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Mico Verde
Season One: Seattle to San Diego

 

Note: to get the full story in chronological order start at the bottom of the page

San Diego, CA
November 18, 2004

(Woj) After some serious napping and chilling out during our first day in SD we were ready to see a few sites (before tackling the boat's TODO list).  Shelter Island is located about five miles north of downtown so we had a nice bus and trolley ride, although we were surprised how much more expensive public-trans is here compared to Seattle.

After checking out the scenery in the gas light district we found ourselves on the deck of the retired (in 1991) navy carrier Midway.  For $13 you can visit the crew quarters, mess, hangar bay, flight deck, nav station and bridge.  The ship is staffed by all retired Navy personnel who are full of interesting info about the history of the ship and her operations.

Now, for why I really wanted to make the trip downtown ... the HMS Rose, now called the HMS Surprise from the movie Master and Commander was recently added to the permanent collection of the waterfront maritime museum!!  There are several boats to tour, including the vast Star of India, which I checked out on the last trip, but to see Surprise was the highlight of this stop for me.  The rigging is so incredibly complex -- and to think that people ask us how we "know how to pull on all those ropes?!"  Unfortunately we left the camera behind for this jaunt.

On the way back to the cops' docks we stopped at the huge West Marine here, supposedly the biggest in the world.  They have everything, at every price.  We had two items on our list and came out with the usual bag full of stuff.  It's a great store; they even provide free Internet access (open 'till 2000 too).

After discovering that our genoa had some small tears near the clew we picked up a great book on sail care called The Sailmaker's Apprentice by the same publisher as Brion Toss' book.  We also called the good folks at Hasse Sails and Co. in PT for their excellent advice (thanks Will!).

In addition to repairing the sail we have a few other items on the list before departure: topping up our propane, taking on ice, backing up the laptop, doing laundry, replacing the stop-solenoid wire which is always shorting out, and try to track down the cause of the oil leak in the engine.  The WX looks good for the next couple of days, we'll try to head to Cabo on Sunday or Monday.  After that our moorage rates double to $20.

Santa Barbara, CA to Ensenada, Mexico
November 15-17, 2004

(Steph) We left Santa Barbara around noon, with some fair wind. Woj was determined to master our Cape Horn wind vane, so we steered a bit off course to get the wind comfortably 90 degrees over the stbd beam. Unfortunately, as soon as we were getting the hang of it, the wind died down to about 2 knots. This set the tone for the rest of the voyage. For every 2 hours of fair wind we got, there were 12 hours of absolutely no wind.

Fully willing to add another item to the long list of possible sailors' superstitions, it has occurred to me that it was all my fault. I decided to finally try ocean sailing without a dose of seasickness medicine. I've been on scopalomine every leg of the trip since Port Townsend. I'm not a total hypochondriac -- I'm positive that at many points along the way, it was absolutely necessary to keep me from going totally out of my mind with nausea. But its side effects are so unpleasant (extremely blurry near-sightedness and dry mouth, nose, skin, etc.) that I've decided I need to figure out exactly when my sea legs fail so that I can avoid the scop when I won't need it. Of course, the weather doesn't always do what you expect it to do, but I hated being constantly medicated. I felt great on this leg, considering it was like powerboating on a lake. It was so calm, there weren't even swells. Welcome to southern California sailing, I guess.

Around noon on Tuesday, upon confirming the winds would remain calm for the next few days, we decided we'd have to refuel to comfortably make it to Ensenada. Having planned to commit the ultimate west coast cruiser sin of skipping San Diego, our evil plot was thwarted. To San Diego we steered!

We expected to arrive around 0100, which is just no good. Arriving at night in an unfamiliar place is always a bad idea. You're tired, your judgment and reaction time may be slow, you don't know where you're going and to make things worse you can't see -- you get the picture. Another snag is that San Diego requires a permit to anchor anywhere. If you didn't acquire your permit in advance, you can only get a permit during working hours after you've arrived. So unless you have a cozy little slip waiting for you at a marina, you're out of luck.

We were out of range to call ahead to reserve a slip until 2200. We finally came into range and called the harbor police, who have a public dock with limited slip space. We were told that they only assign slips between 8:00 and 5:00. And no, we could not anchor until morning. I didn't expect to be able to find a private marina slip at that hour, so I kept hounding the woman with the harbor police until she finally conceded that we could tie up to one of their quarantine mooring balls as long as we left it by 0800. Phew!

Upon approaching the harbor, the stress factor increased considerably. Finding a place to tie the boat for the night was the least of our worries. With all the lights on shore, it was incredibly difficult to spot the channel buoys that would guide us into the harbor. I was at the tiller while Woj alternatively checked the chart, ran up to the bow with the binoculars, and shone his powerful flashlight on obstructions like crab pots and floating kelp. I didn't even note the tug boat that was quickly approaching us until it was just 1/4 mile away. Usually their lights are bright and distinctive, but with all the shore lights, I hadn't spotted it till then. The tug's sequence of lights (three white lights stacked up in a column) indicated that it was either a tug of >50 meters or that it was towing a cable of >200 meters. That's pretty darn alarming in a narrow channel. I was desperately trying to spot where its tow was located, and finally spotted a large black void (it cut out the shore lights) that was moving fairly far back from the tow. I was steering as far to the right of the channel as I could, to give the tug plenty of room, which still wasn't comfortably enough for our taste. Soon after the tug passed us, Woj started urging me to steer back into the center of the channel. I thought he was nuts -- we hadn't passed the tow yet. I shouted to him that I wanted to give the tow a wide berth, and he said, "We've already passed the tow! Look to your left." I looked and saw that we were indeed passing the tow at that very moment. A little barge-like thing on a cable that was probably 20 feet long. So much for the tug advertising its size accurately.

