Tuesday, December 2, 2008

First Passage: Berkeley to Point Conception
Nautical miles: approximately 300
Engine hours: 13
Most valuable crew member: Moni (our Monitor windvane) with a close second from Grizzly
Passage Time: 4.25 days (0500 November 15th Berkeley Marina to 1200 November 19th Cojo Anchorage)
Anchorages during the passage: Stillwater Cove off of the 18th tee at Pebble Beach in Carmel, CA from 1100 November 16th through 1200 November 17th.

Wow! Where to start? The weather quickly deteriorates this time of year north of Point Conception so we felt a bit of pressure to get past this “Cape Horn of southern California”. The first winter storms followed by a beautiful weather window with 100 year highs in the Bay area nudged us onward.

Chris returned on a red eye from Hawaii on the 13th so we basically had only the 14th to get the final touches ready for leaving Berkeley. We rushed around like crazy people; filled the water tanks, topped off fuel, purchased the final fresh produce, gave Tao her last fresh water bath for who knows how long, oh and we purchased a well cared for 2hp motor for our dinghy hours before pushing off so then had to figure out how to mount it on the deck rail… We didn’t get to fit in quite everything- a going away party to show of the boat, drinks with the Stillwater folks, a sail with Frank and Sid, we’ll just have to keep in touch via this blog. Thanks so much to all who encouraged us for the last who knows how long to “go” and notably in the final hours Greg, Melissa and Matey of Pura Vida for the assurance that cruisers are indeed friendly as well as the loan of their Miata to run quick last minute trips to town and especially to Dave, Annette and Luna of Moonshadow who not only escorted us out past the Golden Gate but were there to help us every step through the last few weeks of craziness.

We’re off like a herd of turtles. We awoke on Saturday the 15th to a northeast breeze which gave us some difficulty getting out of our slip. Once finally underway, we were trying to get our bearings in our familiar space made all of a sudden unfamiliar from darkness, when our emergency bilge alarm went off! Where was the water coming from? Do we have to go back to the slip already? We pumped out and there was no flow coming in, so we continued on. The sunrise was amazing and the winds filled in off shore pushing us away from Berkeley. We were able to run out past the Golden Gate on a 2.2 knot ebb tide. Traffic was timed perfectly for crossing the shipping lanes. We waved goodbye to Moonshadow and the Golden Gate as we turned south and saw the Farallones off in the distance.

We sailed on a beam reach down the coast about 5 nautical miles off, picking out places we’d previously surfed as we sailed by. We reached Half Moon Bay and a decision point around noon. Do we continue on for our first night at sea? As the winds lessened, the swells began to make Shawn (who refuses as of yet to take seasickness meds) a bit nauseous though Chris’ drugs were working fine. The moon was to be big and bright and the weather good, so we headed on toward our first night at sea. Just before sunset the coast range blocked our winds and we were becalmed. Wanting to keep it “traditional” we bobbed for two hours and Shawn, now feeling fine, passed the nausea on to Chris. It was when we realized that we were being pushed toward land and back up the coast that we fired up the iron horse. It wasn’t until 7 hours later as Chris’s watch ended and Shawn’s began at 2300 that the winds filled in again. From there, we had an amazing sail wing-on-wing down toward Santa Cruz/Monterey at about 4 knots. Around 0500 the next morning we heaved-to waiting for the sun to come up so we could sail into Carmel Bay for some well needed rest and boat work.

We dropped the hook in Stillwater Cove just off the 18th tee of the famous Pebble Beach golf course at 1100 Sunday 16th. The hammock was up on the foredeck and in no time Shawn was asleep swaying in the sunny breeze as Chris ripped apart the bow looking for the water that was still filling our bilges. The culprits turned out to be a cowl vent on the foredeck and anchor chain haus pipe. Putting the deck plate in and careful management of the anchor locker have relieved that issue to date.

At noon on Monday the 17th we weighed anchor and were off again after spending the morning installing a battery monitor and making our first contact via HAM radio with Dave in LA and Burg and Marcia in Gualala. Once out of Carmel Bay we watched a pod of dolphins cruising down the coast much faster than we were with our calm to 5 knot lapsing winds and again our engine came roaring to life helping us down the Big Sur coast. Five hours later the winds filled in from the west and we sailed wing on wing through thick fog with the moon and a few stars peeking out through a hole just above us. Grizzly seemed to have her sea legs and loved that someone was up at all hours to play with her. She sat on the table down below swaying like it was normal and kept a close eye on whichever of us was on deck watch.

Continuing on through the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary we had a high marine layer all day on Tuesday the 18th. The sun shone through for a brief time while Shawn was on watch about 10 nautical miles off shore she watched two whales (California gray?) headed up the coast and even saw one breech! As we continued past Point Piedras Blancas and San Simeon, the little amount of daylight grew less and the winds increased, our calculations put us into our next possible anchorages either Morro Bay or Port San Luis after dark. With a forecast of dense fog and deteriorating wind conditions over the next few days we reached another decision point. With plenty of sea room, we decided to slow down and heave-to for a few hours of good rest (though one of us was still on watch) until 2100 when we calculated that we needed to again start heading south to get to Point Arguello and Point Conception in good daylight hours.

Taking turns at four hour watches we flew down the coast averaging over 4 knots under jib alone. This put us just off Point Arguello around 0700 on Wednesday the 19th. With both of us now on watch, we entered what is known as “windy lane” in which there was a low marine layer of fog and winds were 15-20 knots from the northwest. Moni (our Monitor windvane) steered us surfing down the 3 foot waves to reach our maximum speed over ground during the passage of 9.5 knots! Chris was clipped into the jack lines on deck monitoring Moni’s work while Shawn was down below frantically plotting positions every 10 minutes because we could see nothing in the fog when magically, the winds abated, the sun shown through and we could make out Point Conception as we sailed out of windy lane into the lee of Point Arguello.

We caught our breath for a few moments each finally enjoying our tea in the quick respite. We then gybed for a few more moments in windy lane before we could gybe again around Point Conception. Now officially in Southern California, all too quickly we found ourselves just past Government Point at our destination of Cojo anchorage. Having spent so much energy focusing on getting around Point Conception, we were a bit unprepared and had, shall we say, an exciting quicker than anticipated anchoring when our anchor decided to drop itself while we were doing our drive by of the anchorage. We joined two other sailboats between two beds of kelp a bit too close maybe, but all turned out well and we broke out strawberries and port in celebration.

We have been recovering here for two days now and just finished riding out the northwest gale that we raced to get here ahead of. Time to check out the world renowned surf breaks along this untouched portion of the California coast called “The Ranch” and afterwards onward toward the Channel Islands.

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