Monday, October 28, 2013

In Oxnard, Channel Islands Marina

I pulled into Oxnard on October the 14th, checked into the marina office and almost immediately started to work on boat projects.  The folks at the marina are as friendly as they were the last time I was here in 2011.  Since I'm staying for more than a week or so they are charging me a pro-rated monthly rate which works out to $138/week, which is pretty fantastic for a marina in California with all the amenities.

I've been here for two weeks now and expect that I'll be here for possibly two more.  I've had a flurry of mail delivered from Seattle that I had pending, along with some boat parts that I ordered to fix things that had broken on the way down here.

Its been a busy two weeks.  Today I just finished refinishing my cabin sole (my floor to you land lubbers) and finally I can cross this project off my list.  I started this project two days after arriving here, so its taken almost two weeks to finish.  Living aboard has been...interesting.  After stripping the floor of the old finish I pulled all the hatches from the floor, stowed the saloon table and started applying the finish.  Once that started that there were many days where I couldn't walk on the sole - so I was left with treating my boat as a small set of monkey bars and getting from the companionway to the forward bunk by walking along edge pieces of teak trim at cushion height while grabbing the handholds available.  Its nice to be able to walk around normally again.

I've also fixed the problem I had with one of the clevis pins shearing on my strong track attachment; inspected a strange noise in my new furler (which turned out to be normal, I'm getting used to the new normal noises in my new equipment); cleaned up; started waxing; along with other small projects.

Today I took my Monitor wind vane off and now have it down below in preparation for ripping it apart to replace all the bearings.  One of the nights on the passage down the coast I was doing an inspection of the desk and my equipment and discovered a weird piece of plastic coming out of the back of the pivot tube on the Monitor.  It turns out that a plastic flange had broken which meant that there was more play and friction on the monitor from there on.  After speaking to Scanmar, they suggested that if I had to take the Monitor apart enough to get to that flange, I might as well replace all of the bearings while I was there.  So I have a complete set of replacement bearings along with the instructions and tomorrow I'll be starting the process of tearing it apart...hoping that I can get it all back together again!  I've put 9000 miles on the Monitor, so its ahead of schedule for the bearing replacement (scheduled at 15,000 miles.)  I guess the plus side of this project is that I get to learn how the monitor is serviced...yay.

On my remaining list I have things like: varnishing all my exterior teak; teak oiling my interior teak; waxing the topsides; waxing the hull; change the engine oil; fix a rivet which has come out of my stove leaving the top grill loose; along with various other projects.

I'm looking forward to getting out of here and continuing my trip into Mexico.  The last time I was down this way I didn't leave San Diego until December 4th.  I think I'll be ahead of that schedule this time, but perhaps not by as much as I first expected.

All is well here.  Even though I'm working on boat projects, live in Oxnard is pretty easy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

At anchor in Smugglers Cove

I arrived at Smugglers Cove last night at 8:30pm, 1/2 hour after sunset. There was a moon out which helped me see the boats already at anchor, but once again my radar was very useful. I set the anchor in near calm conditions, 1000 feet from shore and with lots of room all around me. I ate a quick dinner, watched a hour of 'tv' and went to sleep.

The sail here was excellent. I was able to start sailing within minutes of leaving San Simeon on Friday and sailed the entire way to this anchorage. The winds were in the range 12 to 22 for the entire journey and the seas were relatively calm - or at least, when the seas were more active so was the wind, so I was able to keep good pressure in the sails and keep myself moving as well as keep the sails quiet (no slatting or banging as the boat rolls in light air and large waves.) The sail was excellent, but the weather is not really what you expect when sailing in Southern California. Nights are still chilly and I'm wearing many layers of clothes and coats all night as I sleep/get up/sleep/get up every 20 minutes.

As I rounded Point Conception and entered the Santa Barbara channel at around 4am the seas slowly started to warm up again. The temperature of the water has risen from 56.3 at the entrance to 62.6 where I am now. I was able to get into the water today, but its not exactly water you want to lounge around in. That should come later this trip!

