexican Internet) was up and running on the iPad and we were weren't quite there with it, or with Ron's phone. We had elected to leave my phone on our US pay as you go calling plan and unlock and convert Ron's iPhone to a Mexican number. It has worked out quite well.
We took off a couple of days later for Turtle Bay, which put us out for another two nights. In the entire trip down the Pacific coast, we did most of our sailing when we reached Mexico and traveled the outside of the Baja. It was especially nice that we had finally tucked away the foul weather gear and were enjoying light jackets during our night watches.
A couple of mornings later as we pulled into Turtle Bay, we caught up to Wendy and Mac. Unfortunately, they were pulling out and we were ready to drop the hook, eat breakfast, and nap. We seemed to have a pattern going on with them. We once again bid them farewell and promised to see them in La Paz.
As we were finishing up breakfast, we received our first visit from the Mexican navy. We had noticed their vessel closer to shore coming down from Ensenada the day before and throughout the night. The navy is there to help keep everyone safe and it is not unusual for them to pull along side and check-in with you. One of their jobs is to review your paperwork and ask about safety equipment aboard, including radios and life jackets. They were very polite and professional and we managed to communicate with our hack Spanish at the time--trust me it has gotten much better, although Ron would beg to differ on that point.
We hung out in Turtle Bay for a couple of days, fueled up, and walked around town. We picked up a few fresh veggies to keep us going until San Jose del Cabo. This is a small village on the Pacific coast of Mexico and the locals are always welcoming of any and all the boats heading both north and south. It is one of few stops along the way where you can get provisions and fuel and tuck in out of the weather.
We were winding down this part of the trip and getting closer to La Paz. Our nights out we're getting fewer. We left Turtle Bay and headed to Santa Maria. We had one of our best sails of the trip and at one point had to reduce sail to handle the 20 knots coming from behind. We arrived Santa Maria under cloudy and cool conditions. A local panga came over and we traded lobsters. Following his panga, we had two more come by; one wanted batteries for lobster. We graciously declined anymore lobsters and told him that he could have the batteries. Luckily, there were two other boats in the anchorage for them to trade with too.
We spent two nights in Santa Maria relaxing --and eating lobster-- before our upcoming leg which would take us around the tip of Baja and into San Jose del Cabo. This would be our last night out for this journey down the Pacific coast. The rest of the trip would be day hops to La Paz.
The last night out was beautiful, calm, and glassy on the Pacific. Unfortunately, that meant motoring instead of sailing. We both enjoyed the company of the moon on our watches. The next morning dawned much the same as the night before. Clear and calm. It was a very busy morning around the tip of the Baja as the sport fishing boats were out in full force.
Passing along the southern tip of the Baja was a moment to savor. Now lots of people do the same thing we did. It is not anything new or unusual. Some do it more than once, but everyone has their story or stories to tell. We had made it down the coast with relative ease. I chalked it up our due diligence and careful planning, and some collective experience.
We arrived at Cabo del Porto, San Jose del Cabo on an early Friday afternoon. We fueled up and they had a slip for us. It was time to clean up the boat, have a shower and hamburgesas were calling us ashore. We planned to stay a couple of nights as now that we were on the inside of the Baja, our weather experiences would change. The north winds blow right down the inside of the Baja during the winter months. And, when they blow, they tend to blow pretty hard. And, heading north, which was the direction we needed to go to La Paz, that meant it was going to be on the nose. Something we were used to up in the Pacific Northwest.
After five days of waiting on weather to settle down a bit, we left San Jose del Cabo along with three other boats, all of us heading the same direction. I was staring to notice, for lack of a better word, that it had gotten crowded. More people taking off to cruise south, making it sometimes a bit harder to find a spot at a marina.
The wind was still blowing from the north as we headed to Los Frailes, our first stop on the inside of the Baja. The waves were short and choppy and coming over the bow. There was still a bit of a blow coming from the north. We did a little tacking back and forth as we made our way. It was slow going as we were barely doing a knot at times. We hunkered down for the bumpy ride and ended up motoring the latter part of the trip.
Once we got anchored, we put on our shortie wet suits and jumped in the water for a swim. It was the night before Thanksgiving and the next day we were headed to Los Muertos, one of my favorite anchorages -- unfortunately, or fortunately, I have many depending on where and the weather conditions.
