The waiting is the hardest part

The waiting is the hardest part

Every day you see one more card

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart

The waiting is the hardest part

Tom Petty

In our last post, we reported reaching King Harbor in Redondo Beach. We were lucky enough to snag a reciprocal spot on their outer guest dock. This one had no power or water, but was apparently the prime viewing location for the 4th of July fireworks coming in a few days. We met lots of nice people at KHYC including former Tacoma Yacht Club members who were part of the KHYC bridge, and we shared the dock with a great couple on their new boat. We rode bikes along The Strand through Hermosa Beach and points North. We could have ridden up to our next destination, Marina Del Rey, but hunger got the better of us. We attended a fun Friday night dinner with our new friends, and headed north to Del Rey Yacht Club after two nights at King Harbor. We had a final celebratory dinner with Miranda in Marina Del Rey, and then she was off on the 4th, heading back home to Seattle.

After our Southern California sojourn with Miranda, we began our journey North in earnest. We didn’t make it very far. The next day we traveled about 50 miles to Ventura Yacht Club, where we stayed on our way down in 2019. We had a couple of nights there, going out for dinner in the harbor and riding bikes over to Ventura Beach for lunch. Next, we made the short run to Santa Barbara, where we had a reciprocal spot at the Yacht Club. It was a good thing, too, as the marina was full. Fortunately, the yacht club had a cancelation, and we were able to stay on the guest dock.

Santa Barbara harbor. You can see Miss Miranda on the end tie past the big dock in the center of the photo.

We are still sitting in Santa Barbara, here for two weeks already, waiting for a weather window to get around Point Concepcion and up the central coast. This is the place where we make the transition from the generally benign Southern California weather to the notoriously windy central coast, and Point Concepcion is the corner we need to round.

Forecast from Windy.com for 7/21. The pointer is right off Point Concepcion, where we get a rude introduction to the central coast. The orange colors are not good, indicating winds in the 25 to 30 knot range.

You can see the SoCal coastline generally goes from West to East below Point Concepcion, and is protected from the prevailing NW wind patterns. You can see this reflected in the nice cool colors (low winds) around Santa Barbara, where we are now, and further East.

This pattern is caused by a high pressure system that generally sits off the Pacific Coast combined with a low pressure system that sits somewhere in Southern California. If you recall, winds circulate clockwise around a high pressure system and counter clockwise around a low pressure system. This combination produces patterns of strong NW winds along the coast that can last for weeks, as we are learning. The big problem, in addition to the wind, is the size, period and direction of the waves. The swell generally comes from the NW, so is right on our nose. The size has not been too bad – in the 4-6 ft range, but, the period – time between waves – has been very short, on the order of 8-9 sec. Our rule of thumb is that we want to see periods of at least twice the wave height, and ideally 2.5 times. The short period we are seeing makes for some serious pitching and pounding, the same conditions that caused Gwen to have a very rough night on watch during the Baja Bash.

So, we’ve been waiting. We spent a week enjoying the hospitality of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club on their reciprocal dock, and then moved into a slip in the VERY crowded Santa Barbara harbor marina. The weather has been fantastic, with sunny, mild days replacing the June gloom. Santa Barbara is a great town to be stuck in, so we can’t (OK, shouldn’t) complain. They have an outstanding farmers market that we have now visited three four times. The fruits and vegetables are absolutely amazing. We’ve enjoyed dinners out with friends Maria and Eric, and CUBAR friends Alex and Maria, and went to a party with friends Dave and Cammie.

Before the party, Dave took us for a ride up into the mountains to visit the Cold Spring Tavern, an old stagecoach stop off Hwy 154. They are famous for their Tri Tip sandwiches, music, and plenty of beer. The place was absolutely packed on a warm Sunday afternoon, but we did get to sample the excellent sandwiches and beer.

