Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday May 31, 2014 - Port Orford, Oregon to Westport Wa.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 – Underway from Newport Oregon

Port Orford proved to be a great moorage.  Because we had stopped at noon on the 24th, we felt like we had a holiday.  By 6 am on Sunday the 25twe were off and heading north to Coos Bay. 

It was glassy leaving Port Orford and we ran close enough to the shore to see the almost endless display of offshore rocks that seems to characterize this part of the coast.  Many of these are named. While some, like Pillar Rock, NW Rock, Haystack Rock are obvious, others, like Fox Rock must have really stories.  
Pt Orford reef Oregon coast

The seas were so pleasant that we decided bypass Coos Bay and instead go into the little harbor of Winchester Bay at the outlet of the Umpqua River.  Although in bad weather this bar has a nasty reputation, we had no worries given our weather and going the extra distance would split the trip to Newport into two more equal portions.  A stop at Coos Bay would would have been about an 8 hour day and would leave us with a 14 hour day following to get into Newport.  By going on to Winchester Bay, we broke the trip into two more reasonable days.

Typical NW lighthouse

Winchester Bay is served by the Salmon Marina.  We called the telephone number in the cruising guide and got a recorded message telling us that the office hours were 8 to 5, Monday through Friday.  It being Sunday, that was not helpful.  I finally pushed the button for the “emergency operator” as distinguished from 911, and was connected to a lovely young lady.  I explained that we wanted to tie up that night around 6 with a 6 am departure and would not be there during office hours.  The operator finally put me through to Heidi who manages the RV park.  Heidi was very helpful and radioed Ralph, who radioed Steve, who finally explained we could use the after hours dock by the Coast Guard Station and leave $15 in the box at the head of the dock. 

For me, this marina was a real return to the Northwest.  It is a large marina, but nowhere near full and mostly populated by fishing boats displaying varing degrees of prosperity.  Many were the little classic wooden trawlers.  One was an old Tolly, literally covered with vegetation. One might have thought the fern glimpsed through the window was a house plant had it not been for the ferns growing through various portions of the exterior.  For $15 dollars we were  snug and slept very well.

For Earl, the Umpqua held old memories.  One of his jobs with the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration in the early 60’s involved lots of sampling at the mouth of this river.

The next day was Memorial Day and as we neared Newport late in the afternoon we were treated to the sight of two multimasted wooden boats.  Once was the Lady Washington who we have seen before.  I never did get the name of the other. They were apparently engaged in a mock battle because we could hear cannons.  Both boats carried passengers, apparently in period costumes,  and as they rocked around we wondered it any of them were not sea sick.  It was fun.
Memorial Day seabattle in front of Newport OR

Newport is huge harbor with multiple marinas.   We opted to anchor out.  Earl says we are too cheap to pay, but the truth is that it is much less work to anchor than to pull out all the ropes and bumpers to tie up at a dock and then undo them early the next morning.  
Newport Or Coast Guard station

Our anchorage was just perfect.  We are apparently in the season when birds ‘do their thing”.  At Winchester, we saw gulls doing it.  (She did not seem impressed.)  In Newport we had a trio of pigeon guillemots.  They are a flashy bird, black with white winds and red feet.  The inside of their beaks are also bright red.     The three seems to be getting along fine, when suddenly two went off in one direction and started engaging in courtship rituals while the other had a tantrum.  He squawked with his red mouth open and thrashed around in the water.  Not a happy loser.
Condos near our anchorage

Newport Bridge from our anchorage

Today we left early, around 5, as soon as the tide was easing on the bar and are headed north towards the Columbia River.  We will cross the bar and anchor in the river or keep going over night to Westport, Earl’s home town.

Going is nice.  We passed Cape Lookout where in one scenario we had thought to anchor.  It has a spectacular cave at the base.

Point Lookout

Saturday, May 31, 2014  - Westport Washington

 Well, as on other occasions this trip, the weather looked better than it was forecasted to be the next day, so we continued on past the Columbia River and on to Westport.  Not having to negotiate the Columbia River Bar and the additional mileage in and out of the river was a definite time saver and the weather was reasonable.  It was no doubt the right thing to do, but after we finally tied up in Westport at 7 am after having to kill time waiting for the tide at the bar, we were pooped.  No more overnights ever, says Earl.  AMEN
Sunset off the Columbia River
I don’t really remember much of anything about Wednesday our first day here.  I think we both spent most of it sleeping.

Bright and early on Thursday morning, Earl’s long time friend -75 years worth- Brady came by for coffee and muffins.  They had a great time catching up.  It was a rainy day and not very conducive to washing the boat which we had put on the agenda.  Instead, Earl and I took the bus to Aberdeen, the closest town with a car rental agency.  It is wonderful that there is a public transportation system here, even if it only runs Monday through Friday during the day.  It cost us each $1.  We took a little van that picked us up from the head of the dock and took us and a number of other people who waved it down, to the park and ride on the outskirts of town where we transferred to a larger bus for the 20 miles to Aberdeen.

