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!

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