Sunday, September 30, 2012

San Miguel to Santa Cruz Island

With San Miguel in the rear view mirror we set off for Santa Cruz Island.  It was a gentle broad reach past Santa Rosa Island in 8 to 10 knots of wind.
A few kelp flys hitched a ride but were...... uninvited

In the channel between San Miguel and Santa Cruz we were visited by many dolphin.  This was the first time that we really had seen large numbers of dolphin on our trip south.  They alter course when they notice you and make a dash to Shindig's bow and ride the wave.  We were only doing about 4.5 to 5 knots and they seem to get bored at this pedestrian pace.  After a few minutes they'd disappear and then another group would show up for some fun.  You can hear them squeak ......

Santa Cruz Island is 20 miles long and 2-6 miles miles wide; it is  a favorite destination for boaters in the area.  There are no services or amenities and only wild coastline and small anchorages tucked along the rocky points.

Now that we are around Point Conception (the Horn of the West) our navigation is more East than South along the island chain.  We are closer to San Diego than San Francisco now.  We've turned the corner.

After having a rolly night before, we were looking for a protected anchorage and decided on Pelican Harbor.  We were the only boat for the 1st half of the day and enjoyed the small cliff lined cove.

Rob on the Stand Up Paddle Board
A short dinghy ride away is Prisoners Harbor.  We went ashore and hiked for a few miles.

With two days at Pelican Harbor, we had time to service the water maker and get it working.
We can now make 15 gallons of fresh water per hour from sea water.   Initial water quality tests look good!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

San Miguel Island - George, Elephant Seals, Foxes and Ravens

We spent a delightful day on the most northern chain of the Channel Islands, San Miguel Island Monday.
Our trust dinghy, beached, while we hike
We left our Storm boots and switched to hiking Keens

With an advance park pass, we dinghied to shore, and hiked a mile up the cliffs to a ranger station.  George, the on island volunteer ranger, was waiting for us.  In fact he had been waiting for 3 days, after getting communications from the US National park service about our arrival window.  The on island hikes are limited to those led by a ranger.  We decided to take the 7 mile round trip hike out to the cliffs where we could watch elephant seals cavort in the water and on the beach. 

An spry gentlemen in his 70's, George set off at a brisk pace, talking about his previous careers as a high school teacher, park ranger on the Island of Hawaii, in the Sierras and now on San Miguel island.  He also is a long time sailor and had lots of questions and comments about our plans and his appreciation for the Pacific coast and Mexico. 

On the way to the beach, George took us on a side hike to overlook the West end of the island.  It was a beautiful spot and if it weren't for the chilly 10 knots wind you might be convinced you were in Hawai'i.  The blue turquoise water and rough rock approaches were amazing.

In route to the lookout we came across 10 or so large fenced pens.  These abandoned cages were overgrown with shrubs and tall grass and left over from an ambitious project to bring back the native island fox.  They looked like something out of the TV show "Lost".  

The fox population was down from 400 or so to 15 in 1999 .  Apparently these cat sized fox were being wiped out by the Golden Eagle.
A generous grant allowed researchers to relocate the eagle and breed the remaining fox in captivity on San Miguel Island.   The project appears to be a success as the fox population is over 300 and monitoring continues to validate a healthy comeback.  The fox shares the Island with its primary food source, the deer mouse.  The island makes an interesting laboratory with only two animals on it.  Three if you include George.

Once at the cliffs, we rested at the overlook, eating our lunches, and commenting on over 60 elephant seals that were playing in the water and hanging on the sand.  They are on the island for about a month, to molt.  George had hiked out the day before to scope out the destination.  He noted that once Huell Howser , the TV lead for California Gold series, and his entourage had arrived on the island to go to the same spot, but no one had checked to see if the pinnepeds were there in advance.  And they were not. 

