Monday, May 31, 2010

Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa is the next in towards LA from San Miguel Island, and has been a cattle ranch for the last long time (like 40 years or more). Its covered in grass, which looks neat. I put up the spinnaker at San Miguel and cruised along at 3 knots for most of the day to get to the anchorage, so the weather was still very mild, but it picked up when I got in to the bay to anchor. Its a beautiful bay. A long crescent beach of sand, with a beaten down old pier sticking out into it. No elephant seals, but tons of sea lions, which came out at night and were porpoising all around the boat. It was also a full moon when I was there.
I tried to get some glamor shots of the NuCanoe as well.
The wonderful Risso's Dolphins that I have been seeing sometimes beach themselves, I guess, because I saw one on the beach. It was about 10 ft long and very dark, though I think when they are alive they are a light grey.
So I paddled ashore to check out the island, and walked up to the ranch, and finally found this guy, Sam, who is the caretaker for the ranch. He works for the Vale family, who still has the ranch until 2012, though they've given the island to the National Park Service. Anyways, he was pretty cool, and then I ended up getting a ride around on the island in a truck, up to the top, where the old horses are out in a field. The wind picked up that night and the next day I was a bit worried when I picked up anchor, headed for Santa Cruz Island...

San Miguel Island

San Miguel Island is one of the furthest west of the channel islands, and is often subject to severe weather, so not many people go out there very often. It is, of course, closest to Point Conception, so I went there first on my way towards the mainland. I then stopped at the other islands as I passed them, and will do a post about each in turn. On the way to San Miguel, the weather was dead calm, and I was motoring along and saw some Risso's Dolphins. They are really cool looking, with a high dorsal fin that looks sharky.
When I anchored in this little bay surrounded by elephant seals (which, I have decided, sound a lot like wookies having sex) and paddled ashore and climbed a cliff of sand to visit the hilltop. The vegetation is nothing like the other islands out here; it seems native, and there are no grasses anywhere that I saw, only sage-like things and succulents and funny palm trees that are about 2 ft tall. When I was climbing up the sandy cliff (super scary) I also got the feeling that the rocks were burned. Like the whole island was freshly volcanic or something. It reminded me of when I went out to Mt St Helens one time, and saw the scorched earth.
I met a fisherman in the bay there and he invited me aboard his boat, and we got to talking, and...
It turns out that the island was firebombed a lot back around WW2 for practice. I guess that's like volcanism...
San Miguel has a wonderful harbor, but I didn't really need it, because despite the reputation for nasty weather, I had nothing of the kind while I was there. I really liked the plants though.

Point Conception

I think of Conception as the starting point, and it seems fitting. The start of Southern California, or the start of a nasty upwind slog to go north (if one were to do so foolish a thing as head north).
Anyways, it has been a worry for me, and that worry is past. I have passed the point.
In fact, I had almost no wind for the trip. I left Morro Bay at 5:30 and drove on southbound, and as the sun came up, the wind became nothing, until I was driving in super glassy water. It picked up to about 4 knots from the south as I rounded the point, but that is all the wind I had.
And I anchored out just east of Point Conception, at a surfing spot called "the Ranch", but didn't surf. Its hard to start surfing when you're alone. I did, however, go ashore and check out two boats that were aground... I also am pretty sure I saw a Blue Whale, just northwest of Conception. Something big breathed, and I looked up (I was reading) and saw a greyish blue back sticking out of the water, and slowly, oh so slowly, move on towards the tail, which it slipped under the water, never to come back. It was very big, but I can't be so sure as to how big because it was about 100 yards away.
Here are some pictures, the lighthouse at point conception, a boat going northbound, and Altair sitting at anchor out in Morro Bay.
Incidently, Morro bay is one of my favorite places now. I met a guy there, as I was paddling ashore, who took me in and fed me fish tacos and gave me a shower on his boat and then gave me a speargun! I now have to guns, one that I got in Costa Rica, and this one, which is a double rubber band one that is very powerful.
I haven't used it yet, though.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Morro Bay