I'll leave here tomorrow and head over to Oxnard where I'll start working through my boat project list again. I've added a few items to the list on this trip down the coast. Last night one of my main sail batten cars broke off its strong track slider - the head of the pin which holds it in sheared off - very strange. I had one backup pin onboard (thanks to the Hasse sail loft!) and have fixed it now, but from saturday morning at 12:30am (it figures these things happen at night) until I arrived, I had to keep my main double reefed in order to keep the missing sail-track connection protected. More on projects in a post I'll write in Oxnard.

By my log meter, which does not account for current but does count every tack and jibe, I've traveled 1025nm so far, with around 12 more to go. Today is the 21st day since leaving Neah Bay. Even with all my stops along the way, one week in Coos Bay, I'm looking forward to slowing down again for a little while. I'm also looking forward to being in warmer water, where diving off the boat is easier than it was today! So while I'll be slowing down and working on projects for a while, I'm looking forward to moving on with this trip as well.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At Anchor in San Simeon

I'm currently at anchor in San Simeon.

I was 20 miles offshore last night at around 11pm when I turned on the weather radio to listen to an update.  At the time, I was sailing in 20 to 25 knots of NW wind, gusts to 30.  I had my main sail doubly reefed and my genoa also with two reefs - the monitor was steering well and the boat was balanced making good speed (6.8kn and up past hull speeds.)  The wind waves and swell were annoying.  I was needing to jibe inshore and offshore in order to make my way generally south east in the north west winds.  On the offshore tack I was taking the waves a little aft of my beam but the boat motion was pretty active.  On the inshore tack the boat was still active but a little less so.  There was lots of spray in the cockpit as the occasional wave would crest just at it met the hull, splashing up into a vertical spray of water.   It was pretty dramatic, especially when you throw in the phosphorescence.

The forecast I was sailing in called for NW winds 20 to 30, which was what I was seeing.  The forecast also called for wind waves 6 to 9 feet, NW swell 11 to 14 feet at 11 seconds.  This is also what I was seeing.  As I rounded Point Conception the winds were forecast to fall to 15 to 25 with local gusts to 35, combined seas 10 to 13 feet at 10 seconds.  I suspected the local gusts would be where I would be, rounding Point Conception.  These are conditions which are acceptable to sail safely in, but its a little annoying and physical.  Ever movement you make on the boat needs to be considered, always keeping both hands holding hand holds, placing feet carefully, constantly in motion.  I've done this before, for longer periods of time.  However...  the following day the forecast winds fall into a comfortable range.  Over the forecast period, the highest waves and winds are due at exactly the time I was rounding Point Conception.  Humm.

Back to the radio forecast.  I was sailing along at 11pm and decided to listen into the weather radio.  I picked up a station doing an update of the LA area which included Oxnard and its area as its close to LA.  Oxnard is my destination for this part of the trip.  The fellow was relaying the forecast of strong winds in those areas - 50 miles per hour and up.  He talked about a strong high level low passing through, and 'when this storm passes...' something or other.  Land folks talk about storms all the time, but rarely mean an actual storm.  Its windy one night, and we talk about 'last nights storm.'  At sea, winds all have very specific names - gales are less than storms which are less than hurricanes.  The word 'storm' in a marine forecast is serious stuff.  When I heard the storm word I realized that I hadn't seen a surface analysis of the weather for a while and wasn't really sure what I was sailing into.  The text forecasts for the regions have been very accurate and were forecasting conditions I liked, but with the possibility that a storm was in the area just outside one of the zones I was planning to be in, I wanted to gather some more information.

At that time, I was at the point I could jibe into shore and be on a direct line to San Simeon, an anchorage I had stopped in last time down the coast.  I did that, and at 3am dropped anchor and shut the boat down.  There were three boats here, two with anchor lights on, one without.  My radar was handy.

