10-12-2011 – Long Beach, CA

Friday morning we got moving in a leisurely way, with waffles, strawberries and whipped cream.  We pulled the dinghy on board and left Sausalito/San Francisco.  It’s such a pretty city!  Passing under The Bridge was once again a moving experience.  The weather was exactly what we had been waiting for, moderate winds from the northwest, moderate waves, sunny blue sky.  Hooray!  About an hour after we’d left, while we were still working our way across the bar, we spotted a tall ship coming in.  As it turned out, this was the Lady Washington, whose name we had heard just a few days earlier.  When we lost our life raft, we called the Coast Guard, to let them know that it was not an emergency.  They thanked us and said they’d let us know if there was anything more they needed.  A few hours later, they called Dan and said that it had been sighted off the Oregon coast, blowing north.  They wanted to confirm the serial number, so that they could wrap up the file.  Apparently the Lady Washington was heading south down the Oregon coast towards San Francisco, when they spotted it.  What a coincidence!  The story was a bit confused about whether the crew had picked it up or just reported a sighting.  We hailed them on the radio, and found out that they had recovered it, deflated it, and stashed it on deck.  We decided to turn around and follow them back to San Francisco to get it back.  Surely reconditioning a major piece of equipment of that would be less expensive than buying a whole new one!  Dan got on the phone with a life raft servicing company in San Diego, though, and was told that Zodiac life rafts were the only brand that needed to be condemned after deployment in salt water.  They would not re-certify after exposure of the systems.  Drat!  So we contacted Lady Washington again and asked them to dispose of it for us, and we turned around again and headed back down the coast.

We put up our sails, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  The light winds, combined with the swells directly from the west, made it easier to head a bit further west than our preferred track.  Not a big deal, but we had to think about the route we wanted to take.  We decided to go south southwest until dusk, make a tack to the east and stay on that course for the whole night.  The next day, we tacked again to the south southwest and repeated the process.  It’s a very simple way to travel!  However, it didn’t work out quite as well the second night.  Shortly after Dan & Kathy went to bed, there was a loud crash and Bruce came down to get our help.  We had run into a very sudden gale, and the winds picked up dramatically.  It slammed the main sail from the starboard side over to the port side, turning our course almost 180 degrees.  Then the waves started pounding us as the winds whipped all of our sails.  We had been sailing on 4 sails, so we tried to take some of them down.  The main sail does not do well in high winds, and (as usual) the roller furling jammed when we tried to roll the sail up.  We left that sail for the time being, flogging around, and moved to the jib.  The roller furling line on that one hadn’t been tensioned properly the last time it was deployed and we’d been sailing for two days with the furling line wrapped in a tangle around the forestay about a dozen times. It was jammed, so Dan went out to the end of the bowsprit to untangle and rewind that roller furling line, dealing with 40 knot winds in the pitch of night and riding the rocking-horse in and out of the water.  He probably spent 40 minutes working with that line, but finally succeeded in getting it wound properly, so we were able to roll that sail up.  By this time, we’d slowed down enough to get one of the stay-sails down – without incident.  We came back to the main sail and decided to just lower the whole thing to the deck to sort out in the morning.  (This is the boom that’s 40 feet above deck.)  We fired up the engine and motored the rest of the night.  In the morning, the winds had died back to a reasonable level, and we went out to assess the situation.  The knot attaching the sheet for the main sail to the end of the boom had come undone, but the line itself appeared to be in good condition.  The sail, however, had taken a beating, and will need to have some tears repaired.  It looks like the jib also has some damage.  We count this as the first major (mis)adventure since leaving Portland to head south.  Lesson: Always make sure that your sails are readily furlable WELL BEFORE YOU NEED TO!  So we decided to tuck in well before San Diego to address some of these repairs – and besides there are a few people in the L.A. area that we’d love to see, including Dan’s son Jesse and Kathy’s college friends Beth & Mark.