We picked up the car and scheduled to return it before the agency closed for the weekend and went to look for a haircut for Earl.  The closest turned out, from Earl’s brief observation, to be haircut plus some preaching the word of God, so he decided to look for something else.  We stopped first for what turned out to be surprisingly good Thai food at a takeout place that had a few tables outside, but under cover.  On the proprietor’s recommendation we drove to Rex’s barber shop in the adjoining community of Hoqium and Earl emerged 30 minutes later looking much more respectable.  His last haircut had been close to 2 months ago and he was beginning to look like a street person.

We did shopping and drove back to town.  Rhododendrons thrive in this coastal climate.  Most of the old houses are very modest and many of them are drarfed by rhodies planted along side them, probably when the houses were new.  They are very beautiful.

After a little boat cleaning, we treated ourselves to dinner on the town.  It turned out the most highly recommended place was not in Westport, but at Bennets in the little community of Grayland down the highway.  We had a very good dinner, with crab cakes and chicken left over for lunch the next day.

Friday the sun was out and we went to work getting the boat spic and span.  Earl did a wonderful job outside.  I did the galley before leaving to return the car.  I found the battery was dead –apparently someone left the lights on the night before.  But this is small and friendly town and a nice woman passerby offered to get me a jump.

That night Brady and his wife Happy came for dinner and, again, we had a wonderful time catching up.  Brady brought Earl a huge bag of live oysters.  He knows how to make Earl happy!  The big party will be tomorrow.  We are hosting an open house for Earl’s school classmates that are still in the area and, probably, a few others.  His class only had 20 some kids in it, so I expect it will be a small reunion, but probably we will have enough to make it a crowd for the Serenity.  Daisy will be in heaven thinking everyone is there to see her.

This morning as we were having breakfast, Brady showed up with a bunch of freshly dug razor clams for Earl.  Razor clams are absolutely Earl’s favorite food.  He had thought about going to dig some but instead he just whined to Brady. Between the clams and the oysters, he is in heaven.

NW shellfish heaven!

"small" oyster appetizer - just a snack!

Monday we will be heading off again.  Of course the weather gods are probably not smiling on us.  It looks like today and Sunday will be the best weather of the week.   Regardless, I am sure we will go.  Like a horse that smells the barn door, we are ready to be home. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sunday, May 24, 2014 - from Fort Bragg, CA to Port Orford, OR

Friday, May 23, 2014 – heading north from Trinidad Harbor

Fort Bragg Marina

Departure from Fort Bragg on Thursday was predawn.  The tide had already begun to ebb and full ebb is the worst time to cross bars.  The crabber tied next to us pulled out and we followed within 10 minutes around 5 am. 

I was not looking forwarded to the day, and, in retrospect, it is one I could happily have skipped altogether.  We knew from the weather that it would be better today then any other day for a week so we felt we had to go regardless. The lump started as soon as we left the river.  After Wednesday, I was apprehensive.  I have to say that it was not as bad as Wednesday, but it was still an uncomfortable ride for most of the day.  Initially we were barreling along at over 7 knots, and with the current against the wind the swells were large and close. 

At some point between Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino the current changed, so we traded 2 knots of speed for a more comfortable, if longer, ride.  It was cold so we had all the windows closed and I was taking comfort from the wind gauge that never varied from 6.  Of course, Earl had to point out to me that it was not working and he thought it was probably blowing 30 to 35.  I was happier thinking it was 6.

I am now accustomed to having everything on the floor.  I had been diligently putting things back on the berth above the bench in the pilot house.  I am no longer bothering.  It is easier to step over stuff than dodge it.

Our choice was between going into Eureka and getting a slip or going on 20 miles to Trinidad and anchoring.  Bypassing Eureka was a time saver and also allowed for an early departure today.  The downside of that decision was it was 12:30 by the time we inched our way into the Trinidad harbor between crab pots.  As it turned out, we did not go in far enough and ended up with a very rocky night, made even worse by the periodic banging of an unlatched closet door.  I was too tired to care, but it was not a great night.  Earl called it quits at 6 and pulled the anchor. 

We are headed for Brookings, just above the California Border, and more than halfway up the US coast.  It is a beautiful ride.  The wind gauge which has been reset says 8, the seas are flat and we are going 6.6.  An added bonus, so far we have seen no crab pots once past Trinidad.  Who cares if it is foggy!  Even better, Brookings is about 60 miles from Trinidad.  We should be able to tie up by late afternoon and have a nice dinner on a stable table. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014 – Anchored at Port Orford, Oregon

Well I spoke too soon.  Not 5 minutes after writing that we had seen no crab pots, we started to see them.  However, the weather remained reasonable and the fog lifted. 

Brookings turned out to be out of the question.  They required that our insurance company fax them a copy of our insurance policy specifically adding Brookings port as a covered party.  At 4:45 pm that was not going to happen.  We had found a couple of possible anchorages not too far from Brookings and, since the weather was okay, decided to head north. 

