Saturday, October 31, 2015

Baja Bumper Boats

Take 100 boats sailing in a radius of about 20 miles on a pitch black night with strong winds and decent swells and what do you have? A cool video game on radar called Baja Bumper Boats.

Nobody had hit anyone else, but we had a close call with some nitwit who overtook us then cut ahead of us way too close. Renee took evasive action to clear his stern. She rarely swears but I think I might have heard her this time.

I navigated us out of the swarm, the wind and seas have calmed and the moon is rising so, alas,the excitement is waning.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bahia de Tortugas

We have been having fun during our Bahia de Tortugas rest stop.

Yesterday we played baseball in the small town's ball park, which is quite impressive. It's a modern lighted field with good quality artificial turf. Amazing for a village with a population reported of around 1,200 people. We played a unique version of baseball, one where everybody gets a pitch until they get a hit. Yachties and town kids lined up for their turn at bat, the kids in full uniform and trying to look impressive, the yachties trying to figure out if it is possible to bat, catch and throw without putting down their beer.

The rest of the town around the ballpark is made up small homes, some small shops, a gas station and a modern medical clinic. While the town dusty (no paved roads) and the people quite poor, most of the homes and shops are kept up well and there's a friendly, small town atmosphere with lots of smiles and welcoming greetings. It seems like a nice place to live, although I bet its hot as hell in the summer.

We started off today with a "fancy" egg breakfast at anchor. Then I spent the rest of the morning taking apart and rebuilding our electric head (marine toilet). It was making a sound like a piece of metal somehow got into the macerator, which would quickly damage the blade. It wasn't a piece of metal. Here's a tip for those of you who have an electric head or install one in the future: Don't swallow olive pits. I won't elaborate further.

After that lovely task, I was ready for the Baja Ha-Ha beach party so we piled into the dinghy and took off. It was a bring-your-own picnic with BBQ grills provided and a beer stand set up by some locals. We brought some ranch beef steaks and salad and Jeanne and I drank a bunch of beer, punctuated with a little rum. I handed out our extra steaks to Mark, a friend I made in Morro Bay, Jeff, who shared his ceviche with us, and two young women who I thought looked rather hungry. I'm enjoying conversations with my dentist and friend Jim Forni, who is sailing with five other hotshot sailors. I've always enjoyed our sailing conversations during my dentist visits and I'm enjoying getting to know him while not reclined and wearing a bib.

The Ha-Ha organizers were selling hotdogs to raise money for victims of Hurricane Patricia. During the morning radio check-in, the Grand Poobah (Ha-Ha boss) touted that the hotdogs were imported from Costco in the US and the food handlers would have plastic gloves "and stuff like that, so the food will be semi-sanitary." I figured that having just rebuilt a head, I would not volunteer to help with the fundraiser and thus potentially compromise the "semi- sanitary" conditions.

We had been commended for how well we landed our dinghy in the light surf at the beach. Unfortunately, our departure was not as elegantly executed. All started off well. We timed the waves and got the dink out into the water during a lull. However, I'm still having trouble lowering the outboard while standing outside the boat in thigh deep water. I can't see the release tab from that angle and don't have the muscle memory yet to feel my way through the operation. While I was fiddling with the motor, the surf decided that it's lull was over and two waves crashed over and into the boat. That by itself would just be wet and inelegant, but the patch of water we were in was choked with fine, red seaweed. So the three of us and our boat were covered in it. The Mexican panga (open fishing boat) drivers and the people on the beach got a laugh or two out of that. We suffered through it in good humor, but it took us about half an hour to remove the seaweed from ourselves and the dingh
y. We're still finding strands of it on and around us.

Tonight we heard splashing outside the boat and got the flashlight to investigate. There were a lot of small fish swimming around the boat and one big white pelican. The fish were attracted to the light from the flashlight, which the pelican appreciated as it made catching them much easier for him/her. While we were clearly upsetting the natural order of things, it was quite entertaining for us, satisfying for the pelican, but clearly a foul deed from the fishes' perspective.

Leg 2 of the Ha-Ha starts tomorrow at 0900. It's 230 nautical miles (nm) to Bahia Santa Maria. So far, we've been logging about 110 nm per day in variable winds and some motoring. If we keep that up, we should arrive before noon on Monday.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Anchored in Bahia de Tortugas (Turtle Bay)

After four days and three nights at sea, we arrived and are snuggly anchored in Bahia de Tortugas with the rest of the Baja Ha-Ha fleet, minus a few stragglers and late starts. Last night's sail was 90% pleasantly uneventful, 10% a big unexpected bash.

I had planned our route based on the wind forecast which was for mostly light winds at night. I assumed we would be motoring, so routed us via the shortest distance without consideration for wind and waves. That route brought us to the east, leeward side of Cedros Island, the only boat in the Ha-Ha fleet I'm aware of that chose that side. However, instead of light winds, we had 20 knot winds which was no problem while we were in the shelter of the island but when passed out of the wind shadow...oh boy!

To make our way to Turtle Bay and avoid reported lobster traps and fish nets in the dark, we had to turn into the strong wind and considerable swell. To compound matters, there was a shallow bank along our path that amplified the wave height and steepness for a good 30 minutes of rough, tortuous motoring. Fortunately, we have motored through worse bashing up the Northern California coast, so we knew how to handle the boat and that it was just a noisy, bucking ride, not any real problem. During the worst of it, Renee asked me to check if the hatch was completely closed in the port head. I went below and looked up to check it, just as the bow of the boat crashed through one of the biggest waves of the night, and was immediately informed by a complete dousing that, no, the hatch was not completely closed! Renee thought that was funny.

