Tuesday, July 9, 2024


Penngrove, CA

Through the Gate

Intermezzo and I passed through the Golden Gate into San Francsco Bay at 1pm this past Sunday afternoon, marking the end of my San Francisco Bash and the return of Intermezzo to the bay after almost nine years of voyaging. 

Powerful feelings welled up as I entered the bay. My mind was alive with memories, as if I was watching retrospective highlights from an epic movie, a melodrama. So much has happened over the past nine years - love, birth, death, injury, illness, separation, aging, political dysfunction - all while the beauty of the ocean, coastlines and nature, of life, blessed me on my little ship, my home on the sea. I felt a deep sadness, for something special that seemed to be coming to an end, like when graduating from high school or college. A sense of accomplishment, completion, too, so more like tears of joy than of grief.

Weather was kind to me for the last passage of my bash, the wind blowing from the south and allowing me to sail all the way from Half Moon Bay. The wind was blowing hard through the foggy gate and there was a strong flood current, so Intermezzo rushed into the bay at over 10 knots and kept up that pace until we had to jibe after passing Angel Island.  I was a bit concerned, the main sail being fully hoisted in 27 knots of wind, making the jibe tricky and, afterwards, wondering if I would be able to douse the sail singlehanded. But, of course, the Richmond Riviera! Angel Island blocks the wind and fog from the gate, creating a zone of calm, warm weather in its lee. I steered Intermezzo for a calm patch, the wind dropped to 8 knots, I dropped the main sail, unfurled the jib, headed downwind towards the Richmond Channel and took off my foul weather gear, down jacket and hat.

The Richmond Riviera in the lee of Angel Island

As we passed familiar landmarks, I began to feel at home in the bay, though it also felt small and crowded after being on the ocean for so long. There's a lot of traffic to dodge and I had to remember to pay attention to which tack, port or starboard, I and other boats were on to respect sailing rules of the road.

We tied up to our slip in Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, the same slip we departed from in October 2015. It felt good to be done, but I also felt out-of-place in such an urban environment, in a giant boat parking lot. I cleaned up the boat, took a walk, ate another crappy dinner and went to bed.

Yesterday Nate picked me up on his way home from work and drove me to the Ranch. I'm off the boat after 57 straight days at sea. It is neither foggy nor cold here. Nice.

Life will be different now. It feels strange to be apart from Intermezzo and for the boat's prominence in my life to greatly diminished for some time.

Intermezzo on "Catamaran Row" in Marina Bay Yacht Harbor

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Home Stretch

Pacific Ocean, Off Pillar Point CA

We're on the home stretch, the last segment of the final leg of my San Francisco Bash. We just left Pillar Point Harbor at 8:30am this morning and are on our way to the Golden Gate in calm seas, in some fog that looks like it might clear. We expect to arrive in Marina Bay Yacht Harbor around 3pm this afternoon. We'll be done.

After rescuing the person in the water at the dock yesterday morning, we headed into Monterey Bay in the fog against a 15 knot headwind and steep 2-3 foot seas, a nasty wind chop, Bashing Level (BL) 2. Very unpleasant. And cold. We powered on, resolute.

After noon, the wind eased some and so did the waves, down to a sustained BL 1. Better. We powered on, happier.

Around 1pm, I noticed the sailing vessel Rabbit Hole on the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar display that was changing course frequently. I watched closely and it looked like they were searching for or trying to recover something or somebody that had fallen overboard. I hailed them on the radio to see if they needed assistance but did not get a reply. When I looked at the boat through the binoculars, I identified it as a sloop about 46 feet long, probably a Jeanneau.

It occurred to me that Arnstein said he would be teaching an Offshore Passage Maker course on a Jeanneau of that length when he got back to San Francisco. On a lark, I sent him a text message asking if he might, by chance, be out here.  I didn't get a reply to my text, but soon after, Intermezzo was hailed on the radio by Rabbit Hole and, sure enough, it was Arnstein's voice! They had been conducting a crew overboard drill. We laughed at the coincidence of being at the same place at the same time on the ocean, and Arnstein welcomed me and Intermezzo back to San Francisco. Rabbit Hole paid us a visit this morning before we raised anchor, sailing around us and saying hello.

Around 5pm the fog burned off and we enjoyed the approach to Pillar Point Harbor in fine weather. The green coastal hills towered over the ocean, I saw a few whales spouting in the distance and many, many sea birds. It was still chilly out, but I'm always happier in the sunshine.

We dropped anchor at 6:40pm, I had beer, a shot of tequila, chips and guacamole for a snack, then took a nap. When I woke up, I had a crappy dinner of Trader Joe's tortellini (not recommended) with Hunts Quatro Queso tomato sauce (also not recommended) and went to bed shortly thereafter, falling to sleep on calm water to the sound of the foghorn at the harbor entrance bleating every 10 seconds.