Elephant seals are a surly bunch.  They bark and snort and regularly pounce on others that are sleeping on the beach.  After watching for some time you could see which seals were the aggressive trouble makers.  Seals ready to engage would rear up, posture and lunge at their opponents. 
(Rob's Side note.  Replace Elephant seal with Politician in the previous paragraph.  Something appropriate for an election year)

It was time to head back, and once at the ranger station, George grabbed a shovel so he hike some more with us down the trail, doing some trail maintenance on the way back up.  The relief ranger would fly in the next day, Tuesday, and he would go back to the mainland for a week.  He said it can be isolating on the island, but his admiration for the full time ranger and the natural progress of the Island is what has kept him there for years, and will likely be his final post with the parks.  He also admired the ravens, which circled overhead.  We took turns making raven calls.  He hoped we could stop at the Ventura Yacht harbor so we could enjoy the club's last season's race, but our timing won't match up.  So we bid goodbye and Thank You, and headed down the remaining hill.  We looked back to see the overlook where George checks each day to count the number of boats in the harbor.  Today, only one boat named Shindig.

Rob and tiny Shindig in the upper left part of the photo

Monday, September 24, 2012

Easing into Cruising

(Experimental Post via Ham radio - San Miguel Island - Cuyler Harbor)

We've been gone one week, and it feels like a month! Going out the Golden Gate bridge with our friends escorting us, sailing in high winds off Point Sur(all predicted, Mom's), and escaping from the fire were some of the top adrenalin producers. Keeping in touch with friends and making new ones along the way are continued highlights.
I have been balancing between the old tendencies of stocking up on supplies and going to the bare minimum of what we need. My favorite stores at home have been Trader Joes, Costco, WholeFoods, Target, and a local produce store. Friends have been offering up rides to these while we were in Morro Bay, but it really wasn't convenient. I'm learning that it's ok to buy the same ingredient at the local market, even those TJ's has the one I'm used to. New mantra "No Hoarding", and "Small is the new large" Yes, a little quirky!
We were so happy to see our Santa Cruz friends, Kate and Tony, again, in Morro Bay. They were on their way back from a visit with their mother, and we were able to plan an afternoon visit and introduce them to Taco Temple. Kate interpreted my subtle smoke signals for supplies and made a special stop at Costco and Trader Joes for me. We all were laughing as we unloaded bags of TP, paper towels, special snacks and treats and a People magazine to "tied us over" for a few days. Then we introduced them to the local Taco Temple, where one taco is really a giant plate of tortillas, local greens & produce and seared fish on top with salsas. We saved room to split a dessert, as there is a special pastry chef. A great way to end our first week south, and get ready to head out to the Channel Islands.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morro Bay Boat Fire

We shared a very exciting night with our fellow boaters/sailors at the Morro Bay Yacht Club.  After being here for several days, we gotten to know several of the boat owners, and developed an immediate camaraderie in our temporary neighborhood.

Our friends boat caught on fire, and burned!  Shindig was rafted to them.
Fortunately no one was injured, as a group of neighboring boaters helped each other get safely away and let the fire department do what they do best.

The following is a detailed description on what happened.

Last night at 11:30 we were jolted awake by screams right outside the boat.  "Fire, Fire, call 911!"
Nancy and I ran up the companion way to find that the Bertram 50 that we were rafted to was on fire.
The flames were contained inside the boat and smoke was bellowing out.

Bob and Scott, the owner and crew, were moving the boat from San Diego to San Francisco and had been waiting out bad weather.  They had disconnected shore power hours earlier and we all had plans to leave the dock at 5:00 am so they could get underway.

Nancy moved quickly to throw off our lines while I got the engine running.  With the lines untied  the last thing connecting us to the dock was our shore power cord that led from our midships onto the growing flames on the Bertram.

I threw the shorepower cord on the Bertram and backed Shindig away.  By the time we were 100 feet away the superstructure was completely engulfed in flames.  Several other boats were on the dock and they too were moving away from the blaze as several small propane tanks exploded.  Shindig motored to a nearby public dock; we tied up the sailboat and got on our clothes!   We walked down to the yacht club to provide moral support and observe the firemen, coast guard, harbor patrol and others work to contain the rest of the fire and assess the damage.

