Friday, October 30, 2009

Santa Catalina Island to San Diego

Today, San Diego, tomorrow Bamfield

We have arrived in San Diego. From where we are now I can literally see Mexico. We about 12 miles north of the border and I can see the Coronado islands which are in Mexican waters. This concludes the Canadian and US portion of our trip. Reflecting back after this many miles, 2397.3 to be exact (4439.7 km), we seem to have spent a lot of time going really slowly in large circles! This summer I have circumnavigated Vancouver Island twice, sailed almost as far North as we have South, and in two days we will be back in Bamfield where we left from 6 weeks ago. I’m not sure if we are doing something right or terribly wrong! Regardless I hope you enjoy this last video until we resume this voyage in the new year. I still have a bit of footage that needs to be worked up and a few ramblings about my thoughts on sailing this coast that I might post, so keep a weather-eye open and all the best.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Santa Catalina Island

October 24, 2009

N33 26.54 W118 29.49

Elation. We spent a warm night out last night crossing 65 NM through a navel exercise area and heavy shipping lane. At least here the big ships actually contact you and discuss how they are going to cross your path. We even had a tugboat that was pulling a huge barge contact us and alter his course to leave lots of passing space between us. That’s a first! This morning we dropped the hook in Isthmus Cove and were immediately welcomed by 1-2 meter bat rays circling under the keel. I can see stingrays and all kinds of fish in the crystal clear water.
I made the plunge. The waters tested and snorkeling gear donned. We swam with bat rays, swell sharks, orange garibaldi, and spiny lobsters. While it's not tropical waters, to my mind we have passed a turning point. All this time I have said and thought and hoped that life will be different on this trip once we can dive off the boat. Our little island afloat in this vast ocean will no longer need to keep us safe from the cold once those frigid waters have faded into the past wake. This playground of ours will increase in size to include below the waves.


San Francisco to Santa Barbara

Friday, October 23, 2009

Death Valley and Santa Cruz Island

October 21, 2009

A Mexican, a Korean, and a Canadian are walking through the desert. The Canadian says to the Mexican... I know, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke! We decided to trade ocean waves for sand dunes and spend the weekend in Death Valley national park, the hottest, driest, lowest part of North America. The weather was hot, 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C). We walked through giant sand dunes, hiked canyons, and saw the great salt flats. It was an amazing trip and we had a lot of fun, but most of all, we enjoyed the heat, and sweated all the fog and cold weather of the last couple of months away. It was also great to spend a weekend with Manuela - grand conversations, healthy exercise, and a sense of kindred connection were appreciated by all. For us, a return to the desert on a road trip was also like a return to something familiar, a place that is well within our comfort zone. We have done many trips to arid places during the last 15 years of climbing. While we were not climbing this trip, the familiar feel of the road, the desert heat, and the sense of accomplishment of a road trip was a welcome reprieve from our current trip. It was like a holiday. I know that sounds odd considering that we are currently undertaking this adventure, but we have learned on this trip that traveling this way is not easy, in fact it's a lot of work and stress. Another lesson we are learning is that a trip like this necessarily brings one out of their comfort zone. Whether it be the un-easiness of being out to sea, approaching a new anchorage with heavy shipping traffic, weather unpredictability, different marinas and rules in each port, meeting lots of people (for better or worse) or being alone together for long periods of time, you name it, at some point you are going to be uncomfortable. These necessities of travel tend to bring about an amplified sense of emotion that tends to approach the opposing extremes. That is, you tend to feel the highs and lows in a rapid succession.
Upon returning to the boat in Santa Barbara we prepared to spend a week or so out in the Channel Islands. We headed out in the early afternoon on a beautiful sunny day with 10-15 knots of wind blowing from the west. Our course was going to take us 25 NM on a beam reach across Santa Barbara channel. My mistake was not paying attention to the sailing directions, that I had read several times. The wind piped up to 25 knots gusting to 30, the waves built up rapidly and we began taking heavy spray and even a few crashing waves over the side and into the cockpit. The boat was heeled over (tilted over) such that the side rail began disappearing under the waves. While putting in a reef, I was standing on the lee rail and was occasionally thrust up to my knees in rushing water. The weather was warm and at no point were we in danger, but we were not impressed. As we approached Santa Cruz Island, we found the anchorage that cruising guide suggested was unusable as the wind and waves were blowing directly into it. We turned down wind and found another anchorage that was slightly more protected and dropped the hook. We showered all the salt water out of our hair and spent the night getting tossed around in a rolly uncomfortable anchorage. When I re-read the cruising guide I found out that you need a permit to go ashore on the island and you can only get the permit back on the mainland. We have since moved to a slightly more comfortable anchorage and are sitting amid steep cliffs in emerald green water. There are massive schools of fish that surround the boat and the water is so clear that I could see the anchor on the ground 25 feet below. Like I said, highs and lows.