Since we had a full day ahead to Los Muertos, and were leaving at first light, I elected to leave the Cornish game hens that I picked up in San Diego in the freezer for a later special dinner. We settled on sausages and a big salad for our Thanksgiving feast. It was delicious. We weren't due in for another two days, but we were anxious to be into La Paz. As we left the next morning, we checked and our slip was available.
We found ourselves, the day after Thanksgiving and almost three months to the day leaving the Pacific Northwest, at our final destination, for now. We had friends Wendy and Mac to greet us at the dock. Since they were leaving the next morning--ummm, our usual pattern with them-- that evening we enjoyed a lively supper and an early celebration of Ron's birthday.
It was time to relax and get reacquainted with La Paz and, of course, finish a couple of projects on the boat. But, we were here. All the planning and projects and getting ready, we made it. Mystic performed her part. We took care of each other. And, in turn, mighty great Neptune had kept a watchful eye on all of us.
24 May 2014 | Puerto Ballandra, Isla Carmen, BCS
Joan-Marie aka Cricket
Some 2000 nautical miles later and a spell of time in La Paz, I guess I have some serious explaining to do since the last time that I bothered to put pen to paper or in this case fingers to the keyboard was some time ago. I got a couple of emails asking, like 'Where the heck are you guys? Did you actually make it out of Oregon? Are you in Mexico yet?'
Well, since, ummm, some months have passed and both Ron and I are a year older, I'll just stick to the highlights.
So, backtracking a wee bit, Newport was our planned final stop for Oregon. We caught up with family members, had boat parts shipped, and mail call. We were scheduled for a week, but we found ourselves closely watching the weather again. It was looking good a couple of days ahead of schedule and so we headed out on a slack tide on a Thursday evening. Our next stop was Eureka, California, and another two nights off the coast. It was a mixed bag of weather with little opportunity to sail.
We crossed the Eureka bar early morning some thirty hours later under foggy and overcast conditions. We did the usual -- topped off fuel and found a slip at the city docks for a couple of nights.
We were out of Washington and Oregon and traveling down the coast of our third, final, and longest state. First up, tackle the Northern California coastline. So, our next destination was Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco. We found ourselves falling into a pattern of getting to our next destination, fueling up, and enjoying the local area for a few days as we watched weather and chose our next stop.
Drakes Bay, just north of San Francisco brought our only location in Northern California that we anchored out after we left Bodega Bay. Unfortunately, it was very foggy and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Our AIS and radar again were our trusty leaders for Mystic as we closely monitored our course and the big freighters we couldn't physically see.
We elected to bypass San Francisco even though America's Cup was still in full swing and they were getting down to the last races. For some reason we wanted to keep going and stay ahead of any early fall weather that may find its way into the Pacific Northwest and down the Northern California coast.
The morning we left Drakes Bay for Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, it was again foggy and started to rain. We were back to full foul weather gear, long underwear, and wool socks. As we approached the shipping channels, we checked in with the authorities. Since they were running a race in the early afternoon, there didn't seem to much in the way of anything heading in, out, or across any of the lanes. It was us and a tug towing a barge. Not quite what I expected, but okay by me.
Mid day the rain stopped and the sun came out just in time to enjoy a view of the Golden Gate Bridge including photo op. And, we started peeling off the layers. By the time we reached Half-Moon Bay, it was downright warm. Half-Moon Bay brought a great brew pub and burgers that night.
We were off once again to Santa Cruz and then on to Monterey. The weather up north was showing one of the first heavy storms packing some winds and in turn high seas. It was barely mid-September. We decided to stop in Santa Cruz for the night and anchor out and then continue to Monterey the next morning. There we would hang for a few days until this next spell of weather passed.
Heading across the Monterey Bay brought lots of whales everywhere! I had seen loads of whales in Mexico, but nothing like we saw that morning. I had grown up near Santa Cruz, but had never done any whale watching. We had been told that there were about fifty whales hanging out in the bay and feeding on the krill. We had a straight twenty mile shot across the bay dodging the wild life as they fed that morning.
Our decision to get into Monterey was a wise one. The winds from the north kicked up and the seas along with it. We enjoyed our stay. The farmers market was fabulous, as were all of them along the way, and I convinced Ron that we had to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It has always been one of my favorites and it didn't disappoint.