We were there until about 1AM and then had a few hours of restless sleep before getting up with the sun.
This morning the wives of both boaters had arrived, one driving the early morning from the Bay Area, the other up from San Diego, to support their husbands.  A smaller group of firemen were there to clean up.  Insurance phone calls are underway. 

The next day we thanked Bob and Scott for their quick thinking.   While no one remembers all that happened we know that they worked quickly to help loosen our lines to their boat, which enabled us to get away very fast and avoid involving our boat in the fire.  They are retired firemen, and knew how to assess and react fast in the panic situation.

Once the fire was mostly out, three firemen went inside the boat to soak down hot spots.

After the firemen got out the boat there was a flare up that needed to be put out.

Everything points to an electrical fire on-board the Bertram and unfortunately it is a complete loss.

Well, that is enough excitement for the week.  We leave in the morning for the Channel Islands.
I don't know if we'll be able to send any updates from San Miguel Island but we should have the tracker working so you can see our progress.

Morro Bay - Friends, Fish and Frolic

We’ve had a great stay in Morro Bay.  The weather was very calm, and fog lifted so sunny every day.  Rob and I remark on the friendliness of all boaters on the docks, power and sail.  In this different mode, we learn life stories and cruising plans in a few exchanges.   It’s fun to be able to say “see you on the waters”, and look for them later at one of our future stops.  I’m not as good with names, so we rely on memorizing boat names and the faces that go along with them.

We borrowed some beach cruisers from the power boat we've tied up to, and went on errands one morning.  Stops included Health food store, barber shop for Rob and a longer trek to the local hardware store.  Still getting used to not having a car or two!
Umberto and Morro Rock
Nancy and Josh

One Mahi Mahi Taco

Our friend Josh lives nearby and we’ve shared dinners with him and his friend Carol, once aboard Shindig, and once out at a favorite place called Taco Temple.  The tacos are fresh seafood, and resemble more of a giant plate of salad, fish and tortillas.  I'm plotting a return today when our friends Kate and Tony visit.

Friday, September 21, 2012

70 Mile Day to San Simeon

We had a very long, challenging but exhilarating day sail from Monterey to San Simeon anchorage.

The night before we checked the weather and it was predicted to blow 15 to 25 with gusts to 30.  We decided to make a run for it.  Knowing that this was a 70 mile passage and that the wind was predicted to build throughout the afternoon we got an early start before sunrise.  At 5 AM we motored out of the harbor and around point Pinos before setting our sails and aiming South in 17 knots of wind.

Sunrise at Point Sur

The first ½ of the day was hard as we were hand steering.  Shindig was wing on wing with the jib polled out and the mainsail prevented (held in place with a block and tackle).  The following seas made for squirrely steering as the boat surged down swells in the building North-westerlies.  In these conditions we didn't trust the autopilot to keep us on course.  An accidental jybe, with the main prevented was not a situation we wanted to deal with.

Nancy says that one hour on the wheel was more than any “body sculpt” class.   

Winds had built to the high 20's by 9AM  and the boat was handling the conditions well.  Boat speed was averaging 9 knots with surfing speeds over 11 knots regularly.  It was exhilarating but you didn't dare lose focus on driving.

Log Entries

After several hours of hand steering in the building conditions we decided to shorten sail.  We furled the jib and let the auto pilot take over for a while.  This worked great and we still were making great time down the rhumb line.

Rob looped his harness tether around the dodger to hold him on the seat when catching a few Z's

4 miles off shore and South of Point Sur there were no other boats in the area.  AIS showed a few ships 20 miles to the West and the only VHF traffic were emergency broadcasts from the Coast Guard.  

At 4:00 in the afternoon we arrived at San Simeon.  There were 4 other smaller saiboats and one power boat tucked into the anchorage.

Relieved and proud of our 70 hard sailed miles South, we dropped the hook in 20 feet of water in view of the Hearst Castle perched on the hill above.

After some wine, appetizers, baked maple glaze chicken with sweet potatoes and onions, we went to bed at 8PM.  Whew!  Good Night!

