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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

8/30 The case of the stolen outboard.

When we returned to home after our day of diving we wanted to take advantage of having all our dive gear out and set up in order for Bill to do a little underwater maintenance on our home. We were tired and cold and I know for a fact Bill would have loved to skip the whole thing. As we were getting everything ready for him to slip into the water he looked up at the piece of hardboard we have mounted on our rail and calmly asked "where is our outboard?"

The last time we looked there was a 8 horse Yamaha 2stroke engine attached. Right there on the rail with a custom swing arm attached to our lovely arch by pulleys so we could lower and raise it on and off our dingy. The board was empty. I mutely peered into the depth with the last of my hope. Nope the dingy engine was gone!

We always keep it on our starboard aft rail because we always tie up on our port side. Keeps it away from busy fingers. We also always keep it locked in place but barely 48 hours ago we cut the lock off with our bolt cutters because the lock was hopelessly ruined from the salt spray on our passage down. Now the motor was gone and we were sick. This was going to cost a bundle because we really cant go on to Mexico without an engine for the dink.

So, we finished the dive work and called the Harbor Patrol. There was little chance we would ever see it again since we we scheduled to leave in little over 24 hours. Plus this was going to mess with our time we had to spend with my mom who was flying in the next morning. Damn! If you have ever been robbed you will know the feelings: anger, resentment, regrets. Could have should have would have!

The next morning I happened to stop to talk with a neighbor, Gary on Sugar who as I told the story of our stolen engine went on to say that he had watched as a fellow with an outboard cart wearing a work uniform came to our boat and loaded up our engine. He even gave it some thought when he realized that it wasn't Bill but assumed we were having engine problems and where sending it out for service. I returned to our boat and gave Bill the new information but again figured that someone had picked us out for a target and had come well prepared.

A short time later Bill walked the rented dive gear back and while he was gone my mom called having arrived from the airport. As i walked up to let her in the gate I met Bill returning from the dive shop. He explained to me he had noticed an outboard lying on the deck of the boat next to us and had a hunch. He stopped in at the office and asked them to call the owner of the boat next door and ask if he had scheduled any maintenance on his outboard.

When he got back to the boat both mom and Dianna where here and we were all busy talking and visiting. Bill kept looking at the boat next door he kept thinking and looking and thinking some more. There was no motor there now. Was there really ever one laying there? Still waiting to hear back from the Harbor office some people came up to the boat next door so Bill went to talk to them. No, they didn't have a motor on deck and didn't have any work scheduled. There was really only one guy around that did that kind of work and gave us his name and his number. They also added that there was really only one guy around dumb enough to make that kind of mistake and this guy was it.

So we had calls out to the boat next door hoping to hear back and we had the harbor office working on it and we now left a message for the shop guy in question. We took off to do some grocery shopping and get some lunch. While eating lunch we got a call back. Yes he had picked up an outboard. Was it hanging on the starboard rail? Was it a two stroke 8 horse Yamaha? Did it need work. What slip was it? Well I fixed your carburetor so who is going to pay for it?

Turns out he was supposed to pick up another engine from another sailboat. Not the power boat Bill had originally gotten the hunch from. If we had left this morning like we had originally planned we would have sailed away from our engine. Newly tuned up and at some point it would have been returned to an empty slip. Or perhaps another boat would have been here by then. It may not have been discovered until the owner with the other motor tried to figure out how come his engine wasn't working. And the dumb and dumber guy would have insisted that he had done the work! Who knows how long it would have taken to figure the whole thing out. In the end the guy even called me on the phone, still confused, starting the conversation with "there has been a horrible mistake and wanting to know when we needed our engine back. Thinking I was the other guys who where likely going to be mad because there was no way the guy could pick up their engine and return it fixed by this evening.

I have no idea how this would have worked itself out. And we are still a bit stunned by the whole thing and the specter of having to replace it filled in by the immense emotion of being robbed followed by the paths our mind took trying to figure out how someone could possibly take the wrong engine form the wrong boat then fix it and ask to be paid. Oh well, in the end the guys shop was in Goleta where our son Josh lives so he picked it up and is delivering it, newly tuned up, for free. We are all going out for Mexican food to celebrate our windfall, Bills hunch and our amazing good luck. Kat

8/30 Diving is not like riding a bike!

