Friday, October 30, 2009

Bahia de Tortugas

Thursday evening, another problem started – the head (toilet for you landlubbers) was VERY slow to pump (flush for you landlubbers). Probably either one of the valves going bad (the joker or the flapper) or something stuck in the hoses. We tried putting vinegar down the head – no luck. Try hot water, letting it sit for a while first – no luck. A call out to the fleet on VHF and we got a suggestion for baking soda + vinegar. It fizzed and spewed a bit – a couple pumps on the handle – and POP! One Heimlich manuever later... a couple pieces of guess-what popped up, and it was then flushing as well as ever. We thought about doing DNA testing to identify the offender, but decided we were just pleased that it was clear.

We had anchored towards the NW end of the anchorage (farther from town, but closer to the beach where the party would be). After sunset, it looked light a small city with all of the anchor lights glimmering.

Friday morning, listening to the net at anchor, we learned that the HaHa had lost their first boat ever. J-World, a J/120, apparently sailed through a pod of whales during the rough weather on Wednesday morning. They "encountered" one of the whales, causing their rudder to break, and opening a large hole in the boat. Within minutes they had to abandon ship into their life raft and the ship sank. They spent about 4 hours in the liferaft before being picked up by a US Coast Guard helicopter which flew them back to San Diego. We heard the skipper will come down to Cabo for the final awards party – we are anxious to hear more about what really happened!

We decided not to put the dinghy together and instead hailed a panga to take us to town – they were charging $1 per person (plus $1 to dispose of our trash).
The pier at town had improvements since we had last been there. There was no a dinghy dock sticking out from the end of the pier with metal stairs to go up (the first step was a doozy at low tide), instead of having to tie the dinghys to the pilings and climb up a straight metal ladder. We walked up through town.
The HaHa must be the big event of the year for the town. It is well off the beaten track, all dirt roads, and perhaps a thousand residents. There are probably 160 HaHa boats in the anchorage, with some 600 sailors on board.

We stopped into an internet cafĂ© for a bit, where one of the locals seemed to latch onto us. He showed us to the local grocery where we bought some tortillas and limes, and then to the local bakery where we bought some fresh bread. There were two restaurants in town – one up on the hill and one by the water. We decided to have lunch at the one by the water. They were clearly not used to having so many patrons – it took us 2 hours for a simple lunch, with each of us getting their meal at a different time.

Since the beach party had already started, we went to the pier to get a panga to take us from town at the NW corner of the bay out to the beach party at the NE corner – stopping by our boat on the way to drop off our groceries and pick up our potluck contribution. The panga driver was a very pleasant older gentleman who had his 11-year old grandson (one of 14 grandchildren) helping him. The beach party was fun, talking with the other sailors, sampling the potluck dishes, drinking cold beer that the locals were selling, a stroll up the beach – we avoided the more strenuous activities such as the tug of war and volleyball.

Saturday morning start was delayed until 12:30pm due to the late arrival of many of boats that had stopped over San Quintin or other places on the way down. We spent some time in the morning on our wind instrument – first circling to try to recalibrate – thinking that perhaps in the wind and seas we had experienced, the mast had been circling and might have just whipped the anemometer around so quickly that it screwed up the calibration. No luck. We checked the wiring connections at the back of the instrument and at the base of the mast – looked good. And it was already too windy to try going up the mast to check the connections up there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baja HaHa Leg 1-B – Bahia de San Quintin to Bahia de Tortugas

Although the wind at sea was supposed to be picking up to a sustained 25 kts, it was rather calm in the anchorage. Even so, our gps (which we had left on all night as an anchor watch – we set it to sound an alarm if we moved more than 150 feet from our original location) showed that we had traveled 4.82 miles overnight, as we rode back and forth at anchor. On the morning net Wednesday at 0730, Profligate reported from their weather service and from reports from boats that had continued on, that the wind was there but that the seas didn’t seem quite as large as predicted. Even though it was still expected to blow 25 kts all day Wednesday, Profligate planned to head on towards Turtle Bay. Most of the boats, including us, decided to leave as well. So we pulled up anchor at 0900 and headed out. We were motoring out of the bay, with the main already raised for the light winds we were currently feeling. About 10am, with the course set, Doug went below for a little rest. Within 10 minutes, Cathy yelled down to come up and help us reef. “Reef?” Doug said. “We’re not even sailing yet”. But when he went up, the winds had already built to 20 kts and as he came up the companionway a huge wave was towering over the stern. We got the boat into the wind, put in a double reef, then turned downwind and also deployed the staysail. Around noon it was blowing mid 20’s and continued to blow all day. We figured the waves were 10-12 feet with occasional 15-18 footers. No one was happy with these conditions, but the boat was built to handle it. As it got dark, thankfully there was a waxing moon, approaching full – so we had a fairly bright moon from sunset until about 4 am. While there were some periods of lighter wind around midnight and 2am, we also saw sustained winds in the upper 20’s with gusts to 35 from our port quarter. Then all of a sudden our wind instrument showed about 7 kts at 30 degrees. That couldn’t be right. Cathy cycled the instruments off and on, and it seemed to correct itself. But over the next several hours it continued to screw up until it finally started reading 0.0 apparent wind from directly in front of us. So now it’s feeling the wind on the back of the neck or in the face, looking at the wind generator, craning to look up at the windex, and looking at the sea state.