Fry's Cove
N34 03.21 W119 45.26

Friday, October 16, 2009

Roasted peppers and the fruit

I can’t wait until tomorrow so we can eat again.

It’s midnight. I am sitting in a kitchen listening to the two women nattering away in a mix of Spanish and English. There is a sense of slowness to each of our thoughts and actions. It is late. I watch how the peppers are slowly roasted on a skillet, each one turned when the skin has blackened. The flour tortillas are hand-pressed and cooked on two similar skillets. A pot of beans boil. Whicha, Manuela’s sister, peels the roasted jalapeƱo and yellow peppers then adds the roasted tomatillos and mashes them all by hand. She says the peppers will burn her hand for a day. I am not eating out of hunger; I have been eating all day. The beans and fresh cheese tame the green salsa, but only a little. I am still so full, but the flavor! I eat another one. It’s just to taste the freshness. It has been so long since we have eaten for pleasure. For the last 4 years, in Calgary and even Victoria, we have been plagued with the loathed eternal question; what is for supper? How I used to envy exothermic animals. Eating is such a chore. Why do we have to do it so damn often? Surely once a week should be enough! Of course there were a few highlights, the Calgary crab and steak fests or eating over at friends and relatives in Victoria. We have re-entered a land of flavor. I have eaten 26 grapefruits in 40 hours including eating 5 in one sitting. I cannot get enough of them. My throat got a bit sore, but they were so flavorful. The box of 60 was $6.00. This flavor does not survive the transport to Canada. Unless its calm, eating on the boat is also just a chore, it ranks with swabbing the deck or washing the sails, but it’s required frequency makes it more onerous.
Yesterday we sat under a pomegranate tree with several new friends. We picked the pomegranates off the tree and placed them all in a row. Most of the new acquaintances were practitioners of various naturopathic medicines. They were specialists in spiritual healing through acupuncture, native medicines and personal energy rejuvenation, craniosacral therapy and wisdom readings to name a few. The pomegranate seeds were deep ruby red, and burst with a satisfactory crunch. I believe my questions were logical as well as sincere. I also think I conveyed my cynicism while remaining respectful. There was a point that I stopped asking questions. It was easy because the juicy flavor was so easy to enjoy, you could almost lose yourself in those luscious red seeds. It was when one lady described her belief in a raw foods diet. Apparently it’s not just composed of salads as she was going to make a vegan uncooked lasagna for dinner. Each person took turns giving us warm heart-felt hugs upon our departure, the sincerity of which affirmed that I had not offended anyone with my cynicism, or perhaps that I just kept my mouth shut enough. When we returned home, we ate spicy shredded beef boiled with peppers and onions, refried beans and brown rice with corn, all eaten with fresh cooked corn tortillas topped with either red spicy salsa or the green one that is really spicy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Glowing Dolphins

