Friday, December 10, 2010

Mantanchen Bay

We are currently anchored in Mantanchen Bay near the quaint, historic town of San Blas on the mainland coast of Mexico. The shore nearby is lined with palm trees and thatched roof palapa huts and restaurants. The scene is like that of a tropical travel brochure’s cover.

After leaving the marina at San Jose del Cabo we made a 45 hour crossing of the Sea of Cortez to the tiny island of Isla Isabel, south of Mazatlan. The passage included some great sailing and two very dark, moonless nights on the water. The winds were so favorable that we gave serious thought to having to slow “Blue Rodeo” down so as not to arrive before sunrise on the third morning. The island is surrounded by reefs and rocks and the anchoring there can be challenging, even in the light of day. A number of fishermen camp on the island and work the waters around it with their nets that hang suspended just below the surface, adding to the navigational hazards.

We spent two wonderful days at the island snorkeling in the crystal clear water and marveling at the constant air show being put on by millions of sea birds. Frigates and colorful-footed boobies inhabit the island and are unbothered by the few human visitors that venture there. Our hike ashore was quite a thrill as we were able to approach within just feet of birds as they sat guarding there eggs. The skies overhead were filled with diving, circling and swooping birds. The strange and exotics sounds heard made us feel like we’d come ashore in “Jurasic Park”. While at the Island, we watched the arrival of “Buena Vista” another cruising boat that was previously owned by our good friends Lee and Nancy from Ventura, California. It was great fun getting to know it’s new owners, Don and Debbie who are on their way across the Pacific to New Zealand.

Yesterday’ s 40 mile sail to the mainland was about as good as can be with clear skies, a warm wind a and nearly flat seas. Mark sailed the whole way shirtless in just a pair of board shorts. What a change from the sailing in British Columbia just a few months ago. While underway, our course slowly converged on another boat that seemed headed toward our destination. Even from a distance, Mark recognized the boat to be some exotic, high performance design so our competitive instincts to hold and a “race was on”. Mark spent the next few hours constantly adjusting the shape of our sails trying too eek out another 1/10th of a knot or two of boat speed. It was great fun but, alas, the mystery boat slowly gained ground on us and arrived ahead of us at the anchorage. Anne continued to express her disappointment , although somewhat in jest, at our performance. When we entered the anchorage and got a better look at our competitor, we were somewhat relieved to see that it was a new, cutting-edge design that was 5 to 10 feet longer that “Blue Rodeo”. We felt vindicated that we’d given her a run for her money.

After anchoring in Mantanchen Bay, we spotted “ Buena Vista” once again and invited Don and Debbie over for dinner. The evening concluded with good food and company followed by gentle rocking as we slipped into bed for the night.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo

The short sail from Cabo San Lucas to the marina in San Jose del Cabo turned challenging as winds along the way built to near 30 knots. Fortunately, it was blowing from off the land and, sailing close to shore, we weren’t subject to sea conditions that were too large. When our flotilla of three boats, dubbed “Mother Goose and the Goslings”, were all safely in the marina we set about washing boats and planning for an evening rendezvous at a local “palapa” restaurant for dinner. We were pleased to be joined by two other couples that left San Diego with their boats at about the same time we did, Doug and Lanita aboard “Ka’sala” and Paul and Laura aboard “Chirpee”. As usual, lively conversation and laughter around the dinner table kept us all entertained.

The following day the crews from “Blue Rodeo”, “Thor” and “Cloudy Bay” toured the town of San Jose del Cabo, having lunch, shopping and visiting a beautiful, new cactus arboretum as we walked back to the marina. The late afternoon was spent doing a few boat chores and having “sun downers” and guacamole and chips aboard “Cloudy Bay”. We all agreed that Henry has perfected the gin and tonic and the flavors were enhanced by the beautiful surroundings and great company.

Before leaving Cabo San Lucas, and while getting internet access for the first time in many days, Mark was saddened to learn of his mom being hospitalized with a heart problem. Fortunately, our arrival in San Jose del Cabo put us near an airport with service to California and we were able to book a flight with open seats just one day later. As we conclude this blog entry, we are enroute to Los Angeles to visit her while “Blue Rodeo” sits safely in a marina slip in Puerto los Cabos. Our cruising “family” had all expressed their hopes that Mark’s mom would soon be up and about and one fellow sailor was shown how to come aboard, start our auxiliary motor and run our refrigeration daily until we return.

Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas

Thanksgiving day started with a bit of excitement when, after waking and peering out of our cabin’s companionway hatch, Mark noticed Henry’s dinghy some distance from their boat being blown out to sea by a strong wind. He quickly woke Anne and we hurriedly raised our anchor and motored in pursuit. Before reaching the runaway craft, Mark and Lori from "Thor", who left ahead of us had already spotted it and began towing back to it’s owners. We stood by in case our assistance was needed but Mark and Lori made accomplished the rescue without difficulty. We soon raised our sails and, after a downwind run outside the bay from Bahia de Tortugas, we turned the corner into enormous Bahia Magdelena and found ourselves tacking into a 25 knot head wind. “Mag Bay” is famous as a site for whales to feed and have their calves so we scanned the choppy water around us for any signs of the huge creatures. With our destination lying about 8 miles to windward, we zig-zagged back and forth under reduced sail for about 2 hours before starting our motor and entering the anchorage off a small village.

Once anchored, Anne quickly put the word out to the few other boats in the area that we would be hosting a Thanksgiving, pot luck dinner aboard “ Blue Rodeo”. Three other couples happily joined us and, although no turkey was available for the main course, we ate like kings, laughing, telling stories and getting to know each other even better. While the holiday is one normally spent with family, we all felt especially thankful to be in such a beautiful, remote and rugged spot celebrating with new friends that are connected as a family of sailors and adventurers.

The next day, we were again joined by Henry and Janice for more beach combing and fun. Our group walked quite a distance along a beach composed entirely of shells picking up unique ones and bits of colorful sea glass (broken bottle glass polished smooth by the sand and waves).