We opted for Mack Arch.  Here the anchorage is tucked behind a combination of reef and standing rocks and it looked good.  In we went and found that the seas were definitely reduced, but the swell did continue.  Dinner demanded coordination as the boat rolled and when we got to bed, the gentle rocking was sometimes rather more than less.  It was, however, far better than the night we had spent in Trinidad! 

Mach Arch

By morning we were in a sea of fog.  At about 6 we headed north.  It was not the best, but far from the worst, of conditions.  The only other boats we saw were some good sized crabbers.  They must have thought we were nuts (and who is to say that we aren’t?)  The winds were 20 to 25 and gusting to 35.

Happiness is a great anchorage, with no swell, at noon!  We got into Port Orford and tucked in behind a cliff to the north and watch as our wind gauge dropped from 35+ to 15.  There was time for Earl to wash down the boat while I picked up the debris from the last few days before of lovely lunch of Bloody Marys and potstickers.  The afternoon included naps, reading, knitting, trimming Daisy’s eyebrows and just enjoying a boat that was not moving. 

Happy anchorage at Port Orford

Port Orford is not your usual harbor.  There is no marina.  Instead the boats are lifted out of the water by cranes and stored on land. 
Port Orford non- marina

After the last few days since leaving Bodega Bay our expectations of sea conditions have certainly changes.  White water seems normal.  However, I am an optimist.  The weather for the next few days looks like it will be better.  Here’s hoping!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday May 21, 2014 Fort Bragg from Dana Point

Monday May 12, 2014  - Heading to Point Conception

We spent 5 nights at Dana Point and got a ton accomplished.  Jeddy was able to find an appropriate fabric, which if anything goes better with the upholstery than the old, and got the new rugs cut and installed by Thursday am.  He is a wonder, fast and very reasonable.  Earl and I are each hoping that we will not be the first to spill on them.

The other major accomplishment was the installation by Earl of a beautiful new toilet in our master head.  What a Mother’s Day gift!  It is a Dometic.  It is a simple design and seems to use less water more efficiently than the Raritan that it replaced.  We are ecstatic! 

On Tuesday night we were able to hook up with my cousin Brad who lives in Pasadena.  Brad, Shannon and daughter Cassandra came for a boat tour and dinner.  Cassie did not really understand how one could live on a boat until her tour and then she suggested that she continue on with us and send Daisy to keep her parents company.  She is a delightful 8 year old and a budding marine biologist.  She had a wonderful time with my shell collection and, impressively, quickly identified a partial sea urchin shell.  Pretty smart young one as well as cute as a button.
Brad, Shannon and Cassie
We were in a slip right on the main dock in front of the Nordhavn offices and Earl was delighted to have a number of people stop to admire Serenity and ask if she was new.  Fito has done a great job keeping her looking that way!

We left Dana Point at 5 am on Friday the 9th anxious to make some distance.  By mid morning it became clear that the weather was deteriorating and we headed into the Los Angles harbor where we waiting out the winds the next day.  It was a great anchorage and we were treated to a show.  The winds combined with the breakwater were a godsend to the windsurfers who whipped around us performing acrobatics.  Meantime, in the distance we could see tankers, cruise ships and container ships moving in and out of their berths non stop.  The Long Beach – Los Angles harbor complex is beyond busy!

Anchorage at north end of LA Harbor


Daisy gets an LA trim

Container ship
Incoming ship

Convinced that the weather would be great, we head out again at 5 am on Sunday the 11th.  Happy Mother’s Day!  It was blowing 25, a six-foot swell with a 3-foot chop on top.  A very uncomfortable ride.  We had planned on a 15-hour 90-mile day to Santa Barbara, but were delighted to tie up in the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, miles short of our goal.  It is a ‘moderate’ sized marina – at least by California standards- only room for 2,600 boats.

At 5 am on the 12 we were at it again. Monday the 12th is an important day for at least one member of our family.  Our darling Bella turned 10, into the double digits and too rapidly leaving childhood in the rear mirror. 

Monday turned into an interesting day – for once not due to lumpy seas.  Around 10 am 5 miles of so past Santa Barbara we began to notice a diesel smell.  It got stronger and the odor was joined by oil sheen.  As we neared a drilling platform (Holly) we started to see substantial amounts of dirty oil in the water.  Earl called the Coast Guard who told us that there were natural seeps in the area but gave us the national spill report hotline.  Earl called and spoke to someone on the East Coast, and in time we received a call from Brett, from the Coast Guard in Santa Barbara.  We sent him some photos and he advised us that he had called the platform and they reported no problems.  Apparently there can be natural discharges of oil in the range of 50 to 150 barrels a day.  6,500 gallons is a good deal of oil, but we are still not convinced.  Anyway, we went on our way wondering how much dirty oil we would have on our water line.
Oil in Santa Barbara Channel

"Natural Seep"

The seas were lovely so we decided to go around Point Conception and head on north.  Point Conception can be knarly, but it was fine today, except…. We were about 200 yards off the rocky point and had just photographed the lighthouse when the boat suddenly stopped responding to the wheel and started to turn in circles.  We had lost our steering. Although this was a pretty bad place to lose control of the boat, Earl was calm as cucumber and knew exactly what to do.  As he suspected the bolt connecting the hydraulic cylinder to the tiller had fallen off and with a large crescent wrench in hand he descended into the lazarette and had the problem fixed within 10 minutes.  My hero! 