I decided that the hulking black void must be something on shore, maybe a building. Happy to have survived the tug, we continued on, keeping an eye out for our channel markers. My slow-reasoning mind was trying to wrap itself around another strange thing I was looking at in the channel. The big, black void I had originally thought was the tug's tow, then decided was a building, was now definitely a giant ship quickly closing the gap between us. It was even less than 1/4 mile away when I finally figured it out. And Woj hadn't even spotted it at this point. I muttered to myself, "This is totally suicidal." I seriously thought this might be the time when we'd live to regret entering an unfamiliar harbor at night. I hoped we'd live, anyway.

We managed to avoid the huge ship and dropped our speed to just a couple knots so that we could figure out how to enter the channel to the police docks and their quarantine balls, which are located on a little finger of land called Shelter Island. Woj was down in the cabin studying the chart, when a 17 ft. inflatable boat with about 10 coast guard guys came speeding up to us. "Uh, Woj, get up here. We're being approached!" We slowed down, and proceeded to answer their questions, which consisted of asking us where we'd come from about three times. I guess they wanted to catch us in a lie, so we'd finally admit we'd come from Tijuana and had 20 Mexicans aboard. They finally let us go, but not before pointing out that we should try to avoid the channel buoy that we were about to run into.

We finally located the entrance to the Shelter Island channel, and entered it at a snail's pace. We called the police to confirm the location of their buoys, tied up, and promptly fell into a deep sleep. The next morning, we refueled and decided to treat ourselves to a few days of rest in San Diego at the $10/day police dock. We've met a few cruisers that are also continuing down to Mexico, so it's been worth it if only for the camaraderie.

Santa Barbara, CA
November 11, 2004

(Steph) We need to leave Santa Barbara by Monday, because that's when the marina fee doubles. It's a good motivator, besides the fact that it has been in the mid-60s for about a week now. Brrrr. With departure on the horizon, we've been steadily ticking off some to-do items.

One of my tasks was to re-store the stores. That is, all our food was stored on the port side and we were noticeably listing to port. It doesn't help that all our lockers on the port side are bigger and that there are more of them. I guess I'll have to look for light, fluffy items to store in some of those port lockers. I knew that someday I'd have to take it seriously, because up till now I've just kind of thrown stuff wherever it fits, and I'll spend 10 minutes trying to pull out one item. But it made sense to wait, now that I've had a little more experience -- I know what I need to keep easily accessible, and what can be buried away. Here's a pic of a newly assigned food storage locker:

 

You are looking at our baking items and drink mixes, with a few boxes of soy milk. The orange stuff is Tang. I think I'd had Tang twice in my life before this trip, but let me tell you it is manna from heaven compared to that nasty Gatorade lemon-lime flavor (hidden from sight, in this case). I've stored all our dry goods in little plastic bins by Lock n Lock. I did a lot of research to find the best. They are airtight and watertight, which is especially important on a boat where moisture is impossible to escape. The test is that I've kept my salt in one of these for about 4 months now, and it is still powdery. Before Lock n' Lock, my salt would resemble a salt lick after about a month. Oh, and I'm hoping they keep out any critters, if ever we attract some.

Another note -- if you look closely, you can see "Great New Flavor" on the West Soy box. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that before I bought about 12 boxes. Their great new flavor is basically sugar. I am going to have to wince my way through a lot of sugar-flavored soy milk for the next few months.

Woj also got busy today -- he marked the anchor chain rode, played with and modified our main reefing system, and then gave the main a good rinse. Right about that time a strong wind blew through and I had to stop my organizing to help him bring down the main.

And lastly, here are a few pics that we've been lazy about posting with our journal entries:

The lovely, super-rolly anchorage in Santa Barbara.

Jill, Steph's mom, arrives to sail to Santa Cruz Island for the weekend. As usual, Steph can't quite get the outboard to shift into neutral so goes cruising by the boat as Jill tries to grab hold.

The view as we approach Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz.

The SB youth sailing club cruises by at sunset.

Santa Barbara, CA
November 10, 2004

Steph Logs

I've had a backstage role in logs until now, usually serving as copyeditor when I can get to Woj's logs before he publishes them. But I don't want to let the opportunity to share my side of the story go, so I'm going to attempt to pipe in regularly.

We've been in Santa Barbara for almost two weeks now, enjoying the marina. It's reasonably priced and fabulous. The best marina I've ever visited. There was a guy the other day scrubbing the concrete dock. I mean, it's a dock. And it's concrete. And a bird crapped on it. We'll get someone on that, right away, ma'am.

The city here is beautiful. We've enjoyed walking around commenting on how immaculate everything is and how if you're homeless you are probably harassed hourly by the cops.

The other day we visited the city library just to get online for a few things. While waiting my turn, this guy approached me and in a groovy, hippy-guy fashion asked me if I'd help him check out something online because he'd never used the Web before. I like to be helpful as long as I'm surrounded by a lot of people that can save me if some weirdo does anything funny. So I was glad to assist. I figured I might as well explain the whole concept of a browser and how to use one, so that some day this guy can go through the complex process on his own. He needed to find his CD listed on the Web site CDBaby.com (which I'm familiar with because the coolest singer/songwriter in the world also lists her CD there -- that would be Christa West). So I find the Web site and then explained to him that it would be easiest to find his listing by searching for his name.

