Vancouver to San Diego Part Twelve

Sept 24

5:50 am awake

Coffee. Then it’s time to gear up after our long, long break. I dig out the long johns and extra layers, and haul my stuff out into the cockpit and make ready for the day. Our plan is Port San Luis Opisbo which is a pretty short day, and then to the dreaded Point Conception in the predicted lull tomorrow.

Today was my first estimated date of return but we aren’t even at LA yet. I haven’t bothered trying to come up with a revised date for now. I will wait until Santa Barbara where the travel distances are much shorter. Mark still needs to be back in BC before the first of October and is pretty sure he is leaving from LA.

6:30 am

Off dock. It’s a warm wind but a light one, so no sailing for now.

6:45 am
35° 21.6065′ N,120° 52.2675′ W

We turn the last corner and leave Morro Bay behind.

As we clear the breakwater, the wind gains an edge of cold and our sea legs welcome back the swells. Standing on ground that wasn’t constantly moving has been just plain weird.

The Santa Annas are being predicted in the coming days, which will bring high temperatures in Southern California (into the 100s F) and potentially cause us wind problems with onshore winds up to 50 mph. If we are lucky they will manifest further south and then be gone when we get there. For now all we want to worry about is Point Conception when we decide to go.

8:00 am

Tim spots the first whales of the day off in the distance. There is a new kind of bird out there flying in small flocks really low to water and maneuvering at high speed. Fun to watch.

8:15 am
35° 13.7066′ N,120° 56.4685′ W

We raise the main with one reef, sailing downwind in 12-15 knots.

8:30 am

There is a huge school of dolphins way off the starboard side. We can see a long wall of white foam in distance and with the binoculars it turns out to be a massive number of dolphins thundering along. Since we are ahead of Sea Esta anyway we tack to try and get closer and end up chasing them back the direction we came. We never do catch them, though, as they are both faster and more maneuverable than we are. Eventually we tack back and resume our original heading.

9:00 am

Sea Esta calls and the first change of plans for the day is announced. The decision is made to do the long day to Cojo Bay, 55 nm and 10+ hours away. I’m good with that because it makes much more sense to me since the weather is good and a short day leaves us with nothing to do at anchor.


In the distance off Sea Esta‘s stern we spot 3 or 4 whales in the morning sunlight bouncing off water. Pretty; worthy of a painter or much better photographer than I.

9:40 am

We haul the gennaker up from below and get it rigged to go. Then I hoist the sock and we are flyin’ along at 6.5 knots with gennaker and main together; way faster than we can motor.

Paradisea and Pinocchio are 5 or so miles behind, also heading for Cojo and Harlequin is back there too somewhere. Looks like we all decided to make the most of the good weather, although most had expressed a plan to head to San Luis.

10:45 am
35° 1.9176′ N,120° 55.5180′ W

Now we are sailing along hitting 8.3 knots occasionally and it’s a great sail–very comfortable and a lot of fun.

I’ve got a good signal so I decided to post a blog entry. Turns out the signal’s not that good and it’s oh so painful getting the images to upload. But eventually I get it done. Lucky you!

11:30 am

Winds are climbing and get up to 19-20. We decide it’s time to haul the gennaker down, but it was grand while it lasted. Bringing it down was fun as the swells and the higher winds made me feel like I was dangling on the end of a giant kite. Woo-hoo…

But we are still making 7+ knots with just the main as the winds grow to 22-23 knots.

We spot a sun fish off port maybe 4 feet away and then another even closer a bit later. It’s to bad they go by so fast; they look fascinating and I’d love to look at one closely or at least get a decent picture.

1:00 pm
34° 45.8313′ N,120° 50.3459′ W

The winds are calming although seas remain steep with a short frequency. This means the distance between each wave is smaller than we’ve been experiencing and the anchor is occasionally just a foot out of water, and once or twice actually submerged as we hit the trough between waves.

We are still making speeds in high 6s though.

1:40 pm

Ho hum, more whales. But wait! There’s a dozen or so dolphins as well. That’s more exciting! Seriously, it’s like we are starting to treat whale sightings as mundane, we’ve seen so many in this trip.

There is an offshore oil rig in distance. That’s new. Oh, and more whale spouts.

2:15 pm
34° 38.1738′ N,120° 48.0613 W

The winds die to 5 knots just off Point Arguello which is the first of two closely related points that make up the “Cape Horn of the Pacific.” So we roll in the jib and start the engine and carry on our way.

One of the things we have been seeing with alarming frequency is those mylar balloons that say happy birthday or some such other celebratory phrase. I guess they are tougher than regular balloons and when they land out here they float on endlessly. It’s a bit sad the number we have seen.

