Tag Archives: Sailing California

Northbound to Home Port-Emery Cove

Ana Nuevo One

Of Misty Shores, Sea Elephants and Lone Gulls atop Buoy

Sailing is exhausting. I was in my bunk within an hour of our arrival in Monterey, immediately after squaring my registration with the harbormaster’s office early that afternoon. I woke up long enough to eat. I went back to my bunk. I was out until the next morning. Weather ahead was unsettled. We would remain in port Tuesday. Conditions turned to our advantage on Wednesday.

A short walk from our slip first thing before our departure we perched on stools and ate breakfast. LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle a waterfront favorite was  on Municipal Wharf #2.

Our short order cook put to rest any concern that a high fat diet was anything to fear. Not the seated customers, not the line of people waiting, indeed not one person appeared the least bit concerned. Life is short and eating at LouLou’s makes life shorter.

whale tale

Sighting a Mermaid

We topped off our fuel tank. The fuel dock clerk grew up in Salinas, moved to Pacific Grove  abandoned his car and walked to work now. He’d lucked into an affordable room. That’s a lot of good fortune in the land of sky high rent. This is life on the West Coast. Californian’s want to get rid of their lousy commute, live someplace we can afford so we may devote our free time to staring at our beguiling smartphones.

A pod of killer whales ,we counted six, congregated a hundred and fifty yards south of the harbor entrance buoy. We throttled up. Crossing Monterey Bay would take three hours. Sky was slate gray, the ocean darker, forbidden charcoal. Steaming at speed out of the haze appeared a fishing vessel, first one and then another, there was more boat traffic than we’d seen since Morro Bay. Fishermen were headed westbound.

Our spirits ran high. Two days sleep had restored our spirits. Seas were modest, not steep, the motion of the boat was comfortable. Soon we were off the northernmost headlands of Santa Cruz. Not long after we could see Davenport. Once Ana Nuevo was on our beam we had the temerity to imagine Half Moon Bay as being not much further north. Pigeon Point put the lie to that foolishness. Forging ahead at six knots asked for patience. Once in sight of Pillar Point we deluded ourselves that we would have her on our stern in short order. Four hours later we had only then passed the Pillar Point Safe Water Buoy. We had been underway for eleven hours.

Crewman

Strapped In for the Long Ride

Half Moon Bay’s fishing fleet was out in the overcast night running their powerful deck lights. Fishermen further out to sea over the horizon gave away their positions as lights bounced off low clouds gathered just above where they toiled. The night was  aglow, dotted here and there were islands of white-lighted radiance. Compared to the Big Sur coast the bustling fishing fleet was to our welcomed advantage. Anxious to arrive at home port, we would cling to anything to distract us. By now I was aiming four miles ahead to the Colorado Reef Lighted Buoy. On a northwest course we tracked the thirty fathom line. Fourteen miles further we would intersect with the Main Ship Channel Buoys that marked the entrance to the San Francisco Bay.

Ten miles off the coastline as we approached the mix of northern swell colliding with what would be a monster ebb kicked up, the sea state was in transition. I had been so fixated on weather I had not spent any time consulting the Tide and Current Tables. We would be passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge while the ebbing current was running against us. The precision of our running against the torrent was a classic ditzy-brained sailing blunder. Whatever the word is for the opposite of luck that’s what I have. When it comes to approaching San Francisco Bay’s entrance I am preternaturally disposed to nail my arrival at maximum ebb. This is a sure bet and mortal lock. I am fated to suffer going against the grain. It is coded into my monumental stubbornness.

North Tower

Inbound Beneath the Gated Wonder

We would crawl into the bay. We had been underway for sixteen hours. If conditions had been in our favor we would pull into our slip in just over an hour. A more languid processional arrival was ordered by the forces aligned in my cerebral cortex and synchronized with tide and current.

In voyaging down and back up the coast the prudent mariner has a great many rules to abide, much as the Dude abides, so too shall the dudes arriving in the early morning hours of the morning of September 6, 2018 give their full attention to living in harmony with all the astronomical forces unleashed by the tensions gripping earth and moon. The City’s skyline was a luminous eye quenching martini, a feast of spangled skyscrapers, an urbanized shadow puppet, a yarn, a plotted twist, a grand welcome home.

