Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends. We miss you all very much.

Christmas this year is obviously very different for Jan and I. We really miss our traditions and our family. But honestly, I am very much enjoying this year. I have always had a huge problem with the commercialization of our Lord's birthday celebration. It is a rare thing to hear someone rejoicing about the true "reason for the season". It is all about presents, shopping, Christmas trees, etc... and not about the single most exciting event of human history - God sending his son to endure sin, ridicule, and a most horrifying death to save a group of people that routinely spit in his face. Every time I find myself looking for a definition of love, that is where I end up. Whether you are a believer or not, you cannot argue with this being the true definition of love. So the next time you get angry/frustrated/upset/??? with a person that you "love", stop and think about the true meaning of love.

When in Rome.... This year we tried a new Christmas tradition - a Mexican tradition. We made 60 (yes, 60!) tamales.

Tamale Party
It was a lot of fun! Unfortunately we don't have pictures along the way as it was quite a messy operation. Honestly, it was Jan's idea from the start. And she insisted that we make them the traditional Mexican way - with pork lard (yikes!). I fought it as best I could... "lard?, honey really?". But in the end Jan won out and we bought a huge tube of pork lard. It was kind of funny because these lard rolls showed up in the grocery store a few weeks ago. There were hundreds if not thousands of them piled all over the store. I had no idea what they were, but figured a lot of people must be looking for them.

It turned out to be quite a learning process in many ways. Since we got to Mexico I have been struggling with how/where to buy meat. So far we have not had to buy any meat. We have been eating a lot of fish that we have caught and we brought some meat with us in our freezer. But eventually it will run out and we will have to figure it out. I will not go into the meat situation here in Mexico now, but let me just say that I am VERY concerned! Anyway, the learning process came when we went to buy a pork butt for the tamales. I have looked for large cuts of meat several times and have never found them. The ad flier for this week had pork butt listed so I went to the butcher counter and used my best spanglish/finger pointing I could muster and finally found out they keep these types of things in the back. Yes!!! So he brings out the biggest pork butt I have ever seen. "Half will be just fine senor". Half of the butt was almost 8kg - huge! We had to cut it in half and run 2 batches in our crock pot. So the lesson - you can get big hunks of meat - they are in the back!

We spent several hours that night making tamales. Who knew you could assemble 60 tamales in our galley. It was really a very fun experience. Jan and I worked an assembly line rolling them out while listening to Eric Ludy on the radio - it was really a very fun evening.

To continue with the Mexican tradition, we planned to give a lot of them away to our friends. The first person I contacted was a friend (Peter) that I work an HF (high frequency) radio net with each morning. The HF net is a lot of fun - right now I am feeding weather information every day to a 72 year old man that is sailing his 38' boat by himself from Canada to Hawaii. He is currently about 2/3 of the way there - about 1000 nautical miles to go. It is really great to hear his voice each day (and my guess is he is really glad to hear my voice as well). Anyway, I called Peter on the radio and asked if he and his wife would like some tamales. He said "do they have meat in them". Well, of course! But... yeah, you guessed it - he and his wife are vegetarian.  Better luck next time I guess.

Merry Christmas to everyone wherever you are! Remember, God loved you so much that he sent his Son to die for YOU!

And a parting shot... good morning Jan :-) I said "YIKES!" and she said "I worked on it all night".

Jan Christmas morning - "Do I look a fright?"

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Surf's Up!

I have to say that I am pretty anal about weather. Weather takes on a whole new meaning when you are cruising. First, you can't just turn the TV on at 5:10PM and have someone tell you what you should wear to work tomorrow. Television is a luxury when you can get it, and certainly not something to rely on when on passage or at anchor. Second, when you live on a sailboat on the ocean, weather is a lot more than just a sweater and an umbrella tomorrow - it is your life and comfort. The Lord wasn't messing around when he created the oceans. This stuff is for real.

That being said, I do tend to get a bit lax when we are tied up in a marina. So I knew the surf was getting big (not a good time to take the dinghy out fishing) and I knew it was likely going to rain yesterday (I marked that off as one of the 10 days of rain I expect this *year*). My main concerns these days are: can we go fishing in our dinghy and will we have to close the port lights and hatches on the boat to keep the rain out. So I was caught a bit off guard when my mom called and asked if we were okay. I thought... yeah, I have enough sense to close the windows and leave fishing for another day. But then I got a couple of emails asking the same question. That is when it dawned on me that maybe I should check into this.

As it turns out, a major storm was ravaging California and was heading south. So that explains the growing ocean swell and the coming rain storm. Funny thing about ocean swell - it can grow to significant heights from storms hundreds if not thousands of miles away. So with this big storm just a couple of hundred miles north, we were definitely going to feel it.

The marina we have chosen only has a single breakwater. Don't get me wrong - I am REALLY happy to have it!!! But when the swell gets big, it still surges into the marina and causes the boat to "dance" quite a bit. It is not really a problem, it just makes Jan and I feel more at home.

The storm finally did hit Ensenada yesterday morning shortly after the net (VHF cruiser radio net - more on that later) closed down. I clocked 20 knots maximum wind here in the harbor. I estimate it was 30 to 35 outside the breakwater. We also saw heavy rain (sideways rain of course) associated with the cold front. The wind and rain lasted about 30 minutes and then went almost dead calm and showers the rest of the day. The big change was the temperature - we had been in the low 70s and now the coming week is forecast in the mid 60s... bbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrr (yeah, right!).