Our next run of 160 miles to Cabo San Lucas would require another over-night sail so we, along with 4 or 5 other boats, all departed early the next day. As the northwesterly wind began to steadily build, we all enjoyed nearly perfect sailing conditions keeping each other in sight for most of the day. With our spinnaker set, we sailed swiftly along enjoying great speed and even catching and passing Janice and Henry aboard their motor yacht. They are both avid photographers and shot some spectacular video and photos of us as we went by in perfect, late afternoon light. We shared the fun, taking as many photos of them as they “poured on the coal” to repass us briefly for the photo-op.
The favorable winds held until after midnight when we started our engine and motor-sailed the remaining miles around Cabo’s famous arch and rocky point and into it’s anchorage just off the beach.

After naps, Henry and Janice picked us and Mark and Lori up and took us from the beach anchorage through the marina chock-full of fancy sport fishing boats. As we pulled up to the modern dinghy dock, we marveled at the modern, glitzy hotels, restaurants and shopping mall that surrounded the marina. It had been many years since either of us had been to Cabo and it was clear that an enormous amount of money had been spent in it’s development. It seemed like a combination of Las Vegas and Beverly Hills on the water. A worthwhile tip from one of the many, overzealous time-share salesmen that we encountered lead us to a fantastic, and somewhat quaint, patio restaurant that featured hundreds of “Day of the Dead” figurines as decoration. Dia de los Muertos is quite a celebration in Mexico, rivaling that of Christmas and Carnival.

After a night back aboard, catching up on our sleep, we took an early morning dip in the warm ocean water before another trip into town to officially “clear in” with the Port Captain and do a major shopping run to Costco. Yes, Costco!! It was somewhat surreal to enter it’s familiar surroundings with the flat screen TV’s, and all of the regular US products after weeks of sailing along a rugged, desolate coastline. After shuttling our shopping loads back to our boats, we returned to town and treated ourselves to the newly released Harry Potter movie shown in a nearly-new theater complete with reclining leather, lounge seats. It was pretty decedent! Janice and Henry had the group aboard their boat for dinner after the movie and we finally retired to our own boats for what was to be a night of rocking and rolling.

During the night, a swell from the southwest made the anchorage rather uncomfortable. In light winds, our boats’ orientations to the bumpy seas kept us rolling and disturbed by the slapping of water against our transoms. By the net morning, we were all happy to raise our anchors from the crystal-clear water and continue 17 miles down the coast where a couple night’s stay was planned in a new marina. The marina stay would give us all an opportunity to give our boats a fresh water bath and find shelter from forecast, strong northerly winds.

Bahia de Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria

Bahias de Tortugas (Turtle Bay) turned out to be an interesting stop. While anchored there, we purchased 20 gallons of diesel fuel which Mark had dispensed into plastic jerry cans and then filtered before adding it to “Blue Rodeo’s” tanks. We have heard of no problems with the fuel there but were still being extra careful so as not to contaminate our fuel supply. The first evening, we dingied over to a boat that we recognized from our time in San Diego and and picked up it’s owners, Larry and Melanie. They had spent 10 days in Turtle Bay last year while delivering a boat northbound. They were happy to show us around the small town and introduce us to a few folks they remembered from their previous visit. We all had delicious tacos for dinner at a simple, open-air stand and finished the evening with a rum drink (or two) aboard their boat in the anchorage. The next day, after going ashore to find an Internet connection, Anne was able to trade a few dollars and a baseball cap for a plastic bag filled with freshly caught Yellowfin tuna fillets. That afternoon, we were happy to see that other friends, Janice and Henry aboard their beautiful Nordhaven 55, “Cloudy Bay”, had arrived and were anchored not far from us. We stopped bay for a chat and invited them to come to our boat for happy hour followed by dinner ashore. We were anxious to show them around and take them to the same taco stand where we’d eaten the night before. As we walked with them through the town’s dirt streets, our noses soon lead the way, guided by the delicious smells coming from the stand’s outdoor charcoal grill. While enjoying our dinner, we all remarked that this was exactly the authentic Mexican experience that we’d come for.

In order to arrive at our next destination, Bahia Santa Maria during the daylight hours, we departed Turtle Bay at 2AM the next morning and motor sailed across the brightly moonlit water until sunrise when a gentle breeze was felt blowing from our port, rear quarter. Soon, we were making good speed under sails alone and by late morning, raised our colorful, light-weight spinnaker (parachute-like head sail) to further take advantage of the winds. With our trusty autopilot steering “Blue Rodeo”, we sliced through the seas while sharing watch duties, reading and catching a nap or two. The day passed quickly and, before we knew it, the sun was slipping below the horizon. We watched intently as the last light faded hoping for a glimpse of the elusive “green flash”. Alas, it was soon dark and our first sighting would have to wait for another sunset.

The next day found us entering Bahia Santa Maria and anchoring not far from Henry and Janice and a couple of other familiar boats. After a short nap, we dingied over to see Mark and Lori aboard their Pacific Seacraft 40, “Thor”, who had already spent time ashore hiking and exploring. They gave us some tips as to where to hike and, with Henry and Janice, we dingied to a rocky beach where we scrambled ashore for a hike. With spectacular beauty in every direction, we found it difficult to decide which way to point our cameras.