Here is the crew of Galatea, and sunset at sea:

By 6 am the wind had pretty much died down, and we had to motor the rest of the way into Turtle Bay, arriving at about 2pm Thursday – feast or famine!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baja HaHa Leg 1-A – San Diego to Bahia de San Quintin

The start was set for 11am Monday morning just off Point Loma outside San Diego harbor. We felt a little nervous heading off with the approaching weather – but we did feel a little more informed about weather in general. Besides getting regular reports from Profligate (the Baja HaHa committee catamaran), Doug learned a lot at the Sailmail class about various grib files that we could get. We had set up some regular feeds of weather forecasts to get via our SSB radio. Grib files (short for grid-binary?) are binary data files that can show data such as the wind speed/direction, wave height/period, barometric pressure on a lat/long grid (e.g. every 1 degree or every ½ degree), forecast by a couple of different computer models for every 24 or 12 or 6 hours out for the next several days. The main model is the GFS (Global Forecasting System) model – but there is also a COAMPS model that seemed useful since that model pays a little more attention to effects close to shore. And with the weather that was predicted for Tuesday night and all through Wednesday night, we had scoped out a couple of possible anchorages for refuge along the coast on the way down. The first leg from San Diego to Bahia de Tortugas (Turtle Bay) is about 360 nautical miles (NM), which we expected to take about 72 hours. The prospects of 3 consecutive overnights, with heavy weather on 2 of them was not exactly what we were looking forward to.

All the boats were to parade past Shelter Island at about 10am on the way out to the start. The harbor police had arranged for a fire boat to be spraying his hoses as we went by, and there was media coverage set up. There were perhaps 160 boats at the start. Of the 193 signed up, several had already dropped out (e.g. due to boat problems like the water tank problem that Dick’s original boat had), were planning to start from Ensenada, or had decided to wait until Thursday when the weather had passed.

We approached the starting line at 1100 with very little wind, but just 10 minutes after the start the wind freshened to 8-9 knots from the starboard quarter. We deployed our asymmetric – and most of the boats deployed their asymmetric or spinnaker. Our asymmetric is the big blue/white/black with red horizontal stripe sail billowing out front – it’s a ¾ oz. sail, best for doing a broad reach in relatively light wind. An asymmetric has the tack attached down to the bow of the boat, as opposed to a spinnaker which has a pole to hold the tack out to the side opposite of the main boom. By early afternoon the wind had picked up to 13-15 knots, and we were pushing along at 7 to 7.5 kts as we headed through the Coronados islands.

As it turned to late afternoon, the wind died. We started motoring and started getting into our routine. We had set a watch schedule with everyone having 4 hours on and 4 hours off around the clock. We staggered the watches so that a fresh person came up every 2 hours. So Cathy had midnight-4am, 8am-noon, 4pm-8pm - opposite Doug with 4am-8am, noon-4pm, and 8pm-midnight. Dick had 2am-6am, 10am-2pm, 6pm-10pm – opposite David with 6am-10am, 2pm-6pm, 10pm-2am. Nominally Dick and David would “hot bunk” in the aft berth and Doug and Cathy would “hot bunk” in the forward berth (if not too rough). We also had the lee cloth up for the port side salon settee – Doug, Cathy, or Dick often used that berth. And at the beginning, David wasn’t feeling well and so often just slept in the cockpit.