Guy: I don't want people to know my name, so I go by Stinky Bottom.

Steph: Okay, then, let's type "stinky bottom" into the space here [I didn't think this guy was ready for "search field"] and then hit the bottom that says "Search." I mean, the bottom -- ugh, the BUTTON that says "Search."

Stinky got a kick out of my Freudian slip. We found his CD, titled "All You Need is Weed," which explained the reason why he was wearing his aviator sunglasses inside the library. He thanked me for showing everything to him, and insisted that it's a waste of time to try to teach him the Internet because he'll never remember it all. And then he gave me a free copy of his CD! Cool, man. The CD cover is an interesting composition including a sun wearing sunglasses, a chick in a thong bikini and a glowing bud atop a little island. My review: I could see college-age Deadheads liking this stuff. Or people who listen to Jimmy Buffett because they like to hear about other people who are living the free life. (wojo -- I love stuff like this since this kind of weird shit can only happen to you when you're traveling).

We've just left my parents' house after a long weekend of carefree, lazy, land-livin'. All the TV, refrigeration, comfy sofas, Internet, and rectangular beds a person could ever want. On Saturday we attended a party at my parents' neighbors' house, the Figueroas. I got to practice a little Spanish and eat some super tasty Mexican food. I ate a taquito de cabeza (basically a brains taco). Believe it or not, it was awesome. Flan was also a high point. And we got to reminisce about Spain with Jose Luis, a Madrid transplant here in California. On Sunday, Isabel Figueroa invited my mom and I over to learn how to make tamales. I am excited to try it on my own.

Alas, it's time to actually go somewhere. The stretch between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo has treated us well, but we're ready to go to a place where when you try to speak Spanish with the waitress she doesn't automatically switch to English.

Santa Barbara, CA
November 2nd, 2004

Back to sea, leaving San Luis, rounding point Conception, parents on board, cruising the Channel Islands, sunny days in Santa Barbara ...

We're very grateful to the friendly folks at Port San Luis for keeping an eye on Mico Verde for the six weeks she was moored near the breakwall!  We suffered minimum damage in our time away, mainly some chafe due to keeping the dinghy tied alongside for so long. We took aboard what seemed like a ton of provisions (two cases of tofu, a Costco-sized Bacardi bottle, enough Gatorade for the Seahawks, to name a few things) with the help of the gracious harbor patrol at the Port.

After another rolly night in San Luis we pulled up the hook, took on fuel and water, and set out for the 90 nm trip around Point Conception to Santa Barbara.  We left around 2200 in order to encounter the least amount of wind at PC ("Cape Horn of the Pacific").  The trip was pretty uneventful with very light winds -- even at PC, which was nearly flat.

19 hours later we pulled into the anchorage just east of Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara.  There's a special anchorage here that's marked by buoys.  The holding is good but it's a bit crowded and reportedly strewn with lots of old ground tackle and cables (we had no problems getting the hook back, luckily).

After settling in for another rolly night of sleep we awoke at 0700 to pick up Carrot's mom, Jill, at the fuel dock in our trusty dink Bonobo.  By 1000 we were underway for Santa Cruz island, where we'd cruised with Steph's parents two years earlier during a holiday break.

Santa Cruz was a fun stop, with good protection at Prisoner's Harbor from the prevailing NW winds under the high cliffs of the anchorage.  We'd planned to visit Painted Cave but the 30 kts of west wind the following day made a dinghy launch on the other side of the island problematic (manana!).

On the way across the east SB channel (again) we had strong head winds and resorted to motoring sailing instead of changing our heads'ils (did I mention we're lazy?). We pulled back into the SB anchorage and Jill treated us to a great lunch at Brophy Bros' seafood which overlooks the marina.  We said our final goodbyes and returned to MV for the night.

After months away from a marina we decided to treat ourselves to some calm nights of rest and give Mico a good scrub so we pulled into the post SB marina the next day.  The folks are super friendly and the rates are reasonable ($.60/ft).  The marina seems brand new! Their beautiful docks and facilities have done a lot to boost our morale after 4 days of continuous sailing and rolly anchorages. We are ready to make the final leap south to San Diego.

We're planning to stay on an extra night at the marina to watch the play by play of the elections -- GO KERRY!!

Port of San Luis, CA
October 14th, 2004

After a long drive back and forth to Seattle recently and a restful month in port we've had time to reflect on more of the lessons from the first leg of the trip south.

This installment is about "sailing: myth and reality," and the effect of establishing seamanship normalcy "base-lines."

Recently I've had the pleasure of reading several logs from fellow cruisers from the PNW who left around or very close to the same time we did from Seattle.  I noted some interesting patterns to all of our passages and compared then, as well, to those of cruisers in previous years.

We all know that the west coast is notorious for nasty weather and big seas but how bad is it really? I think this is a tough question if you base the answer completely on the subjective finding on just eyewitness cruisers accounts.  In every cruiser log I've EVER read (and there are lots of excellent ones out there) from PNW sailors I've always seen at least one report, usually around Cape Mendicino, that notes winds in excess of 40 kts with gusts over 50(!).  I have no doubt that those winds do occur at various times of the year (maybe even in August) but I have to rationalize these with our own results.

