OK I’m a little behind, so I will try to get caught up. I don’t want to spoil the ending of this entry, but I’m writing from the comfort of our new slip in Chula Vista…
I last left you at Santa Cruz Island, no? We got up at 3:30am and prepared the boat for a long day trip to Catalina Island. The wind had calmed down and it was, well, dark. We headed off and I got to see the dark mass of Anacapa Island as we approached. I had really wanted to see it in the daylight, but, you can’t have everything. I wasn’t feeling the greatest (not seasick, thankfully – more misery of feminine persuasion) so I had a lie down after we’d gotten on track and were on our way. It was pretty rough and when I finally got up and looked up into the cockpit, it looked kind of scary out there. REALLY big waves following and passing us. I had a split second of “I’m not going out there! Can I just go back and lie down until we get there??” But I put on my shoes (it was pretty wet in the cockpit) and came out. We had a nice strong tailwind pushing us along, but nothing overpowering. I took the helm as we decided whether to reef or not. It took me a little while to get used to the giant waves picking us up – and I had a little reminder that I’m vaguely afraid of heights. We decided not to reef and ended up just rolling up the jib and sailing with the main. We were making 6+ knots (sometimes 9 going down the face of a wave!) and were able to stay on course better without the jib noisily begging for more wind. Unfortunately we were not quite downwind enough to use our new whisker pole. Someday!
There was not much to see on most of this trip, just a lot of waves, a weather buoy and a dead bird. This would be a good time to fill you in on all the stuff we kept hearing on the VHF. Ever since passing Point Conception, and the farther south we’ve gone, there have been more and more radio transmissions such as this:
“Attention white hulled power vessel to our starboard side. This is the US warship 3715. You are in an area of live fire. You must turn to starboard immediately and go 13 knots away”
General Securité announcement from a warship giving coordinates of an area to be avoided as there would be “live fire”. Kind of unsettling. Never heard anything like that up in our little bubble world of Monterey Bay!
The day got nicer and nicer and the waves got less and less scary. We ended up using Betty (the Monitor Windvane – aka “Steady Betty”) for a good part of the journey. Up until then we’ve been so enamoured with Moses – our CPT Autopilot -that we hadn’t hooked up Betty. It’s a bit of a process to get her hooked up (getting a quick connect set up is on the list for San Diego projects) – but in big seas and wind, her tracking and movement is very nice and gentle. Moses is all about keeping us on course and getting us to the Promised Anchorage – and SO easy to use – turn him on, pop the wheel in and flip the ‘hold course’ switch. Go about your business doing something other than steering. He requires almost no power. LOVE him. But Betty uses no power and actually does an excellent job keeping us on course as well. LOVE her! I guess we are lucky to have 2 such great crew members. They never complain, either. We do have to remember to look up now and then to make sure we aren’t going to hit another boat or something. Not sure how we’d do without autopilots though – I got about 2 hours in me and I start to get distracted and wander off course. Jonny’s got about 5 minutes in him before he turns on Moses to go do something else (as you might guess, I’m usually the one at the helm).
It was just beautiful as we approached Catalina Island. It is a beautiful island. It is also populated and there were a lot more boats than we’d seen in a while. And cell phone signals and such. Yes, we were getting back to civilization. Kind of exciting, and a little sad, too. My iphone got so over-excited after a few weeks of no signals- that I thought it was going to catch fire. I finally just stuck it in the fridge and ignored it.
