Saturday, October 12th marked the end of Steadfast's week-long stay at Anacapa Isle Marina in Oxnard and the beginning of another adventure down the California coast. We cast off at 7:05 a.m., a reasonable hour considering our next stop was roughly 66 nautical miles away. Travelling at a rate of 6.5 knots we would make the Port of Long Beach in 10 hours. Plotting a course parallel to the shipping lane was the most direct route to the busiest port in the U.S...who would've guessed! After a day of container ship spotting, reading, eating and sight-seeing we pulled into Shoreline Marina by 5pm, just in time to check-in and get a gate key from the harbor office.
Steadfast's next stop was to be a sort of homecoming. It was at the marina pictured above, over three years ago, that I found and purchased Steadfast. Approx. a week later, my brother-in-law Todd and I sailed her up to Morro Bay in exactly twenty hours, almost to the second. From there I attempted to single-hand her to Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, off the coast of Big Sur Steadfast's transmission failed. After the breakdown sailing into the wind was slow, to say the least, and after 40 hours without a wink of sleep I hailed Vessel Assist for a hand the rest of the way. I happily digress. Back to the here and now.
Slipping from Santa Barbara on Sunday, Oct. 6th at 1130 a.m. was a leisurely time. Casting off the dock lines in the middle of the night has its advantages but sleep isn't one of them. So it was a nice departure from our normal departure. With a sufficient slumber the night before and only 28 nautical miles to our next port-o-call spirits were steep aboard Steadfast. A 1/2 mile into our trip we were met by a lone dolphin who performed a single porpoise off our bow. It's message was construed as a sendoff but was more likely an introduction to what was to come. For over the course of the next few hours we were greeted with 100's of pacific Common dolphins, dozens of Risso dolphins and a group of breaching Humpback whales. A light to moderate nor' westerly followed us out of Santa Barbara allowing us to sail past the numerous oil platforms that dotted the coastal waters nearby, represented by the small blue circles on the chart to the left. Within a couple of hours the winds dwindled necessitating the motor to bolster our plan to be in Oxnard before sunset. And from the looks of the picture above, we made it. Top picture taken moments after tying up the boat.
Located at the southern end of Santa Barbara Channel, the Channel Islands Harbor began as a wetland/estuary and dredged out in the 1960's to create (not unlike Santa Cruz Harbor) a man-made marina. About a mile southeast is the Navy controlled commercial deep water port of Hueneme (wy-nee-mee). The Channel Islands Harbor boasts over 2500 berths verses Santa Cruz's 1000 "coveted" spots. Oxnard's surplus of berthing wasn't brimming with boats. Our particular dock, Anacapa Isle Marina, had numerous vacancies - likely a by-product of the economy. The red arrow on the picture to the right indicates Steadfast's slip location for the week. The black arrow pinpoints the well-kept clubhouse and heated pool/spa. We put on some walking miles while grocery shopping, filling medications, ordering smoothies at Jamba Juice or buying a few boat parts at the local West Marine marked by the green arrow to the right. The blue arrow shows the spot where Elliot, Ren and I enjoyed a barren stretch of beach during the "off-season"
From the initial greeting to the last goodbye, Santa Barbara proved to be a positively pleasant pit-stop. Whilst leaving Coho anchorage last Sunday we really didn't have a definitive reservation for refuge. The hoard of harbors in southern Cal is really the antipodean of central Cali and its long stretches of treacherously empty coast line. So, as we were sailing south, deeper into California's bight, our chance to seek sanctuary was aplenty. Among them... Santa Barbara. Now, if you take a look at the picture to the left (Elliot, Ren and 35 Million), words like "exclusive" might come to mind. The thought occurred to us but by late morning we hailed Santa Barbara on the marine radio anyway. The harbor politely asked us to call back at 1:30 pm since that was the "late" check-out time for guest berthing. Erika called back by 1:30 and five minutes later we were booking a coveted slip in the "American Riviera" marina.
Mason is feeling very angst regarding our nomadic lifestyle. He is only looking forward to more time in one marina and therefore isn't getting off Steadfast much. Pictured right: Mason "relaxes" for a few minutes on the beach in front of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club/ Leadbetter Beach. Dad, on the other hand, is feeling angst about not "getting out" and seeing enough of the sights. Kind of a conflict of interests at the moment wouldn't ya say? The last day in Santa Barbara I enjoyed a stroll down State Street, downtown Santa Barbara, with everyone. Though not closed off to car traffic, State St. is a shopping/eating destination for tourists, "trendy" locals, and university students alike. Not quite Mason's scene. Personally, I could have stood more time hunting down museums and historical sites.