Once we got past the shoal and in a position to turn downwind, everything calmed down substantially and we unfurled the jib for a steady sail until our morning arrival in the anchorage. We are anchored on the perimeter of the fleet, a 15 minute dinghy ride from the small town. The water is a nice warm 83 degrees,perfect for a refreshing swim to clear the sailing fatigue cobwebs. I celebrated our arrival with a post-swim beer, the earliest one so far at 10 a.m.. Following a watch schedule for the past three nights has made the time of day irrelevant to my biological clock, particularly when it comes to beer.

We'll hangout on the boat to rest for a while. Jeanne has made some poke from some of yesterday's tuna catch that we will enjoy on top of a salad for lunch. Then we'll head into town for the famous yachties vs townspeople baseball game. That should be fun and I imagine there might be more beer.

We are here until Halloween, when we depart on Leg 2 o the Ha-Ha to Bahia Santa Maria. Now we know that multi-night passages are not a Robles for us, although certainly tiring.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fish On!

(Via satellite)

Great sailing today; warm, sunny, steady winds.

Renee caught a yellowfin tuna, our first fish! She bought this hand rig at West Marine, a different setup than what I was thinking. We set it out behind the boat and I just didn't think it was going to work because the lure seemed way too close to the boat, even though it was dancing very naturally through the water. Renee didn't give up hope and started rigging a "fish on" alarm fashioned out of a piece of line and a soda can. I went to help her tie on the alarm, rolling my eyes at the apparent futility of it only look out at the lure to see a nice yellowfin firmly attached to it. ( I'm calling it a yellowfin because it was a tuna and had yellow fins; maybe it was a different sort. The meat was darker than yellowfin you get at sushi restaurants)

We hauled it in, I dispatched it with a baseball bat (carried primarily for boat security) and set about cleaning and filleting it on my dual purpose workbench/cleaning table, a redwood 2x12 donated by friend Dan.

Jeanne prepared rice and we put the tuna sashimi on top with some soy sauce, wasabi and sesame seeds. Simple, fresh and delicious!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moonlight Sailing

I suffered my 21:00 to midnight watch coping with seasickness, which I only experience on random, rare occasions. Renee was a sweetheart and gave me an extra 2 hours before my next watch to recover. I woke up feeling pretty good to enjoy a beautiful moonlight sail. No motoring tonight! Yay!

San Diego to Bahia de Tortugas, Day 2

After leaving crossing the starting line for Leg 1 of the Baja Ha-Ha and leaving San Diego behind us we enjoyed a fine day of sailing until about 10 pm. For dinner we had Jeanne's chicken rice, a delicious comfort food dish her mom taught her to make. Perfect for a first night at sea.

We motored through the night under a full moon that was obscured by fog in the early morning hours, damp and cold. The winds continued fickle and light, so we continued motoring through the day until finally at 1 pm we unfurled the Code 0. The sailing stated off slow but now at 4pm we are booming along with wind behind us in the high teens.

It's nice having a third person on board, especially someone with good culinary taste and skills and who is enthusiastic about learning about the boat, learning how to sail and just about everything else.

I managed to destroy the shackle for the mainsail tack, a combination of bad design and user error when hoisting the sail with the electric winch. No spare, but I used an empty slot at the gooseneck end of the boom to rig a short down haul through a jammer to resist the upward pull of the halyard and lashed the clew to the reefing strop padeyes to counter the outhaul and all seems good. Gilles ( Intermezzo's official rigger) would either be proud of me...or embarrassed to be associated with such a kludge.

Not such good luck with my Mac which has gone completely kaput and won't turn on. That means we can't get our weather routing updates and will have to rely on the once a day macro forecast broadcast each morning by the rally organizers. Hope there's an Apple Store in Cabo!

Current dilemma is that the voyage menu is on the Mac and we can't get to it so we don't know what to make for dinner. We will have to go to manual decision making.

Baja Sunrise

(Via satellite)

The fog lifted, the sun's coming up and a morning swim by greeting from pod of dolphins. Looks like it will be s beautiful day!

Hope the wind builds. Still motoring.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cold and Foggy

(Via satellite)

Can you believe it? 3 am cold and foggy in Baja!

Motoring into light headwinds.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

We're Ready

We're ready to start the Baja Ha-Ha tomorrow. OK, we do still need to wash the boat, fill a water tank and stow some stuff, but we'll get that done early tomorrow morning. The Ha-Ha starts with a kick-off parade through San Diego at 10 a.m. We were told that the Navy's 3rd Fleet is leaving at the same time and they will get the main channel; we're relegated to on side. Damn argy-bargy Navy.

We're making friends with other Ha-Ha participants. Many boats are continuing on a similar itinerary so I expect some of these new friendships will grow over the next few months.

I'm tired of spending money on boat stuff. It will be great to be at sea, where there is nothing to spend money on. Cabo will be a bit expensive, but after that we should settle into a more reasonable money burn rate.

This will be the last blog via broadband until we get to Cabo. I'll be posting via satellite email as we sail down Baja until I can get internet access after we arrive on November 5.  I won't be able to post the link to the blog on Facebook, so if that is how you have been following you might want to subscribe to email updates by submitting your email address under the "Follow by Email" heading in the right sidebar.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Baja Ha-Ha and Beyond

We're steadily crossing off items on our lists so that we are ready, or as ready as we can be, to depart San Diego on the Baja Ha-Ha rally to Cabo San Lucas.  Buying provisions, taking care of online business while we still have a broadband connection, canceling insurances, cell phone services, buying fuel, filling is a long list. We oriented Jeanne to the boat this morning and got our meal menu worked out. I think we'll be eating well and have some good Sonoma County wines in the "cellar" to pair with our meals.