Pt Conception Light House

Finally about midnight, having left Oxnard at 5 am, we arrived at Port San Luis, approximately 120 miles from our starting point.  Determining where to anchor was a little dicey with only the radar and a guidebook. We have great lights, but they are so bright that Earl did not want to turn them for fear of disturbing others.  Finally, finding ourselves in 40 feet of water, we set our anchor and collapsed into our beds. 

Tuesday May 13th, from Port San Luis to Monterey.

Having managed 120 miles yesterday, we decided to go for it again today.  The weather is just about perfect and it was Monterey or San Simeon, with San Simeon only 40 miles from Port San Luis.  The weather for today and tomorrow is forecast to be fine, with winds starting on Thursday pm and continuing at least till Tuesday.  We will have to cool our heels for the better part of week, so today and tomorrow we will be going for distance.  Hopefully Thursday pm will see us in Bodega Bay, nice and snug and maybe with a rental car.

So far today nothing exciting has happened, which is how we like it.  The sea is mostly glassy and we are benefiting from a near shore current that has been keeping our speed closer to 7 knots than to 6. The weather is in the 70’s and Daisy is enchanted to be able to run in and out to her look out on the bow.

This is a beautiful and unsettled coast.  We were able to see the Hearst Castle at San Simeon, but since then there has been little sign of civilization other than the coast road and the train right by the edge of the shore.  Earl has enjoyed watching the reflections of cars windshields disappear as they go through tunnels.  The road must have been very expensive to build. 
Big Sur

As an indication of the remoteness of this coast, for the first time since we neared Ensenada Mexico, we have lost cell phone coverage.  Technologically we have made strides since we went south in 09.  In Mexico we got used to using the modem and a router to provide us with Wi Fi in the boat.  Once we crossed into the USA and using data on our AT&T iPhones became financially doable, we turned Earl’s iPhone into a hotspot and have enjoyed Wi Fi for our iPad and iMac.  We are connected!

One nice thing about having the Wi Fi is the weather forecasting.  We got used to using Buoyweather and Predictwind in Mexico when there was no option.  Although we can get weather from Ocens on our Sat phone or from the NOAA, I find I prefer these programs that let me really study the wind patterns.  NOAA has a very long forecast, only a small portion of which is of interest to us.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014  - underway from Drakes Bay to Bodega Bay

It was 12:30 Tuesday night when we set our anchor in Monterey.  A very long day and about 120 miles from the predawn departure from San Luis, but we agreed that we did not feel as tired as the night before and that we could not remember many more lovely days.  It was glassy all day and the scenery was incredible. 

There were so many lights and boats in Monterey that even with the radar and plotter we found finding the anchorage a challenge.  It is far easier to go into a remote anchorage at night than an unfamiliar town.

Wednesday was another perfect day.  Only the scenery changed as we cruised past Half Moon Bay and across in front of San Francisco and the golden gate bridge.  The seas continued glassy.  We would have felt completely blessed if it had not been for the crab pots that littered our way.  It certainly forced us work the watch more diligently than we have in the past.  Welcome to the start of the Northwest.

We arrived in Drakes Bay at 10 pm and anchored along side a small fleet of commercial boats under a beautiful full moon.  The 100 mile day felt much shorter than the two 120 days that had preceded it.  With only 20 miles to Bodega Bay the next morning, we went to bed determined to sleep in.

And we did sleep in.  Amazing that leaving at 6:45 can seem so late.  It was after dawn and all the commercial boats were gone, so at least by those measures it was late. 

Leaving Drakes Bay
It was lovely when we left Drakes Bay, but we were soon into Northwest Fog.  The radar is on.  The weather forecast after Friday is poor.  We will stop and visit family.

Pt Reyes Light House
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gale warnings for today, so we are snug in a slip in Fort Bragg.  Actually, snug is exactly the right word.  One foot less in either direction and we would not fit.

We had a nice stop in Bodega Bay.  Spud Point Marina is a very nice marina with lovely cement docks.  But what a change from Mexico!  This is primarily a commercial fishing marina.  We were something of a rarity and got a lot of interest from the locals, who like us had heard nasty weather forecasts. 
Bodega Bay - Not a cruiser hang out

This was our first chance to wash the boat since leaving Oxnard.  As we expected, we have an oil ring around our boat from the “natural seeps” in the Santa Barbara Channel.  We were only able to get to one side of the boat.  She will really need a wash when we get to Anacortes.

