Home at Last!

Our trip up the coast was largely uneventful and actually quite enjoyable.  We came out of the Golden Gate on the ebb tide and got a good push under the bridge.  We took the shortcut to the North inside Four Fathom bank, locally called the “potato patch” and headed towards Point Reyes.  As we were coming out of the Golden Gate, we got a call from a sailboat that was also heading North. He asked if we had a report on sea conditions, and asked about places to stop along the N California Coast. We told him, but frankly were both surprised that the skipper would be asking those kinds of questions. I would not want to start a journey Northward up the Pacific Coast without having that kind of information in hand! More on this later.

There were lots of fishing boats around Point Reyes but there was good visibility, and little wind and swell.  It stayed that way up past Point Arena, with conditions milder than forecast… winds consistently under 10 knots, waves/swell a very manageable 3-5 ft.  We did run into pretty dense fog this first night, and for the majority of the voyage. We turned on the light bar, but could barely see anything with it in the fog.  It was kind of eerie to see the diffuse circle of light against the fog, illuminating the sea surface for probably 10-20 yards in front of the boat, and nothing else all around. I was very glad to have the two radars, with one zoomed out to “see” the coastline and another covering the couple of miles right around the boat.

While we were waiting in San Francisco, I had been in touch with Captain Chris Couch, who helped me deliver our previous boat from Portland to Seattle. He wasn’t able to help me this time, since he was bringing a boat from Seattle down to San Francisco, but was extremely helpful with his take on the weather and optimal routing. He departed Crescent City the day we departed San Francisco, and we passed in the night somewhere North of Point Arena.

I was on watch early the next morning when we rounded Cape Mendocino. It is regarded as the most significant obstacle of the Pacific Coast, followed by Point Concepcion, which we cleared on the way to San Francisco, and Cape Blanco, which can provide a rude welcome to Oregon. The first sign that we were approaching the cape was the reduced boat speed due to the currents around the cape. We had been making 8.5 knots running at 1700 RPM, which yielded a fuel economy of 1.7 NMPG, about as good as it gets for us. The bottom cleaning we had before leaving San Francisco was really paying off. We cleared Mendocino with no problems and only slightly bigger seas. The wind by this point was a whisper at 5 knots or less, highly unusual for this area. The fog lifted and the adverse currents abated and we headed to Crescent City, where we planned to stop for fuel.  Crescent City is unique along the coast as the only stop that doesn’t require a bar crossing. During this second afternoon, we heard one side of a distress call to the Coast Guard. We could hear that the boat in distress was the same sailboat that we had talked to on the way out of San Francisco. I don’t know what the problem was but there was talk of bringing that boat into Fort Bragg, S of Mendocino. Anyway, as we approached Crescent City, we called the fuel dock for an after hours fill up and got in around 6 PM. An hour or so later, we were back on our way, taking full advantage of this fantastic weather window.

On the way to Crescent City the computer powering my TimeZero chart plotter and backup radar died. The problem was the disk,  which failed completely due to SMART errors. This was the second computer failure in a week! My other navigation computer had died from the same cause earlier in the the week. I was really surprised by these failures, because both of my computers had solid state drives, which I assumed would be more reliable than traditional magnetic disks. This reinforces the hard lesson of cruising… be prepared for anything and everything to fail! Fortunately, I had a complete spare nav computer ready to go. Unfortunately, I did not have two of them. I did have a spare hard disk for the second computer and was able to get things back working over the course of the next day. I was glad to get the radar running, because at every port/bar crossing there was some amount of traffic, including small fishing boats. 

I was at the helm again as we rounded Cape Blanco in the pre dawn hours in thick fog.  The seas built a little bit, but the wind was still light, and if you weren’t looking at the course on the chartplotter you would have never known that we rounded the Cape.  It was now Thursday morning along the Southern Oregon coast, and today the swell built quite a bit, up to 10-11 ft at 10 or 11 sec according to the offshore bouy reports.  The swell was largely on our beam, so the boat would rise up, up, up and over the top of the wave, and then come riding down, the other side with the stabilizers working really hard.  Because it was on the beam, there was little pitching and no pounding, making for a pretty comfortable ride.  As we worked our way up the Oregon Coast we listened to reports of bar closures due to the big swell.  Again, it was very foggy overnight after clearing that afternoon, and when I came on shift we were approaching the Columbia River bar.  Assen warned that it would get a little bit lumpy there, but the large swell had settled down and it was all but placid going around the bar.  There was not much traffic either as the bar was closed to small vessels, but we head many calls to the Coast Guard asking if the bar was open.  This morning we heard two distress calls from fishing boats that had run aground.