We learned later in the week that the marina was going to kick us out on Friday 7/23 because they needed the space (we are using someone’s slip). Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating with that departure date, so had to scramble to make some backup plans. First, we were able to secure a spot again at the Ventura Yacht Club if we really needed to leave. I hate to backtrack but don’t see any good options. Second, we have been looking into getting a captain to continue the run up the coast and letting Gwen go home. We really need to move on with house hunting in Corvallis and the rest of our lives. The rationale is that between me and another Captain, we could manage with slightly bigger seas than we’d be comfortable with just Gwen and myself. Of course, most of the delivery captains we know are pretty well booked at this time of year. However, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several of them about both their availability and the prevailing conditions along this part of the coast. They all agreed that Point Concepcion is the biggest hurdle in terms of having to wait for the right conditions, and a two week (or more) wait is not uncommon. In those conversations, I’ve also heard significant respect for Gwen’s willingness to do the Bash.

In spite of being in sunny Santa Barbara, our spirits were a bit down. We have enjoyed the weather and hanging out with friends, but honestly, we are ready to go home. Things started looking up when Dave invited us to stay in his lovely home in the Santa Barbara hills while he went out of town for a weekend!

The view from Dave’s place.

We went wine tasting in the Santa Ynez valley with Maria and Eric. We visited two wineries (Sunstone and Lincourt), had a picnic lunch at the first and tasted a variety of mostly Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs (remember “Sideways”). Being the Bordeauxphile that I am, I picked wineries that were at low elevation, so we were also able to sample come Cabernet and (gasp!) Merlot.

Enjoying some Santa Barbara County wine.

We also did some bike riding around town and along the shore. Our folding bikes came in handy for trips to the famers market, for lunches in town and for some fun rides along the very well developed Pacific Coast bike trail.

As I write this in the middle of week three, it looks like a weather window might finally be opening this coming weekend. This one looks much better than what we have been seeing up this point and may allow us to get up to San Francisco.

This forecast is looking much better!

It is still early in the week, and this could very well change, but it is encouraging. Getting up to San Francisco will make things much easier. The timing would align reasonably well with the potential availability of a couple of captains that I have been speaking with, and it certainly is easy to fly in and out of here to Seattle. Looking at our route, it is 280 NM from Santa Barbara to the Golden Gate Bridge. This should take us somewhere around 36 hours depending on currents, and if we leave very early Sunday morning, we could expect to be there by Monday afternoon. San Francisco here we come!

The Haircut

Well, despite the strong support for continued crazy hair for Larry, he went ahead and got a cut two days ago. I think he partly did it as something to do during our prolonged stay in Santa Barbara waiting for weather to be tolerable to move north. He would probably say I made it pretty clear what he needed to do.

Here’s the before and after :

Before departing for the barbershop
Upon return …

I made a big hair change too. After growing out my hair color and only getting a cut once or twice during our cruising and the pandemic , I look pretty different now too.

You can clearly see my two toned hair!
A nice natural breeze was blowing as I took this.

Catalina Island

Miranda met us in Long Beach near the end of June for a 10 day Southern California vacation.  Unfortunately, weather-wise, it resembled a PNW vacation with the continuation of June Gloom (Southern California’s best kept secret). 

We planned to visit Catalina Island, 25 miles off the coast of LA.  The two primary spots for visiting boaters are Avalon, on the SE end of the Island and Two Harbors, about 10 miles NW of Avalon.  Both have systems of mooring balls where you pick up a line to hook to your bow, and then walk a secondary line to the back of the boat, where you pull up a stern line to secure yourself in place.  Avalon is first-come-first serve, while Two Harbors allows you to make reservations.  We chose to make a reservation at Two Harbors and then move over to Avalon later in the week.

Seas were a little mixed when we departed Long Beach on a foggy Sunday morning.  Unfortunately, Miranda got sick in spite of having taken some seasickness medication.  After a sloppy two hour journey we picked up the mooring at Cherry Cove, but it was exposed to the swell and quite rolly.  We called a shore boat to get Miranda on land but even land wasn’t enough for her to recover so Gwen managed to get a room for the night at the Banning House Lodge.  I got the dinghy down and joined them on the beach for a couple of hours until they could check in, and then went back to spend a rolly night on the boat. 