From Monterey, we were Santa Barbara bound, which involved going around Point Conception, which is known for its own weather environment with winds that can kick up unexpectedly. We took off from Monterey for Port San Luis, the plan being to get there early the next morning, sleep for a few hours and then take off for the leg around Point Conception that night. Worked like a charm. We rounded Point Conception during Ron's watch. I was asleep, but the weather was a non-event. Even though it was the dead of night and no moon, it was one of our busier nights navigating around oil rigs.
Santa Barbara brought us a taste for warmer weather. The shorts came out and stayed out, not to say that the evenings were cool, but just perfect. It was time to start the installation of the water maker. We had brought along a couple of projects that we would have liked to have finished before we left, but we just plain ran out of time. And, as it turned out, the hardest part of installing the water maker was figuring where to put the various components. The rest was easy, at least for me. Ron did the heavy lifting and I just helped out when I got the call. I spent my time working on various other little boat items.
Our stay grew to a close and it was time to do the Southern California hop to San Diego. We wandered on down to Oxnard, which turned out to be a very nice spot for the night. I kept thinking of a song that Michael Feinstein did years ago about Oxnard. . .something about an ox of a nard or vice versa. From there it was Marina Del Rey for a night and then onto San Pedro.
San Pedro was a planned stop for more than a few days. It turned into a little over a week. The water maker project continued. The dingy came off the bow and onto it new home on the davits so it now hangs off the stern. San Pedro also bought us new friends Nancy and Nid introduced from Warrenton friends (and former boss) Ed and Jan. We hit it off and they showed us the wonders of San Pedro. They also knew where all the cool eating spots were and Ron and I are never bashful when it comes to eating!
I also wanted to stop in San Pedro so that I could set foot on the SS Lane Victory. It was my dad's school ship back when he was in the Merchant Marines and one of only about four so far that they have pulled out of 'moth balls' in Vallejo, California. They have become floating museums for World War II and the Korean War. I won't go into all the details, but they do take them out on memorial cruises throughout the year. I have had the honor and privilege of sailing on the SS Jeremiah O'Brien in San Francisco. We spent an entire Sunday afternoon aboard the Lane Victory, taking our time as toured and read the histories of these fine Liberty and Victory ships.
We bid our farewells to San Pedro and headed to Catalina Island for a weekend of a rumored "Southbound" party for cruisers, that is those heading south, although we found out that it is pretty much a big party for locals every year. However, little did we know that we would be also crash an Island Packet rendezvous. We had already attended our Pacific Northwest gathering in August, so it was great fun. We met a new group of Southern California Packet owners. And, we caught up with a few boats that had been traveling down the Washington/Oregon/California coast that we had been seeing from time to time in port.
After four days in Catalina, it was the last push into San Diego. It was about 80 nautical miles as the crow flies and we decided that we would break the trip up. We had a reservation in San Diego and had a couple of days to spare, so our first stop was Dana Point and then Mission Bay, which is San Diego, just north of the main hustle and bustle of all the marinas, navy, and hotels.
Our stop in San Diego was our last for the good old U S of A before exiting the country with ourselves and the boat. It was a time to finish last minute projects, buy boat parts, and get provisioned up with those items that we knew that we would have to savor for an indefinite period of time...sharp cheddar and dark beer for starters.
But our most important task was starting our immigration paperwork for Mexico since we were not running on the usual tourist visas, but applying for temporary residency. This required a couple of trips to downtown San Diego to the Mexican Consulate concluding with an appointment to get our visas. The visas allowed us 30 days to get down to La Paz once we checked into the country in Ensenada. In La Paz, we needed to finalize the paperwork and get our "green cards".
As the checklist dwindled down and the last minute mail and supplies were loaded aboard, we watched the weather. The last of the threat of a hurricane passed off the coast and after planning to be in San Diego for two weeks, we only overstayed our visit by two days.
On November 7th at 0259 hours, basically 3 am, we bid farewell to Shelter Island in San Diego, and the USA. As the sun rose a few hours later, we crossed the boarder (a line on the chart plotter for us), and Ron raised our Mexican courtesy flag.
We were over half way on our journey to La Paz after a little over two months since leaving the Pacific Northwest.