The wind picked up enough in the evening to sail for several hours, but then died again at midnight and we had to motor all night. By 6am the fog had closed in to ¼ mile visibility. Every morning at 0730 there was an SSB net (on channel 4A = 4146 MHz), run by the Poobah (Richard Spindler of Latitude 38) aboard Profligate. It started with emergencies (medical or boat problems), followed by weather, followed by a roll call check-in where we would give our 0600 positions. Tuesday morning, Richard said that the forecast was still showing some pretty heavy weather coming in Tuesday night through Wednesday night, and strongly suggested that people might want to pull into Bahia San Quintin (or perhaps Punta Baja) – and said that Profligate would plan to pull into San Quintin. San Quintin had been our primary potential refuge, and given that report, we reset our waypoint to head in.

Bahia San Quintin is a large bay, about 5 miles from north to south. It looked like there was a hotel towards the SE, and some villages along the E shore. When we entered the bay at 1300 there were already perhaps 20-30 boats in there. We chose to anchor in a spot tucked into the NW corner near where an estuary comes into the bay. By nightfall, there were about 70 boats in the anchorage. It was a beautiful site with all of the anchor lights. We wondered what the villagers on shore would have thought – they are probably not used to so many boats in their bay at once – and certainly were not expecting the Baja HaHa group to stop there.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A week in San Diego

What a week in San Diego! Cabrillo Isle Marina is an Almar marina, which was a sponsor of the HaHa, so they gave discounts on slips to HaHa participants. There were 55 HaHa boats in this one marina out of the 193 signed up. There was a real interesting trimaran (not a HaHa boat!) at the end of our dock. The sail was a foil that looked like an airplane wing turned on its end. The owner said the foil was floating on a bed of ball bearings. Since the foil isn’t directly attached to the boat, the boat can point up to 20 degrees off the wind while the foil is at 45 degrees. He also said it should do better in storms than traditional rigs – since the foil is not attached to the boat, it doesn’t put the same strains on the boat. Next to that boat was another trimaran that was used to film Water World. The movie where the entire surface of the earth is covered by water, and all the inhabitants are trying to find enough dirt to grow something green.
We decided to rent a car together with Russ and Roz (from BYC) to make running around easier. But being around all of the other boats gathering for the HaHa, getting ideas of what else we just have to have, or have to do – and having the car to make it easier – it seemed like a non-stop week of running around. Let’s see – there was Downwind marine (3 trips), West Marine (3 trips), Dinghy Doctor (to drop of dinghy motor for service and pick up), another marine store for shear pins, Yanmar shop for spare filters, Island Packet dealer to try to pick up mail that was sent to us, Home Depot (2 trips), Vons grocery (2 trips), Costco, 2 sporting good stores to find some swim fins, Ace Hardware (2 trips), bank, Mexican fishing licenses. And then there was having a guy inspect our rigging (we won that at IP Rendezvous on Catalina), a bottom cleaning, having Russ help Doug change the oil (after a couple attempts at setting up different systems for sucking out the old oil), fueling up, laundry, SSB class for Doug, Sailmail class for Doug, skippers meeting at West Marine, party at Downwind Marine, dock party Thursday afternoon with other HaHa boats, and then the big costume HaHa party in West Marine parking lot on Sunday.

We went to the party as patient, nurse, and doctor. Cousin David, our crew member who arrived on Saturday, was the doctor complete with scrubs, lab coat, stethoscope. Cathy was the nurse, with a very tight short skirt, tight blouse with the twins bulging out (thanks to Victoria Secrets). Doug was the patient, with gown open in the back showing his huge buns (plastic ones tied on – not his real big buns) and a urinal for a beer mug. Russ and Roz, whose boat is a Nauticat, went as naughty cats. Here are some pictures of our costumes:

At the skippers meeting on Sunday morning, Poobah Richard Spindler discussed how the weather forecast was showing pretty heavy weather for Tuesday through Wednesday – 25 kts with gusts to 35kts and 15-18 foot seas. Sunday evening, Dick stopped by - he was crew on a boat that had just discovered a split in their water tank and were going to cancel out of the HaHa – so he was looking to latch on as crew on another boat. Given the weather forecast, the prospects of dealing with that with only 3 of us (and that first leg is usually three straight overnights), that Dick was an experienced sailor who has a Hunter on SF Bay, and that Dick seemed like a nice guy – we took him on.

Finally we turned in the car – the time for errands was over – and we were anxious to just get moving again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Newport to San Diego via Oceanside

Friday Oct 16 was a relatively uneventful trip down to Oceanside – mostly motorsailing. We did pass some military exercises (e.g. hover craft on right). Since we didn’t need power or water and didn’t want to hang out of the 34’ slips they had available, we stayed on the long “Dolphin dock”. We thought it should have been called the “Pelican Poop Dock”. We did manage an early evening walk to the shops and restaurants at the marina end of the harbor, and out to the beach.