The trip to Cabo is a long one, punctuated with two stops with Ha-Ha social events. We set sail late Monday morning and sail four days and three nights to our first stop on Thursday and Bahia de Tortugas (Turtle Bay). We rest and party for two days and then leave on Halloween for Bahia Santa Maria, which is another three days down the coast, arriving Monday. Another two days of rest/fun and then the final leg, two days to Cabo.  The current forecast is for variable light to moderate winds, so I expect we'll be alternating between sailing and motoring.  I'm looking forward to a warm, pleasant and fun voyage.

I calculated some statistics from Leg 1 of our trip, from San Francisco to San Diego.  Here they are:

  • Distance Travelled (nautical miles): 448
  • Total Trip Duration (days): 17
  • Time Underway (hours): 119
  • Time Sailing (hours): 63
  • Time Motoring (hours): 56
  • Fuel Consumed (gallons): 51

I'm a bit surprised that we motored as much as we did. I think it's because we were on a schedule to get to San Diego on a certain day and had to turn the engines on to keep up speed during lighter winds. I'm hoping that we can improve our sailing-to-motoring ratio once we get on our own pace of travel after the Ha-Ha.

So what comes after the Ha-Ha?  Here's the rough plan for the coming sailing season (November until July):

  • November 2015: Cruising the Sea of Cortez
  • December 2015:  Sea of Cortez to Puerta Vallarta for the holidays
  • January-March 2016: Pacific coast of Mexico
  • March-April 2016: Mexico to Costa Rica
  • May 2016: Costa Rica
  • June 2016: Costa Rica to Panama

When we get to Panama, we'll decide if we will go through the canal to position ourselves for Caribbean sailing stay on the Pacific side to return to Mexico for the next sailing season. Either way, we'll lay the boat up for the summer and return back to the US to visit family, friends and goats.

I definitely feel ready, more than ready, to leave San Diego and head to Mexico. I'm looking forward to the beauty and remoteness of the Sea of Cortez, speaking a different language, and a big change in lifestyle. I will be happy to have finally finished all the major preparations (and shopping...ugh) for this trip.  While I enjoyed our sail down the California coast, when we cross into Mexican waters, I'll feel we've started the voyage that I've been dreaming about for so many years.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Catalina Island, Close Naval Encounters and Arrival in San Diego

We arrived in San Diego on Wednesday afternoon and have been enjoying the warm weather, meeting crews of fellow Baja Ha-Ha boats, welcoming and being welcomed by our new crew member Jeanne and her good friend/sailing mentor Paul and diving into getting the boat and ourselves ready for Mexico.

Before we started our journey here on Tuesday evening, we took a hike up the hills above our harbor on Catalina Island. The California drought was evident in the parched vegetation which stood in stark contrast to the deep blue and turquoise water surrounding the island. It felt good to stretch our legs and get a good workout climbing the steep hills. The two beers I had at the bar in the micro-town of Two Harbors tasted really good afterwards, too.

We headed out of Catalina Harbor around 6 pm. I figured out the geometry of the two anchor lines correctly so recovering up the stern anchor was theoretically easy but hauling up the 25 feet of 3/8" chain and anchor by hand was more effort, an upper body workout to compliment our earlier hike and burn off the two beers.

We sailed with just the Code 0 sail in beautiful moonlight, light winds and calm seas. It was so warm out I was sailing in a short sleeved shirt.

All was nice and peaceful until midnight, when a large ship appeared and our radar tracked her to be on a collision course with us. All large commercial ships have an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and this one didn't, which meant it was a warship. We knew from radio traffic that Navy ships were conducting operations in our vicinity so that wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise and quite disconcerting was that this warship was heading right for us at 20 knots. I hailed them on the radio alerting them of the situation and requesting they communicate their intentions, but got no response. I took evasive action by altering course to starboard as far as I could while under sail. The ship responded by altering her course to continue intercepting us. I was getting a little "tense" and thought about warning them over the radio that if they continued their hostile actions, I would be forced to open fire on them, but thought that perhaps a warship would not appreciate my sense of humor and held off.  Thankfully, when the ship got within 3/4 of a mile of us, she veered off and passed by us, never uttering a word. I figure the "kids" in command on the bridge of the ship were having a good laugh playing "chicken" with tense man in the little sailboat. I am plotting my revenge.

By early morning the wind had died, so we motored on San Diego until new winds filled in from the southwest around 0900 and we raised sails and started tacking our way to the harbor entrance. We were now sailing in the company of Carthago, a member of the Ha-Ha fleet. As they saying goes, the definition of sailing race is two sail boats within sight of each other, so I sailed Intermezzo hard and, borrowing a trick from Vladimir Putin, took my shirt off to intimidate the other crew.  It was a close race, they pointing higher, we going a bit faster and it looked like it would be a nail-bighter finish (wherever the imagined the finish line might be) until we both stalled in a giant field of dense kelp.  Oops. I had forgotten that you have to stay further out in deeper water when entering San Diego to avoid these kelp beds. You can't motor through them because the kelp will tangle in your props. And now the wind had died to 5 knots or less, so sailing through them was agonizingly slow.  It took us about an hour to extract ourselves.

A submarine joined us for our entry into San Deigo harbor. I had a few ideas for extracting my revenge from the night's previous encounter with the US Navy, but the submarine was moving too fast and was guarded by a patrol boat manned by very bored 18 year old Marines for whom I would no doubt make their day if I were to attempt to intercept and capture the submarine and its crew.