Oh, and that other pesky little item that I had previously mentioned did get resolved... our air leak in the fuel system, well, was finally located after a process of elimination. It turned to be a simple on/off valve, which we actually didn't need, but Ron had reinstalled after the new fuel tank was in place. You tend to forget about these things once they are fixed and behind you.
22 September 2013
Joan-Marie aka Cricket
I can be reflective at times. I grew up living in the past and so far into the future that I never just lived in the present. The concept didn’t really start until I hit about 40. I had to teach myself how. More so now, I tend to stop during the day and take in what is happening at that very moment.
After hemming and hawing about where we were headed next, we left Port Townsend. It wasn’t until we turned the corner, a left in this case, to head towards Port Angeles that it hit me. It was September 1st, clear, sunny, and beautiful at 0730. We were leaving and not coming back.
Through the years, I, Ron, we had visited the Pacific Northwest at various times either by boat or by car. Ron had made a comment that we probably wouldn’t see mountains like these in Mexico; that being the Olympics, until we got to Chile. My only response was that Mexico had mountains—they probably won’t have snow on their peaks in September, but then again, I don’t know that for sure.
Call it my Sunday morning religion, since it was Sunday morning. I spent the next couple hours drinking in the surrounding vistas from the water. We have no permanent future plans of where or when we will be. We know we are heading south and expect to be entering into Mexico sometime in November. Beyond that we tend to take things in bits and pieces. Realistically, we won’t be coming back here anytime soon and most likely not with Mystic. She’s a southern girl and already has made the trip to Mexico from the US. She’s got us beat on that one.
Our decision to head to Port Angeles and start the trek down the coast came about because of the weather. We were done with the last of the engine repairs and the oil and transmission fluids changed. The new bobstay was installed and a couple of other minor ‘to dos’ were done. I made the list for the galley and we provisioned for two weeks.
We had tossed around the idea of heading back up into the San Juan Islands for a few days and then heading to Port Angeles. We started studying the online weather charts and the night before decided that we wanted to head west. Our only plan at the moment was to be in Newport, Oregon no later than the 15th of September. We had family to visit and there we would take care of any odds and ends before setting our course further south. We had decided some time back not to cross the bar into Astoria. Timing takes planning to get in and out and we didn’t want to get stuck.
So, we arrived in Port Angeles nearly two months after we had arrived there. We started our prep work for going off-shore. We talked about the legs we wanted to cover and how we wanted to go about getting down the coast. We decided that the first leg would be Port Angeles, Washington to Newport, Oregon; a 50ish hour and 199 nautical mile journey that would encompass two overnighters.
Overnighters mean just that, overnight. We sail around the clock and there is always someone at the helm. Granted there is not always that much to see at night. It is basically dark out there on the open ocean. If the weather cooperates and there is no cloud cover, you can throw the moon in there –according to the time of the month—and the stars. That can make for a very fun night time watch, even at 2 am!
Most people would think sailors are totally wacked or have been wacked by perhaps a two by four across the side of the head. Being out on the ocean is a very peaceful feeling as the waves slosh on the hull and, hopefully, the wind is powering the boat and not the engine.
Our first leg started from the dock at 0530 hrs on Thursday, September 5th. We made our way heading west out the Strait of San Juan de Fuca for the last time. How appropriate a sunrise would be for the first passage, but it was raining at times and it was cloudy. For some reason, we were making great time. Of course, we weren’t actually sailing, nooooo, motor sailing. The wind was on our nose, but not too bad and the current was in our favor most of the day.
As it neared mid afternoon we made our way past the entrance to Neah Bay. Although we had planned accordingly so that we could pull in there if we needed, we decided to pass. We also built in a possible stop at Grey’s Harbor mid-way down the Washington coast.
We passed Grey’s Harbor too in our quest to make Newport. Our bodies got through the first night as we worked with the watch schedule. It was actually quite busy during the night, actually both nights. Even though you can’t necessarily see things that you might see during the day, i.e. land or other boats, you do see lights and those generally belong to fishing boats out of the various ports working throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning. Our AIS and our radar help us to keep track of those lights that we saw out there. We like to stay well out of their way as not to interfere with their work. The VHF radio kept me going during the wee hours of the first morning as I listened to a fishing vessel that had grounded on its way back In across the Columbia Bar. It was and is amazing to listen to the US Coast Guard on the radio as they run through their protocol in assuring that the mariners are safe and not in immediate danger. I can’t honestly say how that one turned out since it continued on into the morning. All crew was safe aboard when I was listening which was the most important factor.