Home Port

Jeweled Home Port

Plunging ahead near Blossom Rock Buoy there were two promises within one hour of my grasp. There were a great more many rules, a vast number of skills, there was unsolicited advice, deeply disturbing testimonials, but mixed with all of those myriad of other matters buffeting my attention there were two more existential promises I had wanted more than anything else to make good on. First and most important was, don’t get killed.  And if I did survive the first promise would I please second of all, not sink the ship.

For the final three nautical miles I kept close eye out, vigilance is a sailor’s best defense. And just to be that much more sure I’d make good on the twin pillared promises I hustled below and turned the switch to my bilge pump to the on position. After fifty-two days outbound we put into Emery Cove. The time was zero-four-hundred hours. My summer of sailing off the coast of California was now a thousand glorious sea miles off my stern.

Edited Red Star

Sailing the Coast of California

Sweet Seas Avalon Three

Mooring in Avalon

In the summer of 2018 I sailed down the California coast from San Francisco to Catalina Island. For crew I enjoyed the company of my wife and two friends all jumping aboard along the way. Once in Southern California waters we hopped from harbor to harbor. Twice we sailed to Catalina Island and then after back up the coast on a course that took us out to the Channel Islands before making the final long uphill passage to home port.

Even in the midst of the very pinnacle of a late August summer a raucous Pacific Ocean can be frequented by Small Craft Warnings. Humbling gales, near gales and impenetrable fog’s can bedevil a recreationalist sailor. Dodging the adversity of such inclement conditions I planned to slip into and out of protected harbors hopscotching my way back up the coast. The professional meteorological consultants at Weather Routing Incorporated were enlisted as an insurance policy, to save this sailor from his own miscalculations, the bet being this helpful advice would reduce the chances of my being caught off the coast in an unmuted blow. For the week ahead Weather Routing Inc. provided me with a comprehensive weather report and then by telephone each day advised as I picked my way northward.

Anacapa

Panorama of Anacapa Island

The initial turn and the first forty miles from Avalon were undertaken in a steady hull speed inducing breeze. As I boasted on that leg, “The gods are great!” The seas were smooth, air was warm as dolphins came bounding toward us to play in our bow’s wake. Our first leg was auspicious. From Los Angeles’s Marina del Rey to Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor, a distance of fifty miles was pragmatic; we motorsailed and bucked against steep chop for the last two hours.

The next morning our sloop romped under full sail out to the Channel Islands. Morning overcast and haze yielded to a blue sky. Dark silhouettes on the horizon began peeking through the mists in time lapse revelatory boat speed. Materializing before our eyes were the surreal other-worldly cliffs of Anacapa Island. As we drew closer the khaki colored sheer vertical guano streaked bluffs invoked a sense of the epic. This is the mythological world of Venus and Aphrodite; nature as conundrum, stunning and temporally transformational. Winds dropped. Seas settled into a lull. Serenity took grip. Two silent sailors set motionless basking in the warm sun. While eating lunch my wife rendered our shared verdict. “This is the best day of sailing in my life.”

Anacapa Leaving

Approaching the Other World

Putting our boat and minds back in order we made ready to turn and beat north in a stout wind tipped with white capped seas. We bound close-hauled beneath a full mainsail across Anacapa Passage to Santa Cruz Island. The anchorages at Scorpion, Little Scorpion and Pelican Bay were full up. Exposed to a swell wrapping around the northeast headlands  we set one hook in Prisoners Harbor. Had I been on my best game a second hook on my stern would have been set to help fend off the incessant rocking but light was dimming and the day was at end. Here was as best as we could do with what time we had before darkness set in.

The next morning in a dead calm we motorsailed to Santa Barbara. Without having to tire from beating against wind or wave was under the circumstances fine. In the days and miles ahead a less benign Pacific Ocean would be certain to kick up and tax our resolve. We would for the first time in four days return from the sea and walk on land.

Edited Red Star

 

Sleepless Nights

Beating

Windward and Northbound

The shrill howl of the wind in the shrouds kept waking me. We were holding at Cojo Anchorage waiting for the winds to drop. Passage north through Point Conception was timed to advantage our trip north on this chance.

Winds finally dipped but not until we’d hoisted anchor and strapped our safety harness on. We sailed close to the wind due west. One beyond Government Point we were exposed to a much more moderate sea than we’d expected to find. Winds remained down at 20 knots steady from the northwest.

