31 October 2011

San Diego to Ensenada

At Fiddlers Cove Navy YC There are a series of big left turns that we’ve made on the Southbound portion of our voyage. Tofino to SF, while technically not a left turn, was our first. Sailing out of SF under the Golden Gate bridge was another big left and our left turn out of San Diego was our most recent.

We had the sails up and engine off while still in the Shelter Island breakwater and sailed about 3/4 of the way to Ensenada, overnight, arriving in the morning. We dropped anchor and took our dinghy to our friends who were at Baja Naval and we all trooped up to customs-border-port captain and walked in circles inside one room until we were both cleared into Mexico. We also cleared out at the same time because you can clear out 48 hours before departing and we intended to leave the next day.

The sticky bit is that we were anchored and were only allowed to be at the anchorage for 2 hours so we decided to head to the South side of the bay, out of the Ensenada breakwater, to anchor. Except, that used-to-be-anchorage was filled with aquaculture from rim to rim (and fog) so we headed back to Ensenada and paid our pesos to Baja Naval for two nights. This allowed us some time with Bella Star in Ensenada which was included an appropriate amount of debauchery and ping pong*. Photo stolen from Bella Star.

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In case you are curious, we spent $111 at the border for fees including our Temporary Import Permit and Visas. It was an additional $40 each for fishing licenses and $210 for Mexico liability insurance - both which we did online before arriving. A grand total of $400.

*More on ping pong later.

28 October 2011

500 days of cruising

Today is our 500th day of cruising. Thanks to Dana, our friend and reader who reminded us that this milestone was impending.

At 100 days to go until cruising, Carol and I were anchored out at Becher Bay near Victoria BC and we had a wine tasting party to celebrate. For our 500 days of cruising party, we decided to follow the same theme and have a cheap Mexican beer tasting party. We used google ad money and went quite crazy at the grocery stores in Ensenada trying to buy every single type of domestic beer we could find. We drew the line at the beer with clamato juice (ew!) in it or any light beers. Details (and reviews) to follow.

The circumstances are quite different from the 100 days to go, of course. We are now bobbing around in 21C blue-green water in the bright Mexican sunshine. Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

Thanks to our family and friends who have supported us and to the people whom we haven't met who email, comment, share and otherwise interact with us virtually.

23 October 2011

Images from San Diego

Sailing into San Diego was cool enough on its own, but we also had our own private air show while on the water and while at anchor. F-18s buzzing overhead, helicopters doing low level approaches over us as we were sailing (if you look at the banner photo on this blog you will see that I’m accustomed to being overflown). In addition to the active military there is an aircraft carrier museum and a good tall ship show on the docks courtesy of the maritime museum.

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22 October 2011

Catalina to San Diego

A little taste of flat water, light wind sailing in Southern California. We left Catalina Island in the afternoon to arrive at Mission Bay, San Diego after dawn. At the time of the video, the moon has risen, the sun is setting and we are sailing gently wing-on-wing.

21 October 2011

Oh, the cruisers we meet

A taster for people bored at work: some of the blogs of some of the cruisers we met in California:
  • Convivia – US boat with kids leaving CA for Mexico
  • Dejala – Canadian vessel leaving CA for Mexico
  • Galatea – California boat back from Mexico
  • Gemini – Very well traveled US boat back in CA
  • Letitgo - The mysterious cruisers-in-prep
  • Nautimoments – Canadians from BC heading to Mexico
  • Pura Vida – Extraordinarily nice Californians who helped us out
  • Sockdolager – Washingtonians headed to Mexico

20 October 2011

We made a run for the border

Absolutely huge flag

We are in Mexico. I still have some posts I want to write about San Diego and Ensenada but we’re leaving Ensenada today and so they’ll wait. In the meantime, Estrellita has found her linguistic home.

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19 October 2011

Title Change

You may remember that I used some of the earnings from our Amazon Affiliates* to buy a stack of books which my parents delivered to us in San Francisco when they visited.

One of the books I bought was “Changing Course : A Woman's Guide to Choosing the Cruising Life”.
I will start by admitting that I didn’t have much intrinsic interest in reading the book. I’ve had the book recommended several times and I have a difficult time thinking of women-specific issues for cruising preparation. The only things that I think are women-specific for most (but not all) women in my generation are things that don’t need a book like shaving your legs while aboard or menstruation or maybe dyeing your hair. For my generation, most other issues are common enough among both men and women that the book title didn’t make sense to me.

