Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monterey, Big Sur, and Ed Ricketts

We are back on Ladybug after a brief camping expedition to Big Sur. Friend and former school-mate, Peter Rigby drove down from Davis for a visit on Friday night. We set off in his car on Sunday after spending Saturday visiting museums, strolling through Monterey, and sailing Ladybug in the bay. The Big Sur coastline is a truly spectacular drive with hair-raising drop-offs, plenty of pull-overs and view points, and a number of state parks with ocean access and hiking trails. We visited Point Lobos, hiking in to save the car entry fee, although we made the mistake of bringing no water or food. Peter's high metabolism makes him even more cranky when hungry than I am. Fortunately, Peter is a vegetarian or I might not be here to write this.

Peter on the rocks

Peter conjuring waves

Big Sur Lighthouse

Peter and Rani at a pull over near Big Sur

Romantic moment (sorry Peter!)

Rocks along Big Sur coast

We camped at a beautiful riverside campground amongst towering redwoods and cooked our supper over and in the coals of a fire built from roadside-gathered wood. I can't believe how tasty slightly charred fire-baked potatoes are! Today we drove back to Monterey, stopping for a lovely hike in another state park that took us past trees alive with Monarch butterflies. Apparently, the monarchs over-winter here (although I thought they usually went all the way to Mexico?).

Peter and Chris holding a shark's fin (this giant was washed up in Monterey Bay)

Ladybug's commodious sleeping accommodations

Peter and Chris

Monarchs in Big Sur

Prior to Peter's arrival, Rani and I had sailed from Santa Cruz across Monterey Bay with a lovely beam wind almost the whole way. We saw California Sea Otters, mistaking the first one we saw for an abandoned child's teddy bear! I had seen them up north on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but none were in evidence much south of Kyuquot until we reached Santa Cruz. They were virtually wiped out by hunters due to their remarkable pelts, which can have up to a million hairs per square inch (necessary for insulation in the frigid pacific waters they frequent). From 50 otters in the rugged and remote Big Sur coast at the turn of the 20th century, the California population is up to over 2500. They now range north almost as far as San Francisco.

We next spent a day in Monterey, doing laundry, and visiting historic areas of the city including Cannery Row and the Presidio. We learned about the canneries and the sardine industry, which made Monterey the 'Sardine capitol of the world'. At the height of the industry, floating hoppers were loaded from ships and the fish sucked through pipes into the canneries, which stood on stilts along the waterfront. Escalators moved the fish to upper stories for inspection, and they were then dropped back down to be cut up and packed in 1 lb cans. After pressure cooking, conveyer belts moved the cans across the street to wharehouses and then onto rail cars - a wonderfully efficient operation which virtually wiped out the species shortly after world war II. The canneries are all gone now and most of the buildings converted to posh hotels, boutiques, and restaurants – sigh. Monterey has a good number of historic brick and adobe buildings, some of which are open to the public. We loved the walled gardens we found in some of these.

Fishermans Wharf Monterey

Ed Ricketts' memorial

Tomorrow we are having Frank over for tea. This gentleman, whom we met while visiting Cannery Row knew marine biologist Ed Ricketts (a friend of Steinbeck's and the basis for the character 'Doc' in “Cannery Row”). Frank is 90 and as lively and interesting aperson as you could find anywhere – an ambassador for the Cannery Row area of Monterey. Frank gave us a tour of Ed Rickett's home and laboratory, which is currently a private club. We are really looking forward to listening to a recording of John Steinbeck reading one of his stories, which Frank is bringing over for us to listen to. We have been reading some of Steinbeck's stories on Ladybug, including the Log from the Sea of Cortez, which describes a specimen collecting expedition Steinbeck and Ricketts took during the 40's to Baja, California.

Frank and Chris

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sausalito, San Fransisco, Santa Cruz, and Sea lions

First, let me summarise our second week in San Francisco/Sausalito:

In the process of exploring Sausalito, we discovered that there are two totally different sets of communities here. One is the uber-rich who live on the hill in multi-million dollar homes and have Porsches and Alfa Romeos parked in their drive-ways and the other is the lower/no income who live in floating shacks or boats along the stenching stretch of water in the north end of town. They all appear to live happily side by side, although the rich folk have voiced concerns about the " anchor- outs " ( live-aboards who are anchored permanently in the bay ).

We did not see anyone begging and the anchor-outs have their own little community which looks out for one another. Some woman even helped to make space for our little dinghy while complaining about the larger outboards tied up at the dinghy dock. We met one of our neighbouring anchor-outs in the better part of the bay, Kusuru, one day while at the library and he told us that he had been in Sausalito for 20 years and another man, Bob, who had circumnavigated on a small 27 ft boat a few years ago but was now financially handicapped and waiting for his social security to begin so that he could repair his boat. Bob asked us if we were refugees from Canada!!! Maybe we should be after the recent election results.

