October 2009: Santa Barbara to San Diego

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There's some September stuff here, as I spent some time cruising the Santa Barbara Channel Islands with Mark, who'll crew on the Baja Haha. We worked on anchoring and MOB (Man OverBoard) drills (he dropped his shoe over the side.) It took three passes to save the shoe, and when we got it back on board
it was totally nonresponsive.

We took a kayak out to the islands, and I decided to get one. Besides being fun, it's a lot easier to just toss the kayak over the side and go, rather than hoist the dingy and mount the outboard and all that stuff. Heck, sometimes all you want is a beer.

Channel Islands Kayak Center, in Oxnard, sold me a used kayak for half the cost of a new one. It's the end of the rental season, and they threw in a seat, paddle, and fishing pole mounts.

After Santa Barbara, I took Stella Blue to Ventura for three weeks to focus on getting ready for Mexico. Besides, Ventura was half the cost. But, I kept going back to Santa Barbara to see people.


While in Ventura I made a big batch of my Red Beans and Rice.
I froze and vacuum sealed individual portions in Foodsaver bags. That'll take care of a few meals underway.

I wanted to do a bunch of menu planning, provisioning,
and stuff like that. I still didn't get much done. So what.

After moving Stella Blue to Ventura, I realized that it is *really* time to get going south. My time in Southern California has been a state of limbo. I've done the "get rid of everything and move onto the boat" part of this trip, and haven't started the next phase yet.
Friends have said "I wonder where you'll end up," and all I can say is "Yeah, me too." It's really time to start getting there.

Fortunately, the Baha Haha starts next week.

Hurricane Rick is supposed to hit Baja this week. Hopefully it'll be the last storm of the season. That's why we wait until hurricane season is over before heading south.

Click on pictures to see them full size




















I single handed from Ventura to San Diego, in three hops.

A huge storm rolled through on October 13/14, dumping two inches of rain on Santa Barbara, and even more up north. I heard of 80 mph gusts up in the San Francisco Bay area. Yikes.

As expected, after the front passed there was no wind at all.
None, nada, zilch. I had to motor.

The first hop was to Paradise Cove, north of Malibu. It was well protected from the huge rolling swell left over from the storm,
and provided a good nights sleep.

The second hop, from Paradise to Dana Point, took 14 hours. I timed it to pass in front of Long Beach during the day, since it's a really busy port. I saw dolphin hunting, with a hundred birds around.
That normally means tuna, as well. I didn't try to catch anything.
It was a long day, and I fell asleep with dinner on the stove
and woke up to the smoke alarm. <Grin>

The third hop, from Dana Point to San Diego, was only 55 miles but took forever. The marine fog bank moved in overnight, and it was thick all along the coast. Thank goodness for radar.

Getting out of Dana Point was scary. I wasn't worried about commercial traffic, because my AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiver works great. If any commercial traffic is on a collision course, I'll get an alarm well in advance. I was worried about small boats that don't show up on radar, and big powerboats that don't have radar and don't have common sense. Sure enough, a 35 foot Bertram roared by at 15 knots or more, en route to Catalina. I saw him on radar, and moved out of the way.

Just for grins, I got the abandon ship bag out and pulled the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) into the cockpit. There was no slacking off the watch all day. I'm no stranger to fog, but never single handed though it for 12 hours. The eye strain was a surprise, and for the first time in years I began to feel sea sick.
I took a Stugeron just in case.

It was fogged in the whole way to San Diego, and it started to get thicker towards dusk. The approach to San Diego was littered with lobster pots, so I reduced speed to see them in time to miss them.
It would have been a bad time and place to foul the prop. The whole thing put me about four hours later than expected into San Diego.

About dusk, the Coast Guard started to broadcast heavy fog warnings. Great. Sure enough, as the sun went down visibility dropped to less than 500 feet. I swung the Furuno radar/plotter around so that it was easily visible from the cockpit, and then swung the laptop around so that I could see the Fugawi software from the companionway. This gave me two chart plotter systems,
with separate GPS feeds.

That turned out to be a good thing. Entering the harbor channel, the fog turned solid. Radar showed a number of boats converging on the same spot. I saw a red glow off my port bow. Thinking it was the port running light of another boat, I swung the helm hard to starboard to avoid a collision. It wasn't another boat, it was the glare of my own running lights reflected on the fog.
So I'd guess visibility was less than 30 feet.

Sailing alone teaches you to think ten steps ahead, prioritize tasks, create backup plans and prepare for being in trouble
with no one to help.

Before leaving Dana Point, I'd created waypoints all along the harbor channel to the Cabrillo Isles marina. Click on the chart to the left to see more detail. (It's funny that I created a waypoint called "Miss the dangerous thing." <G>) The Fugawi navigation software tracks position with GPS, calculates bearing and distance to the next waypoint, and tells the auto pilot where to steer the boat. So I kept speed down to 1.5 knots and let the computer steer the boat, while I kept a frantic lookout, compared the two chart plotters to make sure they showed the same position, and stayed ready to slam the boat into a turn or hard reverse if necessary.

Channel 16 was full of scary traffic from lost boaters who didn't have good navigation tools. One guy was just hanging onto a buoy, but couldn't tell the Coast Guard the buoy number.

It was also max flood tide, going about three knots, so it wasn't possible to stop and hold position without motoring three knots in reverse. In forward, speed over the water was 1.5 knots, but speed over the ground was 4.5 knots. All in all, the situation sucked.

I finally got to the channel entrance to my marina, and was seriously confused for the first time. Right on my course, where both charts showed water, were two huge white lights. They wouldn't be navigation lights. They *might* mean that I was steaming directly towards land. So I started going in a tight circle and trying to figure it out. It just didn't make sense.

Finally, I called on 16 "Anyone in Cabrillo Isle marina with the radio on, this is the sailing vessel Stella Blue, who can only see about 10 feet." Fortunately, two people actually had the radio on, so we switched to 71. It turns out there was a big sign smack in the middle of the channel, with two spotlights. Whew. So I passed it to port and headed in. I also asked them to walk to the end of dock B and shine a flashlight, as there was no way I'd be able to find my dock and slip in the fog.

It was slow going, and when I got there I didn't see anyone. But I turned into what I thought was dock B, and discovered I was in the wrong marina. Oops. It turns out there is more than one marina along the west basin wall.

I said the hell with it, pulled into an empty slip, tied the boat up. A nearby liveaboard came by and told me that the slip was vacant, so I just stayed there for the night. They didn't charge me, and that was nice.

Well, one week to the start of the Baja Haha rally, and it's time to organize the boat for crew, finish provisioning,
and get ready for some fun.