Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A slew of pictures from the little camera

We finally borrowed a windows laptop to download the pictures from our small camera...

Bradey's Beach, Bamfield

Bradey's Beach scene (Bamfield)

Bradey's Beach scene (Bamfield)

Heron in peaceful water at Bamfield

Wouwer Island, Barclay Sound

Retrieving L'il Bugger after she untied herself

Up the mast inspecting rigging and adding a flag halyard

Rani up the mast getting experience with heights and rigging

Effingham Island, Barkley Sound - Thanks for the shirt, Maureen!

Carson Mansion in Eureka

Lubricating the steering

Fisherman's Memorial - Eureka

Mural outside the performing arts building, Eureka

Chasing gulls at Salmon Creek near Bodega Bay

Teeter Totter at Salmon Creek Beach

Dune scene near Bodega Bay

Elephant Seals in Drake's Bay

Hiking out to Chimney Rock on Pont Reyes (Drake's Bay)

Point Reyes

San Francisco Cable Car

Our room mate at Pier 39

In San Francisco at Pier 39 Celebrating

Monday, September 29, 2008

Through the Golden Gate at last! (Plus pictures from California)

Our last post was from Bodega Bay done from a little espresso cafe where I insisted on stopping for a well earned ice-cream after our long hike. Little did we know at that time that the day was far from over. We had left our dinghy on Doran Beach where our boat was anchored. The sun was setting as we approached the beach and I saw that the surf was breaking with some force at this point. I mentioned to Chris that I was afraid of getting in but he reassured me that we could time the waves to avoid being swept over. After watching for a couple of minutes, we pushed off and within seconds a huge wave ( probably only just over 2 feet in reality ) came rolling in and the next moment I was under the Li'l Bugger ( our cute dinghy ) and all our gear was swimming in the water. Luckily the water was not very deep so we sprung into action; Chris lunged to retrieve his backpack before it floated away ( it contained both our computer and a camera ). We pulled the dinghy to shore and rescued our groceries. I found out later that Chris nearly got concussed as he tried to stop the dingy with his head when he saw me go under it, poor dear.

Someone came over and suggested we launch from a spot closer to the breakwater and even gave us a hand in dragging Li'l Bugger up the beach. I had to beg people for some garbage bags to store our computer and camera in case of another dunking. I think I was regarded rather suspiciously by one camper even though I was dripping wet and wearing a life vest , but he did give me a couple of plastic grocery bags.

Our next launch was more successful and we recuperated back on the boat by washing in fresh water heated on the stove and sipping hot chocolate while warming by the kerosene heater.

We sailed to Drakes Bay the next morning and found it to be one of the most beautiful anchorages imaginable. Steep cliffs rise from the ocean, pasture lands roll down to the beach and the golden colour of the land makes a sharp contrast to the azure blue of the water. Sir Francis Drake sailed here in 1579 and stayed 5 weeks to effect some repairs on the Golden Hind. It was settled by the Spanish and then Mexicans in the 1840's. There is still active dairy and beef farming.

We were better prepared with the dinghy this time as we placed all our gear in a dry bag and dressed minimally. We landed perfectly and then hiked up the hill from the beach, crossing fields full of cow patties, ducking under barbed wire cow fences and crossing over gulches. Along the way we saw a variety of wildlife including a mother elk, 2 fawns, and several gorgeous reddish owls.

There is an historic Life Saving Station at Point Reyes which used to be a US Coastguard station and is now available for use by non-profit organisations as a retreat or conferences. We had a quick peak and then hiked over to see the elephant seals of which there were huge numbers slumbering on the beach.

Our return trip to the dinghy was a lot quicker as the tide was out and we walked along the beach. We watched the waves carefully and executed an almost flawless launch ( we didn't flip, yay!!! ).

On Sunday, we sailed a bit further towards San Francisco, stopping for the night at Bolinas Bay, which proved to be rather rolly at night. We set out a stern anchor to keep Ladybug pointing into the swells and ended up sleeping on the cabin sole and quarterberth to avoid being tossed out of bed.

Today, Monday, we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge flying our colourful spinnaker in perfect conditions - calm water, blue skies, sunshine, no fog at all and hardly any other traffic. It was brilliant! Chris was ecstatic and grinned like the Cheshire Cat. We ran in towards Pier 39 and the wind came up suddenly. We were busy taking photos and before we could get the chute down we had it wrapped around the forestay. Chris was yanked off his feet while trying to take it down (I thought he was going to go flying into the sky on the end of this huge balloon! ).