Preparing Mixed Dal Curry

We had our first day apart in Sausalito.No, we did not fall out with each other.Chris wanted to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge and I was not sure if I could cope with the uphill portion to get there in the first place, so we decided to each do our own thing. He cycled around town and then crossed over the bridge to the Presidio and the wealthy neighbourhood nearby. I enjoyed a relaxing urban hike in town and then a more rugged one to the 19th century Fort Baker which lies at the base of the bridge on the Sausalito side. I walked half-way across the bridge to view San Francisco from a different angle and watched some kite-surfers and wind-surfers having a fun time in the unusually calm waters of the Bay. My hike back to town was along the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands with amazing views across to Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Bay, and Oakland.I was the only hiker on the trail and wondered if the bob cats had enough deer to eat in the area...

We retrieved our sail from Alameda on Thursday, Oct. 9th, and while returning to Richardson Bay in Sausalito, were thrilled to see the Blue Angels ( the US Navy aerobatics team equivalent to the Canadian Snowbirds ) practicing their stunts and formations above us. They were in San Francisco for Fleet Week, which is the US Navy's annual event here and includes a navy vessel sail through the Golden Gate, an air show and fireworks. I took some photos when the F18's thundered over our heeling boat but they have since been replaced by better ones from the show.

High NW winds of 35-50 Knots were forecast for the weekend and we certainly had cause to worry. On Friday night our big delta anchor and 100 feet of chain dragged through the soft mud (the harbour master warns of the ineffectiveness of plows in this harbour). We reanchored at 3am and stuck, but dragged when we tried to reset it away from other boats in the daylight. We then moved to a deeper water anchorage near the mouth of the bay in 4 fathoms (the depth sounder was reading 0 feet below the keel in the other one) and anchored on the delta and our small 7.5 kg bruce set at 45 degrees. This held us well despite some good gusts (to about 30 knots). Several other boats apparently had to be towed back by vessel rescue.

An advantage of moving was being invited on board a dutch sailboat. Hans and Rose have been cruising for 3 years with another one to go in their circumnavigation. They fitted out a bare hull, which is a true racing machine, drawing 10 feet with the hydraulic drop keel down and 6 feet retracted. We had them by for dinner and whipped up 2 curries ( Chef Rani ) and even a pineapple chocolate upside-down cake ( Chef Chris ). Incidentally, the 20 lb propane tank fitted in July is still going but must be nearly empty as we cook almost every meal. We eat better than most cruisers but,thank God, our frequent hiking trips have compensated for all the yummy treats.

Snowbirds in condor formation

Snowbirds coming in from the Golden Gate

On Saturday morning, we sailed back into the Aquatic Basin downtown and watched the fleet week air show complete with the brilliant Snowbirds. I cheered for our home team , embarrassing Chris, as we were the only Cannucks in the boat basin.The Blue Angels were louder and faster than our guys but the Snowbirds won my heart when they drew a very accurate heart in the sky with their smoke streams. At one point a Blue Angel blasted low along the waterfront, but this was just a decoy to make the arrival of another plane with its afterburners a complete surprise as it swept in from behind the office towers. I bet there were some people changing their underwear after that one! At night we watched a wonderful fireworks show from the deck of our boat.

Blue Angels blast by

Despite planning to spend Sunday doing chores and grocery shopping, we watched the air show yet again but this time from the land. There was an amusement park set up for kids with lots of junk food stalls nearby and a radio DJ providing a commentary on the stunts. One of the most impressive planes was a bright red bi-plane, part of a 4 man team, The Collaborators, who had our hearts in out throats as he plummeted in death spirals, did mid-air suspensions and loop de loops. We eventually made it to Safeway at 4pm and were pleased to find that 'Lil Bugger was still illegally docked near the SF Police Dept's pier.

Navy jets fly past aquatic basin anchorage - note coast guard patrol keeping boats away from the ditch zone

Blue angel support plane appears to be trapped in a sailboat's shrouds!

On our last night at San Francisco, Chris woke me up at 10pm - yep, bedtime is getting earlier and earlier! " I think Angel Island is on fire!", he shouted from the cockpit.I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw huge flames engulfing the south and east end of the island. The orange glow was like lava flowing from a volcano as the fire grew higher and sped over Mt. Livermore. It was very sad watching the destruction of a beautiful park where we had only hiked a week ago. There was no sound of fire engines or helicopters at all and we wondered if any action was being taken at all. We later learned that there is only one fire engine with limited staffing on the island, so 8 fire engines were sent on barges and over 200 fire fighters were transported by the Coast Guard during the night and the fire was under control by the morning. We woke up to find our deck covered with a layer of ashes and the sight of a smouldering Angel Island. The fire had destroyed 250 acres of the 770 total parkland but the historical buildings of the Quarantine Hospital and Fort McDowell had been saved.