Beautiful San Simeon Anchorage

Hearst Castle is on top of the hill on the right

Wind speeds For you data geeks out there

Boat speeds


The sail from Santa Cruz to Monterey was a mild 7 to 8 knots of wind on the beam.  Shindig pushed along at 4 to 5 knots for most of the 20 miles and kicked it up a notch as the sun made an appearance and the wind picked up.

Once in the marina Nancy and I got to work trying to free up a blocked thru-hull.  An intake strainer was plugged up with jellyfish and we couldn't clear it with a wire poker.....  Eventually we used the dingy foot pump to blow air down through the strainer and we were successful at displacing jelly guts.

We spent a couple of days here, eating seafood, going to spas (Nancy), taking a long 3 hour walk past the Aquarium and Lovers Point into Pacific Grove and back.  Nancy stocked up on more fresh produce at the Wed. farmers market and we traded stories and weather forecasts with new Baja Ha-Ha sailor/friends.

One interesting thing about Monterey harbor is the loud snapping noises made by the sea creatures trying to get into your boat.  It sounds like they are eating off the new bottom paint.

Bomb Squad at work near the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  A "Suspicious" package was found.

Lazy harbor seals balancing on recently submerged rocks as the tide comes in.

Nancy above one of the tall breakwaters near Lovers Point. 

This video is of a female otter that was hanging out in the marina slips.  Her nose is all messed up.  It turns out that otter mating season is rough on the females.  This otter had a tag on one flipper and may have enjoy the good life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   At one point the otter was banging a shell on the hull of our neighbors boat.  Nobody was aboard but I bet that would get your attention if you were below.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Shindig is now in Santa Cruz following a quick stop in Halfmoon Bay, where we treated ourselves to Barbara's Fish trap for dinner. 

The trip from Halfmoon Bay to Santa Cruz is about a 48 miles.  We left at 7:00 and motored South and there was no wind to speak of until the early afternoon when we got to Año Nuevo.

We followed the shore west of the 10 fathom (60 foot) line and with the binoculars could see hundreds of seals hauled out on shore.

Some have wondered whether we are experiencing any seasickness or discomfort.  Nancy is happy to report that without any medical aids (Bonine, tequila or coffee) she is doing great.  The swells were mellow and the boat motion was comfortable enough that she wanted to go below to take care of some boat chores.  With the Captain's permission (we try to check in with each other on anything significant like leaving the cockpit or jumping overboard), she went below, saying to Rob "You can do anything you want with the sails".  After a happy cleaning cycle, she came up on deck to see the whisker pole out and the boat sailing wing on wing.  Nice work Captain.

The wind built steadily to 20 knots and Shindig was loving the hull speed run downwind.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that the Santa Cruz harbor entrance was very well dredged to 24 feet.  Last time we were here in the spring we nervously crossed the entrance with only 2 to 4 feet under the keel.

We are tied up at the guest dock closest to the harbor entrance.  Yesterday (Sunday) was really busy in the harbor and we had front row seats for all the action.  All forms  of seamenship were  demonstrated as larger boats dodged kayakers, stand up paddlers and Laser sailboats in the narrow jetty.   The harbor patrol kept busy all day, that is for sure!

We are flying our Baja Haha flag and have already met several sailboats and owners that have done the rally before or, like us, are doing it for the first time. Our stop in Santa Cruz was to visit with our dear friends, the Armors. We were picked up from the Harbor, went to their house with our dirty laundry, and treated to a delicious healthy fish taco dinner with pie amidst the SF 49er's game.
Kate made two lasagnas for us to keep in our freezer when we are in need of homey, comfort food. We'll enjoy these and think of them when we are out on the Channel Islands later this week. 

Today we are going to sail to Monterey.  The forecast is for Westerlies at 10 knots and a minor swell.  Perfect conditions for the 24 mile trip from Santa Cruz.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

We have ignition

Today we sailed out the Golden Gate with an escort of boating friends, after one last morning bon voyage party with goodbyes in Sausalito. 

