Thursday, December 22, 2011

At anchor in Ensenada de los Muertos

I arrived at Muertos yesterday morning at 5:45am. I left Los Frailes Wednesday morning at 7:30 wanting to sail to Muertos. The forecast looked favorable for sailing, given enough patience. I got away and sailed until 11:30 when the wind died to 2-5 knots and with the waves that were out there, that wasn't enough to make any progress. I waited for wind to arrive until 11:30pm when my patience ran out. I calculated that if I started motoring I could make up the 30 miles remaining out of the initial 46 by dawn which would be a good time to arrive and anchor. So I started motoring...and the wind started to arrive. My course was NW and so was the wind. By this time I was getting tired - I can't sleep as well when close to shore as I can when further away. I continued motoring toward my destination looking forward to a few hours of solid sleep...and the wind built and built. The forecast for his time was NW 10-15 and by 3am I started seeing NW 20-25. By the time I arrived at anchor the wind had fallen to NW 10 or so.

When I pulled into the anchorage I spotted Sockdolager (Jim and Karen) who I keep crossing paths with. Cool. I saw them in Cabo San Lucas as well.

I spent my first day here doing some head maintenance, and I won't go into details as its a little messy. The end result was that by around 5pm the head was working much better again.

There is a Norther (strong north winds) expected to arrive here over the next four days, so it looks like this is where I'll be spending Christmas. There is a restaurant on shore which is open Christmas day and there is some exploring here to do.

Its 8:30am, 72 degrees, the water is 70 degrees, there is a patchy blue sky and I have a new area to explore. Its too bad you all can't be here to enjoy it with me! Not all at once of course.

Take care y'all.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

At anchor in Bahia Los Frailes

Date: Dec 18, 2011, Time: 5:20pm
<Link: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=23+22.725+-109+25.432>
Barometer: 1020, Temp: 74, Water Temp: 69
Log: 2727.5, Engine Hours: 1291.0, Batteries: %96 (-17 Ah)


I left San Lucas yesterday morning and quickly found that the forecast NW 9-12 knots of wind wasn't going to be. I initially sailed slowly in 6-8 knots of wind, and then circled and bobbed around in 0-4 knots. By 4pm it picked up to 10 knots of east wind and I was underway. The wind picked up to 12 and then gradually weakened to around NE 4-6 at 11pm. From 11 to 3am the wind stayed low. In addition I was working against a current as my tacking angles were 180 degrees while I was sailing 40-45 degrees off the wind. This was frustrating as I was basically making zero progress toward my destination for 6 hours while I sailed back and forth. I guess if you want guaranteed progress getting to where you wanted to go you should buy a motor yacht. The wind started to build again in the morning, first NE 12 then N 14 and up to 18. The seas overnight were very calm, making my sleep cycles work well. As the wind was building in the morning so were the seas. By 3pm when the winds were 16-19 the seas were 5-7 and short. Spending the next night on the water wasn't going to be as pleasant as the first night.

When I left San Lucas I was intending to head to Ensenada De Los Muertos, with a backup here in Bahia Los Frailes. Muertos was 90 miles away, Los Frailes was 45. It isn't out of the ordinary to expect to sail 90 miles in 29 hours (11am to 4pm the next day.) In the end, I sailed 45 miles in that time. But I sailed! I'm still very happy with how Luckness feels in the water, bashing into waves or riding them downwind. The boat and her systems are awesome.

The wind forecast tomorrow is NNW 14-19 seas 5-8 @ 15 seconds, then in the evening NNW 13-17 seas 5-8 @ 14. If that forecast remains as it is tomorrow, I'll probably spend a day here to get a good sleep before bashing north again. Once I make Muertos, La Paz is only 'around the corner.'

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Next move: north

Date: Dec 15, 2011, Time: 10:30am
22° 53.309' N 109° 54.033' W <Link: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=22+53.309+-109+54.033>
Wind speed: 6 / wind dir: N, Heading: to anchor, Speed: running motor
Barometer: 1020, Temp: 74, Water Temp: 73.4
Log: 2634.7 (*), Engine Hours: 1289.8, Batteries: (-44 Ah)

I'm at anchor in Cabo San Lucas! I actually passed by here last night at around 10:30pm. It was dark by then and I pursued my goal of trying to reach an anchorage closer to La Paz. My ideal destination was going to be Ensenada de los Muertos. Its a little anchorage which has a local restaurant with wifi, clear water, walking, not much else. It is 90 miles north of Cabo and there is an anchorage between Cabo and that one which I had as a backup.

When I rounded the Cape, the nice wind I had died and I drifted around while 2 miles off the coast looking over at the anchorage. It was tempting to just go in at that point, but I pushed ahead, rolling in the swell waiting for wind. I finally motored for 1/2 an hour south to remove myself from what I thought was a wind shadow from the mountains around the Cape and found wind. I plotted a point 20 miles up the coast to where it bends from being generally NE to more northerly. My chartplotter was showing me my progress along this line I had plotted. There were N winds blowing here, and their strength was nothing dramatic if you were sailing downwind with them around you. Upwind is a different story, and sailing upwind in 18 to 24 knots of wind with steep 6-8 foot mixed waves with a period of around 4 seconds was a little dramatic. I initially had a lot of sail up and the boat was just surging forward crashing into waves - although not making very much progress toward my destination. The boat would appear to find holes in the wave patterns and just fall onto the wave on the other side and slow dramatically in a fury of water flying out on both sides of us. I was in the time of day where I should have been entering my sleep cycles, 20 minutes of sleep followed by getting up and accessing the situation. The boat crashing made sleep impossible and I started going into sleep deficit which I try to avoid as a safety concern. After I reduced sail to a more comfortable level to boat had slowed to around 4 knots making roughly 1 - 2 knots toward my destination. At 4:30am I calculated that I wouldn't arrive at my first anchorage until after dark that night, and my sleep problem would start to become a concern.

I turned around, started sailing downwind toward my destination and was immediately rewarded with a calm boat. Going with the flow.

It was a really nice passage. I left Ensenada Dec 7th at 11:30am and arrived here at anchor on Dec 15 at 10:30am, 8 days of sailing. If I had stopped in at my first pass of Cabo rather than going past and coming back it would have been 7 1/2 days and I was feeling really good at that point, awake and alert. It was comfortable sailing, I didn't push the boat too hard and there were some glorious sailing days in there. As the wind and waves weren't severe, I could cook proper meals and ate well. I flew the spinnaker for the first time. I used the pole a number of times and really liked the effect. The engine was only run for just over 3 hours including the time leaving the Marina and approaching my anchorage.

I'll stay here for a few days, and then when the weather looks like it won't be blowing strong north winds then I'll move along north.

(*) The Tack Tick log is wrong again.  I had to turn the system off to allow the wind sensor to get a charge so that it would be available to me when I needed it.  When the system is turned off, the log is wrong.  It was off most of the way from Mag Bay to Cabo San Lucas.  So I've missed another 150nm from my log.  I'm starting to wonder if the decision to buy Tack Tick was a mistake...  I love the instruments while they're working, but the reliance on solar power seems to be limiting on longer passages...

