August 2009: San Francisco to Santa Barbara
"Goin' where the climate suits my clothes..."
Finally. It's time to go.
Everything I own is on the boat. Everything else is sold, given away or dumped. There is nothing left to hold me in Northern California. It's a really weird feeling. By walking away from a good career with good income, suddenly having no property or any of the trappings of the American Dream, I really feel like I'm outside the system and no longer a part of normal society.
After eight years of preparation, the boat is as ready
as I can make it. It's over twelve years since I decided to do this. First I bought Dog Days, just to learn about boats and sailing.
Then I bought Stella Blue.
Now it's time to go. So, with all flags flying, we pulled
away from the dock for the last time.
People have asked if I'm excited. Nope. It doesn't really seem real to me yet. After all these years of work, actually leaving is rather anticlimactic. Part of me doesn't believe that I'm actually doing it.
Meet the crew for the first leg south,
from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.
This is my Brother in Law, Jeff "MussMan" Muss. With two guys named Jeff on board, we went with last names.
A number of people offered to sail south with me, but when two other Landfall 38 owners said they'd be interested in the trip, I jumped at it. I thought it would be really cool to sail with other folks who have the same boat that I do.
Besides, the on-line C&C owners group, now hosted by
the CnC Photo Album site, has been very active for many years, often generating a hundred email posts a day. After eight years on the email list, I really feel like some of the folks there are like friends and family.
This is Jeff "ColeMan" Cole, a fellow C&C Landfall 38 owner from Ottawa, Canada. Jeff has cruised his boat, Masala, throughout the Mediterranean, and now sails Lake Ontario.
This is Fred Street, who sails his Landfall 38 " Oceanis" on Lake Superior.
Most of these pictures were actually taken Jeff or Fred. They had cameras, and I was busy being captain.
The offer I made to everyone was that they had to handle transportation costs to and from the boat, but I would pay for food and fuel and all the trip costs. That actually worked out well, since I didn't have to worry about asking anyone to buy food that they didn't eat. As it turned out, we didn't eat very much.
We left the afternoon of August 10. The plan was to have a nice afternoon sail across the SF Bay to Sausalito, just to warm up and get everyone in a sailing state of mind, and then take off through the golden gate the next morning.
Naturally, the day we left, my trusty Ample Power alternator quit. That was really annoying. Of course, it was old when I bought the boat, and is the only part of the charging system I didn't replace when I rewired and repowered.
I had a spare alternator on board, and instead of sailing
out of Sausalito with the tide, we spent the morning sitting at anchor, replacing
the alternator with the spare. Fortunately, I have all the tools and parts
needed to fix just about anything on this boat.
It was annoying, though, to break into my spare parts before I've even left the SF Bay.
Here's a shot of me, as we approach the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was slow going. Because of the alternator, we completely missed the tide window. The tide was on a full flood, which means about five knots under the Golden Gate. In the center of the channel we were making about half a knot, so we moved over to the edge and started making 2.5 to 3 knots. Fortunately, the channel under the bridge is really deep, right up to the edge, so you can cut close to shore and sneak through.
We were motoring, though, as the breeze was light, and dead
on the nose. If we had sailed, we would have been going backwards. You can't
tack back and forth against a five knot current in light air.
At least, not with this boat.
Here's a classic San Francisco picture.
I should have been excited to pass under the Golden Gate for the last time, but I was just glad to be going.
Here's a shot of the chart for the San Francisco to Monterey leg.
We went all the way out to Buoy 8, which is the end of the shipping channel at the entrance to the bay. That's important, as there are shoals on either side of the San Francisco Bay entrance, formed by eons of mud and silt being carried by the tides, and then falling out as the water fans out. Those shoals are deep, but relative to the Pacific Ocean they can be treacherous, since some of those rollers have been passing over a couple of thousand miles of ocean, and will turn into breaking waves on either side of the entrance. Boats get capsized when they try to cut the corner, so it's best to follow the channel out to Buoy 8 before turning south.
At Buoy 8 we raised the sails and started a nice easy broad reach.
Unfortunately, the fog rolled in, and the breeze completely died.
We ended up motoring 18 hours through the fog, staying about
six miles off shore. I set up a motoring route in my Fugawi software, and
the Simrad WP32 autopilot steered the boat to that route.