As we approached the anchorages at Two Harbors, Jonny said “Was that someone calling us on the radio?”. Of course not, I thought! But sure enough, Ken and Michelle – who we’d met at Johnsons Lee on Santa Rosa Island were hailing us. They were anchored at Cherry Cove and saw us sailing by. They said we should call the harbor and request a mooring at Cherry Cove near them. It looked nice enough so we did just that. The harbor assured us that we would get some assistance with the mooring. After doing loops in the wrong mooring field wondering where our help was, we discovered we were not in fact in Cherry Cove. We zipped over to the next cove and saw our guy in a little powerboat waiting for us. We following him through what is basically a parking lot for boats. We found our mooring ball, C8 labeled “Destiny”. The kid in the boat who was supposed to be helping us was clearly already clocked out. I got us up to the mooring ball and he told Jonny to grab this buoy with a tall stake coming out of the top. It had all kinds of lines attached to it. Jonny tried to affix one of them to our bow cleat. The guy said nothing, until finally: “Drop everything and circle around while I fix all these lines”. Apparently something wasn’t done right –and we missed the tutorial on “How to Get a Mooring At Catalina Island”. We did a loop around and tried again, Jonny felt sure he knew what to do this time. He fumbled with it again, and secured the bow line. But then we discovered there is another line that you are supposed to walk aft and secure to the back of the boat. By the time unhelpful punk told us this, we were in danger of hitting the giant power boat next to us – so he bumped us with his boat and secured a line to our aft to pull us out of danger. We finally got all secured and the kid zipped off without another word. I went up to the bow to look at what-all was going on up there. I heard someone yelling “Don’t worry! I got the whole thing on video!”. It was Ken, we were just a row behind and a few boats back from them.
Ken swam over with a ziplock bag containing a booklet about Catalina Island. There were the missing instructions on how to pick up a mooring… Who knew?!? He invited us to come over for a drink after we’d settled in. They were going to make a big trip to San Diego leaving at 4:00am the next morning.
The water was so clear we could easily see the bottom 10 ft below us. And it was SO warm. We had to jump in. We snorkeled around the boat and looked at this mooring situation and tried to go to the bottom. I cannot go to the bottom EVER. Apparently MY bottom is a PFD. Just call me Titanic Butt. It is unsinkable. No matter how hard I try to dive, my butt pulls me straight to the surface. I demonstrated this for Jonny, who was watching underwater. He started laughing so hard I thought he was going to drown.
After our swim, Jonny decided he was too beat to get back in the water and swim over to Ken and Michelle’s boat (our dinghy was not inflated) and didn’t want to swim back in the dark. I did want to at least bring them some muffins for their trip. I had baked some chocolate chip cherry muffins the day before and they came out darn tasty, if I do say so myself. I put them in the ziplock and in a dry bag, which I strapped to my bathing suit top. I had a nice swim/snorkel over to Ken and Michelle’s boat. And what a gorgeous boat it is – Hylas 49. The back is all steps and as I climbed up, Ken offered me the shower handle with a nice warm water rinse off. He said to use as much as I wanted – they had just made 150 gallons of water that day! I just wanted to wish them a safe journey and offer up the muffins, but Ken was so hospitable (boatbitable?) that I was lured in with a towel and seat in the cockpit and offers of beverages. Michelle came up and we all chatted for a while and then they invited me down for a boat tour. This is their 4th boat over the years and clearly they put their hearts into the design and subsequent care. It was simply gorgeous – like what you’d see at a boat show. They showed me some pictures of their early days of sailing back on their Ranger 33 – they’ve had some wild adventures down in the Channel Islands over the years. They insisted on giving me a lovely bottle of pinot grigio to take back. It just fit in the dry bag. It was starting to get dark as I donned my snorkel and dry bag and jumped off the back of their boat. I heard the folks who’d just moored next to them asking “What IS she doing?!”.
It was a little on the chilly side when Jonny was helping drag me back up into the boat (boarding ladder solution – on the list!). I rinsed off and put some warm comfy clothes on and made our lasagna and salad. It was nice and stable being moored, something we very much appreciated after 4 nights of being anchored in gale force winds. We slept well and woke up ready for our next big adventure – right into the mouth of the second busiest seaport in the United States – Long Beach. We had to cross shipping lanes and an area marked “Caution Zone” on the chart. It was a beautiful day and the seas were peaceful. But we did have to motorsail. I took advantage of civilization’s luxuries and had a nice long talk with my sister on the way over.