I thought long and hard about how to review this book – why did I dislike it when I agreed with many of the things that she said? Part of my dislike of it comes from the title. If the title had been “Changing Course: A Guide to Cruising for Fearful or Reluctant Cruisers” (which would really cut down sales!) then I would say that the title fits the content. I know that there are more reluctant female cruisers out there than male but I would also say there are a lot of fearful cruisers, both male and female, and the book is really geared at assuaging fear and giving the reader ideas for control over their course.  This might make it seem like my disinterest boils down to a generational issue.

However, the second thing I didn’t like about the book, as a former professional collector of data, is that she neglects 20% of her sample. If you read the data at the back, 1 in 5 women she surveyed either instigated the cruising lifestyle or immediately embraced it. That doesn’t sound particularly reluctant of fearful, does it? If you read the book, you would get the sense that these 20% are the vast minority of women. I have passed on the book so I can’t give an exact quote but in the first few pages of the book she talks about how virtually all women were reluctant cruisers in her sample. She seems to have found what she was looking for in her data, even though her data were not necessarily saying that.

In sum, an interesting book for a fearful or reluctant cruiser. Not a book for me, or (I believe) representative of the majority of women in my generation that I’ve met cruising.

*If you buy anything from Amazon, find one of your friends who has an affiliates account and bookmark it on your browser. If you don’t, you are missing out on an opportunity to buy your friend a beer without paying for it. You get the normal Amazon home page, the normal prices, the normal free shipping, your friends get a cut. If you don’t know anyone, please use ours. We’re saving our Amazon earning for cruising guides for the S Pacific right now.

PS – We are selling our Dixon guide to Northern BC and chart book for Desolation Sound. Both half off retail price and they are in Marysville, WA at my brothers. Would consider shipping them to you.

18 October 2011

Site seeing in San Diego

You may have read blogs that showed you THIS picture from cruisers transiting San Diego.P1020962 (1280x960)

Or a variation on THIS picture:

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But how many show you THIS picture – oooh la la!

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17 October 2011

Hurricanes in Mexico



Real time update: Remember our blog is usually a few weeks behind our actual location because I upload posts in batches and schedule them to appear one at a time. This post is scheduled to go live on the same day that we'll arrive in Ensenada. Mexico finally!
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How did we decide when to go into Mexico? First, it occurred to us that hurricanes don’t know where the US-Mexico border is and so probably we should think of things…well…probabilistically.

The earlier you go, the more risk. The further South you go, the more risk.  Therefore, how much risk are we interested in accepting? What feels safe to us?


mexico hurricanes

We looked at the incidence rate of hurricanes plus tropical storms in various 5 degree sections of the Baja peninsula*. This picture is based on data that are a bit dated but it still gives the general trend. The three graphs are for various two-week intervals (left to right): end of September, early October, late October.
As I type this, there is a hurricane heading to the coast of Mexico where the blue arrow points in the early October/middle graph. It should surprise no one that has access to hurricane information that there is a hurricane there right now. On average there has been either a hurricane or a tropical storm in that 5 degree square approximately 3 years out of 4.

We decided we wanted to keep approximately one grid between us and historical tropical storm/hurricane risk. 5 degrees of latitude means 300 nautical miles. This is a completely arbitrary cut-off line drawn by us, just like Nov 1, but based on our own risk aversion/acceptance. We are going into Mexico in the late October period (right graph) and we will stay in the grid of the red arrow. By Nov 1 when we will allow ourselves to be in the North half of the grid with the yellow arrow. After that, Southbound again as we wish.

The most conservative thing would be to not enter Mexico until mid-November. Entering at any of those dates does not mean there won’t be any burly storms. There can be burly storms in the Pacific at any time. We keep an eye on the sky (or at least the grib files).

*These graphs are from a guidebook that a friend gave to us as we were passing through California. It is the Baja Boater's Guide: The Pacific Coast

16 October 2011

The Critter Report

Pelican, ray, cormorants, bird of paradise:



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15 October 2011

Mission Bay, San Diego

Bella Star Returning to Estrellita with Costco

I could tell you how our time was at Mission Bay, but how much more fun would it be to read about us on our friends’ blog (Bella Star on left) and see their photos of us and their perspective for a change?

The anchorage is about half full of mooring balls but there is still a lot of room to anchor.

