19 December 2018 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
12 September 2018 | Santa Cruz
19 August 2018 | Eureka, CA
12 August 2018 | Coos Bay
18 June 2017 | Sgang Gwaay
30 May 2017 | Connis Cove
28 May 2017 | Hartley Bay
15 May 2017 | Glendale Cove
07 May 2017 | Squirrel Cove
29 April 2017 | Reed Point
25 January 2017 | Reed Point
29 September 2010 | Vancouver
21 July 2010 | Bellingham, WA
A Large White Woman on a Donkey
19 December 2018 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
We were off the coast of Sinaloa running south at night. The state of Sinaloa doesn't have the best reputation. They move a lot of drugs around. And they kill a lot of people there.
Tracey called in from the cockpit. "There is a boat approaching. Fast!" And sure enough there was a little white light closing in on us fast. Three guys in a panga came alongside.
No point in digging out the machete or the fire axe. Might as well see what they want. Tracey shifted to neutral.
Our Spanish skills are excellent. Tracey said, "Hola, Buenos noches." They said hello and hollered out "linea!" "linea!" and pointed their flashlights somewhere below the waterline. I turned on the deck light and shined our big spotlight down at the waterline as well. The underwater lights helped illuminate the area around the propellors.
They circled the boat in their panga. I circled the boat on deck shining the light down. No sign of any "linea". All was good.
We said "gracias." Not sure what for exactly but it is a happy Spanish word we know. They said "gracias." And they sped off into the night. They didn't bother to kill us.
We had felt a vibration a few minutes earlier. Checking the engines showed nothing abnormal, but we must have hit their long lines.
Yesterday, we arrived in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. We didn't really intend to, but we broke into the office of the Capitania de Puerto.
It's a time thing. We arrived there mid afternoon. The sign on the door says the office closes at 2:30. Tracey's iPhone said it was 3:23. But I'm very sharp. I knew the state of Nayarit is an hour behind Jalisco. We were in Nayarit, easily 5 miles out of Jalisco where it was 3:23. We still had seven minutes to check in.
I gave the door a little tug. It didn't open. So I gave it a larger tug. Mas fuerte! There was a loud noise and the double doors swung open. The bolt that secured the double doors together had popped out. The port captain's keys swung ominously from the lock on the inside. Whoops.
I wanted to turn around and go the other way. Fearless Tracey stuck her head in and said, "Hola. Buenos tardes!" The port captain appeared. In uniform. With his badge. Looking at the door that I had ripped open. He explained that his office is closed and normally closes at 3. "Should we come back tomorrow?", Tracey asked.
No. No. It is no problem he explained. He would check us in as he pulled his keys out of the door. Tracey did paperwork while I messed around on my iPhone checking world time zones trying to figure out why Nayarit is not in the dimension I thought it was in. I showed him my phone and asked if the local time was 2:30 or 3:30. 3:30 he explained. Very gracious. A nice man.
Everyone we meet in Mexico is nice. This is a beautiful country with wonderful people.
We are Spanish school dropouts, but most tolerate us. We were riding in a taxi with some friends the other night in Mazatlan. From the back seat they were asking if Mazatlan had been affected by hurricanes this year. The driver, Jose Luis, said sorry, but he doesn't understand English. I whipped out Google Translate and asked him in Spanish if any hurricanes had come to Mazatlan this year. I think he explained that Mazatlan was missed but Sergio had gone and whacked Culican to the north.
We drove along in silence for a while. I fired up Google Translate again and asked him, "Tuviste una gran dame blanca montando un burro esta ano en Mazatlan?" He looked at me funny and gestured for my phone. Clearly a translation error. But no, sure enough, in plain text I was asking if Mazatlan had been visited by a large white woman on a donkey this year.
Jose Luis saw me smiling and couldn't stop laughing. "Amigo. Amigo," he said.
It doesn't take that many words to be kind and offer friendship. Even when somebody runs over your fishing line or breaks open your door, they probably mean no malice. It is the season.
I see a panga anchored off our stern tonight with three guys fishing, just as they were last night. I think tomorrow we'll go over and offer them some home made Nanaimo bars. Because why not?
Wasn't Jesus a fisherman?
Oh yes and Nayarit is an hour behind Jalisco. Except for the bits around Puerto Vallarta. They recently aligned the time zones so tourists wouldn't get confused and do stupid stuff like miss their flights and break into the Port Captains' offices.