The next day, we picked up Henry and Janice and dingied across the bay to another beach where smooth sand stretched for miles. There, barefooted, we strolled and watched the sea birds play in the surf and collected a few shells. We had dinner that night aboard their boat and all planned for our next leg around a peninsula to Bahia Magdelena

Sunday, November 21, 2010

San Quintin to Cedros Island

We left Bahia San Quintin on a beautiful clear morning with the plan being to sail just a short distance to a protected indentation on the coast called Punta Baja. Mark remembered his surfing friends having talked about it as a place to surf, kiteboard and windsurf. A short time after getting underway we were joined by dolphins that approached the boat from every direction doing the kind of tricks for us that one would normally expect at Sea World. We could see them jumping 10 feet out of the water and doing flips. By early afternoon we were passing abeam the bay and with little or no surf showing and a steady wind beginning to build we decided to continue on toward another overnight option, the small island of Isla Jeronimo. As we neared the island we recognized a steel hulled Canadian boat that we had shared moorage with in both San Diego and Bahia San Quintin. The islands only anchorage looked like it offered reasonable protection from the ocean swells but with perfect sailing winds we decided to continue once again and aim for Bahia San Carlos. If we were able to keep our speed up we should be arriving just before dusk. We sailed along with 12-15 knots of wind from behind and nearly flat seas. Conditions couldn’t have been better! As the sun sunk toward the horizon the winds eventually lightened and we fired up our trusty diesel engine to help push us the last few miles and we entered Bahia San Carlos and anchored as darkness fell upon us. With a desire to keep moving south toward warmer water and more interesting anchorages we decided to leave at 3am for our next 80 mile leg to Cedros Island. Fortunately, skies remained clear through the night and as we raised anchor at 2:40am an almost full golden moon was still shining on the waters around us. Once underway, we motored until 6am when the first zephyrs of a building northwesterly breeze were felt. Mark had taken the first watch and when Anne awoke after sunrise we decided to hoist our spinnaker to take best advantage of the breezes. With our beautiful multi-colored spinnaker set and filled “Blue Rodeo” was happily pulled south toward Cedros Island. The day seemed to go by quickly and by late afternoon we passed abeam the north end of the island and began looking for our place to anchor for the night. A guide book mentions a spot off a gravel beach near some rocky pinnacles just south of a simple fishing village with a dozen white stuccoed houses and a church. As we dropped anchor in calm conditions we were immediately amazed by the variety of sounds made by the seals and sea lions that lived on the nearby rocks. We sat in the cockpit and giggled at the almost comical barks, grunts, growls and moans made by our furry neighbors. Fortunately their bedtime seemed to coincide with ours and we slept peacefully through the night. On Friday we motor sailed the 18 miles down the islands east shore to Cedros Islands only real town. After anchoring north of the harbor we gathered up our paperwork and took our dinghy ashore to check in with the Port Captain. We were a bit unsure as to the requirement to do so but as a courtesy and also to cover our rear ends we figured it best to go through the formality. The half mile walk through town to the Port Captains office gave us the opportunity to see what the little town offered in the way of markets and restaurants. We entered what appeared to be the largest grocery market and satisfied our curiosity by examining their inventory. Although the store was not much bigger than 7 11’s in the US it contained a reasonable selection of canned and packaged goods and some vegetables of questionable freshness. When Anne noticed that most of the produce was completely covered with fruit flies she decided to make do with what we had aboard. I’m sure that over the next few months our acceptance of this type of fruit and vegetable selection will likely increase to some degree as we adjust to this life. We do know though that the bigger cities have selections and quality on par with the US and several even have Costco’s and Walmart’s. Like most cruisers we’ll do the bulk of our shopping there and fill in from time to time in the little out of the way places. The town is quite simple with few paved streets but we’ve been told that the Japanese corporation Mitsubishi operates an enormous sea salt refinery a short distance away and the community there is quite modern. From a distance, during our sail down the island we could see the refineries enormous cranes that are used to load its product onto ships. We are finishing our day with dinner on board after watching local fisherman cast their hand lines from the breakwater and beaches around us. One gentlemen in a small wooden rowboat who is fishing nearby seems to be having great luck bringing in 14-15 inch sole on almost every cast. When he returned to the beach his family greeted him warmly and will no doubt be enjoying fresh fish for the next few days. As we write this blog we’re already yawning and thinking about an early bedtime. After another day of perpetual motion we find ourselves tired and happy and looking forward to drifting off to sleep as “Blue Rode” is gently rocked by the ocean swells.

Ensenada to Bahia San Quintin

We had planned our departure from Ensenada for sometime near noon so as to arrive at our next destination, Bahia San Quintin the following morning. The distance to be sailed was approximately 120 miles and based on an average boat speed of six knots in the forecasted light winds we could expect to arrive well after sunrise at approximately 8 am. During the first several hours we motor sailed under brilliant blue skies with unlimited visibility and very light winds. By mid afternoon though a northwesterly wind began to build and we soon found ourselves sailing at close to 8 knots. Quick mental calculations revealed the disconcerting fact that if we continued to make the same speed for the remainder of the trip we would find ourselves entering an unfamiliar anchorage in the dead of night. Even with the proper charts and modern electronics this is often an unwise scenario. Our concern shifted later in the evening when the clear skies and favorable breeze were replaced by nearly calm conditions and dense fog. In fact, the air was so saturated with moisture that it felt as though it were raining as drops of water continually fell from the sails and rigging. Motoring ahead in total darkness with visibility less than a few hundred yards meant close attention to our radar and the usual straining of our eyes as we frequently peered into the darkness around us. After a warm dinner, Anne offered to stand the first watch and Mark climbed into our bunk for a nap. We had agreed that rather than set a formal watch schedule Anne would stay awake as long as she could and wake Mark when she got to drowsy. At about 2am Anne was ready to get some sleep and Mark took over. We continued to motor sail through the inky night and dripping fog only occasionally seeing the light of a star overhead. Our radar revealed 3 other vessels that passed near us without visual contact. Its well known that the charts of much of Mexico do not correlate exactly with the modern GPS electronic charts. We have the ability to electronically overlay our radar images on top of our electronic map display as a means of cross checking accuracy. Mark noted during his watch that certain prominent landmarks clearly visible on radar varied almost a mile from their position as depicted on the charts. The approach to Bahia San Quintin involves skirting a number of reefs and submerged rocks. So we planned giving them a wide berth when we entered the bay. With our speed reduced to near what we had originally planned we no longer had to worry about anchoring in the dark but the reduced visibility due to the fog made it seem almost as bad. For the first time ever, we entered the bay and dropped anchor solely by reference to our radar, charts and depth sounder. When our anchor was finally set we sat shrouded by the fogs gray curtain with no idea what the shoreline around us looked like. It wasn’t until awaking from a morning nap at about 10:30 am that we caught the first glimpses of the rocky hills and sand dunes that line the shore. We had a special treat when we climbed out of the cabin into the cockpit rubbing sleep from our eyes when we saw a gray whale spout and surface just a 100’ from “Blue Rodeo”, we watched in awe for several minutes as the enormous creature lazily swam about us. We spent the remainder of the day aboard relaxing and working on a few boat chores with the plan being to spend another day here and go ashore for some serious exploration. The next day was spent hiking the deserted beaches and dunes and checking out the local Sea Lion rookery on an offshore rock. As we hiked Mark was noting the occasional small breaking waves that peeled into the bay from a rocky point. He pronounced them surf able and after a quick lunch back on board where we were further entertained by a pod of gray whales feeding around us, we dingied back to the beach with Marks stand up paddle surfboard where he managed to catch a few of the waves and get a better feel for his new water toy. The enjoyable day concluded with a great dinner on board and a quirky movie watched on the DVD player. Lounging comfortably in “Blue Rodeos” cabin we found it rather surreal to consider how comfortable and familiar the inside of our floating home is and how wild and remote are our surroundings. Life is good!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Catalina to San Diego to Ensenada