October 10, 2009

Three days out to sea. Pleasant weather carried us from Monterey to Santa Barbara. This time, the swell was exceedingly mild and the winds were a little too calm. However, between our light air sails and the old iron jib, we managed 212 NM in 53 hours. No records were set, but we are here. Our passage around Point Conception was unspectacular. That is, we sailed in calm seas rounding this infamous landmark at midnight with a waning half moon. We were hailed by a red light off to port, another sailing vessel heading northbound. Over the radio, SV Bugler told us he had just spent the last year in Mexico and was homeward bound. Without meeting, two ships pass in the night, as safe passage wished for both, but what a sense of camaraderie out here in the inky darkness.
At about 2 AM, during my watch, three short-beaked common-dolphins rode our bow wave and played around the boat for almost an hour. They glided in the bioluminescent water effortlessly and made our clunky sailboat look as such. It was a brilliant experience standing on the bowsprit with glowing dolphins under my feet leading us through these dark waters. We have seen many cetaceans (whales and dolphins) on this coast. I would estimate that 4/5 sailing days have brought us in viewing proximity of these animals. Not surprisingly, at every point or land prominence we have rounded, there have been whales. Due to the oceanographic phenomenon called upwelling, nutrient rich cold water is brought up from the deep offshore waters into the coastal regions. Land prominences such a Cape Mendicino or Point Conception (as well a many others), tend to be focal points of high nutrient flux and therefore tend to be exceedingly productive. Where the food is, whales can be found. Unfortunately, the big ones keep mostly too far from us to be photographed (especially with our little point-and-shoot). I did get some good footage this morning of another pod of dolphins riding our bow as we approached Santa Barbara.
We did have a funny experience with a pod of common bottlenose dolphins when we were about 40 miles from Santa Cruz. It was late afternoon and the sun was high. The deep pelagic waters that begin about 10 miles offshore are usually very nutrient-deficient compared to inshore waters and thus tend to be very clear. When the sun is high, the water reflects a brilliant green. The wind was blowing about 15-17 knots which has the effect of creating small but consistent whitecaps. In the distance, off our starboard quarter, I spotted an irregular set of splashes that did not fit the wind-derived pattern. They were so fast. Several fins would pierce a wave as they surfed the 10-foot swell and then would appear several waves ahead with dashing speed. As the light illuminated a wave train from behind, the green hue of the water reflected the off the light skin color of these skilled surfers and created the most brilliant turquoise reflectance. Turquoise torpedoes raced in a wide arc behind IO and then approached us from the port quarter. They effortlessly but cautiously approached our beam, slowed to our pace, and then keeping distance, pulled ahead. It was clear they were eager for a race. But as it was, that was all we had! Our pathetic little wind boat was already maxed out. We had no challenge to offer. Politely they waited, surging ahead and then slowing up, clearly urging and taunting our participation. We had nothing, and without satisfaction, they moved on.
We have stopped in Santa Barbara to wait out some contrary weather and to visit my step-mother Manuela before we move on to the Channel Islands and then San Diego.

Santa Barbara
N34 24.67 W119 40.73

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A few pics from around San Francisco

Whoosh and Kaboom!

We are currently in Monterey California resting and preparing for our continued voyage south to southern Californian waters. We are about 100 NM north of Point Conception, which is described as being the Cape Horn of the Pacific. This is due to several reasons: First, it marks a transition from the cold northern waters that are driven by the upwelling of the California Current into the markedly warmer waters of the Santa Barbara channel. Second, the geography of the North American continent abruptly changes from North-south trending to a nearly east west trend. Finally, these combined transitions typically result in a tumultuous area known as Wind Alley that has a reputation for being either completely calm or particularly boisterous, both of which can be experienced in an afternoon. Beyond this area lie the California Channel islands, most of which are both an ecological reserve and a Naval bombing practice area! Clever ehh? Apparently if you’re on an island they are going to bomb, they give an 1-hour notice over the radio. We heard some advice “ the channel islands are beautiful, but if you’re hiking, stay on the trails because there is allot of unexploded ordinance out there!” Right!