Flopping up the Beach
25 September 2018
I should probably be banging out a blog post every two days talking about the awesomeness of the grand adventure.
And it is awesome.
But I'm left mostly without words.
I can't do a blow by blow "Left San Simeon at O'dark thirty today and motored south into the black morning arriving Cojo anchorage after a calm rounding of the fearsome Point Conception." Those are just words. Nobody cares. Or perhaps I don't care to write about it.
We are reminded that we are a long way from a comfortable life commuting to and from work, binge watching some series or another to fill time until we go back to work again.
Yet we are comfortable. Our pace is relaxed. Weather is forecasted to blow 30? Let's stay another day in Monterey. We are still hoping to achieve boredom, but we are still a long way from that goal.
We have ripples off the transoms telling us the boat is alive, the sails are drawing and we are moving at speed, effortlessly, a thousand miles from home at six knots.
Brown Pelicans organize themselves into squadrons of five or six patrolling in lines because that seems to be what brown pelicans do when they aren't dive bombing in loud splats or sitting on the rocks soaking up the sun.
Little white birds that never seem to land, but catch a fish every time they dive, taking off again in a long horizontal sweep swallowing the fish and giving a little shake to dry the feathers. They swoop in huge flocks as the sun sets.
Humpback whales leave their watery world and launch their bodies into our airy world. Humans can imagine why. Only the whale really knows.
The coast is wild. Hard to believe that California is a populous place. Most of the coast is undeveloped, raw, rocky with a pounding surf turning the rocks slowly into sand. It must look much like it did when this was Mexico in the early 1800s with the possible exception of the odd nuclear power plant, oil platform, or rocket base.
Sea lions, like the whales, leap out of the water. Having a look at us as we go by.
A mola flops a pectoral fin on the surface unmoving as we approach, its thousand pound body unable or unwilling to dive below the surface. I am a giant sunfish. Go around.
Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in sunshine. Foster flying in and appearing magically on Pier 39 covering the distance from Vancouver in hours rather than weeks. Two different time scales perfectly synchronized for a few days.
Always there are great white sharks present and waiting to bite into a tasty snack. We've never seen one, of course, but we know they are there, Brief thoughts of hiring a diver in Santa Cruz to cut kelp from tangled prop rather than donning a tank.
Northern elephant seals on an offshore island flop up a pristine white beach like giant caterpillars. They breed on only four islands, two here in California and two more in Mexico. None of these islands has a place to rent a jetski, a hotel to stay in, a dock, a road, or a human settlement. On San Miguel we couldn't even find any human debris on the beach, no plastic, no floats, no old fish gear. Just beautiful white sand. Unnaturally natural. A spring with water flowing from the rocks and footprints of a fox that comes to drink.
Tiny popping shrimp that make me think perhaps my morning shit is effervescent until I realize the sound is coming from the hull and not the toilet bowl.
The awesomeness comes from the little things that creep in and touch the soul. Whales, foxes otters and molas are cool, but it is the wind and the waves that grip us and remind us of the vastness of the planet. Giant swells lift us and leave us wondering what winds created them how many hundreds of miles away. Winds pushed into low pressure we can't touch or see or feel but we take from them as we do from the sun that fills our batteries each day and makes our water and heats it up for warm showers.
And the human spirits lift us. Awesomely friendly people at every dock. Here have some crabs, we have plenty. Take a line for a fisherman, have a chat, "Do you have wheels, borrow my truck if you like." What? Do you even know my name?
And we do borrow a truck. From Jim, a fellow Manta owner in Monterey, an old friend we've known for 12 hours or more. We drive the long way to Ace Hardware in Carmel, 17 miles around Pebble Beach. It's highly civilized and reminds us that we don't want to be civilized. We give the keys back to Jim and plan not to drive a car again for a while. Though we do admire the floating community he and Andrea are part of which we pass through and sail on.
Dolphins appear and swim with us. Tracey cries out, "Good morning dolphins." Part of her world as surely as the cup of coffee she enjoys from her helm seat.
The whole experience transiting the coast is a little beyond description. We've done this before so we are able to relax and take it in without being anxious of what comes next. To just enjoy right now, right here is magical. Tomorrow is tomorrow and not really that relevant just now. Yesterday was wow. But today is today. Not all of it needs to be photographed or written about. It just is.
And perhaps most marvelous of all, maybe even the only thing that is really important, is to have someone to share it with who gets it all and wants to sail on with you. What more is there?