[updated slightly to account for sleep deprived errors.]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Its getting warmer!

Date Dec 13, 2011, Time 10am
24° 29.2' N 112° 14.3' W <Link: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=24+29.2+-112+14.3>
Wind speed 13 / wind dir W, Heading SSE, Speed 5
Barometer 1022, Temp 74, Water Temp 73, Sky Cloudy scattered showers
Log 2539.8, Engine Hours 1288.4, Batteries %77
Sail Plan Genoa, Staysail, Main
I'll be passing Bahia Magdalena (Mag Bay) in a few hours continuing south. The skies here are overcast with scattered showers - but the wind is decent. So rather than sit at anchor for a day or two in grey skies, I'll continue on.
The sailing on this passage has been nice. I was becalmed for an hour yesterday which allowed me to make dinner in calm seas, eat it, and just think about cracking a book open when the wind arrived again. I had been sailing upwind for a few days, this morning the wind shifted back to a west wind. I hadn't sailed upwind for some time and it was sweet - although the decks are now thoroughly salty again.
On this passage, power has been an issue. During the process of sending my last update, where I mentioned I didn't want to run the engine to charge the batteries, the single sideband radio consumed enough power to bring the voltage down below 12 volts and the chart plotter turned itself off. After the transmission was finished, the battery bank was 150Ah down. I ran the engine for under an hour, to add 50Ah. Since then I've been turning devices off. The inverter/charger consumes 0.5Ah in standby mode, its now switched off. I turn off the chartplotter now, only turning it on when needed - that saves me 0.75Ah. I've turned off the VHF radio, turning on my handheld saving me around 0.75Ah. With these savings I'm just holding steady now. On days where the sun shines I can bank some power, on cloudy days I consume some.
I realize now that I've under appreciated my wind generator. Sailing upwind in apparent winds of 15 to 18 knots allowed the wind generator to start making power. It can run the boat all night and bank some power. When sailing downwind, which is most of the time here, the wind generator doesn't do much as sailing downwind in 13 knots doesn't leave much apparent wind. On my passage from Neah Bay to Drakes Bay the wind generator must have been making more power than I realized, as I ran all the systems on the boat along with the computer and inverter for hours downloading weather radiofaxes. I'll be curious to see how the wind generator works in the trade winds.
I'll continue on to Cabo and either stop there, or continue on the La Paz. If I continue on, I'll likely find an anchorage before La Paz to allow me to charge my batteries and make water before going into town. I haven't been able to make water on this trip at all yet and would like to have my tank be closer to full before going into La Paz.
That's all for this update. Everything is going well.
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Soon passing Turtle Bay

Date Dec 10, 2011, Time Noon
27° 52.4' N 115° 31.9' W <Link: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=27+52.4+-115+31.9>
Wind speed 6 / wind dir NNW, Heading ESE, Speed 3
Barometer 1021, Temp 72, Water Temp 63.5, Sky Mostly blue
Log 2287.2, Engine Hours 1287.5 (Left Ensenada at 1286.7), Batteries %62
Sail Plan: Flying spinnaker & full main
Just a short note. I'm approaching Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortugas) but am going to pass it by. There is a little wind and I'm into the passage making groove so will just keep on heading south and east.
The past three days have been overcast and so the batteries are down quite a lot. This is the first day of sunshine and I've altered my direction in order to give the solar panels more sun. They are running the boat and creating an additional 14 amps right now. I'll end the day still down significantly. Yesterday night at sunset the batteries were down 100Ah, this morning they were down 150Ah. If I can get back to around 100Ah then I can keep that going without running the engine.
The wind pattern has been there is decent wind as soon as it gets dark (10 to 13 knots normally, gusts to 16.) When it get sunny the wind reduces - although it hasn't yet fallen to zero and the boat speed hasn't fallen below around 1.4 knots which is ok.
I've been flying the spinnaker during the past few days, its sweet! Its not exactly like attaching a pair of rockets to the boat, but I am able to make headway in 4 knots or slightly less. 4 knots resulted in a boat speed of 2. Nice. Its a good looking sail and as I use it more often I'll probably bring it out more frequently. Setup and take down is a little involved - something like 15 minutes to setup now, a bit longer taking it down and packing it away.
Everything is going well!
There is probably at least a week of this passage left, unless the wind improves dramatically.




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Heading further south

The sail here (Ensenada) from San Diego was annoying.  I didn't expect nature would pack in so many extreme wind shifts and changes in wind velocity into such a short passage.  There were many 90 degree wind shifts, a couple of 180 degree shifts and many instances of being becalmed to have wind arrive again a short while later.  The longest I sailed uninterrupted was one hour, and that was one sweet hour!  10 knots from the SE, so sailing upwind nicely.  But I arrived having run the engine for 5.8 hours...not what I was hoping for.  I wanted to arrive before 11am or so and was therefore sailing to a schedule.  I suspected checking in would take a while and that the office hours I needed would likely be limited.  I arrived at 10:30am, so I estimated that part pretty well - motoring when necessary to meet my goal.  But still...there was a lot of engine noise on my 'sail trip.'

Entering the marina was a little interesting.  I was arriving at just before low tide but had expected good depths throughout the bay.  As I was approaching my assigned slip which was on the south side of the marina which is open to the bay the depth fell from 12 feet, to 10, 9, 8 when I started to do a 180 assessing where I was.  The lowest depth I saw during the turn was 6.6 feet - which is close considering Luckness draws around 6 feet.  Entering deeper water again I looked it over and tried once more hugging the marina slips closer - on the second approach the depth fell to 8 but then rose again slightly.  That was a little nerve wracking.

I didn't intend to stay very long in Ensenada and it turns out that this time I'll be leaving when I first expected rather than doubling or tripling my initial estimate.  Ensenada weather is similar to San Diego (being only 65nm south, you would expect that!) and I'm heading south searching for warmth.

I've enjoyed my first two days in Mexico.  I won't pass along too many impressions as I would like to wait until I have more days in country before I do that.  Having said that, the people here are super friendly, the food is good, the food is inexpensive, the super markets have everything you would expect with a slightly foreign flavor.  The only super market I've been to so far had an outstanding bakery, super fresh produce with many items I've not seen before, lots of good meat, lots of brands you would recognize along with lots of things I didn't recognize and have me curious.

Excuse the remainder of the post.  Part of why I write in this blog is for myself - my posts act as reminders to my future self about things I may have forgotten.  I expect to be back this way sometime soon, so, future Craig - here is how checking into the country worked in Ensenada.

Before checking into the Baja Naval Marina, I was asked to bring along my passport, boat documentation, and ID.  I had earlier downloaded a crew list which is referenced by the Downwind Marine online cruising guide which references the crew list template.  I printed the form out and filled it in, using my 'Spanish for Cruisers' book for a few words in spanish.  You probably don't need to worry about the spanish.  Take the crew list along with everything else to the marina office.  They check you into the marina as well as photocopy everything in the required quantities to give you two piles of forms.  The first pile of forms goes to the Immigration office in the CIS building which houses Immigration, the Port Captain and Customs.  CIS is a short walk from the marina.  Having entered the building, approach the immigration window while looking helpless and presenting the pile of forms.  They know what to do and will help along with a form you need to fill out there.  Then they will give you a piece of paper which you present at a payment window behind you.  Again, look helpless and present the form.  They  ask how you want to pay - in spanish, so expect that when the person speaks a longish sentence to you they are wondering how you want to pay and give them your Visa card.  If you're wrong about what they just said to you, it'll still work out as handing them your visa card is a useful step anyway.  When you have the receipt walk back to the Immigration window, present it and shortly you'll have your FMM card, your tourist visa.  Congratulations, step one is done.