It’s Saturday evening, the 13th of November and “Blue Rodeo” is tied safely to a marina dock in Ensenada, Mexico. The previous weeks have been filled with activity starting with a pre-dawn departure from Catalina’s Avalon Harbor. We spent 4 days there enjoying the quaint town, sampling a few eateries and taking long walks. One afternoon, Mark donned his shortie wet suit, mask, fins and new 50 foot hookah air hose and slipped into to clear water where we were moored. He took the opportunity to change the sacrificial zinc anodes on “Blue Rodeo’s” propeller, strut and prop shaft. The water is colder than normal this year and Mark was soon chilled to the bone and shaking like crazy as he attached the last of the zincs. He took comfort though in knowing that the next time he’ll do the job will be in 85 degree water.

The trip from Catalina to San Diego was pleasant with smooth seas but no wind so we motored through the darkness and later watched the first signs of light appear in the east, followed by a brilliant sunrise that bathed the horizon in shades of orange and gold.
We rounded Point Loma and entered San Diego Harbor in mid-afternoon amidst a flurry of navy ship activity including a submarine on the surface doing training exercises. As we motored through the string of buoys marking the ship channel, the sub decided to head our way and, although it was still a ways behind us, a Coast Guard escort boat was speeding around shooing boats in the area, including us, out of it’s path. Since 911, Homeland Security is requiring a clear zone around military ships and pleasure vessels must stay a significant distance away. We guess our 50 foot sail boat is quite the threat for an armed nuclear submarine.

Our first stop in San Diego was the Harbor Police dock where moorage is offered to transient boaters at a reasonable rate for up to 10 days. The docks there were bustling with activity and most spaces were taken by other cruising boats headed for Mexico. Before long, we had made a number of new friends and were exchanging stories about our trips down the coast and sharing our plans for the months ahead. Some had sailed to Mexico before and provided a wealth of information about the check-in paper work process and their favorite stops. Others, like us, were first timers who were anxiously looking forward to sailing south of the border.

While in San Diego, we were able to reconnect with Mark’s friends Paul and Jeanne and their son Robbie, first with a visit to the boat and dinner out, followed by an enjoyable dinner at their home a few days later. During the stay we rented a car and drove up to the Los Angeles area to visit Mark’s mom and family and retrieve some mail that had been delivered there for us. Several boxes of boat parts had arrived but unfortunately, a replacement refrigeration compressor we had ordered from Florida had not yet shown up. This meant a second 6 hour round trip drive just a few days later to pick it up.

We had hoped to have more time to relax and explore San Diego but the days were filled from dawn to dusk with numerous trips to the local chandleries for parts and back-breaking work on boat projects and repairs. Mark certainly felt the stress of our imminent departure for an area where boat parts would be difficult or impossible to find and did his best to stock up on spares and things needed to complete unfinished upgrades to “Blue Rodeo’s” systems. Anne continued her provisioning and spent hours on the internet downloading forms and documents needed for entry into Mexico.

Once our replacement refrigeration compressor arrived and the system serviced (a two day affair that involved rebuilding it’s mounts and a water cooling pump) we were finally ready to head to Ensenada. Planning for a mid-day arrival in order to clear customs, we chose to depart San Diego at 12:30AM and motored quietly away from the docks and into the dark channel leading to the open sea. We carefully followed our charts and strained our eyes looking for buoys, obstructions and other boat traffic. Before long, we were at sea and already seeing the lights of Tijuana ahead on our port side. We rejoiced to a warm breeze that blew from the land and, with our sails up and engine shut down, quickly began ticking-off the miles to our destination. When the moon set, our wake left a glowing, bioluminescent trail behind us that was augmented by the torpedo-like tracks of dolphins playfully tagging along. By about 11:00AM we dropped our sails and motored to a marina dock deep inside Ensenada’s busy harbor. We wasted no time tying up to the rickety docks, gathered our pack full of papers and documents and hurried off to find the offices of Immigration, Customs and the Port Captain. The paperwork shuffle and clearance procedure was a challenge to be sure and will be continued in our next blog installment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ventura to Catalina...the conclusion of last blog

This unanticipated repair delayed us a bit but we eventually got underway and sailed around the far end of the island to the picturesque town of Avalon. Avalon's harbor and waterfront resemble that of a Mediterranean seaport and are a favorite escape for many tourists from the world over. Just before sunset, we tied up to a mooring and went ashore for a stroll and dinner. This time of year is definitely the "quiet season" and we were fortunate to enjoy the town at it's best. Later, back aboard "Blue Rodeo", we watched a rented copy of "Little Miss Sunshine" on DVD and howled with laughter. After the movie, sleep came easily as we drifted-off, remembering all that we'd seen and done that day and looking forward to what adventures lay ahead.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ventura to Catalina