We had no immediate neighbor on the next mooring buoy, fortunately for our first time. The small float with the pole sticking up is what Gwen picked up to grab hold of the mooring line.
You can just see the line on the side of the boat holding the bow and stern inline. A bit more complex than mooring buoys we have used before.

Two Harbors is quite rural.  There is the one lodge, but lots of campsites around the area.  They have a system to haul gear from the ferry landing at the pier out to the campsites and back while campers hike in.  It gets crazy crowded at the landing at ferry time.  Miranda was feeling much better after a night on land, but we were concerned that it would be a problem to stay on the boat with as much movement as we were having.  The moorings were so close that there was no way to deploy the flopper stopper, so we decided to move on and see if things were better at Avalon. 

Two Harbors area from up on the hill.

After a short ride down the Island we met the harbor patrol boat outside of Avalon and got a mooring assignment.  There were plenty of spaces available, but they couldn’t guarantee us a spot past Friday… the big July 4th weekend was coming up.  The mooring balls are all privately owned, so the owners can come in at any time. We picked our way into the mooring field and settled into our spot nearly in the middle of the harbor amid 100+ other boats.

The view from our back deck in Avalon.

We did a little dinghy tour around the harbor and when we got back to our boat, we saw that we were dangerously close to the boat next to us.  We called the harbor patrol, and they advised us to switch the side of the boat that the mooring was attached to.  This was not a trivial task in the freshening breeze.  The harbor patrol launch first pulled us back until we could switch sides with the stern line, and then came forward to do the same with the bow line.  It took about all the launch had to get us enough slack and it was slightly more exciting than we bargained for!  But, we got it done and didn’t have any problems for the remainder of the week.

We celebrated my birthday the next day.  We started out by doing a golf cart tour of the area around Avalon.  It is quite hilly in the area and golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation.  Unfortunately, by the time we got over to the rental place, one of the ferries had arrived and we were battling with hordes of Angelenos to get one of the carts.  We did finally secure a rental and joined the heavy golf cart traffic on the 12 mile loop around the Avalon area.  It was actually a lot of fun and we got some great views of the harbor, went to the botanical garden and Wrigley memorial, and over to the Casino and Descanso beach.   

Later, we had dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants.  The highlight was having a local favorite cocktail called Buffalo Milk – named after the herd of buffalo still on the island after being imported for a movie many years ago. The namesake beverage is essentially a White Russian with a lot of whipped cream.  It was good for dessert and I was still able to drive the dinghy back to the boat.

Avalon from the hillside. The large building in the distance is the old casino.

Miranda had arranged for us to do a discover scuba dive at the gem of Avalon, the Dive Park in front of the old Casino.  I got scuba certified many years ago but haven’t done much diving in the last two decades.  Miranda is considering getting certified, especially since we are heading to Bonaire in December for an O’Keefe family dive vacation.  I was a little hesitant about diving in cold water, but they provided us with 7MM wetsuits and booties.  I brought my hood and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not cold.  The dive was spectacular.  There is a kelp forest right in the park in 25-40 ft of water and the first thing we saw on descending was a trio of Giant Sea Bass, which must have been 5+ ft long and in the 250-300 lb range.  They were hanging out in the kelp, staying away from fishermen, I suspect.  It was very cool to swim through the kelp, and there were huge numbers of very curious bright orange garibaldis, the state fish of California.  All in all a very well done discover scuba class and a fun dive.  I think Miranda will do some scuba lessons back in Seattle and do her certification dives in Bonaire.  Cool.