We tied up at the Harbor Police guest docks on Shelter Island at around 1 pm where about a dozen other Baja Ha-Ha boats are berthed. There is a collective festive mood and everyone is very friendly and excited about the upcoming rally which begins on Monday.

Jeanne and Paul delivered all our late voyage purchases that we had delivered to Jeanne's house. It's like Christmas in the salon. More stuff to stow. Meals to plan and provision for. Unfinished boat projects to finish. Rally meetings and events to attend. It's going to be a busy few days.

News of Hurricane Patricia off the Pacific coast of Mexico caused me some initial concern, but it is tracking well south of our route and is forecast to be dissipated by Saturday. In fact, the current forecast for our passage down the Baja peninsula is for very light winds, which is a bummer. I really don't want to have to motor our way down and will have to buy a few more fuel jugs to have enough diesel to do so. It's like the hurricane stole our wind...I want it back.  Maybe things will look better as Monday draws nearer. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sailing at Night In Short Sleeve Shirt

What a difference! It's almost 11 pm sailing to San Diego in gentle breeze and swells. It's so warm that I'm not even wearing a jacket, sailing in short sleeved. Code 0 is keeping us moving along through the moonlit ocean.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Lumpy Bumpy Ride to Catalina

Shortly after arriving in Channel Island Harbor on Saturday evening, Terissa, Renee’s friend and colleague from work, and her husband, Jason, visited Intermezzo and brought with them fresh bread, a nice selection of cheeses and a fine Pinot which were rapidly devoured by captain and crew with gratitude. We enjoyed a nice dinner out, good conversation and getting to know each other better. Hopefully they will be able to join us somewhere along the way as we clearly share an enjoyment for boats and the water.

Sunday I made (hopefully) my last trip to West Marine to pick up the remaining items on the shopping list. The trip left a bigger dent in my boat buck budget than I expected. I will now start fashioning marine hardware and equipment by hand from found items. Screws and bolts forged from molten cans, soft shackles woven from coconut fiber, glue milked from sea cucumbers, etc.

We departed Channel Island Harbor on Sunday evening in challenging conditions. The wind was blowing a steady 25 knots with gusts to 30 and combined seas (swell plus wind waves) were at least 8 feet. I poked Intermezzo’s nose out beyond the breakwater to check things out and had to make the call; turn around and go back to harbor or proceed? I decided on the latter. Conditions were very uncomfortable, but definitely safe and manageable and they were forecasted to improve during the night and as we headed south.  So, I reasoned that it was more valuable to gain experience sailing Intermezzo in rough seas than getting a good night’s sleep in harbor.

The real challenge was the steepness of the seas. The 6 to 8-plus foot waves had a period of around six seconds. That makes for a really uncomfortable motion and the occasional wave breaking into aft portion of Intermezzo’s large cockpit space. The top of one quartering wave slapped me pretty good sitting at the helm station, which is a good nine feet above the waterline!  We found a decent compromise between a good angle for taking the waves and the rhumb line of our course and sailed under a reefed jib at a steady 5-6 knots, rocking and rolling along but well under control.

The VHF radio traffic featured several scared sailors calling the Coast Guard to report their situation and get advice. One was in the roughest part of the Santa Barbara channel north of us (I wouldn’t have sailed there), another was a singlehander approaching Catalina suffering from an overwhelmed autopilot and a dead diesel engine and in for a long night of hand steering. Another reported that an oil platform was on fire and was duly informed by the Coasties  that it were just normal flaring off of gas. All of them sounded pretty anxious. Much more than I was, as Intermezzo and her autopilot were doing just fine and all we had to do was hang on for the ride.

Around 11 pm, the wind died down, just as forecast, and we started an engine for the lumpy, rolling, pitching rest of the trip down to Catalina. We reached Little Harbor, our planned destination, just after sunrise. We had braved the windward side of Catalina because Little Harbor was highly recommended as a beautiful, secluded anchorage. However, westerly swell was still pretty strong and we aborted our entry into the harbor because I deemed Little Harbor to be "too little" under the conditions, with limited swing room, menacing rocks and waves crashing over the rock reef that forms the harbor. I imagine with better lighting and less fatigue it would have been okay and a great spot, but I decided to err this time on the side of safety and we headed to the large well-protected Catalina Harbor, on the ocean side of the Two Harbor Isthmus.

Anchoring was a bit more challenging than normal in this harbor. The only spot for us outside the mooring field (which you have to pay for and is too easy for me) was in 60 feet of water in a narrow slot between a small schooner and a fish pen. 60 feet requires us to put out almost all of our 300 feet of chain to get a decent scope and that results in a very large swing radius and the potential to thump into the schooner and/or fish pen. So we had to put out a second stern anchor to limit our swinging around, which I expertly deployed with the dinghy. I’m working on the geometry  and lengths of the anchor rode to figure out if I can just as expertly retrieve the anchor when we leave, as Intermezzo is sitting at nearly the ends of her two tethers. We’ll see...

We are carrying a really nice suite of ground tackle that I gave a lot of thought towards so I can sleep soundly at anchor on this voyage. Our primary anchor is a 70 lb. Rocna with 300 feet of 3/8” high test chain. Oversized, proven, bullet proof.  Our secondary (kedge) anchor is an aluminum Fortress, just about big enough to be a primary anchor, but light enough to handle easily, on 25 feet of chain and 275 feet of 3/4" polyester double braid rope. Our spare (third, storm) anchor is a 75 lb Spade on 25 feet of chain and 275 feet of 7/8” polyester double braid. We’re using polyester rope because it’s stronger, stretches less and is more abrasion resistant than the nylon typically used for anchor rodes. We add some “stretch” with a nylon snubber/bridle.  It’s a lot of gear and adds a bit more weight to the boat than I like, but we could theoretically ride out a hurricane, which provides great peace of mind, but is a theory that I absolutely do not want to seek to try and prove.

