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Water & Wine
Sailor since the age of seven. Wine importer. Returning to the ocean & sailing July 2013, living aboard a Catalina 42 in Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro, CA. Working, wandering, wondering, sailing as much as possible.
Circumnavigation Day 5: Back to America
Tom, sunny skies, stiff wind from the west, whitecaps, building swell
12/09/2014, Fourth of July Cove to Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro

We knew when we left we'd be coming back, but on the day we were supposed to, we kept finding things to do, places to explore, seemingly, reasons not to leave. Among the most interesting and lovely was a little chalk cave in the back of a white cliff walled cove we took the dinghy over to. But eventually, we had to go, and headed out before sunset.

Back in Cabrillo Marina we put put presents around a palm frond we found on Catalina that was decorated with some lights and one ornament in the shape of a sea star we had baked the night before. It felt like quite a perfect setting to exchange gifts and thanks for so much we'd experienced and found together, including the Christmas present from Miranda two years ago telling me that "Home is wherever the wind takes you."

I'm going to miss Michelle more than other times we've said "until next time," but am thankful for a few quiet days to replay, absorb, consider, and be thankful for her and this experience. I'm feeling extraordinarily humble and thankful.

Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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Circumnavigation Day 4: Closing the circle
Tom, sunny with a nice breeze from the west, calm seas
12/09/2014, Avalon to 4th of July Cove

Today was our fourth straight day off the grid and on the water; all water we brought along, all electricity we generated ourselves. I've found living aboard the last 18 months that living a simplified lifestyle brings a lot of clarity to self and surroundings. That is definitely taken up a notch moving past uninhabited stretches completely disconnected from modern things as basic as a water and electrical system. And Avalon didn't fit that feel.

After a quick and nice breakfast at Jack's, we headed back towards the Isthmus area early. It was the warmest day yet, and we got to enjoy being up on deck without being completely bundled up. Before long we were approaching the Isthmus, and passing the spot on the island where we anchored our first night to complete the circumnavigation before heading for an empty Fourth of July Cove for the evening. It is really a beautiful little place, surrounded by cliffs and tucked in behind several points and other coves that give it great protection from prevailing westerly winds and swells. The quiet isolation of it felt much more in line with our mood.

We spent the day taking the dinghy around the little coves, walking around the quieter parts of the island, finally finding a tree we could climb into and enjoy some poetry while the sun set. It was a quiet, reflective and really quite magical day. But the lights of Los Angeles were 24 miles across the ocean, and tomorrow would draw us back to what the locals of the little village of Two Harbors refer to as "America." More than ever before, I understood the sentiment.

Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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Circumnavigation Day 3: Around the East End
Tom, sunny with nice following wind and seas
12/09/2014, Cat Harbor to Avalon, Catalina Island

I'm a few days behind updating the last bit of our circumnav of Catalina Island, and am doing so from my home port of Cabrillo Marina.

Day 3 started out warm, sunny, and only a very light breeze. Having not sailed the first two days due to wind conditions (strong on our nose on Day 1, and no wind on Day 2), we decided to put up the sails and see if the wind would pick up as we headed out of Catalina Harbor.

It turned out to be a great way to show Michelle some of the more subtle aspects of wind/sail dynamics. Our route had us going DDW (dead down wind), but the wind was so light and the swell following so that Windrunner would, with the slightest of breeze, begin to move as fast as the wind, emptying the sails and stalling the boat. So, we discussed true wind vs. apparent wind, and shifted course so the wind would come off our stern quarter. In essence, we changed the direction the boat was going so that each bit of wind would make it move through the wind faster, thereby actually generating apparent wind, and enable us to sail faster.

It was very cool how Michelle got it in her own way that was not at all how I have ever heard it explained nor understood it, but she got exactly the essence of it. In all the years I've known her as friend, one of the things I've most enjoyed in our conversations is how she is consistently like the kid in math class who comes to the right answer in a way that is unlike it is taught. One of the many ways I feel expanded through conversation with her, and one of the many reasons I enjoy her company so much.

The south side of Catalina really is much more rugged and wild and primitive looking than the much more accessible north side. It is really striking, and it was great to be able to turn on Otto the auto-pilot as the wind built up to 13kn, and sit on the deck together talking and taking in the stunning beauty of that side of the island. It was one of those afternoons that makes sailing beyond so much more special than sticking to the normal routes, coves, anchorages and moorings. We felt very lucky for the experience.

The sun began to set just as we rounded Church Rock and the east end. I was at the helm of Winerunner for the rounding of the west end, so this was Michelle's well deserved turn to round the other end. With the sun setting on the south side of the east end, we came around the north side to an absolutely stunning moon rise; massive and orange and slow-rising, it was a spectacular way to enter into the busy port town of Avalon.

