Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day 39, September 26th, Half Moon Bay to Monterey

The morning dawned clear and warm with no wind, so I decided to launch the boat without waking Marian. I try to do this whenever I can because I know she enjoys sleeping in. Having woken up at 5am and having had a few cups of coffee I was well prepared to handle the lines and fenders. This is only possible if the conditions are perfect, which they were. I slipped the lines and headed out of the marina. As I rounded the breakwater I saw a sight I whish I had photographed. Half Moon Bay has a rock breakwater that calms the ocean swell. On every single rock in the breakwater a single pelican was roosting. There must have been thousands of them. I’ve come to the conclusion the pelican is my favorite bird. Between the fact they fly in a V formation and use ground effect for efficiency and the aerobatics they perform when the dive in the water after food, I find them captivating. Anyway, we motored out of the marina and set a course for Monterey, about 10 hours in the distance.
The trip to Monterey was uneventful, save for the three whales that surfaced between Alanui and Paloma. We were so close we could hear them exhale and inhale – “Woshhhhhhh”. It’s amazing. Oh, there was one thing that has happened a few times and is a bit bothersome. Every once in a while the autopilot decides to change course all by itself. It’s quite unnerving as this could cause a real problem if it’s not noticed and corrected. I’m trying to figure out the cause, but to date have not come up with it. As we arrived in Monterey we saw the breakwater completely covered with seals and sea lions of every shape, size, color and odor! We also saw sea otters floating on their backs, enjoying the sun and calm seas. It was a delightful way to end a 10 hour journey. We were lucky enough to get two slips side by side. After tieing up we had dinner and went for a short walk along the harbor front. We then watched one of the DVD’s we got at our going away party. It was “The Three Amigos” and boy was it bad! That’s a DVD we won’t hesitate to trade at our first opportunity! While here in Monterey we are going to the world class aquarium and doing some tourist shopping and eating. Our next stop is an anchorage along the coast.

Day 38, September 25th, Sausalito to Half Moon Bay

The morning dawned clear and warm as we departed San Francisco and got a dozen pictures of us heading in the opposite direction under the Golden Gate Bridge. Today is an easy 5 hours to the small fishing community of Half Moon Bay. Once a hot spot of fishing activity, declining runs of salmon now leave this coastal community trying to re-cast itself into a tourist destination. We had an uneventful trip to HMB and arrived early enough to enjoy dinner at a nice Italian restaurant. I’m trying to carve out a unique relationship with Jonathan, kind of the “Crazy Uncle Scott” thing. In keeping with that image I asked Jonathan if he knew how to hang a spoon from his nose. Well, surprisingly this was a skill he didn’t have, so we went back to Alanui and Marian and I taught him the secrets necessary to hang an ordinary table spoon from the end of your nose. I relish the idea that for years to come Jonathan has an ice breaking move he can pull out at the drop of a hat and start a conversation over a quick laugh. These are the kind of things that make lifetime memories and I’m lucky to have Jonathan as a new recipient of so many fun tricks!!! We watched an episode of the PBS series “WAR” and went off to bed thinking about all the brave men and women that have given so much that we could have the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today.

Day 27, September 14th Bodega Bay to San Francisco (Sausalito)

