Archive for October, 2007

Of Dolphins and Dinghys

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

We left Santa Barbara on Thursday, Oct. 26. We meant to get an early start, but couldn’t resist going to the Breakwater Cafe for breakfast again. Koiya got a Belgian waffle piled high with whipped cream and sugary strawberries. I was worried she might try to hide in the kitchen and live there forever!

The 15- 20 kt wind was from the southwest, so we were beating, but we had a wonderful, 24-nautical-mile sail to Santa Cruz Island. Great wind, a few big splashes up on the decks, and a close encounter with a HUGE car transport freighter, just to keep things interesting. A lot like sailing San Francisco Bay!

One thing we don’t get in the bay, though: dolphins riding our bow! How exciting to see them race and dive! While whales’ size and power fill you with awe, the dolphins’ speed and acrobatics are so thrilling, you want to shout and holler like idiots… which we did! Southern Californians might call them “the Blue Angels of the sea”, but really, that doesn’t give the dolphins their due respect. They are effortlessly fluid and graceful in a way that no machine could ever be.

I can’t help but wonder if the dolphins can see Koiya on the bowsprit, hear her excited shouts, and know that their brief visits are the highlights not only of our day, but our entire trip! Koiya used her Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises book to identify them as common dolphins, and in the excitement of seeing them, she often recites what she’s learned about them. “I think the best kind of dolphin for us to see is common dolphins, because they are known for being playful and riding bow waves,” she told me.

Beyond Conception

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

We were going to stay Morro Bay through the weekend, but the Yacht Club dock that we were tied to was closed due to races. Todd suggested we just head down to Port San Luis, about 24 miles to the south. “What about the gale warnings?” I asked. “Oh, yeah,” slurred Capn Boozy, “Those warnings expired last night.” Hmmm, right after the yacht club’s happy hour ended…

So we were off! There was a bit of a swell, so the boat pitched quite a bit as we headed out. Todd was hesitant to go forward and raise the sails, but I gave his thong a snap and soon we were on a beam reach under staysail and double-reefed main. It was a beautiful sail!

We anchored off of Avila Beach, and got to spend more time with our new buddies Barrie and Sandra of Passat II. Talk about a rolly anchorage though! The first night wasn’t so bad, but on the second I got seasick making dinner, and we all had a hard time sleeping.

Monday afternoon, we were glad to be heading out to sea, where things were much smoother! The sea was almost glassy. We raised all sails, but the wind soon died down. Then, to starboard I saw some spouts. “Koiya!” yelled Todd, “To the bow!” Koiya hesitated, because usually we don’t let her go up on the bowsprit when we’re under sail; but once I gave the OK, she lost no time in carrying out the captain’s orders.

We could see an area up ahead that was a bevy of activity. Gulls and other marine birds swooped and cried; sea lions barked and leapt from the water. Then… POOF!!! A humpback whale exploded into the crowd, its head coming clear out of the water!

The Swell Will Die Down, To Morro

Friday, October 19th, 2007

We left Monterey at 6:30pm Monday night, for our first overnight passage. The sun was setting as we motored by Cannery Row and the aquarium, and I was sorry to be leaving so soon. But Capn Bligh had made the call: we were headed for Morro Bay! I made a thermos of cocoa and was tempted to spike it with bourbon, but the last thing I need is Koiya slurping down my precious Woodford Reserve!

There was hardly any wind, so we motored. I took the helm and Todd and Koiya went below to watch an episode of Hornblower. After an hour or so, Capn Lager poked his head up to see how things were going. He had a beer in his hand! It was just like being back at home.

The waxing moon set early, and the sky was filled with stars. Our wake created bioluminesence, the sea glowing around us. It was so romantic that I left Todd on watch and headed below for some sleep.

The boat rolled in the swell, but I snuggled in to the lee cloth with my trusty sleeping bag and soon fell asleep. The wind picked up from directly behind us, and Todd flew the jib and killed the motor. At around 2:30am I woke and headed up to take my watch. The wind was increasing, so Todd decided to bring in the jib. Just as he did, a strong gust blew from the north east, and backed the jib! We got everything under control quickly, but Todd was worried about the increasing wind and swells, and my ability to steer the boat downwind in those conditions. He sat around in the cockpit for a while, then went below to lie down, but never really got any sleep.

Once Capn Worrywart was out of my way, I got into the rhythm and enjoyed my time at the helm. Steering was challenging enough to be interesting, but not so difficult as to feel dangerous. I was surprised when Todd came up and told me it was almost 6am; the time had flown by!


Monday, October 15th, 2007

It was raining when we awoke on Friday in Half Moon Bay, so we spent a wonderfully lazy morning reading and talking about what we might eat for lunch. The rain didn’t let up, so we donned our jackets and boots. “I’ll bring a backpack with our books, in case we want to hang out at the cafe,” I volunteered sweetly. Todd’s eyes lit up. “Maybe they have free internet!” he exclaimed gleefully, stuffing his 18 pound laptop into my bag. Lest Capn WiFi’s precious cargo be dampened, I covered my pack with an IKEA bag. (If any of you are still wondering why my nickname is Sherpa, take a look at the photo.)

Cafe Classique was all that we dreamed it would be: warm and dry, with yummy food and yes, even free wireless! We tucked ourselves away in a quiet little nook, and I repeatedly crushed Koiya in Junior Trivial Pursuit. I suggested that she’d have a better chance against someone of lesser intellect, but Todd was busy deciphering the front section of the Chronicle. “Myanmar?” he queried, “Don’t these people have spell check?”