Friday we rented a car.  This required taking a bus to Sebastopol to pick up the car since Enterprise’s pickup range was only 10 miles.  While I was getting the car, Earl was getting some crab.  There had been no live crab available Thursday, but Friday morning we saw a crab boat unload.  Prices are very high.  We paid $20 a piece for some beautiful ones.  We cooked them all and ate two for lunch, bringing the others with us to Teri and Stuart to share. 

Teri and Stuart, our son and daughter in law, live in Santa Rosa, about 45 minutes from Bodega Bay.  Of course, we had managed to arrive the one week when Stuart had warned us he would be out of town.  He had a big conference in Monterey and Teri drove down to join him for a weekend of R&R.  Teri had left a key under the mat and we made ourselves at home, which included giving their kitty the unending love that he demanded.

On Saturday I drove down to San Jose to see my nephew and his two daughters.  The eldest, Sarah, I had last seen on our way south in 2009.  She remembered our boat and, even more, Daisy.  Alison was in utero at the time, so this was my first chance to meet her.  We met at Happy Hallow, a combination zoo and amusement park.  The girls are delightful and we had a great time getting to know one another.
Sarah and Alison

Sunday, we did some minor shopping for an eclectic assortment of items.  That evening Stu, Teri, daughter Meaghan plus Meaghan’s young man John had dinner with us.  Instead of having crab cakes, Earl having eaten all the crab, we went to Willi’s Wine Bar and had a very California experience.  We drank lovely wine while sharing little small plates of good things.  It was a very nice, if expensive, evening.

Monday, everyone went off to work and we headed back to Bodega Bay and unloaded the clean laundry and groceries.  Then I drove back to return the car and killed 3 hours waiting for the bus to return to the marina. 

Tuesday the alarm went off at 3:30 and we were off by 4 am on our trek north.  Our destination was not yet set.  Fort Bragg is the only marina within reach but there are several anchorages that we could use, although most were not ones we would be comfortable going into after dark.  The morning was not bad.  There was no wind and the swells were in the 6-foot range.  Then we rounded Point Arena and the swells grew and got closer together. The USCG announced that the bar conditions at Fort Bragg were hazardous and posted gale warning starting at 3 for outside waters.  We decided against anchoring out.  Luckily we had no wind, but we certainly had big swell relatively close.  Some of them must have been 15 feet with ‘feathers’ on top.  I did not enjoy the afternoon. 

Because of the warning and being unfamiliar with Fort Bragg, Earl called the Coast Guard to tell them that we were coming in.  They helpfully provided an escort, but actually the bar here was something of a non-event.  It was much pleasanter than the swell outside.  That said, I was pretty whipped by the time we got into our slip.  My knees felt like jelly and Earl said his did too.  Thank God for the stabilizers.  Even with them we had things tossed around.  My major worry was that they would choose that moment to go out. 

Tomorrow we will try to get around Cape Mendocino.  We are forecast to have about a 12-hour weather window.  Once north of the Cape we can start to look forward to better weather as we get up to the Oregon Coast.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sunday May 4, 2014 - Dana Point

Sunday, May 4, 2014 – Enroute from San Diego to Dana Point

Friday night Clark treated us to an awesome dinner at the Punta Moro Resort near the marina.  It is a spectacular setting, reminiscent of La Joya and the restaurant was on a par with the view.  Everything was beautifully prepared and served.  It was a wonderful last dinner in Mexico.
View from the restaurant at Punto Moro

Joan looking for the green flash

Post dinner stroll at Punta Moro

Sometime around 5 am on Saturday we took off for San Diego, blessed with smooth seas and a favorable current that boosted our speed to 7+ knots.  Would that all days going north could be the same!  
Blowing 40 plus

Seas as they ought to be

As we travelled north, I knew we were getting close to Southern California when I spotted the first mylar balloon.  On the way down, the sea was spotted with hundreds of them.  A very sad thing to see. 

As we approached San Diego the traffic and activity increased.  Several sail boats races where underway and we enjoyed watching the boats drop their jibs and lift their colorful spinnakers as they rounded the buoy.  In addition to racers, there were many other assorted craft enjoying the beautiful weather.  We particular enjoyed a couple of classic multi sailed boats
Boats in front of San Diego

Beautiful Sailor!

Coming into San Diego, we felt like country bumpkins hitting the big city for the first time.  After 5 years of boating in Mexico, we were unaccustomed to the hurly burly of a major port.  Although there were clearly marked traffic lanes going into the harbor, we seemed to be one of the few boats to honor them.  Vessels of all descriptions, from freighters to kayaks and paddleboards, were going every which way!  The only things not moving were the piles of sea lions hauled out on the buoys, something we had not seen since we left the USA in 2009. 

Sea lions let you know you are back in California
We were pretty stressed by the time we managed to tie up at the police dock to clear customs. 

