Sunday, September 30, 2012

Heading South with the Engine Purring

Our Sunday morning departure from San Francisco was pushed back from 8 am to 10, due to Melinda’s request for a walk back to the Boudin bakery two blocks away for a fresh loaf of sourdough and a last latte. We also thought that some of the dense fog that had settled over San Francisco Bay might clear, but it was still pretty thick as we motored out, making for nice photos and a chance to tune in the radar.
Sunday morning departure from San Fran, pier 39

   Being Sunday, there were lots of fishing boats out, large and small. With no real breeze, and the few knots there were coming directly from the south where we were headed, we motored in lumpy seas until we neared Half Moon Bay, our destination for the night.

Riding a little low?

Getting in to Half Moon Bay around 2 pm, the fog seemed to thicken inshore and the computer decided to take a break! We quickly found our location on our paper charts and were prepared to navigate using dead reckoning from the buoy to buoy that make the entrance channel around the two long breakwaters that shelter this foggy fishing harbor. The computer resurrected itself (we now think it may have been responding to a huge radio antenna at Pillar Point on Half Moon Bay). We anchored easily, with the ever-honking fog-horn forlornly calling and the many resident pelicanos inhabiting the breakwater and following the fishing boats as they came in.
We anchored inside 2 substantial breakwaters...
which the pelicans have decorated with frosting!

Down came the dinghy and we motored through the docks checking out all the working crabbing and fishing boats. We found a place to leave the dinghy and walked the length of town. Lots of working neighborhoods along with cute and hip tourist establishments. A farmers’ market was just closing up and we were offered samples by friendly venders. We bought some kalamata olives, about the only thing not already abundant in our provisions. The locals seemed to be hard at work preparing crab pots and floats. We were told that the season doesn’t open until November 15th. We were imagining the foggy stormy seas they must work in six weeks from now.

Getting back our land legs and joining the local pet owners on the walk to Pillar Point...

A wetlands preserve with this colorful succulent in bloom.

 Our long walk led us south to the wetland preserve and beachside trail out to Pillar Point. A great chance to stretch our legs and see the anchorage from the other side. A beer and seafood sampler at the local micro-brewery was fun before motoring back to Solar Wind for our own tasty BBQ steaks and a great bottle of red wine brought by Keith.
Keith did lots of dishes
Melinda spent lots of time in the galley keeping us entertained with 3 meals a day.
And we ate really well -- notice the Dansk dishware.... very civilized!

Monday, through the night and most of Tuesday brought varying amounts of fog and only occasional wind to put out a sail. The motor has been purring like a champ, Sully (the auto pilot) has been on duty a fair amount and the radar has been essential. We have had some more hitchhiking birds and another visit from dolphins. The swells have been large and lumpy, but not as mixed and confused as they were off the WA and OR coasts. While still hard to move below deck, it is much more comfortable to cook, read, or use the head while underway. Whenever we get a consistent 10 knots or so of wind, it is work putting up some sail. If it’s going in roughly the right direction, that helps too.
Another hitchhiker -- so unlike most of the seabirds we see!
Keith at the helm during some of our windiest of this leg. The dinghy rode just fine for this part, but we were glad we had it stowed down the WA and OR coast.
Humm, de, dumm, dumm... motor's running... Sully's steering

 Melinda had the most exciting of the night watches this time. During the midnight to 3 hours, I was contacted by a nice polite soft-spoken tugboat captain, suggesting that we should keep at least a mile and a half between us when we passed, since the visibility was so bad. I thought he had a good idea there. After locating the tug and it’s load on radar and AIS, I altered course by 30 degrees (to show him I was willing to get out of his way) and saw that he was going out and around me too. Two (actually 3) ships passing in the night. Glad one was so heads up! We had several more passings of freighters and small cruisers through the foggy night.

Flat water, and coming into Port San Luis

By morning the fog had lifted some, but no wind to sail until about 3 that afternoon. One of the advantages of all the motoring is lots of hot water. We each took a turn in the shower. Shampoo and fresh clothes do wonders for our sense of well-being. Finally the sun broke through and a fresh breeze and we sailed at 7 kts speed with jib alone the last couple hours into Pt. San Luis (San Luis Obisbo) figuring we had used enough fuel that it would be wise to fill up before the Channel Islands.
We anchored in this bay with lots of local boats. Free rent!
San Luis Obisbo as the sun went down. Cool shadows, a beach, city pier, and friendly looking town, that we did not visit.

So Tuesday evening had us in a calm anchorage off the pretty town for more tuna steaks and an early bedtime.

and the sun went down again...

Wednesday morning, we were at the fuel dock when they opened at 8 am, to get 80 gallons of diesel at a rather commercial pump. This is probably one of many more “interesting” docking ties that are in our future.

Friendly dock help, recycling available, and we were off and motoring south by 9. 