The Butter is Soft
12 September 2018 | Santa Cruz
So while everyone in Vancouver enjoyed a warm and wonderful summer, we have pretty much been stuck in some other season. The west coast of Vancouver Island and the coast of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California is often cold and foggy. As late as yesterday, I was still wearing a toque and two jackets surfing down to Santa Cruz from Half Moon Bay in winds gusting to 30 knots.
We swam in 21 degree C water in Barkley Sound; the water off central California is 13 degrees C.
My towel never really dries out. We generally don’t bother to put ice in the cooler in the cockpit.
We had a little warmth the day we rented a car and drove Noah and Foster down to Geekville a few miles inland, but on the boat it has been cool. The butter is perpetually hard.
It is our second summer without summer. Alaska in 2017 was a place for flannel-lined jeans not shorts. We hardly remember what summer is like.
I know this is generating a lot of sympathy from you climatically advantaged folks, but really you shouldn’t feel sorry for us. Today, everything changed.
Santa Cruz was 26 degrees C. We actually sweated a little on our afternoon walk. We ate dinner in the cockpit last night! The Wednesday night racing fleet is out sailing in shorts.
And tonight Tracey confirmed. The butter is soft. Not completely melted. But soft. We can smear it on bread without the bread tearing. A major milestone.
So be happy for us. From here on out our plan is torture folks back home with pictures of white sand beaches, palm trees, and tropical looking fish. You can hate us later. We expect to lose most of our friends on social media in the coming months.
But it’s not all celebratory. We picked up some kelp on the port prop and locked up the saildrive yesterday. I had to put on the dive gear and jump in the cold water to free it up this morning only to discover that whatever was there yesterday had fallen off overnight. Time for new prop zincs anyway.
Also this morning, the cruisers worst nightmare. Our vessel was boarded by an intruder while we were sleeping. I heard some shuffling over our bed and thought Tracey was outside dragging dive gear around. Instead, there was a 250 pound brown guy on the deck. He jumped in the water when I screamed at him. I think he was just enjoying the sun and didn’t really plan to steal anything.
Sailing at Night
19 August 2018 | Eureka, CA
My sister asked why do you guys always seem to sail at night?
It's a good question.
Sailing at night doesn't make a lot of sense. We have had no moon so visibility is near zero. Bombing along at six or seven knots, the first indication that there is a whale in front of us will be a loud crash. Fish boats roam around without any AIS indicating their position, heading, speed, and closest point of approach. Mostly they seem to want to hunt us down and run us over. There are dozens of different ways to get in a lot of trouble in hurry. It would be much better to sail in the daytime.
So why night?
It's really a problem with the way they designed the west coast of the US. They didn't build it with ports conveniently spaced 60 miles apart. Often we want to go 100 miles or more. Often a distance that cannot be covered in a day:
Neah Bay to Astoria: 153 miles
Astoria to Newport: 115 miles
Newport to Coos Bay: 92 miles
Coos Bay to Eureka: 180 miles
Eureka to San Francisco: 232 miles
And those aren't wimpy statute miles of 5280 feet. We're talking real nautical miles: 6076 feet long!
A few of those distances we could fit into daylight hours if we pushed hard, but there is another wrinkle. The way they designed the coast, they put bars in front of the ports. Imagine that. "Oh so boats will come in here. Let's put this shallow lump of sand across the entrance and then when the water flows out of the bay/river in a big ebb tide opposing the strong winds there will be steep, dangerous, breaking seas. What fun!" At the Columbia River bar, those seas can pile up to 60 feet high and there are 2000 vessels littered around the seabed there. Every port has a memorial to their lost mariners. The coast guard controls the bar and will close it in rough conditions. So we can plan on arriving at Coos Bay in 15 hours, but there is no guarantee that we can get into Coos Bay when we get there.
The best bar conditions tend to be at the end of the flood tide. So we try to time the arrival for that.
Once all the math is done, calculating wind speeds, wave heights, distances travelled, exit time, entrance times it turns out it's best to leave when the bar is happy and arrive at the next bar when it is happy. Then we are happy sailors. And oh yeah, it turns out we end up sailing in the middle of the night.
The conventional wisdom is that all of that is too much trouble and a lot of people go from Cape Flattery to San Francisco non-stop in 6 days and 6 nights and just skip the entire coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.
That's cool too, but we are enjoying our coastal explorations.
