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October 31, 2006

Ensenada

After an uneventful sail/motor from San Diego we arrived off the coast from Ensenada around midnight and laid ahull offshore until daylight. We pulled into Ensenada at 8:00 in the morning and decided it'd be worth it to take a slip for $20 at the Ensenada Marina downtown. After working through some pigeon english/spanish conversation, we worked out moorage and Kurt and I took off to the Port Capitan's office to clear into Mexico. The clearing process took about 3 hours with the Port Capitan, Bank, Immigration Customs and a copy place all in the same building. Apparently this used to be a 1 – 2 day ordeal with all these offices in different parts of town. It wouldn't have taken even the three hours if there hadn't been 10 boats trying to clear at the same time. For anyone who's checking into Mexico by boat, be sure to have you engine serial number for customs and a receipt for your moorage or anchoring permit for the Port Capitan.

Putting up the Mexican flag after clearing customs:
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By the time we got back to the boat, it was definitely time for cervezas. So we a had a few beers, dropped the quarantine flag, raised the Mexican courtesy flag and then we were off to find some Tacos de Pescados. There's a great open air fish market a couple of blocks from the boat and opposite it is a row of taco stands. Walking past these stands is a akin to running the gauntlet with all the proprietors all trying to get you into their stand. There's really no way to make an informed judgment with all the screaming going on so when I heard on offer 3 fish tacos for $2, we went to that one. The tacos were great, but they took us for a ride on the beers which didn't have the price listed on the menu. Oh well lesson learned.

Kurt and Trevor eating some Tacos de Pescados:
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Afterwards we did a lot of walking around Ensenada checking the place out. Cruise ships come in here and there's definitely the cruise ship district the first block back from town, but if you walk just a block past that, you get out of tourist ville and get a bit of a feel for what Ensenada is really like. We're taking off today for either San Quintin or Turtle Bay depending on what strikes our fancy. Turtle Bay is going to be full of people from the Haha if we go straight there, but that might be fun too.

October 26, 2006

San Diego

After 3 great days in Avalon on Catalina Island, we dropped our buoy and set sail for San Diego about sundown. It's a 60 mile trip and it would be pushing it to get into San Diego in daylight if we left in the morning, so we left about 6:00pm so that we'd have plenty of time to sail if there was wind. The wind was squirrelly shifting a full 180 degrees at one time and varying from 5 to 15 knots. At about eleven the wind died and the shipping traffic increased so on came the engine and we motored the rest of the way to Point Loma.

We pulled into the Police Dock on Shelter Island in San Diego at 10:30 in the morning. The public dock next door was full, but had a 11:00 checkout time. So we waited around for half an hour and then were able to secure a slip until the 28th when I'm planning on heading out with Trevor and Kurt. There's a critical mass of cruisers gathering here in San Diego right now waiting for hurricane season to end on November 1st. The Baha Haha is also in town so we were really lucky to get a slip. The dock here is great everybody is a cruiser heading South. There's also a 10 day limit to people staying here so there's a constant flow of boats coming and going and I've been able to meet a lot of the people that I'll be running into downwind in Mexico.

Today I rode my bike to the trolley station about 3 miles from the marina and then neatly folded up my bike and took the train downtown. Apparently they're very strict with fishing licenses in Mexico, so I went to the Mexican Department of Fisheries and bought licenses for Bodhran, the dinghy, Kurt, Trevor and myself. All said and done it came out to $248.40. That definitely makes a divot in the cruising kitty, but better to be legal. After the Department of Fisheries, it was down to the Mexican Consulate where I was able to get tourist visas for Trevor, Kurt and myself with scanned copies of everyone's passports. I was told that it would be $20 a person for the visas in Ensenada, but they're free at the consulate, so that offsets the cost of the fishing licenses a bit.

I've had a terrible time finding free internet access in San Diego. The USB network card on the boat is on the blink and I sent it back to Seattle with my Dad. Hopefully I'll get a new one before too long and will be able to get good access from the boat. There area a couple of free networks down in the marina, but my internal network card is too weak to use them. I've been looking for access downtown. I was just at the library, but they block outgoing mail and ftp access, so now I'm at a Borders sucking it up and paying for T-mobile. We'll see what it's like down in Mexico, but the blog posts might become a little less frequent if I'm not able to get online.

I've got one more day in San Diego tomorrow. Trevor and Kurt fly in tomorrow night and then we'll be setting sail for points South. I've also posted all the pictures from San Francisco down to San Diego:

SanFran2SanDiego

October 19, 2006

Dana Point and Avalon

I got a hold of my cousin Dan while we were in Two Harbors on Catalina. I hadn't done a very good job of scheduling with him and it turned out that with his work schedule at the refinery he was only available the next evening. So we left Two Harbors early to get to Dana Point by sundown. We had a peaceful motor across the channel with almost no wind enjoying that good Southern California sunshine.