Earl had asked me to check on the hours that customs were open before we left Ensenada.  The website I had found indicated that they were opened until 5 everyday but Sunday and listed procedures for contacting them.  Happily Earl had written down the information because it turned out that they were not on hand on Saturdays.  After an hour or so, a couple of very nice men came down and did the paperwork for us to reenter.  Turns out they were originally from New York and one of them gave me a big hug before leaving. 

We had made reservations at the Cabrillo Marina.  When we finally found our slip, not an easy task in this giant place, it turned out to be too narrow.  Earl did manage to slip in, but there was no room for bumpers on either side.  Fuming, Earl went to the marina office to demand a slip to fit us.  He did well.  In compensation for our trouble, we got a 72 foot slip gratis. 

We had done such a good job of eating all the food that might be confiscated at customs that our larder was pretty bare.  I had hoped to make a quick trip to Trader Joes that is only a mile from our moorage, but happily settled for pizza delivered to the marina from Pizza Nova.  It was very good and Joan and Clark are now converts to Thai Chicken Pizza.  After dinner we walked up to the little deli near the marina office and picked up eggs to make French toast for breakfast from the sour dough bread that had come along with the pizza.  Joan spied a freezer of ice cream bars, so we all had Hagen Daas ice cream bars for dessert.  A wonderful welcome home to the USA meal!

We said goodbye to Joan and Clark a little before 8 am and were off within minutes for our run to Dana Point where we will be spending a few day.  In 2007 when we bought the boat, we had rugs made by Jeddy in Dana Point.  Now after 7 years of use and abuse (what else could you call spilling a whole jar of Yoy Soy Sauce) they are rather sad and we are looking forward to replacements.

In addition, despite Earl’s best efforts with the toilet plunger, the master head after complaining for the last few months has finally said no mas!  A new toilet awaits us in Dana Point.  Fortunately we only had to share the forward head with guests for a couple of days.  During that time, we developed a new meaning to the verb facilitate.  For us it meant using the facilities as in asking others if they had any objections to our facilitating.

Two things to which we will need to become reaccustomed:  NOAA weather forecasts over the radio and reliable charts on the plotter.  Both are blessings that before cruising in Mexico we took for granted. I for one will take a while to internalize the reliability of the plotter after years of having it show us crossing islands in the Sea of Cortez.

I am doing a whole day of laundry as we head north.  Our laundry bag which is on Earl’s side of the bed when we have guests, had long since reached capacity and there was a small mountain that threated to soon reach the as high as the bed.  We have so many things hanging out to dry on the railing that Earl says someone may think we are trying to signal distress. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014 - From Cabo to Ensenada

Sunday, April 27 – Turtle Bay

Cross above Cabo San Jose Marina

We spent a couple of pleasant days at San Jose del Cabo.  The marina is comfortable– although not anywhere as nice as Costa Baja with very industrial artwork. We enjoyed dinner at Sharon and Dave’s condo where we discussed politics until 11:30.  Pretty late for us folks.  The next two days we provisioned and cleaned before picking up Joan and Clark at the airport.  We had a good dinner at the Tropicana, recommended for Mexican food.  Although it was not the fish tacos which I had expected, the food was excellent and the entertainment unexpected.  Halfway through dinner a large group in crazy masks and very enhanced bosoms danced their way up the sidewalk and around us looking for donations.  They were a hoot.


We left San Jose del Cabo on Friday the 18th.  The going was not nice and Earl decided when the wind hit 30 that we would be well served to go and anchor for the night in front of Cabo San Lucas.  It was both Good Friday and Joan and Clark’s 50th wedding anniversary.   

Joan and Clark - 50 years and going strong

Holy Week is a big holiday for the Mexicans and we felt rather as if we had anchored in the middle of an amusement park.  The beach was literally covered with beach umbrellas and people, while a few brave souls were in the rather chilly water swimming or kayaking.  One woman was attached to some kind of device that powered water jets under her feet and sent her soaring into the air.  There was music blaring and everyone was apparently having a wonderful time.  A barge anchored near us selling beer was covered with drinkers.  At sunset, a number of boats turned on decorative lights and then there were fireworks.  It was very festive.  Not exactly what I would have thought for Good Friday in a Catholic country.  

Cabo beach
Party Boats
Beer Barge

We celebrated the anniversary with pepper steaks, champagne and a frozen Costco chocolate cake that we are still have not finished a week later. 

Saturday morning just as the sky was lightening, we started off for a long run to Santa Maria just north of Mag Bay.  As we rounded the Cape we were treated to the sight of a large whale breaching beside us.  I guess he was wishing us a good trip north.  It was a lovely start to our bash.