Yesterday we went diving for the first time in over six years. I kept telling myself that it would all come back. It did but it is definitely not like riding a bike. On a bike if I loose my balance I can put my foot down and try again. Or if I wipe out on a curb I might scrape some skin off my shins but I am pretty unlikely to drown. The last time we dove was at the Hawaiian end of our trip on Western Grace in 2004. We crewed aboard from Cabo to Honolulu for what was in essence a 23 day ocean crossing question that we had to ask ourselves before we dove in and bought our own boat. There in Hawaii we dove with the huge turtles and it was wonderful. Since then we have been so busy getting ready for our life as cruisers that we let our diving skills languish in a locker somewhere.

Yesterdays dive trip was very different. The trip itself was lovely and the excursion company we chose was first rate. The Conception is a great excursion/dive boat. The lower level is all fitted out into bunks for multi day trips and the upper level has a large aft deck for diving and kayak launching and has a roomy cabin house with big tables and a cook!
We showed up at the dive boat at 6am. Turns out the trip wasn’t scheduled until 8. I tip toed below and found an empty bunk for a short nap then promptly tried to break my left hand when I woke up and stepped out and forgot that I had crawled up when I climbed in.
There where about 30 people aboard; nine divers and the rest aboard for their own kayaking adventure. We all ate breakfast, visited and watched the wildlife during the two hour trip out to Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. For bonus we were joined by hundreds of the local dolphins. At about our half way point they began to join us. We could see them around us in for as far as the eye could see. They played rolling and jumping in the bow wake and the big rolling stern wake for close to half an hour.
The big boat drove right into the Painted cave so we could all have a look around the outer chamber and breathe in the astringent odor of sea lions, fish and guano. Then it was show time! We all scurried around like ants, dive gear and kayaks everywhere while we all got busy gearing up for our own personal adventures.

So, what was it like diving again? I persevered. That is about the best I can say for my diving talents. The first dive started off with stepping into the sea in full gear. Now I have done shore dives before where I walked gently in and I have dove from smaller boats where I rolled in, and I have even stepped in from a dive platform. Here there was small door in the bow of the big boat which I was supposed to walk off of into the sea with like 8o pounds of stuff strapped to my back. It looked about 30 feet down!!! It was in fact only about 6 feet but it sure looked like a long way down and I felt like a little girl standing on the high dive for the first time. One hand on my regulator, one hand holding my mask in place, one giant step for Kat and one big splash and I was treading water in 70 feet of water.

Now if you have never gone diving before the real trick of the whole shebang is buoyancy. You wear a huge vest, a buoyancy compensator that you fill with air and then release it as you go down or go up in order to keep yourself where you want to be. In theory that’s what gives you control as you move relatively weightlessly through the water. Let out too much air and you drop like a stone. Keep or put too much air in and you rise out of the water like a surfacing submarine.
I managed to not be able to get this chubby body under the surface at all at first. Just floating along like a spastic seal struggling to go deeper. I flailed and grabbed at gear pushing and pressing buttons while struggling to release more air. Then finally I dove down head first as hard as I could but still bobbed to the surface. Eventually I made it down about 25 feet but the exertion and worry had me hyperventilating so badly that I had to surface to catch my breath and calm down. Bill was doing some of his own struggling but was getting along much better than I. He followed me to the surface though and we regrouped and headed to shallower water. My mind told me it would definitely be better to continue my flailing in something less than 70 feet.

After some brief work on our weights things were definitely better. This time though once under and swimming along I turned around and couldn’t find Bill. Rule number one of diving: always dive with a dive buddy. I did a 360, then swam back looking through the kicked up murk. Another 360, getting a teensy bit worried by now but no sign of Bill. Still searching for Bill or at least some bubbles I checked my depth and ascended to the surface. I managed to make the surface relatively under control and gave the boat an OK sign. While scanning the area for Bill I was trying to quickly decide do I holler now and say I cant find my dive buddy? It had really only been a few minutes so it seemed better to give it a minute at least. Sure enough I saw his bubbles and in just another moment Bill joined me on the surface. We quickly checked in and regrouped and again down we went.

The rest of the dive wasn’t much better but we did manage to get safely down and reasonably steady as we checked out the rock ledge nearby. By the end I knew I must be doing a bit better because I had begun to notice how cold it was instead of just focusing on keeping my chubby butt somewhat level and my breathing even and calm. We hauled out after either a very short or a very long 20 minutes of bottom time and took a nice break back on the dive deck.