Dana Point has a beautiful marina with 2400 hundred slips. A thousand more than Bellingham has. We got Bodhran in place, showered up and met up with Dan, Patty and the kids for dinner. Dan and Patty have a great place up on the hill with an ocean view only a mile or so away from the marina. We all went out for dinner at an Italian place and caught up on the family. Dan is definitely a fisherman and we spent most of the time talking fishing in the channel islands and down into Mexico. He hooked me up with a number of lures and I'm sure that I'm going to be knee deep in Dorado and Yellow Tail on my trip South. The next morning, Dan was cool enough to take us on a West Marine run. My surf landing on Santa Cruz Island told me that I needed to put some folding surf wheels on my dinghy to be able to leave the outboard down and drag my dink up on the beach. We also needed some starboard and fiberglass tape to reinforce the motor mount and patch up a couple of weak spots on the dinghy. We learned from one of the Dana Point West Marine's that the surf wheels that I wanted were in stock 20 minutes up the road in Newport Beach. Unfortunately we went to the wrong West Marine in Newport Beach. It turns out that almost every town in California has at least two West Marines. We eventually found the right one and picked up the wheels. We then stopped at a Trader Joes and stocked up on some groceries. It was the first time I'd ever been to a Trader Joes and let me whole heartedly recommend the Thai Lime and Chile Peanuts.

Dan had to go to work and left us at the dock where we met with Patrick aboard Kamakazie. Patrick hails from G dock back in Bellingham and had been down cruising Mexico for the last two years. Unfortunately he ran out of money and is now back in California replenishing the cruising kitty. Patrick clued us in on how much it sucks to bring a boat back from Mexico saying that if he ever did it again he would go all the way to Hawaii and then back to avoid beating the entire way. Patrick also clued me into 7knots.com which is apparently half crew locater website and half dating site. I'm going to have to check it out and see if I can actually get a little female crew to balance out all the dudes that have been on my boat with me so far.

We spent the rest of the day beefing up the motor mount on the dinghy and then left the next moring for Avalon on Catalina. We had light to moderate winds out of the NorthWest and were able to sail about half way out to Avalon. Then it was time for dinner and bed. It's amazing how tired you get being out in all this sun. Not that all you guys back up North are feeling bad for me, but I was in bed by 8:30. That brings you up to this morning when we did a little breakfast, walked around town and then I ditched Joe and my Dad for a little bike tour of the area. I had to turn around every time I found a dirt road, which is a bit much for my little bike, but I ended up finding a great route up the hill and down the other side with great views of the Bay. Now I think that we're going to head ashore for dinner and then catch “The Illusionist” in the classic Casino Building on Casino Point. We'll stay here for another day or two and then it's off to San Diego and the next leg of the journey.

Here's all the pics:

Coming into Avalon
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Joe and Dad after breakfast in Avalon:
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My valiant little one speed folding bike at the top of the hill above Avalon:
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Me on the road above Avalon
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My bike folded up on the dock ready to go back in the dink:
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October 15, 2006

Morro Bay to Catalina

We waited to leave Morro Bay until the fog cleared around noon. From there we were tentatively planning on going to Port San Luis about 20 miles down the coast towards Point Conception. The wind was light and the sun came out so we had a pleasant motor sail down the coast. The weather was supposed to be light that night and then was calling for 2 days of moderate South Easterlies. When we got down to Port San Luis and saw it's layout with an exposure to the Southeast and taking into account that I didn't want to beat around Point Conception we decided to push on through the night and round the point in the dark.

Austin Powers looking nuclear plant near Morro Bay. It's not often you see power plants of this....Caliber:
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Just before sunset motoring we passed through our first really large pod of dolphins. There must have been a thousand of them. As far as the eye could see in either direction, there were dolphins. Then as the sun went down, we saw the first of the oil platforms which would light our way for the rest of the night. Point Conception is the last major hurdle when transiting South along the coast. We rounded it around 2:00 in the morning with seas as calm as mountain lake. From there it was a quick passage across the shipping lane into Becher's Bay on Santa Rosa Island.