Today, the day after the storm, it is another beautiful sunny day. So Jan and I took the camera and went out exploring. There is a good 15 knot breeze blowing and the surf is pounding hard. The waves appear to be 8' to 10' on average.

I guess the birds still have to eat
This is one day that we are really happy to be tied up!!!

We found a little cove that has a gravel beach. After a big wave crashes up the beach it quickly retreats. We were amazed at the sound of the rolling gravel as the wave retreated. It was really loud! We sat there for quite a while taking in the sights and sounds of the raging ocean.

Beautiful afternoon at the beach... in DECEMBER!

Jan enjoying the breezy day


One of our favorite shots - the selfie

Being from the Pacific Northwest we have a certain view about things. And there is an architectural oddity here in Mexico that baffles both Jan and I. We first noticed it while riding our bikes in town. Neither one of us said anything at the time because we were riding in a line, but we both noticed it. Unfortunately we didn't take any pictures because we didn't have a camera with us. But while walking over at the university we came across another example so we took a picture. Can anyone from the Pacific Northwest tell us what is wrong with this picture?

I'll give you a hint - this is a gazebo with picnic tables and benches. The structure we saw downtown was a bus stop with a similar oddity. Any idea..... there is no roof! It is only slats. The bus stop benches had a structure over them without a roof also - just slats. Not only will this NOT keep the rain off of you, it will collect it and then drop much larger drops on your head. Holy cow man - what is the use of something like this? We just don't get it...

When it rains in the desert, everything comes to life! Last week it was just some cactus ground cover. This week...

I will leave with the shot of the day.. God bless you all!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I have said it before, and I will say it again - we LOVE the pelicans! They are really cool birds and there are a lot of them here in Ensenada. There is a large group of them that live here at Marina Coral. They generally hang out on the breakwater. But when the bait fish come in the marina they come in to fish. It is the most amazing thing to watch. They line up on a dock and then take turns heading to the sky. They circle about 50 feet in the air until they spot a fish they want. Then they put their feet down to slow and prepare for the dive. Then they point their beak straight down and dive at full speed toward the water. Then at the last second they pull their wings back, hit the water, and gulp their fish. As soon as they hit the water the seagulls swarm them hoping to steal their lunch.

Jan took the camera out today and got some good shots of the feast.

Take Off

Fish spotted, feet down, ready to dive sir


Oh dear, this is going to hurt

I have you now... LUNCH!

Ouch! That hurt


Another successful flight and kill. Back to the roost.
And that is Jan's pelican story.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rockfish Galore

This will be a short post as Jan is hot and heavy in the galley fixing cheese burgers and fries - yummy!!!

We have discovered rockfish! And we are oh so excited. We have been doing a lot of fishing since arriving in Mexico. It is such a pleasure fishing here. The laws and rules are simple - buy a fishing license and go see what you can catch. You don't have to be a Harvard lawyer to figure out when/where/what you can fish (or if it is raining on Tuesday after a partial solar eclipse...). The other fun aspect is fish are everywhere!

We started out fishing from our dinghy. We originally went after lingcod out off the breakwater outside the marina. Fishing was slow but we did bring in some really tasty lingcod. Then I did a lot of studying and found a kelp forest about 4 miles out. We have done really well in that area as well. We have caught bonito tuna, yellowtail tuna, and barracuda in that area (and I have some ideas for future trips).

Yesterday we decided to take Rapture out for a sail and try some fishing farther offshore. It is really late in the year for yellowtail tuna but they are still catching them (they are called "old guard" - the old fish that don't migrate south). The fish count reports have shown constant good numbers and the "guts" barrel up at the fish cleaning station regularly have remains of some very large yellowtail tuna. So we secured the boat and headed out to Islas de Todos Santos (Todos Santos Islands). They are about 10 miles out from Ensenada and are a real hotspot for fishing. All of the yellowtail reports have been from Todos Santos.

The day started off great - we hit 2 bonito and 1 yellowtail trolling on the way out to the islands. Then it all died. We spent almost 3 hours drifting and jigging the west side of the islands with not even a bite. This is where all of the huge yellowtail have been reported. Finally we got discouraged and decided to start back. But on a whim we decided to give Punta Banda a try. This is a point that extends out from Ensenada bay and creates somewhat of a choke point between the mainland and the islands. So we diverted.

A couple of miles off the point we shut down and started jigging. About 5 minutes into it Jan reports a bite but no fish. A few minutes later I get a bite. Then all of the sudden the flood gates opened. I would drop my line and have a fish on by the time it hit the bottom. The first fish Jan pulled up was about as ugly as you can imagine - clearly a rockfish. And that was how the next 45 minutes went - fish after fish, all rockfish. We really wished we had more time but we were just barely going to make it back before dark now. You really don't want to be out in Ensenada bay in a boat after dark. There are lobster pots EVERYWHERE and none of the are well marked. A Mexican lobster pot buoy is just about anything that floats. I have not yet seen a styrofoam coffee cup for a buoy, but I have seen everything else. And most of them are really hard to see in the daylight, let alone the dark!

The thing about rockfish is they are very ugly but taste great when you eat them. They are generally a flakey white meat that is usually firm. The other thing is there are a lot of different varieties. You can generally tell it is a rockfish by looking at it, but which species is a different story. So we took pictures of each different species that we caught for later identification. So here they are in no specific order.