Our second dive was much better! I actually began looking at the fish and the other marine life. In time I was wishing that we were doing less rolling around constantly checking to be sure we were still together and more time in a forward path of weightless motion enjoying the beauty of the ocean.
Once Mom flies home we are going to Catalina’s’ Marine Conservation Park for more practice. Wish me luck! Kat

Sunday, August 29, 2010

8/28 Dolphins in Pelican Bay

Other than one power boat we were alone in Pelican Bay the second night of our R&R on Santa Cruz Island. Island Bound sat bouncing lightly on the swell tucked in close to the cliffs. As the sun dropped behind the Santa Cruz Island Bill called me on deck to watch the pelicans dive for their dinner. The bay was alive with thousands of small bait fish rolling and skipping along the surface all around us. The pelicans were lovely to watch as they hit with a splash again and again in search of their dinner. They were wary and would shy off at any noise or movement so we stayed still and quiet in the cockpit. They would fly into the bay, circling then seem to shorten themselves, cock their heads and dive strait down into the darkening water. Off in the distance near the west end of our cove we could see dolphins as they cruised the bait fish too.

Eventually we were forced in by the mosquitoes. A short time later as I lay on our bunk reading Bill called to me again, “dolphins!” They were so close that as I grabbed for a sweater I could hear their clicking and calling coming right through the hull of our home. I hurried up the companionway stairs straining for any other sounds.

As I stepped into the cockpit the waters around us were quiet again. There was no moon in the sky and it had gotten much darker since the pelicans were diving. It was hard to see in the darkness but then off in the distance I could see them moving towards us. I stood silent and still I could hear their breathing and the breaking water as they moved closer to Island Bound. There were several dozen now in the cove with us totally focused on the bait fish around us. They would swim by and then off into the night then come around again for another pass by the boat. The darkness seemed to open up around them as they neared, water rolling off their shiny backs as they fed.

Eventually Bill was driven below by the bugs but I was not ready to give up the moment and so stayed and swatted as I watched. Over a craggy cliff to my east a nearly full moon was slowly rising as I stood quietly in the darkness. The moonlight unfolded until finally there was a huge golden face shining a thick bright streak across the dark waters. The moonlit water now shimmered and glistened off the wet backs of the porpoises as they passed. They would near in a pack, rising and falling along the surface as they fed. Some jumped clear out of the water with a twist. Their soft splashing sounds moving towards me as they neared and then off again.

Finally the night was still. The neighboring boat was completely dark and quiet off to my side. The rising path of the moon that had slowly opened up the world around me stared down as the mosquitoes buzzed my head. The dolphins had moved on and out of our cove. With a sigh I quickly headed down again into the cabin and back to my book.

The next morning we dropped the dink in the water to do a little sight seeing. We could see dolphins in the distance as we headed east around the edge of the bay. I thought we would scare them off with the little outboard motor but instead we were soon joined by a handful off our bow. It was clear they knew we were there as they deliberately slowed to match our speed. We slowed they slowed, we sped up and they quickly moved into our bow wake. They were almost close enough to touch.

Soon there were a dozen or more close in. We could see many others in groups off in every direction in the distance. The ones who first joined us broke off as our engine died. Then as it coughed back to life and we sped up again they swam back into view. After a few minutes sadly (with the outboard acting up again) we decided to head towards home. We slowly dropped back and turned west again back to our cove.

Our days of R&R were more than over due. Lots of time to read and sleep and putter along with our very first dingy and dolphin encounter. The R&R was needed. The dolphins were pure bonus. Kat

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

8/23 Santa Barbara Vacation

Tomorrow we leave SB for the Channel Islands for some much needed down time. We finished all our must do projects and were able to find a sail maker to help us with our batten problems. We ended up at Paxton Sail and Canvas today using his loft space and expertise to oversee four new battens and a repaired torn batten pocket.
The other big job of our time so far here in SB was to find and purchase two full sets of dive gear. Bill and I got our certification in Seattle one early winter right before we flew to Kauai for our wedding. Since then we have only gone diving during our warm weather vacations. Now that we will be in warm water more regularly we decided to finally purchase our own gear. It will be wonderful to be able to dive whenever and where ever we choose. We bought a small dive compressor before we left Seattle just so we would have the luxury of filling tanks whenever we want!
We will return from the islands on Saturday in time to get out gear over to the dive boat for an early Sunday three tank boat dive. We have been so busy working on the boat it has been a couple of years since we dove. Plus having all new equipment it seemed wise to have our first time out again be in the company of other divers instead of in some remote anchorage all alone.

With that I am off to sleep. Will write again soon and tell you all about our vacation and about the dive! Keep your fingers crossed for dolphins!