By the time Assen took the helm in the morning, we were finally in Washington waters, and it was actually calm enough to take a shower, which I gladly did.  The easy conditions persisted all the way up the Washington coast.  For most of the day, the fog lifted and we could see the shore as we ran along the coast about 4 miles off, more as we passed river bars.  Late in the day Friday we were finally approaching Cape Flattery, where we would turn off the Pacific into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

Around this time we heard another Coast Guard distress call, this time for a sailboat headed South about 26 miles off the coast with an engine failure. The Coast Guard offered to bring them in to La Push, but they wanted to go to Westport, significantly further down the coast. The Coast Guard called TowBoat US on behalf of the sailboat, but found that they would not go 26 miles offshore to do a 100 mile tow. Apparently the sailboat decided to continue on under sail with the Coast Guard checking in on them.

As the sun set we could see Tatoosh Island… but then the fog closed in again and we could not see it at all as we passed a half mile off.  The winds started picking up from the S – SW and cleared the fog so that we could make a visual approach to Neah Bay.  Here we started running into ebb current in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, slowing us down to 6.5 knots.  As we turned into Neah Bay we had the highest winds of the trip at 20 knots, 15 as we dropped the anchor in the middle of the bay in sticky mud.

We slept for a few hours, from about midnight to 4:30 AM, got up and pulled the anchor a little after 5.  Skies had cleared and winds were dropping from small craft advisory levels over night.  Pulling out into the strait, we were riding the flood for the first couple of hours with some wind behind as well as some small wind waves.  By the time we got to Port Angeles or thereabouts the tide had turned and we were working against it, making the poorest speed and fuel economy of the trip, a couple of hours at less than 7 knots.  The predicted small craft advisory winds did not materialize and we came into Skyline with about 8-10 knots from the S. 

The final approach to Skyline marina in Anacortes

Gwen met us on the dock, taking some pictures before helping to catch the lines.  Soon we were all tied up and the journey was over.  We celebrated with an arrival beer – one of the last Pacificos we imported from Mexico.

That’s us heading in.
Approaching the slip with Captain Assen surveying the situation.
Miss Miranda, back home at last.

The trip up the coast took about 4.5 days, from Tuesday morning until Satuday afternoon. Our fuel stop was probably two hours and our overnight stop at Neah Bay was around six hours. We covered 796 miles and used 518 gallons of fuel, for an average fuel economy of 1.54 NMPG. We probably averaged about 8 knots overall.

Miss Miranda is back in her slip for the first time since September 2019. Over that time, we’ve been aboard full time for over 13 months, covering almost 7,000 NM and a lifetime’s worth of adventures. We’ll come back with a post summarizing the journey, but for now, we are going to enjoy the pleasures of being back on dry land!

The Last Leg

Miss Miranda spent two weeks here St Francis Yacht Club guest dock.

Well, the day has finally arrived. Captain Assen Alexandrov of San Diego Captains arrived at the boat last night after a much-delayed flight from San Diego. We got a good night’s sleep and spent a little bit of time getting the boat ready this morning. It didn’t take long, as Assen has delivered many Nordhavns up and down the Pacific coast. The main task was mounting a pair of light bars on the bow pulpit. Assen calls them Hillbilly Headlights. They will, hopefully, allow us to see and avoid crab pot floats on the way up the coast.

The weather was looking really good, with light winds and diminishing seas forecast all the way up the coast through at least Sunday morning. We are likely to encounter some residual seas over the first day, with conditions improving as we head North.

The trip is 788 miles and will take just over 4 days underway at our cruising speed of 8 knots. We will stop in Crescent City CA or possibly Coos Bay OR for fuel and might stop overnight. We expect to be back home by sometime Sunday.

San Francisco

After waiting nearly forever for the right weather window, we departed Santa Barbara at 4 AM on a Sunday morning.  It turns out that the wait was worth it.  We had very light winds and pretty calm seas the whole way.  There were lots of whales, dolphins and gulls keeping us company along the way. Gwen got quite a show from a single humpback about a mile in the distance who was repeatedly tail slapping 10 times in a row then resting, presumably to stun fish, or just having a good time. We averaged about 8.4 knots for the 285 mile trip, arriving a bit earlier than planned.  It was overcast, and coming into San Francisco it turned into fog. 

So foggy I decided to do black and white!