Now that I've updated my weather info for the areas and have a good idea of what's going on again, I think I'll leave tomorrow morning and continue the journey.  I may stop in Cojo anchorage just around the corner from Point Conception and then may or may not stop at Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz.


Update Oct 10th, 2013.

San Simeon has AT&T cell phone coverage.  My smart phone provides a hot spot, so I have internet here.  Sweet!

I've decided to leave on friday rather than today.  The pzz670 regional forecast is saying 10-20 knots from the NW today, but my grib files are showing the winds closer to shore are light and that I would end up motoring most of the way.  The pzz670 forecast is for 10-60nm off shore.  The point is 80nm away, so heading 40nm offshore to get wind doesn't really make sense - I'll be staying closer to shore from here to the point (15-20nm off?)  From interpreting the info today, it looks like if I leave tomorrow, around noon, I'll motor for a while and then meet light but sailable wind in the early afternoon.  There's a chance I'll be able to sail a big chunk of the way from there - so with that possibility, I leave on friday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sailing south in good wind

Date: Oct 8, 2013, Time: 9am PST
36° 13' N 122° 33' W
Wind speed: 20 / wind dir: NW, Heading: 116, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1015, Water Temp: 55.4f
Log: 9216

I left Drakes Bay as expected, Monday morning at around 8am. I motored for three and a half hours until enough wind arrived to start sailing, and I've been sailing ever since. The waves started small but have now grown to 6-8 foot wind waves at around an 8 second period. These are fairly short and steep waves which creates an 'interesting' motion for the boat. Lots of changes of direction as the waves wash under the boat, speeding her up, slowing her down and changing direction on the front and back sides of the waves. The monitor self steering is working like a champ!

Last night I had another phosphorescence experience. I was leaving a bright wake behind me, showing the course the boat was taking through the waves (not a straight line.) Also as the occasional wave crested just as it reached the hull and splashed the boat it would create a bright area of light, so cool. The bow wake was also glowing. Phosphorescence is so cool.

I've sighted whales and dolphins so far, no sure of the species. I was happy the broaching whale was 1/2 to 1 mile away, but the dolphins of course were right beside the boat keeping me company for hours.

The winds are forecast to lighten a little this afternoon, and then freshen tonight through tomorrow night with increasing waves accompanying the wind. If everything remains constant, I should be around Point Conception Wednesday night which is close to my planned anchorage. I may be at anchor sometime Thursday morning/afternoon.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Anchored in Drakes Bay

Date: Oct 6, 2013, Time: 1pm PST
38° 00' N 122° 58' W
Wind speed: calm, Anchored
Barometer: 1017, Water Temp: 51.8f
Log: 9091

As expected, the winds turned light on Saturday and as I rounded Cape Mendocina the winds collapsed and I went from sailing nicely to motoring south. I had been sailing in mid 20 knot winds most of Friday and I rounded the Cape at around midnight. The water immediately started to flatten out - even before I was behind the cape, suggesting that lighter winds were to be arriving soon. As the NW wind fell to below 10, sailing downwind became tedious with speeds below three knots and I started to motor at 3am. At 9am an E10 wind arrived and I started to sail slowly making a VMG (velocity toward my destination, velocity made good) of around 3.5. That was just fine. By 12:45pm the wind fell to 5 and I started to motor again. I motored the rest of way, except for an hour when some wind arrived and I jumped on it to watch it fall off again within an hour. Three hours north of Point Reyes some east wind arrived and this time I just motored through it, wasting an opportunity to sail but wanting to get to Drakes Bay. This wind died off by 10:30, lasting around three hours. (It was cold when the wind arrived! That's my excuse for missing an opportunity to same some fuel and move in peaceful quiet. The sea temperature was down to 49.1.)