Step two is to go to the Port Captain.  Take the papers Immigration has given you and walk over there.  Again, do the 'look helpless' thing and present the papers.  They will create a flurry of paper behind the desk which disappears into various piles back there and eventually ask you to pay a fee.  When I was there, the payment mechanism in the office was broken and you are asked to walk to a bank about 6 blocks away and pay there.  Walk to the bank.  Walk into the bank, look helpless, a person will look at the form the Port Captain gave you and give you a number just like in well organized lines all over the world.  I was given 621 and shortly afterward they called 530.  Exercise patience.  I stood in line with my number, as when in foreign surroundings if I see a line which approaches where I want to be, I'll stand in it.  Eventually I appeared at the front of the line much before my number was to be called, which created internal confusion, but when the teller was free I walked up to her and gave her my out of order number and my piece of paper which she understood as a request from me to pay some money into the Port Captains account.  She smiled which I took to understand as meaning that my number issue was OK.  She spoke to me in a dazzling display of spanish, which sounded really nice, and I took it to be a request about how I would wish to pay.  I proudly presented my Visa card (this having worked earlier.)  She looked at it and seemed disappointed and spoke some more nice sounding words.  I took this as indicating Visa was not welcome, so this being a bank, I presented my Bank card.  Again, she replied with a sentence which seemed to have the word 'peso' in it.  At this point I reverted to looking helpless, which I was.  Luckily the person at the window beside me heard the whole exchange and feeling sorry for me started to translate, which was kind of him.  This is where I learned you need cash peso's to pay.  The teller asked me to visit the ATM and return to the head of the line.  This was soon finished and I walked back to the CIS office.  As I approached the office I saw a little door outside the building offering a photocopy service for photocopying the FMM forms, and I recollected something about this being needed so I had a photocopy made.  Then you should return to the Port Captain's window with your bank receipt and hand it over.  Shortly afterwards you'll be given some stamped forms followed by a gesture that I indicated as meaning: please go away, I'm done with you.  I now proudly took my forms and walked over to the Customs window, where I was redirected to a different window in order to pay my boat import tax.

This is the window where you use the second stack of forms that Baja Naval made for you, the first being mainly consumed and scattered about the CIS building.  There is a short list of requirements needed for the boat tax posted on the window which you are asked to read, and you'll notice you have what you need.  (Oh, you'll need your engine's serial number, Baja Naval will remind you of this.)  Fill in a form indicating how many of this and that you have on your boat (how many tools? many.)  Fill in the form again as they need two.  Now pay another fee and you'll be presented with a nice looking boat tax form which is valid for 10 years.  Now you can walk over to customs.  Its seems that the boat tax form represents your boat, and is how you describe to customs what it is you're declaring.  The customs officer will ask you to push a button on what looks like a traffic light with only red and green lights.  Push the button and one of the traffic lights turns on.  If its green, you're good to go.  If the red one comes on your boat needs to be inspected.  Both I and the customs officer were relieved that the green light turned on when I pushed the button.  Yay.  Fill in a form that is similar to any customs form you have filled in on a plane traveling between countries, sign it, they will stamp some papers and with that you're finished.  The customs officers last words to me were literally: go away.  Now take some of those peso's you have burning a hole in your pocket from that ATM earlier and walk over to the fish market.  Stop at the first taco stand you come to and start eating fish taco's - they are super good.  Enjoy a beverage as well, you deserve it.


Before you leave you also need to check out with Immigration and the Port Captain letting them know where you're heading.  I filled the form out saying I was heading for Mazatlan as I was advised to pick a port far south and that will cover all my intermediate ports.  From what I understand, I need to check in with the Port Captains along my journey if I stay in a port which has one, but that my current papers won't need to be updated.  Its a bit of an adventure not really knowing what you're doing...  I think I could have checked in and out in one visit, saving this second step.

Just after sending this, I'll be heading south toward Cabo and then north again to La Paz.  There are a number of places along the trip I can stop to break the journey up, or not.  I'll make the call for what stops I use along the way.  Its quite a distance to La Paz, over 700nm, so I'll be away for quite some time.  The weather currently looks a little confusing.  The GRIB files show decent wind (NW 10-15 knots) for the initial part of the trip south.  The surface analysis out a few days shows widely spaced isobars which indicates little wind.  Stan's weather report for outside baja looks decent in the north Baja but light further south.  I'm leaving expecting light wind and maybe a day or more of bobbing around waiting for wind to arrive as I move south.  So with that expectation, the downside is limited.  The upside is that I might be able to sail each and every day in some manner.  That would be sweet.

I may or may not blog on the way down.  I'll try to update my position reports, which is something I've started doing now - see my blog for a link.  Again, things happen on boats, electronics are prone to suddenly stop working.  If I stop reporting in, nobody should panic.

Later eh.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Leaving San Diego

I've been in San Diego for almost four weeks.  I arrived on Nov 9th and am leaving on Dec 4th.  When I arrived I had planned to stay for between a week to 10 days.  I had a little business to conclude that required some mail to arrive.  I had a few parts I wanted to buy and a few things to work on.  I thought that if I was to stay long enough, that I might see part of the Americas Cup that was being held in San Diego from November 12 to the 20th.  In the end, I have stayed much longer than anticipated.  I had been thinking that as I don't need to leave Mexico until something like mid March, that I would likely have at least three full months there.  Three months is as long as I have been gone on this trip; I left Seattle on Sept 1st.  Three months seemed like a long time and I decided to not hurry, to stay and see what I could in the area as well as just basically be lazy and hang around.  Recently a boat I have been following started filling in their blog with pictures of their experiences of the trip down the Baja coast and now heading toward La Paz.  The pictures are of long sandy beaches, warm clear water and I am feeling the need to leave and head down there as soon as I can get there.  (Look for Deep Playa's blog, among others.) I bought snorkeling gear in San Diego and now want to get into an area where I can use it!

San Diego has been a good stop, I've enjoyed my stay here.  Some of the highlights are:
  1. Watching the Americas Cup.  Those boats are amazing.
  2. Going to the Maritime Museum to see the Star of India, MHS Surprise, and others
  3. The Midway
  4. The Zoo
  5. The Swan
1) The Americas Cup World Series was awesome.  We're still in the initial stages of the cup as the actual race is not until 2013.  The world series races are on 45' boats where as the actual race will be on 72' versions, but the AC45's are amazing sail boats.  Certainly not what I would want to go cruising on, but they make for exciting racing.  I saw a couple of the races and found that I got much more out of the day if I came back to my boat afterwards and watched the same race that I had seen in person again on the youtube channel dedicated to the Americas Cup.  Each of the boats has several cameras onboard and at the end of each day they would post a couple of video's.  One was of the TV coverage, so you could watch the race with commentary, and the other was a compilation of the onboard camera coverage without commentary, so you only hear the sailors and boats doing their thing.  It was all pretty entertaining.  Being there in person was good as I got a much better impression of the scene and how quickly the boats accelerate, but the video coverage covered the details much better than I could see in person.