I spot some sea lions (Donna says they’re porpoises) bounding out of the water between us and Sea Esta. They sure move fast when they are determined; and while I’m pretty sure I’m right, they look a lot like dolphins on the move and are just as fast.

It almost appears the oil rig we have been coming up on is under tow. There is an AIS target right in front of it moving at less than 1 knot. But then again, maybe not, as there are two more off in the distance. We do hear a call on the vhf saying there is a boat performing ROV operations in the vicinity, so maybe that’s what’s going on.

Then we spot a third platform. Seems like there’s oil to be found in Southern California.

I notice a huge structure on the coast line and check Google only to discover that Vandenberg Air Force Base is just off the port side. What I see is SLC 6, where the space shuttle had been planned to be launched. I haven’t been able to discover if they ever did do any missions from the West Coast as the Challenger disaster changed all the plans. Nonetheless, super cool!

3:35 pm
34° 32.3087′ N,120° 41.6592′ W

We are sailing again. We’ve got the main up with one reef and the genoa out, making 6.3 knots versus the 5.8 we were doing under motor. Our speed slowly climbs up to 7.5 as the winds also climb; the wind instrument is now showing 24 to 26 true.

4:30 pm

The consensus is we need to throw in a second reef. This is easier said than done when running downwind in stiff winds. There was some discussion about just toughing it out but what the hell, we need the practice anyway. To put in the reef we will need to heave to which is, as Tim succinctly puts it, going to be fairly violent. So for several exciting moments, as we swung up into the wind, with everything banging and crashing and heeled over almost 30° before we could backwind the genoa and bring us to a fairly stable stop, we had a wild ride all so we could let the main loose enough to work with. Then we worked to bring the sail down in a controlled manner while bouncing up and down the swells and still heeled over at a fairly significant angle. Once we got the main all cinched down again, we hauled on the main sheet and brought her around so we were now sailing downwind on the other tack. That meant we would have to gybe again, but we were heading offshore a bit so we we could clear Point Conception with a little extra room. All good fun.

So we headed out to sea for 10 minutes or so before we gybed back on original tack, which is always a touchy maneuver in anything less than calm winds. Soon we actually hit 10.2 knots surfing down the swells. These big points sure provide a lot of fun, but I would hate to be going the other way.

5:30 pm
34° 26.1957′ N,120° 29.8480′ W

We just passed Point Conception, which is the last big hurdle of the trip. We spotted and chatted to a sailboat named Sheila who was in fact going the other way. They were looking for a weather report and between us and Paradisea 5 miles back; we let him know the conditions he was facing. Watching him sure was uncomfortable as his bow would come up, and then crash down into to the oncoming swell. Didn’t look like much fun.

6:00 pm

We just rounded Government Point and are entering our anchorage for the night. It is literally right on the south side of Point Conception. The wind is suddenly warm and the whole environment has suddenly changed.

We try to maneuver around a bunch of massive kelp beds, fail miserably and slowly work our way past the crashing surf to where we can see Footloose, a 42-foot Katana catamaran, already anchored.

6:15 pm
34° 26.8886′ N,120° 26.4931′ W
Cojo Bay

All anchored. And I start stripping. It is so hot and my long johns and fleeces have got to go.

We are now sharing the bay with Footloose, Sea Esta, Harlequin, Paradisea, and Pinocchio. Four out of the six all destined for the Baja Haja.

It’s beautifully calm here but you can hear the surf crash all along the shore as the sun slowly sets over the point. And it’s still warm even after the sun disappears. I hang over the side and dip my toes in the water. Warm, but I’m not yet tempted to dive in.

The temperatures are still warmer than anything we’ve yet experienced, although I do grab a fleece as the evening progresses

We have a lovely dinner on deck and the stars are stunning with the Milky Way unraveling its splendor across the middle of the sky. There are so many stars. It’s one of those moments when you are reassured that it’s good to be alive.

What can I say? Beautiful, peaceful, glorious, amazing, all words to hint at the combination of peace and serenity being at anchor in this remote place with so few manmade objects to relate to and so many of nature’s glories to revel in.

Sept 25

6:40 am awake

I had a pretty bad sleep, the worst in fact, of the whole trip so far. Part of it was the anchor chain creaking on the bow roller as we swung around and part was that I was more than a little thirsty after the third, obviously inadvisable, glass of wine. But I was too lazy to get up and grab more water so there I lay, awake.