We came in under the Golden Gate bridge at near the peak of the flood tide, making about 10.6 knots with the throttle pulled way back.  We didn’t see any of the bridge until we were just about under it, and even then, only saw a bit of the bridge deck.  It was notable that this time through San Francisco harbor, in contrast to our trip down in 2019, there was hardly any boat traffic- pleasure or shipping -in the channel with us. We were amazed how quiet it was, and it made it much less stressful.

Our reciprocal slip was at the St Francis Yacht Club, less than two miles from the bridge.  We encountered the highest winds of the passage at 20+ knots coming into the slip but fortunately we were able to tie up on the windward side, so we just got blown right in.

Gwen had to make a hasty departure the next morning to go to Oregon, where our beloved dog McGee was in the last stage of a losing battle with presumed cancer.  Miranda picked Gwen up at the airport and they drove down to Gwen’s parents, who had provided a loving home for aging McGee for the last two years.  They spent several days just being with him and finally held him while the vet put him to sleep.  It was very sad for everyone, and he will be missed by all of us.

Meanwhile, I was killing time in San Francisco.  Our plan was to get an experienced Captain to do the last leg with me so Gwen could go home to Anacortes. We were hoping to switch out (and find a good weather window) at the beginning of the following week.

I decided to do some exploring on the folding bike and the next day I rode out towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

There’s the bridge!
Crissy Park – when Gwen got a chance to go.

The sun was out, and it was a beautiful summer afternoon, so I took the opportunity to ride across the bridge, maneuvering through the hordes of pedestrians and cyclists with the same idea.  I just went over to the Sausalito side and came back, but it was a lot of fun!

Looking back at downtown San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Another ride was through the Presidio where I wound up on one of the major park roads that was closed to traffic.  It was a very nice, but uphill, ride through the park with views out over Lands End and some of the city.  The way back was a pleasant downhill coast.  The next day I went in the other direction along the downtown waterfront, stopping at Gotts for a burger in the Ferry building.  By this time I had covered all of the relatively flat areas of town. 

The weather here was pretty consistent, cool (low 50s) and overcast in the morning, often with fog, clearing towards mid day with sunny or partly sunny skies and plenty of West wind.  There is a quote about San Francisco mis-attributed to Mark Twain – “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”.  Well, we’ve lived in Wisconsin, so that is most definitely not true for us, but San Francisco certainly qualifies as the coldest summer we’ve ever spent!

Gwen flew back to San Francisco on the last day of July.   Our crew change didn’t work out, nor did the weather, so we were then stuck here for another week.  I was lucky enough to line up a Captain starting as soon as Sunday, August 8, so we just needed to bide our time and hope for the weather to cooperate. 

With Gwen back in town, we met old friends Allen and Jen for brunch in the Marina district, where Allen and Jen first met. It was good to catch up with them and fun to wander around seeing their old haunts.

We were determined to take advantage of our time here, so went over to Golden Gate Park and visited the Botanical Gardens one afternoon. Admission for us was $10 each, but free for San Francisco residents. The 55 acre garden is beautiful, with plants arranged by Geographical region. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

We also rode along almost the entire downtown waterfront down to Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.  Gwen also got some shots of sailing and kiteboarding off of Crissy Park – the recovered waterfront park along the shore between the Marina area and the Golden Gate.

Smiling while standing up to the stiff breeze.

We did have some wonderful meals outside – one at St. Francis Yacht Club on their patio looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge. We made it to Chinatown for dinner at China Live – one of the few restaurants there with good outdoor dining. Another winner was PPQ Dungeness Island – a Vietnamese restaurant where we had our first Dungeness crab of the summer . We understand why there is less outdoor dining in San Francisco – its chilly and windy in the evenings! Patio heaters and jackets are a must. During our meals we realized that San Francisco is the home of training self-driving cars – at one meal we must have seen at least 20 of them go by – some of them more covered in cameras and sensors than others. They did still have someone in the driver’s seat.

At the end of another week in San Francisco, Gwen bid me and Miss Miranda goodbye and brought her part of the grand adventure to a close. She is now home in Anacortes, getting things ready for me to arrive in another week or so. As I write this the plan is to depart on Tuesday morning. It looks like there may be a weather window to make it all the way up the coast, with a stop at Coos Bay, OR for some fuel. The trip will be 788 miles and if our plan holds, Miss Miranda could be back at home in Anacortes by next Sunday.

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!

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.

Dana Point

Our next stop after San Diego was a short hop up the coast to Dana Point. We are spending much of June making short hops in Southern California to explore and wait for our daughter Miranda to join us for a visit before we continue the serious journey the rest of the way home.