As Steadfast slumbered in Santa Barbara a large mass of cold air began building amid the high elevations of Nevada's Great Basin. With a low pressure system located in southern California, the mass of air to the north was predicted to hurry our way by the end of the week. These winds, known as the Santa Ana's, were going to rush through Southern Cal's canyons and out to sea Thursday and not abate until Saturday afternoon. If you look at the picture to the left, Santa Barbara is located right above the strong winds indicated by the red color. Ventura/Oxnard, our next destination, is located right in the middle of that red mass. We planned to leave Santa Barbara Saturday morning but decided to put off until Sunday morning. The staff in the Santa Barbara harbor office didn't flinch an inch when we requested an additional days stay...kudos for their professional hospitality. Along with the marina's moderate slip fees (0.90/ft), convenient bathrooms and laundry facilities, West Marine, convenience store, restaurants and a maritime museum just outside the gate, we would no doubt, look forward to another visit. Hasta la próxima vez!
Wrapping up a pleasant stay at Morro Bay, we cast off our dock lines from the yacht club just before day break, Saturday the 28th. Expecting light conditions (NW winds 5-15 knots, seas 1-3 feet) we topped off our fuel tank the previous evening. Luckily, Erika had called the Harbor Patrol for the fuel dock's operating hours. They thought the attendant would be there till 5pm, wowzers, it was already 4 o'clock. Twelve hours later, Morro Rock astern, running lights aglow, we motored south bound for Coho, a well protected anchorage right around the corner from California's historic Point Conception. Point Conception and its brother to the north, Point Arguello, are infamous for their marine weather, turning away both historical and contemporary skippers alike. Again, our marine forecast from NOAA predicted light to moderate conditions but we really only saw the former. Pulling into the empty anchorage by 3:30 in the afternoon was a real treat. We had plenty of time to launch the dinghy, do a little surfing, and comb the beach. Returning to Steadfast a couple hours later, the troops were tired and hungry. Erika whipped up some fresh veggie and noodle stir fry and promptly fell into her bunk. I washed the dishes, rinsed the wetsuits and the boys who wore them, checked the anchor and followed Erika.
Above - Rise and shine, departure time (Coho Anchorage 7 a.m.)
With winds light from the SW, Steadfast motor-sailed most of the way to Santa Barbara. The little guys (Ren and E) spent the majority of our six hour sail sitting on the bowsprit watching for dolphins, and their patience payed off numerous times. Mason, on the other hand, slept till noon. I personally kicked him out of his bunk to, at least, witness our arrival into Santa Barbara Bay.
Below - 13 second HD Video of Dolphins bow riding Steadfast while Ren and Elliot watch from the bowsprit above.
Travelling down the coast on a Sunday probably increased our chances of running into more "birthday" balloon bouquets than on your average weekday. We yanked the ones we saw along our path...pictured below, according to the design on this "rescued" bouquet, someone turned 60, but it wasn't Loren. Sailing into SB this weekend was like sailing into Disney-marina! Aside from the Cruise ship parked outside the marina with their numerous bright yellow shuttle boats taxing back and fourth, or the 50 junior sailors clogging up the north side of the harbor, obviously in the middle of a mini-regatta, or the screaming-cheering from the Pro Volley Ball tournament (Kerri-Walsh, etc) just up the beach from the harbor entrance, or "Harmony", a 164 foot mega Yacht a few slips from our humble 50 foot end-tie.... you might be getting the picture, Erika and I looked at each other....Welcome to Southern California! Luckily, as warned by our numerous neighbors, Monday proved much quieter. By morning, everyone was back to work, including us. For dinner, we were treated with a special visit from Aunt Sonja and Uncle Shorty. After feasting at a pleasant eatery near the marina, we walked back to the boat and showed off Steadfast. Later that evening, according to Erika, I was suppose to check for stowaways...but I really couldn't see how Uncle Shorty could hide in any of our stowage compartments... ;)
It is getting close to another departure day. The seas are finally taking a rest from the gale force winds that have dominated over the last couple days. Four cruising boats, us included, hope to head south Saturday and two will be headed north - back home. Yesterday the gale winds filled the bay, pushing and pulling Steadfast from the MB Yacht club dock. By early afternoon the strong winds were not ceasing so we added a few more fenders and dock lines to ease the on going stress the wind and chop was causing. On a slightly freaky side, our neighbor saw a 40 foot power boat blowing down the channel after it broke from its mooring ball. Luckily she ALSO saw the Harbor Patrol boat close on its heels and no harm was done.