It was rather boring and cold. We pulled single handed two hour watches, and pulled into Monterey the morning of the 12th.
The weather forecast looked great for the rest of the trip, though, calling for 12 to 25 knot breezes all the way south. The breeze gets heavier as you get farther off shore.
The chart to the left shows our planned route, and the actual track in blue. The planned route was just an idea, not a true itinerary, and we ended up going about 80 miles off shore and seeing some real blue water.
Out of Monterey, conditions were really sloppy, with a strong breeze and confused 10 to 12 foot seas slop right on the bow. It wasn't much fun, and we motor sailed through it so we could turn south as soon as possible. After that, we killed the engine and didn't turn it on again for two days.
Click on the picture to the left. It's pretty. Of course, we only had time to stop and take pictures when the going was easy.
Even with the wind behind us, it was still pretty breezy. For a while, it looked like we were in for a really long night. But then the breeze slacked off about 5 knots and we settled in to a really nice broad reach. The seas were still just aft of the beam, and we had occasional water in the cockpit, and often had waves washing over the entire boat. At one point I was kneeling on deck, messing with the preventer, and suddenly found myself up to my waist in water.
Stella Blue handled everything just fine, and was a joy to sail even in her current overloaded state. Nobody ever felt concerned for safety, although we did wear full foulies and always stayed tethered to a hard point or jackline.
The lee cloths worked fine. Things got a little messy down below, because we were all getting tired. We pulled four hour staggered watches, with two men on. Each watch committed of two hours as backup helper, and then two hours as primary watchman. So we didn't get sleep deprived, but did get tired.
The Monitor worked flawlessly, and was a big hit with everyone.
We just set it and forgot about it, and never touched the helm except during course changes.
Because of the 10 to 12 foot following swell, the boat was yawing through about a 50 degree arc. That would have been really tiring to steer manually. The monitor handled it perfectly, and steered the boat much better than I would have. It never overcorrected. I really like the gentle touch it has on the steering system. It doesn't use power, or beat up the steering with sharp jerks.
Since we didn't have to stand at the helm, watches were just that -- watches. It was like a really fun amusement park ride.
Here I am, looking for the next wave.
ColeMan and MussMan having coffee or chicken soup or something.
I made a lot of meals in advance, frozen in vacuum sealed bags. The idea was that we could just bungee the pressure cooker to the stove and boil water with the lid screwed down, and have a hot meal.
We did that once or twice, but I think everyone was just too tired to get into cooking and cleaning. Of course, this trip only took 47 hours, and we were just settling in to a routine when it was over. I'll bet that if we had kept the pace up for another day, we would have been fixing up some nice hot meals.
When we rounded Point Conception, everything calmed right down. That's typical, since after that the coast actually faces south. Point Conception protects the Santa Barbara channel from the typical NorthWest Pacific breeze and swell.
The swell can stack up coming around the corner, though, and we did get mildly pooped. I was standing at the helm, and saw a set of deep, steep swells that seemed to cover the horizon. I wasn't worried, since Stella Blue had handled everything just fine. These were really steep, though, and when the first one arrived it just rose up the side of the boat and poured water into the cockpit, smooth as silk. But that was the end of it, and we laughed.
After that, the breeze died. It warmed up. Everybody lost the foulies, started reading books when off watch. We fixed a good hot meal and kicked back.
Finally, we pulled into Santa Barbara, tied up and took showers.
The trip down went faster than I had planned. Originally, I counted on four knots average speed. It was entirely possible that we'd be socked in with fog, or have a high pressure system with light air, or have a low pressure system that would have howling dangerous breezes. I didn't want people to make flight plans that would pressure us into keeping a schedule.
Doing the 284 mile run in 47 hours was pretty good time.
Since everyone had a couple of days before flying out, we sailed over to Santa Cruz island, hiked around and had a good dinner of grilled tuna, pasta and steamed broccoli. Stella Blue is down in the anchorage at left, but it was pretty foggy.
And that's it. Everyone has gone home.
I'm anchored off of West Beach in Santa Barbara, getting used to life on the hook. Santa Barbara is "home" for me, and I'll hang here for a while and see old friends, and do some mountain biking and hiking.
It will be good to live on the hook here for a while, and see what adjustments I may need to make before leaving the country. I might need a bigger headsail for Mexico, or another solar panel, or a Honda 2000E generator. We'll see.