There are amazing pictures of the race out-there, on the web.  Above are two of mine, which are pretty ordinary.  But...I was there!  How cool is that.

2) There is a lot to see in San Diego and I only just scratched the surface of the things to see in the city.  The Maritime Museum was a must-see for me.  The two highlights of the visit were two of the ships.  The Star of India is "the oldest ship in the world which still maintains a regular sailing schedule."  She was launched in 1863 and has been around the world 21 times.  21 times!  She's been around Cape Horn 21 times.  That seems amazing to me.  Also, the ship is not a replica, this is the actual ship.  I spent hours just walking around looking large and small details, understanding some of what I looked at.  You have to admire the crews who worked these ships, they must have been a skillful bunch of folks.




When I first started sailing I was amazed at how many new words there were for things on a sailboat.  Everything has a name, from all the lines to all the bits on the boat.  Having names for everything is useful, you can ask someone to haul on the starboard jib sheet rather than asking them to pull on that line while pointing to it.  (Assuming you had someone on board to ask this of, of course...)  While learning to sail, the vocabulary was initially daunting, but it comes naturally enough.  The point being, everything has a name on a boat.  Take a look at the pictures above.  How many lines and pieces of rigging do you count?  You can be sure that again, every single line has its own name.  You wouldn't hear someone yelling down to a deck hand to "pull that line over there, no not that one, the one two back from there!"  They would yell out "pull the [unique name]"  I wonder how long the apprentice period was for the deck crew...




I admire skillful knots, hitches, splices, whips, seizing, parcelling, serving, worming, and so on.  There were many examples of this skillful work on board the Star of India, HMS Surprise and later USS Midway - an aircraft carrier.  I have a book called "The Marlinspike Sailor" and it has this to say:
Knowledge of marlinspike seamanship is what distinguishes the true seaman from the man who merely ventures upon the water at infrequent intervals.  No one can become a skipper, or should aspire to the distinction, who has not mastered knots, palm and needle work, and the making of small objects on board as necessary.  In fact the few required knots, hitches or bends should be so well known that they can be tied blindfolded or in the dark.  The rank of able seaman must be earned. 
(I hadn't read that passage for quite some time.  I clearly need to spend more time on this than I have been!  Oops.)  I had expected to see fine examples of these knots and details aboard the two sailing ships and was not disappointed.  I was surprised to see these details aboard USS Midway as well.  That was pretty cool.

HMS Surprise is a replica of a late 18th century Royal Navy frigate.  This is the ship that was used in the film Master and Commander - based on the series by Patrick O'Brian.  I whole heartedly recommend this series of books, there are 20 in the series.  Being a fan of the books and having enjoyed the movie, it was fun to explore this ship as well.  The upper deck looks authentic when you stand a little back from the details, the lower decks give away the fact that she's a replica.  But she's certainly worth a visit.






These two were the highlights of the museum for me.  There were also two submarines and some steam ships.  I spent a day here.

3) There is another maritime themed museum which is the USS Midway Museum.  The Midway is an aircraft carrier from WWII.  The museum staff has done an amazing job with the exhibit, its really interesting.  There is an audio tour that is part of the package and you can walk around the entire ship learning a great deal about how it worked.  There are 25 aircraft of different types on board and some of them have open cockpits so you can sit in them.

I've always been interested in complex systems.  Its interesting to me how you can break problems down into more manageable pieces, reducing complex systems into solvable parts.  As I was walking around this aircraft carrier I was amazed at how complex of a system it was, and I was trying to imagine the work that went into its design and implementation (building it.)  The sheer number of pieces that are involved in an aircraft carrier this large is astounding - and the fact that it was built so quickly and that the system works so effectively is amazing.

While on the deck looking at the planes I came across an exhibit which was a sailor who used to work on an aircraft carrier in a role related to launching the planes.  He talked through the process, which was interesting, and at the end recommended a different talk about landing the planes.  That talk was also interesting, and that person recommended that we all google "f-18 pitching deck" for some video of what it can be like landing on an aircraft carrier.  This is the video.  Yikes.

4) I'm not a Zoo bug, not a student of Zoo's of the world.  However, the San Diego Zoo is probably one of the best in the world.  Its really an amazing place to see.  I didn't take any pictures however, so you'll have to go visit it for yourself.  Or look for pictures on the web, there should be oodles.

5) Way back when, when I still owned a house and comfy chair, I would spend evenings exploring the web.  After a while, I started to think of sailing and grew curious about what that would be like.  I started to buy books on sailing adventures, sailing skills and started looking around for blogs by people who were actually sailing.  This was before I owned Luckness, just around the time I started learning to sail.  One of the early blogs I found was titled: Voyage of the Swan.  It describes a couple's search for a sailboat, the criteria they used in their search, finding their boat, outfitting it, and then sailing it to the South Pacific and back.  I hadn't read this blog for years but it was influential on me when I did read it.  It took me a few days to realize what I was seeing, but after a few trips from my slip at the Kona Kai marina up to the head of the docks and passing a boat on my right called 'Swan' I finally put two and two together and went over to introduce myself.  Swan is a Pacific Seacraft 34 owned by Dave and Rhonda, and is indeed the boat and crew from the blog.  Its a small cruising world.  Swan has been in San Diego for something like a month longer than I have and will be around until into the new year.  They are doing a little work on her here and plan to be heading south again next April.  Rhonda has been away visiting but I've been talking with Dave over the past three weeks - its been really nice getting to know him a little.

For anyone who is on the edge about wanting to sail to the South Pacific, I encourage you to put a beer into Dave's hand and then ask him about what its like.  He talks about the South Pacific in poetic ways, talking about the smells, the sounds, the visuals.  He talks about how being there is "an assault on the senses" and how powerful being there is.  Of course I had a beer in my hand through this as well so I may not have quoted him quite perfectly, but you'll get the impression that sailing to the South Pacific needs to be on your list of things you will do in this lifetime.  Sailing there has been a goal of mine, and I'm looking forward to it greatly.  One interesting factoid about their four years of cruising (America to the South Pacific to the Pacific Northwest and now San Diego, read their blog for details) is that they have only burned 49 gallons of fuel.  For comparison, I've burned more than that on my trip so far.  For non-sailors: its a contest where lower numbers are better...

