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.

Return to Baja and Whale Watching

We decided to head from San Carlos directly back to San Juanico on the Baja side of the Sea, and left at first light.  Conditions for the 100 mile crossing could not have been better – flat calm seas and light, variable winds.  The crossing was uneventful and the wind gradually picked up to about 15 knots in the afternoon, coming from the SE.  Given that wind direction we decided to anchor in the South end of the San Juanico Bay.  When we arrived, however, the swell rolling into the bay was pretty substantial, and while we were getting some protection from the wind, we would have 2-3 ft of swell on the beam, not at all comfortable.  We turned around and headed back into the NW corner of the anchorage where we’d been before.  There were 3 sailboats but plenty of room.  In this corner, the swell was still coming from the SE, but so was the wind, so we were bow into it.  Much more comfortable.  Later in the evening as the wind died down so did the swell.  The next morning we headed down to the Puerto Escondido area hoping to anchor right across from the marina at a place called Honeymoon Cove.  There was another boat in the main anchorage, tour boats in the north lobe, and I couldn’t find a spot that I was happy with, so we went on into the marina a day earlier than expected.

The main goal for coming back to Puerto Escondido was to make a trip over to the Pacific side to go whale watching in Magdalena Bay, one of the protected bays that is a “whale nursery” during the winter months, from a (different) town also called San Carlos.  We rented a car and left the Marina at dawn for the long trek across the Baja Peninsula on MX Highway 1, the main road serving Baja.  It is a two lane highway and well maintained for the most part, but it is fairly narrow and there are no shoulders… hence the many roadside shines to people who have died in traffic accidents.  The cows that frequent the sides of the roads at all times of day likely also contribute to accidents.  Just S of Puerto Escondido, the road climbs steep canyons to get over the Sierra Gigante Mountains and then straightens out over a long, flat plain towards the West coast. 

The village of Magdalena Bay from the water. It seems to us to have a few more buildings, including the yurts on the left, than when we were here in 2019.

Speed limits on Mexican highways are pretty conservative, Mexican drivers are not.  In many places the speed limit was 60 kilometers per hour, and at most 80.  I think 80 is the limit for any two lane highway in Mexico.  We were passed by all manner of vehicles as I made a rare attempt of complying with the posted speed limits.  We turned off highway 1 around Ciudad Constitución for the highway to San Carlos.  Around 9am we finally arrived at the little hotel and office in dusty San Carlos and were taken directly to our waiting panga and Captain Juan.  As we pulled out of San Carlos, everything was starting to look familiar.  We stopped at Magdalena Bay with the CUBAR rally in 2019 and did a big dinghy excursion to tour one of the estuaries in the area.  Captain Juan took us back to the main part of Magdalena Bay off the same town that we anchored in front of in 2019.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and pretty mild, with flat calm seas.  First we went by a spit with lots of birds, which made Gwen happy. Soon we started to see spouts and headed towards them.  They were Grey Whales, traveling singly or in pairs.  All were adults.  We’d approach the whales slowly as they swam along the surface and eventually, they would sound, showing their tail as they dived down.  When that happened, we knew that it could be a half hour before they surfaced possibly nearby… or not.  Over the next couple of hours, the whales were pretty actively working their way back and forth along the bay, and we would slowly follow along.  The captains were respectful, never approaching from ahead, and maintaining a reasonable distance from the whales.  At lunchtime we went ashore for lunch at the same beachside restaurant we visited with CUBAR. 

The kids from the Pueblo setting up the boarding ladder after lunch.

The enterprising village kids dragged over a wooden platform to the bow of the panga to make it easy for us to get off.  Gwen gave them a propina of a couple of pesos which the boy, at least, viewed with some disdain (she later found more coins and offered more on our return to the panga).  The kids offered to sell us shells but we were more interested in the Pacificos and fresh fish offered for lunch. 

We did another hour or so of whale watching after lunch, finishing with a pretty close encounter in which a large whale surfaced very close to the panga, swam alongside for a few minutes, and then sounded.  After that we headed back to San Carlos, just as the afternoon winds were picking up.  The panga pulled into a beach landing, but instead of climbing out, Juan had us stay in as they pulled it up onto a trailer, and we traveled overland by panga back to the car. 

On the long drive back from San Carlos I paid less attention to the speed limit signs and maintained what was still a stately pace by Mexican standards.  Eventually a large fuel truck approached close behind as we were getting to the twisty part of the highway.  I thought that I would be able to stay comfortably in front of the truck given the tight turns and steep descents.  I was wrong.  Even maintaining a speed of 100 kph, the fuel truck was bearing down on me.  I was having visions of Mad Max and all going down into a canyon in a ball of flames.  Sure enough, the truck passed me, and I was happy to let it go to menace some other unsuspecting gringo driver.

The graveyard outside of Ciudad Concepción. This is a typical one.

While we enjoyed the day on the water and the opportunity to view these magnificent creatures up close, we decided that we’ve had enough of whale watching trips.  I have to admit that I got interested in doing the trip after hearing from friends and reading a blog post about close encounters with grey whales including mothers and calves that actually approached the boats and allowed the passengers to touch them.  We had no such experiences and honestly it seemed that the whales in Mag Bay barely tolerated the pangas, never approaching, and sounding after a few minutes.  So rather than “oh the whales will come right up to us”, it was really, “we will follow the whales until they tire of us and sound”.  Honestly, we’ve had many fantastic experiences viewing whales from our own boat – Orcas in the Salish Sea, humpbacks bubble feeding in Alaska, and Grey whales popping up all around us as we approached San Francisco, and we’ve seen humpbacks several times here in the Sea.