The day’s trip is a simple one, short, but eventful. Many people define major times in their lives when they cross under the Golden Gate Bridge. Both my father and Marian’s father each passed under this massive structure as part of their young lives. My father was about 12 when he and his family left San Francisco to live in the Philippians after WWII. Marian’s father passed under the bridge several times when he served aboard an ammunition carrier during WWII. Both of them told us about their feelings as they went under the bridge and it served as a wonderful backdrop for our own entrance just a few hours away. The morning dawned with a spectacular sunrise. We started the boats and pulled away from the dock as the sun peeked over the hillside. I didn’t mention it earlier, but Bodega Bay is a beautiful collection of hillside homes and sand dunes on an isolated part of the California coast. My Mom mentioned that in the early 1960’s we considered vacationing there, but never quite made it. The seas were again as flat as a lake, however there was considerable fog. As we threaded our way through the fishing fleet, it took a few hours for the fog to burn off, just in time to reveal Point Reyes and the beautiful light house sitting sentential on the cliff side.
Rounding Point Reyes we set our course for the entrance channel to the San Francisco Bay. Susan and Patrick pointed out several significant landmarks along the way, helping to build the excitement as we closed on the bridge. We conversed over the VHF radio and agreed that Alanui would move ahead of Paloma so we could get some pictures, then we would swing behind Paloma and do the same. As we approached the bridge I put in calls to my brother Joe in Alabama and my Mom and Dad in Florida. I figured this was a defining moment for us and we wanted to share it with other family members so far away.
The currents were minimal and there was only a small amount of boat traffic, so we were able to get some great pictures. As we went under the bridge we saw a huge fleet of sailboats heading in our direction and we began to chart a path through them. At one point Paloma was able to make it through the fleet, but we had to take some evasive action and ended up taking a significant detour. No worries, this is what boating is all about; frankly it was nice to finally see a sailboat with sails up!
Patrick had secured slips for us at the Sausalito Yacht Harbor, one of the nicest facilities on the West coast. In many respects it’s like Coal Harbour in Vancouver. Top drawer facilities nestled along a wonderful waterfront community where everything is available and entertaining. The wind did present a bit of a challenge and we actually lost a fender as we entered a very narrow fairway. I flipped Alanui around and went back out to get the fender and then made another try at docking. With Marian’s assistance I was able to back the boat into a narrow slip and get her securely tied up without bumping into anyone else or anything else!
The next 11 days was filled with traveling around the Bay area. We went to Napa and bought a dozen bottles of our favorite wine (Rombauer), did the tourist thing in San Francisco by visiting Alcatraz and ended up our stay by visiting Susan, Patrick and Jonathan at their vineyard in Sonoma. Oh, we also got the Nauticomp display repaired and did some maintenance on Alanui. One of the biggest accomplishments was finally getting confirmation of a reservation at a marina in Mexico that enabled us to book plane and hotel reservations so the Bridget, Asher and Shannon could join us after the holidays.

Day 26, September 13, Ft. Bragg to Bodega Bay

There is a phrase used to describe the effect of being close to a destination, and it applies very well to boating. The phrase is “the cows can smell the barn”. We were starting to realize how close we were to San Francisco, only one more stop away. So it was with great anticipation that we started out on a long day’s journey to Bodega Bay. The only thing of any significance was that we spent a lot of the day in fog, and my $6,000 Nauticomp display decided to loose 50% of it’s brightness in the middle of the trip. I was looking right at the screen when all of the sudden it was like someone turned off the backlight. A few minutes of verifying I hadn’t done something to cause the problem left me realizing I had just experienced an electronics failure. I called Nauticomp and they said they would take care of it, that I just needed to ship it to them for repair. So, we put that on our to-do list for Sausalito. We arrived at Bodega Bay near sunset and had an easy time navigating the dredged channel to the marina. We spotted a sailboat aground, tipped over on it’s side on the mudflats surrounding the bay. Later we learned it was a derelict boat that had been evicted from the marina a few weeks before and had subsequently run aground. Now the boat is sitting there waiting for someone to take claim it, a very sad end for a once proud boat. We tied up to the dock, fixed dinner aboard and went to bed anticipating a short trip tomorrow and our arrival in Sausalito, after going under the Golden Gate Bridge!!!

Day 25, September 12, Shelter Cove to Ft. Bragg

Several hours later the alarm went off and it was time to leave. We had a long run to make today to get into Ft. Bragg, so we wanted to get an early start. We pulled the anchor up, stowed the flopper stopper and set course for Ft. Bragg. The seas continued their delightful performance of being as flat as anyone could ever imagine, not more than a few feet of swell coming about 14 seconds apart. It just doesn’t get any better than that! As we traveled to Ft. Bragg we saw several whales and pelicans, took showers and had a light lunch. As we approached Ft. Bragg we spent some time looking at the tides and realized that we weren’t going to have a lot of water under our boats as we entered a very narrow channel. We had been told that there wasn’t much to do or see in Ft. Bragg, so our expectations were pretty low as we approached from the ocean. Imagine our delight as we entered the channel and found ourselves winding along a picturesque channel lined with dock, storefronts and boats. It reminded me of the town of La Conner in Puget Sound. I called out depths to Patrick as we entered the boat harbor and after some confusion, we tied up at two great slips in a beautiful cove. Marian started dinner and I took a snooze. After dinner we went for a mile or so walk to a grocery store and bought some provisions for the next few days.