14 October 2011

Unheeded advice a.k.a. Things that didn’t happen

We’ve been given a lot of unasked for advice since we began preparing to cruise. In fact, so much that we made a pact when we got to San Francisco that we would not give advice, unless it was related to immediate danger (e.g., there is an uncharted rock there) or to a close friend that we knew their preferences/likes well (e.g., you will love the brewery – it’s worth trying to make it there if you can), unless that advice was specifically requested of us. The blog is exempt from the rule because it is by definition our opinion and experience and people can skip over it if they find it annoying.

I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when I hear the word “should” as in “you should buy this gadget” or “you shouldn’t go into Mexico before November 1”. I hate being told what to do. I, like most people, respond much better to either statements of personal experience like “I loved this gadget” or statements about consequences as in “the hurricane risk is much higher on the Baja in October than November”. In both cases the person is providing information rather than instructions.

A good friend of ours brought up the point that for her, finding out what to do is part of the adventure and being told all of the details ad nauseum before she arrived in a new place killed the newness and excitement of the landfall. Since then I have kept in mind that not everyone wants demystification and if I am tempted to do so I ask “Do you want to know how we found X?” or something similar.

The following is a list of things that did not happen. I’m not saying these things don’t happen commonly, or that they aren’t usually true, just that they did not happen to us (yet). YMMV. Some of these points were told to use by single people but most were told to use by multiple individuals.

None of the bodies of water or points of land that we have been warned of were problematic. We were told horror stories of Cape Scott (“the Cape Horn of the PNW” is a ridiculous title for Cape Scott by the way because it is in Canada and Vancouver Island isn’t in the NW of Canada I like the idea of going with the worldwide convention of calling areas by their location of the ocean, making WA/BC the “NE Pacific”), of Hecate Strait, of Cape Mendocino,  and Point Conception (“the Cape Horn of the Pacific” – another weird title because Cape Horn divides the Pacific and the Atlantic so Cape Horn is the Cape Horn of the Pacific) . We were told that if we didn’t see any other boats around Point Conception that we were going at the wrong time because people waited North of it in groups and scooted around (we didn’t see much small boat traffic). In a sense, we heeded the advice about these bodies very carefully. So carefully, that we learned when not to go and didn’t go then. So in each case, we found that if we chose our weather, that these bodies of water were non-events.

You should only go under the Golden Gate bridge on a flood. Well, again, if you understand why people say this, you can break the rule. Wind over tide around there usually means strong Westerly wind over swiftly ebbing tides which means bad news. However, strong flooding tide is also a bummer way to try to get out of the Bay. So, we went on a medium ebb with light wind. No problem.

No one put dye in our holding tank in California including at Avalon. This one is a bit unfair because they were going to put dye in our tank at Avalon but they caught us already in our kayak and told us they would come back but they never did. Other than Avalon, the issue never came up.

The Dutchman system has not sawed our sails into pieces. One of the discs came off in strong weather and the monofilament did not saw a hole in the sail. Our sail is in relatively good condition so perhaps a weaker cloth would have split, but ours didn’t.

Electrical bonding. Our boat, like many European boats, is not electrically bonded. We, like most of the thousands of European boats built like this, have not imploded or otherwise caught on fire.

You have to line your boat with copper to get good SSB signal. We use copper to a single thru hull. Good voice, good email, all good so far.

Leaving BC/WA in August is “too early”. I still don’t understand this one completely but we left in late July and had a nice passage. When to make the passage depends so much on the weather systems in a given year or even a given month that I don’t see how you can make generic statements about what month is early.  We left ourselves a month long window in which to watch the weather. The weather was right at the very beginning of our window so we went but we would have waited for a month and enjoyed the W Coast of Vancouver Island until it was right.

25 gallons is too little built-in tankage for a cruising boat. I guess this has yet to be seriously tested—as in, with the Pacific crossing. Still, we fueled in late July (we carry 40 with our jerry cans included) in British Columbia and did not refill until two months later, after passage, after 7 weeks in San Francisco and several ports after, in mid-September near LA and that was with regular diesel furnace usage.

Canadians need to register their dinghy for the US or they will get hassled. Our dinghy did not need to be registered in Canada. We did not register it before coming to the US. No one mentioned it.

((To be continued: Carol and I thought of so many of these that I’m saving some for later. Also, we thought of a few pieces of advice people gave us that we didn’t heed that DID happen and I’ll mention those later too.))