After mooring, we took the dinghy into the town of Avalon and hit the famous Marlin Club for a couple of beers, a game of pool (she beat me again!), and a pic with our heads through the holds of the famous Marlin Club "Mermaid and Merman" paintings (which you will not see posted here or elsewhere...). While Avalon is a nice and fun town, my previous visits have always made me appreciate and miss Two Harbors that much more. Michelle agreed, and we were both thankful that tomorrow we would be completing our circumnavigation back at the Isthmus.

Catalina Island, Circumnavigation, Catalina 42, Windrunner, Cherry Cove, Little Harbor, Tom & Michel
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The best terrible anchorage ever
Tom, overcast and still
12/06/2014, Catalina Harbor, Catalina Island

This morning, after working for a few hours, Michelle and I pulled anchor and headed for the West End, on our way to Little Harbor. Skies were overcast and the wind was so still the ocean was like a mirror. Past dolphins and sea lions, we rounded Arrow Point and saw the West End in front of us. Following the coast as the 1300' peaks tumble away to this tiny point that fades into the ocean is humbling. To round the point and see the wild dramatic south side of the island and realize that if we turned right, we wouldn't see land until we hit Hawaii some 2.5 weeks later, was awe-inspiring. Wow.

Given that Cherry Cove was empty last night and it is one of the more accessible coves, we thought there was a chance the quite remote Little Harbor would be just ours. On approach we saw another sailboat in the little harbor behind the natural jetty. When we circled around to see where we could anchor in the same little space, the other boat captain (officially, and forever known as Captain Ass Hat) tells me he has 80' of chain down in 20' of water and no second anchor set. Basically, We need to give him wide-enough leeway to allow for a 360 degree turn on an 80' radius, which means he's basically taken all of the sheltered side of the little harbor for himself. We make an anchor closer to the shoal than I'd normally like, but the winds and swells are pushing us away from them. We made sure the anchor was set, then Michelle and I headed for the shore.

When we returned we found that both boats had turned around due to a very strong low tide. Windrunner was uncomfortably close to the jetty, so we pulled up anchor, swung around to another less protected area and dropped anchor again. But this didn't feel any better, so we pulled up anchor again and headed to Cat Harbor where we are now. It was pretty high tension experience. Michelle was really great though she'd never been through anything like that before, even handling the helm as we were fairly close to the rocks at one point.

It was a terrible anchoring in Little Harbor - difficult, lots of stress, etc., and all because of Captain Ass Hat. But, it was the best terrible anchorage ever; such an awesome time with Michelle in an unbelievable setting. A really special day.

Catalina Island, Circumnavigation, Catalina 42, Windrunner, Cherry Cove, Little Harbor, Tom & Michel
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Day 1: San Pedro to Cherry Cove
Tom, clear and breezy
12/06/2014, Cherry Cove, Catalina Island

Thursday the sun came out for the first time in several days and we set out across the San Pedro Channel 23 miles to Cherry Cove on Santa Catalina Island. The day had nice sun and really nice wind, which was, unfortunately, coming from the direction of our destination. So, we had to decide to motor the first leg of our trip and arrive with a bit of light left, or sail, tacking the entire way and get there long after dark. So, motor we did. It felt like a waste of a good breeze, but practicality outweighed the desire to always use cloth rather than diesel when possible.

When we arrived, we took the dinghy over to Two Harbors only to find everything was shut down for the staff holiday party, which we could see and hear going on up the hill at Banning House. These are hearty people here in this little village as attested to by the fact that everyone who was supposed to be up at sunrise manning the cantina and general store, were up and happy.

Dinner was a nice pasta, sausage, artichokes and olives in a white wine sauce with some slightly burnt garlic bread (Oops!). Pretty darn nice galley grub!

We've put in some work this morning with a cup of good coffee, and are about to pull up the anchor and head around the west end, out into real, open Pacific Ocean. Pretty exciting!

T & M

Liveaboard, California, Catalina 42, sailboat, San Pedro, wine, live aboard, sailing
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Weather windows
Tom, clearing skies
12/04/2014, Cabrillo Marina

The best made plans...

Michelle's flight was due to arrive by 10AM and me have the boat ready except for one quit trip up the mast by her, then we were to shove off on our Catalina Circumnavigation yesterday about noon. Flight delays and weather that cleared about 12 hours after forecast had us in harbor overnight. That means we skip one of our planned cove stops on the trip to get the day back. That's a little disappointing, but in the overall scheme of things, we've got a beautiful day with expanding sunshine as we make our way across to Cherry Cove.

Michelle took her first trip up the mast this morning. She's been excited about doing it for a while, and finally got to go. Former gymnast and junkie for working with tools, she was in heaven 30' up removing a huge old antenna from the radar perch. And I was in heaven also, because I didn't have to go up the mast. :-)

Next post will be from Catalina!!

Catalina Island, Circumnavigation, Catalina 42, Windrunner, Cherry Cove, Little Harbor, Tom & Michel
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