We're anchored near the pier on right side of the picture:
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We anchored in Becher's Bay in 20 feet of water and caught up on some sleep before going ashore. Santa Rosa Island used to have a large cattle ranch on it which is now a National Park Service outpost with a dock, some old corrals, and air strip and a number of houses for the rangers. The NPS only owns a small portion on the eastern end of the island. The rest is a private game reserve where people can fly in to hunt the Elk and Deer that were stocked on the island back in the 30s. We skiffed into the dock and decided to check out the island. I don't think that they get too many visitors out there. The rangers were all very friendly and chatty. It ends up that there's a nice hike a couple three miles up the road through one of the two existing groves of Torrey Pine in the world. So off we went up the road. My Dad decided to walk at his own pace and Joe fell off to check out the beach. So there I was walking along giving my legs a good stretch when a couple of girls drive up behind me in a jeep. Turns out that they're doing a lichen study for the NPS are were heading down to the Torrey Pines trail themselves. My Dad ends up catching up and they give both of us a ride the last mile or so to the trail. My Dad isn't into climbing the hill so he heads back, and the girls are checking out the lichen at the bottom of the trail, so I get a nice solo hike in through the pines and up to the top of the hill with sweeping vistas of the beach, the inland hills and Santa Cruz Island across the passage. About this time the wind is picking up, so I decide to start hoofing it back. But again, I get just a couple of miles down the road when a ranger comes along with his pickup and takes me back to the dock. Turns out this guy helped a buddy sail a trimaran from Lopez Island to Hawaii. Small world, everywhere I go I'm meeting all kinds of people with Washington connections.

Love this sign:
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The trail through the pines in up on the hill:
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I'd been having problems with my exhaust system. My mixing elbow developed a crack somewhere between Newport and San Francisco. I patched it with JB Weld when I was in Alameda, but I was still getting salt on the engine from somewhere. So we decided to head across the channel to Santa Barbara. We had a beautiful sail across with the California sun shining in 10 knot easterlies only having to tack once to avoid a car carrier. When we pulled into Santa Barbara, we had definitely arrived in Southern California. It's got the whole package. The marina is surrounded by gorgeous beaches with volleyball nets and Hobie Cats everywhere. There's nothing out there buy blue skies, sand, and lots of very expensive places.

This was the view from the top of our ramp in Santa Barbara:
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We spent two days in Santa Barbara making good use or our time. We ground all the rust and salt off my exhaust elbow and then was able to find a welder to repair the cracks. My Dad cleaned the engine to get all the salt that leaked out of the mixing elbow. I needed to get a new hose to go between the elbow and the waterlift muffler. Unfortunately the West Marine in the harbor is kind of limited, so I had to hoof it down to their other store a mile and a half away. While I was there, I ended up impulse buying a new Dahon one speed folding bicycle. Some other folks that we keep playing leap frog down the coast with have a couple of them and have been able to range out way further than we can. So I bit the bullet and shelled out the 250 bucks for one. I think that it's going to pay off in the long run on saved cab fare, but we'll see. Anyway I immediately put the bike to use looking for high temperature gasket material to reattach my exhaust elbow back to the manifold and got a good 4 miles into the wild goose chase before I gave up. At least with my wheels I wasn't spending money on cab fare and I got to see a lot of Santa Barbara. Of course when I got back to the boat, I found my stash of gasket material, so everything was alright in the end. So I got the elbow painted and reinstalled and then ran the engine for an hour to cure the paint. I also finally installed my baggywrinkle (chafe protection on the lower shrouds to protect the mainsail) that I had been sitting on for 6 months.

Not that you wanted to see my exhaust elbow, but here it is. Also notice the hillb illy air filter my Dad set up:
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We left Santa Barbara in light winds and tried to fly the spinnaker, but the wind was too far forward of the beam, so we ended up motoring most of the way across the channel to Santa Cruz island. The largest sea cave in the world is located on the Northwest corner of Santa Cruz Island. Unfortunately there's no anchorage near it, so we put the dinghy together and Joe and I took off the explore the caves while my Dad kept Bodhran off the rocks. The caves were beautiful and very spooky. There was a swell running which would send white water crashing deep inside the cave. The swell also caused the dink to surge deep into the cave and then wash back out. It was high tide, so we couldn't get all the way into the cave, but apparently at low tide you can make it 1200 feet back. From the Painted Caves, we cruised down to Pelican Bay for a rolly, but uneventful night.

Here's a couple of pics from the Painted Caves:
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We left Pelican Bay with a beautiful 15 knot breeze blowing out of the west which carried us smartly around to Smuggler's Cove on the East side of the island. There was a 3 foot ground swell breaking on the beach. My Dad and Joe weren't interested in going ashore so I went in solo to attempt my first ever surf landing. I've boogy boarded before and tried surfing a couple of times. It's normally very difficult to catch a wave. I don't know whether I was lucky or if my nesting dinghy just surfs well, but I caught a good wave and rode it in for about 50 feet until the bow dug into the mud and stopped. I was very happy that the dinghy didn't pitchpole the way it dug in, but everything was alright. When it was time to go, things were a little more hairy. I waded out into thigh high water, pointed the bow out and waited for a set of larger waves to pass. I launched the dinghy right behind a small breaker, hopped in and started the outboard on the first pull (thank God). Dad and Joe were watching from the boat and said that I disappeared at this point. Another larger breaker caught me right as I was gunning the motor. Fortunately I was square to the wave as it stood the dinghy nearly vertical and then I slammed down the other side. From there I was in the clear and beyond the surf zone. I'm not sure how typical the conditions were, but I know that these surf landings are common down in Mexico and they're definitely going to take some getting used to.

