01/23/2011, San Diego Harbor Island West Marina
We left Santa Barbara on Sunday January 9, as our last blog entry reported, around 12:30pm. There wasn't much wind and so we had to motor/sail out to Smuggler's on Santa Cruz Island. It was a bit rolly and so I got queasy, but Dennis put up some sails to stabilize the boat and I soon recovered. We didn't see any wildlife, just one freighter. We arrived at sunset and joined the one other boat in the anchorage. It was a quiet, restful, night - and we really needed that.
Monday we headed out at 5:00 am, hoping to arrive in Avalon on Catalina before sundown. We had light winds, on the nose, which made for slow going. So we headed off course to get a better angle on the wind, passing by Santa Barbara Island. The mainland was hidden from view all day by the marine layer - eerie, when you are trying to say goodbye. We had lots of freighters emerging from that thick layer as we neared San Pedro. The wind direction never changed in favor of a course to Avalon, so we headed for Cat Harbor on the back side of the island. As we approached the Harbor we saw two whales spouting on our starboard - finally something other than freighters! That change would leave us a longer leg to San Diego , so it would be another early morning start. Cat Harbor was very empty; we got a great mooring with a straight shot out of the harbor. We decided not to go ashore and had another restful night aboard.
Tuesday we left Cat Harbor at 4:00 am. We could see a cruise ship all lit up like Disneyland just ahead of us. It was a very calm morning and the island was beautifully backlit by lights from the mainland. We had 7-11 knots of wind after we cleared the island and got to sail, briefly, before the winds died and we were motorsailing again. But those of you who know Dennis know that we tried several sail combinations before we gave up on sailing. We had the A-symmetrical spinnaker up, then the drifter, but not enough wind even for those sails. As we passed by San Clemente Island we got our own personal airshow. We heard a thunderous noise approaching and looked up to see navy jets overhead. The first one made a radical turn just above us to go straight up - it was amazing to see. Didn't have the video camera close enough at hand! The next couple weren't quite as dramatic of turns, but fun nonetheless to watch. That got our juices flowing and we were restless, so we decided to hoist our new new mainsail staysail and determine the position for the track installation.
When I was down below preparing lunch we had a visit from a pod of dolphins. It was warming up. We were able to take off a couple layers. At 3:30 pm the wind clocked around and we were finally able to put up the spinnaker and sail, for about 90 minutes. As we reached Point Loma and headed into the San Diego harbor, we were greeted by helicopters circling overhead, another pod of dolphins and a beautiful red sunset. We were so relaxed - something we desperately needed after the last 6 months of hectic activity remodelling the house and making cruising plans.
But....there were more boat projects on our list that we intended to do in San Diego, so we would be there for a couple weeks before heading to Mexico.
01/09/2011, Santa Barbara
We have been in the Santa Barbara marina this past month and it has been nice to have the boat closer to home during our preparations for heading out. Some of our friends with special expertise were nearby to help and we could crash at home at night and leave projects midstream without having to clear a spot to make dinner and bed down for the night. Tomorrow we finally head south. We will take our routine 3 day route to San Diego (Smuggler's on Santa Cruz Island tomorrow night, Avalon on Catalina Monday night, and into San Diego on Tuesday). We will take the train up to Santa Barbara to close down the house and shuttle our cars to Long Beach (we are storing them at my parent's house), and then catch the train to San Diego. We expect to be in San Diego for a week or so, working on a few more projects and visting family there. Then at the first good weather window, we head to Baja and expect to have more interesting things to report!
We haven't left yet, but soon! Our house remodel is taking longer than we thought, but the big projects are completed. We are working on the interior finishing touches. We get up early each day to tile and paint. It is all turning out so nice, we will definitely be enticed to return and enjoy it at some point. But right now, we are getting anxious to get underway.
We moved out of our slip in Ventura. Libertad is in the boatyard for a check-up. In a few days we will bring it up to Santa Barbara to a transient slip. Having it closer to us will hopefully allow us to spend more time on boat projects alongside the house projects and get us ready to go.
As the weather gets colder, we are dreaming of heading south to the tropics.
10/25/2010, still home in Santa Barbara
It was with a little bit of regret that we read about the Baja Haha fleet leaving San Diego this morning, as we had originally intended for our extended cruise to start with that event. But about five weeks ago we assessed the projects remaining on our house remodel and for our boat preparation and determined we needed to give up on a firm departure date. Good decision....we need a couple more weeks, but hope to leave sometime in November.
Family and friends are interested in our itinerary and have asked for more details; some may be considering joining us on some leg of the trip. Our VERY ROUGH plan is to spend the first four months cruising Mexico, Central America, and South America as far as Ecuador, cruise the Galapagos in March, and then head out across the Pacific towards the Marquesas in April. We will connect up with others doing the "Puddle Jump" who are leaving from Ecuador so that we have some company during that crossing, sharing information on weather, fishing, and other items of interest over the radio. We will stay connected with those at home via Sailmail email and this website.