13 October 2011

Catalina Island – The land of mooring buoys

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We had a rip roaring close hauled sail from Long Beach to Catalina on the tail end of an early season winter storm. P1020878 (1280x960) We had hoped to anchor at Emerald Cove on the NE side of Catalina Island for a few nights but we didn’t find room. I would guess that the mooring field has grown since the last edition of Charlie’s Charts came out. So we moved quickly to Two Harbors before dark and anchored in our deepest anchorage yet – 80 feet!

The next night we enquired about the cost of mooring at Emerald Cove and Two Harbors and found out that they cost $32 per night and the cost at the fancy resort town of Avalon is $28 per night so we moved to Avalon with the vague intention of staying two nights.

P1020877 (1280x960)Avalon was exactly what we expected – for good and for bad. That was good because we had decided that the good aspects (fun town to walk around, generally high level of cheese, warmer waters and weather, boater social community) would outweigh the bad aspects (generally high level of cheese, close proximity to other boats who run engines and generators all day, chaos). And they did – I’m glad we went and experienced the madness that is boating in Avalon.

Catalina also felt like the turning point in the weather. We've had on and off heat and sun since we arrived in California but since Catalina it has been gorgeous and at Catalina the water was a beautiful emerald and, not exactly warm, but a bit warmer.

I will say however, that we left after one night instead of staying two because, if Catalina is the land of mooring buoys, then Avalon is the land of odd regulations. P1020917 (960x1280) For example, there are several dinghy docks but you can take a kayak to only one (the furthest from town). Um…why??! Also, we said we were thinking of two nights but when we told them at 8:15am that we wanted to stay a second, they said fine and they would find another buoy for us. This meant that our lazy morning was going to be ruined by threading through the mooring field to a second location (and we must vacate ours by 9AM).

Because we were already going to be underway instead of cooking a big breakfast and lounging in the cockpit, we declined to stay a second night and instead took a day hook at the South end of the island at the Palisades and had an absolutely perfect sail overnight all of the way to Mission Bay, San Diego.

12 October 2011

Long Beach – Yoga on the Bluff

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A big thank you to the owner of Trilogy Yoga who runs yoga-by-donation classes daily on the bluff overlooking Long Beach, CA. Although I was rained out of the opportunity of taking more than one class I enjoyed my sunny day of vinyasa while watching boats sail below and it motivated me to do yoga more often.

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10 October 2011

Mixing Elbow

BOATWORK MONDAY!

P1020869 (960x1280) One of the reasons we spent so much time in Long Beach was that we needed to change out our mixing elbow. We thought we just needed to service it but discovered that there were cracks in the casting at the inspection ports and they were leaking. A closer look showed how corroded and restricted the elbow was inside which explained a number of minor symptoms we had been having.

This is a taste of the type of decisions we face while doing boatwork, even in a non-remote location, while traveling.

  • Where are the local shops? Can you access them by foot, bus, begging a ride (thanks again Steve!)?
  • Is there someone who will accept a shipment for you (thank you Shoreline Yacht Club!)?
  • You aren’t an expert on the project (yet). Will you have internet so you can do research? Or a phone? How much will access to internet/phone cost?
  • Do you need to change the part? Should you replace it with the same part or some newer or cheaper version? If you can’t get the original easily, should you wait for it or have something fabricated? Do you have all of the manuals and part numbers on the boat? Do you have the tools?
  • How much are you willing to spend to stay at a dock during the process? Should you put that same money towards faster shipping?

We are starting to arrive at a mental state where we enjoy this process rather than dread it. First, we had to accept that this is how our life is now and we can either enjoy it or let ourselves get worked up about it every time. Second, I realize how much more I learn about a community by interacting with it while problem solving. Third, when you start asking for favors you realize how kind and giving most people are.

As an aside, my two favorite mantras that I use during boat moments are:

  1. We chose this.
  2. This is part of being on an adventure.

P1020866 (1280x960) About 9 times out of 10 we save a ton of money by doing boatwork ourselves and we learn a lot in the process. This was the 10th time in which, because we weren’t experts, and we were moving fast to get it done , we didn’t wait for the advice of our experts*, and thus we didn’t save money. We bought the expensive Volvo part (mixing riser) and it turns out we could have bought the less expensive Volvo part (exhaust elbow – all Volvo parts are expensive) or fabricated one out of stainless (also cheaper).

This type of mistake/learning curve doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to.

The engine runs more smoothly. The exhaust is quieter. Clearly, it was overdue.