We left Smuggler's Cove a hour before sunset and took off for Catalina Island. The wind was great for the first couple of hours, then the swell built and there wasn't enough wind to keep the sails from emptying and filling with every roll and shaking the Bodhran down to her keel. After a couple of hours I couldn't take it anymore and so we motored with a centered staysail for the rest of the night. It was eerie how little traffic there was last night, especially with the lights of Ventura and LA so bright on the horizon, but we didn't see another boat until first light coming into Catalina. We moored this morning in Two Harbors at the North end of Catalina on the edge of 267 buoy mooring field. All the mooring here have both a bow and a stern line attached to the buoy so that they can pack the boats in like sardines, but hey the sun is shining, I just took a shower, they've got free wi-fi and I'm about ready to go for a hike. Lift ain't half bad.

Here's a couple of pics ot Two Harbors:
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October 8, 2006

Morro Bay California

Bodhran in Alameda:
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San Francisco was a success. We spent a couple of days in the city and then headed across the bay to the Marina Village Yacht Harbor in Alameda to visit my cousin Rick and get back to working on projects on Bodhran. Rick is a marine surveyor and gets great discounts at West Marine and with the help of his trusty Dodge pickup made it a breeze getting all the parts we needed. While we were in Alameda, we added an extension to the bobstay to get the lower swage fitting out of the water, replaced the wire lifelines with spec 12, fixed the leak in my exhaust, added an external fluxgate compass for the autopilot, spliced my lazy jack to get rid of the bowlines and finished splicing my main and jib halyards. We probably got a bunch more done too, I just can't remember it now.

Thanks to Adam on SV Estrella for the idea of the lower extension on my Bobstay:
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Anyway San Francisco was great, but Joe Campacino came in on the 4th and it was time to go. We took off about mid day on the 5th, but had a heck of a time getting out of San Francisco Bay. The Navy was in for Fleet Week and there was an air show going on off Fort Mason. At first we didn't realize anything was going on, so we just started motoring straight from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate. Then when we were off Pier 39 we ran into a blockade of local police, fire and Coast Gurad boats who oh so unhelpfully directed us to hug the shoreline and proceed inside the yellow bouys. I tried to talk with them on the radio to ensure that we could get through, but received no answer. So we went on our way until a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat was good enough to chat with us and tell us that we had to go miles in the other direction out around Alcatraz and by Saulsolito to get out the gate. So we spent the next hour back tracking against the current working our way around the blockade of Coasties every 200 feet with the occasional fly by of the Blue Angels until we got to Alcatraz where the wind picked up we raised sail and off we went.

Here's a couple of pics leaving San Francisco:
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Once we cleared the Gate, the wind got pretty light but we still had current, so down came the working jib and up went the yankee which we carried almost all the way to Morro Bay. Shipping was lined up 5 deep waiting to come in through the Gate so cranked the motor to scoot behind one of the freighters before the next came in. Other than that we were able to sail all the way to San Simeon. The wind was out of the NorthWest blowing 10 – 15 with the occasional rise up to 20 knots all the way South. We worked our way offshore 40 miles and spent a couple of days out there making a good Southing until we started heading in off Big Sur. Shipping was pretty light while we were offshore, but we did pass one Cruise Ship which must have altered course to come over and give the passengers something to look at other than miles and miles of ocean. We also got buzzed by a Coast Guard C130 that did three loops around us and then took off into the distance. Once we turned inshore and started making our way into Morro Bay, shipping increased and we had to dodge freighters the rest of the way in.

Damn cruise ships. We've passed a ton of these and they're so lit up that you can't pick out their nav lights to see where they're going.
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The wind died the morning of the 7th and we had 50 miles to go to Morro Bay, so the engine went on and we motor sailed the rest of the way in. We hit the entrance into the bay at slack tide and had no problems coming in. The bay is absolutely packed with mooring buoys and we couldn't find anyplace decent to drop the hook, so we took a mooring off the Morro Bay Yacht Club right next to Nelson and Sandy on their Hunter 41 Stormcat who were our neighbors when we were tied up in San Francisco. Today I'm meeting up with my Aunt Betty and my cousin Larry. Tomorrow we'll be heading out for the Channel Islands for a week or more before heading to visit my other cousin Danny in Dana Point before making the last little jump down to San Diego.

Here's my Dad at the entrance to Morro Bay
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and Bodhran off the Morro Bay Yacht Club:
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