We’ve had a nice breakfast (last of the ranch eggs, boo-hoo), took hot showers (thank you watermaker and engine heat exchangers) and cleaned the boat up (thank you Renee), so the rest of the day will be a lazy one. We’ll probably take a dinghy ride to shore and walk to the small town on the Isthmus. I hear you can buy buffalo milk there. Is that random or what?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cojo Anchorage to Prisoner's Harbor, Santa Cruz Island

We are anchored by ourselves in a small cove on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island, one of the Channel Islands roughly opposite Santa Barbara. First time totally off the grid; no cell phone service, just satellite.

It was an uneventful sail of about 50 miles in nice weather. It took a little while for me to notice, but it is definitely warmer here than in NorCal. I notice it the most in the morning, evening and night, when I don't need to put on a jacket and we leave the door to the boat open.

We passed through a pod of dolphins that were working as a pack to herd fish that were jumping crazily 3 feet or more out of the water to try to get away. I think we messed up the dolphins' round up and some of their herd got away from them. Sorry, dolphins.

Renee is trying to hook up with a friend from work. If she does, we'll head to the Channel Islands Harbor on mainland to meet them. If not, we'll probably stay here or at another small cove on the island. Decisions, decisions...

I emailed Jeanne today with a rough menu plan for trip down Baja. Hard to believe we'll be leaving for that leg in just nine days! I secured a berth in San Diego at the Harbor Police Docks on Shelter Island. That will be convenient for running errands for the final prep before we leave the US. I think all our paperwork is in order, but still waiting to receive the Temporary Import Permit for the boat which is being mailed to Jeanne's house.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Morro Bay to Cojo Anchorage

We're sitting here at anchor in the Cojo Anchorage which is located a few miles east of the south end of Point Concepcion, about 40 miles west of Santa Barbara. It's beautiful, the sun is shining and the water is beautifully blue. It's windy but the anchorage is quite calm, with a gentle swell that breaks on the sandy beach a few hundred yards away from the boat. A railroad track follows the coast here and Amtrak trains have been passing by us every couple hours or so. It must be a nice view from the train windows, Intermezzo bobbing at anchor in the company of a sizable commercial fishing boat and a smaller sport fisherman.

We’ve spent today resting after our overnight passage from Morro Bay and getting some easy chores done. I finally plumbed the feed line from the watermaker to the water tank so that we don’t have to run the pipe through open hatches anymore and can make water while underway. We’ve been steadily stowing gear and cleaning the boat and it is finally starting to look decent. We’ll actually have Jeanne’s cabin spruced up and ready for her, with room for her stuff, when she joins us as crew in San Diego for the Ha-Ha.

Our overnight sail from Morro Bay went just as planned, except for the thunderstorms. I checked the marine text forecast before we left and it said “chance of thunderstorms”, which didn’t sound bad. I received an email from my friend Rick who was worried about the weather reports he was hearing for Southern California, but I figured it must be Weather Channel media hype that got him concerned. However, as we were heading out from the Morro Bay sea buoy at 7 p.m., there was a lot of lightning flashing on land and a few bolts hitting the ocean at a distance, so I decided to listen to the VHF radio weather channel. NOAA was issuing a “weather statement”, which is when they have something serious to talk about. The electronic voice warned of “high winds, poor visibility and dangerous lightning”. Not media hype, but clearly oriented towards getting pleasure boaters to stay in harbor.

The sky was clear above us, the wind and sea were calm and and all the dramatic lightning was all occurring in the hills on land, so I decided it was safe to continue, figuring we would monitor the radar at long range and alter course to dodge any thunderstorm cells. That strategy worked well, as only the edge of one cell caught us. We got rained on, the wind picked up and there were flashes of lightning around us for about 20 minutes. We used the oven as a Faraday cage to protect the IridiumGo! and the other essential portable electronics if we got struck by lightning. We probably were more at risk from accidentally cooking them than any chance lightning strike!

We motored until we got to Point Arguello at 3 a.m. where the wind picked up and we unrolled the jib and loped along nicely at 5-6 knots the rest of the night.  We rounded Point Concepcion, the “Cape Horn of the Pacific,” with no drama at all and made our approach into Cojo Anchorage as the sun was rising. We dropped anchor and took a nap which we followed with a hearty breakfast, using up some of our precious fresh eggs from Brigitte’s chickens.

We kayaked around Morro Bay yesterday before we left in the evening. It is a really beautiful place, as you can see from the pictures from our jaunt below. While I’ve often questioned the rationality and science behind environmental regulations in specific circumstances, I truly appreciate their overall effect on the quality of marine environment in California. I’m sure things aren’t like they should or could be environmentally, but the water quality and abundance of wildlife in such a densely populated coast is impressive.

Tomorrow we head to Santa Cruz, one of the Channel Islands.

Test Blog Post via Iridium Satellites

This is a test post via our IridiumGo! device, which is how we will blog when we are off the grid. If you are reading this, it worked!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Monterey to Morro Bay

We departed Monterey Sunday morning bound for Morro Bay, about 100 miles down the coast.

The sailing started off slow with light winds in beautiful weather. The winds steadily increased and by noon we were sailing with two reefs in the main and a couple rolls in the jib. We sped along at over seven knots with following seas that had us surfing regularly in the double digits. 

