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 :-)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Craig,
    I just checked your position on that site you listed, and it shows you in Espenada. So that's a happy thing, thinking the sail went smoothly and you're catching up on your zzz's. Hope all is well. I enjoyed your pictures and accounting of your time in San Diego. I well remember the zoo from years ago, and it sounds as if it hasn't changed much. A nice place to visit. I particularly enjoyed your pictures of the knots. Very intricate and precise. Works of art, really. So glad you go to share in the excitment of the race.
    I'll catch up with you . Nice to know you're in Mexico, and getting warmer every day!
    Love from your mum