*Ben Gartside at Gartside Marine in Sidney, BC is a great, trustworthy mechanic who is a sailor and understands your situation. I’m not sure there is higher praise for someone in the profession.

07 October 2011

5 Cruising Toys

Carol and I were always gear hounds and our love of toys and gadgets did not die when we started cruising.

I’m starting a series of posts on my current favorite cruising toys*. In this post I focus on the eating/drinking/cleaning side of things.

  1. 2 liter Nalgene bottles – We have 3 that fit in our fridge under the tiny freezer unit. One is water only (so it doesn’t retain any taste) and the other two are often filled with ice tea and gatorade.
  2. Super soaker buckets – What don’t we use these for? Soaking things in fresh water, dishes, collecting water from a waterfall, cleaning scuba gear, killing fish (yes, we put them in the bucket and then bonk their wee skulls) and then when we are done they clean up completely and stow away neatly.
  3. Plates with tall sides (Sea to Summit X-Plates) – We have two plates with collapsible sides that we use while underway or while eating outside. They have enough of a side to keep things likes chips or trailmix or crackers from sliding off. The plate can be used as a cutting board as well so we can cut the lunch in the plates and avoid another thing to wash.
  4. Camelbak bottles with neoprene sleeves –  I have the pirate themed “Hydrate or Die” version (thanks Mom & Dad!). The downside is that you have to clean the mouthpieces so they don’t get too grungy. The upside is you don’t spill on yourself while drinking underway AND with the sleeves you can hook the bottles on your lifelines or bimini and the neoprene helps keep things cold.
  5. Spatula with built in stand – I don’t know why I love this so much but I do. It’s sanitary. It stops us from having to clean saucy messes off the counter. I love it.
  6. Bonus item: Inspired by Zero to Cruising I will admit that we have a Magic Bullet aboard that we love as well. We grind our coffee beans each morning with it, make smoothies, use cold pineapple and blend in rum and coconut cream, blend olives with chilis to make fish sauce, you name it.
*I call them toys because they are fun, cool pieces of kit that we enjoy, but none of them are necessary and many could be fabricated yourself for a lot less money. I use the word cruising because most of the toys are related to life aboard or travel rather than sailing.

06 October 2011

Help from fellow Wauquiez owners

This is not another picture of our boat; this is SV Desolina, a sister ship we were able to have a few beers on in Long Beach.

Recently we have had help from two Wauquiez Pretorien owners and we wanted to say a very special thank you to Rob of SV Valerosa who helped us solve a ball valve problem and Steve of SV Desolina who drove us to Whole Foods (among other places) where we bought two carts worth of stuff, making our can locker look like this:

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05 October 2011

Los Angeles

Redondo Beach

We stayed 5 nights at Redondo Beach (Kings Harbor YC) and 8 nights at Long Beach (Alamitos Bay YC and Shoreline YC). I abandoned Carol for a few nights to fly from Redondo (there is a direct bus close to the yacht club to LAX) for a family event and we met up with some good friends (thanks Eric & Alia!) in Long Beach. We also stuck around a few extra days for some engine maintenance when we realized we had a crack in our exhaust riser.

I wasn’t very interested in going to LA but we had an unexpectedly good time. The beach was lovely and was a good kiteboarding spot except for sting rays. The yacht clubs were friendly and we met some fun people. It’s fun to sail between marinas behind the protected breakwater in flat water.

04 October 2011

Playing Doctor

While kiteboarding at Long Beach, Carol decided to donate a piece of his toe to a sting ray.

This meant a ride in the back of the lifeguard truck down the, er, long, sandy beach, Baywatch style. A big kudos to the Long Beach lifeguards. They soaked his foot in hot water until the sting went away and then dropped us and our gear at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club where Dr. Livia treated the gash.

Before - bloody with wine, after – saline wound wash, peroxide, iodine and pickle bandages.

Sting ray - ouch Sting ray - ouch

Sting rays are friendly creatures as long as you don’t step on them. Knowing they were around, Carol shuffled his feet as he went out into the water BUT once kiteboarding, in a moment of beginner confusion, his foot slipped off the board and POW, stung.

02 October 2011

Images from California

Oil rig – extremely easy to see at night because they had lights everywhere.

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A last shot of the SF skyline

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Not many fantastic sunsets lately but this sunset with rainbow at the Shoreline Marina in Long Beach was a good one.

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