We have been walking about the city of San Francisco all afternoon, visiting Chinatown, Coit Tower, and the Italian district. We plan to stay in the area for 5-7 days but probably not at the pier as it is terribly expensive at $45 per night.

Some pictures from the last week or 2:

Chris's first solo haircut attempt - stylish to a tee!

Rani's first solo haircut attempt- note the novel and artistic 'hedge row' effect. Joanne - HELP!

Fishing boats at Fort Bragg

Humpback off Drake's Bay

Bonita Point Light just outside San Francisco Bay

Rani at the Gate

And Chris Too (Note the brand new anchor light mounted on a nicely painted broomstick)!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bodega Bay

We arrived in Bodega Bay yesterday and anchored off the Doran Beach. We sailed from Eureka on Saturday overnight to Fort Bragg - a small fishing port with a truly tiny entrance (100 feet wide at the most) under a road bridge. We had thought of going straight to San Francisco but our autopilot belt separated and we got tired of hand steering. We stayed at the marina in Fort Bragg for 2 days and got a few jobs done (rebedding the traveller and fixing the belt...). We also met some friendly fisherman who recommended some snug anchorages on the way to San Francisco.

We then day sailed to one of the recommended anchorages - a small cove (Fish Rocks) that is 12 miles south of Point Arena. Yesterday we day sailed to Bodega. Rani is relieved to reduce the night sailing which often proves interesting due to sail changes, etc.

Bodega Bay is a beautiful crescent shaped bay surrounded by golden hills. We hiked through the town to Salmon Creek State Beach and Bodega Dunes. The fog lifted as we walked along the nearly-empty beach listening to the thundering surf and watching shore birds feeding at the water's edge. Rani met a Punjabi woman, working in her son's grocery store, who is from a village near where Rani grew up in India. She got a lovely hug and enjoyed speaking in her native language.

We hope to leave for San Francisco tomorrow, sailing under the Golden Gate. We will probably spend a week or so there. Pictures to follow eventually!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eureka Continued

We are in Eureka still waiting for a fair wind to head south. This has given us a chance to explore more of the town and get a few repairs done. I am writing this blog from a public square in Eureka's old town where there are at least 3 open wifi connections.

We visited Eureka Zoo and the Sierra redwood forest yesterday by bicycle. Our folding bikes worked fine, but Rani is just learning to ride a bike and had a few issues with stopping at traffic lights and cross streets - a minor detail, which she solved by hopping off and walking the bike. I'm afraid I was a little impatient with the whole hop-off-and-walk thing as there must be 100 cross streets between us and the zoo. I ended up making supper and doing the dishes as penance for my impatience and Rani is practicing her cycling in the marina parking lot while the laundry cooks.

Today we had our first chance to try out our hair cutting skills. I am relieved to tell you that I did a better job on Rani's hair than she did on mine, or I most likely would be dictating this blog entry from a hospital bed. One of the skills we learned was to layer the hair, but I think Rani took this a bit literally with me and I have 3 very nice rows of hair on the back of my head. I will wear my ball cap for a week or 2... Pictures to follow if I am allowed to post them.

The latest thing to break on the boat is the top batten from the mainsail. This is a fiberglass rod that prevents the sail from flapping around. The local marine store had nothing close, but a fellow there suggested that a safety flag for a bicycle would probably work. Sure enough, the flag pole is exactly the right diameter and stiffness. At $5.75 for enough length to make 2 battens it's quite a steal! The other project on the go is to install an anchor light. This light will (hopefully) allow other boaters to see us when we are anchored at night and will be installed on a broom handle hose-clamped to the rear rail of the boat.

I'd better get home with the groceries - about a mile walk and a 10 minute row away....

Monday, September 15, 2008


We anchored in Eureka a few hours ago. Definitely in California - lots of cafes full of insanely overpriced lattes and plenty of inter-planetary people. An astonishingly expensive Coop food store next door to an open air drop in center. Very nice downtown - kind of like Market Square in Victoria. Walking around, it smells like the bud is as popular here as in Victoria. We plan to check out the historical Victorian mansions which house museums and art galleries tomorrow and maybe do some kayaking around the little islands ( Indian and Woodley ) close to our anchorage in the Humboldt River. No sign of the sun yet, unfortunately.