Friday, August 20, 2010

8/19 Southern California Arrival

After leaving SF very early to catch an outgoing tide on Tuesday we have been steadily sailing due south. Winds have been a little light in the early mornings but building to a wonderful 12 to 20 for essentially the whole trip. We rounded Point Conception in a 30knot wind in the wee hours this morning, day 12, the last big land mark before Santa Barbara Channel. We are hoping for a berth in Santa Barbara Harbor but will have to see when we arrive.

We had planned on doing a little more harbor hopping once we left SF but Josh has work waiting for his UCSB Controls Engineering Doctorate Program that he is anxious to get back to. He had been hoping to do some work on the way but anything more than light reading is difficult on a long passage. So we decided to beat feat to SB where he will jump ship to get back to his work. Ryan will also be leaving us to take a train to see his sister soon after we arrive. So soon we be back to a crew of two. We will miss their company but it will also be nice to have our boat back.

Though the entire crew remained focused and intent on the trip I believe the “boys” are getting a bit bored. The excitement wore off some time ago and now it is just a slow slog with nothing but homework or a plane ride home to reward them when they finally step ashore. It makes me remember my first long passage. For Bill and I the passage itself was the focus and at the end we knew we had a week or so of vacation time in Hawaii waiting when we finally arrived. Now I know they are a little bored because the big excitement of today was the ensuing hilarity when Ryan’s life jacket spontaneously inflated. We had been kidding him during the stormy weather off Cape Blanco that if he got much wetter from the boarding sea water it was going to go off. This morning it is perfectly calm, we are motoring under brilliant blue skies, then wammo! Instant May West. Josh is getting it rearmed as I write this but the giggles I suspect are not over.

Ryan by the way has been a lot of laughs for the whole crew. He has a very active REM sleep dream life. Perhaps it’s intensified by the odd watch hours interrupting his sleep but he has regaled us with his fun house dreams escapades nearly every day. He has some doozies. If your looking for a crewman to help you laugh away the hours Ryan is your man.

Passage making is hard work. It is long and tiring and often rather cumbersome with the sail changing, log entries and constantly working the time in your mind for off watch next watch. “Now how much sleep will I get if I fall asleep right away?” The beginning of the trip is all anticipation then the middle gets broken up with weather or fish on or wildlife and the like. For this passage after leaving Washington waters we have seen very little wild life. Bill and I were spoiled with 5years in BC and then AK waters. There is such an abundance of marine life there that it becomes a big part of every day. Since WA we have seen only a couple of whales off in the distance and had dolphins nearby a handful of times. They are not even coming to play! The two tuna caught were definitely highlights though.

For me I know that if there was not the big payoff of having a new country to investigate and new friends to make at landfall the crossings would be tedious and excruciatingly long at best.

Cruising is sort of the next step in I think in the boating world. First there is buying the boat and spending weekends and vacations aboard. Hours filled with lots of packing and unpacking and a feel sort of like camping out. Then if you decide to sell out and move aboard it gets different. People ask you why in the world you would want to live somewhere where you had to walk a ½ mile from your car to your boat or load your laundry into a dock cart every week and schlep it off to a laundry mat? All those regular day to day things get just one or two degrees harder.

For instance grocery shopping takes a whole evening. First you shop then you load it in your car then you load it in a dock cart then you unload onto the boat deck then you hand everything below. Then you try and find someplace to put everything then you return the cart and make a trip to the dumpster to unload all the unnecessary packaging into the recycle.

Then if you decide to cruise to foreign ports you get to first make the crossing. Then possibly clear through customs with its requisite allotted time. Some foreign countries take a day whole day to clear. Then you must unload all the dirty laundry for a chance to get laundry done and inventory your groceries to see what you need to try and find. Then you unpack the bikes and ask someone for directions to the nearest grocery. Plus you get the added excitement of trying all this in a language you don’t speak fluently and with money you don’t yet have a real handle on. Then once done with customs, clearing, laundry and food you can take some time to look around and try and be a visitor. Oh, I forgot. After customs and before anything else you get to begin making repairs on whatever broke while you were underway. Find a boat store or a hardware store or maybe just a handy man on the island who if your lucky has a cousin who knows a guy. Well you get the picture.

This stop in sunny southern California will be easy though. I already have a freezer full of frozen meals and only need to replenish some vegetable and fruit. Hopefully we will spend some time relaxing and visiting with our daughter in law Dianna and getting caught up on emails and sleep. From here we will likely go to Ventura looking for a sail loft and then some time for just Bill and I at the Channel Islands. One passage down……..Next big stop Mexico.