The picture above is what evenings here usually look like to the west.... a silhouette of sailboats, sand dunes and Morro Rock, which stands 581 feet. Warning, warning - Geology/Spanish lesson ... A morro is a rocky outcrop in the shallow waters of a harbor, often round in shape and sometimes very high. They are commonly made of hard granite or quartz. The word is taken from the Spanish word morro, which has several meanings, including a rounded headland or bluff. A couple other famous morros include Moro Rock (245 ft) in Sequoia National Park and Sugarloaf Mt. (1299 ft) in Rio de Janeiro. O.K., lesson over! Whew!
Above Picture - The little guys and I saw this congregation of Pelicans on an old barge while toodling down the bay in the dinghy this morning.
Steadfast's windlass deck foot-switch has been on the "blink" over the last few weeks...aka stopped working due to the entire switch corroding into one solid piece of rust. Today I finally pulled the switch out of the deck, cut, cleaned and epoxied the hole, finally bedding the new switch in with SS screws and 5200 adhesive sealant. Now, I hope, pulling up the anchor won't require my aching back anymore...just my big toe! Thanks Keiley for bringing down your dad's power drill. That was one less thing I had to buy and hike back from the hardware store across town. Boy, between the grocery store and the hardware store, I think I racked up 15 miles running, literally, around this week.
After enjoying the morning exploring the beaches and caves around San Simeon Bay, we weighed anchor about 1:30 pm and set off for our next destination....
We've sailed "26 miles across the sea" a few times, but it wasn't to Catalina this turn. The distance from San Simeon to Morro Bay works out to be about 26 nautical miles which translated to about a four hour sail. The Nor'westerlies resumed and we gybed down the coast passing Cambria and Cayucos along the way. The forecast along our route called for 15 - 20 knots so Erika and I tucked a reef in our new mainsail and rolled out our new headsail on our new Schaffer 3100 furling system....yeah baby! Presently Steadfast is resting along the Morro Bay Yacht Club dock for the week. Check it out live at http://www.mbyc.net/webcam1/ with their cool webcam, updated every 60 seconds.
Friday, Sept. 20th....EJ turns One.....Decade! Leaving mom and mace asleep aboard Steadfast, the little guys and I sneaked away for an early birthday breakfast. We didn't have to walk far. Maybe 200 or 300 feet from our dock gate was the popular Lou-Lou's on the Wharf. We ordered french toast and a pancake the size of a hubcap (NO JOKE), ate, then walked back to the boat with a little more ballast in our bellies.
Saturday the 21st Steadfast motored out of Monterey Marina at 0800 headed for San Simeon about 84 nautical miles south. The NWS issued a marine forecast of light southerlies in the morning backing to light westerlies by late afternoon. 25-30 knots had been playing out of the NW for the past few days and more windy advisories were expected for Sunday and beyond. We decided to take a light breeze on the nose instead of the the previous and forecasted wild rides for our trip along the remote coastline between Monterey and Morro Bay. Plus a weekend trip is always appropriate when Erika has to work during the weekdays. By 0930 we were on the weather side of Point Pinos and the light morning breeze had grown into a stiff 15 knots dead ahead. With the motor on and the mainsail raised we clawed along the Carmel coastline. Fortunately just beyond the point the wind died down to the expected 5 knot southerly. Plus the seas were relatively flat making for a pleasant motor sail down the exposed mountainous region called Big Sur ("Point Sur" pictured above).
As Erika mentioned in her blog we witnessed a few types of marine mammals during this leg south. I was most impressed to see the two Orcas off our port beam also heading south (at the time). Elliot and I were treated with a quick show of a dolphin riding the bow while we watched from the bow sprit above (Pictured: Elliot and Ren on the sprit). At one point Erika and I were sure we spotted a shark with its classic dorsal fin breaching the surface.
By about 5pm the fog began to form, thickening as Steadfast charged past Cape San Martin. I asked Erika to switch on the navigation lights. We continued to hold our course parallel to the coast, closing in on a GPS waypoint off Point Piedras Blancas to indicate a safe turn left for San Simeon cove. Our plan was to anchor for the night and leave for Morro Bay the following afternoon. At this point the "sun had set" and we should have seen Piedras Blancas light flashing every 10 seconds. Our approach into San Simeon would be electronic dependent with our ears on full alert. Luckily the boys had been entertaining themselves quietly down below so Erika and I could focus on getting the boat thru the fog safely.