I also met another Dave on Bluefin who's wife is Julie (who have since left San Diego for Mexico.)  The Swan/Bluefin group (ex. Rhonda) asked my plan and I let them know about my planned triangle - Seattle, Mexico, Hawaii, Seattle.  Its surprising how many people who have traveled to the south pacific or tropical areas don't like this plan.  I spoke about my first year being a year of training, followed by a few boat adjustments and then continuing on afterwards, heading south again.  This still wasn't enough to have them stop with their talking about how fantastic being warm is.  This is a theme I've heard a number of times having now sailed to somewhere warm.  People down here don't think much about the idea of sailing where you can see your breath.  I used to live in Calgary where it can actually get cold in the winter, it'll do more there than show you your breath.  If you're not careful the cold will kick the crap out of you.  Seattle weakened my cold resistance however.  Recently I've really started to see the attraction of being warm all the time.  I'll work on this concept a little more in the next few months.


My next stop is Ensenada, my first stop in Mexico.  Ensenada is something like 65nm south of San Diego and so will be an overnight sail so I can arrive in the morning or early afternoon the following day, hopefully after having sailed most of the distance.  From what I've read, checking into the country is easy there.  I'll probably stay in Ensenada very briefly and then make my way down to La Paz.  I was going to say how quickly I would get down there...but my experience so far as been that I have a tendency to get sidetracked.  So I'll make my way down to La Paz in my own sweet time.  It might be quickly, but maybe not.  This is a hard life :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Docked in San Diego

Sunrise over the San Diego Coast
I arrived in San Diego yesterday at 7am.  The sail over from Avalon was refreshing, it felt good to be on the move again.  After leaving Avalon at noon the winds were 2 to 3 knots until I motored out of the wind shadow of the island, where the winds built to around 8 knots on my starboard quarter and I started to sail in the light winds moving at 3.5 knots.  It was nice to be sailing again!  The winds ranged between 7 and 15 knots until 4am at which point I was 18 miles from San Diego and the winds died quickly to 3 knots.  I started motoring directly toward my destination and within an hour the wind had veered and built so I could simply unfurl my genoa and continue on a beam reach on the same course toward San Diego, losing a little boat speed but gaining peace and quiet.

A note for non-sailors about the timing of this trip.  If you're wondering why I left so late in the afternoon to sail at night, it was to ensure an arrival in daylight in San Diego.  Avalon to San Diego is a little over 70 miles.  When motor sailing I travel at around 6 knots (6 nautical miles per hour,) which would make the trip a little over 11 hours.  There are only around 11 hours of daylight here now, so I would have been forced to leave slightly before dawn and motor the entire way to arrive just at sunset - which is not a very ideal trip.  By sailing at night I had more than enough time to take advantage of whatever winds there were and sail, while ensuring I had plenty of time to be there the next day before dark.  Leaving at noon gave me 24 hours to arrive the next day by noon, which was plenty of time.

I'm staying at the Kona Kai Marina, slip D-5.  When I first contacted the marina they said their price for the slip would be $2/foot per day.  Luckness is around 40' with the monitor wind vane, so that would have been a pricey stay.  After a little discussion, they offered me their monthly rate, pro rated for the length of my stay.  This works out to $21/foot per month, which is something like $28 per day.  Much more reasonable than $80/day.

I'll be here for perhaps a week and a half, and then leave for Ensenada, Mexico!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting ready to leave Avalon

There is a saying that I keep coming across: if a thing is worth doing, its worth overdoing.  Reading my last few posts I was a little surprised how many words there were.  What a blabber mouth I am!  This may be one of the dangers of traveling alone, when I find an outlet for communication the words just spew out. So this time there will be fewer words, but more pictures; overdoing the pictures this time rather than the words.

Avalon has been a beautiful stay.  Tomorrow I will have been here for two weeks, and since arriving I have been out hiking every second day since arriving.  Its been good, and I'm in better shape now than when I first arrived.  I don't know how the hiking is going to be in Mexico, but I'll soon find out as I'm getting anxious to head south and start exploring that country.  Part of the attraction is of course the weather.  Today's high in Avalon was 60 degrees.  Cabo San Lucas' high was 83.  The low's last night in Avalon was 48, Cabo's was 61.  I'm looking forward to being warm again.

Click on any picture for a larger view.

Avalon harbor from my boat, looking south
One of the beaches
Pedestrian friendly front street
Looking down on Avalon from Upper Terrace Road
A street view.  Most of the vehicles here are golf carts.  Its cool.
An alley.  No room for a suburban here!
A view from my favorite pub
Luckness is the last boat, third row from shore.
Avalon across the golf course
Craig at the Wrigley Memorial site, taken by William.
William and Christina.  A couple I met at the end of a hike at the Wrigley Memorial.  Thanks for the photos!
Another view across the golf course
A view from the junction above the Hermit Gulch Trail
The plaque in the photo above has a poem which I liked.  Sailing also seems to be a way of "escaping the madding world of strife"... 

But when I climb up to my Island peak,
escape awhile the madding world of strife,
I envy not an earthly thing. This life,
which sometimes galls, is swept clean of its cares
by friendly winds, and once again I smile.
Ay, truly, life seems sweet - a thing worthwhile.

Capt. Eddie Harrison
Nov 24, 1912 - Oct 10, 1992.

Sweaty me.
A view along the path to Lone Tree, heading toward the south side of the island
A view from Lone Tree looking down on the Palisades, on the south side of the island
Another view from Lone Tree
More from Lone Tree
A hiking view
Another hiking view
Me!
When I arrived in Avalon there were three boats in the Harbor I knew - Jim and Karen were here on Sockdolager, Damon and Desiree were here on Gia, and Herman and Claudette were here on Bijou.  Within a few days, they had all moved on.  A day later I was rowing back to my boat after breakfast and looked up to see a new neighbor.  Their boat was registered, from all places, in Edmonton, Alberta.  I went over to meet them and met Chuck and Karen on Katie G.  I had fun hanging out with them while they were here.  Chuck and Karen are also heading south and I hope to meet them in Mexico.

I'll be leaving tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov 8th) for San Diego.  My pace has slowed down a little, partly because I like this new pace, and partly because I'm trying to finish up some business I had with the City of Seattle which is coming to conclusion.  The 'business' is going to be helping the cruising kitty, and is a good thing.

Later eh.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moored in Avalon

Before I start a new post, I'll continue briefly from my previous one, as the experience was so spectacular.  If you're tired of bioluminescence talk, skip over to the second paragraph...  I was writing in my last post about the bioluminescence with the seals, dolphins and the fish creating a light show.  That was all true, and much more spectacular than I could describe it.  However I wrote that by 9pm or so the waters were starting to quiet down with the fishing done for the day.  I was wrong on that count.  It must have been that the fish took off for a different part of Prisoners Cove for a while but they returned a little after I posted on the blog.  By 10pm all of the critters were back around the boat and making quite a racket.  It got to point where it was getting hard to sleep.  At 3am I was in my bed trying to sleep when there would be a sudden frenzy of bubbles surrounding the boat which I could hear clearly and it would wake me up wondering if the boat was leaking then a lot of splashing all over.  (If the boat was leaking there would be no bubbles, just water coming in, but I was sleeping...)  The seals (or sea lions, I was never quite sure) would descend into the water, release a big cloud of bubbles under some fish which would freak them out, they would then scatter but as they were close to the boat the fish could only take off away from the hull which may have made it easier for the seals to hunt.  Either the fish were seeking the 'protection' of my boat, or the seals were using my boat as a means to catch the fish easier; I'm not sure which of those it was.  When watching this, I could see the bubble release as a bright cloud of light rising to the surface, then I would see the fish take off from the central light followed by a bright dense light chasing them.  It was pretty magical.