I wish I could say that it was a clear beautiful night and the stars were out, but nope. It was cloudy and we should have been able to see land the next morning, but it wasn’t meant to be. I had hoped to see the shoreline from mouth of Columbia River down through Cannon Beach and Manzanita. That wouldn’t happen either.
As we completed our second night, we were coming into Newport at an early hour on Saturday, the 9th. In our planning we had checked the tide at the entrance of the bar in Newport. We needed to be in by 9 am if we were to catch the flood tide current.
Now on the second morning you would think that there would be a nice sunny sunrise, noooo again. It was cloudy as first light came about and suddenly we found ourselves in some pretty thick fog. And, we kept seeing all these boats shooting out of the Newport harbor at full speed on the radar. It turns out it was the height of fishing season in Newport. Since it was open on Thrusday, Friday, and Saturday s only until the limit was caught, everyone must have been coming out that morning. Ron was calling out what he saw on the radar screen and I kept a sharp look out as we made our way through the fog. As we neared the jetty entrance, the fog backed off and visibility came up to ¾ of a mile until it continued to clear off. We were the only sailboat; let alone the only boat going in and not coming out. It was pretty funny as we would have four or five small boats shooting out around us. We held our ground and our side of the channel as we made our way into the harbor and the marina.
We sighed. We were out of Washington and half way down the coast of Oregon. The first leg completed and now weather to check before leaving for our next run. By the way, the above photo was the following seas somewhere off the Oregon coast on the second day.
22 September 2013
Joan-Marie aka Cricket
We left Garrison Bay on Monday morning, August 12th and picked Bedwell Harbour, South Pender Island, British Columbia as a check in point for Canadian Customs. It was a short hop across Haro Strait. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and a bit chilly and I found my wool socks again along with jeans, long underwear, fleece, heavier jacket, and gloves. Ron was in denial and had his shorts on; he kept telling me that it was summer and he was wearing shorts even if he had to wear a jacket.
Checking in was fast and easy; the docking process took longer as did anchoring later. These days when you arrive in Canada, you arrive at one of the designated ports of entry and check in by phone. There was no agent to personally greet you or come aboard the boat. Only one of us could get off the boat at this point; I could only get off the boat to help dock and had to jump back on while Ron found the phone. The official asked a few questions; in this case they asked Ron if we had any firearms on board, how much alcohol on board, and how long we were staying. That was pretty much it. We were given a number to keep for our records. We raised our Canadian courtesy flag and left the dock. (We fly our American flag off the stern and when you entered another country you fly their flag. It’s usually a smaller version and in our case flown on a line near the mast.)
We had gotten there at a good time because right after we checked in other boats started to arrive. We made a beeline for the anchorage just outside the marina, and, as usual we were slugs. We did our usual “that looks like a good place”, etc, etc, only to have someone beat us to the very spot we had spied. Slow learners. Oh, well, it looks good right here, drop it!
It was at this point that we started really noticing the “cars” that people are driving. Basically the boat is the house and the car is the dingy. We drive a late model economy size dingy with a four stroke engine that has six horses powering it. Nothing fancy, but it gets us where we need to go. We usually keep the dink, as we refer to it, on the forward deck and the engine secured on the stern rail, most configurations that you will find on sailboats. We occasionally tow it short distances, but always with the engine off.
But we started to notice the size of people’s car and the engines, lots of horses – in some cases they are half the size of the boat towing it; usually the power boats. But, one in particular caught our eye that evening, a sailboat. And, once we saw what was on board, we were, like WOW!
The sailboat was just a little longer than us. We were guessing forty feet. The dingy, or this case, the skiff was around eighteen feet and had an 80 horse powered engine on it. The skiff was rafted on the port side of the boat. We couldn’t figure out why until we saw the first dog, then the second, and finally the third-- one Saint Bernard, and two Newfoundlands. Our minds were busily thinking about dog food, water for the dogs and, huh, the size and frequency of, well, you know. Oh, and there were also three adults aboard. We now understood why they needed the big skiff and the big engine.