Saturday morning we left for San Diego. As soon as we got out of the marina, we were enveloped by fog. Visibility was 1/8 to 1/4 mile ALL DAY. We kept thinking it should lift as afternoon wore on. We ran the radar the whole day and kept a careful watch, but sometimes small runabout fiberglass fishing boats that didn’t show up on radar would just pop into view as they passed our boat. As we approached the entrance to San Diego bay, the fog seemed to just get thicker. We thought we had gone far enough off Point Loma to avoid the kelp beds there, but ended up going even farther out, dodging crab pots and fishing boats that appeared through the fog. As we turned into the channel, the fog seemed to close in even more – 1/8 mile visibility at most. When we heard a loud HOOOOOOOONK directly behind us, we scurried over to get just OUTSIDE the channel buoys. Thankfully as entered the bay, we ran out of the fog to a glorious blue sky and view of the San Diego skyline, and easily found our way to our slip in Cabrillo Isle Marina. Looking back at the fog, it looked like the thick kind of fog that we are used to seeing streamjng thru the gate into Francisco Bay.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We started feeling a little cabin fever in Cherry Cove with the overcast and rain, so even though the storm was not supposed to clear out until Thursday, we decided to go on over to Newport on Wednesday. While it was overcast and a bit foggy, we didn’t have any rain.

Just as we were pulling out of Cherry Cove, the autopilot would not engage – kept giving a message about “Autorelease”. After digging through the manual, it says “Auto Release provides emergency manual override… This option only applies to sterndrive actuators [which we don’t have] – for all other systems this option should be set to off”. Hmmm… maybe it accidentally got engaged. Poking through all the settings, it didn’t even show up where the manual said the setting should be. A quick call to Raymarine resulted in a diagnosis of likely some problem with the rudder bar. We didn’t feel like digging enough out of the lazarette while underway to see what we could find, so hand-steered on to Newport. Once in Newport, we found that a cotter pin holding the hydraulic drive had sheared, allowing a bolt to come loose which must have put torque on this bar that connects it to the rudder and popped it off. Realigning the drive, replacing the cotter pin, and popping the rudder bar back on and we were back in business!

Newport harbor is an incredible place. We spent the first night at the Balboa yacht club guest dock, and moved out to a city mooring for the second night since the yacht club gave only one free night for reciprocal clubs. Newport is a huge harbor with two large islands (Lido and Balboa) as well as a number of smaller islands. Besides a dinghy trip to Balboa Island to do laundry, Thursday afternoon we took a long dinghy ride around the harbor. Since so much of the shore is private residences with private docks (like the one to the right), there are many mooring fields rather than traditional marinas. There were scads of these small covered runabouts that people used to just cruise the harbor on nice evenings. But even with all the wealth and well-kept boats, there were a number of derelicts, such as the two below that the local sea lions had taken over.

We caught this picture of the sun setting over the moored boats with the outline of the new moon visible in the western sky.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cherry Cove, Catalina

Sunday we headed out from Catalina Harbor, thinking we would just go a short distance down the coast to Little Harbor to anchor. But when we got there, with 1 sailboat and 3 power boats already there, we decided to go on around the island to the East side. After checking a couple other anchorages that were still too crowded, we picked up a mooring in Cherry Cove, just north of Isthmus harbor. The video below shows panning from Isthmus Harbor around to Cherry Cove. We look farther from the rocks in the video than we do in this shot from our transom!

The tail end of storm is expected to coming through Monday night and Tuesday, so we decided to stay here for a few nights – spending time dinghying to shore, playing music, and watching movies.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Catalina Harbor – Island Packet Rendezvous

Thursday Oct 8 we left Marina Del Rey for Catalina Harbor, on the back side of Catalina at Two Harbors, for the Southern California Island Packet Rendezvous. We had to motor most of the way to Catalina, but then sailed around the point at west end and on to Catalina Harbor. The picture to the right shows Ribbon Rock that we passed just before Catalina Harbor.

There were 13 boats that came to the IP Rendezvous – 11 stayed in Cat Harbor and 2 stayed on the other side of the Isthmus at Isthmus Harbor. The island is very narrow at this point – just about a 10 minute walk across – and the facilities (village of Two Harbors) are more on the Isthmus side. The pictures below show Cat Harbor and a buffalo grazing in the field we passed on the way walking over to Two Harbors.