PS This afternoon while walking to East Beach after a lovely dinner ashore for the whole crew I saw a pigeon nest complete with a baby Pigeon! I had always wondered about their existence but have never actually seen a baby one. He was terribly cute as he peered out at me from his nest high in the rafter of the covered boardwalk. Just good to know they do actually exist. Like the man who empties the phone booth of quarters or the people who fill the ATM's with moola! Santa Barbara, the home of baby pigeons.

Monday, August 16, 2010

8/13 Stormy weather

- Or the great North pacific tries to kick our butts!-

Day four brought some serious seas. The forecast was not at all what we received. As we neared Cape Blanco the winds and seas built. By late morning we had 20kn winds with gusts to 30 with a 6-8 foot wave from the north coupled with a westerly swell. By early afternoon we had 30kt winds with gusts to 40 and the waves were now about 12 feet and still burdened by the westerly side swell.

Earlier we had realized we had two battens loose and decided to lower the mainsail to keep from having the battens tear through. Unfortunatly once the main was down and the winds rose we had effectively limited our options. With out a main we can't heave to.

As the afternoon progressed we were running under nothing but our stay’sl and then later under bare poles. As the big waves stacked up behind us they pushed our stern sideways and put us in danger of breaching. Because of the side swell both “Carly” our windvane and “Otto” our autopilot were unable to keep us square on to the big waves so we were forced to hand steer.

It was virtually impossible to stay below so all four of us were in the cockpit with PFD’s and clipped in with our safety harnesses. We lost our salmon net overboard, had a flailing BBQ lid threatening a deep sea escape, the dive compressor on our back deck was shaking loose, our bifold companionway doors kept jumping down below like a deadly projectile and had to be replaced with storm doors. Then “Carly’s” vane was taking a beating and needed to be brought below decks. PLus it turns out that early on before we lowered the main one of our new batten cars had cracked so in addition to two loose battens the car was ruined too.

Many things below deck that seemed tucked in tight turned into projectiles as we rolled around in the unsettled seas. The carpets wouldn’t stay flat when stepped on and it became hard to stay tucked into a corner of the cockpit. Ryan managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and took a wet wave at least three times. There was no way to cook and it was difficult just to try and grab some crackers or a piece of fruit.

There were a couple of breaks in the wind but the waves kept on so after hours of hand steering we decided to check the cruising book and charts and see if there was someplace to duck in for the night. Bill began to consider using our storm drogue or laying out a couple of warps of line to slow us down.

Completely unfamiliar with this part of the coast and having planned on a direct shot down to San Francisco we didn’t know if we should risk moving into shallower water for a safe port nearby or if it would be safer to stay in the storm. The crusing books we had onboard didn't actually say “this is a safe harbor to enter in bad weather. We could see that Brookings Oregon was about 3 hours away so looking at our options Bill had me contact the USCG on our VHF. I stood by while they checked conditions and double checked to see if we needed to get under a cable crossing or a bridge the guide mentioned in order to reach the marina.

The USCG was able to report that once we got closer in we would be protected by a small point where the winds currently were virtually nonexistent and the waves would drop to 2 to 4 feet as we entered the harbor channel. They do add the caveat though that entry would be at our own risk regardless of the reported conditions.

By seven thirty we motored into the calm windless marina just past the Chetco River in the Port of Brookings. We were tired and cold and worn out. The day had been stressfull on everyone. Tempers were short and emotions were bubbling. In all honesty I don’t think I was terribly worried. Less worried I think than the captain. He seemed to be especially aware of the added responsibility of having crew aboard. If anything I think he was more conscientious than ever and I never felt scared. I had moments of wondering if I should be scared but felt confident throughout. My only problem was turning my slowly healing tennis elbow (demolition elbow/kayak elbow) into storm elbow from my turn at the wheel while we were forced to hand steer. It is still tender. As soon as we tied up we walked ashore for a quick dinner and I was fast asleep within 15 minutes of returning to the boat.

The next day (Thursday) we spent the day doing chores. I did 4 loads of laundry and cleaned the boat while the guys worked to fix our windvane problems, re-hang the man over board pole, re insert the battens and switch out the top batten car (the short one) with the cracked batten car from the bottom and generally get everything ship shape again. We met several of the locals and found a great little chandlary a few blocks away who were able to set us up with the gear we needed to put up my galley stove crash bar and be able to connect my harness! No more juggling while I try and cook.