After a very busy five weeks with “Blue Rodeo” based at the Ventura Isle Marina in Ventura California, we are once again sailing toward Mexico. Our Ventura stay was great in many ways and gave us a chance to fly home to Idaho and prep our house for winter and our extended absence. While in Ventura we also had a chance to reconnect with our good sailing friends Lee, Nancy and Cathy and several of Mark’s Santa Barbara friends that he’s known since college. We also had the opportunity to see some of Mark’s family in the Los Angeles area and had a wonderful lunch one day in the harbor when Mark’s mom, sister and brother-in-law came to see the boat. Long-time friends Ron, Kareen and their son Peter also stopped by for a quick tour and lunch.
With our planned departure for Mexico growing very near, we began to feel a little overwhelmed with the remaining things we hoped to accomplish. Anne continued to acquire the necessities on her provisioning list and spent an entire day repackaging and vacuum sealing items that took up too much space or were vulnerable to pest infestation. Anne had heard horror stories from others about the nasty things that had sprung to life inside factory sealed bags while they were stowed in some out of the way locker. Her friend Wendy passed along the advice to add bay leaves to whatever was being sealed to ward off the creepy crawlies. While Mark continued to work at repairs and modifications to “Blue Rodeo’s” mechanical systems, he watched as Anne’s mountain of rock- hard, sealed items grew on the starboard settee. Fortunately, our cupboards and lockers swallowed up the copious quantity of food packages.
Another afternoon was spent making sure that we had the necessary papers and documents on board for entry into Mexico. Both Anne and Mark struggled with an awkward Mexican website used for obtaining a Temporary Import Permit needed to bring “Blue Rodeo” into Mexico for an extended period of time. Although much of the paperwork can be done in Ensenada, our first port of entry, we have heard that getting as much done before hand can greatly expedite the process. In addition to our regular boat insurance, we were required to purchase Mexican liability insurance for the duration of our stay. Fortunately, our friends who cruised Mexico before have been a great help in our jumping through the hoops. Of course, there is a fee associated with everything and although individually they seem reasonable, we often look at each other and roll our eyes when hit with one more that raises the total cost of our trip. Speaking of total costs, our engine driven refrigerator compressor failed yesterday leaving us no choice but to order an expensive replacement and have it shipped from Florida to California where we will install if before going on to Mexico.
Mark worked feverishly during our time at the dock in Ventura trying to get everything mechanically ready for Mexico. During most of that time, boxes of tools and parts were so scattered about the boat that we could hardly move. It’s during those times that we often felt discouraged and overwhelmed. A classic example came just last week when, after months of trouble-free operation, our toilet flushing system once again started to act up. Mark had re-plumbed a portion of the system shortly after we bought the boat but was always a little disappointed by what remained of the original installation. When problems reoccurred, he decided to again put on the rubber gloves and tear the system apart. This time, he greatly simplified the whole system and it should be easier to manage in the future. Mark’s back and neck have suffered from the hours he’s spent doubled over on hands and knees in the many tight spaces where portions of the boats mechanical systems reside. It’s a rare day when he is without a bloody scrape on his head from an encounter with an obstruction in one of these areas. While comparing notes with a group of cruisers from the Seattle area that we met one day in Ventura, Mark pointed at the pair of white cotton work pants he was wearing. We all chuckled knowingly when he pointed out the stains from grease, epoxy, bottom paint and blood that were clearly visible on them. He said that they pretty well sum up the whole saga of boat maintenance.
While in Ventura, we enjoyed a few hot, sunny, dry days that are typical of this time of year in southern California but also had a lot of cool, dark, drizzly days and even a thunderstorm one evening that rivaled any we’ve seen, even in the mountains. Lightening lit up the sky and thunder boomed all around us as heavy rain peppered the water in the marina and for a short period, pea sized hail stones bounced off our deck. We hoped that our boat’s mast was not going to be a target for a lightning strike that could fry all of our expensive electronics. We stood under our covered cockpit and watched in awe at the show nature put on all around us.
We finally left Ventura last Friday and had a glorious beam reach in fifteen knots of wind under sunny skies to Santa Barbara Island. As we approached the island near sunset, we sailed into an area of clouds and felt a few rain drops as we anchored near the Island for the night. Santa Barbara Island is barren and remote and is famous for its sea bird and marine mammal rookeries. It was there nine years ago that we encountered a poor sea lion whose neck was entangled with monofilament fishing line. The line had cut through its fur and flesh leaving a nasty wound. The poor creature appeared so pitiful that we hurried back to our boat and returned with gloves and scissors with hopes of cutting the line. Whether through trust or just exhaustion, the poor thing allowed Mark close enough to do the job. While anchored there this time we were entertained by the constant barking of the many seals and sea lions on the rocks nearby. The anchorage there is rather exposed to the ocean swells and we found ourselves rocking and rolling through the night. Despite the noise, we were happy to be away from the dock once again. The next morning dawned partly cloudy and as we raised anchor, another rain shower moved into the area, quickly reducing visibility to a mile or less. The winds however were nearly calm as we raised our main sail and motored toward our next stop, Cat Harbor on the southwest side of Catalina Island. By mid morning, the skies were again sunny and we enjoyed a smooth sail along the way. By mid afternoon we were tucked in behind the high cliffs in the cove that forms the part of Catalina known as Two Harbors. The island narrows to as little as a one quarter mile wide isthmus separating Cat Harbor from Isthmus Cove on the northeast side. After securely setting our anchor, we took our dinghy ashore where we hiked to the other side to enjoy the late afternoon light and beautiful views of the channel between the island and the metropolis of Los Angeles. Although just 26 miles from the mainland, the island seems a world away from the city’s concrete walls and teeming population. During our walk we passed close to a huge male buffalo grazing unconcerned in an unfenced field adjacent our path. He was one of many (or the offspring of) brought to the island during a movie shoot many years ago. After dinner aboard, we practiced some Spanish with the help of an audio CD and book. We have carried several Spanish language courses with us since leaving Seattle but haven’t yet found the energy to get through them. With less than two weeks remaining until our border crossing, we decided that we’d better get serious about our studies! We did more hiking the next day and hunkered-down that evening when cloudy skies and rain again passed through the area. Before leaving the next morning, Mark spent several hours sorting-out a wiring anomaly with the help of his friend Steve on the cell phone. This unanticipated repair delayed us a bit but we eventually got underway and sailed around the far end of the island to the picturesque town