Fire on angel island

On Thanksgiving Monday, we waved good-bye to San Francisco and set sail to Half Moon Bay. The wind was perfect when we set off in the afternoon and we were flying at 7-8 Knots for a couple of hours and then it just died.So, much to Chris's dismay, we had to switch on the motor. We arrived at beautiful Half Moon Bay just in time to watch the sunset in the company of many other sail boats.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we set off early towards Santa Cruz and again, the early promise of wind was deceptive and even with the spinnaker, we barely maintained 2 Knots. Late in the afternoon, the wind came up suddenly and we were speeding along with just the main, then 1, 2 and finally 3 reefs in the main. This lasted for a few hours before it died again. With an hour and half of motoring we reached Santa Cruz in the moonlight using directions from a cruising guide and a very general chart.

This morning we rowed over to explore the town and were very impressed by the number of well kept Victorian houses, a nice high street with lots of restaurants, cafes and wide sidewalks for pedestrians ( reminded me of some English high streets ), beautiful beaches and promenades. We went back in the evening to eat at an Indian restaurant, The Sitar, and ate so much at the buffet that we had trouble walking back to the pier - some people never learn.

Getting back to the boat was another adventure...

There were half a dozen Sea Lions barking away on our dinghy dock, one being only 2 feet away from 'Lil Bugger. We needed to go down a metal ladder from the pier onto the dock, step past a 400 lb beast, untie the dinghy and row away before he or the other gang members sitting about 10 feet away attacked us. Chris thought he could scare the closest one by throwing balled up cardboard. A direct hit on the nose barely got a reaction but caused a fuss from the big guys. Chris tried climbing down the ladder and a large male charged, so he hot-tailed back up.

I solicited help from a trio of teenagers sitting on the pier. While the 4 of us hollered and whooped to distract the Sea Lions on one side of the dock, Chris climbed over a fence and jumped 5 feet down to the jetty beside the dinghy guardian, quickly stepped into the dinghy, untied it and rowed away. The sea lion beside the dinghy appeared to be sick (apparently, sick sea lions are usually loners) and did not react to Chris's sudden arrival. Several of the other Sea Lions jumped into the water while more climbed onto the float and I wondered if they would take Chris down, but, luckily, they left him alone.

Chris then rowed almost the entire length of the 1/2 mile pier to pick me up at another set of stairs where there is no floating dock for the Sea Lions to congregate. I was really thankful that we both made it back to Ladybug in one piece! Wildlife is much more endearing when it's in the wild!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Some details on passage making

Well I had a request from my sailing friend, Jamie Orr, for some more info on how we have been cruising:

"The blog is fine but doesn't have the details of each passage: weather,sea conditions, how you arranged watches and how they worked. Also how the boat and equipment is standing up. Sometime in the future I expect to hear all this over a beer or two so make sure you're recording it somewhere!"

For the first few weeks we did a lot of overnight sailing, because safe harbours on the Washington and Oregon coast are typically too far apart to reach during the 12 or so hours of daylight, unless you are prepared to motor a lot. These night sails were quite exhilerating but often very cold and a bit scary because of the need to constantly watch for fishing boats (sometimes unlit, we have been told) and commercial traffic.

We were doing 2 hour watches because of the cold and fatigue, but switched to 3 hour watches for the last couple of night passages. 2 Hours is not really enough time to fall asleep and get a decent sleep in and we were definitely going into sleep deficit the next day!

In the last couple of weeks, we tried to do day sailing and sometimes did very short passages, staying in marginal anchorages (used by fishing boats, usually) to accomplish this. I found that the long overnight passages took a lot of the fun out of sailing and that this came back quickly when we were able to sail during the day and drop the hook to get a good rest. This will be our approach for the rest of the trip where possible (some ports are still too far apart on the California and West Baja coasts to allow this). On night passages we wear harnesses and clip onto a webbing line that runs from bow to stern when we need to do sail changes.

Weather has ranged from light to no winds about 20% of the time to moderate to strong NW winds. Swells have been a major pain when running down the coast because they pick the boat up and twist it around, overpowering the autopilot. We find that we use the autopilot about 95% of the time and it is a Godsend! However we need to keep the boat running at or below it's hull speed of 6.5 knots or the pilot cannot cope and the belt slips and wears. We are currently having a 3rd reef put in the main sail to help slow us down on the downwind runs. We reef at 15 knots, again at 20 knots, and we would like ot reef again at 25 knots. This is with just the main up and we are still doing 7 knots and surfing up to 10 knots in these conditions running downwind. We typically wait out forecast gales in port and also wait for southerly winds to clear out before we leave port. This has delayed us for a total of 12 days out of 40, so far. We treat these delays as an opportunity to explore an area.

