Dec 21, 2008

Our Hardy Crew

Left to right, front row: Connie LaBounty, Will Fredrickson; back row: Derek Stroening, Jennifer Goodrich, Bryan Saulsbury and Ian Joseph.

A rainy Sunday discouraged us from sailing, but still provided an opportunity to orient our California coastal crew aboard Sea Story. Will and Ian will help Connie and I get to Santa Barbara. Derek, Jennifer and Bryan will get us from there to San Diego.

Weather permitting, we will be heading out under the Golden Gate at slack tide, 8:00AM on Monday, the 29th. That should get us into Santa Barbara late on the New Year's Eve, unless we overnight at some port or anchorage along the way. Tradewinds designated driver, Brandy, will bring Jennifer, Derek, and Bryan down on the 2nd and take Will and Ian back with her. With a stop off at Catalina, we should make it to San Diego by the 5th.

So, everything is lining up for an excellent trip down the coast. All we need now is for the weather to get out of this long, cold, wet phase and give us a couple of consecutive days of sunshine for a change!

Dec 2, 2008

New Windlass Installation

There's nothing like an upcoming bluewater cruise to motivate all those repairs and upgrades you have been planning to do, but haven't found time for. This windlass replaces one that quit on the way to Mexico last year. After five months of pulling up 100 ft. of chain and a 44 lb. anchor by myself, this new Lewmar unit is going to be a good friend! Here, I'm putting the final touches on the installation at the KKMI boatyard in Richmond. Note the shorts and T-shirt during mid-November. It's really been a warm fall for northern California.

Nov 23, 2008

Gourmet Chef Connie Signs on for Another Trip

Now one of our most experienced crewmembers, Connie LaBounty is on again for the California part of the trip south this year. Besides pulling her share of watches, Connie loves to cook and, and the rest of us love it when she does! Great meals make this trip a treat, and the sound you hear is the skipper breathing a huge sigh of relief now that he doesn't have to eat his own cooking - at least on this stretch....

Nov 17, 2008

Preparing to Head South Again

Sea Story sports a new bottom paint job in preparation for another trip to Mexico this winter. She also got a new prop installed during this haul-out at the KKMI Boatyard in Richmond in September.

It just took a couple cool, cloudy days, and Mexico began to look pretty good again! So, now it's official, we're going south, this time a bit later than last year. We should be heading out under the Golden Gate just before, or just after New Year's Day.
The trip down the California coast will be another Tradewinds charter trip divided into two legs; one from San Francisco to Santa Barbara and the other from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The first leg may feature a stop at Morro Bay or San Simeon. The second leg usually lets us stop over at Catalina Island for a quick tour of charming little Avalon. The Tradewinds website (link on this page) should have more information on the price and availability of this trip.
Boat preparation is going well with the new bottom paint job and prop installation, a new anchor windlass, an engine tune-up, and fuel line replacements. There are still a couple more items to attend to, but the old girl is looking pretty good at this point.

Jun 23, 2008

Back in Marina Bay

After six months, Sea Story is at home in the same berth we left in Richmond last November. Cleaned up and minus the dinghy and extra fuel jugs on the foredeck, she's getting some attention to the repair and upkeep needs that any twenty-year old boat requires, especially after racking up some 3000+ miles in those six months.

As a postscript to the trip up from Mexico, in the next couple of weeks I hope to gather up more of the photos we took and put them into a post that will serve as a photo album of the trip. If any of you crew members have any shots I haven't seen, please send them to me as digital files, and I'll try to use them to help flesh out the album.

May 19, 2008

Sailing Up the Central Coast

Pat and Carole McIntosh were waiting to head north from Santa Barbara on their Hunter 430, Espiritu when we got to the harbor. When the weather window opened up earlier than we expected, we decided to team up with them and the Swedberg family on Fantasia to buddy-boat up the coast to San Francisco.

On Fantasia, an Islander 40, Jeff and Anne Swedberg, along with daughters Krista (left) and Julie (right), kept us updated on weather and coordinated our radio communication along the way. Although, you really can't tell from the photo, Julie is holding up her pet lizard to get it in the picture!