Looking for wind! And being careful about what we wish for. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cityscapes and Projects

 We are getting ready to leave San Francisco this morning. It’s been a good rest and a fun bit of city time. We did not do any major sightseeing, except all the people watching here at Pier 39. This part of the trip is definitely travel oriented, and getting to sleep in new places. Whoever said cruising is having a chance to work on your boat in exotic places has been here!

An extra-large large crowd gathered alongside our boat on Thursday morning to get a glimpse of the Space Shuttle flying in over the Golden Gate. It took several passes over the bay! Amazing!
 Thursday was spent with more laundry and boat maintenance. The oil change (which back home takes about 30 minutes) turned into a 6-hour extravaganza. The electric pump that Lanham has mounted to the engine room wall did not operate, not enough gusto to suck up the oil, hmm….  No problem, we have a spare on board, and it’s heavier-duty. We’ll replace it.
Luckily, that involved a trip to a hardware store. Using google-maps, we found one within walking distance. A couple miles up and over the hills to Polk Street Hardware was a welcome venture into a hip neighborhood in the city. Not only did we get the two brass plumbing fittings we needed, but also lots of galley goodies, including a new cutting board, new pot scrubbers, a collapsible salad spinner, silverware strainer, and heavy duty reusable trash bags that we think will be super useful between passages in Mexico. Maybe it was a case of retail therapy, but we split up in the City People’s style hardware store and shopped on whim!

Okay, back to the boat by 5pm, replace and plumb the new pump, turn it on, and no… no sucking oil… We are still puzzled by the whole system… which has worked in the past. We ended up pumping it out with a small hand pump. Fresh oil in and ready to go. The mystery of the oil change pump is yet to be resolved. This event wasn't even photo-worthy!

Also, yesterday Melinda got to pose as an adventure-sport rock star by getting hauled up the mast. We needed to retrieve the spinnaker halyard that had popped off during one of our deployments. Sorry no photos, but the tourists walking the pier certainly got photos. It was a great view from the top and a quick job to get done.

We have been meeting other cruisers – two different couples who are headed the direction as we are. One was here a few days ahead of us and in typical small world fashion, we discovered we lived about 4 blocks from them in Seattle, and their two daughters played sports with Anna and Ellie in high school. The other couple is from Astoria, Oregon, and did this trip 17 years ago for a 3-year jaunt through the Panama Canal, and now in retirement are doing it again with no plan to return…. Hmmm… We know we will be running in to both these boats down the road. Nice to be meeting the new neighbors!

On Friday, we decided to adventure out of the pier 39 circus marina and noisy nightlife scene to anchor out, maybe a little peaceful swinging on the hook for a night. Then we would be back to the marina to meet Keith at his arrival on Saturday afternoon.

We sailed over to Angel Island and found a good cove in which to anchor right off of the State Park housing the historical buildings that served as the detention center and immigration processing for the West Coast. 
The wooden building is the detention barracks. 200-600 people were housed there at a time.

Took this with Anna in mind. A case she has surely studied.
We went ashore in the kayaks and had the self-guided tour of the memorial to ourselves. A great quiet evening with steaks on the grill and a less rocky night’s sleep than at the pier.

This is a very well-done memorial to the many immigrants who spent time here.

Loved this tree. 

Beautiful morning… coffee… and time to weigh anchor and head back. Not so quick… the anchor chain was fouled on old pilings on the bottom.

Five hours later, after Lanham dove multiple times and was tempted to cut the chain with a hack-saw, we managed to get the anchor up, unattach it from the chain, and then yank the chain free with the boat.

Exhausted and sun-struck we got back to our “safe” slip here at Pier 39, got cleaned up and groceried. Another day, another lesson. It was a good place to practice diving on the anchor. We used the “sea breathe” rather than the SCUBA tanks. Lanham was ultra cautious given the 2 kt. current and poor visibility. I am secretly happy that we got that “first” fouled anchor out of the way!

Keith arrived on schedule, found us at the pier and we whisked him off to have dinner with our Seattle friend, Craig, and his sister Theresa’s, family. Craig was in town for a conference. We suggested we meet back at Fog City Diner, within walking distance and we had a great time and a well-deserved meal!

Today it is off to Half-Moon Bay. Leaving about 8 am for a 5-hour trip. Then we plan to go offshore for two days to scoot down to the Channel Islands where we will slow up and enjoy some anchorages. Probably will not come ashore again until Thursday or Friday, and plan to arrive in San Diego by Saturday or Sunday. We are excited for the next leg. It should be less bumpy, but we are trying not to have expectations. This is a challenge and a good first boat-life lesson. We can be sure that “it will be something…” but probably something different.”