We have maybe another overnight or two between here and San Diego, but we are getting closer to the section of coast where they space the ports closer together and don't put as many bars in front of them. So it will be more day sailing the rest of the way.
In the meantime, I hold the belief that whales pop up in front of us all day long and we steer around them, but at night they hold their breath and stay below the surface.
Newport to Coos Bay
12 August 2018 | Coos Bay
So we spent most of the afternoon trying to slow down. Slack tide at Coos Bay was at 1530 and all the sail combinations seemed to have us arriving too early until we were down to just a jib as the winds increased.
Beautiful winds. Ocean winds. Not those finicky, gusty little bastards of the Salish Sea that go this way and that and puff and die. But rock steady winds. Slowly increasing. 8, 10, 12, 15, 20. Wing on wing without a jibe for hours on end with only a tweak here and there on the autopilot.
The kind of winds that remind us why we sail. As the seas built and built, the ass end lifted and we surfed a bit. Not a rager. Something gentle. Switch to manual steering a little kick and the surge that brings us down. No need to move the heaping fruit bowl off the table. Our first real ocean test of Salish Dragon was going well. We fine-tuned speed through 4 sets of reefs and were masters of our domain.
And on the radio “Securite” announcements from Coast Guard Station Coos Bay. Hazardous waves. The bar was closed to 18 footers. Then 20 footers, A couple hours later, 22 footers. Commercial boats compelled to execute safety plans and passengers must wear life jackets. But nothing for us. A stable 40 footer with a 21 foot beam. We would be OK.
Except for those inconsiderate puffing lumps of ocean mammalia. Humpies. Wall to wall across the horizon.
“Oh wow whales!”
No. It’s not like that.
These aren’t clever Orcas with eco-location who know exactly where they are. They’re clueless and carefree. They pop up wherever the hell they like.
It’s like driving down the road and a school bus falls out of the sky landing in front of you. A whale will be moving one direction, I steer around it and pops back up coming the other way.
Twice I had to jibe in a hurry - something we normally plan for and think about for some time before executing. Once, I had to start both engines and go full astern to avoid broadsiding a brainless baleen beast.
So be happy you only have to deal with texting pedestrian zombies stepping off the curb. One toot of the horn and they jump like rabbits. Last time we went to Mexico, these beasts sunk a 40 foot J-Boat we travelled with prompting a helicopter rescue.
Ah, our life is hard. But pity us not. We made it through the pod of pods with maybe 50 whales. We crossed the bar and got into Coos Bay. The rum bottle unbroken. Our nerves repairing.
OK. Perhaps more rum.
An Etiquette Question
30 June 2018
Struggling a little bit with this one and need some assistance from knowledgeable people on the internet where good advice is always worth the price.
We had a big sail away party last weekend. Rented the party room. Appetizers, drinks, a few dozen friends. It was a nice time.
One small problem. Apparently, the party room now closes at midnight and they forgot to mention this to us. Which was fine as we were mostly done around midnight anyway. We were just tidying up when Tracey opened the door which triggered an alarm. A loud blaring alarm.
There was no response from the property manager by phone. I imagine he prefers sleeping over taking calls from drunken partiers on Saturday nights.
Someone suggested I should disconnect the horn. I was happy to oblige jumping up on a chair. I removed the cover revealing a little electric horn but no easily disconnected wires.
The horn had an interesting shape. Kind of an inverted horn with a round rim sticking out like a cookie cutter.
I jumped down and grabbed a thick round slice of garlic sausage.
Indeed, the horn cuts like a cookie cutter as well.
And the little plug of sausage did a nice job of reducing the noise substantially, allowing us to put a few items in the fridge and tidy up a bit before turning out the lights and heading back to our place.
The next day, we did a thorough cleaning of the place swabbing out the kitchen, vacuuming the floors and leaving it better shape than we found it.
With one small exception. Two days after we returned the access fob, I remembered the little plug of garlic sausage stuck in the alarm.
Now I am unsure what to do. What is the proper etiquette when you've left a plug of sausage in the alarm horn in the complex's party room? Do you just leave it there as a service to the next guest who stays after midnight and triggers the alarm? Do you call the property manager and let him know you left your sausage stuck in his horn? Does garlic sausage gracefully dry out? Does it rot and go rancid? Will all the little ants crawling around the bar find the sausage and carry it away in little pieces?
Please advise. I am not sure what to do.