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.