The Cape (Cabo San Lucas)

Between Cabo San Lucas and Mag Bay it is a long 152 miles at 6 mph with no place to stop.  It was choppy when we started and got worse.  No fun!  We bucked our way north and worked muscles we had forgotten about trying to keep from falling as we made our way around the boat.  Daisy had the worst of it.  She could not stand on the bow to relieve herself and even walking in the boat was tough.  Earl finally put a towel down on the back deck so that she could get some traction.  It took her several days to recover.  The weather got worse during the night but by the time we arrived at Santa Maria, 172 miles from Cabo on Sunday the 21st it was actually becoming pleasant.  
Bahia Santa Maria

We were exhausted and spent the next day recovering.  Apparently we are all 5 years older than when we came south and probably we are better off not doing too many over night runs.  We celebrated our safe arrival with a luxury dinner of rack of lamb and the next night suffered through fresh lobsters that Clark bought from a pangero.  They were probably not legal since we have since been told everywhere else north that the season is closed.
Lobster Night!

We saw what may be the new generation of Baja fisherman.  Still in pangas, these guys wore nice raingear, spoke some English and had a boatload of hammerhead sharks, which must be a profitable catch.  From what we could understand, the fins go to Asia and the bulk of the meat is made into surimi.  
Panga load of hammerheads
Clark and Daisy fishing

The trip south along the Baja with the winds on your tail is called the Baha Haha and it was a pleasant trip.  The trip north is rightly called the Baja Bash.  As one of the guide books put it:  The prevailing wind and swell that was fun at 15 -20 knots going downwind, can become a bear when beating into an apparent wind in excess of 20-25 knots.  The advice is to hug the coast to reduce the winds but that adds about 100 miles to the distance.  It is also advised to travel early in the day before the afternoon winds come up.  Thus, we have been making more stops than we did going south and instead of the 8 days it took us from Ensenada to Cabo in 2009, we will be lucky to make it in two weeks. 

A 3 am departure from Santa Maria on Tuesday, April 22 got us to Juanico 7:20 pm.  It was a long overcast day, but seas were reasonable. We saw a few large grey whales. One crossed right in front of the boat so Clark slowed down and gave it the right of way- it was coming from the right.  The time was filled with lots of knitting and naps.  Joan is a machine, whipping off a cap a day.

An 11 hour run got us from Juanico to Abre Ojos at 7 pm on Wednesday. It was choppy, but we were treated to gulls fighting for position on our front railing and porpoises came for Daisy’s delight.  After we anchored, two pangas, each modified by the addition of a cabin, came by.  They were the Mexican federal fish and game checking to see if we were poachers.
Gulls on the railing

Mexican Fish and Game

Leaving Abre Ojos at dawn

Thursday April 24th was a choppy nine hour ride from Abre Ojos to Asuncion which we left early so as to get to Turtle Bay in time to do some shopping on the 25th.  The conditions were wonderful as we neared Turtle Bay but the weather report was for some big winds on the afternoon of the 26th and lasting through the am on the 28th.  We were tempted to run north, but Turtle Bay is by far the best anchorage in which to wait out the weather. So there we stayed

It would not be boating if there were not some issue.  The first day out Clark mentioned that the water pressure was low.  It would start out fine but quickly fall off.  There were lots of theories and heavy engineering discussions between the capitanos.  The first attempt was to check the electrical connections.  That was declared a success – at least for 15 minutes.  The next attempt, on the theory that something was stuck in the line- was to blow air through the pipes using an electrical air pump.  Again a success.  Again short-lived.  The final (always the one that works) was replacing the pump.  Apparently the pump that we had replaced just before leaving La Paz had a connector that was cross-threaded and allowed air to leak into the system.  Somebody goofed, but all is well that ends well.

The water maker was also not working well.  It kept shutting itself off.  We assumed it was connected to the water pressure issue.  But it turned out not to be so.  So when we finally had water pressure, we did not have enough water to take showers and do laundry.  The situation was becoming desperate when Earl checked the filters and discovered that they were plugged with plankton.  New filters and new water pump and life is good.  We are all less fragrant.

Joan, Clark and I took a panga ride into the pier to do some shopping in Turtle Bay.  The panga ride was fine, but the landing was not ideal. We tied up at a dock that was far beyond rickety.  The pangero demonstrated walking precisely in the middle so as to keep from tipping into the water. When we got to the stair of the pier, we were faced with a sad looking stairway about 2 feet across the water from the shaky dock.   We made it and walked a guano covered pier to shore.  
Guano encrusted dock (smelled good too!)
We had toured Turtle Bay on our way south and it was as dusty as we remember.  The buildings by the pier are derelict and rusty and the town is worn.  The grocery store was more impressive than I remember – probably due to 5 years of shopping in tiny village tiendas on the Baja.  The fruit and vegetable selection was not large but we got enough to see us to Ensenada.

Turtle Bay - not really a resort community
We stayed at anchor for two days and watched as the harbor filled up.  A number of other boats joined us to wait out the weather and we watched a surprising amount of commercial fishing traffic.  There were a couple of old seiners and the scene was pretty remenisant of our Alaska fishing days.  
Commercial fishing boats
So here we sit making water and doing laundry and resting. 