Alas, the cafe closed at 3pm, so we headed back to the boat to tackle our one task of the day: motoring over to the fuel dock to fill our tank. When Todd began pumping the diesel, it quickly overflowed. “This nozzle is way too big! I think we’re at the wrong dock!” he cried. “Maybe we can just switch out the nozzle for a smaller one,” I offered helpfully. “Silly woman!” he snickered as he walked up the ramp to yell to the guy in the office. “The nozzle is too big. Am I at the wrong dock?” he asked the young man. “Just switch it out for the smaller nozzle!” came the reply.

I tried to stifle the urge to mock Capn Brainiac, but the fluffy buttermilk biscuit with butter and jam had sapped my willpower. I rocked my head from side to side, and in a playground sneer I chimed, “Oh, maybe we’re at the wrong dock, naah naah naah!” That might explain why I was given the task of pumping the fuel, while Todd went below to “make sure the tank wasn’t too full.” Within a few minutes we were tanked up, yet I remained standing on deck in the pouring rain. After 15 minutes I respectfully inquired as to the holdup. Todd claimed to be adding biocide to the tank, but it wouldn’t take a Junior Trivial Pursuit Master to know that he was really down there sipping tea and doing his nails. I made a mental note to spit in his sandwich the next day.

Lesson Two of cruising: Respect your captain’s authority. Never mock him to his face. Instead, save your snide remarks for the blog, and share them with his friends and family!

We were tempted to spend another day in Half Moon Bay for the Pumpkin Festival, but the weather forecast indicated that we’d have good conditions for the passage to Monterey, so Capn Bligh gave me a choice: he could set the alarm clock for 3:30am, or 4am. Hmmm, lemme think about that one…


Mexico or bust!

Friday, October 12th, 2007

In picking our departure date, Todd and I did what any successful managers would do: we sat down for a meeting, at which we evaluated our target arrival date in San Diego, consulted the charts, and carefully considered the projected travel times for each leg of our trip down the California coast. We thus decided that we would cast off on Tuesday, October 9.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. Instead of sun, she sent rain and southerly winds! When he saw the forecast, Todd yelled, “This is NOT going to look good on her performance review!

Which brings me to the first lesson of cruising: throw away your calendar! Your schedule is now based on the force of the wind and the size of the seas.

The forecast for Thursday the 11th was for 5 – 10 kt winds from the NW, and 9 – 11 ft swells. While we would have preferred slightly more wind and lower seas (are you reading this, Mother Nature?), it was a beautiful day and the captain made the call: we’d head to Half Moon Bay! We called our friend Mike, who had planned to join us for the first few legs of our trip. Well, at least he would get in one day of sailing!

We quickly took care of last minute chores: emptying the trash and recycling, topping off the water tanks, and stowing everything away securely. Since our regular diver had not come by to clean our hull over the weekend, we were lucky to get Matt Buster to squeeze us in. Everyone in the marina shared our excitement. At 11am, under sunny skies, our G-Dock friends Jean (who just returned from a circumnavigation) and Eva (just back from Mexico, and kind enough to share many great tips) helped us cast off the lines. We were off!


It’s Not Just Pina Coladas!

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

The other day, we told the nice people at Sushi King that we were leaving for Mexico for six to eight months. Our usual waitress said something about “spoiling ourselves”. As we walked out, Todd commented, “People think we are going to just be sitting around drinking pina coladas all day!”

I stopped abruptly. “Wait a minute… you mean we’re not?!!!” Then I pointed out that the sushi woman probably works 10 hour days, 6 days a week, so from her point of view, taking off for Mexico and spending all your money is pretty indulgent. We’re lucky to have the finances to do it.

Todd commented that many cruisers write about getting negative reactions from friends and family; we’ve gotten nothing but support and encouragement. (I didn’t sidetrack the conversation by wondering aloud if that is because we are surrounded by cool people, or if they’ve all just been worn down by what they see as a string of foolish decisions on our part.)

Still, Todd does have a point: quitting your job and setting sail takes a lot of work! Oddly, it seems like more work than staying home and “working” at our regular jobs. But if it were easy, a lot more people would be doing it! And a lot of it is fun work, so we really have nothing to complain about.

BTW, after almost 4 years, today is Todd’s last day at greatSchools! Someone should buy him a pina colada!

Does living on a boat make you dumber?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

The other day, I couldn’t find a solar lantern that I need to buy a new bulb for. I waited around for Todd to call me and tell me where it was. An hour later he called and told me where to find it. Then I took off shopping and left the bulb here!

Then last Friday, we went to West Marine to pick up the solar charger Todd had ordered. We spent over an hour shopping in the store, getting last-minute things for our trip. We headed back to the boat, and had been on the freeway more than ten minutes before Todd realized we forgot to pick up the solar charger! Here are a couple of smart guys!

Also, I can usually make it through most of the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle, but lately I’ve noticed I give up and need to peek at the solution.

The other morning, I heard Todd chuckling to himself. “Did you see this thing Ross sent out?” he asked. “You mean the one I forwarded to you?” I replied. For a moment he tried to cover up, saying, “Well I knew you sent it to me but I didn’t know if you read it and… Okay, I didn’t know it came from you.” This man is a Vice President of Technology, but apparently determining whom an email is from is beyond him!

Todd thinks it is just that we have so much on our minds right now, but my theory is that living on a boat makes you dumber. And even if you can provide evidence to the contrary, I won’t believe it, because I won’t understand it.