The winds really starting ripping, often over 30 knots and the boat hit 13.4 knots, the fastest we've experienced since owning it, with eery cavitation sounds coming from the sterns. Fun stuff, but a bit of a problem because I planned our passage based on a velocity made good of 5 knots which, with strong winds forecast to continue for most of night, would mean a too early arrival in Morro Bay,

This was Renee and my first overnight passage in substantial weather. We stood three hour watches with one of us manning the helm and the other sleeping in the salon to be close at hand if needed. Our autopilot is fantastic, so "manning the helm" means keeping us on our route so we don't crash into a fixed object, looking out with eyes and radar to try and avoid crashing into moving ones, picking favorable wind angles and trimming sails. Not strenuous, but fatiguing in the cold night air, wind and rolling seas. Fortunately, I don't get seasick at all and enjoy the whole sailing experience. Renee isn't so fortunate. She is totally functional, but gets bad headaches and feels generally yucky. So for her, she competently endures her watch, but looks forward to lying down when its over and isn't thrilled when she has to get up to start another. I give her a lot of credit for not whining and complaining; I definitely would.

We sailed steadily along through the moonless night with strong 6-10 foot following seas, with very little ship traffic and no smaller vessels showing up on radar. I started my nine p.m. watch feeling a bit unnerved at first. It was totally dark out and we were in quite dense fog. I couldn't see much past the bow of the boat and in such poor visibility could only feel the waves as they rolled past us. The wind had lessened a little to 15-20 knots true and we were sailing at a steady 5-6 knots. Without being able to see anything more than 20 feet or so around the boat, I was essentially powerless to respond to anything in our immediate vicinity.  I had to put complete trust in our navigational tools and instruments, our radar and that our boat would ride the waves like she's built to do.  About 30 minutes into my watch, I  started feeling comfortable with my limited span of control, trusting in what I could, accepting what I could not. (What a great metaphor for a healthy attitude about life in general.) In an hour, I was having fun again. Cold, damp, windy, rolly, tired fun.

We arrived at Morro Bay around four a.m., about two hours earlier than planned. The entrance to the harbor is a bit tricky, with a narrow breakwater entrance and full ocean swell. I decided to try heaving-to to wait until sunrise when at least it would light out, even if foggy. Heaving-to is when you balance the sails and rudder to "park" a boat at sea so that it slowly drifts downwind with its bow around 45 degrees to the wind and waves. It is a classic, proven technique for handling heavy weather or just getting some rest on monohulls. For catamarans, heaving-to is more questionable. I had played around with getting Intermezzo to heave-to a few times on the Bay during mild weather and it seemed to work okay. This time, I was experimenting in 10-17 knot winds, 6-8 foot seas, dense fog and total darkness.

Normally when heaving-to, one backwinds the jib (forward sail), sheets in (tighten up) the mainsail and lashes the wheel to windward. I figured Intermezzo's five feet of freeboard would take the place of the backwinded jib and that since cats don't sail upwind so well, I would sheet the mainsail out a bit so that it would have more power when we fell off the wind. It worked great! Intermezzo stayed pointed at 30-60 degrees to weather, drifting leeward at well under a knot as the swells passed by her. We sat like this for two hours about 8 miles offshore waiting for the sun to rise. The heaving-to was great. The cold, damp, wind, and constant rolling was tiresome, so it was a relief when it got light and we fired up the engines to head in.

I radioed the Coast Guard to ask what conditions were like at the harbor entrance. They provided a weather report and told me that it was really hard to see what conditions were actually like due to the fog. I asked them if it was safe to navigate the entrance. They replied that they had provided me what information they could and it was my decision and responsibility for the safety of my vessel...fair enough and refreshingly forthright.  My biggest concerns were the less than 100 yards visibility and the westerly seas that would be on our beam as we approached the narrow entrance. I figured I'd get close and then make the final call. When we arrived, I was comfortable with the sea conditions, but the visibility was still really poor. The short range radar image was good though, so I decided to make an "instrument approach". It worked. We didn't wreck.

The Morro Bay Harbor Patrol boat greeted us on arrival told us how to get to the Morro Bay Yacht Club, where we tied up to their nice dock by 8:30 Monday morning. We had sailed 125 nautical miles and put another significant notch on our nightsailing belts.  We lounged around yesterday, getting some rest, taking showers, cleaning up the boat. We took a walk to a local fish market and bought a nice fresh filet of Ling cod which we barbecued and ate with some local sourdough bread and steamed vegetables, accompanied by a nice Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon (thank you Peggy D!).  There is another boat with us on the dock, Del Viente, which is also heading to San Diego for the Baja Ha-Ha. Her skipper, Mark, and crew, also Mark, have made this trip many times and shared some of their knowledge and experience with us yesterday. We're having them over for cocktails this evening to further pick their brains.

Today we're going kayaking and will continue to work on getting the interior of the boat organized and shipshape.

Wednesday evening we shove off to conquer "The Cape Horn of California", Point Concepcion. This point has a long, bad history for kicking boats' butts with roaring winds and steep seas. We're planning to round it at about 6 am when conditions are typically calm. The weather forecast is for calm winds and seas throughout the next few days, so I think our rounding of "The Horn" will be lacking in drama, which is okay by me.