For two hours we kept our course offshore fourteen to eighteen miles until we turned back pointing now toward Point Arguello twelve miles north of Point Conception. Once tacked we were ready to gain precious miles of latitude up the coastline. Within ninety minutes we’d sailed ten miles. Since the day before when we’d left Santa Barbara sixty-eight miles behind us we’d gained not one degree of latitude.

We’d been anxious about rounding Point Conception. Stories of mariners halted by heavy weather had haunted our minds. We’d amplified these tales of sailors who had come before us. We’d taken seasickness medication and strapped our safety harnesses on. I was at the helm and my first and only mate stood at the ready on the mainsheet.
solitude at cojo

Solitude at Sunset

As is true of most sport there is a degree of danger. Batters are hit by balls, gymnasts twist ankles or worse… in all sport when stepping up to the plate whether or not you win or lose the game has the potential to injure those on the playing field.

For twelve hours we made more miles north. We had to tack back out off the coast several times. The first three hours gave way to a less fraught sea state. Winds eased for some of this period. Within three hours range of Port San Luis the afternoon breeze kicked up and the mix of chop and ocean swell made for an uncomfortable sloppy passage.

The boat seemed all the more capable. Our confidence by now greater than before we’d started off this morning. We still remained humble to our task. Based upon the seas we’d transited this morning we believed we could sail the boat through what was kicking up in front of us. We had that much determination. Doubts remained at the ready.

Much more sailing is ahead. Conditions have deteriorated and we are holding until Sunday afternoon in Morro Bay. Next leg is 24 hours north nonstop. This is a chunk of coast with few places of any kind to anchor. Most are described as suitable for emergencies only. We’ll take turns at the helm while the other crew member sleeps. One hour here, one hour there, neither member of the boat is to be left alone too long.

pelican on wing

Alone on Wing

Our passage on this leg will test physical endurance. Winds are expected to be on our nose, seas to eight feet in height, and surface chop short and average. The risk is if this sea surface chop steepens it can make northward progress more tedious and weary perhaps even sicken the crew.

For now we are on a mooring back and forth to town to get exercise and purchase provisions. We’ll sleep and catnap in preparation for Sunday. By midday Monday we’ll hope to tuck into Monterey while we wait for the next chance to complete our passage from Catalina Island back to San Francisco Bay.

I expect we’ll find more pleasure than peril in the next one hundred and eighty miles. With each mile sailed we gain a degree of experience, slightly more surefootedness, a sense we are skillfully making our way. Then, like that even that slight bit of hubris is examined for its power to entrap and trick a crew into unanticipated mishap.

Stay humble, keep a hand on the wheel and the mind focused to the task. Making a safe passage requires a persistent unwavering humility. Even with all of that in this sport where anything can happen to a boat and her crew a healthy dose of circumspection may not be enough.

buoy off montana de oro

A View Back from Where We’d Sailed

Edited Red Star

Don’t Cry for Me, Catalina

Catalina Four

Paddle Board- Bikini- Beach

Sailing from San Francisco to Avalon, this was the long planned passage, a tribal escapade, journeying to the harbor of the living-breathing Santa Catalina Island—- a offshore destination where exists an alter paced island ambience— the much admired oak barrel aged amber liquids bottled and called booze, in all things swaddled in near nothingness called a bikini; mingling amidst the sun-gilded bronzed visitors and residents who have by happenstance roved here to this storied island— separated by nothing more than mist and fog bank—- one half-day’s sail from the buzzing Southern California megalopolis— where by arm’s-length from the mainland reside the formidable sum of forty million of western civilizations quirky and traffic hazed.

Catalina Six

Running with the Big Dogs

I pet my peoples dogs, admired their dinghies. I relished the glorious knowing transcendence, our group-oversharing, our unyielding sanguinity— a fair-weather native birthright, people tested in gridlock but unbent (until fenders have clashed,) a citizenry resplendently aglow with a can-do- window tinted willingness to rise against all ill-tempered obstacles identified as too hot or too cold. All our thermal moderation, all evidence of material insufficiency, all former physical attributes once celebrated as character traits vanished by American Express fueled scalpel and suture. This is not self-help on steroids, this is what only a modern day banking system- financialized surgeon enhanced imagination can buy. Chins, cheeks and noses are chiseled into appealing compliance. Veneers for teeth, fitness centers for a cursory quick do over of gut or bicep. Hair and nail salons are cheek to jowl from Yreka to El Centro. My people start the day in circuit training end the day on a yoga mat. Kale salad and our first of two hibiscus infused martini’s are sipped at sunset with more often than not a second or third present-life-partner. The brilliant oranges and atmospherically moody ozone and carbon enhanced reds bring to climax another Left Coast Topanga Canyon sunset.