Did a lot of motoring last night to get here as the winds have disappeared - motored for as many hours in total as we had the previous 4 weeks! Will hang out here for a few days until the north winds return. The map shows Coos Bay as well as Eureka. Not far apart by car but many days by sailboat! Next stop will likely be Fort Bragg although we may do a longer run towards San Fransisco.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Arrived in Foggy California

We did it! After an abortive attempt to escape Coos Bay when the bar was closed to all vessels under 36 feet, we finally sailed out around supper time on Sept 10. The winds were good until about 3am when everything went quiet and we took down the sails. The swell made for a sleepless night with everything banging around down below.

Around 6am, a light wind came up from the South (completely different from the forecast) and we sailed slowly toward Crescent City. Around 3pm it became obvious we would not reach California that day, so we turned on the motor and headed into Brookings, Oregon. The fog closed in and we entered the very narrow Chetco River entrance using the GPS and waypoints from our cruising guide. Rani called the coast guard to check out the bar conditions and they asked us for our customs clearance info (both coast guard and customs are units of homeland security). The coast guard were waiting to greet us on the pier and gave us info on Brookings after checking our clearance papers.

The next morning held a mystery. I had left my rather elderly 'Gilligan' hat behind in Coos Bay (which made Rani openly happy). However the hat came back, appearing in our cockpit overnight, wrapped in a safeway plastic bag. We walked around the marina but failed to uncover anyone we knew from Coos Bay who might have dropped it off. We can only think that Faye and Ken off 'R Genesis' must have left early in the morning, dropping it off on their way out???

Around noon we sailed for Crescent City finding the same light wind on our nose. We beat into it for about 6 hours, sailing through the fog and tacking between Point St George and the Reef about a mile offshore. Thick fog and a current running against us made this a memorable experience! We came into Crescent Bay at dusk, again using waypoints and GPS due to the fog. I chose to anchor out off the boat basin breakwater ostensibly to save some $$ but actually to make it harder for Rani to 'do a runner' (as she puts it).

Here are some pics from the last couple of weeks:

Kite surfer at Bullards Beach near Bandon

First Order French Fresnel lens at lighthouse at Umpqua River - these lenses are rare with about a dozen in private collections around the world. Apparently one sold at auction recently for over 1 million dollars.

Our friend Faye Husch hiking the dunes north of Coos Bay. Note the dune buggy tracks behind us.

Rani hiking high in the dunes. She regretted turning down an offer to ride down the dunes on a motorbike!

Our friend Ken Husch in Bandon. We spent a lot of time enjoying Ken and Faye's company while on Coos Bay and spent a day in the rental car together, touring the local coast.

Lighthouse and bird near Bandon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Still in Coos Bay

Well - the gales in northern California have persisted now for over a week and we are still waiting for a weather window. The problem is not just wind, but the closely spaced very steep seas that would make the next leg of the trip uncomfortable.

We rented a car for a few days and did some sightseeing to local dunes where you can rent buggies and blast around (we hiked, taking care to avoid being run down!). We also visited some of the stunning beaches that we saw in the distance on the way down as well as a lighthouse whose comforting light Rani saw on her night watch.

We hope to leave for California today. We'll post some pics later when we have a better connection.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Off to the United States

Well we finally made it into US waters on August 30. Before we left, Rani made a quarantine flag from some old clothing for use in other countries when clearing into ports.

The first day was a bit rough with sustained 20 knot winds, 7 foot swells and 4 foot waves on top. We both had some doubts about the wisdom of sailing this exposed coast. As we passed Cape Flattery at supper time, we discussed turning back for Victoria (and even selling Ladybug, flying to Mexico to buy another boat!). Fortunately we persevered and we eventually adjusted to the rolling motion, breaking waves, and queasiness. Luckily, neither of us was seasick and we began our watch schedule of alternating 2 hour watches in order to get some sleep. There was surprisingly little shipping or other boats on this passage once we crossed the lanes at the entrace to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The autopilot (named Banshee for what should be obvious reasons) helped us cover 140 nautical miles entirely under sail in less than 24 hours – a respectable distance for a 29 foot sailboat.