Equipment that has failed so far: autopilot belt broke at the glue joint, upper sail batten broke, sail chafed where it rubbed the shrouds at the 2nd upper batten, many holes in spinnaker from chafe on forestay and due to wrapping. Broke 2 preventer clips (bronze is too weak for this job). Destroyed a preventer pulley. Rudder has significant play in the bottom bearing from all the rolling downwind. Dropped a few things overboard (camera case, lens cover). Most stuff is holding up well, 'though, and the boat is working out better than I thought it would.

We have been able to cook at sea despite not having gimbles on the stove. Running downwind this is not a big issue, although you do get thrown around. I have added a strap to hold us into the galley and fiited pot holders made from coat hanger wire, which work very well :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Week in San Francisco

Well we have been in San Francisco for a week and are really enjoying this!. The bay is an incredible playground full of fascinating islands and ringed by the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Sausalito, Tiburon, etc. After our first night in the heart of San Francisco at Pier 39, we sailed across, past Alcatraz Island to Sausalito, where we anchored in front of the Sausalito Cruising Club. While checking our email at Pier 39, we met Clark Beek, a well known circumnavigator, who's sailboat was struck by a huge container ship and nearly sunk a year or 2 back. He has written about this and also about cruising in Peru in Sail magazine (great articles!).

Sausalito (Richardson Bay) is a very shallow anchorage, full of local boats, live-aboards, and a few cruising sailors. As we came in to the anchorage we saw Forbes and Cameron, a schooner we had anchored next to in Cadoro Bay back in Victoria as well as a Vancouver boat we had last met up with in Fort Bragg. There was also a boat from France and even one from Russia (a huge red racing yacht with a hammer and sickle theme, but flagged in the US). Rani has found some more Punjabis to chat with, running a local restaurant where we had dinner early in the week. Prior to our Indian dinner we took in a matinee of Woody Allen's new flick, Vicky Christina Barcelona – a very good movie. Sausalito is a very well heeled place, built up a steep hillside lush with vegetation. Plenty of BMWs and Mercedes cars, houses that average over a $million (with taxes to match!), and an interesting contrast to the rag tag live-aboard 'fleet' amongst which we are anchored.

From Sausalito, we dinghied ashore and explored the nearby Marin Headlands state park, visited a Nike cold war missile base, and drove to Alameda with a friendly German sailor, named Torsten, to do some grocery shopping and drop off our mainsail for modifications (a 3rd reef and some patches). Torsten and Elke are a German couple cruising on a trimaran, which they bought here and have spent the last year upgrading for the trip. They left this morning for Half Moon bay and plan to sail to Mexico and then over to Australia where they will sell the boat and return to their homeland in about a year and a half.

On the weekend we sailed from Sausalito around Angel Island, landing at Quarry Beach to do some hiking in this state park. Angel Island provides incredible 360 degree views of the bay area being only a few miles from San Francisco and Alcatraz. The island is a mixture of wilderness and historical forts, hospitals, and quarantine stations. It was a major embarkation poiint for US troops in the war in the Pacific against Japan. From Angel Island, we sailed to the aquatic basin in downtown San Fransisco. This open ocean swimming and rowing basin allows non-motorized boats to anchor for up to 24 hours and we stayed there over the weekend, leaving early this morning. Yesterday we toured the ships at the maritime museum (see pics below) and trecked over the hill to the Museum of Asian Art (see more pics below). This museum, housed in a stunning neo-classical building, covers the art of dozens of nations and happened to be free on this first Sunday of the month.

We swam today to clean the boat bottom in moderately chilly water (60 degrees) and came out with teeth chattering. We are now back in Sausalito in our old anchorage and will head out for some Italian food tonight. That's all for now.

San Francisco from Angel Island Buoy

Golden Gate from off Alcatraz Island

'Surf' landing at Aquatic Park, San Francisco

Maritime Museum tall ship (Balclutha - 19th century)

Aquatic Basin (Ladybug is white dot just below bridge)

Rowers in Sausalito

Rani, L'il Bugger, and German Trimaran Milonga - Torsten on deck


Sausalito from the Marin Headlands

Chris in the Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands air traffic control system

Nike missile from the cold war

Torsten and Elke on Milonga

Ladybug at the Aquatic Park

Alcatraz from sea level

The Maltese Falcon - 300 foot long private yacht owned by a local venture capitalist

Following pics are from the Museum of Asian Art - very cool place!

Carved from elephant ivory

Funeral statuary