Yelloweye Rockfish

Yellowtail Rockfish

Blue Rockfish
One thing I can tell you for sure - we are going to be heading back out to Punto Banda REAL soon! BTW - we made fish tacos out of a small piece of Mr. Yellowtail (he was HUGE - the picture doesn't do him justice) and they were great!

Jan and I have become the "fisherpeople" in the marina. A guy from down the dock decided to drop a line in the water here in the marina because of all the fish he has seen Jan and I bring in. Well he caught a fish.. and then didn't know what to do. He came running down the dock with his fish wrapped in a towel yelling my name. I came running outside to find out what was going on and there it was. He had no idea what it was or what he should do. So I brain spiked and bled the fish for him (he had to turn away and couldn't watch - he is a very sweet man!!). Then we went inside and I looked the fish up for him. Turns out it was a croaker. I have never heard of or seen one, but there it was. Then Paul said he had no idea what to do next so I walked up to the fish cleaning station and filleted it for him. It has become a common question when we walk by people.. "what did you catch today?".

Monday, November 24, 2014


We have been in Ensenada Mexico for a few weeks now. We are really quite comfortable here. The weather couldn't be better (low to mid 70's during the day and low 60's at night). It did finally rain a couple of days ago for about 30 minutes. This is the first rain we have seen since we left Washington!

I think we are true cruisers now because our plans seem to change daily. The current plan is to stay in Ensenada for the winter and then head back to southern California for the spring and summer. We are hoping to have our grandkids come down and spend some time with us next summer and it will be so much easier if we are in the US. And that would be unlikely if we headed to the typical central/southern Mexico cruising grounds as the 750 nautical mile trip back north along the Baja peninsula would be very difficult. But more important, we are really enjoying Ensenada and want to take time to get to know the people here. Jan has met a couple of local ladies in the sauna and we are hoping to get to know them and their families.

Ensenada has a little of everything. It is a major stop for most of the cruise lines because it is a major port of entry into Mexico. So the cruise ships stop here and get everyone checked into Mexico and then head south to the gold coast. The cruise ship dock is downtown and not surprisingly the area around the dock is what I would call "Little Tijuana". If is full of little shops overflowing with tourist junk and high pressure salespeople. It brings the quote "for you, nearly free" to mind. If you show any interest in anything you can bet the someone will be on you immediately pushing you to buy it. And if you start to walk away, the price will start dropping. They will even chase you down the sidewalk lowing the price with every step you take. It is fun for a little while, but gets old pretty quick.

We are berthed in a marina called Marina Coral (pronounced Coraaaal, and they are not shy making sure you know that). The marina area is basically "San Diego south". Virtually everyone here speaks english (to some degree - some of them speak english about as good as my spanish). It is a very nice marina, except they might want to pressure wash the docks once in a while. The big downside to Marine Coral is the surge. The breakwater is very big and robust but there is only a single breakwater. If you plan to stop ocean swell you need a double breakwater. So when the swell is kicking up or coming from a direction that causes reflection to the marina entrance it can get pretty rough at the dock. So I am keeping a close eye on our dock lines and fenders. The other thing that makes this "San Diego south" is the "big box store" area. Just south of downtown is an area of a couple of blocks where you can find Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, McDonalds, etc... You can find virtually every chain store/restaurant that you know from the US.

We are really loving our bikes! Jan has a thing from her childhood about getting a "brand new" bike so she was really excited to get a "brand new" bike. In any case, we have really used them a lot here. The marina is about 5 miles north of town so we would be on the bus or a cab without them. There are only a few major folding bike companies and then several very small companies. Without question the biggest company is Dahon. One of their close competitors is Tern. Tern was actually started by the son of the man that built Dahon. So they are very similar bikes. Anyway, we bought Tern bikes.

Ready to ride

Folded and ready to go below
We have been doing a lot of fishing here. To my pleasant surprise Jan loves fishing. Right now we are just taking our dinghy out in the bay. It is a lot easier than taking Rapture out for a couple of hours. We have been doing really well. We have caught quite a few lingcod. They are about the ugliest fish you have ever seen, but they taste really good. The lingcod we have been catching have been fairly small (as lingcod go) because of where we have been fishing. But we plan to take Rapture out to Isla De Todo Santos (a couple of islands just under 10 miles out from Ensenada) looking for much bigger fish.

Mike with a lingcod
A few days ago we were out trolling around one of our favorite spots and I caught a Pacific Barracuda. I knew I had something good on when it hit because it was pulling hard. Then I got it up close to the boat where I could see it and knew I had a barracuda. We safely got it in the boat without it's teeth puncturing the dinghy or me! This was just a small barracuda.. boy, I can't wait to catch a big one! We really liked the barracuda. When I filleted it we got 2 long thick round chunks of firm white meat that tasted great!

Mike with the barracuda
It is very "interesting" to go out in the open ocean in a 9' inflatable rubber boat. The swell has been growing quite big lately because of all the storms going on up north. We were out a few days ago and I estimated the swell to be 8 to 10 feet. Swell generally comes in groups of  threes - if you get a big one you can bet there are 2 more big ones right behind it. When you encounter swell this big in a small boat right on the water all you can see is a wall of water coming at you when you are in the trough. Then at the crest you take a quick look around to get your bearing and make certain there isn't anything breaking coming at you. As always, as scary as huge swell looks, it is only dangerous if it breaks. On this particular day, the swell was so big you could hear/feel wind created as you climb the face and descend the back of the wave. Needless to say, we didn't stay out very long that day.