There was also the occasional odd beep from the main cabin and my phone would buzz. Hmmmmm…

7:22 am

Anchor up and we are off. But not without a few issues. The beeping I had been hearing was the inverter complaining and the house system was completely dead when we got up. Not even enough juice to power the solenoid to fire the stove to make coffee. Oh the inhumanity of it all! But the engine started fine so it was all good for recharging everything. But it’s another project…

The swivel on the anchor also bound, leaving the anchor in a position where we couldn’t bring it past the bow roller. But some manhandling popped it back into place and we got it all up and secure. Another project…

Footloose followed us out of the bay on almost exactly our heading so I guess we are all headed to Santa Barbara. The other three boats pull out about an hour behind us, but they are heading for the Channel Island to explore before heading on to San Diego.

Some frisky sea lions are racing us out on this sunny, warm day. They really are amazing to watch when they are going full tilt. The winds are south east at 8-10 knots so basically right on our nose.

8:30 am
34° 25.4321′ N,120° 19.7689′ W

There is very little swell and the winds are down to 5 knots or less. And it’s a straight shot to Santa Barbara so auto is going to do all the work today. We just need to try and stay cool and keep an eye out for occasional crab trap.

I started the day with no long johns and no windbreaker for the first time this trip. So far so good. I’ve just got my one fleece on and I might even be down to bare arms by noon.

10:15 am
34° 24.1893′ N,120° 8.6200′ W

Down to shirt sleeves. Woot!

10:25 am

We just drove through pack of porpoises. They were bouncing around right on our heading, veered off as we passed by and then joined us. They swam under the bow for 3 or 4 minutes before heading back to whatever important porpoise purposes they had previously been pursuing.

Look closely

The water is much clearer here and you can see the dolphins easily as they weave and whirl alongside. Donna got some nice video.

It’s calm and peaceful but it’s also pretty boring; I don’t think I would want to do days of this. We are passing a ton of oil rigs and can see Santa Cruz Island off in the distance.

12:30 pm
34° 22.9845′ N,119° 52.5833′ W

We just passed an oil rig fairly closely (a couple of thousand yards) and the water was filled with scum and oil residue. The smell of crude in the air was almost like being back in Alberta in the patch. I really hope this well was having a problem because if they are all putting out this much crap then I think California has a big issue.

1:00 pm

There is a huge pod of dolphins in distance. It’s an amazing sight, almost like a huge standing wave spanning hundreds of feet. Another appears smaller, about 300 feet off the port side. They don’t stick around and are heading somewhere fast.

2:30 pm
34° 24.5770′ N,119° 40.8985′ W
off Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

Well we are now at anchor in Santa Barbara off Stearns Wharf. Today’s deviation from the plan was pretty mild, consisting solely of giving up on tying up at the marina and opting to anchor out for free. There was a moment there when I was thinking we might carry on the 22 nm to Ventura since the winds were finally up, but the lazy buggers among us won through and we called it quits for the day.

3:20 pm

We’ve unshipped the dinghy from the davits for the first time and are now tied up to dinghy dock. The entrance to the marina past the wharf and breakwaters was as crowded and congested as I have ever experienced. In the narrow, congested channel there were surfers, paddle boarders, sailboats, jet skis, inflatables with outboards, swimmers, sailing dinghies and big powerboats all coming and going within a broad spectrum of sense and nonsense.

A quick visit to the harbour master and then we are hitting the showers to clean up and cool off. It’s is super sunny and warm so I opt for a warm shower with a cold water cool down to finish it off. Lovely.

It’s very hot, probably 30°. We all meet up at the West Marine below the harbor master’s office, then Mark and Jim head for a beer, Tim and Donna go downtown and I follow them as far as the old wharf before splitting off.

On my way back I walked along the beach and got my tourist quota of California girls and bikinis. Apparently the heat is due to the Santa Anas and pretty unusual, so the locals are taking advantage.

I grabbed a beer back at the marina head and then indulged in some people watching. I was having a bit of a crisis as I couldn’t get a charge on my phone before I left and was down below 20%. I had to curtail the blog entries And Candy Crush playing. A bit later I moved down to the dockside and watched the ridiculous traffic in marina. Keystone cops anyone… Phone down to 8%!!

A little after 6, I met up with Tim & Donna and we piled into the dingy for the ride home. on the way we stopped for a happy hour glass of wine on Sea Esta and then headed on to Northwest Passage

I relaxed reading in my berth for a bit to work off some of the heat and then headed up to enjoy the cool night breeze in the cockpit.

Dinner was BBQ’d steak and carrots eaten under the stars on a warm and calm evening.

Tim fussed with the electrical system with no discernible results. The alternator didn’t look like it had been charging the batteries while we were motoring. Then he decided to try out his new Honda generator. We are officially one of those people now, but the road noise from the city was so loud I doubt anyone noticed us running a generator at nine in the evening.

So I went to bed.