It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an entry, but as 2020 comes to a close it is time to do the same with this Blog. This year the Pandemic seemed at times to be the “tail waging the dog”, but in June Cindy and I were finally able to once again bring the boat from Ensenada to California - but this year it was San Pedro (vs San Diego) where we were able to find an available berth. Once in San Pedro, we had a pretty steady stream of interested parties looking at FullCircle. Finally, on the first of December we went from having lookers to an offer, and on December 23, we performed an “Off-Shore Delivery”, and like that FullCircle was sold. That fact really hit me when the Captain that the Buyer had arranged to take the boat out said to me “wow I really like your boat”. The new Owner quickly corrected him that it was now his boat!
Yes, it was hard to step off FullCircle for the last time, but it makes it easier seeing the excitement and commitment that the new owner has for the boat. I know that he will take great care of FullCircle and provide the opportunity for many new adventures. As for Cindy and I, while this chapter of our cruising adventures has come to a close, you never know what a new year will bring…
While SV FullCircle was on it's way back across the Pacific, Cindy and I spent 3 weeks touring Australia. Since we only had three weeks, and Australia is so big there is no way to take in all it has to offer in that time-frame, we first had to decide how we would spend our time. That was difficult. While we were in Bundaberg, we took advantage of our time there by visiting the Great Barrier Reef. We knew we would be putting SV FullCircle on the transport ship in Brisbane, so we took advantage of our time there seeing the city and visiting both the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin Zoo), and the Kowala Sanctuary. Both of those were amazing experiences! For the remaining 3 weeks we spent time in Melbourne, Sydney and Uluru. We missed Northern Australia, which because of the time of year was both very hot and experiencing terrible flooding. We also missed Western Australia, SW Australia, and Tasmania.
Melbourne was a fabulous experience. It is a great city and we had a great time. We have always had good luck with the Free Walking Tours and Melbourne was no different. We learned a lot about the history of Melbourne and what allowed it to become the city it is today. Melbourne has some fantastic street art and more restaurants and bars than most any other city. They have taken advantage of all the back alley ways and turned them into amazing areas. While we were there the Australia Open was taking place, so everyone was talking tennis. We were lucky to meet up with our friends on SV Blue Summit and SV Lettin' Go for a great dinner at the marina where they were staying in downtown Melbourne Harbour. We spent a day at Brighton Beach (home of the brightly painted beach sheds) and did a coastal walk to the Luna Amusement Park, home to the oldest merry-go-round and organ in the world. We did most of our getting around by public transportation (trams, trains, buses and ferries), but we rented a car so we could drive a section of the Great Ocean Road. We started in ? home to Rip Curl and Billabong Surf Shops, and went all the way to the 12 Apostle's rock formation. That day the area saw record breaking high temperatures (116 F)! Luckily we had done most of the walking earlier in the day before it got too hot.
Sydney grew on us. As with Melbourne, we did the Free Walking Tour - actually we did both of them (two areas of town). While the Opera House, harbour and Bridge were iconic sites, there is a lot more to Sydney. We happened to be there for Australia Day, and got to participate in that spectacle. While Australia celebrates Australia Day, the aboriginals view the day as when they lost their land and culture. We saw both sides of the story, as well as those that were trying to bridge the gulf and move forward. Every country seems to have their version of this story. Amazingly within the sea of humanity, we happened to run into a friend from SV ? who was in town to leave on the TallShip Endeavour for Tasmania. We go to enjoy the fireworks together that night. There is quite the good natured competition between Sydney and Melbourne, and while Sydney is the biggest and has the Opera House, Harbour and Bridge, Melbourne has a lot going for itself to claim it's position as the top city in Australia.