Lacey in July

Performing the Mightiest Little of Dogs

My sailing began on the Alameda Estuary. In 1980 I had come off the road from constant touring. I had weathered five years out of state crisscrossing the nation chasing dates playing my juggling act to infinitesimally diminutive audiences. I heard the call of home. Born in Oakland and raised in the Bay Area. Northern California of the seventies and yet to be written eighties was fern bars, funk bands doused in magnums of Napa sparkling wine. We were the world’s glitzy, garrulous— glamorously libidinous. A person born in California tested the complex multidimensional iterations of the sprawling romantic endeavor described more or less as love.

Catalina Seven

Summer Winds

Decades, children, homes all came and went. Some vanished, some were sold and some simply moved out. All the while I was playing the streets of Fisherman’s Wharf a swelling population compounded like some interest bearing retirement account. The long wet winters are memory. A dryer and warmer climate has taken hold. We don’t much like to do dreary, wet or cold. It’s so awful we invented Palm Springs to help the most averse among us to not have to ever have to suffer such inconvenience.

Catalina Two

Cozy Lagoons Nestled in Hillsides of Prickly Pear

And to this leading edge of all that is left of the era of enlightenment, as we all sort through the digital catastrophe, the computer chip disrupted economic rollercoaster madcap E-ticket ride to mostly rags or in some few circumstances riches here at this island outpost I arrive to take measure of my fellow countrymen. I am here to shoot my curiosity arrows into the heart of others minds, to gauge temperament, to discern what remains of what we have in common. In less than one year three historic sized conflagrations have leveled thousands of buildings, terminated the lives of good people helping to shape the expectations of what Tesla, lithium and solar panels can bring to our fragile future. Dusk is spent rocking gently at anchor. I see you fellow citizens. I see your spirit, I see our challenge. I want to shake your hand, hold you in my arms and convince you that we can do this. Together, we can do this, starting here and starting now. Come September and my return to my harbor… it is time.

Edited Red Star

Seven Days, Twelve Hours

breach

Humpback

Departed San Francisco Bay Sunday morning 6:00 AM. We turned south at the first set of buoys. By noon Half Moon Bay was off our stern. The rest of the lighted hours of the day were spent watching the humpback whales. The whole day was spent spotting pods. Some whales came so close we could smell their breath. The rattle of their lungs exhaling shook us. Their need to breathe after holding their breath while submerged was empathically written into our terrestrial based imaginations. Even a whale’s breathing is no small feat. .

Shearwaters, gulls, and pelicans were spotted. Sea lions were hunting along the entire route as we motor-sailed five to eight miles offshore. We hadn’t counted on running the motor so long. When darkness took hold we diverted chasing a forlorn red flashing light across the bay to Monterey.

buoy

Buoy as Spirit Guide

Night fell as the seas kicked up. All we had to hold onto was the light from Point Piedras Blancas. Our plunging ahead on compass course, the blackest of nights, not another vessel appearing either on our horizon or electronics was a way of the gods telling us that we had this piece of coast to ourselves. Whatever we found was what we deserved. We had played right into fates hands.

nav desk

Knowing Who and Where You Are

An hour from the anchorage at San Simeon we began bending our course to where two weary mariners would sleep. Slowing as we approached the shallows. Dodging kelp reading the lighted marks to the diminutive safe protected anchorage we dropped our hook and once she bit hold the longest day came to an end. We were forty-five hours south of our departure. Sleeping in shifts along the way. But, by now we needed dreams to sweep our minds clear. I took a few compass bearings to orient the sailboats position. Once I was sure she wasn’t going to move my  chance to take of myself and let my boat take care of me turned to my advantage and I placed my weary sailors body on my bunk and was soon long gone and away.

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Edited Red Star