When NOAA Weather finally relented and gave us an optimistic forecast for our run north, we wasted little time deliberating. With our fellow cruisers on Espiritu, Fantasia and Goolka, we left the harbor just before sunset on the 14th and headed up the Santa Barbara Channel for the notorious Pt. Conception, sometimes called the "Cape Horn of California." And, even though we hit some quite uncomfortable seas just south of the point, once we drew abreast of it, everything calmed down and remained that way for the next three days. Unfortunately in our case, both Scott and Jim got pretty seasick in the rough seas, and Jim couldn't shake it off even after things calmed down. Worried that he might be getting seriously dehydrated after two days of being sick, we elected to put in at Santa Cruz and let him off the boat to recuperate and catch a ride back to Santa Barbara. Luckily, the recuperation didn't take long, and in the picture below (right), he's already looking a lot better on the harbor fuel dock.
After a good lunch and a well deserved nap, Scott and I got under way that same evening so we could ride the flood tide into San Francisco Bay the next morning. With a late sunset and a full moon, we managed to miss all the crab pots that populate this stretch of coast at this time of year, and at 8:00 AM we passed under the Golden Gate, shut off the engine and sailed across the Bay to Marina Bay in Richmond. Along the way, we were hailed on the radio by both Espiritu and Fantasia, who had come in the night before. Nice to have friends already in town when you arrive...

Scott at the helm as we sail across San Francisco Bay. He has now sailed both the southbound and northbound legs of this trip along the central coast. But this time he got to see a bunch of humpback whales up close when a pod of a half dozen or more cruised around us off Point Sur. It was the largest group of whales I've yet seen that close to Sea Story.

May 14, 2008

How to Feel Really Small...

The sailing vessel Tamsen, makes a 39' boat look really small. That's Sea Story tied up in the berth just behind this mammoth 200' ketch in Santa Barbara harbor. Actually this is the second time we've been at the dock with Tamsen. She was at the customs dock in San Diego when we pulled in there from Mexico.

We made it into Santa Barbara at mid-day on Monday after a very comfortable sail across Santa Barbara Channel from Anacapa Passage. Both Bryan and Jeff had big grins all the way across; nothing quite like a morning-long sail after a long night of motoring up from Catalina.
We celebrated with an excellent dinner at The Enterprise Fish Company that night. Jeff and Bryan caught the train north the next day; headed back for a predicted hot weather spell in the Bay Area.
My new crew, brothers Scott and Jim Muir, showed up right on schedule this morning. Scott is an old hand on Sea Story. He did this same stretch with me when we brought the boat down last December. Now he's talked his brother Jim into the tougher north-bound leg. It will be interesting to see how much Jim appreciates that by the time we get to San Francisco!
Luckily, our weather report is looking a lot better than it did a couple of days ago. NOAA weather is now saying we should have winds in the 10-15 range instead to the 25-30 mph range they had earlier predicted. Love it when the change goes that way....
We will also have company on this next leg. At least two other boats have been waiting here in port for a good weather window for finishing their respective trips up from Mexico. Espiritu and Fantasia are both Mexico cruisers I've been listening to on the radio and running into in various ports all the way from Matzatlan. Now we've teamed up and agreed to keep in close radio contact for this last leg. It's nice to have company on this, the most challenging part of the trip.
We will be leaving Santa Barbara just before sunset this evening. That gets us around Pt. Conception in the early morning hours when the wind and seas are usually best for our transit. After that, it should be two days of upwind motor-sailing to get us into the SF Bay. With a little luck, we will arrive at the Golden Gate on a flood tide and calm seas. That's the plan anyway...

May 11, 2008


Avalon Harbor on Santa Catalina Island, is one of the prettiest stops on the California Coast. After an early arrival, a big breakfast and a nap,
Bryan Miller and Jeff Cabot are taking the water taxi in to check-out the local attractions.

We made it to Avalon early this morning after an interesting night of mixing it up with some big boat arrival and departures in the sea lanes south of Catalina. At one time, we had two cruise ships, an off-loading super tanker, and two freighters on the 16 mile scan of our radar. Everybody was well behaved and alert, so no problems, but it kept our new crew members awake without any fear of nodding off throughout their watches!
The weather was comfortable, if a bit overcast, so we didn't get to do a lot of stargazing. Tonight should be the same, and we are casting off before sunset so we can make it up to Santa Barbara by mid-day tomorrow.
So far the weather above Santa Barbara looks a bit gnarly, so there may be a couple of days laying over in that great port before the next crew and I head around Pt. Conception on the final leg up to San Francisco. Sometimes, you just gotta be patient...

May 9, 2008

Getting Ready for the Final Stretch

This was our welcoming committee when we crossed into US waters. We didn't get boarded, but they radioed a lot of questions about our last port of call, our departure time and out intended destination. Turns out there's been a lot more drug smuggling by boat now that the feds are stepping up surveillance at the border crossings ashore.

Bryan Miller and Jeff Cabot are my new Tradewinds' crew members arriving here in San Diego tomorrow. We'll get them checked out on all of Sea Story's systems and our offshore procedures, and then we'll set sail for Catalina in the early evening. That should get us into Avalon late on Sunday morning, so Bryan and Jeff can spend some time ashore checking out that great little port. I'll likely stay of the boat and rest up for the overnight leg up to Santa Barbara from there.