As we started getting close, we noticed we were on a collision course with a giant container ship. Altering our course seemed like a good idea. We zig-zagged back and forth to avoid this container ship and a giant oil tanker after that. We finally fell in behind both of them to enter into the harbor. It was hard to get my head around the fact that every little box on that container ship was actually going to be a truck on the highway. We passed a huge Princess cruise ship and the Queen Mary on the way in to Shoreline Marina. We docked at the office and went in to get a slip. They wanted all kinds of information and paperwork, blood samples, fingerprints (ok, not really). And it was expensive! Close to $40/night. We got stuck in the back with a bunch of derelict boats. We were right near a huge beach and the bathrooms/showers were really nice there (realized it had been 9 days since a real shower). But we were excited to be at a dock again and get to visit with Jonny’s family. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a migraine (too much sun? too much container-tanker excitement? Not enough water?) and 2 days on the water had worn me out a bit. I was in no shape for visiting – wanted to shower, do laundry and sleep. So that’s what I did. Jonny went out with his sister-in-law Renee and the kids –and visited with his brother –and spent the night at their house. I was doing laundry until almost 11pm, so I didn’t get that early sleep I’d hoped for – but we had 4 loads of clean clothes. It was my first time staying on the boat alone. I became acutely aware of the fact there was no way to lock myself in (yes, it’s on the list for San Diego!).
The next morning Jonny got my car, which had been darkening the driveway at Zac and Renee’s house for several weeks now. He picked me and then his Mom up and headed over to Ma n’ Pa’s Grocery – Zac and Renee’s awesome store. Zac made us all whatever we wanted for breakfast. I thing migraines make me hungry – I ate an entire 4 egg omelet. We then caravanned over to the park to watch 5 year old Paulyne score the only goal in her first-ever soccer game! We had several hours before Cole was to have a soccer game – so we convinced everyone to come hang out on Summer. It had been a couple weeks since we bought groceries, but I scrounged up some snack and we hung out on Summer. I forget which one of us had the brilliant idea to keep the kids from getting bored…but we hoisted Cole up to the top of the mast and let him hang out there for a while. Paulyne got hoisted just above the boom and that was far enough for her! Back to the park we watched the 10 year old boys pounding the field in a victorious game for Cole’s team. Renee had to work all day and missed out on the fun, but that didn’t stop her from whipping up an amazing short rib and pasta feast for us for dinner. Jonny had some ‘quality time’ rough-housing with Cole and Paulyne until I finally dragged him away, half asleep.
Sunday was work day – get the boat ready for the last 2 legs of this shakedown cruise. I don’t know why, but boat time seems to go by faster than normal time. Somehow it took us all day to get done what we needed to. But we got to have one last evening with Zac, Renee, Cole and Paulyne out for dinner. When we returned to the boat, I almost stepped on something on the deck. It turned out to be 2 Snickers bars rolled up in plastic wrap – with 2 napkins. One said “Have a Snicker’s trip. Curtiss” Curtiss is a guy who lives at the end of the dock we were on. Jonny talked with him for quite a while, I guess he’s been living there for 45 years. He wears a face mask as he’s very sensitive to scents – but I’m pretty sure he smiled at me a couple times… It was a very sweet gesture, or, possibly a little creepy – I mean, what exactly IS a “snicker’s trip”. We checked the wrappings carefully before ingesting and I’m pretty sure Jonny didn’t hallucinate (I didn’t eat any – not because I was afraid!).
We were up before dawn on Monday ready to head out on a long day to Oceanside. Got to see a nice sunrise over the beach before we left. Leaving Long Beach was decidedly more calm and peaceful than the tanker and containership filled entrance. We did see a few big ships at anchor as we passed out the jaws. We passed closely by a couple oil platforms and there was lots more warships on the VHF and weird helicopters around. Jonny had fun naming all the places we were passing – all the surf spots he went to when he was younger. It was a pretty uneventful passage – we even got to sail a little! It was the calm and sunny sailing I imagined So. Cal to be all along.
