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.