Friday morning after visiting at the harbor coffee bar we were off and headed to San Francisco. Yesterday and today we have barely enough wind to sail. So it has been sail, motor, sail, motor….so far we have used 35 gallons of diesel and we are about two days away from SF. Everyone quickly got back into the rhythm of watches and if anything the battle with the weather has caused everyone to redouble their efforts to getting enough sleep. The excitement of the first few days meant we were working with a bit of a sleep deprivation. Not horrible but enough that I think we all realized we needed to be sure to get in the zzzzz’s when we could.

This morning on Josh’s 6 to 10 am watch he hooked another albacore tuna! This one nearly twice as large at close to 30 pounds! Grilled tuna sandwiches for dinner!!

8/10 Headed south.

We’re cruisers, we’re cruisers we’re really truly cruisers!

We have been underway for a little of 48 hours and have come roughly 240 nm. Not close to breaking any records but we are about midway down the Oregon coast and should hit California sometime after noon tomorrow.

Our first day out we were lucky on several front. Comfort wise the most important was that we motored away from the drizzle in Neah Bay. As we left Neah Bay it looked like it was going to be a wet one but not only did not a drop land but as the day rolled by the blue sky came. The crew met each small patch of blue sky with enthusiasm and high hopes for more.

Then in the afternoon we began to see humpbacks. For Bill and I whales are all a part of a day at sea but for Ryan they were his first whale encounters. Way better than TV! They put on quite a show, tail slapping and breaching and spy hopping right up until they slipped from sight into the fading light. Josh said they were out catching bugs in the evening air.

That first day was spent getting Ryan and Josh familiar with the onboard systems and going over the safety gear and procedures with everyone. This is Ryans first time on a sailboat and he had the first watch so we spent the morning going over the how’s and whys’ of sailing. He is a fast learner, has a great attitude and head full of quick one liners. . The only touchy spot of the day came when Ryan became the first ever person to get physically sick on the boat. It isn’t unusual for a newcomer to get sick right off. We aren’t sure if he was actually sea sick or if he got sick from the “cure.” I gave him a piece of candied ginger and a ¼ of a Sturgeron which promptly made him heave. But he has been fine since then even in some really rolly seas.

Contrary to the forecast day one started with a south wind. As we motored along it slowly clocked around behind us and we were finally able to sail. But the pacific coast weather also brought a NW swell confused by SW waves which left us rocking and rolling for hours on end. Poling out our yankee stopped the flog and bang of the sails but it has been tiring for everyone.

The first nights watch brought dolphins on the bow for Ryan and the first fish on for Bill. Whatever hit the line ran away with one of our new rigs but about 7am on day two Josh brought our first tuna to the boat. He was in the cock pit alone when a 20 pound albacore took a bite out of one of our tuna rigs. Josh easily got him to the boat and expertly bled and fillet him. Seared albacore for lunch and the boys went back for seconds grilled on the back deck after dinner. So exciting to get one aboard in our first 24 hours.

Day three seems to have brought an easy rhythm to the boat. No more heavy roll and everyone has pretty much eased into watch times. The nights get quiet but the days are fleshing out with puttering and visiting, eating, reading and some serious sleeping.

There is a great luxury for me in having a crew. In exchange for only one watch per day it is my job to keep everything neat and clean and everyone well fed. Once out in the great north pacific though the roll canceled out all my Alaska miles and plagued me with a queezy stomach every time I went below. All my cooking and cleaning has been in bursts and spurts then topside for air.

The cooking underway is harder than when we just coastal cruise. Certainly the two days of rolling was difficult but heeled over it is harder preparing for four than for two. My small galley has just so much counter space. Laying out plates to fill and getting everything hot and on the plates instead of all over the floor or the inside of the tilting oven is proving more challenging. I have a harness for cooking but we have not gotten around to placing attachment points for it. Cooking at a good heel is nearly impossible with only one hand. Without the harness I have to hold on with one hand and cook with the other. Plate grab, food scoop, slide across counter grab, grab and catch before it hits the edge. I feel a bit like a bad juggler. The first landfall we will definitely install the harness and a crash bar and when we get to a chandlery I am definitely going to look for some non skid dishes!

Well enough from me for today. Fish tacos for dinner will finish off the tuna so I better remind the boys to put out the rigs again. Maybe this time I will get to bring it in

8/15 Pier 39, San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco early this afterternoon and I have to say it is quite the culture shock. Even with our stop over back in Seattle the stark contrast between pier 39 and our 3 months in BC and Alaska feels a bit like being plunked down in the middle of a circus.