We both wanted to visit Butchart Gardens. We tinkered with the idea of anchoring behind the gardens in a nearby inlet, but had talked to people about there being lots of boats in the cove, so we decided to stay in one of the marinas close by in Brentwood. After being out for nearly ten days, it gave us the opportunity to top off our water tanks, do a couple loads of laundry, and replenish our fresh fruits and veggies.
Butchart Gardens was within walking distance of the marina and it was a warm, cloudy, and humid morning. We took our time wandering through each of the gardens often letting crowds of people go by us before we continued our tour. The history and the splendor of the blooms were incredible. It took years and a labor of love and several generations of the Butchart family to complete this once quarry into what is now one of the most visited and a National Historic Site of Canada (www.butchartgardens.com). The picture that is featured above is of the Sunken Garden. This picture does not even begin to display the true splendor.
We kicked ourselves for not researching better, but favorite Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn was scheduled to perform that evening. It was included in the price of the admission. The only catch was that you couldn’t get stamped to come back in for the evening 8:00 concert. We entered when they opened that morning to allow ourselves the day to slowly wander. We had planned on an early night so that we could take off to our next destination the next morning. Needless to say, as much as we kicked ourselves for missing the concert, I felt sorry for the folks that got rained on later that evening. The skies finally opened up in the early evening and being an outdoor venue, it had to be a wet one!
Our next stop was Montague, an anchorage on Galiano Island. We left later than planned from Brentwood and the rain followed us. We had ferries on our six as we made our way through the Gulf Islands. Ron had remembered this particular anchorage before as being quiet and not too many people around. August is a busy month. We found a spot in amongst the other boats and settled in for the night as the rain finally fizzled out to a beautiful sunset.
The weekend was upon us and we left the next morning, Friday, bound for Ganges on Salt Spring Island. Since it was Friday, we got an early start because we wanted to anchor out for the next two nights. And, with the upcoming weekend, we knew that the Saturday farmer’s market was a must-do on our list as well as everyone else’s.
As it turned out, it was delightful place with float planes landing and taxiing right next to us on the water, a hungry white swan that visited in the evening. . .we had some left over bread for her, and my favorite yummy tomatoes from the farmer’s market. We also enjoyed this incredible group of drummers, a marimba band called Ruwadzano. The group drummed traditional music of Zimbabwe and I couldn’t believe that they didn’t have a CD out. I went up asked as I would have bought one on the spot, but they are working on it.
After two days in Ganges, we looked at the calendar and it was time to think about heading back and checking in. We pulled out the charts and the one cruising guide we had and decided to head back to Pender Island, but this time to Port Browning, which is on the other side of the island from Bedwell Harbour, our first stop.
As it would turn out it was our favorite place. Although it had a small marina, it also had a great anchorage. The dingy ride was quick to get ashore and they had a great little pub where we discovered something called a Caesar, a drink that is, something along the lines of a Bloody Mary, but made with Calmato Juice. Ron has become a very proficient bartender!
It was time for this part of the cruising adventure to end. After two nights at Port Browning, we made our way back across to Friday Harbor to check ourselves back in to the good old U.S. of A. From there it was back to Port Townsend. We still had follow-up to do on our notorious engine adventure.
Time To Cruise
30 August 2013
My first reaction to my own writing is often, “Seriously, did I really write this?”
I read my first draft of this blog and thought I was going to fall asleep with the monotone drone that reminded me of the economics teacher (Ben Stein) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reading roll call. “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.” You get the picture. Rewrite time.
There is a certain amount of cruising that involves getting from point A to Point B, long distances, i.e. ocean crossings, short passages —a couple of or a few days – and little day jaunts that take you to a new destination each day or every few days. These little jaunts take you to places that you sometimes don’t want to leave or places where one night is enough. It all depends on your mind set at the time; do you want constant activity or a quiet place to hang with few boats and/or people around.
After twelve days at the dock in Port Townsend, it was time to make ourselves scarce and head out. We needed to see how things were working with the recent repairs and more importantly it was time to do a bit of adventuring. The fog had lifted relatively early at the dock on Monday, August 5th, however as we reached the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and, I use a capital “S” there; it is to be respected, it was still very foggy. There is a vast amount of ship traffic with four channels converging just outside of Port Townsend, which I refer to as the vortex. Our initial desired destination was Garrison Bay, which is adjacent to Westcott Bay near the top San Juan Island. (See the picture above, courtesy of Navionics.)