Fourteen sailing hours and 8 anchored hours later ... Below, if you look real close you'll see Steadfast anchored in what many believe is a true example of California Gold!
Sunday Sept. 15th. WNW winds 10-12 knots, seas 1-3 ft, sky clear, temp warm. Departed Santa Criuz Harbor about 11am and arriving in Monterey Marina by 5pm made for probably the longest time logged across the Bay for me but, wow, it really felt like the shortest due to the ideal "cruising" conditions. You'll notice our track on the chart there is a loop into the wind. That is where we doused the mainsail. Erika would have liked to drop the sails a bit earlier but I really was enjoying myself too much. Just outside the jetty Erika radioed in our request for a slip and was warned we might have to standby on account the weekend guests hadn't departed but...the harbor master remembered a 60 foot charter boat was to be away for a few weeks and radioed back immediately to let us know we had a spot.
Upon docking, our soon to be neighbor, Marty shouted out a greeting and an offer to help us dock. I declined but thanked him. In no time we caught up with Marty and his little mascot Morgan (pictured) for some good ol' fashion dock chat.
A day or two later our neighbor Carla came by to introduce herself. She,her husband Casey and.their three kids are cruising south from Seattle, WA aboard their sailboat Dawn Treader. Wow, right out of the gate we find another big cruising family. For the next few days all the kids are hitting the beach (5 minutes away), or playing games and watching videos aboard Steadfast. They are headed out tomorrow, during the next weather window, (it was blowing 30 knots the last couple of days) but we hope to see them again.
A trip to Monterey wouldn't be complete without stopping by to see Catalina Mary and Baja Joe, and their three kids. Mary invited us up to their place (10 minute walk from the marinia...cool) for fish tacos (double cool). Thanks Mary, that was the best meal...Mahi Mahi and Anchor Steam!! Later Mary and her boys walked down to Steadfast to deliver a freshly made treat. Ren had so much fun at Mary's he was hoping for an invitation to move in with her boys. Thanks for the white boards too! Today we walk to the Aquarium. Another Monterey treasure :)
After spending the day ashore Erika, Loren, Elliot and I dingied out towards the slowly setting sun and Steadfast, our sailboat, laying at anchor between the Santa Cruz wharf and the Beach Boardwalk. Within 10 minutes we arrived along the port-side of our home on the water. And like a posey of cowboys pulling up to a hitching post in front of a saloon, we climbed up and over the stern rail, threw a couple half-hitches around the rail to secure our ride and headed below for a nightcap before bed. But before I took my first step down the companionway I turned southwest, towards the open ocean and decided it would be blasphemy to deny the serene calling of a cool breeze on a calm sea. Luckily Erika was on the same "boat!" We stowed the few groceries we picked up in town, got the little guys tucked in their bunks (7:30 is bedtime for a couple very active boys) and headed back on deck. In no time Erika was at the helm and I was weighing the anchor. Within a few minutes Steadfast was sailing slowly southwest with an 8-10 knot breeze on the starboard bow. I didn't have a destination, just an expectation...to enjoy an evening on the bay at a moments notice. As Steadfast passed the mile bouy on her starboard side Elliot popped his head out of the companionway. Unlike his brother he hadn't immediately fallen fast asleep. Erika asked him to grab a blanket from below, put on his life-jacket and lay down in the cockpit. Elliot would enjoy the evening sail with mom and dad. The situation beckoned us across the width of the Bay (20 nautical miles). But I quickly threw the idea overboard. Our presence in Santa Cruz the next morning was imperitive. We would slip over the horizon another day. I ingested another panoramic view about an hour into our whimsical journey and reckoned we were about five nautical miles from our anchorage. It was time to head back. But before we would tic off those same miles homeward A thought occured to me...I've been wanting to grap a few long shots of Steadfast underway. With the Santa Cruz Mountains off our stern and a light marine layer a few miles off our bow as a back drop, I helped Erika into our dingy. Casting her off in a 10 foot inflatable boat, all alone, five miles offshore with just a pair of oars and watching the blue-grey ocean grow around her as I sailed away made my imagination wander. Little did I know the "evil husband prank" was far from the worst scenario lurking right under our hulls. (story cont. next post)
A UCSC graduate in Marine Biology, Keith holds a 100 ton USCG Capt. License and is an ASA certified sailing instructor.