We have a birth right smack in the middle of pier 39. As we motored in we passed through a narrow break. I swear I could have rached out and stolen someones french fries. They were that close. There were hundreds of people standing along the pier watching us enter.

I remember being here before and seeing all the sea lions in the marina and thinking it looked prettyy nasty. When we checked in with the harbor master we were told that though the sea lions are not usually terribly aggressive if one is between us and out boat we need to...get this..."grab one of the blue shields on the dock....(a piece of plywood with a couple of handles attached and painted blue) and keep it between us and the lion. If that fails we are supposed to grab a hose and squirt them with water.

Bill and I would not usually pick being right in the middle of SF but the "boys" want to be in the middle of things so......

It was a wonderful experience coming in under the Golden Gate Bridge. We could see the bridge from miles off and the closer we got the more traffic there was. When we finally entered the Bay there were boats going every which way around us. Cruise boat after cruise boat filled with oodles of tourists. It is all really quite stunning.

We plan on staying two nights and then will be off towards the Channel Islands.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

8/3 This really is my life.

Right now we are at anchor in the tiny boat basin on the Port Angeles water front. This is our second night here and the anchorage is rolly and windy. I am trying to recover from the bug I caught in Seattle. It brought with it three nights of fever, a cough that has now settled deep into my chest and a tiredness I don't really have time for right now. Plus my cough keeps Bill awake at night and makes him grumpy.

This morning the fog was so thick we opted to stay here and work towards getting the boat "ship shape" before we head out into open ocean in just a few days. Mostly that means making sure everything is tied down and wedged in. Everything. Our crew will sleep in the now vacant v-birth which until a few days ago looked like a storage locker. The other big job is finishing our sea anchor.

A sea anchor is a $1500 piece of equipment that we hope never to have to use. It is made of 300 feet of thick braided line with an attached bridle and 120 fabric "cones." Imagine an elongated coffee filter with six lines attached: three from the top and three from the bottom. Each of the six lines per cone is hand spliced to the heavy line at measured intervals. The idea is that in very bad weather you attach the bridled end to the back rail of your boat and throw it overboard behind you. The little fabric cones open and fill with water causing drag. Then as the boat moves back and forth on the monstrous waves they fill and spill,fill and spill helping to keep the boat steady on the waves instead of turning sideways to the seas which can cause the boat to roll.

We bought it in March before we left Seattle. In order to save $500 we purchased it as a kit which means we have to hand splice each cone onto the line. SO.....each cone requires 6 lines be spliced three for and three aft. The splices are done with a contraption a lot like a rug hook that is then followed by hand tying each end into a stopper knot. So lets see, each cone is six lines = six splices + pull six lines through plus tie six knots = 18 actions for each cone X 125 cones equals 2250 separate tasks to complete. It took me an hour to do 13! Since day before yesterday I have completed 84! We want/need to have it completed before we leave Neah Bay but we didn't start it until we arrived in Port Townsend 7/30. Too much time sitting and thinking while I work mindless knots.

I am having the oddest deja' vu kind of thinking going on. It feels like this is all just sort of a dream and that one day soon I will wake up and everything will be back to "normal." The oddest aspect of it all is being in a place where we are the ones with the knowledge and experience. For so many years we were like sponges in the boating world. So many people to learn from and so much to learn. Now standing here on the precipice of being full time cruisers the truth is we are part of the knowledgeable ones. We have sailed some 7000 miles on our boat in some pretty demanding places and we have chosen to seek out all the knowledge we could find.

Bill had a lot of prior experience but ask my family and you will know that in my previous life I couldn't have told you the difference between a wrench and a pair of pliers. The years leading to today have been filled. We have attended boat shows and classes,seminars and lessons. We've been up the inside and down the outside. We made it to Desolation our second summer. We spent three glorious weeks in Haida Gwai/ Queen Charlotte Islands in 2008. I joined a womans' boating group -NW Women of Boating - and attended classes on everything from boat sanitation to how a 12 volt system works.

We replaced our old Westerbeke deisel ourselves in the spring of 2009 with a 75 horse Yanmar turbo. Between February 1st of this year and when we left for Alaska May 1st we replaced three hatches, added an arch with solar panels, completely ripped out and replaced our entire refridgeration system from the hull up including new counter tops and fiddles and plumbed and wired a reverse osmosis water maker. We also added AIS and a new chart plotter along with a new autopilot system. Then with the help of a woodworker friend of ours we completely rebuilt the cockpits teak seating including TDS caulking and new grated floor, storm washboards and a cockpit table. Now you can see why we didn't manage to get the sea anchor finished!