Sunfish off Oregon Coast

In Grays Harbour Washington we tried to clear into the US only to find out that there was no customs facility and that we should have called ahead. The coast guard folks came over to help us straighten things out and we were able to clear in through Seattle customs via the phone. As a bonus, we were issued with a written warning that will be mailed to my Dad and Mum in Nova Scotia (Folks – please don't worry when you get a formal looking envelope from Homeland Security!).

Rani in her 'coffin' berth

The next passage was the longest continuous sail I have done to date (most of my sailing has been daily passages along the coast). We sailed about 230 nautical miles over 3 days and 2 nights to Coos Bay, Oregon. We flew our newly recut spinnaker, which I had never flown even in its previous configuration as a racing spinnaker. We discovered that it was a very well patched sail. Due to the age of the repairs, the glue had failed on the patches and they fell off in a shower into the water and on the deck, leaving the spinnaker with a network of small holes and tears. This prompted us to nickname it 'Shroud of Turin', it being a very holy cloth.

Chris in front of the old coast guard station at Grays Harbour

We sailed across the Columbia river bar at night under spinnaker and had a close call with an outgoing tug. Rani really dislikes night sailing in areas with traffic and we both stayed in the cockpit watching for boats and trying to decipher all the lights. These can be very confusing and a couple of times we made pretty radical course corrections to avoid airplanes and lights on the shore that were doing excellent impersonations of approaching container ships.

We arrived In Coos Bay yesterday, pulling in here to avoid gales forecast for the next 4 days. We have met some interesting cruisers who are also harbour-bound and will rent a car to do some purchases and to visit the dunes, beaches, forests, and cliffs of the Oregon coast. Next passage will probably be to Crescent City California.


From Rani - Chris has summed up the last four days quite well but I have a few impressions to add myself:

It seems like we have been sailing for weeks, not days. We have lived through a lot, been very close to nature and learned a lot about each other. I think that Chris is more of a risk taker than I am even though I was labeled an adrenaline junkie a while back. Maybe it's because he knows his boat's capabilities and his own ability to handle it better than I do but I have experienced several hours of fear and prayed more in those hours than in the past year. God is probably getting sick of hearing from me! The sea has many moods ; sometimes it is so calm that one feels like a duck floating in a garden pond but at other times it is so turbulent that I feel like a fly caught in a washing machine.

Coast Guard training at Coos Bay (Charleston). The cutter in the picture goes out on training runs

Rani chatting up cute coast guard trainee

Rani sewing quarantine flag

There have been highs and lows but I would say that my highs outweigh the lows by a mile. The night crossings were my worst nightmare as the lack of depth perception in the dark hours of the night and an overactive imagination made every buoy and vessel light appear a lot closer. Chris tried to reassure me , with limited success, that not all the tugs and container ships were out to get us personally! The 4 to 7 feet swells following the boat, even at night, were not as threatening as the ships as far as I was concerned. Looking up at the starry sky, however, always had a mesmerizing and calming effect. I have never seen as many stars and the milky way as clearly as I did on those night on the sea. Looking at those galaxies beyond our little planet makes one feel very miniscule and wonder how many life forms there are out and are any of them looking down on us and questioning who and what we are?

Amongst my personal highs are the sights and sounds of the creatures of the sea – a gray whale snorting close to the Ladybug but invisible in the dark, flotillas of Stellar sea lions swimming by like a synchronised swim team, a beautiful yellow sunfish floating on the waves like a giant sunflower. The days have been sunny with blue skies and we have had ample time to sit in the cockpit to sip wine, read and feel lucky to be free of all conventional responsiblities, like work and house chores. That doesn't mean that we have nothing to do all day. Changes in the wind entail sail change and that can be hard work, especially in 4 foot swells when the boat is rocking from side to side. Cooking requires gymnastic abilities as one tries to balance while chopping vegetables with one foot wedged against the table post or settee, one hand holding the chopping board firmly on the counter and the other carefully holding the knife to avoid suicidal stabbing. While taking my weekly shower ( that's a lie, it was after 5 days really ) , I noticed some very colourful bruises all over my body from bumping into cleats, winches and various other bits of equipment on the deck. My upper body strength is also improving as I assist in hoisting sails or tacking – I guess I didn't need those exercises that you provided, Sorrell.

So, it's not all fun and frolics, folks , but I am enjoying this adventure immensely.