We will wander through the various island groups in the South Pacific and work our way to Australia and New Zealand by November of 2011. Then we will take a few months break, doing land travel in those two countries, flying home for a visit, and deciding if we are liking it well enough to continue the adventure. If all goes well, year 2 we will travel to the Med via Madagascar and the Red Sea. Year 3 we will head across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
But most of that is sheer speculation as it all depends on the wind, the weather, and if we are still having fun!
09/30/2010, still home in Santa Barbara
We bought *Libertad* nearly a decade ago and the lofty goal (inconceivable dream?) then was to cruise when we retired, perhaps circumnavigate. Thus our intention was to purchase a boat that would be up to the task and with our mostly local cruising during these 10 years, we are satisfied we made the right selection. Even so, at that time it was overwhelming to think about planning such an extensive cruise and now that our departure is rapidly nearing, I've been thinking back on how it all happened.
We spent the first couple years learning about our boat by cruising in the Channel Islands. We enhanced our sailing knowledge by joining the Santa Barbara Sail and Power Squadron (SBSPS), taking every squadron course that was offered and by participating in as many of the planned cruises as our busy work schedules would allow. We also read voraciously about the topic - 4 monthly magazines (Latitude 38, Sail, Cruising World, Practical Sailor) and many personal-story and reference books. Through all this we were dog-earing the pages in the reading material and noting in the margin items that needed to be on our "list": things to buy, things to research, things to learn. Visiting the boats of other squadron members also gave us good ideas. Together we picked away at this list over the years but it soon became clear that our approach to this task would be best served if we patterned it after our married life "partnership". So we divided the tasks to match our specific skill sets. This allowed each of us to focus on our individual tasks and make more progress. However, it did result in some unshared expertise which we plan to remedy with cross-training once we are under way and sharing tasks onboard.
Dennis is responsible for items related to the operation of the boat and navigation. This includes not only having working systems, but also secondary systems and spare parts for all of these. He approached the task with the philosophy that if you have it, you won't need it (thank goodness * Libertad* has lots of storage space!). For instance, for battery charging power we will have the Perkins engine, solar panels, a wind generator, a propeller shaft-driven alternator, and a portable gasoline powered generator. Squadron members who crewed aboard *Libertad* on the 2008 Baja Ha-Ha can appreciate these additions, having gotten lots of practice with hand steering and navigating with paper charts as we were unable to recharge the batteries when all we had was the Perkins and we lost the starter motor forcing us to turn off most electronics!! For steering we have an autopilot as well as a wind vane. We've also added a watermaker, freezer, sea anchor, a main staysail, various new running rigging, and a new set of sails.
I am responsible for items related to safety and communication. Some obvious items in these areas are boat and medical insurance (including emergency evacuation), flares, life raft, satellite phone, SSB radio with pactor modem for email, website for our pictures and blog, and of course webcams for us, our parents, and son so that we can call and "visit" them using Skype. As a part of this, I am developing our reference library. I've really enjoyed that part of my job - the new Jimmy Cornell book that was released this month just arrived.
And then there is our house for which we had numerous "deferred" maintenance issues as well as preparations to rent it -we split that list too. Dennis is in charge of the remodel projects and I'm in charge of downsizing so that we don't have to store so much while we are gone. Craigslist is my new friend.
We share the rest - such as entertainment, the galley, and creature comforts. I like to sew, so I'm busy making sail covers, winch covers, sail bags, bedding; I bought a new Sailrite machine and I love it although it will require a special (read LARGE) storage space. Dennis loves his music so he is working on installing speakers "in every room". We also plan on having "movie nights", so he will be installing a flat screen that can run DVD's off the laptop. I'm loading up my Kindle with reading material so we don't have to take as many paper books and can use that space for my sewing machine -see, it all works out. Dennis is deciding which musical instrument he'll learn how to play and doesn't take up too much room -fortunately drums are out of the question.
Here are some lessons we have learned along the way.
1. *You can't start too early.* While we wanted to purchase some of the equipment closer to our departure date so that we had the latest technology, it helped to know which items we needed in advance so that we could keep an eye on the market and focus our visits to the boat shows.
2. *The internet is indispensible.* We have spent hundreds of hours on our computers researching equipment, insurance plans, country visa and entry requirements, and the like. The majority of our purchases have been over the net as well.
3. *Plans change.* We invested a lot of time preparing for our two sweet dogs to make the trip with us. But we eventually had to make the hard, emotional, decision to leave them behind. They are not comfortable with boating life and it's just not fair to them to drag them along. Anyone interested in the companionship of two weimaraners for the next couple years? Anyone need some ramps, dog life vests, boat booties, books on 'pets aboard', and doggie tranquilizers?
4. *Some things are never off the list.* After we purchased an item we would feel good about taking something off the list, only to see a related item reappear later. For instance, the life raft we purchased in 2008 needed to be repacked, the EPIRB battery had to be checked and its hydrostatic release replaced, PDFs had to be rearmed. And of course, as we learned in the Cruise Planning course, this routine will never stop - we will need to have monthly and annual maintenance lists to stay on top of things.
We are still very busy with the preparations, but our target departure date is approaching and we are getting excited for this adventure to start. Joining SBSPS was one of the smartest decisions we made early on in our planning. We have learned so much from the courses and the other members. And we will certainly be glad to share our 'lists' with any of you planning a similar adventure!