Weather looks good up to Catalina, but a bit windier beyond there. Luckily, we've got good sea condition reporting here in the U.S., so we can modify the plan if we need to. Nothing like a couple of snug harbors along the way to increase your confidence level on this kind of trip...

May 5, 2008

Finally Heading North

When you need diesel fuel in San Juanico, Antonio Camacho is the man to see. Our new friend, Juan, picked us up on the beach, and then he hauled us and our fuel cans to Antonio's "gas station. Once back to the beach, we were able to dinghy the fuel back to Sea Story for refueling.
When, after six days in San Juanico the wind finally let up at bit, we made a sunrise departure from our comfortable anchorage for an uncomfortable, sometimes rough trip up to Turtle Bay where we arrived at dusk the next day. After a quick refuel, an equally quick re-provisioning trip to town and short overnight rest, we took advantage of the decreasing winds and motored north, hoping to at least make it to the well protected anchorage at San Quintin.
Actually we made it all the way up to Ensenada before the next gale moved in and held us there overnight. Unfortunately, the short stay at Marina Baja Naval was unexpectedly when we became the latest victim of a thief who likes to steal laptops off boats berthed there. After the fact, we learned he had scored at least two other computers in as many weeks; bad news for an otherwise attractive marina with good facilities and equally good service.
The next day, we got an upgraded weather report that had us setting sail at midnight and steaming for San Diego as fast as we could. At 10:00 the next morning, we crossed into US waters and were met by a Coast Guard patrol boat. They politely inquired about our crew's nationality, our last port of call and our destination before they headed out to intercept someone else.
After checking in with customs, we got a berth at the San Diego Police Dock on Shelter Island, one of my favorite berths in southern California. Once safely on the dock, we cleaned up the boat and all three of us booked flights to our disparate locations; Jim heading back to a potential snowstorm in Minnesota, Connie to Davis in time for yet another trip down to Monterey for a golfing holiday, and Florida for my visit to an old friend with some serious health issues.
The next chapter for Sea Story will be the rest of the trip up to San Francisco. We will have a new crew when we leave San Diego on the 10th, and yet another crew when we head out of Santa Barbara on the 13th. More on that next week.....

Apr 22, 2008

One More Day in San Juanico

Last night's weather report wasn't as favorable as we had hoped, so we're still here in rustic and relatively remote San Juanico. Of course, the appeal of the Scorpion Point Restaurant, Bar, Internet Cafe (see our link to their website) is hard to abandon without an encouraging report from Don Anderson, the weather guru in Ventura. We get Don's reports on the single sideband radio, and he's very good at this kind of forecasting. In fact, he's near legendary among cruisers all over this part of the Pacific coast and out as far as the Marquesas. Trouble is, we sometimes miss his forecasts because of poor reception.
In support of the "small world" concept, we had a Catalina 42 come in to share the anchorage with us yesterday. Turns out it's Final Final (that's not a typo), and I sailed on it in San Francisco about five years ago after we struck up an acquaintance with the owner at South Beach Harbor.
Right now, we're the only boats in the anchorage - two SF bay boat a long way from home...
Planning to head out to Abraejos late this evening, because Don's weather says we can probably get there before the winds come up tomorrow afternoon if we stay in close to shore. Sure glad we've got a good radar on board.
More if we have time when we get to Turtle Bay in a couple of days.
Now, if I can just get us back to the boat before we run the dink out of gas......

Apr 21, 2008

Beautiful San Juanico

It's been a few miles since the last post from Mazatlan, but here we are in the little Baja town of San Juanico, between Cabo San Lucas and Turtle Bay, which is halfway up the outer side of Baja. We're here after an all-too-brief day long layover in La Paz, an overnight sail down to a quick fuel stop in Cabo San Lucas (absolutely crazy port to navigate), and an eventful motor sail up here in San Juanico.
We're currently waiting out some strong winds offshore in this nicely protected anchorage, and we're contemplating heading out this evening for a short hop up the coast to Abreojos on Bahia Ballena. Night time looks good because the wind drops off in the evening and didn't pick up until noon today. Abrejos is halfway up to Turtle Bay and gives us a better of chance of getting around Isla Cedros earlier once the offshore winds die down. Anyway, that's the plan, and we will just have to see if the conditions meet our expectations. If not, we stay here in this charming little town a bit longer, and catch a couple more meals at the Scorpion Point Bar and Restaurant, the surfer's hang-out. Turns out, this area is a surfer's dream with miles of beautiful beach and a variety of breaking surf that brings them all the way down from the States...
We did manage to re-supply our fuel tanks with 5-gal. fuel cans transported to the boat with our dinghy. We got the fuel from our friend, Antonio Camacho who has what passes for the local fuel station here in San Juanico. Should have some photos showing Antonio's place when I can get them downloaded from the camera.
We did experience some difficulty with the boat's fuel system off Magdellena Bay on the way up, but some jury rigging and a lot of cussing got us back in operation after a 6-hour shutdown; just another event in the cruising experience!
Jim and Connie are holding up well, even with the four-day stretch between showers before we got here. They also taught me how to play hearts, but I ran into a stretch of beginner's luck, and I'm not sure they're going to play with me anymore...