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homecoming! Sausalito to Morro Bay, Santa Barbara and Ventura

Our stay in Sausalito was special in many ways. After our able crew members, Steve and Carolyn returned home, Anne and I set to work fixing a few items on "Blue Rodeo" that were damaged as a result of the strong winds we encountered off the Oregon coast. We filled our days with chores, but took time in the evenings to see more of Sausalito, a movie and get together with Mark's nephew J.J. who is living in San Francisco. He joined us for dinner out and a visit to the boat. J.J. is an accomplished musician and song writer and treated us to a mini concert using Mark's new travel guitar. He amazed us both and left no doubt that the guitar has the capability of producing wonderful music if Mark ever finds time to practice.

Before Steve left, he and Mark attempted to stop a slow leak that had returned to the boat's lower rudder bearing. A day later, while motoring to the fuel dock to fill our tanks, Anne announced that the steering felt a little stiffer than normal. We decided to bite the bullet and haul "Blue Rodeo" out before continuing south and fix the leak once and for all. KKMI's new Sausalito boat yard proved to be the perfect place for the job as they have a clean, modern facility and a very knowledgeable staff. Boat yard visits are like going to the dentist...never fun but necessary. We worked on the boat for several days and by the end of the week were able to splash her back in the water. Being a bit tired from the boatyard ordeal, we decided to take it easy for two days before continuing south. As it happened, the annual Sausalito Art Festival was in progress that weekend and we made several trips to the venue to take in the art displays and listen to an open air concert with great entertainers like Pablo Cruise and Dave Mason. On Monday the 6th we eased our way out of the marina at sunrise in order to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the open ocean near a slack tide. This meant navigating Sausalito's shallow waters at low tide which in several places showed just 4" of water under "Blue Rodeo's" keel. Once in the main channel we were treated to a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the shimmer of early morning light on San Francisco's famous skyline. Our next planned stop was the small central coast town of Morro Bay about 180 miles away. Our passage down the coast included our first overnight sail as a crew of 2. We took turns standing watch through the night and Anne spent more than her share of the time carefully scanning our radar and AIS displays looking for conflicting ship traffic while Mark napped. We sailed through dense fog for much of the night and at times, passed within 2 miles of 1000' long freighters without making visual contact. By noon the next day we approached the entrance to Morro Bay and were welcomed in by Mark's friend Eric who is now harbormaster there. He met us in the entrance with his motor launch and helped us pick our way through the harbor dredging operation. We spent 2 nights in Morrow Bay visiting Mark's old friend Scott, his girlfriend Jewel and Scott's brother Pete and his wife Marsha. Our short stay included a trip into San Luis Obispo for shopping and lunch and Anne announced that it was the kind of place that she could easily live. The town is cute as can be and Anne was envious of the long growing season that the residents were fortunate to have.

With one major geographical obstacle to pass, we focused our attention on a departure timed to round fearsome Point Conception in the early morning hours when wind and wave conditions are typically the most mild. With that in mind, we departed Morrow Bay at 9:30PM and had a pleasant overnight motor sail down the coast. The biggest challenge came after dark when we entered an area of fog and again had to rely on radar and AIS to steer clear of ship traffic. While Anne slept after a 2am to 4:30am watch, Mark steered "Blue Rodeo" around Point Conception shortly after sunrise on Friday the 10th of September. The fog gave way to clear, sunny skies and Mark felt a tremendous sense of relief at having returned to the Santa Barbara Channel and waters that he knew so well. After navigating through the challenging tides, currents, sea conditions and unfamiliar waters of the Pacific Northwest, Mark announced that, at least for a while, he could have a break from the intense concentration and focus.

Prior to entering Santa Barbara's harbor we contacted our friends Rob, Suzanne and Rich who were available to join us for dinner later that night. After tying up to a guest dock we were joined by new friends Hugh and Anne who were also sailing south to Mexico. We had met them in Morrow Bay and were happy to share information about our trips. Our evening in Santa Barbara flew by much too quickly and, after a walk the next morning, we left the dock and motor sailed in light winds 24 miles down the coast to Mark's old home port of Ventura. It felt like a homecoming as we entered the familiar harbor and secured a marina slip just a short distance from where Mark had kept his previous boats a few years ago. Within moments we had already bumped more old friends and took time to visit with them before giving "Blue Rodeo" a thorough bath. Mexico was beginning to seem so very close and, even though we had planned to return to Idaho for a short while, we were bristling with excitement over crossing the border and continuing south to the warm, tropical waters. Everyone along the coast had lamented the fact that this summer had been colder and foggier than normal and Anne remains skeptical that we will ever reach the warm weather. I'm sure there will be a time in the coming months, while suffering in the hot tropical sun, that we will wish we could have brought some of the cool air along with us.

It's now off to Idaho where we will attend to chores around our house and make plans to deal with our mail and bills in the coming months. When we return to "Blue Rodeo", we will continue to make a few upgrades to her systems and cruise through the Channel Islands and Catalina as we head toward San Diego.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Port Angeles to Sausalito, California

We are now in Sausalito California after sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge on Wednesday evening. Mark and his friend Steve flew to Port Angeles on Wednesday the 19th to check on the boatyard progress and work on a few projects prior to our trip. It took them most of the day to get from SeaTac airport to PA because President Obama was scheduled to fly into Boeing Field that morning and much of the airspace had been closed to commercial and private traffic. Eventually, Kenmore Air bussed their passengers from SeaTac to Boeing Field and on to Paine Field where they finally boarded a plane for the short flight to Port Angeles.