OK, this may cost me many respect-points from my peers but I want to be the first west coast sailor in history who says that we never encountered winds much over 30 kts at this point (we still have to round Pt Conception).

Comparing logs further I've noticed that, in particular, a much larger boat sailing in the same location as Mico Verde (who also left the PNW when we did) on the same day reported winds that were about 20 kts, not including gusts, higher than we did.  Is this really possible? Probably.  Or is there another explanation? Maybe.

My own hypothesis based on very little data so far is that for whatever reason we tend to exaggerate (sailors?? no way!) a bit towards the larger winds and storms side.  This may not even be a deliberate attempt to mislead in many cases since there are lots of sailors without wind speed indicators (we do have one which I've verified a few times against shore stations).  Boat speed, apparent winds and waves really do seem to be a lot more at times when you're offshore but I think this is more a product of being a rookie/newbie than anything else.

This brings me to my next point -- when you're on your first offshore 1000 nm passage you don't really know what is normal. In our comfortable shore side lives we establish well known routines that are packed full of "normal" things like eating, sleeping and driving across the 520 bridge to work.  When you cut the lines and head offshore for the first time there is no "normal" for awhile (which is quite wonderful if you ever have time to think about it when you're out there).

Although there was never a time I can recall being actually frightened or scared on the passage I do have distinct daily memories of wondering if some condition or squeak or bang was the "normal" state of things at sea.  This is never so pronounced as when you're in heavy winds and seas as you should expect on the west coast.  If you let your mind takeover it will get carried away and I believe you will come to the conclusion that you're dealing with more wind and seas than actually are present.  If the Internet has proven one thing beyond any shadow of doubt it is that the mind is the greatest erogenous zone -- this applies (without erotica) to storms and seas as well.

In addition I also think that after a long passage that took years to get started we all want our props.  No one, including me, wants to step off the boat after eight days at sea and mention average sustained winds of 15 kts to the first cruisers you meet.  We can all benefit by learning to be more helpful and encouraging to future cruisers by toning things down (without outright lying about conditions of course, the west coast will never be a bunny-hill for first timers but I don't necessary think it's always a triple-black-diamond either).  Pumping up conditions may only serve to squash, or worst of all put-off others dreams and make them spend even more time than is necessary "perfecting" their boats pre-passage.

We are finally picking up where we left off this Monday and heading off to the Channel islands for a few days.  From there we'll make our way (skipping the Ha Ha this year) to San Diego before jumping off to Mexico.

Port of San Luis, CA
September 11th, 2004

Whew...leg two of the west coast season is in the can (and boy are we glad)!

In thinking about the trip I had re-read some notes from cruiser sites I've followed in the past couple of years (notably s/v Pelican and s/v Rainsong, both from Seattle, many thanks to both crews over the years for the inspiration and advice) to find out how our trip stacked up to theirs.  The short story is that we had good high pressure weather systems all the way down here but that has to be tempered with our rookie skills.

We've sailed more in the past two weeks (more than 1100 nautical miles under the keel so far) than we ever sailed in five years in the Sound so we knew that we were in for lots of lessons from the sea on this trip.  In leg two we really got our reefing and sea-sense (as in knowing to reef earlier and while there's still some light) together.  By the end of the passage we could run up to the main and put a reef in on any point of sail within ten minutes and steady the weather helm.

We spent three blissful days in the Crescent City marina catching up on sleep and hanging out with other cruisers (s/v Kamikaze and s/v Let 'er Buck from the PNW too) and the crabbing fleet.  Carrot loved seeing all the fishing boats in the harbor (which is about 80% of the tenants) and by the second day could easily ID any boat in port as either trawler, troller or seiner.  Exactly one week from our departure from Neah Bay (noon on Sunday, Sept the 4th) we set off for the rounding of Cape Mendecino.

After some bigger winds and rough seas near Cape Blanco we felt more stalwart, but were still apprehensive as we knew the winds had been blowing more than 40 kts near Cape Mendecino two days earlier (hence our stays timing at Crescent City).  While in port I'd chatted with some of the local fishermen who advised me to stay well inside  (within a couple miles of the shore) while rounding the cape. In reality we modified this plan to around 10 miles to give us more sea room (an offing) in the strong NW winds we were expecting. We timed our departure to hit the cape in the 'lowest' winds of the day which were to occur around 0600 PDT the next day.

After several hours in 5-15 knot (light) winds and confused seas we thought we were in the clear as we had Cape Mendecino on Mico Verde's beam (the "cape" is actually three capes: Cabo Falso, Mendecino and some other one I don't remember the name of offhand).  The sea still had plans for us however and just as we started to make the turn to SE we were hit with 30 kt winds and ALL of our canvas flying!  The change happened, literally within minutes.

(vote Kerry)

After being nearly thrown from my bunk while Carrot was on watch I headed up on deck and put two reefs in the main -- for the next three hours we snuggled up on on the rail and held on (at least we were making good time in those big winds!).  Maybe it was just the discomfort of leaving the calm waters of our first port stay but we both remember the leg to Mendecino as the worst of the trip.

After the cape it was off to Point Arena (N of SF) for a good day of sailing in 20-25 kts of wind.  We started to have several good whale encounters at this point too.