Upon departure, Anna sent us a wonderful set of quotes. The one that already fits best is:

"Cruising has two pleasures. One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters."  -Howard Bloomfield

So true. It’s been great to be here in the big windy bay, and we are ready for the wider waters and the next sheltered place.
‘Til then,
M and L
P.S. We'll turn on the delorme tracking as we head down the coast... for as long as the batteries hold.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

San Francisco, Hello!

For those who want to cut to the chase !! WE'RE HERE !! We made it, pulled in about 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon. The details are below.

After a Monday of totally flat water motoring, with hazy skies and eyes on the radar, we spotted our first land in a week – the dramatic Point Reyes lighthouse – about 4 in the afternoon. Another three hours of motoring brought us to a calm anchorage in beautiful and remote Drake Bay, 25 miles north of the Golden Gate. We dropped anchor at sunset, and celebrated with grilled tuna steaks (thank you, Lanham) and shared a bottle of red (thank you, Julia). Ahhh – to rest peacefully at anchor, such a treat!

The famous Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. Quite a point and structure.

The pretty beach and homestead at Drake's Bay anchorage (about 25 miles north of the Bay).

The beautiful red cliff and Chimney Rock that protect Drake's Bay from the northwest winds.
Check out the dramatic cliffs, picturesque homestead and boathouse on the shore of Drake’s Bay. No humans observed on the peninsula, but deer roaming the hills, hawks soaring above and the raucous sound of elephant seals on shore. We were one of 5 boats anchored in the large shallow (15 feet) bay, with good shelter from the northwest wind -- a definite recommendation as a staging stop when coming or going from San Francisco.

We were constantly commenting on the color of the water -- changing day to day.

Yep, let's change that fuel filter... we have 8 more spares on board. Just hope we won't wish we had the dozen more that we decided to leave in the storage unit in Seattle.  Note Lanham's pristine engine "room".
There's the bridge!!
Tuesday morning, an engine-check turned up a dirty-looking fuel filter. An hour later it was changed. This was done right before leaving, but we figure that whatever sludge might have been in the tanks would surely have been stirred up by the tossing that we took in the crazy seas. The only way to do this trip is to know your boat and do your own work. Or to have a mechanically inclined Lanham aboard.

We sailed in to San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate on the horizon, under perfect sunny conditions with mild 20 kt wind. Lots of fishing boats and birds but no freighters. We had the bridge passage all to ourselves and the city was really showing off, so it was a great photo opportunity for all the traditional Golden Gate shots and then some.

Getting closer...

and closer...
and we're under!

and within cell phone range... as we report in to our fan club!
As we began to cross the bay, we noticed some incredibly speedy sailboats with black sails ahead. They kept coming on both sides of us and we realized we were a moving buoy for some training sessions for a group of America’s Cup racers. They had chase boats and we yelled to one, asking if it was OK to cross the course… they laughed and shrugged. We were treated to the MOST spectacular close-up viewing of the catamarans as they screamed by us, out and back, to do it again. The sound of the wind in their rigging and the speed of their tacking were amazing to witness. We caught a few with the camera. What a welcome to San Francisco!

Those are some fast boats
and they are getting pretty close.

"ffllthwappppp, flthaappp, fflthwaapp..."  Notice the head gear worn by the crew.

They were good at avoiding us.
We just kept marveling at the weather and the cityscape.
We made our way to the marina at Pier 39 where we have reserved a slip. It’s the heart of the waterfront and the home of the sea lion preserve. We have a constant stream of tourists looking down on the boat and are lulled to sleep by the hundred or so critters barking on the next dock.
Our dock mates....

We toasted our safe arrival, took welcomed showers, and explored a bit of the town, since it was Slim’s only evening here.
Congratulations to us!!

Captain is "off-duty." Looking relaxed.
Alcatraz was showing off in the morning light. 
Another member of our little dock community.
We started at the Clift Hotel (where we had celebrated our 20th anniversary) and ended at the Fog City Diner for delicious salads and burgers. Wednesday morning has us doing laundry, Boudin bakery for lattes, cable car to China Town for dim sum, and seeing Slim head off to the airport. We’ll miss our able crew and amiable friend. Hope he can catch up with us later in the year?!
Cable car to China Town for Dim Sum
Lanham was just asking this guy if he'd keep an eye on the boat.
A couple of "ol salts?"

Fog City Diner's lettuce wedge with Pt. Reyes blue cheese.
We look across to this little touristy restaurant from our slip.
Bye Slim, and THANKS!
Thanks to everyone back home, and here and there, who have been following our first leg. We’ll be in San Francisco until at least Sunday, but may try another part of the bay for a couple of the nights. Second crewmember, Keith, arrives this weekend and will be with us until San Diego. In the meantime, we are feeling pretty relaxed and darn lucky to be here, enjoying our waterfront suite in a great city! Time to go get this posted with some pictures. Thanks for reading.