Once we round Concepcion, we're "officially" in Southern California.  Warmer weather and lighter winds.  Hurrah!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Kicked Back Code 0 Sailing, Mail, Monterey Bay

We had a leisurely sail from Santa Cruz to Monterey on a broad reach under the Code 0 only. In 15-20 knots true, we effortlessly kept up a steady 6-7 knots. (For a decent explanation of what a Code 0 sail is click here.) After motoring in light winds for an hour, it was simply unfurl the Code 0, set the autopilot and 22 miles later, we were tied at the dock in Monterey Marina.

Once in Monterey, the main objective was to get my mail forwarding service going. I'm using St. Brendan's Isle as my mail forwarding agent. They will receive my mail, scan the outside of my mail so that I can view it online and tell them what to do with it. They can hold it, forward it, scan the contents or shred it. I had to get a document notarized to allow them to do this. A bit of effort when you don't have a car. By the time I was done, I had walked about three miles; no complaints as I needed the exercise after being on the boat for several days.

Fortunately a good portion of the walk was along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was amazed by how clear and clean the water is and how much wildlife is present in such a developed area. Even in the marina, I watched two aquatic birds feast on a school of bait fish that had formed themselves into a dense ball. The water is crystal clear and I can see the bottom 15 feet below the dock. I saw plenty of seals, pelicans and other sea birds and a sea otter napping on its back.

 The weather forecast is looking better for our long sail on Sunday.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Water, Santa Cruz and Beyond

We spent yesterday at anchor in Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay. I started up the watermaker and it works! We ran it for about four hours and made almost 80 gallons of fresh water. I poured Renee a glass to test it. She liked it and isn't dead more than 24 hours later.

Today was a glorious sail. We left Pillar Point around 8 am and the day started off slow, motoring in light winds. As the winds started to freshen around 11, we hoisted the Code 0 sail and things just started getting better and better. By 1 pm we were cruising along with the wind behind us and around an hour later the wind strengthened to 20-plus knots, so we dropped the Code 0, unfurled the jib and put a reef in the main. That's how we sailed the rest of the way to Santa Cruz, maintaining a nice 7-plus knots of boat speed and surfing down 3 foot swells even faster. Vigorous, but comfortable, sailing.
We anchored in Santa Cruz at 6 pm. We were planning on picking up a mooring in Capitola a bit further south but when I called ahead I learned that the moorings there are closed from September to May. That was a surprise. Santa Cruz is a good anchorage, although as we were anchoring, the wind clocked around from the northwest to southeast, so now we have the Santa Cruz pier as a "lee shore" and the southerly wind waves are jiggling us around a bit. That's not what the weather forecast said! I want my money back.

Tomorrow we head to Monterey, which is an easy under four hour sail. We'll stay there until Sunday. After that comes our longest leg on the California coast to Morro Bay, about 100 miles nonstop. The weather forecast is currently looking a little challenging, with some periods of close to 30 knot winds. That's not what we want for on an overnight coastal passage. I looked at delaying until Monday, but the winds don't look much different and the swell is bigger. I'll keep monitoring. We using the PredictWind online/satellite application which I really like and has turned out to be pretty much spot-on for weather routing so far. We can get updated grib files (wind, wave, pressure, cloud maps/forecasts) and weather routing whenever we want over the Iridium Go!.  Very high-tech and useful because I find meteorology very challenging.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

San Francisco to Half Moon Bay

We left Angel Island's Ayala Cove this morning and motored out the Golden Gate into 10 knot headwinds and a calm sea. When we got to Seal Rock we were able to shut down the engines and start sailing on a close reach. Intermezzo sometimes struggles going upwind unless her sails are trimmed just right. Even then, we're lucky if we can do 100 degrees tacks, which puts a real damper on making progress directly upwind. Today, however, the boat sailed well, boosted by a knot of southerly current. Winds were between 8 and 12 knots from the South-Southwest and we were able to make it 3/4 of the way to Half Moon Bay maintaining 5-plus knots of speed with less than half a dozen tacks.

It was a beautiful sunny day, a bit cool outside at the helm, but warm and comfortable inside the cabin. I sailed the boat while Renee caught up on setting up her computer with the photo and video editing software she wants to use for the trip. Towards the end of our passage, we were treated to see a whale breech several times about a mile away from us.

We crossed tacks with Huzzah, another boat heading to San Diego like us to join the Baja Ha-Ha and contacted them on the radio. Her skipper, Jerry, and crew, Ken and Ray stopped by to say hello after we had anchored in Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay; our first contact with fellow Ha-Ha'ers.

We're snugly at anchor and spent the evening stowing all the food that was stacked in boxes on the port forward berth. The boat is starting to get organized.

Tomorrow, Brigitte and Jean are going to visit to say their final goodbyes. Renee is going to do a bit of shopping for some miscellaneous necessities. I'm going to start up the watermaker which I hope works properly so we can keep taking showers like we did this morning. Nothing like a hot shower on a boat; definitely a luxury.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Voyage Has Begun

This morning, we drove up to the ranch from where the boat was berthed in the Petaluma River Turning Basin to drop off the car and say goodbye to our pets. We had a nice breakfast with Renee's mom, Brigitte, and aunt, Jean, and then it was time to go. A flotilla of power boats left the Turning Basin at about 11:45 and we figured it would be polite to motorists to join them for their bridge opening. Brigitte waved from the dock as we set off down the river.  Passing under the D Street Bridge marked the official beginning of our voyage.

We motored down the Petaluma River and then entered San Pablo Bay with 20+ knots of wind on our nose. It wasn't until we had passed under the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge that the wind angle allowed us to hoist sails. We sailed the rest of the way to Angel Island where we took a mooring in Ayala Cove. We had green beans and pasta with a pesto sauce for dinner, accompanied by a "$1,000" bottle of KKMI white wine. (The KKMI boat yard gives customers  a bottle of wine when they spend a bunch of money.)

