Vancouver to San Diego Part Eight

Sept 16

6:30 am awake
Noyo River basin, Fort Bragg, California

I crawl out of my berth, dress and head up on deck. Pretty soon there is coffee and toast: peanut butter and jam on toasted garlic bread–the kind with whole cloves of garlic in it. It was…unique.

We’d scheduled our morning around the imaginary fuel dock opening. I say that because no one actually knew what time the dock opened but everyone was sure their estimate was right. The “consensus” before we went to bed was it opened at 7:00 am. Well it turned out that not only were the hours imaginary, but the whole dock was. Tim chatted up a local as we were readying to cast off and it turns out there is no fuel dock in Fort Bragg. Huh.

7:46 am off dock

I grab the stern line and Tim casts off the bow. Then I give the boat a gentle push and we are backing out of our slip.

The trip down the river is really picturesque with tall wharfs and restaurants lining the shore as we head north. Then the river turns west and we slowly pass underneath the tall bridge and out into the shallow bay.

As we exit we zig a bit to check out the sector light behind us. It shows white if you are on course, green if you are too far to port and red if you are too far to starboard. We saw it last night when we came in but were too busy looking for transits to realize what we were looking at.

There is big swell at the bar and we can see Sea Esta getting tossed around as she heads out.

10:20 am
39° 14.2270′ N,123° 49.9943′ W

A grey whale surfaces closer than a 100 feet off our side. It’s almost starting to get blasé. Almost.

Conditions are calm with a 5-knot wind. But it is misty and damp, so not exactly pleasant.

11:15 am

We are treated with warm cookies. But I only get one. Sigh.

1:15 pm
38° 57.3899′ N,123° 46.8057′ W

Currently off Point Arena with its lovely traditional lighthouse off in the mist. We came closer inshore to see the sights and cut the corner; staring at fog gets pretty boring hour after hour.

As we get closer in we get a view of some majestic sunny cliffs. It’s like we were on the California coast or something.

I spend a couple of hours blogging on my phone while Tim did minor boat repairs. All in all it’s pretty pleasant. Then I talk boat cooking with Donna for a while; she mentioned Pampered Chef products. It is something to look into as Donna has some awesome stoneware loaf pans from them.

A bit later we pick up some current and are motoring along at 6 to 6.3 knots.

2:50 pm
38° 49.6612′ N,123° 41.9774′ W

Sailing on broad reach with the engine off. Lovely sailing weather as we zoom right towards the coast of California. We must be in wine country by now. Sea Esta is charging along parallel to the shore, wing on wing, but we should be faster.

3:50 pm
38° 46.7317′ N,123° 35.5993′ W

We gybe to keep off the rocky shore and head out in 19-20 knot winds. We are going 7.2 to 7.8 knots now. It is still sunny but Sea Esta is gone in the fog that is gathering offshore, so it likely won’t last.

5:05 pm
38° 38.6580′ N,123° 30.9479′ W

We gybe again. The low-lying clouds are back and our sunny day has disappeared. But we’re still zooming along. Sea Esta has pulled away slowly but steadily so I guess theirs was the winning strategy. But we never took the reef out of the main so that’s our excuse.

The California coastal highway meanders along the coast above the cliffs just like in the movies. We really must be in wine country by now. It’s picture perfect but impossible to take a picture of.

6:10 pm
38° 36.9647′ N,123° 23.1558′ W

Another gybe. It’s weird doing these big long tacks; not like coastal sailing at all.

Although we were passed by Sea Esta on last tack, it looks like we might now be reeling them in. We are making 7-7.5 knots, just screaming along, but it feels like a gentle breeze. I could get to like this downwind stuff. But soon we enter back into fog and lose sight of Sea Esta. Welcome back to cold and damp.

7:00 pm
38° 32.0283′ N,123° 20.3277′ W

We rolled in the jib and are sailing with the main only, pretty much directly down wind.

Tim spotted another of those bird collections we had seen a bunch of days back. It’s directly in our path and we will drive right through the middle. Then we spot a whale heading straight for us maybe 60 feet off the bow. He dives down and swims directly under the boat only to surface again off our stern. Then he dives again and I see his torso twist and tail go sideways as he does a 180 and heads back to the mass of birds we scattered and the ball of fish we obviously just drove through. Super cool.

We spot a few more bird flocks ahead and off to the sides and each comes with its own whale spouts. It’s feeding time in the Pacific. Like I said, super cool.

8:00 pm
38° 27.9359′ N,123° 14.9785′ W

Well, it’s dark now. Dinner is pizza up on deck and we are still sailing downwind. I fired off a text to Leslie with my current position just so she a) knows I’m still alive and b) knows I’m thinking of her.

These kind of trips seem to be about diminishing resources. Over time we create a sleep deficit that we never manage to make any headway on. Each day ends with you a little more tired and each morning starts with you a little less recovered. I assume at one point you find a balance. Or maybe you just crash. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Or at least get some continuous, stress-free sleep. But I’m tired.

On a side note, it turns out Tim is as wimpy as I am when it comes to hot beverages. Using these damn thermal mugs means we have to wait 20 minutes before we can drink our tea without scalding our tender mouths.

8:30 pm

The winds are dying. Speed is down to 4.5 knots

10:00 pm
38° 20.0307′ N,123° 7.0162′ W

We are still sailing with the winds variable, making 4-4.5 knots.

11:30 pm
38° 17.3865′ N,123° 2.4109′ W

As we get to the buoy that marks the reef outside our harbour, we prepare to drop the sail. But the engine won’t start. The start battery seems to be completely dead after a full day of just sailing in the fog. Not only that, it made every light in the boat dim when Tim turned it over and shut down a bunch of electronics. That’s not good.