Two days ago we pulled into Long Beach, where we’ve been anchored for the last couple of days.  As we motored through the last night before we got here, Kathy noticed that there was a problem with the engine, which we’d seen once before.  The heat exchanger brings together the hot cooling water circulating through the engine and cool raw water from the ocean – it’s like a radiator that uses seawater.  One or more of the capillaries that carries the coolant through the raw water broke through, so that the two bodies of water were able to mix.  This means that salt water was circulating through our engine, not exactly a good idea.  Fortunately we discovered this pretty quickly, reducing the likelihood that there will be any secondary damage.  Monday we pulled the heat exchanger off for repair, lowered it into our dinghy and brought it to a public fishing dock, where we had a taxi pick us up and take us to a repair shop.  Our taxi driver was a guy from Sudan who’d been in the States for 16 years, although his wife and children were still back in Africa.  He merrily offered us his business card, in case we’d need him to help us retrieve the heat exchanger the next day.  On the way to the shop, we noticed lots of oil derricks scattered throughout the neighborhood slowly pumping petroleum.  We also saw a lot of ethnic diversity that Portland just doesn’t support: blacks, Latinos, Asians.  It’s fun to find ourselves in a very different place than we’ve been living for many years.  The scenery is also quite different, with palm trees and rolling hills instead of Douglas firs and volcanic peaks.

Last night we enjoyed playing with the bioluminescent plankton.  These guys flash like lightning bugs or sparklers whenever there’s a disturbance in the water.  We saw a stream of them flashing where the anchor line entered the water.  Dan dunked a fishing line in and we watched shimmers of light follow both the lure and the weight.  A sea lion came to see what was going on, and its whole body lit up as it swam underwater.  Next Dan grabbed a big round fender and dropped it into the water, creating a sizeable splash, which made a outwardly rippling kaleidoscope of light.  Bruce tried to capture this on film, with moderate success, and I’m sure we’ll see a new art-form emerge from this evening’s experiments…

This morning we put Bruce and Rich on a plane back to Portland.  It’s been wonderful having each of them aboard for this first stretch of our journey.  Rich brings a wealth of experience and has lots of good advice to offer – and seemed to know everyone there was to know in the SF Bay Area!  Bruce brings a ready enthusiasm and a playful sense of humor.  It’s cool to watch him at play with his photography.  He may join us again in San Diego for the journey down the Baja coast.  Both are good travel companions, flexible and helpful inside as well as out.  We’ll miss them, but we’re also looking forward to a few days or weeks with just the two of us again.

Now we’re sailing (!) a little further down the coast, to Newport Beach.  We are joining our friends John & Lucy and son Kingsley, who are traveling from Vancouver Island to Belize on Stone Age, another ferro-cement sailboat.  The day is calm and sunny and the ocean swells are gentle and smooth. We’re watching pelicans dive-bomb into the water to capture a fishy meal.  Occasionally we also see a fin break the water’s surface.  Sometimes we can identify it as a porpoise or sea lion, but there have been a few that we were less certain of.  Perhaps a larger porpoise, or a shark?  There were earlier reports of blue whales in the area, but we think we’ve passed out of that specific region.  We threaded our way between several oil refineries out on the water. The solar panels are keeping up with our power needs beautifully.  They seem to have been a great investment.  We should barely need to run our generator at all when we are at anchor in a sunny climate.  We’ve spent today sailing with them fully deployed, albeit in very gentle conditions, and they’re powering all of our refrigeration and navigation equipment and our batteries are full.  We’re both sporting wide grins, as we merrily glide down the California coast.  Life is good…

Oil Derrick

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 10-12-2011 – Long Beach, CA

  1. Born2Sail says:

    Hi Guys…Enjoying yourselves? I reckon how can you not. What’s the latest with the bow thruster? I thought you should know there are fish in the ocean…big fish! On the trip down the coast with Rob on LaDonna, we landed two tuna, the second one a 50 pounder at least (and yes, we have video so it really did happen). We used a hand-line with a red rubber squid for a lure. The line was out two wave sets aft (about 100 yds). We had so much tuna on board that I fixed fish tacos for the Friday social at Vallejo Yacht Club. I think I’m going to ask the makers of Mae Ploy Sauce to cut me in on the profits. Edie and I look forward to reading about your adventure as you go. Via con Dios, Rich.

Comments are closed.