We went fishing yesterday and had a good day (well, *Jan* had a good day). We were trolling around one of our favorite spots and Jan about jumped out of her skin. I looked over and she was holding onto her rod with both hands for all she was worth. I asked if she had a fish on and she could only shake her head. So I killed the motor and got my line out of the water. It was all Jan could do to hold onto the rod so there was no way she was going to be able to crank the reel. Finally she said "the line is going the wrong way" (it was spooling off against the drag pretty fast). She said it was too much for her so I took the rod and the fight was on. I finally landed a bonito tuna after a good fight - it was major fun!

Jan and her tuna
Later that day, I made my catch of the day - a black sock size 9 to 11. That's right, a sock like you would wear on your feet. It was a bit more than embarrassing. And Jan took full advantage telling everyone of the day's catch.

The bottom line - the bikes and the dinghy were very expensive purchases before leaving the US, and were worth EVERY penny!

Monday, November 10, 2014

San Diego

We sadly left Newport Beach and headed for San Diego. This was to be the jump off point for the Baja Ha-ha (silly name, I know). This is a rally that leaves San Diego and races to Cabo San Lucas. We had signed up for the "ha-ah" and were planning on participating. But the more we thought about it, the less we liked the idea. There were several draw backs as far as we were concerned:

  • 170 boats were registered. All of the boats were scheduled to leave San Diego in a parade around noon and head off shore toward Cabo. You would get about 6 hours before dark and then you would have 170 boats sailing around you in the dark - does not sound like fun to me! Furthermore, the sad thing is that we figure at least 50% of people operating boats are really not qualified to do so. So 170 boats off shore, at night, with 50% of them being somewhat less than capable... I think not.
  • The rally was in 3 legs. The first leg was 3 days and nights. The second leg was 2 days and nights. And the third leg was about 30 hours. Jan and I figured we "could" do it on our own, but we would be exhausted by the time it was over. Don't forget, this is suppose to be "fun". The other thing is Jan and I have decided that we prefer to not sail at night if possible. We have seen a lot of stuff floating in the water and all of that stuff is still out there at night - you just can't see it. I know, I know, a lot of people do multi-day passages, but Jan and I prefer to sail during the day if possible. As a note - one of our friends did do the ha-ha and ran over a crab pot buoy at night wrapping the line around their prop shaft. They were lucky enough to be able to cut it off without going in the water and get back underway. But then had to dive the boat the next day and get the rest of the line off the shaft.
  • The ha-ha races down the Baja peninsula missing a lot of fun spots and we didn't want to go blowing by any of them.
Long story short - we decided not to do the ha-ha so had to say goodbye to the friends we had made on the way down from Washington.

We had a great sail from Newport Beach to San Diego. We had about 20 knots of wind from the stern. We had our genoa polled out and enjoyed a wonderful downhill ride. Here is a picture of Abby Normal (the name came from the movie Young Frankenstein - if you haven't seen it, you should check it out). Brad and Gay say the name is fitting of both them and their boat :-).

Abby Normal under spinaker
 You will notice Abby Normal trying to keep up with Rapture, as usual :-) Abby Normal left with the ha-ha and we are going to miss them very much.

I have been bit by the fishing bug! I have caught several tuna and a mackerel while in Mexico. The tuna are not only great eating fish, but they are more fun to catch than any fish I have ever caught! When you get a good sized tuna on the line, you know you are hooked up. I was coming up the companionway when the fish in the picture hit. The rod bent almost in half immediately and the reel was singing loud spooling line off at a high rate. It took me over 20 minutes to land this guy. I have been doing some research and am going to be heading to the spot where they are catching 80lb tuna soon. Holy moly! I can only imagine.

Mike with a tuna
Favorite tuna rigs
The birds down here are amazing. Of course we love the pelicans, but the heron and egret are really cool as well. They either stand at the edge of the water of on a dock and wait for small fish to come by. Then they stab their long beaks in the water with lightning speed and come out with a fish for lunch.


We spent a little over a month in San Diego. Our original plan was to spend a month there going through all of the boat systems after the trip down from Washington and before we left for Mexico. We did all of the maintenance but then stayed another week after deciding not to leave with the ha-ha. While in San Diego they had a halloween party that we attended. It can be a bit difficult to put a costume together while living on a boat, but here is what we did. One thing to note - this is and will be the ONLY time Jan is allowed to put mascara on me!



Mike and Jan taken by Richard from Sarita
We really had a great time at the party!!!

While in San Diego we came to a realization which lead to 2 purchases - transportation away from our boat is a really big deal! It was a long way to get to any services/stores from where our boat was moored (Harbor Island West Marina). If you took the dinghy across the bay you were in walking distance to one grocery store and a few marine stores. But walking anywhere from the marina was just not feasible. I did walk around the harbor 1 day shortly after we got there. I calculated it was a 15 mile walk in the hot sun - really not something I want to do every day.

So we got our dinghy that we rarely used in Washington out and quickly realized it had a very big short coming - a soft flexible bottom. In Washington it was not a problem because we rarely used it. If we wanted to leave the boat at anchor we would use our kayak. But going across the bay to get groceries was not really practical with the kayak. And the soft bottom of the dinghy was quite obviously not going to last very long being drug up on gravel beaches in Mexico. So we bought a RIB (rigid bottom inflatable boat). It has an aluminum bottom and inflatable sides. The upside is that it will last a long time. The downside is that we cannot roll it up and store it down below - it has to be carried on our foredeck. Oh well, the life of a cruiser.