Tim went below and switched the batteries to combine the starter and house bank and hit the starter again. The engine started right up and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

We turned the instruments back on and I steered us into the wind so Tim could drop the main. Then I turned towards shore and hopefully some sleep.

12:10 am
38° 19.8268′ N,123° 3.4835′ W
Bodega Bay

We are all tied up at fuel dock in Bodega Bay. There are two big breakwaters we had to maneuver between in the dark and then a long zigzag channel marked only by the occasional nav light and day beacons. My night skills are getting a workout. But I managed to get us to the marina without incident and on dock without pranging into anything.

There is no power here, which is worrisome. We decided to forego paying for a slip and will just wait until 8 am when the fuel dock opens, fuel up and move on.

So we hit the sack. Yay!

Sept 17

6:05 am awake

Well, apparently the fuel dock hours we read were for October. The regular hours are 6 am to 9 pm and we were awakened suddenly by the fuel dock guy banging on the hull.

He was pretty good about it and we fueled and topped up the water tanks. He even offered us a spot off the main dock where we could move to if we wanted to grab breakfast at the local restaurant. The cheeky bugger spotted my magic cup of coffee and sent me back aboard to fill his cup up as well. Nice guy in the end, though.

7:15 off dock

I get to go through the channel again but this time it’s visible. There is a huge mudflat that the channel is dredged into. On either side there is anywhere from zero to six inches of water. Wander off of the marked channel and you are instantly aground.

Unfortunately my phone was charging and I’d left my camera below so I got no pictures. But there were herons and white cranes standing in the shallows and tons of pelicans and gulls squabbling in the mud.

About halfway out the 3 to 5 feet we had beneath the keel started to disappear and suddenly we thudded gently, grounding in sand bottom in 0.2 feet of depth. Then about 20 feet ahead we did it again. Thankfully the water got deeper immediately afterwards.

We exited the channel and headed out of the bay. Breakfast was served and we settled in for a shortish day. A few porpoises made a momentary appearance but apparently we really are boring.

9:00 am
38° 10.8732′ N,123° 1.1945′ W

We are motoring into SE wind of about 4-5 knots. Somewhere along the way it is decided our nice short day was a waste of time and “we” decide to bypass Drake Bay and go past San Francisco on to Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.

These people keep reading the guide books, getting me all excited and then skipping the destinations. It’s cruel and unusual punishment and I haven’t even done anything wrong. Much.

10:43 am
38° 1.9750′ N,123° 2.8706′ W
Point Reyes

We spot a few more whales and a lot of fishermen. This point can be bad in certain conditions, but these sure aren’t them. There is absolutely no wind.

The point is all rocks and cliffs and look really dramatic but it’s cloudy and misty and we see only a small hint of the majesty that is lurking behind the point at our original destination of Drakes Bay.

12:00 pm
37° 56.5132′ N,122° 58.1589′ W

We are entering the start of the southbound shipping lanes to San Francisco. We decide to head a bit east to parallel the lanes while Sea Esta opts to cut across.

It is dead calm. Tim spots what we believe are some tiny sharks/fins in water and we see them again and again for the next few hours. Very weird.

We also spot our first sunfish. At least that’s what I think they are called. I didn’t get a good picture but they are these big white blobs floating near the surface on their sides. We see a bunch more over the next few days. Also very weird.

We have lunch and spend some time troubleshooting battery/charging issue. We don’t really come to any sensible conclusions other than something seems hinky.

1:10 pm

It’s really warm and I start shedding layers. And the sun is out and it’s a beautiful day. Hazy on the horizon, though, and although we are less than 5 miles off shore we could be in the middle of the ocean for all that we can see anything.

There are, however, these funny annoying flies that don’t shoo easily. You get “swarmed” by 6 or so at a time and they crawl up your face or arms and won’t leave unless you brush them off.

More sunfish floating on surface. Still weird.

4:15 pm
37° 38.0294′ N,122° 37.9002′ W

Tim finally breaks down and decides to raise the gennaker. It lives under my berth so he had to take that all apart and shove it up the forward hatch. This is the giant colorful spinnaker with a charging bull on it that we had flown briefly on our circumnavigation, but he’d taken it into a sail loft and had it cut down.

A spinnaker is loose footed and hard to manage, but it’s like a giant parachute for sailing downwind in light winds. But it is really, really hard to manage without a bigger crew. Having been cut down, it’s now a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker. The foot is attached to the bottom of the forestay and you have to fly it in one side of the boat or another. That means you have to sail slightly off the wind and gybe when you want to change direction.

But it has a long sock that allows you to raise the sail and then raise the sock to release it. To take it down you just pull the sock down and you are left with a long tube, which is pretty easy to a manage on deck. The two of us handled it fairly effortlessly.

We started sailing 6 to 7 knots with just the one sail. Cool.

Another curious whale showed up but really, we must be totally boring because he was soon gone.

7:01 pm
37° 29.9180′ N,122° 28.9948′ W

We drop the gennaker and motored into the breakwater at Pillar Point Harbour, Half Moon Bay. This is about 20 nm outside of San Francisco Bay and about parallel with San Jose.

Sea Esta is already there at anchor but we opt to pick up a mooring buoy. Tim still has that cool mooring ball threader on a stick and a couple of minutes later we were done for the day. We rigged up a tarp to keep the moisture off everything and retired below for some delicious chicken thighs.

9:30 pm lights out

Once again we get to talking and we change the destination at the last minute. Now it’s a 7 am departure of Santa Cruz. We will have to see if we actually get there.