Thank you to everyone that sailed out (E-Ticket, Isla Mia, Scoots, Huge, Double Play, Popstar, Ada Helen) and pushed Shindig out the Gate, and to Susan who greeted us from the north tower of the bridge.  We did not have time to be bittersweet or emotional, as there was plenty of tacking, and wind to keep us busy for the first hour or so.  Then when we turned Shindig towards Half Moon Bay, the sea breeze quieted, and we were able to relax and reflect on the first day of many, sailing down the California Coast. 

Isla Mia and Huge sailing under the gate

We made it!

We are now resting in the Half Moon Bay Harbor after enjoying a great meal at Barbara's Fish Trap and missing all of our good friends.  Tomorrow we set sail for a longer voyage to Santa Cruz Harbor.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ready for throttle up

By Rob

This last year has been a whirlwind of activity in preparation for our sail South.
Despite our overuse of technology, Nancy and I use a simple "year at a glance" calendar to visually organize our family schedules.   Here's the one from our home office, messy and colorful.  Notice how the schedule eases up after our departure!  I'm sure we'll need to adapt to a slower pace..... but we are up to the challenge!

Today we drop off our car, enjoy our favorite noodle house, check out of Sausalito Yacht Harbor, and finish stowing and organizing the boat.

Time to put away the piano and stop drilling holes in the boat.

Tomorrow we leave at 11:30!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bountiful Day

By Nancy

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days.  We’ve been overwhelmed with the goodbyes from our land based friends.  It feels better to say “see you right after the holidays”, as we are planning to fly back in January for visits.  And thank you all for the invitations on where to stay.  We are keeping a car (our only car now) parked in the area, and bags of clothes for the cooler month here in the SF Area.

Yesterday was an awesome day.  I was invited to join the weekly Wednesday sail on historic Bounty, a 1950 full keel sailboat in Sausalito with owner/skipper Dan.  A colorful crew accompanied us, and my role was mostly at the helm the full day, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and then flying down the bay with mizzen staysail and spinnaker.  Lunch behind Angel Island, and then zipping along the Bay, before a cockpit party with Prosecco and cheese at the slip.  And I picked up a few more culinary tips from the guys, too.  Thank You Dan! 

Rob and I ambled over to our dance lesson at the studio where we are learning some basic swing and salsa moves. Enough said about that.   Then a fun night with our good friends Eldene, Julie, Dan and Terrie for a group tour of the boat and good bye crab dinner at Salito’s.  


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

By Nancy

I read in several cruising books that you should move onto your boat 2-3 months before you plan to leave.  My reaction had immediately been, “why would I ever do that?” I’ll stay until the night before (or a week early).  Now we know.  It is hard to move, and get organized, especially with downsizing from a large home to a sailboat one tenth the size.  Despite the challenges, we are essentially live aboard now.

A few “Guilty Pleasures” that we’ve brought aboard with no compromises.
Rob:  Home file server with 5 Terabytes for photo and video projects
Nancy: Full size Yamaha P-155 keyboard with music books

Today we made a stop at a Big Lots store up past Sacramento to pick up a few things.
  We were each allotted one small basket to fill up with anything we wanted, no questions asked.  5 bags later, we exited with more snack foods, household must-haves  and stuff, that has been successfully stored away. 

“Food Guilty Pleasures”

Rob: Pop Tarts
Nancy: Nutter Butter Peanut cookies

Next Stop:  COSTCO


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Corinthian Spirit

It’s 6AM and we are at the members dock at the Corinthian Yacht Club.  Drinking our coffee and on our computers.   We are really going to miss the fun Corinthian Spirit with our friends here.  Rob and I are laughing from the memories of yesterdays antics starting with our Bon Voyage party on the deck in the afternoon, impromptu cockpit party, dinner at the club and late night get together on Shindig.  Everyone's support and excitement about our upcoming journey has touched our hearts.  Thank you!!

There will be some great photos that our friend Henrik has, but here are a few now.

Corinthian Toast to Good Health and Good Times
Captain Rob and First Mate Nancy

View from the Upper Deck