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!
Typical NW Pacific Sailing Conditions
19 July 2009 | Pacific Ocean- approaching Crescent City, Ca.
This is a good example of the normal sea conditions for the Pacific northwest in September. My brother Eldon, on his Choy Lee 40, s/v Halcyon, left Winchester Bay, Oregon and had plotted an intercept course meet up with us offshore. The plan was to "buddy boat" together to San Diego.
So, Rainer and I were night sailing along at 7+ knots in 30-35 knots of wind in typical northwesterlies, with accompanying following seas of 8-10 feet. These conditions are sometimes referred to as:"...being chased by a herd of white buffalo all night". All this and then at about 9:30 at night we got a call from the Coast Guard in Crescent City that my brother had been hit by a sudden wind shift which caused an accidental jybe. Apparently, he had suffered some rigging and sail damage as a result and had gone into Crescent City for repairs. "Would he like us to come on in and help him"? There was a bit of lag in VHF radio communication since the Coast Guard was relaying messages back and forth between Eldon and I. "Yes, he would appreciate the help." Remember, we are 53 nm offshore, in a gale, at night! I really did not want to take those sea conditions right square on the port beam all night! It was a good time to practice "heaving too", so we did. I told Rainer to hold onto something tight and then turned Andante back through the waves and wind from off the stern to point her into the seas. A pretty wild ride there for a few minutes! Rainer looked a little pale, even in the dark. Nothing else we could do, so we went to bed and got some rest. The following morning, the wind had let up a little bit and so we got back under sail for Crescent City.
From Crescent City to San Diego, we harbor-hopped with both boats which worked out well. Eldon and his crewman Brad had to hand steer all the way down the coast due to the lack of an autopilot, so crew exhaustion was a big issue for them. Besides, Eldon is a great cook!
Rainer & I head South Sept. 2008
19 July 2009 | Northwest Pacific Ocean
Jessica and I are currently in Cannon Beach at our litttle beach bungalow. We've been back from Mexico for a little over a month and expect to be here until at least October because of the hurricane season.
I suppose I should begin at the beginning as the saying goes...
......Rainer (that would be him in the picture) and I left Astoria, Oregon in early September of last year all loaded up with supplies for a non-stop trip from Astoria to San Diego. "Andante" is a 1990 Island Packet 38 cutter that I had the great fortune of being able to purchase new in 1990 (along with 15 years of payments, unfortunately). I've already logged about 17,000 nm under her keel prior to this trip, but that is another story.
Rainer is a family friend with the time and ability to crew with me going south. Jessica had other committments with the Cannon Beach Farmers Market until the 5th of October and had agreed to meet us in San Diego. Smart woman! She did not have to deal with all the nasty things mother nature can throw at you on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean, especially late in the summer and on this particular part of the northern coast.
Rainer and I sailed across the Columbia River bar with no problems, gained a little sea room, and turned left. The prevaling nearshore winds up here are predominalely northwest and have a tendency to start blowing around noon and build in strength until late in the evening. Sometimes, it starts to blow and does not let up for 2 or 3 days, often with gale force winds and seas to match. And then there is the other side of the coin, FOG! Generally with no wind, and we motored. Of course, we also got fog and wind which is exciting. We settled into the routine of watchstanding, eating, and sleeping.
Once upon a time.....
23 June 2009 | Cannon Beach, Oregon / La Paz, Mexico
Well, I have to start this off somewhere! Jessica and I left "Andante" on the hard ( dry storage in the boatyard) in La Paz for the hurricane season about two weeks ago. That would be us in the picture taken in La Paz along the malecon (promenade).
Our friend Rainer and I left Astoria, Oregon in the middle of September 2008 and sailed down the coast. Jessica met the boat in San Diego. Smart girl....didn't have to take the "whipping" mother nature can hand out (and generally does) on this particular stretch of the coast. Anyway that is a whole story in its own right, and I digress. Jessica has committed to filling in a lot of the gaps between Ensenada and La Paz. We have had an extraordinary trip, to date, and are now at our little beach home at Cannon Beach for the hurricane season... (more to come)!