The weather forecast was starting to look sketchy for the weekend so we left Catalina on Thursday morning.  We had flat calm conditions the whole way across and no seasickness.  We took a chance on going to King Harbor in Redondo Beach and managed to find a spot on the first-come first-serve reciprocal dock at King Harbor Yacht Club.

Long Beach

We left early on a cloudy morning from Newport Beach. By the time we cleared the breakwater we could see blue sky opening up to the North. Long Beach is a short 20 mile run from Newport Beach, located inside of the Los Angeles Harbor breakwater. We worked our way through many anchored cargo ships, many still loaded with containers, entering through the breakwater behind a cargo ship trailed by a large tug.

We had a reciprocal slip at the Long Beach Shoreline Marina, courtesy of the Shoreline Yacht Club. It was an end tie – super convenient getting in and out. Right across from us was Island Grissom, which is actually an oil derrick that has been disguised. It is lit up with a light and water show every night and looks pretty cool… not so much during the day. This is one of 4 “Oil Islands” in the harbor, each named for an astronaut that died in the Apollo space program.

Island Grissom with cascading fountains and light show at night.
Not so attractive in the daylight.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary at a nice restaurant a few blocks from the marina. We shared a large (and pricey) dry aged porterhouse steak and a nice bottle of wine at their outdoor streetside seating (which was quite breezy). The next day, Miranda arrived from Seattle after a bit of a hassle with a cancelled flight. We are excited to have her with us, having not seen her since December of 2020.

The next day we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific, which was located adjacent to the marina. They were doing timed entry and requiring reservations in advance. Even so it was quite crowded. Masks were required even though California is fully open, and we were glad, given how much was indoors and how many people were there. On the other side of the marina is a beach, and bike/walking paths extend from lighthouse point, across from the former oceanliner Queen Mary all the way down the city beaches. We had fun riding folding bikes around, with Miranda using one or two of the many electric scooters that were spread along the waterfront.

Old and new worlds – the Queen Mary has the blue hull!

On Saturday night we went up to the Yacht Club for dinner and met some of the members. We appreciated the nice meal and the hospitality. They were having their awards night, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to Miss Miranda to prepare for an early morning departure for Catalina Island.

We have been reading and hearing about the incredible heat wave up in the Pacific Northwest. Strangely, here in Long Beach, it has been sunny or partly cloudy with temps in mid 70s.

Newport Beach

Next on the itinerary after Dana Point was Newport Beach. As we entered the harbor, we were stunned by the sheer density of houses and boats on the shore and in the harbor. We were heading for the (very nice) public docks at Marina Park, which is a couple of miles into the 2.5-3 mile long harbor.

The entrance of the harbor, taken from the bike path.

There are some marinas and yacht clubs with docks, but most people keep their boats, from sub-20 footers to fairly large yachts, on mooring balls in one of the many mooring fields that line the harbor. We were fortunate to reserve two nights at the municipal marina so we didn’t have to haul our bikes back and forth to shore in the dingy.

Boats at rest in a mooring ball field.

We explored riding on the bike path along the beach and on Lido Island, dined at a boardwalk lunch spot, and later on dingied to dinner at another popular spot with a dingy dock. We also dingied along the entire harbor gawking at houses and boats.

Typical houses with fleet of Duffy electric boats in front.

Houses are packed in all along the sides of the harbor and the small islands – Balboa and Lido Islands. Prices range from 2-3 million to as much as 32 million, according to Zillow! And this harbor has the highest concentration of Duffy electric boats we have ever seen. It’s a popular pasttime to tootle around the harbor in these little boats.

Tiny car ferry running over to Balboa Island.

Constant work appears to be needed to maintain the beachfront and prevent erosion.

Not much wildlife can persist the in the density of humans in this area, but we did see a few animals.

Unusual creature seen from the dock – should we be preparing for another black swan event?
He didn’t bat an eye as we came pretty close so I could photograph him.

We enjoyed our two day stay and also got a few chores done. Next stop – Long Beach and our long awaited visit with Miranda!

Sunset.