Saturday, July 6, 2024

R&R in Monterey, Back to Bashing

Monterey Bay
Intermezzo on the dock in Monterey Harbor Marina
Intermezzo is back to bashing on the way to Half Moon Bay after a couple days of pleasant shore leave in Monterey. We departed the Monterey Harbor Marina at 7:30am this morning after a bit of drama, recovering a guy who fell off his boat and couldn't haul himself out onto the dock. The water here is cold, so a minor emergency.  Fortunately I and another guy on the dock heard the victim's cries for help and together were able to haul him out of the water. The other guy gave him a sleeping bag and I made him a hot cup of tea to warm him up and all was well enough for me to leave the dock.

It's bouncy out here this morning, closely spaced 2-4ft steep seas just off the port bow. Bashing Level 2 to start (hopefully) diminishing to BL 1 as we get further off Point Piños. I don't miss not bashing.

The trip to Monterey from Port San Louis (San Louis Obispo) was foggy, cold and lonely. After saying goodbye to Luther in the morning, I slept for a few hours and then slipped the mooring lines at 1pm to head out into the fog. I was soon in contact with a tug with a long tow to negotiate how we would pass by each other in the thick fog. The dodging of other vessels would continue sporadically into and through the night.

The night was foggy, cold and damp and I felt alone and isolated. I balanced staying alert with pacing my self for the long night's passage.
Dressed warm after a cold, foggy night's passage
Just before dawn, the skies cleared and I was treated to a nice warming sunrise as we approached Cypress Point, the fairways of the famous Pebble Beach golf course visible on shore. As we rounded Point Piños, Monterey Harbor came into view like a picture postcard, bright blue sky and sea, welcoming. After friendly harbormaster staff checked us into the marina, I ate a hot breakfast, took a hot shower and laid down to get some rest.
A welcome warming sunrise and clear skies nearing Pebble Beach
My July 4th Independence Day was not much of event. I took a walk around the old town, stopping at an English pub to enjoy a couple of We Forgive You Day beers and to eat lunch along the way. The weather was lovely, sunny, warm in the sun, cool in the shade, a gentle breeze. I headed back to the boat around 8pm with the intention of taking a nap, but ended up falling sound asleep in my clothes for the whole night. Guess I was tired after 21 hours of sailing in the cold fog and the beers hit me!

Yesterday morning I ran along the trail to Pacific Grove, had a nice breakfast at LuLu's on Wharf #2 (not the tourist wharf), then walked to West Marine to pick up a couple of things, returning via the beach. Another day of beautiful weather.
The trail to the beach heading back from West Marine
I enjoyed a family visit in the afternoon, Nicholas, JoAnna and Mikayla were in town to visit the aquarium and have dinner with friends. My main focus was on indoctrinating three year-old Mikayla to the boat, with the hope of her joining on as crew in my elder years of sailing. She explored the boat, tied all my lines into a web of knots, jumped on the trampoline. We took the dinghy out for an excursion to get close up views of sea lions and sea otters, though Mikayla found the feel of the water running through her fingers, the floating kelp (aka "muck"), and guano coating the rocks (aka "smelly bird poop") more interesting and amusing. We had a great time.
Mikayla (inverted), Nicholas and me on the tramp

Mikayla's rope work
I closed out the day with a nice dinner at a Greek restaurant in town, then prepared Intermezzo for departure, adding some diesel from jugs to the fuel tanks, topping off a water tank and securing deck and cabin.

This is the next to last leg of my voyage to San Francisco. We'll overnight in Pilar Point Harbor and then time our departure tomorrow to catch a fair tide through the Golden Gate and into San Francisco Bay.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Farewell to Luther

Pacific Ocean, Near Point Buchon

Farewell to Luther, too early in the morning for the sea lion sleeping on the dock

Yesterday's passage from the Cojo Anchorage to Port San Louis (San Louis Obispo) began with kelp dodging. During the night, the wind had backed from the northwest to the southeast and kelp fronds that drifting out of our way coming into the anchorage were now drifting into our path. Dodging the nasty weeds woke us up from a night of less-than-perfect sleep due to rocking at anchor as the wind shifted and the swell did not.

Rounding Point Conception and Point Arguello, "The Cape Horn of California", was a bit uncomfortable as we headed directly into a strong 6-7ft swell. Along the way, I noticed a "fragrance" that I perceived as herbal, like cut vegetation. I asked Luther to take a sniff and he said, "Petrochemical". Sure enough, we saw globs of oil and patches of sheen on the water. I will be careful about what I choose for aftershave from now on, seeking a second opinion.

The patches of oil were frequent enough and oil platforms were close to us, so I contacted the Coast Guard to report the conditions. The Coast Guard took down quite a bit of information over the radio and informed me that they would file a report with the National Response Center on my behalf and I should expect to be contacted by them. I probably gave half a dozen government people something to do and annoyed as many oil platform managers.

