Crescent City to San Diego
31 July 2009
The photo above is of Eldon and Brad on board s/v Halycon somewhere off the California coast on one of the nicer days we had.
From Crescent City south to San Diego we pretty much daysailed or had reasonable "overnighters" so that Eldon and Brad could get a break from hand steering. Andante has a big below deck autopilot, so Rainer and I didn't need to contend with the physical exhaustion as a result of hand steering. We experienced a great deal of fog and sloppy seas for most of the trip. One night Eldon, below in his bunk, sensed the wind and seas coming from the opposite side of the boat while Brad was on watch. He raced up on deck to find that Brad had lost visual sight of Andante's stern running light in the fog, got disoriented, saw another white light and started following it. Unfortunately, "it" was a commercial fishing boat going north. Halycon was headed right back up north where she started from. Eldon told me he did not sleep much the next few nights and he looked it. Ft. Bragg, Ca. and Half-Moon Bay, Ca. were both real difficult to navigate into the harbors in the heavy fog. At least we didn't have to worry about crossing any of the river entrance "bars" we have on the Washington and Oregon Coasts. It's probably a good time to admit to having led a prior life operating Coast Guard surf rescue boats up and down the west coast and of ending my career as a Chief Boatswain Mate and an instructor teaching young men and women how not to roll boats in the surf. The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve treated me well, but that was another lifetime, and another story. The retirement benefits, specifically medical insurance, is what has permitted Jessica and I to embark earlier than planned on this adventure and to be able share it with all our friends and family. .........anyway, my coast guard search and rescue experiences gave me lots of hours with my face glued to a radar screen and honed my navigational skills so dealing with fog was no "deal breaker", but did require lots of patience.
We skipped San Francisco all together. It is a long ways in and a long ways back out and rough all the way coming and going. We all agreed there really was nothing we needed to see there. Cape Mendicino was a non-event, but we had to wait about four days anchored at Pt. San Luis, Ca. for the wind and sea conditions to lay down enough at Point Conception to get around it safely. Pt. Conception is known as the "Cape Horn" of the Pacific, and is a reputation rightfully earned. 40-45 knot winds and 20-30 foot seas are discouraging to most of the prudent mariners I know. We waited! We waited and we listened to the VHF radio weather reports and we waited some more. Finally, the conditions moderated until they were forecasting 15-20 knots and 6-8 foot following seas. Perfect! We went and it ended up being a non event for the most part. In fact, we sailed and then motorsailed most of the night down through all the offshore oil drilling rigs and their supply vessels. All those bright lights can be very deceiving as well as accurately determining distances at night on the water. Rainer woke me with a concern that a ship was bearing right down on us on a collision course. Believe me, that will get the captain awake and on deck in an instant! It turned out to be a drilling rig eight miles by radar directly on the bow, but the physical amount of high intensity lighting as well as the physical size of the platform and derrick made it look like it was right on top of us. Good job, Rainer!
We worked our way down the California coast and ducked into port every few days to wait out poor weather, or just because we wanted to, until we arrived at Marina Del Rey, which is just north of Los Angeles. We spent a few days there and said "Bon Voyage" to Brad and Rainer who started home on the Amtrak train back to Portland. Eldon and I single-handed on down to San Diego on our respective boats. It really is only about 100 nm and a few short day trips to get there from Los Angeles. I did catch a nice little Tuna that Eldon and I had for dinner in Oceanside. We tried to anchor up and raft together wherever possible on this entire voyage and this worked out well. Travelling together like this provided a great deal of relief for our father, who we tried to keep posted as to our progress as much as possible. Incidentally, Eldon, our father (Bud), and I sailed Andante on a 21 day crossing from Honolulu, Hawaii to Astoria, Oregon in June and July of 2000. Dad was nearly 80 on that trip and had never done anything like that before in his life. We had an incredible trip!
We bounced around from 3-day free anchorages in San Diego bay until there was space for us in the A-9 anchorage near the Coast Guard Base and airport. Cruisers can stay in this anchorage free for up to 90 days by renewing a 30 day permit up to three times.
Jessica had by this time finished up her commitment of organizing the bands and music for the Cannon Beach, Oregon Farmers Market and flew down to meet me. We were anxious to get into Mexico!