I made it to Morro Bay! I have one large leap to do before I will feel safe; Point Conception. Most people who have been out on the water will have heard of it, so fear it (like me) others respect, but all know of stories of winds that blow as if there were malice blowing from the ocean itself.
So I'm not passed it yet, but I'll probably go past it tomorrow, unless I decide to wait a day more, and then I'll be on Southern California.
The water has a blue color in some places that is just sparkly and wonderful. I can't help but smile at how deep and clear and blue it is. So last I posted I was in Santa Cruz, where there is free internet, free anchoring and its quite pretty, with the sound of surf breaking just 300 yards away... I almost went surfing, but was feeling cold, and it seemed sharky for some reason. Anyways, I crossed the beautiful Monterey Bay, and saw some Sea Otters, and went to Monterey. In Monterey, the Sea Lions laze around on the rocks, the tourists click, and everything is pay. I anchored inside the breakwater, and was accosted by a local who told me to go to the office and pay them some money. I was hesitant, but eventually tied up to a dock (since I COULD NOT anchor) and payed $9 for mooring for the night. But then, I realized, I was right next to this bar that stayed up late, and I got up early to do a big leg down Big Sur, so it was a bit irritating. I left the next morning at 5:00 am to continue southbound, and remarked through the day that driving down Big Sur and sailing down are about the same speed: in both you take a day to do the coast, and camp somewhere along the way, usually in the south section near San Simeon. I in fact anchored in San Simeon bay myself.
So I turn the corner from Monterey, just after reading about how Steinbeck did the same corner in The Log from the Sea of Cortez, and I noticed how the "point collects the waves" as he says in his book. Basically there are a lot of waves right before getting around a point, and afterwards, its calmer. The day was a beautiful day, there were a few species of whales that I saw. Dolphins, really. Big Risso's Dolphins, in groups of two or four, then Pacific Whiteside Dolphins, single, or in groups, its hard to tell because they move so fast, and finally there were these porpoises that are black, really long and thin, and have a small tail and no dorsal fin. I don't know their name, but they look a bit like the Dahl's porpoises, because they have some white on their underbelly. I couldn't get a good shot of one, but they are fun to watch. They come in flocks of 20 or more, and we played a lot together on the bow.
It was a long day, and I didn't get to San Simeon until 7:30. The wind did a funny thing. I was about 5 miles or less off the coast, and in the morning it was fairly calm, but it built until about 2:00, when it was most definately Small Craft Advisory winds, about 20-30 knots. Then it died down a lot, and I wondered at this, but the moment I kicked on the motor (I had to make distance that day) the winds started picking up again, and they built until just when I reached San Simeon. I rounded this point about 5 miles before San Simeon and the waves calmed down a lot, but the wind built to about 45 knots and blew the tops off the waves and spray right out of the sea. It was really impressive. I had to go upwind to get into the bay to anchor and it was downright difficult. There was another boat there to watch, and as I passed by he said some sly remark which the wind promptly snatched out of his mouth and flung away.
The wind was doing strange things to me. I felt a funny low pressure inside my nose from the wind, where it would snatch the breath out of me. It was blowing HARD.
But all that is just a taste of what I may have to endure in short order. I expect winds to be like that or even more, and hopefully they will permit my passage. Since I hope to be going downwind, that shouldn't be too bad, but sometimes you get into trouble even going with the wind.
Today was nothing too special, I went about 30 miles and it was really light winds, so I took my time getting up and getting moving. I still have yet to explore Morro Bay, but since I've been here before, I'm not in a hurry.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Santa Cruz


I made it to Santa Cruz! All by my lonesome. Actually its really not hard at all, and I'm not pushing very far, so its easier than going up to Alaska. Here are some pictures from leaving the Bay area, and heading into Half Moon Bay, and then down into Santa Cruz.
I'm anchored out near the pier here, and its not too rocky right now, but the wind sure has picked up.
Going out the Golden Gate was really a fun trip, the current was behind me, so I blasted through at 8 knots. Then I watched some pilot boats and container ships rendezvous and one container ship actually stopped in the water and turned sideways to the waves in order to drop the pilot off. The water turns a deeper blue when you get out a ways from the San Francisco Bay, and I hope it will turn still a deeper blue when I get into Mexico.
In Half Moon Bay, I came upon a sailboat on the beach, and of course, I investigated and salvaged what I could, so now I have some new equipment! I got two Lewmar 40 two speed winches, and two Lewmar 8 one speed winches, which are fine and dandy! I also got some more pulleys that slide on a little car that sits on the track on the side of the boat, and you run the jib sheets through them. I had lost one of my extras for my Spinnaker sheets, and now I have two matching ones to replace that.
I love salvaging things. Then I got up early this morning and motored most of the day, because the wind was really light, but its been picking up once I got in (of course). I'll head on into Monterey Bay tomorrow and probably stay the night in Monterey.
There is another thing I think I'll get pretty soon. I was looking at a marine store and looking for Radars when the man behind the counter told me I should check out his VHF that has AIS. VHF is the radio that you talk into, and call the coast guard or whoever with, and AIS is a positioning system that Big Boats are required to have that sends out their location and speed and name out on the VHF radio (in digital) and if I get this radio thing, I can see their position and heading and name, and that alerts me to the fact that they are there. It works to about 15 miles, so I get a beep or an alarm that tells me someone is within range, and then I wake up and make sure I don't get run over! This is for running at night, so I can sleep without fear of getting hit. Small fishing boats won't send out their signal, but I think I can be sure they will have someone on board awake and watching, and I can put up lots of lights to alert people of my presence. Anyways, this is more for going further off shore alone and not being too scared.
Its 400 bucks, so I'm a bit hesitant, but its my birthday in a week, so maybe santa claus will come...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going alone