After my night at Prisoners Harbor I moved along the coast to Cueva Valdez under grey skies.  Cueva Valdez is a handy place to visit Painted Cave and was described as the second best place to anchor on Santa Cruz after Smugglers Cove were I first stayed.  I was the only boat in this small harbor all day and night and I was anchored in 40' of water with a sandy bottom.  The cruisers guide I'm using seems conservative but describes the anchorage as 'good holding'.  I was anchored by noon, had lunch and put the dingy in the water for my trip to Painted Cave.  

Painted Cave is a sea cave with a high entrance.   Its the largest sea cave in North America and is over 600 feet deep into the cliff - not down, but across.  The first room of the cave is large enough to hold a sailboat, and in the past I guess some people would motor into it.  This practice is now prohibited, although I can't imagine taking a boat into there and it seems to me that basic seamanship is all that should be required to discourage taking a sailboat into a sea cave!  The cave continues after the first room, going deeper and deeper and darker and darker.  Or so I read.  Back to the topic of basic seamanship...  I got in my 8 1/2 foot dingy with little 3.5HP engine and started out along the coast which had cliffs all along it with rocks right to the water.  There was some swell running, and I was motoring into a slight wind.  It was about 2 miles to the cave which is about 1/2 hour in my dingy.  As I was motoring toward the cave I started to realize that if the engine was to die I would be a little, well, exposed.  I can row my dingy and that's easy enough on flat water, but in waves and wind its not the vessel you really want to be in without an engine. I started weighing the risk/reward ratio and the risks were increasing the more I thought about it...so I turned around.  Oh well.  Its true that I'm single handed sailing down this coast, and some might think that I am a big risk taker - but that's not true.  I'm trying to reduce the risks in what I do as much as I can while also trying to enjoy the rewards.  I'm constantly nervous moving the boat around, which works for me, as I think it keeps me alert and thinking about what to do, outs, what-ifs and so on.  I couldn't accept the risk of being stranded along an exposed coast for something like seeing a cave, even though the cave sounded pretty spectacular ("...the sights and sounds amaze even the most blasé of salts.")  With a bigger dingy or calmer conditions it might have worked.

After getting back to the cove I was anchored in I went onto shore for a short walk and to explore a little cave in the harbor there.  The cave was unusual (from what I read) in that it has three entrances.  A few photos:
Luckness in Cueva Vadez on Santa Cruz
Luckness framed
The sea cave in Cueva Vadez
That night I was hoping for a repeat of the light show, but it didn't happen in this cove.  My only experience of that so far has been the night at Prisoners Harbor. The next day I had dense fog and no wind, so I ended up staying in Cueva Valdez for another night.  The fog was so dense that I couldn't see the entrance to the little cove I was which was only in 300 feet away.  The following day, there was again dense fog and no wind but I decided to motor over to Frenchy's Cove on Anacapa, about three hours away.  The fog lifted after an hour and I even started to sail at 1pm, the first time I had been sailing for quite some time.  The wind died an hour later and I was at the anchorage and anchored an hour after that.

Anacapa is a small island, the smallest and most eastern of the Northern Channel Islands.  I wanted to move over to Catalina the following day, so by moving here I was reducing the distance traveled the next day.

On Monday the 24th, I left Anacapa at 4:30am and started motoring over toward Catalina Harbor on Catalina Island.  It was around 60 miles to my next stop, and there are around 11 hours of daylight these days.  I motor at around 6 knots, so that would be 10 hours of motoring.  I wanted to arrive before dark with the possibility of sailing if the wind came up which is why I left so early.  Leaving the anchorage I had yet another nice little bioluminescence experience.  At 4:30am its dark as there was no moon or stars out with it being cloudy.  I was just leaving the anchorage when I saw a few darts of light approaching the boat quickly from the port beam, rounding up to the bow.  I went forward to explore and saw three dolphins playing in the bow wake, creating luminescent wakes all around them. Cool.  They left within a few minutes, and a bit later one more approach from the other side and stayed for a few minutes.  Dolphins are fun!  The only way I can explain what they are doing is that they are fooling around.  They aren't fishing or doing any kind of dolphin 'work', its just social fun for them.  Its easy to see why so many people are entranced by these animals.

The trip from Anacapa to Catalina was calm.  I saw wind of 7 knots, behind me, for 10 min and then it died away with the wind averaging maybe 2 or 3.  It was a long motor and I arrived in Cat Harbor by 3:30.  Cat Harbor is described by the Coast Guard as an year round safe harbor.  There are some weather conditions which make each of the other harbors on the island unsafe.  As this harbor is considered safe in all conditions I wanted to take a look.  Its also described as having a great anchorage area, with room for either 200 or 50 boats depending on the book you read.  I anchored when I got to the harbor but was having a hard time seeing how there could be room for that many boats.  I anchored in 50 feet of water outside the main traffic lane into the harbor and as the boat moved around I ended up in 20 feet close to some rocks or in 70 feet.  I had 180 feet of chain out which is fine for 50 feet but not enough for 70, but letting more out would allow me to drift closer to the rocks. In the end, rather than re-anchoring I spoke to the harbor master and was assigned a mooring and moved over to it.
The entrance to Catalina Harbor
The mooring setup on Catalina Island is a little different from the moorings in the PNW, there are both bow and stern lines to attach to the boat which allows lots of boats to be squeezed into a small space as all of the boats are kept in-line.  (For non-sailors, a mooring is when they attach a bouy to the seabed with an anchor of some sort and you tie up to the mooring in some manner.  The mooring acts in place of your own anchor and as its professionally installed with beefy hardware, its meant to be a very secure method of staying put...although they do sometimes fail.)  I studied the way the mooring system worked and had a look from where I was anchored before going over to give it a try.  I moved the boat over to my assigned mooring, stopped with the bow just beside the pickup pole, picked the pole up, attached the bow loop, followed the spreader line to the stern and attached the line to my stern cleat feeling very clever; my first experience with this mooring system a complete success.  (More on this experience soon, as I describe Avalon...)  By then it was 4:15 or so and the Harbor office closed at 4:30 so I cracked open a beer and stayed on board that night.  The next day I dingy'ed to shore and walked over to Two Harbors across the island (a short walk.)  I paid for two night, which was $64!  The moorage fee was more than Monterey, or Oxnard ended up being.  Ouch.  Cat Harbor itself was a bit of a let down.  I admit that I wasn't seeing the place at its best.  It was off season so it was very quiet and the skies were still grey - but the place just seemed a little rundown. There is a single restaurant, a bar, a lunch spot.  It has free wi-fi, that was cool.  By the end of Tuesday I felt I had fully explored Cat Harbor and on Wednesday I moved over to Avalon.