When they reached the boat they were discouraged to see that it was covered with the usual boatyard grime and that the bottom paint project had not progressed as far as they hoped. The staff at the yard were great though and assured them that they would be able to complete the project by Friday afternoon. Anne and her friend Carolyn had decided to wait until Thursday to fly to PA and we planned a Friday night departure for San Francisco Bay. Friday was hectic and stressful but by 4PM, "Blue Rodeo" was back in the water getting a thorough scrubbing and gear and provisions were being packed for the trip. Anne and Carolyn cooked dinner aboard while Mark and Steve lashed and stowed all of the gear and by midnight we started the engine and motored through the darkness out of the harbor. As it turns out, we were right on schedule as we had determined earlier that day that a late night departure was most favorable due to the winds and currents in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We set out full of excitement and apprehension as we pointed the boat west toward the open sea. Steve and Mark traded watches through the night while we motor sailed through the fog fighting a moderate westerly wind and the left-over choppy seas from the previous afternoon's blow. Shortly after dawn the current induced chop gave way to a more steady roll as we began to feel the ocean swells. Eight hours after departure we turned the corner around Cape Flattery and set a course for San Francisco. We stuck with our plan to angle offshore until we reached a point about 50 miles off the coast where we expected the ocean swells and winds to be most favorable for the passage. We quickly settled into a routine where our team of four retired airline captains (sounds dangerous doesn't it?) took turns keeping watch during the daylight hours while those not on watch napped and did the usual house keeping chores. Each evening after dinner Anne and Carolyn would share the first watch until midnight when Mark would relieve them. Steve and Mark would trade three hour watches from then until 6AM when Anne and Carolyn would take over.

Overall, the wind and seas stayed moderate for the first two days and we enjoyed sunny skies. Everyone kept an eye out for whales and dolphins and we were rewarded with several sitings throughout the trip. At one point we were entertained by hundreds of dolphins of several different species, including a small black variety without dorsal fins. After reaching port, a Google search revealed that they were Rightwhale dolphins. We had never seen them before and it was especially entertaining to watch their torpedo shaped bodies squirt through the water and air as they put on a show for us. Anne, Steve and Carolyn hurried to the bow of the boat where they watched in awe as the dolphins took turns surfing the bow wave of our boat just inches below the surface. Shortly after the large group departed we saw a line of white, disturbed water approaching from our port side. We soon realized it was another group of dolphins swimming in what appeared to be a high speed chorus line straight toward us. They approached within a few feet to check us out then quickly sped away. The encounters left us feeling so fortunate to have been able to able have such an experience. It reminded us of the old Mastercard commercials where the costs of items are are listed and the net result is priceless. We were truly having the type of adventure that comes with a certain amount of expense, discomfort and sacrifice but is rewarded with truly priceless experiences. Later that evening a single dolphin swam near to the boat while Anne and Carolyn stood watch in the setting sun and slapped its tail several times with great gusto as if to say "look at me, look at me".

While motor sailing under sunny skies and in light winds off the Oregon coast we remarked that that part of the coastline was not living up to its fearsome reputation. Our assessment was to change suddenly that afternoon as the winds built in just moments from a comfortable 30 to 35 knots from the northwest to 45 to 50 knots including one gust to 60 knots. Before stronger winds hit, Anne and Carolyn took turns hand steering the boat as it surfed down the waves in the robust conditions. It was soon after Steve and Mark took their turns that the heaviest conditions hit and we found ourselves careening in and out of control at speeds up to 17.9 knots sending rooster tails of spray from bow to stern. The ocean surface quickly grew turbulent with streaks of spume everywhere and the tops of the wind waves breaking in cascades of frothy white water. When control of “Blue Rodeo” in the gusting winds and growing swells became difficult the crew made two attempts at reefing (reducing the area) the mainsail but found it jammed in the full hoist position. Mark and Steve speculated that it was due either to binding of the sail’s luff cars on the mask track or possibly due to friction at the mast head halyard sheave. At one point, the extreme force of a 60 knot gust caused "Blue Rodeo" to round-up into the wind despite Mark's efforts at the helm to keep her on course. While broadside to the breaking seas, the top of a wave splashed over our port quarter nearly soaking the crew and filling the cockpit with gallons of cold water. We quickly focused on regaining control of the boat and assessing the situation. Anne and Carolyn would later wonder out loud if they should have been afraid at that point. With too much sail area to continue on a broad reach, we were left us with just one option of running nearly straight down wind with full main and partially furled jib. While Mark and Steve traded stints at driving the boat on this challenging point of sail, Anne and Caroline worked in the cabin cleaning up the mess from our round-up and breaking wave episode. We were all discouraged to find how much water made it through the open companion way spraying much of the starboard side of the galley and main cabin. The howling winds and 50 plus knot gusts eventually subsided and despite the unwelcome salt water bath that we all took we were doing fine and even had time to smile with awe and delight as two dolphins joined us as we careened down the turbulent swells. They leapt high in the air, just feet from our boat, and dived back into our bow wave for a little fun of their own. After several hours of hand steering and the winds continuing to subside, Mark and Steve turned control of “Blue Rodeo” back to our auto pilot and the crew settled into our evening routine of standing watches and trying to get some rest. Mark and Steve decided to take the first evening watches and Carolyn served them hot meals to fuel them for the task. Working below with head down in the washing machine-like conditions proved too much for Anne's stomach and she had to make several trips to the head to be sick. Even though she felt miserable, Anne shared a moment of “comic relief” with Carolyn when she looked up into the head’s mirror making eye contact with her as she stood in the galley eating a bowl of chili. While Carolyn wolfed it down, Anne deposited a similar looking substance in the head’s sink. They both giggled at the irony. It had been quite a work out for all on board but we had worked extremely well as a team and our boat had fared well considering the abuse. We did have some minor damage however such as a tear in our dodger’s fabric window frame caused by the wall of water that came washing through the cockpit and two broken screws on the main-sheet traveler block. We would later find, to great disappointment, that the water surging along the starboard rail had also wrenched Anne's stand-up-paddle surfboard, strapped to the starboard lifelines in it’s padded bag, with such force that it was nearly broken in two by the lashing line. We all got a chuckle when, while surveying and assessing the damage, Anne would repeat over and over again “how much is that going to cost?”.