The other thing we realized is that even with a good dinghy we would still have to travel some long distances for certain things from time to time. So we purchased folding bicycles. We are really happy with our bikes!!! They make long distances a breeze. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the new dinghy or bikes right now, but I will have them for the next blog entry.

The purchase of the new dinghy and bikes delayed our departure from San Diego a week beyond when we wanted to leave, but they were really important items to get before we left the US. Now we are off to Mexico - first stop, Encenada!

Jan and I really had a very hard time in San Diego. We have talked a lot about it and are not exactly sure why. This trip has been one huge boost to our faith and we have grown much closer to our Lord. But we came under attack from the moment we arrived in San Diego. We are not sure if it is because Satan has a strong foothold in San Diego or if we came under direct attack because of our recent growth. But one thing we are absolutely sure about is we are glad we are no longer in San Diego! Neither of us have any desire to go back there anytime soon.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Newport Beach

What are the odds of finding two places in a row that we totally love? I don't know, but it happened. Maybe we should bye a lottery ticket?

Newport Beach is a fantastic town! The only downside is the crowds. The harbor is huge - very long with a couple of islands along the way. It is filled with mooring buoys and boats - LOTS of boats. There are boats, paddle boards, jet skis, kayaks, etc.. running all over the place all day and night. But what we liked most about Newport Beach is the beach.

The waterfront is a beautiful sand covered beach for as far as you can see. The day we spent on the beach had wonderful breaking ways rolling in. Jan is in total heaven!!!

Jan loving Newport Beach
We spent most of the day walking the beach. In the picture above you can see a pier in the background. We went out to the end of that pier and found a restaurant where we had lunch. We say out on the deck looking out at the ocean while we ate - it was great! The beach is separated from a walking trail by a series of sand dunes. Along the way there were volley ball nets and other assorted beach games setup. The walking trail is cement and runs along the length of the beach. Bikes, walkers, runners, and roller blades were pretty much constant. Right up next to the walkway are beach houses - pretty much packed in right next to each other. Many of them were rentals - generally $2,000 to $3,000 per week - yikes! A lot of them had doors that would open the entire front side of the place making an open air living room facing the beach. Interspersed among the houses were clumps of shops, restaurants, and bars. If I was going to consider retiring in a dirt dwelling, this would be high on my list of places to live. But I seriously doubt I will EVER be in a position to afford even a week there. However, one idea that we have been kicking around is bringing the boat back here next summer for the season.

As we were cruising along looking for the one little spot that is available to anchor your boat we came across the "Google catamaran". This thing is quite a sight - huge and sleek.

One of the reasons we came to Newport was to pick up our new drogue. I had been researching methods of steering the boat should our rudder become disabled at sea and finally decided a drogue was the best option. A drogue is basically some type of device that you drag behind the boat. There are 3 main designs - a mesh made from nylon straps, a rope with several cones attached, or some type of bag. I chose one called the Shark. It is basically a nylon bag with 4 slots cut in the sides. The other option for emergency steering is some type of add on rudder - usually associated with a wind vane steering system.

I would love to have a wind vane. They are a backup to your autopilot (they are a steering device) and they don't use any electricity to steer boat - both very desirable things. But I didn't feel they were the best idea for Rapture. First, they are REALLY expensive and now that we don't have any income, we are trying to keep expenses down. Second - they should be mounted on the stern of your boat in the middle to be most effective. That is a problem on Rapture because she has a stern door in the middle that is by far the best way to board. You can mount a wind vane off to the side, but that causes all sorts of other problems. You can also get a swing mount that allows you to swing the unit to the side, but once again, not a great solution. Another issue is that the steering ability of a wind vane can be very limited based on your point of sail. So, drogue it is!

A drogue really has 2 uses - slow the boat down in big seas and emergency steering. We surely could have used the drogue in the storm that we went through off Cape Blanco. One of our big problems was the boat going too fast. We were surfing down these huge waves at 19 knots - WAY too fast! We would get to the bottom of the wave totally out of control and then often broach. The drogue helps to slow the boat down and helps to keep the stern where it belongs - at the back of the boat.

The second use is emergency steering. To my surprise, it works GREAT! You simply throw the drogue in the water behind the boat and attach the two bridle lines to the primary winches on either side of the boat. Then when you want to turn to port you simply crank on the port winch. That drags the drogue to the port side which then turns the boat. It worked really well!

One of the nice things about the Shark drogue is the company is located in Newport Beach. I bought it while we were in Monterey - north of Newport Beach. So our plan was to just stop on the way by and pick it up. When I told them we were going to pick it up in Newport Beach on our boat they offered to come out on the water with us on our boat and teach us how to use it. Wow! Now that is customer service. So on the appointed day we went into the city dock and there stood Zack Smith - the designer of the drogue. A very nice and knowledgeable guy. It was really a pleasure having him on the boat.

Mike tossing the drogue in the water

Mike and Zack talking strategy

The drogue at work
Sadly our time in Newport Beach was over and it was time to head for San Diego.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Catalina Island

What can I say about Catalina Island? We LOVE Catalina Island! Catalina Island is a wildlife reserve, and boy do they have wildlife. We didn't see any animals on the island, but the sea mammals were everywhere. Lots of dolphin, whales, sea lions, etc...