From Pt. Arena we made a long slog past Bodega Bay and San Francisco.  Winds were very consistent from the NNW and we usually made at least six knots over the bottom.  As we passed SF we stayed well west of the Farallones to stay clear of the busy shipping lanes.  Surprisingly, even though we were only about 20-40 nm offshore the whole trip we saw very little traffic all the way south.

Once we were beam on with Monterey Bay we started to get excited (probably too excited since it made us want to be done with the west coast leg very badly) as we were getting close to another stop in San Luis to stay with Carrot's folks in Santa Maria.  As noted in our cruising guide we found big winds as soon as we passed Carmel and neared Pt Sur.  On a bright, sunny day we had 30 kts of wind with 15+ ft breaking seas on the stbd quarter to give us a good push south.  When the wind and seas are up this much we both get comfortable together, regardless of who's on watch, and ride the rail 'til things improve.  The winds kicked up at 1600 and blew hard 'til around 2100.

At this point we also learned an important sailing skill -- the wing-on-wing dead run.  Throughout the trip we had been struggling with the need to continuously jibe every six hours to make our course south.  In hindsight this cost of many extra miles.  Just outside of Monterey it finally dawned on me to try out wing-on-wing sailing to make our VMG ('velocity made good') speed much better -- this basically means that we heading more in the direction we ultimately want to go. 

What an improvement this maneuver makes when you need to head dead downwind!  After a little fiddling with trim we were able to make almost zero corrections (perhaps just one degree an hour) and the helm would balance nicely with the big genny (150% genoa sail) flying on the headstay, even with two reefs in the mains'il (we would simply leave the stays'il up but sheeted in tight which gave us more lateral stability). 

   
It felt great to be making good progress south wing-on-wing.  The only draw-back is that the ride is much more rolly because the main doesn't keep you as stable with its pulling you forward this much. 

When you're running you also need to take care with the 'true' wind speed since it's easy to keep up all the canvas too long (we had it up all the way to Big Sur when the winds hit us hard) since the apparent wind may feel 8-9 knots less.

After the previous day's vigorous sailing we were nearly belcalmed as we passed Pt Piedras Blancas (a big white rock) and Morro Bay.  This meant that we had a tough decision to make when we were nearing port San Luis at 2300: navigate the busy harbor in pitch dark and foggy conditions (and quite fatigued after four and half days at sea) or stand off to sea for six hours more.  We may not have done the 'right' thing but we said WTH and went for it. 

 

Our cruising guide for the bay were very confusing -- it spoke of special anchorages we couldn't use (but didn't state a reason) and was very ambiguous on where to actually drop the hook.  We tried to raise the harbor patrol several times as we made our way in but were unsuccessful.  We followed the buoys in and slowed our speed to a crawl.  With Carrot at the helm I ran back and forth from the bow to down below to check the RADAR at 3/4 nm range.

 

 

When we woke we were amazed to see what the harbor actually looked like in the light!  There were more than a hundred boats (in those 'special' anchorages -- where no lights are required per COLREGs) on mooring balls.  We raised the harbor master's office at 0800 and quickly found a visitor mooring near the breakwater at the beginning of the harbor.  I wish we'd known about the visitor spots the night before -- we were so close and it would have been easier than hunting around in the fog dead tired.  Although the port has many moorings, only about nine of these are designated for transient boats so we felt very lucky to grab one on a Friday morning (San Luis no longer takes reservations, first come only, which I think is great idea).

After some serious boat-keeping inside and out we played with the mooring lines until we had a reasonably fair lead around our bow sprit shrouds and bobstay rigging.  Then it was off to the city pier in our trusty dink Bonobo.  It felt so good to get back on land.

 

We paid up for the next two weeks at the harbor master's office and had a great lunch at Fat Cat's near the port.  Then it was back to Mico to make final preparations to leave her for a couple weeks while we would stay with the parents in nearby Santa Maria.  A nice feature in San Luis harbor is the water taxi service the Harbor Patrol puts on -- for $3 you get a very fast ride on a cool 5 meter inflatable. 

Carrot's mom Jill arrived around four in the afternoon and we picked up some delicious (and huge) oysters on the pier before heading off for a hard earned couple week's vacation.

 

I wonder if the first thousand miles are always the hardest?

PS -- lots more photos (currently at Costco) on the way!

Crescent City, CA
September 2nd, 2004

Notes from leg one of our trip south -- Port Townsend to Crescent City:

The sail and rigging work at Hasse and Toss in PT was completed so fast, we're very grateful for all the support and guidance.  We have a shiny new stays'l, new rope stoppers on the mast and some really cool Spectra lifelines.

Parting shot of treacherous green Cape Flattery

We finally departed PT (again) at 0400 for a long day of motoring in dense fog all the way to Neah Bay.  If we did this again I'd definitely recommend breaking this jaunt up into a couple of days to make the best of the tides.  If you can catch the max ebb off of point Wilson (just around the corner from PT) you'll find yourself making close to 10 knots.  A better itinerary would be a short hop to Port Angeles and then on to Neah Bay the next day.

About an hour after sundown we arrived in Neah Bay and were very surprised to find that the Kalakala ferry is apparently aground -- at none other than the most narrow point in the channel into the bay!  There were no lights on the ferry and the only way we knew there was something ahead in the dark moonless night was something big showing up where nothing should have been on the RADAR, and a big, black emptiness in the lights of the village beyond.  I think I'll send the Kalakala a snippy letter about this at some point -- there should at least be a light hung on the bow or stern.  Anyway, we did get to take a good look at the old ferry on the way out and take some cool pics.