Apr 10, 2008


Gentle winds and mellow seas provided and nice run from Puerta Vallarta to Mazatlan in just a bit over 20 hours for the 185 miles up the mainland coast. Not as many humpback whales as there were going south a couple of months ago, but the ones we saw put on a pretty good show. Lots of splashing and tail slapping before they dove down to something more interesting than a transient boatload of sailors.
Turtles were the big attraction this time. We saw easily over 200 of these big guys on the stretch from Isla Isabella to Mazatlan. Most of them were just floating lazily on the surface, many with birds sitting on them. Others were swimming just under the surface and a few had to dive or clumsily paddle away to avoid us. One apparently didn't dive deep enough and we bumped him with our keel. On an average we estimate them at about three feet across, and - like this one - often with a lot of algae growing on their shells...

We arrived in Mazatlan before the fuel dock at Marina El Cid was open, so we had an easy time getting tied up next to the pumps - not always a given at this busy location. Since we are only staying overnight, we decided to splurge and take a berth here instead of proceeding further into the estuary to Marina Mazatlan, Sea Story's home in January. Marina El Cid combines a very nice vacation hotel with the marina, and a berth here includes access to the two large pools, a couple of bars, an upscale restaurant and just a lot of other amenities that make the higher price easy to justify after a couple of long days at sea. And, sometimes you just have to suffer the burdens of luxury as Jim and Connie are doing here at the pool bar, a long stone's throw from our slip on dock A.

Tomorrow, we set sail for La Paz, 225 miles across the Sea of Cortez. Weather is a mixed bag, some wind and wave action from the northwest, but nothing that will slow us up too much. It should take us about two days, although we may drop anchor at Isla Espiritu Santo to do some snorkeling with the seals before we head in to La Paz.

Apr 8, 2008

Leaving Puerta Vallarta

Connie and Jim are on-board, and we're getting ready to set sail for Mazatlan this afternoon. We had a nice send-off party last night with our friends Dana and Gale Crowne and their neighbor Jim Ransome. Everyone survived the party, although there isn't nearly as much tequila in PV anymore!
Jim is also our very own fishing guide, but he assures us very few fish have been harmed during his fishing expeditions. I can verify the truth of that claim after spending a day with him on his boat. Nice gear though...
Actually, there just aren't very many fish in Bandaras Bay this year. Local sport fishing boats are coming back empty, and the fault is generally attributed to colder than usual water in the Bay. Have yet to see a single dolphin or manta ray and even a lot fewer pelicans and boobies in the Bay. Have seen a couple of whales, but not nearly as many as I saw north of here earlier.
Connie's husband, Harve, is also here, but he will be flying back at 500 knots instead of the 5 knots we will likely average as we head north. Of course he won't be seeing any whales or dolphins along the way, so we aren't all that envious....
Weather is getting warmer down here, so cooler temperatures are starting to look better. Just hope we get some favorable wind over the next few days...
More when we get to Mazatlan on Thursday...

Mar 27, 2008

Marina Vallarta

Marina Vallarta Marina Vallarta This is the main channel leading into Marina Vallarta. The marina is packed with a a lot of high-end recreational boats and fishing boats that cater to Mexican and foreign tourists. Condos, restaurants and small shops surround the marina, which can be pretty festive, particularly on those evenings when the fishermen return with a good catch!The marina is located within a mile of the airport and about 30 minutes from downtown on a local bus.At the far end of this channel, near the harbor entrance, there are large piers that can handle three cruise ships at a time. They also accommodate a couple of 200+ ft. yachts that are too big to bring into the marina.Sea Story is berthed on one of the docks to the right in this picture.

Mar 18, 2008

Puerta Vallarta

Sea Story is currently berthed in Marina Vallarta where I'm getting her ready for the 1200 mile trip back up the coast in April. At the moment, she's getting her hull cleaned up and waxed.

The northbound crew, Jim Frisk and Connie LaBounty are coming in the first week in April, and we plan to take up to three weeks to make it back to the the 3rd of May. That's plenty of time to make the trip and still visit some of the more interesting anchorages and little towns along the way...

Once we're on the way, I'll post our progress and some photos here for our friends to help keep track of us...