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 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:

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 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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard

Date: Wednesday Oct 5th
34° 09.822' N  119° 13.553' W  
Log 1784.8, Engine Hours 1248.6, Batteries %100

First, a couple photos that belong to earlier posts.
Sailing between Monterey and San Simeon
Light playing on the water toward sunset
San Simeon sunset
I'm currently in slip B-11 at the Channel Islands Harbor Marina, Oxnard.  I left Morro Bay on Monday, Oct 3rd at 9:45am.  The winds were forecast as NW 10-15kts which would have made for a nice sail.  The forecast had the same winds for two days, followed by stronger winds for two days starting Wednesday.  Wednesday had a forecast for 20-25 knots with local gusts to 35.  Today at 6pm the wind was a steady 25 knots, so the forecast was pretty close.  Earlier this trip, I would have looked at 25 knots of wind with relief, as they would have diminished from stronger winds.  At this point, I'm glad to be in a marina where I can sleep soundly, not keeping an anchor watch or sleeping in 20min cycles.

Morro Bay exceeded my somewhat low expectations by a comfortable margin.  It is a small town and everybody I met was super friendly.  The weekend festival was pretty small, though there were two music stages and plenty of wine and beer to sample.  There was also lots of food to choose from, stuff to buy or not, art to judge, and so on.  It was a good time, enjoying a beer or three in the sun while mingling with the people.  I arrived on Thursday the 29th at 11:30am and anchored.  The anchorage area in Morro Bay is between the red nun markers 10 and 12 toward shore, and I dropped anchor close to the #10 marker.  There is a fairly strong tidal exchange in the bay and I ended up staying aboard for all of Thursday watching while the boat swung back and forth with the tide.  I ended fairly close to the #10 marker on an ebb, fairly close to what looked like an abandoned boat to my south on a flood, fairly close to the shore with east wind at slack, but my anchor seemed well set and I didn't see any need to adjust anything.  After watching the boat swing around for the day, I was ready to set out on Friday and start exploring.

Looking at Morro Rock from Luckness at anchor near sunrise
Same time as above, more east, toward the power stacks
My visit followed a similar pattern.  I explored by walking around most of Friday.  On the way back to the boat in my dinghy I spotted someone aboard an interesting boat two south from where I was and headed over toward her.  Desiree on Gia said Hi and Damon soon joined us.  I asked their destination, which was points south toward Mexico and they invited me aboard and we started talking about this and that.  Gia is a gaff rigged schooner with a steel hull, which is a pretty interesting combination - its a true cruising boat with no pretensions about going racing after work in a tight little fleet rounding the cans.  Gia has been to Hawaii and back, and these two have been cruising for 9 years on her - although they are still a young cruising couple.  It was cool talking to them.  I'm still considering my return trip to Seattle, if I make the return trip.  One route is through Hawaii but I was under the impression that my stay in Hawaii would be marina bound with only very poor anchorages in the islands.  These two put that idea to rest with stories of many excellent anchorages in the islands.  They recommended a good cruising guide for the islands (Cruising Guide to the Hawaiian Islands by Bob Mehaffy and Carolyn Mehaffy, available through Amazon) and highly recommended going to Hawaii and anchoring while exploring.  I was very happy to hear these stories and the possibility of going to Hawaii is going up in my mind.  Another piece of advice they passed along was to not plan too far in advance, which is advice I've read earlier on many occasions - you come across all sorts of possibilities while cruising.  So I'm not planning on a return trip via Hawaii, but its a stronger possibility than it was.  It was good meeting these two, and I hope to cross their path again somewhere south.

Sand sculpture at Morro Bay festival, Oct 1st
From the beach north of Morro rock, looking back at it
From Morro rock, looking back at the town across the entrance channel
After my festival day on Saturday, I spend Sunday exploring the town further, provisioning a little and doing a few boat projects for my starting to sail on Monday.  I left on Monday in the morning, as the tide was starting to flood to make the bar crossing a little milder.  Damon came out in their kayak to wish me Bon Voyage as I left and the bar crossing was barely noticeable with the swell only being 4 to 6 feet.

After leaving Monterey and thinking about it, I summed up my visit with: "I could live here."  Morro bay was interesting and friendly, but its not a place where I could live.  Its too small for me, I like to have more facilities, services and variety that a larger city offers.  But its a fine place to visit.