Front entrance of the mothership.

Dana Point is the home of the Nordhavn manufacturer Pacific Asian Enterprises, or PAE. They were very gracious and arranged for us to spend our first night on their dock, where they also have boats being commissioned. We met Brian, one of the Project Managers, who gave us a tour of one of their new boats, the N41, and hooked us up with some awesome swag afterward!

Larry wearing the N50 design T shirt.

Dana Point was under a pall of “June Gloom” the entire time we were there. We rarely saw the sun, which surprised us, since we thought it’s always sunny in Southern California!

Looking out the harbor entrance. This was the cloudy gloomy sky for most of our visit!

Dana Point is named after Richard Henry Dana, the author of Two Years Before the Mast and famous for his descriptions of his few years on a clipper sailing ship in the 1800s. He saw this harbor and felt it was “the only romantic place on the coast”.

The namesake of town.

The harbor itself is completely man made, with long breakwaters that destroyed the famous Killer Dana surf break when they were constructed in the 1960s. The marinas are jam packed on both sides of the fairway, and clearly this is a popular spot for all kinds of water activity.

Looking down one half of the harbor, with the high bluffs of town on the sides.

They have some nice walking paths around the harbor, which is bisected by a bridge. On the jetty side, I was quite surprised to see dozens of little critters running around that looked like a cross between squirrels (which we hadn’t seen since Anacortes) and prairie dogs, with the way they sit up on their hind legs and pop out of holes. Turns out these are ground squirrels.

One of the dozens of ground squirrels running around.

And, Dana Point is also known for being the home of the rare white ground squirrel, several of which took me by surprise when they ran across my path. They live in a very circumscribed area of the park. Apparently all the ground squirrels are considered pests in California but for some reason I just loved them.

Someone was feeding them pistachios (not me!).

On one afternoon we broke out the folding bikes and road south of the harbor alongside Doheny State Beach on the Coast Highway Protected Trail. This ran right alongside the main highway going toward San Clemente. I was amazed by the densely packed houses right on the beach between us and the bike path. At other areas there was obvious beach erosion repair work going on. I can’t imagine how these homes are going to avoid serious damage or loss over time.

Doheny State Beach, with surfers out in the distance.

At the park, even with the surf not being very active, there were many wetsuit covered figures waiting in the waves with their boards.

We enjoyed our stay at Dana Point, next stop Newport Beach.

San Diego – Return to the United States

We arrived back in San Diego on Sunday June 6, after an uneventful 65 NM run up from Ensenada.  Entering the channel on a Sunday afternoon was quite an event, with sailboats, motor yachts, fishing boats, and runabouts of all shapes and sizes converging on the outer markers.  To make it more interesting, a submarine was heading out of the harbor with Naval patrol boats clearing a path.  This was more boat (and radio) traffic than we have experienced in a couple of years. 

The submarine in the background with sailboats and other traffic around it.

We used the CBP Roam app to check in after entering the harbor channel, and it couldn’t have been easier.  A customs officer called us and asked some questions about where we had been and where we were going, and then assigned a clearance number that came back from the App.

Soon we were tied up at the Police Dock (formally called the visitors dock) at the head of Shelter Island.  It is run by the Port of San Diego and provides inexpensive moorage ($1 per foot) for up to 15 days.  They have an online reservation system that makes it easy to reserve a spot.  The only downside is that the dock is frequented by San Diego liveaboards that seem to do a continual circuit between the anchorages and the police dock, occupying slips that are not reserved.  Not a big deal, really but inconvenient when we had to changes slips and wait on one of these boats to depart the slip we were scheduled to move to. 

Not long after after we arrived, we saw the beautiful blue steel hull of Varnebank, owned by Ken and Christy Donnelly, off our stern. We had traveled with them during CUBAR 2019.  They were our hosts during our stay, giving us a car to use and having a couple of dinners with us in spite of just closing on their house and having two daughters in town shopping for wedding dresses.  Thanks, Ken and Christy!

Varnebank greeting us as we arrived at the Police dock.

Our main project for San Diego was getting our second COVID vaccination, which wasn’t scheduled until the following Monday.  While waiting for that we made good use of the car, shopping for provisions and boat parts.  In the middle of our first week (following a domestic altercation on one of the liveaboard boats that brought the police to the police dock) we learned that Southwestern Yacht Club was able to reopen their reciprocal docks.  We stayed there for a few days in 2019 and really appreciated the hospitality.  Southwestern member and 2019 CUBAR fleet captain Bill Roush was able to secure us a member’s empty slip for the second week of our visit.  Thanks, Bill, and thanks to Southwestern YC!