I know I keep writing this in various words but it just really seems strange to finally be here- almost at the big left turn. There are so many ways that we could have been stopped along the way. We spent two nights in Port Townsend and after leaving there we heard a call out on the VHF for a boat that was fully engulfed in flames in the boat basin we had just left. The boat burned to the ground before being towed out to deeper water and sunk. We had been anchored only a few feet away. It just seems absurdly strange to be on the brink of this voyage. We are really, really going. I can hardly sleep at night.


Friday, August 6, 2010

I blame this whole thing on my cousin Brian!

I write surrounded by thick fog in Neah Bay, waiting to make the big left turn. Getting here has taken six years of hard work and an entire lifestyle change. We are waiting to meet up with our crew, son Josh and nephew Ryan for our off shore passage down the coasts of Washington and Oregon to San Francisco. From there we will slowly work south towards Mexico and eventually the South Pacific.

Our six year journey here first required “the right boat,” selling our home and giving away everything we own. We kept only a foot locker filled with family photos. Our near total refit of our 1976 Kelly Peterson 44 included more than a hundred separate projects most started and finished while living aboard. It included a self installed new engine, a water maker, a hot water heating system, new refrigeration that did NOT entail going to a big store and buying a unit in a box that we plugged in. We have new upholstery, newly refinished floors, a lovely new inner spring mattress with two sets of home made custom sheets, new standing and running rigging and new sails. We added a hydrovane, SSB, chart plotter, Rocna anchor and 300 ft of 3/8’ chain and an AIS . We have solar power and a folding bucket. We even have a portable compressor to fill our dive tanks.

Oh and did I forget to tell you that somewhere in there I needed to learn to sail? So we made one trip to Desolation, one trip up the outside of Vancouver Island, one trip up the inside to The Queen Charlotte Islands and down the outside of Vancouver and for a shake down before the big one we spent three months this summer doing the inside passage to Alaska’s Glacier Bay and back..

I learned how to make corn and flour tortillas, homemade bread, mozzarella and string cheese, and yogurt in a thermos. I can magically make three weeks of food and toilet paper disappear inside the hull of our home and I know exactly how many rolls of single ply TP it takes for a couple for a month.

We gave away two cars and found a new home for our border collie Boo. Then we said good bye to everyone and anyone again and again and again. Everything we own in the world besides those family photos at my moms resides right here in our 44 feet of fiberglass home. I know how to navigate and plot a course and handle the helm. We have a medical kit set up to handle major illness, burns, fractures and trauma. I know which medicine to use for urinary tract infections and which to use for a skin infection. We bought a Kindle and a friend gave us ¾ of a terabyte of music in two tiny little boxes.

All of this I have decided is my cousin Brian’s fault. Why you ask? When I was 12 years old back in 1973 my mom decided to pack up her three kids and drive for two entire months to Connecticut and back to see my uncle Steve and his family. Once we got to Connecticut Uncle Steve and Aunt Cris packed up their three kids Reed, Brian and Karol and took their summer vacation. We all went camping to Rhode Island and Maine.

Now my cousin Brian drug his little sunfish sailboat along with us and seemed really excited about teaching me to sail. He is a little older than me and I remember always thinking he was smart. Really smart. I trusted him. I don’t remember much about the boat. I think it was yellow. A little one mast with a hull that was basically a plastic dish that looks like a boat. Once we got to the camp ground he was excited to get put it in the water and get her little sail up. I had no idea what to expect but trusted my cousin to take care of us despite the twinkle in his eye and the chuckling laughter that bubbled out of him in excitement.

He got the thing going under us and I held on. The afternoon was warm and the lake was smooth. I could see the shore and was just starting to enjoy the movement of the little boat when he hollered hang on! Over we went. You see to Brian tipping the thing over was the fun. Sailing came in second. Or maybe it was tipping the thing over with his little cousin aboard that was the fun part. We spent the afternoon wallowing in the warm lake water, sailing and tipping and righting the boat again and again. I don’t think I had ever laughed so much or swallowed so much water. But it was great. Exciting and daring and felt very grown up for a 12 year old.

Maybe if that day had gone differently or if the weather had been colder or the boat much harder to right? When my Husband first said "well what do you think?" I might be sitting home on our leather couch watching a big screen TV or spending my days tending my garden and walking my dog. Right now it's my turn to work on the sea anchor. We have 100 more cones to splice into the 300 foot line before we take to the sea. The life of a cruising woman, wouldn’t trade it for anything. When I make it to California alive I think I will write a letter to my cousin.