For most of Wednesday I had a 10 knot west wind, so I actually sailed quite a lot on my move over to Avalon.  The sun also started to come out on Wednesday, which was extremely nice, as I had been missing it.  Approaching Avalon I spoke to the harbor master, had a little harbor boat meet me and assign me a mooring.  They explained where it was, gave me a little map of how to get there.  I asked for a mooring with lots of space around it explaining that I was new to this still and I wanted room to make mistakes.

Including the mooring I'm on now, in Avalon, I've picked up a total of two moorings in my life.  I haven't read a lot about picking up moorings in the literature I reviewed, and it wasn't really discussed much in the classes I attended (or I wasn't paying attention, which is also likely.)  The thing I learned at Avalon is that you want the boat to be completely stopped before picking up the bow pickup pole.  So, what I did is this: motored up to my assigned mooring and pickup pole; almost stopped the boat completely right at the pickup pole; ran forward to pick the pole up, dragged it onboard, got to the loop and put it on the cleat; started to follow the spreader line back...which was when I realized things weren't going as expected.  The spreader line was wrapped around the opposite side of the bow as the boat had swung completely sideways.  What had happened is that I had a little tiny bit of motion forward still when I pulled the bow line onto the boat, at which point the stern swung out - as you would expect.  If there was someone on the helm while I was at the bow it would have been very easily corrected but single handing I need to not require someone back there when I'm forward!  The harbor patrol boat has fenders all round, including on his bow and he gently pushed me into line while I completed getting myself tied off.  It all worked out very well and was done safely with help from harbor patrol, but it wasn't as clean as I had hoped for.  Drat.  I've learned that if you are going to err, it is probably better to err on the side of the boat having a little bit of stern way on it rather than forward way.  It you were moving backwards slightly as you picked up the bow loop all that would mean is that you would need to work harder to bring the loop onboard.  I'm still learning my lessons, no worries.

From what I've seen of it so far, Avalon is a spectacular stop.  Its sunny now which helps, but there is a real town here and their seems to be a lot to do.  The price for the mooring is $54 for two nights, with 5 extra days free.  This is a special rate than runs from October 15th to Palm Sunday (in April.)  So its cheaper than Cat Harbor for the two days, and I get 5 more free days here.  To be fair, Cat Harbor has a special weekly rate which starts November 1st which would be $66 for my boat, still more than Avalon but closer.  I expect to be in Avalon for at least a week.

Within an hour of my being here, Damon from Gia came over to say hi which was awesome.  I heard a "Craig..." from across the harbor from Jim on Sockdolager who couldn't come over as Karen had their dingy on shore.  I also met Herman and Claudene from Bijou who I met in Oxnard.  I'm liking this place a lot.  More on Avalon later though.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anchored in Prisioners Harbor

Where I am: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=34+01.299+-119+41.079

I left Oxnard Monday morning and motored over in light wind (2-4 knots) to Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz. Smugglers Cove is a open anchorage near the east tip of Santa Cruz. The forecast was for strong winds on Wednesday and since my plan was to sail around the island stopping at a few spots I thought I would stay here to wait out the winds as most of the anchorages on the north side of Santa Cruz are fairly open to NW winds. With the wind forecast NW 20-30 knots gusting to 35 this anchorage would be a good spot to wait it out. As it turned out, the winds were light Wednesday, the strong winds didn't arrive.

Tuesday while I was onboard in Smugglers, reading a book, I heard a call of "Craig!…" come in through the companionway and when I looked out, it was Gia arriving - the folks I met up in Morro Bay. I dinghy'ed over once they were settled and had a good afternoon with them.

Thursday I left for my first stop along the north shore, Prisioners Harbor. The previous two days had been foggy in the morning with the fog burning off in the early afternoon. Thursday was foggy when I left and I was hoping for it burning off again as there are hiking trails you can get to from Prisioners Harbor and I was looking forward to getting some exercise while I explored this island a little. As it turned out, it remained heavily overcast all day, with the cloud base ending a few hundred feet up letting me see the cliffs along the coastline but nothing higher up. Santa Cruz is the largest of the islands with the hilliest terrain. The views from the hills looking out would be fantastic on a clear day I think.

I had my first cool dolphin experience on Thursday on the motor over to Prisioners from Smugglers. I finally spotted a group of dolphins that made there way over to me and started to 'play in my bow wake'! That was awesome. It happened just as I started to approach the wide Prisioners harbor area and I wasn't able to watch them very long as I had anchoring chores to attend to.

Anyway, I stayed aboard and did a bit of engine maintenance, added 5 gallons of diesel to the tank from a gerry can, read, ate dinner and it was pitch black by 7pm. The moon wasn't up yet and with the overcast clouds the stars were totally hidden. I am the only boat in this harbor and there are no shore lights. At around 7:15pm I started hearing a lot of splashing outside. I left the cabin to go topsides and was greeted with it being pitch black outside, I couldn't see the horizon or anything around me. But there was a lot of activity around the boat, lots of small splashes, larger splashes, lots of breathing of sea lions or dolphins. After my eyes started to adjust to the dark I started to see what was going on, and it was amazing.

The water in this area has a lot of phosphorescence. Phosphorescence isn't very bright, your eyes need to be adjusted to the dark to see it. As my eyes adjusted, I started seeing large areas of water which would suddenly light up. After a little more eye adjustment, I started seeing that schools of fish were swimming around being chased by dolphins and sea lions. All the motions in the water were creating phosphorescence so you could track the motion of what was going on by watching the light. Sometimes I would look over and see a boundary of light rapidly approaching followed by a few larger blobs of light. As the forward boundary got to me I would see that it was thousands upon thousands of fish trying to escape dolphins chasing them. Once my eyes were fully adjusted I could see the dolphins clearly - the light was surrounding them and trailing off of their body and fins leaving them clearly defined - it was incredible. Another light pattern was a dense column of light approaching the surface and then fanning out in all directions - again chased by a dolphin or two or three.

On top of this, pelicans were also fishing. I had heard the splash of pelicans diving into the water before I first came on deck, by now the sound of their diving into the water is becoming familiar. Before coming up from below I didn't understand how the pelicans were fishing as it was dark outside. Once my eyes had adjusted it made sense. With the phosphorescence in the water, you could see individual larger fish swimming around, and the larger schools were easily spotted. The pelicans were diving into the dense schools of fish, fishing.

After a while I also started to see sea lions among everything else. If I had seen them first I would have thought they were fast and elegant swimmers. However compared to the dolphins, the sea lions were slow! This all lasted for an hour or so, by which time I stopped seeing the dolphins around the boat at all, and the sea lions were around for another 30 minutes or so. Its been a couple of hours now since it started and I can still hear the occasional pelican still diving into the water. I imagine the dolphins are the most successful hunters and left first, sea lions next and a few pelicans are still hoping to get their fill for the night.


Depending on the weather, I'll either stay here on Friday and go hiking, or if it remains cloudy I'll move down the coast a little further and explore a sea cave from my dingy. I'll spend a few more days on this island, and then move along to Catalina.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Escaping Oxnard

When I was leaving Morro Bay and looking for my next destination I first considered Santa Barbara, but the marina there was starting to undergo construction and didn't have room for me.  Then I considered Ventura, but the marina that had space available seemed pricey.  My third option was Oxnard, but I didn't think that I would stay very long if I choose this harbor as it didn't seem that there was very much here.