The view of San Diego harbor from Cabrillo Monument. The Naval air station is directly across.

We did a few touristy things around town.  We drove up to the Cabrillo Monument (on one of the few sunny days) for the spectacular view of the harbor and Pacific Ocean.  We also visited the USS Midway and the San Diego Zoo.  Both were VERY crowded with newly free San Diegans after (well actually a few days before) California reopened completely.  After mostly keeping to ourselves for the past five months, the crowds were a bit of a shock.

We also drove down to Chula Vista to visit Diesel Guru Bob Senter, and spent a little time on his Roughwater 37 cruiser.  Bob put the spare time afforded by the pandemic to good use, bringing the classic Monk-designed cruiser up to Bristol condition.

Finally, we refueled over at Pearson’s on Shelter Island.  While the price wasn’t great by US standards it was much cheaper than Mexico and the attendants provided outstanding service.

All in all it was a great stop, but we were ready to go by Thursday, June 17th.  Next stop, 60 miles to the North, was Dana Point, mecca for Nordhavns and home of PAE – Pacific Asian Enterprises.

Bashing up Baja

From Puerto Los Cabos to Ensenada is a 700 mile journey around the notorious Cabo Falso, then heading northwest along the Pacific coast, straight into the prevailing winds and seas. There is a good reason that this is called the “Baja Bash”, as we learned this past week. We had been waiting in Puerto Los Cabos for over two weeks to find a suitable weather window to make the trip. Finally, Bob Jones of Ocean Marine Navigation told us that there was a window opening on Memorial Day and potentially lasting the entire first week of June, which would be enough time to make a 100 hour passage all the way to Ensenada.

There was some possibility of less than optimal conditions over the first couple of days, but the forecast improved further up the coast. Part of the reason for this window was the formation of a tropical low pressure system well to the South that eventually became Tropical Storm Blanca. As Bob explained it, this low pressure system weakened the normal gradient between the high pressure system that tends to sit off the Baja Coast and the low pressure trough South and East. This pressure gradient causes almost constant NW winds off the coast, which can build to 20+ knots in the afternoon and create unpleasant conditions. By this time, we were ready to go, having learned not to pass up on decent weather window for a perfect weather window that might never happen.

Looking over my shoulder as we round Cabo Falso. Those are waves splashing over the bow and dumping seawater on the windows.

We departed at 5 AM on Memorial Day, which would allow us to round Cabo Falso just after sunrise, hopefully minimizing the often challenging conditions. As it turned out, we timed it well, and rounded the cape in pretty thick fog, but relatively mild winds and seas. After a few hours we seemed to have broken out of the cape effect and had much reduced head seas. After 28 hours or so, we passed Magdelena Bay, which was the first option for a rest stop. We were making good progress and wanted to press on, knowing that if we stopped, the weather conditions would deteriorate due to swell from the tropical storm.

We rounded Cabo San Lazaro just north of Magdalena Bay, and then crossed the very large Bahia San Lazaro, with the next opportunity to stop at Turtle Bay, some 230 miles to the North. On this second day, conditions began to deteriorate, with the wind picking up in the early evening, getting into the 15-20 knot range and creating short, steep head seas that caused a constant pitching motion and pretty frequent slamming as the bulbous bow came out of the water going over the tops of waves and hitting hard in the troughs.

Unfortunately Gwen had the 4 hour watch during this stretch, and when I came to take over at 2 AM, she was looking quite green in spite of having taken her seasickness medication.

Gwen’s log entries descrubing the deteriorating conditions on her watch.

Above is a page from our voyage log on Tuesday night. I have highlighted Gwen’s entries from that fateful night. You can also see that as soon as I came on, conditions started to improve. Sorry, honey. After Gwen discharged the contents of her stomach she got a little bit of sleep, and we decided in the morning to make a stop at Turtle Bay, which was only a few hours away.