After the long haul on Saturday we were very happy to anchor out in Neah Bay and immediately fall into our bunks.  This is great anchorage but once again I made the mistake of picking a spot to drop the hook almost solely on holding and not in relation to the other traffic, in and out of the marina, in the bay.  Our quiet little spot turned quite lively as the whole sport fishing fleet flew by at thirty knots at 0400 the next day.

The next morning we woke up early to finish up some last minute pre-passage tasks.  We changed the oil in the diesel, fixed some broken items and did a lot of wire seizing.  We pulled up the hook and found the fuel dock in the marina and topped off -- surprisingly it took us half and hour to find it (it's right next to the boat ramp and in deeper water than it would appear).  At noon we were headed out of Neah Bay and finally on the start of the passage that had been four years in the making.

The first day is still a blur.  We had anticipated 10-15 kt NW winds from all the weather info we'd been tracking in the time leading up to departure, but these would not materialize 'til later in the trip.  We motored down most of the WA coast line for almost 28 hours straight.  Interestingly enough, the first few hours of the passage were some of roughest conditions -- not in terms of windage but just really confused seas off of Cape Flattery.  As soon as we'd started making the big left turn to 'round Tatoosh Island, we shared a silent and anxious collective thought (we later admitted it to each other in calmer conditions) -- "...is this what we should expect for the rest of the trip?!?"  It turns out that conditions did improve significantly but it also took us quite a while to to realize that there must exist harmony between the engine and the sails.  By not having any sails up for the first day the motion of the boat was the most uncomfortable of the whole passage.  It was like being a toy boat in a big bathtub, sometimes rolling from thirty degrees each side for several minutes.  Oddly enough I have a funny memory of feeling quite ill and then looking over the port rail to see a huge set of whale flukes just fifty yards off.

We avoided a near tragedy with pure luck, when one of the first really rolly motions of the boat threw our poorly secured Lexan hatchboards straight at Woj's head. One of them hit him right between the shoulder blades. They are around 10 lbs. each. If it had hit him in the head, we might have had to turn around back to Neah Bay for some serious suture attention. We learned early on never to take a calm sea for granted. At least that lesson came relatively harmlessly, save Woj's sore back.

Carrot made a wise decision to take a Scopalomine patch before leaving Neah Bay, but for whatever reasons I decided to be the control in the experiment.  In hindsight I would definitely take the patch as well right away as I was plagued by mal-de-mar off and on for the first couple days, but at least not severely. From her first experience sailing on open ocean in the South Pacific a few years ago, Steph knew that ocean swells would put her out of commission in a big way. With that trusty little Scop patch behind her ear, she could probably have done handstands in the cabin and still felt fine. Two noticeable side-effects, though -- a very dry mouth for the whole trip, and poor near-sighted vision for a day or so.

Around three in the afternoon on Monday, near the southern coast of WA we finally found the wind.  An hour after Carrot left her watch (I was on 1 to 4 and 7 to 10 AM and PM and Carrot was on for the remainder), I looked at the wind indicator and noticed that within just a few minutes of the last check the wind changed from 5 knots south to 8 knots north.  I roused Carrot from her slumber and we made sail.  What a change!  So much quieter and the motion of the boat was a dream compared to the last day.  Within a few miles south the skies cleared, the sun came out and the temp went up by ten degrees.   We were making six and half knots and were in heaven.

Things continued at a nice pace the next day as we made our way down the Oregon coast.  We stayed on the same tack for 22 hours and made great time, being becalmed only once more for a couple hours.

On Wednesday (day three) we were anxiously checking the chart to get to California waters and the start of the infamous capes where we'd find a lot of weather.  About midday we had an amazing encounter with a school of porpoises, just before a jibe.  There were about a dozen of the critters just playing all around the boat and then they all migrated to ride the bow waves.  With the autopilot steering Mico Verde, Carrot and I had a blast just laying face down on the bow and hanging over the edge only a couple feet from the jumping porpoises.

Late Wedsnesday we started to near Cape Blanco.  When we were about 40 miles offshore the wind started to pick up and the seas combined to about 10 feet.  As the sun was going down I knew that we needed to reef the main and that we had to do it before dusk.  Eventually a reef was put into the sail but not without some considerable excitement.  It's not like we'd never put a reef in a sail before but it's just that things are so different out on the open ocean compared to coastal sailing. 

Bottom cleaning (attempt)

You can't just head up a little, put the boat into the wind and reef when the seas are that big, because the boat will literally jump out of the water.  The lesson I learned from this was that you need to plan ahead and clearly communicate the plan (assuming you have one) and execute -- a good attitude is important too, every time something like this happened (and it did several times a day) I would say to  Carrot "...wow, that was interesting, a good lesson to learn..."

With our shortened sail plan nailed down we jibed back toward land and found (through no real planning) that we were almost perfectly on course to make it all the way into the turn for Crescent City, CA, on one tack.  Normally down the coast we had to try to sail as "deep" as we could and jibe a lot since we didn't sail dead down wind -- we need to work these skills as well.  In Puget Sound this kind of "deep" sailing just doesn't happen very often but on passages you find yourself needing to be dead downwind for days a time.  We also don't currently have any flying sails yet so that's something else to consider.