When I arrived and walked up to the marina office, the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi, I'd like to stay in your marina for 3 or 4 days.
Them: That's like no problem! Welcome to Oxnard! You can definitely stay for 3 or 4 days, but you have to be gone within 30 days.
Me: 30 days! Woah. That's no problem, as I said, I'll be gone pretty quickly
Them: That's like awesome! Its just that you can't stay longer than 30 days. Have a great stay!
Me: 30 Days?!
Or something like that...  I was chuckling inside about the 30 day limit.  I just didn't see that there was very much to do here.  Tomorrow I'll have been here 14 days.  I had no idea I would have been here so long.

When arriving at a new harbor I try to find as much information about the area from different sources and plan my activities.  I quickly got access to wireless ($20/week, $30/month) and googled around for things to do here.  The swimming pool was far away, that was out. There was a small museum close by.  There were what sounded like a market down the road a little and a bunch of restaurants within walking distance.  There was a West Marine about a mile away.

So on day two, I walked to West Marine to buy some more zinc's and a few other things.  The walk to West Marine took me past the 'Market' and the restaurants I had read about.  The market was a food court with a general fish theme, a little run down.  The restaurants were mostly there, some were closed down.  It seemed quiet, not very much activity around.  Most of the retail building areas had chunks of closed down shops and 'For Lease' signs.  After day two, it seemed like my 3 or 4 day estimate was going to work out.

However, since there wasn't very much to visit or explore and the place seemed pleasant enough, I started to keep myself busy by working on my pending list of boat projects.  Luckness' hull hadn't been waxed since February and the topsides hadn't been waxed in much longer than that.  The non-skid decks had never really been waxed and I had a special wax-like product which was meant for non-skid decks.  There were also a bunch of other things that could use attention.  So I started into boat projects.

After a couple of windy days, the remaining days were beautiful.  Big blue skies, temperatures in the mid 70's or 80's.  Not very many insects flying around getting on your nerves (unlike some of my previous stays.)  I quickly fell into a pattern of getting up at the crack of dawn (9 am) and starting work at around 11am.  Then I would get out of the sun and surf the web for an hour around lunchtime, then get back to work. I would quit around 4:30 or 5pm so I could stroll over to a pub and have a couple of beers at happy hour.  I found two local restaurants that had decent beer and patio's so you could enjoy a bit of sun and watch the water for a while.  It was pretty nice.

The waxing was finished by Monday the 10th and had involved a few trips to West Marine to buy a new non-skid wax (Woody Wax) as the one I had ran out.  The Woody Wax seems to be a superior product, I started with Aurora Sure Step.  Anyway, with the waxing finished, I started a new pattern: pick a new boat project, stop in at the marina office and tell them that I would be leaving in two days, work on project, head over to pub for beer followed by dinner which pretty much was a wrap of the day.  I told the office I would be leaving by Tuesday the 11th.  Then by Thursday the 13th.  Then by Saturday the 15th.  I spoke with them yesterday saying I would be gone by Monday the 17th, tomorrow.  This time I might actually leave.  I've finished stowing the dingy on the deck, I have rerun all the sheets and have done what I hope is my final laundry and provisioning.  The other thing is that I finished all of my boat projects a few days ago.  I'll say that again.

I've finished all of my boat projects.  My boat project list is empty.  There are no known pending boat projects left.

For those of you who don't work on boats or around boats, never mind, carry on.  For everybody else: !! This 'empty project list' statement is true as of Sunday Oct 16th, 7:20pm.  I imagine this statement will have a short life.  But its true now and feels pretty good.  Since buying this boat there has always been a long list of things I wanted to do on her.  Things to install, modify, fix and maintain.  But no more.  I had doubts that it would ever be done!  This is not to say I couldn't find things to do, but there is nothing pressing.  For example, I'd like to add an AIS transceiver eventually, but not this year.  There are a few more things in that vein.

The things I worked on while I was here: had the zinc's replaced by a local diver, they both needed it; waxed hull, topsides and non-skid; re-attached the strong track which had slipped (*); applied sail-kote to strong track while climbing the mast and inspecting everything; replaced missing zip ties on anchor rode; replaced bow roller with a new one which may stop chain from twisting as its raised, this is an experiment; replaced most of the u-bolts on the boards I had attached to the stanchions to hold the gerry jugs on as they were rusting horribly, the new ones are definitely stainless steel; lubed various things that needed it; weighted my main propane tank (8lbs left from 20 in the main tank in addition to my secondary 10lb tank); clean out fridge as it had started to smell;  buy fuel and gas; fill water tank; go over engine; attach my nylon boarding ladder to port side; flush dingy engine with fresh water, trying to avoid salt buildup.  Nothing really major in that list.

The (*)'d item isn't really a permanent fix - the Strong Track has slipped before and the last time Terry (of YachtFitters fame) suggested that he drill/tap the mast and put a screw through the track to hold it in place.  That would have been a good idea.  However I thought re-attaching it would be ok and that's what I did.  After it slipped again on this trip, which was just before pulling into Oxnard, I thought I would drill/tap the mast but have again simply re-attached it.  It seems to be holding very securely this time...  If it slips again I'll do as Terry suggested, finally.


Looking back at my time here I'm having trouble summing up this place.  I loved Monterey.  Morro Bay was pretty interesting.  They are both real cities.  Oxnard is a little like the suburbs on water, or at least this is true of the parts I've seen - the parts you can get to easily from the marina.  Things are pretty spread out here, there is no real central hub that I can see.  But the thing is...living here is pretty easy.  Once I stopped walking to the distant destinations and starting using my dingy as my car, my experience improved.  Scooting around by water at four and a half knots and going to the local grocery store, pizza places, West Marine or donut shop the place seemed more interesting.  Going somewhere by water is superior to arriving in any other way, it changes the experience for the better, in my humble opinion.

So while I can't pinpoint what's good about this area, it does seem pretty good.  There is a local beach which goes for miles and is beautiful sand.  There is a beach bar 10min from the marina which is pleasant enough.  The food and beer are ok.  There is easy enough access to a Von's (Safeway's) for provisioning.  I'm not sure that I would come back to Oxnard, but if you find yourself here its an easy enough place to live in.

Here are a few photos:

Channel Island Harbor.  Entrance on bottom, beach on left.  Its a marine version of the suburbs.
A view from the dingy down the main street.
A side 'street'
On the way to Von's
Luckness in her slip.  Lots of empty spaces around.


I've decided to not go back to Port Townsend for a seminar I had signed up for at the end of October.  With that cancelled, I have no schedule pressure at all.  The America's Cup World Series is in San Diego in mid November, and I may be around San Diego for that.  Aside from the possibility of watching the AC45's race, and a general idea that I'll spend time in the Channel Islands, I have no more detail for my plans.  I had originally thought that I would follow the Baja Ha Ha fleet down to Mexico, leaving just after they did.  However my thinking on that has changed - I'll probably head to Mexico in November, but I have no date in mind yet.  When I'm ready, I'll head down.