Once we rounded the Cape Horn of California and patted ourselves on the back for our skillful seamanship, the seas began to calm to a more gentle 4-6ft swell off our port bow. As we passed by Point Pedernales and "Destroyer Rock",  I gave a nod of respect for those lost during the largest peacetime loss of US Navy ships, the Honda Point Disaster. Seven destroyers crashed into the rocks there in 1923 due to a navigational blunder in heavy fog, five were lost, two managed to pull themselves off. Twenty-three sailors died in the incident.

Our passage to Port San Louis was cold and grey, motoring under either overcast skies or in a fog bank. Luther and I were wearing long underwear, down jackets and foul weather gear and feeling chilly, while the rest of California baked in a heat wave.

We took a public mooring ball in Port San Louis at 3:45pm yesterday afternoon, then took the dinghy to the pier to explore shoreside. On the way we enjoyed watching sea otters playing with each other in the water. They are very cute animals. We saw lots of sea lions and seals, most of them lounging on a platform just off the pier and barking at each other.

Getting onto the pier involves tying the dinghy's stern to a mooring ball, its bow to a ladder and then climbing up the ladder 10ft to get to the top of the pier and through a little gate onto its walkway. You have to squeeze your dinghy between the other two or three dinghies tied up to the same points. Not too difficult when arriving, as your are on the outside. But when you return, you can be in the middle and have to yank on the various dinghy lines while hanging from the ladder to get yours within stepping distance. I felt younger than my years doing those gymnastics.

We took a short walk, then stopped in at Merseas restaurant on the pier for bowls of clam chowder and beer. When we returned to Intermezzo, the mooring ball had found its way between the hulls like they often due and I had to start the engines and back away to get it out. The metal ring on the top of the buoy left a decent scratch on the underside of the bridge deck. Bah. Mooring balls are a pain in the ass for catamarans. Fortunately, the wind, current and boat cooperated to avoid it from happening again during the night.

Early this morning I dropped Luther off at floating drop-off dock at the base of the pier and he caught a bus back to San Jose. I am sorry to see him go. I enjoyed his company and appreciate his help in getting Intermezzo another 166nm closer to San Francisco Bay.

I went back to the boat and slept for the rest of the morning in preparation for the overnight passage to Monterey. We slipped the mooring lines at 1pm and headed out to sea. It's a 118nm trip along the coast, calm conditions but fog all the way. I expect to arrive in Monterey Harbor around 9am on July 4th. I'm told by the harbormaster that they will find a slip for me, just let them know when I'm an hour out. I hope that information is accurate

We've sailed 1,805nm since leaving Puerto Peñasco on May 9th, 220nm left to go.  I'm feeling the time and the distance, a bit weary, but also glad to be getting close to the end.

Monday, July 1, 2024

A Little Bashing

Cojo Anchorage, CA

Sunset in the Cojo Anchorage, looking at Point Conception

We're anchored along the south shore of Point Conception in the Cojo Anchorage. This anchorage is where boats wait for a weather window for rounding the point, which the Coastal Pilot says is called "the Cape Horn of California". A bit of an exaggeration, I think, but rounding this point does require caution and planning. The anchorage provides shelter from waves but not from wind, which is blowing around 15 knots from the NW now, at 9:30pm. Winds are forecast to begin calming around midnight and to be very light tomorrow morning. We'll shoot for raising anchor around 7am.

We left Channel Island Harbor this morning at 7:30am after topping off the diesel tanks at the fuel dock. Diesel cost only $4.40/gallon, less than half what we paid Enrique in Turtle Bay, and about $1.50/gallon less than the average price in Mexico. A welcome relief to my wallet.  It was overcast, foggy and bleak until around 2pm when the sun came out and then it was very pleasant, though cool out in the wind. As we drew closer to Point Conception the wind and seas increased, building to Bashing Level 2 for about an hour.  We had to dodge kelp forests as we entered the anchorage and dropped anchor in 45 feet of water to stay out of the weed.

The highlight of yesterday's passage from Redondo Beach to Channel Island Harbor were the large flocks of shearwaters, pelicans and seagulls together with pods of dolphins enjoying a feast of some type of sea critter. Hundreds of birds floating on the surface, pelicans diving from the air, seagulls harassing, stealing and scavenging food bits, and dozens of dolphins churning the water, all have tons of fun it seemed.

We tied to a public dock in Channel Island Harbor yesterday evening and walked to a seafood restaurant where we had a feast of our own, oysters, fish and chips, salad.

Intermezzo at public dock in Channel Islands Harbor

Assuming our weather window opens tomorrow morning for rounding the point, we'll be in San Louis Obispo Harbor by late afternoon. Luther will be leaving Intermezzo the next morning, leaving me to finish the journey to San Francisco on my own.