Onward we charged towards California waters.  Cape Blanco kept true to its infamous nature and provided a wild ride south in the early hours of Thursday.  We sailed as deep as possible to stay well off (at least a mile) St. George reef (Crescent City is just 'round the corner of Point St. George) and eventually started the iron genny to head off the wind a little more and motor sailed four hours. 

As if it were all building to a climax, the seas and winds kept getting bigger as we rounded Point St. George and finally made the left into the approach to Crescent City's outer harbor.  We were even escorted by a Coast Guard dolphin 'copter that made several hovers and passes as we came in. 

Inside the harbor I'd expected that things would calm down.  The breakwaters protect against the seas very well but the wind was still howling at 30 knots.  We decided against anchoring and called the very friendly harbormaster on channel nine who talked us in and found us a slip with the crabbing fleet.  The wind continued to blow all day and we suffered one small casualty as we returned from wonderful hot showers to find that the light air wind vane had departed in our absence.

Port Townsend, WA
August 24th, 2004

We're back in PT for more sail and rigging work -- it's been quite a (near) month since the last entry ... here's a recap.

View from our lovely anchorage in historic PT

After an AMAZING send off at the Zunkers' last month (it was sooo great to see everyone for one last time before taking off) we were able to fit a few last minute projects into our pre-departure schedule.  This basically means that there were many days and nights of me sitting in the cockpit while someone else did some work I had been putting off for a very long time -- IGS was the Coax Cable and Free-Climbing Master who fixed my bad splice mistakes at the top of the mast. DB was the Compass Master -- we'll think of you every time we get lost. JZ, you're the Wood God, every time we hear (or don't hear, rather) a rattle of Steph's dishes we'll think on you fondly!

Family portrait from the send off party

We were only about a week behind schedule and finally departed Seattle on Sunday the 14th of August.  Our first stop for a little R&R was the amazing bay of Port Ludlow.

  This is one of our favorite spots in all of the Sound with lots of sentimental value (almost four years ago I ran aground here with Steph on our first weekend together).  The air was warm, the bay was so very calm and the bottom was nice and muddy (I reckon you could ride out a hurricane here if they had 'em this far north).

The best anchorage in Puget Sound: Port Ludlow

After too brief of a stop in Ludlow (at least we took the next morning to sleep in, put Bonobo in the water and explore the inner harbor south of the "Twins" islands) we were off for Port Townsend again.  The guidebook suggested anywhere south of the ferry route and after a couple of tries we found good holding right between the clock tower and light house N of the big marina.  Not a bad anchorage since we were close to downtown, had the BEST showers (seriously) I've ever found nearby and good holding.  Unfortunately for us we anchored a bit too close to the entrance path to the marina and the US Navy was on maneuvers for two weeks in the bay.  A little rolly, but we did sit out a couple of 25-30 kt blows in fine style.

IGS at the top of Mico Verde before the start of the trip (replacing a bad coax splice I'd made previously in PT!)

The parts we ordered for the rig were still delayed a week so we spent a week on the hook in the sunshine.  Just in time for our first cruising visitors, the weather completely turned to rain, wind and cold (it was still a lot of fun to play Wheedle onboard with our best friends).

The next Monday we pulled back into Point Hudson marina to finish up a couple projects on the rig with the nice folks at Toss and pick up our shiny new stays'l from Hasse (it's reeeally cool).  Everyone worked super hard for the next 48 hours -- I'll post some pics of the new sail, and the funky new rope lifelines (all installed as of this update).

We've also had fun sharing tales of woe and triumph regarding our boat projects with our new/old friends, Ross and Laura Emerson. Laura was a classmate of Steph's at UPS (Laura [Lupe] Rasmussen, to those alums reading this), and we ran into them here in Port Townsend with the exact same plans we have. They've been working on their boat here for a few months, so are PT locals by now. But we look forward to continuing to share stories as we both work our way south to Mexico.

We're now carefully watching the weather on the coast and ready to get south in a hurry.

Seattle
July 28th, 2004

After watching the Brion Toss crew have so much fun in our rigging for the past couple weeks we decided to go aloft ourselves today.  The LED tri-color/anchor light finally arrived this week and we installed it.  It basically required some drilling/tapping, electrical work at the top of the mast (it's much easier to do on shore!).

A bird's eye view from the top of Mico Verde...Steph wasn't too worried about me up there apparently.

Shot of neighbor Guy's elegant yacht (and Charlie's cool Cal 40)

 

Seattle
July 26th, 2004

We're back (at least for about a week until we lose our slip)!  After everything that happened PT just didn't want to let us go on Sunday.  Ugh, we got up super early to find that we were buried on the long dock four boats in (rafted up next to the dock), tuned the rig, pulled out and only made it a mile until icky thick seaweed sabotaged the raw water strainer and even the prop! 

We also discovered that our laptop managed to catch a virus which we only discovered just before tacking off.  The mouse was out of commission and the COM port was getting spammed which meant no hook-up from GPS to digital charts.  This also made me painfully aware of how annoying it is to not have a permanent compass mounted on the bulkhead on deck.

After we arrived home we ran many errands today including doing some in/out work at our storage unit, buying provisions, two trips to the mail box, fisheries supply, west marine, picking up the outboard (which runs soooo smooth -- thanks Ed), and engine parts (upper and lower gasket kits which needed to be ordered) from Stewarts' Marine in Ballard.