Suncoast Yachts (Darrell Allen with help from Diane McGrogran and others back at the office) did a great job of hosting the rendezvous. Formal activities were confined to the afternoon, allowing for late sleep and/or morning activities on our own. Thursday evening we had a potluck dinner aboard Cutthroat, a 485 that Suncoast brought as the host boat (it’s in brokerage – if anyone is interested….). Friday afternoon there was a boat-to-boat treasure hunt. Each boat had a clue with a fill-in-the-blank word for an answer. Then the first letters of all the words had to be unscrambled to get the final 14-letter answer. As we all went boat-to-boat to get the clues, wine and hors d’oeuvres were served. Besides the game, it was a great opportunity to meet the other owners and see their boats. The boat equipment hit of the tour was a 64” screen with projection TV and surround sound that Mike and Mary had on an IP 40! The last clues weren’t available until that evening as we had a BBQ dinner on the beach at Two Harbors and were able to get the clues from the Isthmus side people. There was one boat that still hadn’t made it – and we needed the clue not just the final answer. It was pretty clear the final answer was “Island Treasure” (or “Treasure Island”), but we still needed the “T” clue. Darrell ended up letting us guess the “T”-word, and since we correctly guessed “tack”, we won the treasure prize! – for which we chose a rig tuning in San Diego. The BBQ dinner was delicious. Saturday afternoon was a group sail – we went out with Eric and Gisela on their 485, followed by the group picture, and dinner at a restaurant in Two Harbors. Dinner included door prizes – the grand prize was a bottom job. We ended up winning a CD of sailing songs, a $50 gift certificate with Garhauer, and an ICOM handheld VHF radio. Overall a great rendezvous!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Marina Del Rey

We drove back to Marina Del Rey on Oct 3 to find Galatea covered in fine dust from a dust storm had passed thru the area a week earlier. Otherwise she looked great. Our neighbors Renee and Doug had watched over her diligently and we appreciated it. We quickly stowed the gear we had hauled down from Berkeley, put the boat back together and provisioned for a fun sail on Sunday with old friends from grad school - Dennis and Ellen with their daughter Meghan.

On Sunday it was blowing 15 knots in the marina, and although NOAA said it was only blowing 12 kts next door at LAX, we expected at least 20 kts when we were out of the harbor. WRONG. It was blowing 30 knots at the harbor entrance. We passed 2 over-turned sail boats in the main fairway and watched other sail boats scurrying back in with shredded sails. Out of curiosity we stuck Galatea's bow out from behind the sea wall. WOW what a sight. Waves breaking over the seawall at the entrance to the marina, and 50 feet out to sea. We would have had to sail/motor thru them just to get away from land. We quickly turned tail and motored back to our slip for cocktails and appetizers. Pulling up to our dock we thought we were safe, but wrong again. Just as we were tying up a huge gust blew the stern of the boat away from the dock causing the bow to "sweep the dock". It was a slow motion event. It's amazing what a 60 pound anchor hanging off the bow can do when it tangles with an electrical box.

Afterwards we strolled with Dennis, Ellen, and Meghan through the Abbot Kinney district of Venice, and enjoyed a wonderful Italian tapas dinner with them.

On Monday Oct 5 we drove back up to Berkeley to drop off the jeep that was loaded with the things we didn't need. We spent one night in Berkeley, got to see baby Zachary again, Cathy put in one more day of work, and then we flew back to LA Tue night. Wed we had dinner on Galatea with Renee and Doug, and as the night closed we all looked thru the windows of our hearts. An experience I will remember.

The hardest part of this cruising life style so far has been saying good bye to all the wonderful people we are meeting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Back to Sea

Dear Friends,

How quickly times passes. Here it is Oct 2 and our brief visit back home is at an end.

Our first grandchild was born Sep 10 and we hosted the new family (Lynda, Paul and Zachery) for 5 days while Lynda recovered (talk about a full house, the galley never closed).

While we were home Cathy went back to her job at CHORI while Doug dealt with/ repaired some unexpected gutter issues and dry rot that led to a large deck project (thank you Hugo, he really appreciated your guidance and patient assistance). We have gathered up a few items for the trip south, most notably a ride on top kayak and a supply of Bison Grass Vodka.

Our time back in the bay area was very limited because of family and work commitments. For those of you that we able to spend time with, it was good to see you again. For those of you whose schedules didn’t mesh with ours, we are sorry to have missed you. We think about you all frequently. Keep in touch and consider a trip to Mexico!

- Cathy and Doug