Boat Repairs in San Diego

We arrived in San Diego a couple of days earlier than planned in order to get some repairs done for the issues I described recently. Boomer and his crew of two helpers showed up after receiving the necessary parts and went to work on fixing the leak on the new autopilot steering pump, installing a replacement for old, leaking steering pump, and replacing the coupling for the bow thruster. It was actually a bit scary to see Boomer disappear deep in the forward bilge to get at the thuster coupling. There is no way I would have been able to get in there, much less get out. After a long, hot day’s worth of work, we had a working bow thruster and two brand new autopilot steering pumps. The next day we did a sea trial around the harbor to make sure that all was well. Everything was good, so we were ready to go.

The new autopilot steering pumps mounted in the Lazarette.

We also had an issue with the stabilizers, which I THOUGHT we had fixed on the way down to San Diego. Briefly, the stabilizers on our boat are a pair of fins mounted on the hull of our boat. They are moved through a complex electical and hydraulic control system to counteract the rolling motion induced by waves. The stabilizer circuit breaker mysteriously started tripping, shutting off the control circuitry, and therefore, the use of the stabilizers. We actually discovered this on our run from Marina Del Rey to Alamitos Bay and spent a couple of hours underway without the stabilizers working. Even though the conditions were mild, we realized that we’d really rather have them working. After consultation with fellow owners on the Nordhavn Owners Group and Ernie Romeo, it appeared that the circuit breaker was undersized for the new power supply that was installed this summer. So, I changed the breaker, and everything worked just fine on the remaining legs down to San Diego. Of course, there was the nagging question of why the breaker had not tripped before….

As Gwen mentioned, we prepared to depart San Diego for Ensenada this morning, only to find that the breaker started tripping AGAIN. We turned around after getting less than 100 yards from the dock and tried to figure out what was wrong. It was clear that the circuit was not overloaded – the 20 Amp breaker was tripping with a measured 8.5 Amps of load. Now thoroughly confused, I decided to call Boomer – actually expecting to leave him a message. I just happened to catch him on the way in to work, and he came right over to the boat. He started troubleshooting and I was helping him recreate the problem, when suddenly, the stabilizers were not working at all – there was no hydraulic pressure. Boomer discovered the culprit, which was a failed main relay for the hydraulic system. This relay allows the hydraulic system to become pressurized and move the stabilizer fins. In a stroke of good luck, Boomer happened to have a spare relay at the shop. Replacing that and a fuse that blew when the relay failed finally fixed the stabilizer problem once and for all (I hope).

The failed relay at left and the fuse at right.

So, one more night in San Diego and we hope to rejoin the CUBAR group down in Ensenada tomorrow (October 31).

The Odyssey Continues…

We’ve spent the last 9 days in San Diego, soaking up some hot weather and getting LOTS of boat chores and work done. Today was departure for Mexico day.

Tunamen’s Memorial on Shelter Island.

Most our nights were at the San Diego Harbor Police Dock on Shelter Island, but not because we were arrested. It is a bargain place to stay as a public dock, and one of the only places available when we made reservations a month ago. San Diego is full of boats staging for entry into Mexico around November 1, either with CUBAR as we are doing, the much larger sailboat version called the Baha Haha, or just going on their own. Marine insurance companies won’t allow boats to be in the hurricane zone in most of Mexico until November 1st when hurricane season officially ends, which leads to this bunching up of folks waiting to go.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Vessel. If you look really closely you can see one of their underwater vehicles on deck.

On walks around Shelter Island, various entertaining sites.

Larry loved this.
Friendship Bell from San Diego’s sister city Yokohama in Japan. I was surprised to see that this gift was made in the 1950s so soon after WWII.

Most of the time we have been here it has been unusually warm for this time of year according to the locals, up to 90 degrees. We have loved it, but one related effect is the Santa Ana winds, which are blowing in localized areas in California and causing sudden and terrible fires. The last two days we have periodically smelled smoke and seen haze from the Los Angeles fire.

CUBAR (Cruise Underway to Baja Rally) officially kicked off with registration last week, and a Captain’s meeting and dinner at the San Diego Yacht Club last night.

San Diego Yacht Club

After listening to various weather reports, we decided to depart early this morning after hearing about the Santa Ana winds that would affect part of our day’s cruise, but not be more than 25 knots. We were up and out at 6am, then had a deflating return to the dock when our stabilizer breaker kept popping. But luck was with us and we were able to find the source through the ingenious and speedy service call from Boomer (more to come on all of this from Larry) and we were on our way again at 9:15am.

Exiting the harbor we passed a US Navy destroyer up close and personal, which made former navy officer and Miss Miranda crew Sean very happy. They called us on the radio and at first I thought we were in trouble, but they just wanted us to hold our course.

Photo credit to Sean. Lots of military vessels around us this week!

Soon after that we got several texts and messages from CUBAR participants who had left early in the morning. They were experiencing 50 knot winds, and one had decided to turn around and come back. We made a speedy decision to return and wait the winds out, which are supposed to be much better tomorrow morning. So we will be a day late entering Ensanada, but we will still be there for Halloween and the Day of the Dead!

Paddle boarding witches!

Happy Halloween everyone!