Catalina Island is basically a big barren rock. There are some buildings here and there and a few tourist type spots, but it is mostly undeveloped. One thing about California - they know how to make money. There are very few anchorages because they have all been filled up with mooring buoys. We were lucky to find a place that still had a small anchorage on the southwest side of the island. It was full of buoys but still had some space right near the entrance where you could anchor. The harbormaster came by the morning after we arrived and offered to get us on a mooring buoy... for $45/night! BUT, if you buy 7 nights you only pay for 6. Sheesh, yeah right, I am going to pay $45 to tie up to a mooring buoy - NOT!

We found the blue water that we have been looking for at Catalina Island. It was an exciting day. Jan took a picture on our phone and sent it to her friends at the senior center.

This is one of those places where GPS and a chart plotter really come in handy. Here is a picture of the entrance as we were approaching. Where do you go in again (tip - it is just to the right of the dark rocks)?

Entrance to Catalina Harbor
Just before we left Seattle I bought a hookah. It is a dive compressor with a long air hose and a dive regulator attached. I bought it so I could dive under the boat and do maintenance. My initial thought was to just hold my breath and zip in and out. But our trip to Pleasant Harbor on the Hood Canal showed me that this was not a good plan. First (and in no particular order) without a weight belt there was no way I could get down and stay down long enough to get under the boat. Second, I am getting a little too old to hold my breath for more than a few seconds. Clearly, not a good plan. So I bought the hookah.

I had been waiting for an opportunity to try this thing out ever since I got it. We literally got it the day before we left Seattle (Ray from the Port of Kingston brought it out to us in Port Ludlow - thanks again Ray - you are the best!!!). I took it out of the box, threw the box in the trash, and stowed the hookah for travel.

Now was my chance - clear, blue, 75 degree water - yeah! So I got my goggles out and in the water I went. Then I started playing with the dive weights - you want just enough that you can stay under water but not so much that you sink like a rock - a fine balance. So Jan worked with me adding and removing weights until I thought it was just right. I have to say it is a little scary clipping a weight belt to your waist while you are swimming.

Then I fired up the hookah and tested the air - yup, it's working. I have never had any dive training but I did my research and found out that the most important thing is to keep breathing - don't hold your breath! Your lungs could explode apparently. So I put the regulator in my mouth and started breathing - so far, so good. Now, just put your face in the water and keep breathing - NOT! It caused an immediate panic attack. It is just not natural to put your face in water and breath. So I relaxed on the ladder for a few minutes and then tried again. It took several tries before I was finally able to put my face in the water and breath. What I soon realized is that the first breath or two were by far the hardest. If I just let myself sink and forced myself to take a couple of good breaths I started feeling better. Of course Jan was out with the camera...

Mike getting the hang of diving
Look how blue and clear the water is! After a few dunks under the water I got brave and tried swimming under the boat. Everything looked great except the zinc on the end of the prop shaft was almost gone. Cool! I have an actual project. So I got a wrench and went down to remove the old zinc. All is well. Then I went to try to install the new zinc and could not get the bolts in. I could get one bolt to go in no problem. But the second bolt jammed every time after just a few threads. I worked at it for 2 hours! Finally I felt I was getting too cold and tired to be safe so I gave up for the day. As I thought about the problem I realized that I needed to ream the holes out a bit on the new zinc. So I will give it another try tomorrow.

I was sitting out in the cockpit reading and trying to warm up after my swim and saw this boat sail in. The picture doesn't do it justice - it was HUGE! I think it is a training boat for teens. After they were anchored they all started jumping over the side into the water yelling and screaming.

We had planned to spend 2 more days at Catalina. But the next day I did my 9:00AM weather check and found that a big change was coming - 15 to 25 knots with gusts to 35 tomorrow. That doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me so I rang Brad up and gave him the news. We both agreed that we needed to get out of there, and now! The problem was that I had my zinc just hanging on the end of my prop - not a good situation. Fortunately I had reamed a zinc out the night before and it was hopefully ready. So I quickly got back in the water and in 15 minutes had a fresh zinc installed. We are heading for Newport Beach which is a full day sail away. So getting a late start was not a good thing.

We left the harbor and found 15 to 20 knots of wind on our port bow with big waves to go with it. Brad was braver than I and just powered into the weather. I throttled back so I wouldn't pound the boat and crew. By the time we got to the end of the island so we could turn east and put the weather off our stern quarter Abby Normal was well over a mile out in front of us. After we got safely away from the island and in open water we decided to try our new whisker pole and poled our genoa out. Wow! We took off! We were making 7.5 to 8 knots over ground. It was a great ride!! And we were very thankful because it was going to be very close to dark by the time we reached Newport with our engine. And cracking off on a broad reach was also not feasible because we really needed to make a straight line to our destination to get in before dark. We ultimately caught Abby Normal  just as we reached Newport. We love our whisker pole!

Paradise Cove

We left Santa Barbara with mixed feelings. We really wanted to spend some time there but in the end could not get out of there fast enough. So on to Paradise Cove.

Paradise Cove is yet another little inlet on the edge of the Pacific ocean. It has some protection from Point Dume (ouch, not a great name for a point that we want to anchor behind). I am really not sure how to pronounce the name, but my first guess is a lot like "doom". Jan cringed when I told her where we were going.

