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.....