Day 24, September 11th, Eureka to Shelter Cove via Cape Mendocino

Well, this is it, our first big cape crossing. Cape Mendocino is notorious as one of the worst capes on the West coast. It’s a place where voyages are defined in their entirety. Skippers will tell you, oh we had a great voyage, or, it was murder- Cape Mendocino kicked our butt.
Several things conspire to make Mendocino unique amongst the west coast capes. First, it’s the western most cape, and pretty far north as the significant capes go. Second, it lies in an area of significant geological activity and topography. Three of the earth’s tectonic plates converge off of Cape Mendocino resulting in a area of intense earthquake activity. Not surprisingly the land mass rises out of the ocean quite abruptly and reaches great height. The effect this has on ocean breezes is dramatic. Not unlike an airplane wing, air will accelerate around an object when deflected by something like a land mass. I’m not certain if it’s the Bernoulli principle that accelerates the velocity of wind, but the result is that in the vicinity of Cape Mendocino it blows, and Blows and BLOWS. So, as we left Eureka we were delighted to hear the forecast:
.Cape Mendocino: Light winds and calm seas with a 1 to 2 foot swell from the west expected throughout the forecast periodThis was unbelievable. Here we were approaching one of the most treacherous parts of the west coast and by all rights we were going to have a sled ride. We were delighted. Below is a picture of Paloma as we slipped gracefully around the cape! With the cape behind us we got focused on our arrival at Shelter Cove. Shelter Cove is a tiny cove of land that offers protection from Northwest swell. It does not provide protection from waves with any southerly component or even westerly component. We knew it was going to be a crap shoot to arrive at Shelter cove with enough light to anchor by, so we put the pedal to the metal and ran at close to 2,000RPM to try to get a few minutes of extra light upon arrival. Approaching Shelter Cove Marian and I saw a Humpback Whale flopping it’s fins in and out of the water, it was the most amazing thing to see. He would lounge on the surface and raise his huge fin in the air, perhaps 20 feet or more, and then SLAP it down on the water. The picture below isn’t too good, but we just had to include it.
After several hours we turned the corner and edged into Shelter Cove. Patrick had a difficult time anchoring here on his trip up the coast, so we were a bit apprehensive. We had spent some time discussing where to anchor and various techniques, so we were both delighted when we each caught the hook on our first attempt. With over 200 feet of chain out in 30 feet of water we were well prepared to sleep soundly through the night. As the sun set Marian and I were deployed our flopper stopper for the first time.
A “Flopper Stopper” is a pole that hangs off the side of the boat with a large plate dangling in the water. The plate is hinged and opens up if you pull it up through the water and closes when it drops. The effect this has on the boat is to stop it from rolling in one direction and only one direction. The reason you need this piece of gear is that a Nordhavn trawler has a round, displacement bottom. While this bottom is very good for fuel economy, it sucks for dampening roll. I can walk from side to side on the boat and get it rolling 30 degrees each way. If I stop moving from side to side it will take 2 minutes for the boat to stop. There is simply little or nothing in the way to prevent the boat from rolling. So, deployment of a Flopper Stopper is critical for a good nights sleep. Well, we deployed the pole, threw the plate in the water and everything “seemed to be ok”. I had read the laminated instructions for deploying the FS several months ago and thought I’d done a good job. Then I looked over at Paloma and noticed that Patrick had positioned his FS pole about 35 degrees up in the air, instead of parallel to the water, as I had. My logical mind told me that putting the pole parallel to the water would get the plate as far out as possible, yielding the most stabilizing force. What I didn’t consider in this analysis was the influence of loading and unloading that would occur as the seas worsened.
So, we had a light dinner of breakfast cereal because, despite the flopper stopper, we were still doing some significant floppering. We went to bed about 9:30. About 1:00am I woke up. Something just didn’t seem right. I heard a new sound, kind of a “ker thunk, thunk, thunk”, pause, “ker thunk, thunk, thunk” repeat… The boat was moving, rolling a fair amount. So I slipped out of bed and went up to the pilothouse. I noticed we had rotated 180 degrees and were now facing east. The wind had picked up and was blowing from our starboard side and we were really rocking, probably 15 degrees from side to side. I turned on the deck lights and watched the flopper stopper. The more I watched it the more concerned I became. As I looked at the pole it became obvious to me why Patrick’s was elevated at 45 degrees. What was happening was that each time the boat would reverse its direction of roll the flopper stopper would lift slightly and then thunk back down as the plate came taught. The problem was when I put the pole out parallel to the ocean surface there was no force or moment that held the pole down, all three attachments points were pulling the pole up. So, when it became unloaded it would actually lift a little bit. I then realized I needed to fix this or it was going to be a long, long night.
So here it is, 1:30 in the morning and I’m considering going out on deck. I sat there for about 30 minutes trying to decide if I should go out on deck without waking Marian up. Part of me didn’t want to admit to her that I had screwed this up and part of me just didn’t want to bother her. But I started to think about some things we had discussed that we would adopt as “POLICY” on the boat. One of the things was that if one of us was standing watch at night, we would NEVER go outside the pilothouse without the other being awake and at the helm. The reason for this is that if you went over the side, there wouldn’t be anyone there to notice and it could be hours before the partner awoke to find they were alone. That thought is horrifying to even consider. So, after some time pondering the decision I went ahead and asked Marian to sit at in the pilothouse while I went on the boat deck to try to solve the issue. I put on a life jacket and went out into the pitch black, but comfortable night air.
Standing on the boat deck was not difficult. While the boat was moving around, it wasn’t so much that being up there was a problem, this was a big relief. So now I needed to resolve the issue of the pole being too low. The problem I was facing was trying to figure out how to raise the pole without bringing the plate back aboard the boat. Trying to retrieve the plate at night, in the cockpit was a scary task. What I was trying to figure out was if there was a way to take up some line on the halyard that supported the pole, without untying it. I was worried that if I untied the line it could get pulled out of my grasp and result in the pole collapsing into the side of the boat. Fortunately there was another cleat below the place where the halyard was tied off. It seemed like it was in just the right spot that if I pulled the line down to it, it might end up with the pole at 35 or 45 degrees. I did a few practice pulls to see if I could gain enough slack to make it to the cleat. The test pulls left me feeling like it might make it, so I waited for a rolling cycle where the boat pulled the plate up in the water, then as the boat rolled into the plate I pulled down with all my strength. I got about an inch away from the cleat as the boat stopped rolling and I remember thinking “I better get this right now, because if I don’t I might not have the strength to try it again”. So I dug deep and put the hurt on it, and sure enough it slipped right around the cleat. When I looked over the side of the boat the pole was up in the air exactly where I wanted it. Sure enough the thunking was gone and the boat motion subsided significantly. I watched the pole for about 5 minutes then went back inside the pilothouse. Both Marian and I went back to bed and fell fast asleep.