Tuesday, April 29th – enroute to Bahia San Carlos

After considerably checking of weather, we left Turtle Bay at 7:15 on Monday morning headed for the north end of Cedros Island.  It looked as it we would have a lumpy but not impossible ride that day and better weather the next.  We were met by good sized swells with white caps on top.  Thank God for stabilizers.  The Serenity rides like a duck.  Joan and I spent the morning knitting, playing cards and killing flies.  We apparently brought a boatload of them with us from Turtle Bay.

As soon as we got in the lee of Cedros Island the water flattened out.  The south end of the island has a deep harbor at which ocean going tankers are filled with salt.  The salt is produced in Scammon Lagoon, loaded on barges and tugged over to the island.  The barges are equipped with conveyer belt system to unload the salt on to the shore where it is added to the huge pile that is already there. 
Loaded salt barge

The ride up the east side of the island was scenic.  The hillsides are very dramatic.  As we got to the northern end, we started passing beaches covered with sea lions.  They lie on the shore like cord wood and bark. 
Sea lions on the beach
Our anchorage was steep, so we anchored close the beach and the seals. Earl put out 150 feet of chain and we enjoyed quiet rocking and noisy seals.  Earl got up in the middle of the night and saw some of them swimming through our underwater lights.

We started off a dawn on Tuesday to head north to San Carlos, 
We had very large swells, 9 or 10 feet, but we seem to be getting our sea legs.  Daisy even made it to the front deck and managed to do her business.  A true Salty Dog.  I have rediscovered the technique of bracing oneself in the galley that I had mastered when we commercial fished.  It must be like riding a bike – one never forgets.  The boat continued to perform beautifully and we passed a pleasant day.  As the evening approached the seas flattened and the report for Wednesday is excellent.  We will probably do an overnight from San Carlos into Ensenada.

Wednesday, April 30, heading north from San Carlos

Well we had quite a night!  The anchorage in the bay is a good way off the beach, but as we anchored we could hear the surf roar.  It seemed almost as if it echoed around the little bay. At 1 am the wind came up from land to the NE.  By 2, the boat was pitching and we could hear loud banging noises.  The wind was warm – 78 degrees – and wild.  We clocked 56 mph.  Earl and I went upstairs in our nightclothes to see what was going on – my initial thought was that the stabilizer had somehow gotten fouled.  But no, our trusty chain hook on the bridle had failed and was inoperable.  Earl managed to find our spare bridle in a storage box on top of the house and went out to hook up the replacement and retrieve the bent one.  As soon as he had that done, he replaced the hook on our bridle with a different model.  Just in time, as the second one also failed.  By this time Clark had come up and we gave Earl our moral support from the cabin as we watched him bent over the bow roller, his nightshirt around his ears, attaching the bridle.  It was an unforgettable sight – no photos. 
Twisted chain hook #2

As it grew light around 5:30, we began the process of pulling up an anchor that was more than well-set in wind that was still gusting 45.  With the wind on our starboard we blew out San Carlos and headed north.

Fortunately, once away from the shore, the Santa Ana type wind dissipated and we are enjoying a good ride with long swells.  We had some unexpected visitors.  Some little yellow birds –identified by Clark as Wilson Warblers-, apparently blown offshore, landed on the boat and flew in and out of the cabin.  They were not the least afraid and made themselves at home, helpfully doing away with the last of the flies that we had been carrying with us.  One landed on Daisy’s back and rested, then another tried to preen Daisy’s beard.  Joan had one on her finger and Earl’s head was apparently also an appealing perch.  Delightful!

Wilson Warbler on our camera.  Chain hook #1 in background
Earl's new friend
Friday, May 2, 2014 - Ensenada

We did an overnight to Ensenada, arriving about 8 am.  The seas were wonderful!  Earl had planned on being able to get our check out documents, but, as Joan reminded me, when in Mexico, expect holidays.  May 1 is Labor Day here and nothing was open.

We took on fuel, significantly cheaper here than in San Diego,  and Earl rinsed the first layer of salt and grit off Serenity, before finally going to bed for a few hours of sleep.  He does not sleep much during overnights.  Apparently he has inadequate confidence in the crew.

While Earl slept, Joan, Clark and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items – oranges for 2 mornings worth of juice, some bread, cookies and mangos and, most critical, a toilet plunger.  It was a short distance, but the heat was awful and it seemed like a steep uphill.   We got back only to find that we had left the plunger behind, so back to the store I went.  Death march.

Dinner was in the air-conditioned boat.  We are trying to use up any food that might be confiscated, so we had the last of our steaks.  Yummy.  We finally finished off the last of the Costco cake.  My freezer is definitely looking rather empty.

Today is a little cooler.  We have gone downtown to complete the process of checking us and the boat out of Mexico.  The marina provides an assistant to take care of dealing with all the official personnel, but it was still a 2 hour process.  We are currently sitting in our air conditioned cabin while Serenity gets a much needed wash.  (Earl is not impressed by the job that is being done). This evening we will go for an on shore dinner courtesy of Clark then we will be off early in the am so as to arrive in San Diego while customs is open

Cabo north to Turtle Bay
Turtle Bay north to Ensenada