When I came on watch at 10pm that night, the boat was pitching and slamming a fair amount, but Larry said “It should calm down and get better, sorry it’s bad right now.” I took a half of a Gravol (Canadian seasickness medication that I like) – I had taken it regularly the day before and the wisdom is that usually on the second day you can wean off of it. I watched the wind go up instead of down, seeing 20 knots a few times, after which I could sense the waves getting worse. In the second hour, I started to feel pretty bad. I did all the things that one is supposed to – have fresh air blowing directly on you, sip water and take in small amounts of carbs – pretzels, in my case; actively manage the boat – I found sitting in the helm chair to make me feel worse, and standing and rocking with the movement of the boat to help. The big recommended thing that proved difficult to do was to watch the horizon. It was pitch dark with no moon and with spray and, at times, green water, hitting the windshield, and the only way I could keep my eye on something stable was to look at the few visible stars that I could see through the top of the port side corner window. I took more Gravol, no longer worrying that it might make me too sleepy – no danger of that. My last two hours were spent standing there, eyes glued to the stars (except for when we pitched down into a wave trough), and every 15 minutes taking a glance at the radar to ensure we were still all alone out here. I was never scared, because I knew the conditions were nothing the boat couldn’t handle, it was just bad for the human. Once Larry relieved me, and I moved around a bit, everything came rushing up. This, at least, made it possible for me to sleep for a bit.

Gwen’s Perspective

We got into Turtle Bay around 2 PM on Wednesday, June 2nd. This was a good time to stop regardless, as the winds were up into the 20 knot range by this time in the afternoon. Conditions were forecast to be much better in the morning. We anchored just inside the bay, set out the flopper stopper, had a meal, and a good night’s sleep. This first leg wound up covering 420 NM in 57 hours, for an average speed of just under 7.4 knots and fuel economy of 1.37 NMPG at 1700 RPM. We were pushing into adverse current most of the way, and this combined with the head seas made for a slower, less efficient passage.

We headed out at dawn on Thursday morning. This final leg to Ensenada started with rounding Punta Eugenia (named after Gwen’s mother), and crossing Bahia Vizcaino. This is often the most difficult leg of the passage with the open bay and potential convergence zone off Cedros Island. We followed the advice of our friend and Nordhavn Broker/Delivery Captain Devin Zwick and took the “inside” route, passing through the Canal de Dewey and East of Isla Cedros.

Looking through the salt encrusted windshield at Gwen, feeling much better, thank you!

As we continued along, we had an unusual visit from a seagull. It was flying above the boat and made many passes across the bow, seemingly interested in the burgee staff. It came closer and closer on each pass, and finally, on one pass… it tried to take a bite out of the top of the staff.

I don’t know why this seagull was trying to eat the burgeee staff!

As you can see from the photo, conditions were much improved on this leg. As predicted, winds were well under 10 knots and seas nearly flat calm. Gwen had an uneventful night watch and the next morning we had calm winds and pretty flat seas, with overcast skies and temperatures in the high 50s. I spotted several Gray whales off Punta Colnett, and we had several visits from groups of Pacific White Sided dolphins. One was playing in the bow wake, and as we were watching from the foredeck, flipped over, swam upside down and seemed to look right at us as if saying “I’ll bet you wish you could do this”.

A little video of the afternoon conditions off Baja. These were the conditions we were hoping for!

We could soon see the Todos Santos Islands off Ensenada and by mid afternoon we arrived at Marina Coral. We bumped up our speed on this leg, setting the throttle for 1800 RPM. As a result, we covered the 280 miles in 35 hours for an average speed of 8 knots and a fuel economy of 1.3 NMPG. We were happy to trade a little more fuel burn for saving a couple of hours of travel time.

The only boat-related issue we had was a problem with our drinking water. We have a separate drinking water supply with a dedicated charcoal filter and faucet. This also supplies the icemaker. We began to notice that the drinking water was tasting salty, as were the ice cubes. In fact, Gwen thinks that this may have contributed to her bout of seasickness. We tested the drinking water and found that it was 2,980 PPM of total dissolved solids (i.e., salt), compared to the tap water (from the other tanks) at 191 PPM. Clearly salt water had gotten into the forward tank. We realized that the vent for the tank is up on the bow of the boat on the port side. Our theory is that with all of the slamming into the head seas, salt water was forced into the tank through the vents. This would also explain why the forward tank level was higher at the end of the passage than the beginning.

We are very happy to have the Baja Bash behind us. We waited for what seemed like a long time for a good weather window, and while this one was not ideal, it was good enough to make it the entire way up the coast in almost a single shot. We learned when we checked into the marina on Friday afternoon that we would be able to clear out of the country and cancel our Temporary Import Permit for the boat on Saturday. That will allow us start on the last 65 mile leg from Ensenada to San Diego on Sunday. Miss Miranda will soon be back in the USA for the first time since November of 2019.

Our celebration margaritas after arriving in Ensenada.