It was a good day for Renee and I to start getting back into the swing of sailing and working with each other again. We had a couple of minor challenges to overcome along the way and things worked out pretty well.

Tomorrow we go out the Golden Gate and turn left with Half Moon Bay as our destination. We'll anchor in the outer harbor for a couple of days to properly stow all our stuff, clean up the boat and start up the watermaker. Brigitte and Jean will visit us on Wednesday and to say our "final" goodbyes.

The tracking feature of our Iridium Go! satellite device now lets you see where we are and where we've been on a map. Click on the link under the "Intermezzo's Current Location" link on the sidebar to check it out. This link is updated hourly when our Iridium Go! is turned on, which it normally is.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

We had a very nice Bon Voyage gathering on the boat last night.  This week I had been reflecting on how grateful I am to all the people who helped us get us to where we are now. Being surrounded by close friends and family intensified my thankfulness. Thanks Carol, Ted, Laura, Iver, Cindy, Saman, Beth, Dan, Ray, Lauren, Brigitte and Jean for a really nice evening and the food, wine, champagne and gifts.

There are a handful of people in the Bay Area marine industry who I have gotten to know and become friends with over the last 12 years of boat ownership. They taught me a lot, did quality work and helped lighten my bank account when it was too heavy. Thanks to Bob Hennessey at KKMI for helping crane the solar panels on the boat on a Saturday morning and making the yard available to me for DIY work. Thanks you, Gilles Combrisson at GC Rigging and Composites for installing the Code 0 bow sprit, looking over the rig, fixing the weak links and machining new reef line sheaves that look like jewelry.  Gracias,  Jeff Thorpe at Quantum Sails for "knocking heads together" to get my newly serviced mainsail back on the boat on time. These folks work with teams of people who are friendly, professional and care about their work.

Though both Renee and I are very healthy, I'm grateful to the health care providers that help keep us that way and make sure we are good to go and have what we need for this trip. Thank you Mara Bertoli FNP at Santa Rosa Sports and Family Medicine, Jon Fitzpatrick OD and James Forni DDS, a fellow sailor who will participating in the Baja Ha-Ha rally.

Thanks to all my friends at work who sent many good wishes our way, to Iver for keeping me in the loop while I was occupied with boat projects and to Ted, Alex, Dan, Rick, Sue, and Saman for our long friendships inside and outside the office. Thanks to my dear friend Stephanie for turning me on to yoga that helped me get mentally and physically for the trip and for inspiring me to sail "green". (Environmentally green, not seasick green, that is!)

Thanks to my family for your support and encouragement, especially to my Dad who took me to boat shows in New York City when I was a kid and bought the O'Day Javelin over 40 years ago which ignited my passion and dreams about saving. Thanks Luther and Hannah for going sailing with me, when you wanted to and when you didn't. Thanks Carol for making "ex" not be a bad term for us. Thanks Mom for your own enjoyment and enthusiasm for sailing. Thanks Brigitte for helping Renee get the house ready; you really saved the day. Thanks Jean for helping arrange the ranch truck, tractor and help with gravel, fences and moving. Thanks Christina and Nicholas for not telling your mom to get rid of me, even though I can be "difficult".

While all of the preceding gratitude is sincere and significant, what I am feeling most grateful for right now is that Beth, Dan, Ray and Lauren decided to live in our house while we're away. They have been flexible, understanding and patient as we have struggled to get things moved and the house (sort-of) tidied up. I know they will take good care of the house and goats Lola and Daphne and cats Thor and Xena. It brings me immense comfort to leave the house and pets in the care of my best of friends instead of strangers.  They made one of our biggest worries about leaving on this trip vanish completely. I want them to really enjoy living on this beautiful ranch that we call home.

And of course, thanks to Renee, for learning to sail, sharing a passion for adventure, working soooooo f*ing hard on the house, and putting up with someone who can be a mean SOB curmudgeon on his worst days. I couldn't do this trip without you.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Departure Update

The house and boat will be ready for us to depart Petaluma as planned on Sunday. However, the wind forecast is not in our favor for our passage to Half Moon Bay planned for Monday. Winds on our coast typically blow from the North-West quadrant, perfect for sailing South. As fate would have it, winds are forecasted to come from the South on Monday, meaning that we would have to tack down the coast with 20 knots of apparent wind in our faces. The winds are predicted to decrease some and start shifting to a bit better angle on Tuesday, which will make for a more comfortable sail.

So, we will extend our stay in the Petaluma River Turning Basin until Monday and head out the Golden Gate on Tuesday morning, after anchoring Monday night at Angel Island.  This schedule will also give us an opportunity to decompress, spend some time with Renee's mom and aunt, and tidy things up.  For the record though, it was the weather that delayed us! (I'm taking my cue from the airlines on this!)

We're still hosting our "bon voyage" open boat tonight starting around 7 pm. We are at the south end of the dock, in front of the Petaluma Yacht Club. For those of you visiting us, please enter by the south gate next to the yacht club because, if it's locked, we can open it for you and this will avoid a 100 yard walk through copious quantities of duck shit if you enter through the north gate.

The boat is now loaded with all our gear. Surprisingly, it looks like everything will fit and the boat isn't sitting much lower in the water under the added weight.  We still need to find a proper place for most of what we brought on board. For now, we have staging areas forward and aft in the port hull. We can then strategically open up spaces and fill them, much like solving a Rubik cube puzzle. Another advantage of a two-hulled catamaran. I'm not sure how I would approach this in a monohull.