Uluru is something you have to experience - it is far more than a geologic formation. You can tell people about the sites, the history, etc, but to understand what Uluru is you really have to experience it. We really had not had much of an introduction to Australia's native people and culture until Uluru. After much discussion, the Australian government is finally accepting the position of the aboriginal people that Uluru is their sacred place and that everyone should respect those cultural beliefs. As such this October, no one will be allowed to climb the mountain any more. The Park Service is now working closely with the aboriginal people to both respect their culture and give people the opportunity to experience the site. If you are not familiar with Uluru (or Ayer's Rock as named by the explorers) or Kata Juta, they are large geological formations in the center of Australia. But as I said above, they are so much more. We got to experience these amazing areas at both sun rise and sun set and at all times of the day. We were thankful that we took the guided tours vs just going to the sites ourselves, because of the historical and cultural insights we gained from the local people. Cindy and I had both become very impressed by the "dot paintings" that we had first seen in the museums in Melbourne and Sydney. We were fortunate to take a workshop from a local artist that gave us greater insight into these paintings, and how this relatively new medium relates to their culture. Respecting Uluru as a sacred place is respecting the aboriginal people, and when you respect the people, the place can take on a greater meaning to you.
Writing this post is difficult for me. Putting things in writing always has a way of making you face the reality.
As Cindy and I discussed our future cruising plans, it began to become clear that her primary goal is to be close to our kids and grandkids, and the move back across the Pacific was the first part of achieving that goal. While she wants to continue doing coastal cruising, she has no interest in doing any more long-distant voyaging. As we explored ways that we could meet her needs we talked through various scenarios. The one that seemed to most match with what she is comfortable doing is to return to the Pacific NorthWest. The cruising there is predominantly day sails in protected waters. The summer cruising season there matches our situation well - avoiding the hot summer in Texas. While Mexico is another option (we enjoyed our short time there), the issue of avoiding hurricanes has to be addressed (moving the boat back and forth), and the cruising season (winter - summers are just as hot as Texas) is not as good of a match for us.
Our experience in the PNW and SE Alaska was wonderful - although a good heater and a dry boat are a must to enjoy it! We also realized after talking with folks that had been cruising there for 5-15years, that there were enough anchorages that we could enjoy exploring the area, seeing new sites, and meeting new people for quite some time. That said, it isn’t a great match for a sailboat (often referred to as “Stick boats” or “Cave boats” in that area). We seldom sailed when we were there and only occasionally motor-sailed, but mostly we motored. With the tidal currents and the winds that can come down the channels (always seems to be on your nose), being able to motor at 8-12kts is more of a priority than sailing. As we talked through things it became clear that if the PNW is where we will spend out time, we would enjoy it more on a motor yacht (trawler, etc) than SV FullCircle. I believe that one of the reasons Cindy enjoys cruising and stuck with it for as long as she did is that SV FullCircle was built to do what we were doing. She is at home on the ocean and is outfitted to make it enjoyable. For that reason, if we are going to go back to the Pacific NW, it makes sense to get a boat that is made for those conditions.
And so, that brings us to our present day decision to sell SV FullCircle. It is my hope that there is someone out there that wants a proven boat to go ocean voyaging and that will find her as perfect a match as we have over the past 6 years!
Once on the docks at Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada, we began the process of getting SV FullCircle ready for the short (70nm) coastal hop up the coast to San Diego. In addition to putting sails back up, setting up all the sailing rigging, etc. We also wanted to take a day or so to make sure that all the systems were working properly before taking off. After bleeding the raw water system to get rid of an airlock, everything checked out good and we were ready to go. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating, with Northerly winds to 20-25kts and 2-3m swell. We made the decision to wait a day as things died off and then left in the evening with lighter winds forecast overnight. This allowed us one last visit to 240 Grill for their great fish and octopus tacos! We had a pleasant trip, motoring or motor-sailing with a semi-clear sky, making for pleasant star gazing on watch, and enough of a moon to allow us to see any fishing boats along the way.
We arrived at Shelter Island as the sun was coming up and pulled alongside the Customs Dock at the Harbor Patrol dock. Customs had changed their procedures from the information that I had, with the process all being done online via an “App” - assuming you had the ability to do that. As it turns out, the “App” being used to do the check-in is in beta. I got a message to call support and when I did they told me that the Govt Shutdown was impacting their ability to respond to issues. So we had to wait and do things the old fashion way - with people involved. An hour later two Customs Agent arrived at the boat thanking us for getting them out of the office! After clearing US Customs, we left the Customs dock with no Foreign Courtesy Flag flying - only the US flag flew from our stern. We had left the US (San Diego) for Ensenada almost to the day in 2015!