So my father has now left the area, he took a train on further south to visit my eldest brother this morning, and he'll make his way back to Bellingham after that. I'm still at my sister's place, but I'll be heading onto the water soon enough again, and this time, I'll be alone.
Single handed sailing is a different kind of flavor from having anyone else aboard. Usually I listen to a lot of music, eat a lot, and see wonderful things that I want to show to other people, but nobody is around to see them. I bet I'll see some whales. Still, that is in the future. Here's an update on the recent past:
Sunday we sailed in under the golden gate and picked up Sam, Arthur, Rachel and Henry (whom I have made first acquaintance with-see picture) and we sailed around a little bit, then dropped everyone off ashore, and I spent the azure afternoon alone angling and anchored aboard Altair. The next day was Sunday, and we stayed ashore and played in the park with lots of children. Monday, however, found us back on the water, sitting in small amounts of wind and lots of rain, with Bob Post, who happens to be my Father's cousin. I had never met him before, but he lives up in the delta here. So I paddled out in the (unseasonable) drizzle and then kicked on the motor to get Dad and Bob, and we puttered around the bay. We anchored near Angel island for a while, which is a beautiful green island in the middle of the bay, and zipped over near Alcatraz (which is rugged and beautiful when seen from the Golden Gate Bridge or from San Francisco, but up close it looks like a broken down old prison, strangely enough) and then came back thoroughly soaked.
Yesterday, Dad and I went for a walk around San Francisco, starting about 8 am and ending at 3. It was a lovely day for it, and not too hot or cold. We started near Coit Tower, which is on the east side of the city, and walked down to the eastern waterfront and around the northern waterfront until near the Golden Gate bridge, when Sam picked us up again. I feel that San Francisco is a lot like Seattle (though more touristy) because of the piers and the waterfront area, but there seems to be more internationality to the SF than SEA. We met two German couples and I got some good time speaking Deutsch, and looked around at the boats for a while as well, which of course is fun for me. I wanted to go aboard a streetcar, so when we were headed to Coit Tower we found ourselves next to the Cable car headquarters, and there were a couple of mechanical looking folk carrying greasy things into a shop, so I struck up a conversation with them to see what we could learn about how the cars work. I didn't know, but I learned, that the cable runs all the time, and the cars just grab on to it (its in a submerged track, so you can't see it) when they want to go forward, and let go when they want to stop. They have a number of brakes; wheel brakes, rail brakes, and a ground brake, and so they can use those to stop. We told the guys we had sailed down and that I was interested in going on a cable car (for free) and he immediately stopped the next one that came over and got us on by saying that we were his cousin and uncle.
The driver didn't give us hardly a glance, but the brakeman (on the back) looked us over with a keen eye and when I glanced back confided, "he didn't have to tell us that story." So they knew. I guess it didn't help that we didn't look anything like the mechanic. We went about two blocks and looked over the machinery before deciding we were going the wrong way and got off.

I've also been watching the weather around Point Conception, since its a point Not To Be Trifled With, and have found its mostly gale warning or small craft advisory. Since I have a small craft, I'm trying to be well advised. It appears that most of the horror stories are from people trying to bring their boats northbound, and there basically isn't any stories from people headed south. I guess I can just trifle with this point then, huh?
Oh wait.
Here are a few more pictures of little Henry, for those of you who haven't seen him. He's my sister Rachel's new little boy. My Nephew.