I mention this because last February, we had elected to upgrade our electronics while attending the Seattle Boat Show. This included our radar and chart plotter. In addition, we decided to add AIS or Automatic Identification System to the mix. This piece of equipment transmits and receives live data regarding vessel traffic so that other vessels can see you and you can see them. There is a registration/licensing process. It is a requirement for commercial vessels and not so much for pleasure, but anyone you talk to these days that owns a pleasure vessel, has installed the equipment. It integrates into our chart plotter as well as our VHF radio.
We had used the AIS leaving Astoria and as we eventfully worked our way into Port Townsend. It is one piece of electronic equipment that I would not live without these days on the water. On this particular day, we had visibility down to one quarter of a mile. In addition to keeping a watchful eye on the radar, the AIS alarm will go off when a vessel comes into a specific programmed range. I was blowing the manual fog horn every two minutes for 4-5 seconds. We could hear the ferries in the distance and around us even though we couldn’t physically see them. It made for an interesting couple of hours as I would be calling out “Thirty seconds until the next blast.” and a response of, “Roger, that”, and then it would be “Blasting” while trying to plug the ears at the same time.
Somewhere across the other side of the Strait, the fog got lighter and we could start to see a half mile, then a mile, until we had unlimited visibility. We did have one call from an outbound freighter who saw us on his AIS, checked in, and confirmed our course. We were working our way across a shipping channel at this point. At first, he was going to have us change our course, then changed his mind and had us stay on our course. We heard the freighter past our stern about 15 minutes later. It was eerie considering we couldn’t see the ship at all.
Our progress was slow that afternoon as were bucking a current as we made our way along side of Whidbey Island and further north. The wind wasn’t much help either. We realized that Garrison was a bit too far to make before sundown and decided to find our way into Griffin Bay, which is on the southern inside tip of San Juan Island.
We dropped the hook as the sun set and settled in for the night. There were a couple of other boats in the same anchorage, but it was a quiet place. Part of the beach is private from what I understand and expensive homes dot the shore with their own docks as well as a community dock that is filled with both power and sailboats. Further down there is a national park, which marks the location of the American Camp—more on that history later.
It was decision time the next morning. Where to next? Garrison Bay? Friday Harbor? We did know that we wanted to find a place to hang out for the upcoming weekend –it was only Tuesday at this point, but as it goes, anchorages tend to fill up early in the day around these parts. We decided to tuck into the south end of Shaw Island in Parks Bay for the night across from Friday Harbor. We were feeling lazy and it was about a little over an hour away and since it was getting near noon time, we figured we needed to get going if we were going to get anywhere that day.
As it turned out, it was a nice choice. It was sunny and warm and for the first time we had arrived somewhere rather early in the afternoon and had no agenda or anything in particular that needed our attention. Ron decided that it was 2:30 beer-o- time so we flopped on the deck reading for the next couple of hours.
Our next jaunt in the morning would take us to Friday Harbor. Again, we were feeling lazy and we weren’t going very far; all of about three miles this time across the channel. There had been the usual summer fog in the morning, so no hurry to get across.
Our plan was to stay just a night in Friday Harbor and then head around the corner to Garrison Bay via Mosquito Pass and Roche Harbor. Since we had been spending so much time thus far in marinas, it was a nice change of pace to be anchoring out every night. The dingy and outboard were getting us where we needed to go ashore.
Friday Harbor is one of those busier places in the San Juan Islands. But, let me back up. . .it is busy in general cruising in the Pacific Northwest nowadays, especially the last few times that I, Ron, we have done any cruising up here. It is not usual for it to look like a mini freeway of sailboats, powerboats, ferries, freighters, tugs, float planes, tour boats, – I know I am leaving something out—running around the islands in the various straits and coming to and fro from Canada.
Coming into Friday Harbor is one constantly moving target – you and everybody else, as listed above. The float planes are especially fun. I’m convinced that they like to have a little fun with the boats as they take off and land on the water.
We found a place to anchor in the very busy anchorage as someone was leaving and then ended up re-anchoring as we checked our distances between the boats anchored around us. As is customary – or at least for some – we stay on the boat usually for a couple of hours to make sure that the anchor is not going to drag and we are properly “set” before going ashore. We have a big Rocna anchor on the bow and it gets the job done. Eventually, we headed ashore to check out the town and picked up a few additional items at the grocery and hardware stores, as well as West Marine. It was a bit rolly well into the evening. It made for interesting entertainment as traffic was moving in and out of the marina and the ferries were going about their business. It seemed to settle down around ten o’clock.