While at Fisheries Supply today we picked up some super helpful gear to get each of us up the mast easily.  Brion Toss and crew head up and down the mast via a block attached to a halyard at the top of the mast and another tied to the climber as a safety.  We monitored them all closely in PT and gave it a try with our own gear tonight -- it's fun and definitely a good upper body workout (it uses 2:1 purchase so you're pulling half your body weight up the mast.

This is a shot of freight from DE we spotted on the way back to Seattle.  It's painted bright pink!

The new outboard was taken for a spin around cocktail hour and we were happy to bump into good friends from our old slip on P dock (we'll miss you).

Overall we're making good progress on the boat worklist.

 

Port Townsend
July 20th, 2004

We have been in the same port for too long ... we hope we'll depart early in the morn on Thursday.  At least we're stepping the mast on Weds afternoon.  Too much work to comment on right now  but we'll p0st a big wrap up when we're back in Seattle.

All I can say about this trip is that with all the scope creep in our projects and financial explosions we must be cruising -- so at least we're on the right track!  The weather right now for our passage south is perfect.  This undoubtedly means that we'll have horrendous south winds and calms when we head out in August.

Brion Toss, the rigging legend, at work.
   
Just one mast step of 50 that we had to remove. Corrosion ran rampant on the mast for every one of them.
   
Steph hard at work on those darn mast steps.
   
"Free at last, free at last ..." Woj supervises the removal of the mast.
   
A cute little sea otter that we spotted several times during our stay. It was most often seen slinking off the sides of moored boats in the marina, after sniffing around.

For those of you trying to find some of the old site pics and videos you can still find 'em here...

Port Townsend
July 19th, 2004

Still in PT -- just launched the new site (still working out the details)

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Wow, what a week!  This trip is turning out to be the ‘build a brand new boat’ endeavor.  OK, too much to go into massive detail right now but here’s a list of what’s going on: massive rigging update, all sails checked (a new main is on the horizon unfortunately), tons of mast work. 

 

We made our daily pilgrimage to the south part of PT today to find an Internet café – I’m replacing all lights at the top of the mast with a single tri-color/mast head LED from Orca Marine (same company I used to replace all the running lights too).


 

New Traveler


I’m excited about everything that’s been happening and everyone has been great to work with but we are massively hemorrhaging the kitty at this point (oh well).

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Spent the better part of the morning with my head in the aft bilges (the really nasty ones) cleaning and checking out the existing pump systems.  I’ll say this for the previous owners – they were pretty thorough when they put the previous systems in.  Currently there are two electrics pumps (800 gph and 1200 gph), one manual pump and a cool system for routing the bilge water through the engines raw water pump (when you need to do this you’re in trouble but it’s still a great idea).  The float for the big pump works but is not attached to anything and just bangs around and occasionally goes off on bumpy trips.  The little float appeared to be shot (removed it today) but was attached.  After nearly three hours and huge bundle of oil diapers I cleaned out the bilge nearly 80%.  More scrubbing will eventually be need.  I have a new float for the small pump but I think I’ll just unbundle all the existing cxns next time and rewire everything.  I was surprised to find out that none of the existing elec pumps appear to be directly connected to the house bank – will probably change this soon as well.

Gave the engine a much need scrub yesterday – needs some painting in some strategic areas.

We’re taking off for a week in PT to visit Brion Toss, upgrade our rigging and probably spent about a year’s kitty in the process.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Completed install of LED running lights.  During the last phase of the install I dropped a crucial part over the side.  Diver Frank quickly had the part back on board…

Ordered upper and lower gasket kits for the engine for the nice folks at Stewart’s marine (also picked up more spare parts and was quoted prices for salt water and fresh water pumps).  Installed new v-belt.  Solved mystery of ‘oil bath’ air filter (it isn’t one).  Our engine is serial number 108U120746.

Still need to complete the nasty job of cleaning out bilges and rewiring floats and pumps.

Making preparations for trip to Port Townesend starting Sunday.  Had final pumpout (33 gallons!).

This first week went by incredibly fast – still lots to do.  I can’t believe that we’re actually leaving in about three weeks.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Met an interesting character while doing laundry today.  I was already fuming about having to take two hours out of the day to perform the ‘every two weeks’ ritual.  On top of this, rather than tossing out the previous customer’s laundry I waited at least fifteen minutes until finally the door to the laundry mat flung open.  He was barrel chested and at least 6’ 5’’ and immediately informed me that I was much too patient and that he’d have thrown everything on the floor by now.

This lead to meeting Mike and getting a good cautionary tale in the process.  In 2000, just before the tech bubble finally burst he was flying high at a startup that was bought by one of the major software powerhouses.  He picked up his dream boat but in the process also took on a loan for about $120k.  He had dreams of going cruising around the world starting this year but after the crash has decided to put things on hold, sell the boat for the remaining $98k loan price and start putting equity into a new $300k house...eek.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Didn’t really get much done today except a lot of dishes and some cooking (potato salad and a couple of pies).  Had a minus four tide which created some cool tidal pools just off Meadow Point.  Alisa and Ian held their annual party and watched the big show from their comfortable bedroom.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

First day of voluntary unemployment.  Made a vow to not think about boat stuff for at least 48 hours but managed to get a couple of things done.  Hade a great final wingman cruise with Adam and Maricris yesterday afternoon.  Installed new solar panel (charging nicely – I love cheap clean power).  Heading to ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ tonight.  Spent $3.25 at West Marine. So this is how it begins ...

En Espanola

 

SV Mico Verde