As complicated as it was to rent a slip in Long Beach, our stay in Oceanside was the exact opposite. I made a call down to the Port Captain and we had a very nice chat. He gave me instructions on what dock we could tie up to and where we could find a clipboard to sign in and a key we could borrow for showers and bathrooms. No charge. He even invited us to a pot luck for Monday night football at the yacht club. We got in after 5pm and just had a relaxing evening – chatting with others on the dock and enjoying our dinner on board (not football fans…). Oceanside (the harbor anyway) had a sweet, smalltown feel to it – if you could ignore the distant thunderous booms coming from over the hill at Camp Pendleton (war games?).
We got a later start than we wanted on Tuesday – no real excuse for that – except that it was kind of fogged in and I guess it made us lazy. It was clearing by the time we left and we had a nice motor – sail. We saw a number of pods of dolphins – smaller and pudgier than the ones we’re used to. And the jumped REALLY high out of the water. These must have been show dolphins trying to get scouted for the movies or Sea World…
As we passed Point Loma and were about to enter San Diego Bay, we decided to stray from our charted course and cut the corner a little. I guess we were anxious to get in there. Unfortunately our path took us through a minefield of kelp. I ended up on the bow pointing frantically in one direction or the other as we wove our way through it all. We managed not to get our prop tangled up.
It was exciting to be entering the bay and seeing things we recognized from our past visits. I called over to Chula Vista Marina and got explicit instructions for getting there. We even had our slip number so we could go straight ‘home’, since it would be after-hours. The bay was an overwhelming circus of sailboats, power boats, ferry boats, military boats, SO many helicopters buzzing around. We sailed as much as we could until the bay took a turn and the wind was too behind us. We pulled in the jib and kept the main tight as we motored. We tried to stay in the fairway, going from buoy to buoy. At one point, while trying to get lined up right to go under the Coronado Bridge, we looked behind us – something we apparently had been forgetting to do… There was a huge tour boat right off my aft quarter. I’m pretty sure I’d just cut them off. Oops.
I knew we were going to fit under the Coronado Bridge, but still, there was that moment as we approached when it just didn’t LOOK like we’d make it. It’s not the prettiest bridge out there- super tall and way too skinny. Somebody give that bridge a burger!
Once on the other side things got a little less busy and a whole lot more military. There was a huge tour boat coming straight at me and I had to veer off to the left to avoid a head on – I think that was the same boat I probably cut off – trying to get back at me. As we counted our buoys to make sure we turned at the right spot so as not to run aground, we passed by a huge row of warships. Gigantic, grey hulks looming ominously to our left. It just felt creepy going by them. I could almost feel death wafting off of them.
We later learned the huge number of helicopters was due to this being the largest Naval base in the US. This is where all the Navy Seals come to train. Interesting way to learn about what’s going on in the world…I guess we’re gearing up for more war! The helicopters went on loudly, in great numbers into the evening.
We arrived in Chula Vista and I squeezed Summer into her new slip without incident. It was too late to take care of any business, but the dockmaster had left us keys and info (and wifi passwords!) to get us through the night. We went on a walkabout, seeing what our keys could open. We have access to everything in the RV park right next to the marina. There’s a pool, hot tub, gym, little store, propane refills and super clean and nice bathrooms and showers everywhere. Everything is manicured and well kept and very secure. It was too late to get our propane filled and we were pretty sure it wouldn’t last through another dinner. We had no choice but to eat out at The Galley at the Marina restaurant. We celebrated “making it”. To be honest, I think we were both a little surprised to actually be at this destination we’d talked about for so long. It kind of didn’t seem real. We had a soak in the hot tub and the best night sleep ever.
We’ve been here almost a week now. Monday and Tuesday must be helicopter training nights – after our first night it’s been quiet until tonight. We’ve just been trying to get oriented to our new surroundings and get our project lists together and get to work. We have a huge list of things to accomplish to be ready for our REAL cruising life outside the US. We plan to leave here after the hurricane season subsides – which seems like it might be later than usual this year ? We shall see. For now, the adventures will be few and far between. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about our exciting trip to pump out our holding tank this morning or how I am now scarred for life thanks to a heat gun…so posts may be a little less frequent.