So, finally we decided that Garrison Bay would be our place of choice for the weekend. It is a nice anchorage, although very crowded on any given day with good holding for the anchor, plenty of hiking, dingy trips, and Westcott Bay oysters.
But a quick side bar on anchoring-- we like to check out the neighborhood, so to speak before we pick a spot. This means you cruise the anchorage very slowly and find a spot in between boats while checking that you have plenty of room and depth and you won’t be swinging into anyone. It used to be that you could take your time with this process.
Nope, nada, not anymore. We are fast learners these days. It goes something like this:
JM: Just before entering the anchorage and coming up the companion way from below, “The Windlass (power) is on and here’s the control (hand held).
Ron: “Okay, you take the helm”—slowing the boat down and looking around.
JM: Already looking around, “That looks a good spot over there between the trawler and the sailboat. If we drop in between the two, parallel to their sterns, and then we should drop back enough. There should also be plenty of room and we won’t fall too far back on the boat behind us.”
Ron: “Yeah, that looks good. Try to steer towards the sailboat more and try to head more into the wind. I’m going up front to get everything ready. What’s our depth?”
JM: “Thirty-feet,” as Ron is moving to the bow.
JM: Oh, shit (to myself). Then yelling, “Hurry up, someone’s coming in and heading towards the same spot.”
Ron: “I’m going as fast as I can.”
Ron: Pointing toward the port side and motioning to me to head the boat that direction, “Neutral!”
JM: “Already in neutral!, Twenty-five feet!
Ron: “How much?” Looking around to make sure we are stopped.
JM: “Twenty-five feet, drop the damn anchor!”
And, so it goes. We were trying to anchor in Garrison and had two other boats come in around us and dropped their anchors while we still in the process. He who drops the anchor first has griping rights when the next person comes in, drops too close, and swings into them later to say ‘hello’. We realized that it was going to be close quarters for the weekend—mind you this was only Thursday – more people would be coming and going.
But, it was nice to be back in Garrsion as our mouths were watering for Westcott Bay Oysters. It was too late to go over that evening, but we did actually have an agenda for the next morning— at 11 am to dingy over to get oysters.
Obviously, we like oysters and when they are fresh and from right around the corner, there are wonderful. Crack them open, a little Tabasco, and, okay you get the picture. This is a you-pick-them-out- place, in that you walk up the dock, look in the fresh salt water sorting bins, pick what you want, weigh ‘em, take them over to the little office and pay. We also grabbed fresh clams for later that evening. Some of the best calms that we eaten in a very long time.
Since we were on a roll, we decided to take a dingy ride through Mosquito Pass up to Roche Harbor. It’s about two and a half miles.
Okay, so take Friday Harbor minus the ferries, but add really huge, and I mean really huge, expensive, yachts (that could qualify as ferries), one very crowded anchorage and plus one very busy US Customs dock. Totally chaos, and that’s just on the water! We wound our way through the anchorage, noted the long queue of boats checking in for the customs dock, and found the packed dingy dock.
Roche Harbor is a tourist attraction for both those folks on land and on the water. Rumor has it that you may find yachts owned by celebrities here on occasion. But, for the most part you will find both power and sail boats here, more the former than the latter. It has changed a lot during the years with the addition of shops and condos, but the hotel is there as is the marina. Haro Strait separates the island from the international waters into Canada.
The next day we elected to hike over from the dingy dock in Garrison Bay and as always, it is a nice hike. It’s about six miles round trip and it doesn’t make you feel guilty wolfing down a second ice cream cone in two days!
Garrison Bay also holds it own history with English Camp. Back in the 1859 there was an event called the Pig War over the boundary between the US and Canada. The result kept the international boundary in Haro Strait and the US retained the San Juan Islands. The British occupied this camp for twelve years and the National Park Service currently maintains it as a landmark. A few of the original buildings have been restored and remain and it is nice place to wander around and read the various markers that tells its history.
The American Camp is in Griffin Bay that I briefly mentioned before. Like the English Camp, it was occupied during the same time by the Americans.
We spent four days in Garrison relaxing and exploring, but it was time to move on.