Day 23, September 10th, Brookings to Eureka

We departed at first light for Eureka. It was a long, but uneventful day. We were blessed to have calm seas and I was delighted to find the fuel leak was completely solved. We were settling into the journey and this was to become the norm in going from one town or anchorage to another. We spent our time making sure we were on track, estimating our arrival time and insuring we would enter the channel before sunset. We managed our speed to keep at least 7 knots and at times we would see close to 8.5 knots as we got a little push from behind. We arrived at Eureka and entered its long channel to find an end tie at the Woodley Island Marina. We were famished and Patrick and Susan were expecting guests, so Marian and I went up to the restaurant to eat by ourselves. We each had a great dinner, returning to the boat to watch an episode of Dead Like Me, then off to sleep.
Oh, a word about the boat and the entertainment systems. Before leaving Seattle I invested in upgrading the entertainment systems on the boat. The previous owner had equipped the boat with a 15” LCD TV capable of High Def and a DVD player. I thought that since we were going to the East Coast and planned to be there in the Fall, the days would be short and the nights long. Also, there would be the Fall television shows such as Survivor and The Office, which we both enjoy. So I installed a KVH satellite TV antenna. This is a gyro stabilized TV antenna that delivers Direct TV service to the boat. It works at the dock or underway, as long as it can “see” a satellite. It won’t work in Mexico, but that’s ok, because I really just wanted it for the Fall and the East Coast. I also decided we needed a bigger viewing screen than the 15” TV, so I agonized over a LCD TV or Plasma. Well, after months and months and dozens of trips to Frys with Jim Lewis I finally took a tip from Eric Grabb on Kosmos. Eric is cruising in the South Pacific and had purchased a projector for use in his guest stateroom. He explained why he thought this was the best solution and I had to agree with him. A projector and screen are much simpler to install then an LCD or Plasma TV. They are smaller, lighter and easier to repair, they can be moved to a different location or boat and in some respects can provide a better picture. The only question was if it would be bright enough or not. So, prior to leaving Seattle I purchased and installed a Panasonic projector and screen. It hangs from the ceiling and shines 10 feet across the saloon. It gives us an outstanding 55” picture at 1080i or 720p. We then replaced the old DVD with an OPPO up scaling DVD player that is fantastic. One thing that made this obvious was when my son-in-law, Asher, gave us a binder of videos to take with us. He had encoded dozens of TV shows on DVD’s using the DIVX codex. Using DIVX enables you to put 16 hours of good quality video on a single DVD. So we have a great library of Survivor, Lost, Dead Like Me and several other shows and series. I did have to discuss the ethics of copying movies with him, and we are doing extensive research in this area. In summary, we have a wonderful entertainment system and we watch a movie when ever we need a mental check out.