It was a long day getting to Paradise Cove. On the way we came across a huge flock of birds on the water. They were so thick it felt like you could walk across them. Maybe that was how the Lord did it??? (JOKING!). The group of birds was so big that we ended up sailing right through them (it would have been quite a way to go around them). And as we cut through them they either dove under water of flew off. When they started flying it darkened the sky! Fortunately they really didn't fly over the boat so I don't think we took any bombs on the deck (don't look up Jan!). The picture really doesn't do the situation justice - there was really no way to capture the enormity of the situation with our camera.

Paradise Cover was just a place to stop and sleep - not really much there. We had a good night and were off first thing in the morning. Catalina Island, here we come!!!!

Santa Barbara

We arrived in Santa Barbara in the early afternoon. We were really excited to be there. The water temperature had been warming dramatically since we rounded Point Conception and we were looking forward to doing some swimming. We planned to tie up in Santa Barbara and take a couple of days to explore the town and the beach.

The Santa Barbara harbor is fairly easy to enter. There is no bar and has pretty decent depth throughout (I never saw anything less than 14'). I called the harbormaster when we were about an hour out to get a slip assignment for Rapture and Abby Normal. The harbormaster told me that a large group of 40' boats had just  come in and they weren't sure they would have anything for us. Not good.. but he did say they were doing an inventory and I could call back in an hour. We both needed fuel anyway so we headed for the harbor.

Santa Barbara is a very busy harbor. It has a long narrow channel that is full of boats, kayaks, paddle boards, swimmers, etc... It was a nice sunny weekend day so it was really busy.. actually "crazy" would be a better term. Abby Normal and Rapture both came upon different boats under sail in the channel. The difficult part was they were both trying to go upwind so they were tacking back and forth across the channel. So you had to stop, wait for the exact moment, then hit the power and hope you make it through before they tack back and hit you. Brad and I both felt that they were very inappropriate and created a very unsafe situation.

Rapture was first in and tied up to the fuel dock. While I was fueling the boat Jan called the harbormaster again. Happily they had found a birth for both Rapture and Abby Normal. But they wouldn't tell her our slip assignment - he said we had to tie up to the dock in front of the office and check in first. Okay, that is a bit odd, but whatever makes their boat float (tee hee).

We tied up to their dock and I headed up to the office. That is when the sour taste in my mouth started to grow. I had to read, sign, and initial the rules first. As I was reading their rules I started feeling like I should call a lawyer. My gosh, we are just visiting for a couple of days. I am not asking your daughter to marry me. Check out time is NOON (yes, in all caps and written over and over) and if you are 1 minute late leaving your slip you will have to pay for the next day plus a 30% penalty for late payment. And if you leave and don't pay you will be assessed double plus the penalty and they will hunt you down like a dog (put a lien on your boat, etc...). If you plan to stay another night you must pay before 11:00AM or you will be considered to be paying late (if paid before NOON) and once again assessed a penalty. If you come in and tie up in any slip other than at the office dock (which is normal at every marina I have ever visited) you will be assessed a fine in addition to your nightly slip fee. And on, and on, and on... then, before they will allow you to leave the office dock they send a cop down to flush a dye tab into your holding tank so they can see if you dump your tank while in the harbor. On top of all of the draconian rules the nightly fee is the highest I have EVER paid anywhere. This made the decision for us - GOODBYE and GOOD RIDDANCE to Santa Barbara.

We were really disappointed because we really wanted to spend a couple of days exploring the town. But there are other places to explore and I refuse to patronize people like that. So we had dinner, went to bed, and left first thing in the morning. And as you leave they take one last shot at you - you have to call them and checkout when you leave your slip or they will asses you... yeah, you guessed it - a fine!

We took some pictures, but I am so disgusted with the place that they will just stay on the camera. Off to Paradise Cove.

Cojo Beach

We left San Luis at first light because it was going to be a long day and we wanted to be sure to arrive at Cojo before dark. We were very happy with the anchorage at San Luis. It was relatively calm with good holding for the anchor.

Cojo beach is nothing more than a very small inlet just around Point Conception. There is what appears to be a very small town there. But its claim to fame are the kelp beds - HUGE kelp beds. To get into the anchorage you have to weave your way through and hope you don't make a wrong turn and get fouled. Then when you finally get into 30 or 40 feet of water you go back and forth along the shore looking for a spot that you can get the anchor on the ground... and back up again in the morning!

It is really a bit unnerving to anchor the boat in such a small cove (anchor drag alarm tonight!). There is really no protection - you are just anchored on the side of the ocean. But as it turned out, it was a really nice anchorage. The swell and wind was coming from the west/northwest and was mostly blocked by Point Conception - hey, Point Conception is not ALL bad :-).

We got to Cojo late in the evening and planned to leave early in the morning so there wasn't a lot of exploring and no pictures were taken. We were just really glad to be safely around Point Conception and on our way to San Diego, exhausted.

Next stop - Santa Barbara.

San Luis

Brad on Abby Normal had devised a plan to get south of Point Conception that would keep us 1 day in front of the bad weather and minimize night sailing. And that sounded real good to us. The down side is that we would be on the move every day for the next week - not so great. But it's all about give and take and chose your poison, so off we went.