Leaving Morro Bay on Monday the winds were light, S 1 to 3 knots, so I motored toward Point Conception.  Point Conception is known as the last of the major capes in the trek south toward San Diego.  It has a reputation for having strong winds every day as the land heats up and you get a strong onshore breeze.  So I had a desire to round this point at around midnight, reducing the possibility of gale force onshore winds to a minimum.  As I was motoring toward the point I realized that I would arrive very early but that since the winds were so light, the chance of their increasing dramatically seemed slight.  At 12:40pm the winds increased to SW 6 knots and I started sailing on a close reach to beam reach toward the point - it was sweet.    The longer I sailed the later I would arrive at the cape and the more enjoyable my trip would be.  It was a win/win situation.  The winds varied between 6 and 8 knots until 5pm with the boat doing a little more than half the wind speed.  I could sail in these conditions all day, for weeks on end.  Its a dry ride, no salt spray across the decks.  The seas were calm, with the swell small and widely spaced.  It was mostly sunny and warm, and there was very little traffic to contend with.  At 5pm the wind diminished to 2.5 knots, and as the boat was barely moving I felt I needed to take action and started to motor.  Unfortunately I didn't sail again for the rest of the trip.  As I was approaching Point Conception after 10pm I was considering whether or not to stop in Cojo anchorage or to continue toward Oxnard.  In the end I decided to anchor for a while.  Cojo Anchorage is just around the corner from Point Conception, and entering it on a dark night was a little strange.  I had a GPS waypoint from a cruising guide I headed toward, avoiding kelp beds I had read about.  There was a offshore oil platform tender at the waypoint I could see visually as well as on radar, and I cleared him and avoided two other boats to anchor 1000 feet from shore.  I could hear the surf line toward shore from where I was strongly, but I never saw it in my stay.  I ended up anchored in Cojo Anchorage (lat/lon: 34 26.8N, 120 26.5W) with the winds varying between 2 and 5 knots mainly from the NW at 10:45pm and was asleep by 11:30pm after adding 10 gallons of diesel to the tank from my gerry jugs, the last of the diesel on deck.   The strong onshore breeze I thought might appear at Point Conception never appeared, although I think I would pass this cape in a similar manner if I cross it again.

I wanted to arrive at Oxnard on Tuesday, as if the weather matched the forecast I didn't want to be contending with entering a new marina and docking the boat in 25 to 35 knot winds.  Tuesday the winds were forecast as being benign for entering the marina all day.  Since it was 62  miles from Cojo anchorage to Oxnard, the longer I stayed sleeping the later I would arrive.  The marina office closed at 5pm.  I can motor at approximately 6 knots.

I got up at 4:15am as the swell started to increase and the boat started rocking.  My plan was to get up at 4:30 so I beat it by a little, and was underway by 4:45am.  As I was leaving the anchorage I came across a freighter that was rounding the point and was a little surprised by see me appear - we made passing arrangements on the VHF and everything was fine.  Heading toward Oxnard that morning I had another of those moments of peace that seem to occur fairly frequently on this trip, where everything seemed right with the world - motoring along in my boat watching a light show erupt around me as the sun started to rise and while I was heading off to a new harbor to explore.  Sailing would have been better, but the winds were 5 knots at my back.  I ended up motoring the whole way in order to get to the marina in time.  Toward the end of the trip the winds started to increase, eventually to 10 to 15 knots from the west - these were fine sailing conditions, but my agenda and schedule interfered and I continued to motor to my destination.

After sunrise, heading to Oxnard.  No wind!
I arrived at the marina and pulled into B-11 in the Channel Islands Harbor Marina at 3:45pm.  The slip is single width and there is plenty of space in the marina.

Before leaving Morro Bay I was phoning around the area trying to find a good place to visit next.  I had wanted to visit Santa Barbara as I have heard lots of good things about it.  However after speaking with the marina office I learned that they were starting a major construction project on Wednesday (today as I write) and were evicting all their transient moorage customers.  They are doing work on a finger pier and need to move all those long term customers to the transient slips. I was offered a nights stay, but no more.  The next marina along the coast was Ventura and that sounded good as well.  One marina was full and the other offered me a slip at $1.50 per foot, $60 per day.  My slip at Oxnard is $35 and is 46 feet long, with plenty of availability here.  I realize that I'm applying a different scale to what I pay for a night's moorage.  When traveling by car and looking for a hotel - given the choice between a $35 room or a $60 room, I would definitely choose the more expensive as $35 for a room in america just doesn't buy you a very good experience.   But my dock space in Monterey was $28 and it was an incredible location.  More on Oxnard in a later post.  Oxnard wasn't my first choice so I had low expectations coming in.  But Oxnard seemed to be a good distance along the coast and I have a bit of a schedule to keep to now, leading up to the end of October.

On a technical note, the alternative energy solutions I have onboard continue to please me.  The solar panels continue to be the main provider of power, aside from the alternator when I'm motoring.  One night while at anchor I was watching the last few DVDs of a TV series and got absorbed by it and ended up watching 'TV' from 7pm to 1am.  By 1am my batteries were down 61Ah, so roughly 10 amps per hour to run the boat (lights, anchor light, hand held VHF scanning and plugged in, inverter, computer, AIS and anchor watch, stray devices being charged.)  The next day, while still at anchor, it was cloudy part of the day and that evening at sunset the boat was still down 20Ah.  By the following day the batteries were at 100% by the early afternoon.  I continue to be able to, within reason, consume power without regard to its being a limited resource.  This will likely change as it gets warmer and my fridge consumes more power each day.

On a navigational note - I've now fallen down the coast by 14° 15'.  Since its 60 nm per degree of latitude, that translates to my being 855 nm south of Neah Bay.  The great circle distance between where I am now and Neah Bay is 880 nm, which is a route across land.  My boat has traveled 1087.5 nm since leaving Seattle.  I left Seattle 35 days ago and since then I've sailed on 20 days.  I've spent my nights: 15 days at anchor, 8 days in a marina, 12 nights at sea.

I slightly regret passing the Northern Channel Islands by.  I have this built in assumption that I'll be doing this coast again in the future and the next time I'll have more time to spend visiting more of these islands and ports.  This may or may not be the way it works out.  All I know is that I'm here now, enjoying life and looking forward to the islands and ports to come.

Luckness signing off, for now.