I'm currently at anchor in Drakes Bay, arriving at 11:30am. I've decided to break the trip up by spending a night here. The forecast, which I've now updated and verified, has light wind today with some NW wind starting to fill in tonight. By tomorrow, Monday morning, there is expected to be NW 5 to 15, which is a big range, but with the afternoon becoming NW 15-25 and 20 to 30 at night (in this weather zone, pzz570.)

I plan to leave Drakes Monday morning and motor until wind arrives. I should be able to be out of this weather zone during Monday, and the winds further south didn't go as high as 30knots. After leaving Drakes, I think I will be able to sail toward my destination, which at this point is still a little fuzzy, but generally "south." I may break the trip up again with a stop along the way, or I may sail directly to Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz island in the Catalina's. Smugglers Cove will be a nice little break and is an easy sail away from Oxnard where I'll end up for a little while. I plan to return to boat projects there, working on varnish, strip/seal my cabin sole (floor) among other things. Smugglers cove is roughly 350nm away from Drakes.

I put another 15 gallons of diesel in the tank on this leg of the trip, making the total since leaving Neah Bay 32 gallons. This is way more than the last time I did this trip, where that total was something like 3. But that time I left earlier in the year with a well established high and no low's ripping through. This trip has been shorter, only 6 days of 'sailing' to get here compared to 11. Last time down I hove to in a gale for a day and waited for wind to arrive several times, very patiently, bobbing around in swell. This was part of the training I was doing for the trip to Hawaii and back later that year. This time I'm staying much closer to shore (15 to 40nm) and am much less patient. I want to make progress while the weather windows allow for it. I left late and will be happy when I arrive in southern California.

My 6 day estimate does not of course count the week I spent after ducking into Coos Bay two days before the forecast south gale, which became an actual storm, to arrive. The highest wind I saw out on the water last time was 37 knots, this time (so far) has been around 27.

It was good traveling in company with Juguette. They caught a tuna! They have now continued on to Half Moon bay. I hope to meet up with Peter again in Mexico if not before, as happens when cruising the same coast with the same ultimate destination (La Paz for now.)

Lastly, a plan which did not work out so well. Last time I was in Drakes Bay I was annoyed by all the fly's which find you. I mean, I'm anchored off the shoreline by at least 1/2 a mile, and there are fly's everywhere. All during the remainder of my last cruise, and this year as I planned, I kept thinking about the fly swatter I would have on board during my stay here in Drakes the next time. Well, here I am, the fly's are here, and I pulled out my fly swatter. First swat was a hit, killed it dead. Next swat the head of the fly swatter went flying as it broke off the handle. Drat. I have backups for some of my equipment, but a fly swatter!? No backup onboard. I'm glad I'm leaving after a single night!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Left Coos Bay heading south again

Date: Oct 4, 2013, Time: noon PST
41° 21' N 124° 58' W
Wind speed: 15-18 / wind dir: NNE, Heading: 225, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1025, Water Temp: 60.8
Log: 8870

The storm that rolled through Coos Bay passed by Sunday and from Monday onward the seas have been settling down. The wind was strong (mid 20's) from the south on Monday so the seas stayed up. By Wednesday I thought I should be leaving, however the bar at Coos Bay was still closed to recreational vessels 40' or less. Thursday the bar opened and Juguette (Peter, Bob and Mike) and I left approaching high tide, around 12:15pm. The winds were pretty good and we were able to start sailing once we had given plenty of room to the entrance channel and the boats arriving and departing.

Thursday evening the winds were in the high teens and overnight they rose into the low twenties - beautiful downwind sailing. The highest gust I saw was 28 knots, which is in a very comfortable range downwind. I've been making good time south so far, however the forecast is for the winds to become light on Saturday and I may end up motoring over to an anchorage to wait for more wind to arrive.

I woke up with the batteries fully charged from the wind generator having run all night, that was nice! I have blue skies and I'm heading toward warmer weather - I'm glad to be leaving the rain and grey skies I had last week behind!

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