We had a 2 hr motor and motor-sail up San Diego Bay to Chula Vista Marina. While there are marinas in San Diego Bay that can accommodate catamarans our size, they are few and far between and there are more than enough local boaters to take up these slips leaving nothing for transit yachts like us. We found a space in Chula Vista Marina and were lucky to get it. About an hour after getting settled another round of wind and rain hit and we were glad to be on the dock. The rain and cold makes us believe we are back in the Pacific Northwest. We have been glad that we have a diesel heater to keep us warm and dry! Now if we could get some of that sunny, warm California weather!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we made the decision to give ourselves and FullCircle a break from long-distance voyaging and we both hitched rides back to the other side of the Pacific. We took an economy airline, while FullCircle took a first class trip back on MV Yacht Express. Yacht Express is DYT’s float-on, float-off yacht transport ship. We had heard nothing but good reports from other cruisers that used this service. While the cost is an initial slap in the face, the reality is that it is a great deal given the time saved as well as wear and tear on the boat (and crew). Everyone that I have talked to that has done it say they would do it again with no hesitation. Our experience was no different. We would not hesitate to do it again and highly recommend it to others.
We had an opportunity to board MV Yacht Express the day before our loading in Brisbane, with the decks dry and all boats sitting on their blockings. The Loading Master showed us around pointing out where FullCircle would sit. One of our friends (SV Exit Strategy) had already loaded in New Zealand, so we got to see their catamaran as well as a number of other large sailboats and motor vessels. Eleven boats loaded on with us in Brisbane the next morning, including our friends on SV Golden Glow, a full size tug and former USCG Cutter. When we arrived the ship had already taken on water and was sitting with it’s back doors open. We had to wait for one boat to unload, but then the Loading Master began calling us in one at a time. As we motored into MV Yacht Express, her crew were there to take our lines and bring us into position. With FullCircle tied along side a large motor yacht, we began the process of putting her to bed for the trip, shutting down all systems and securing everything from moving around. Once all the boats were aboard, we met with the Customs Agent and took care of the final paperwork. The divers were in the water starting the process of securing the boats. We were not allowed to stay on the boat while it blew ballast and pumped the decks dry (about a 3 hr process), so we said our good-byes and took off for the airport. MV Yacht Express left Brisbane the following day, going direct to Ensenada.
Fast-forward 3 weeks (I’ll catch you up on our land touring later) and we found ourselves in Ensenada (Sydney to Hawaii to San Diego by air and San Diego to Ensenada by bus with a walk across the border to clear Customs into Mexico) with friends from SV Exit Strategy and SV Golden Glow waiting for MV Yacht Express to arrive. Somehow our plans for lunch never materialized and after the second round of drinks we found ourselves at Houssong’s Bar - drinking more lunch. If you ever find yourself in Ensenada, make sure you check this place out. It is over 100 years old and has an amazing history - to which we tried our best to leave our mark! You will find gringos as well as locals - all having a great time celebrating what ever is important to them on that day. We finally made it to dinner at Chervicheria Oyster Bar, which along with 240 Grill are other don’t miss establishments in Ensenada!
The next morning we all arrived at the Port to go through the formalities of receiving and off-loading our boats. It was an amazing site to watch from the bridge deck (we couldn’t be on our own boats), as they flooded the decks and began to sink MV Yacht Express. The crew and divers worked to secure each of the boats as they floated off their blocking. We were then allowed onto our boats to get all the systems turned on so we could off-load. We were impressed with how clean the boat was (better than most stays in a boatyard on the hard). Each boat being off-loaded had been washed down that morning, but looking at the other boats they were also very clean. SV Golden Glow was first boat off. Once they moved the tug out of the way, we were next. As we said good-bye we headed for the Cruiseport Village Marina. About 12 other boats off-loaded in Ensenada, including SV Exit Strategy. The following day we watched as MV Yacht Express left the Port for Costa Rica before going through the Panama Canal and on to Port Everglades.