Andante decided to stay in Morro Bay and do some boat maintenance so it was down to Abby Normal and Rapture. The trip to San Luis took us past the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. We were happily sailing along in the lead when Gay raised us on the radio. She said "you are not going to go inside the security zone for the nuclear power plant are you". To which I replied "what nuclear power plant"? None of my charting said anything about a power plant. But I did notice a funny little half circle made from a red dashed line on my chart plotter and put 2 and 2 together (yeah I know, it's 4, not 5!). I asked how far out are we suppose to be and someone from the power plant quickly replied "1 MILE!". Oh... sowwy, my bad. It was a short little 3 or 4 hour sail around a point to get to San Luis so I was just staying a safe distance off shore (just under a mile as it turns out). So we quickly gave a little space BEFORE we crossed over the little red dashed line half circle. Thanks Gay!!

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

As we approached San Luis we noticed this place up on the hill. I'll bet that was a nice place to grow up.

San Luis is another one of those places that is just a small cove off the side of the ocean with a small spit of rocks partially protecting it from the swell. But in this case it was just enough. We were tossed a few times by a rogue wave here and there, but for the most part it was quite comfortable. I was a bit concerned as evening came and the party on shore started ramping up (loud music and people yelling on microphones) but I was out like a light when my head hit the pillow.

There was a small town that looked like it might be fun to check out, but we were trying to stay ahead of the weather. The last hurdle we had to cross on the way to San Diego is Point Conception. Point Conception is the point on the California coast where it changes from mostly north/south to more east. It is also notorious for really bad weather and treacherous seas. The weather forecast has been very stable for several days - it will remain calm for one more day and then kick up to 35+ knots for the foreseeable future. So first thing in the morning it was off to the next place - Cojo Beach.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Morro Bay

Rapture, Abby Normal, and Andante happily left San Simeon first thing the next morning. Good bye to yet another violent anchorage! Next stop, Morro Bay.

Morro Bay is a nice little tourist town in central California. It is called a bay, but it is more like a river than a bay. It doesn't flow like a river (the only current is the tidal current) but it is a long narrow waterway like a river. The thing about Morro Bay is the bar you have to cross to get into the tiny opening of the harbor. It is so hazardous that the harbor patrol will come out and walk you through the entrance standing by in case you need to be rescued from your crushed vessel on the rocks (gives a real warm and fuzzy feeling doesn't it).

When we arrived Abby Normal was in the lead so he made the call to the harbor patrol. They asked if we would like them to come out and help us get in. Brad said he didn't think we would need help and was just calling for a bar condition report. The harbor patrol responded "captain, please be aware that you are solely responsible for the safety of your vessel and everyone on board" (I think he is trying to tell you something). So we all got to talking on the radio and decided to put our manly pride aside and take them up on their offer. Glad we did!

We cruised all day in 8' to 10' swell. It was not breaking on the bar, but it was intimidating none the less. The harbor master came out in a little speed boat and came up to each of our boats to give us the skinny on how to safely get across the bar. It is a bit unnerving to have ocean swell crashing on the rocks on both sides of your boat as you try to navigate a narrow, shallow channel, but obviously we made it in okay..

As you approach Morro Bay the first thing you see are 3 tall smoke stacks and a HUGE rock (Morro rock oddly enough).

Morro Rock
The moment you cross behind the breakwater everything goes flat calm. Finally the constant motion has stopped. We have been dealing with large swell for 3 days and 2 nights - we were exhausted and just wanted the boat to stop rocking. The bay is a long narrow passage. On one side is the town and on the other side is the mooring field and the breakwater keeping the ocean out. The vast majority of the bay is mooring balls with boats tied to them. On one end there is open anchorage.

Abby Normal was heading for the yacht club dock hoping to get reciprocal moorage. They were lucky enough to find an open spot and tied up. We had talked with Kat the night before and decided that she would get off the boat in Morro Bay. Unfortunately the arrangement was not working out for either of us. So Brad offered to let us raft up on Abby Normal so Kat could go ashore. After we got tied up Brad went up to the office and found out that we could stay rafted up at the yacht club dock for $25. We figured it would make it easy for us to explore the town and do some grocery shopping, then move out to the anchorage the next day, so we took the offer!

Morro Bay was a fun little tourist town. It is basically one street that follows the bay with housing up on the hill. It was nice to go to a supermarket for the first time in quite a long time! We couldn't resist a shot of this tour boat as it came by.

We planned to spend a few days in Morro Bay relaxing. But later that night I got a text from Brad on Abby Normal saying they were leaving in the morning and anyone that wanted to come along was welcome. Not good news since I had promised Jan that we would take a few days off in Morro Bay. But I started looking at the weather that Brad had been seeing and realized that if we left in the morning we would be getting out one day in front of the weather. And if we delayed we would likely be stuck in Morro Bay for a week. So much for hanging out.. but we were able to get in a day of seeing the town (which is about all we needed - it is a very small town).

Our plan was to leave at slack water in the afternoon when the bar would be the calmest and head for San Luis Obispo. It would only be a 4 hour trip so we would still be able to make it before dark. But mother nature doesn't understand schedules.. about an hour before we were planning to leave the fog rolled in. Not just any fog, thick fog! So we got the boat ready to go and waited. 30 minutes past our preferred departure time the fog thinned a bit so we all got together and took a vote. As usual, I was the cautious one and voted to stay put while Jan, Brad, and Gay said "let's go". Even though I voted to stay, I knew it was not black and white and it was a manageable risk. So off we went.. We headed around the corner of the breakwater where we could see the entrance and the bar and the fog was even thinner. So we went for it! To my surprise the bar conditions were very light and the fog cleared as soon as we got out. So it was off to San Luis!