By midnight the wind and sea conditions were greatly improved and by early the next morning the wind was so light that we opted to start our trusty diesel engine in order to keep our speed up. We enjoyed calm seas and sunny conditions for the remainder of the day which gave us a chance to continue cleaning up from the previous day's excitement and get caught up with our rest. With the miles remaining to San Francisco steadily clicking off, our eagerness to get there and our anticipation of sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge grew by the minute. While motor sailing the next night with Carolyn on watch the engine suddenly quit. Soon the whole crew was awake. Mark assumed we had emptied one of our fuel tanks so he switched tanks and began the messy process of bleeding air from the fuel system. Unfortunately, restarting after the bleeding process proved more difficult than normal. Steve finally suggested switching to a different fuel filter and we were soon able to get the engine purring again. As we motored throughout the next day we put our heads together analyzing why the engine had quit. Mark had been carefully logging our engine operating times and had a hard time believing we had emptied one of our tanks. Carolyn and Mark made an effort to calibrate the fuel tank gauges with little success and Anne and Carolyn finally convinced Mark to open an inspection port on the tank to verify how much fuel remained. The inspection revealed that there was plenty of fuel remaining which allowed us to continue to motor toward our destination at high speed.

Later that day as we began to see glimpses of the California coastline and were treated to an encounter with number of whales that spouted, breached and raised their enormous flukes all around us. What a thrill! We all agreed that few encounters with nature are as grand as those with these enormous mammals. By early evening we sailed back into an area of fog and our view of the San Francisco Bay entrance was limited. In fact, we didn't actually see the Golden Gate Bridge until we were almost underneath it. Inside the bay, in the fading light, we past another awesome sight... this one man made. Anchored near our destination was the James Bond-like, futuristic, 387' motor yacht belonging to a young Russian billionaire. As we passed, enormous "garage doors" opened and two motor launches sped out shuttling guests to a shore side restaurant. The vessel's name is simply "A" and information about it and it's owner is available on the internet. The final challenge of the trip occurred during the next 30 minutes as we followed the narrow channel through numerous moored boats toward the marina dock. Entering an unfamiliar harbor at night is always stressful, especially when blinded by bright, shore side lights. Soon though, without any real drama, we were safely tied to the dock at Schoonmaker Point Marina where we warmly congratulated each other on the completion of a successful passage. With our dock lines made fast, we were soon off to the showers and a celebratory drink and dessert at water side restaurant. Later, back on the boat, we all collapsed into our bunks and, for the first time in days, slept in silence without the constant motion of seas.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recent Photos

Circumnavigation Is Complete

A lot has happened since our last blog entry. Mark and Anne are now back in McCall, Idaho for a few days and "Blue Rodeo" is on the hard at Platypus Marine in Port Angeles, Washington having her bottom repainted.

When we left the Pinkerton Islands we spent a pleasant night anchored in a small cove a short sail away and continued the next day to the tiny town of Bamfield on Barkley Sound's eastern shore. The trip to town came at an opportune time as the day before we discovered that we had used the last of our fresh water and our last water maker pre-filter had become clogged with material from the plankton and algae-rich water that we were anchored in. Being away from docks and access to shore-side electricity and water for most of the last two months has provided a good shake-down and an opportunity to get to know our floating home even better. Among other things, we have learned that we need to carry more water maker filters and devise a method of cleaning and reusing the filters a few times before discarding them. We will also have to be more selective about where we make water and wait until we are in areas with less suspended biological material.

Bamfield turned out to be an interesting place to visit and explore. The inlet where it is located divides the town in two with no road access between the halves. The locals refer to the waterway as "Main Street" and boats of all sizes shuttle people and goods between the two shores. We purchased some fuel and filled our water tanks at a fishing lodge in West Bamfield, anchored in the bay and dinghied ashore to see the sights. A short walk through the forest took us to Brady's Beach, a beautiful spot featuring craggy rock outcroppings and splendid views of Barkley Sound. As we approached, we passed a family walking in the opposite direction who warned us of a rather aggressive bear they'd seen just 100 yards ahead. Anne had been hoping to see a bear during our whole trip around the island but, aside from seeing a black blob on a distant shore as we sailed by, had been disappointed. Encountering an ill-tempered bear up "close and personal" though was not appealing so we warily continued while loudly singing Monte Python songs in hopes of scaring the furry beast away. Apparently our inabilities to carry a pleasing tune did the trick and the bear was no where to be seen.

From Bamfield we motored through foggy conditions into the Broken Island Group, an archipeligo in the center of Barkley sound where we spent the next few days, exploring the rugged islets and driftwood covered beaches. What a magnificent area! We saw a number of kayakers camping along the picturesque beaches as we dinghied in search of a sea lion rookery on one of the out-lying islands. Our exploration was cut short that afternoon by the return of pea soup thick fog that gave us concern for finding our way back to the cove where "Blue Rodeo was anchored. We returned without any real drama but chastised ourselves for not heeding the advise of the area's guide book that speaks of the frequent and sudden appearance of dense fog and the need to always carry a compass and GPS when away from your mother-ship.

Although the area's scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, the limited afternoon sunshine and cool, damp air made our decision to leave for the civilization of Port Angeles a bit easier. Our plan from the beginning had been to haul the boat out at Platypus Marine in Port Angeles to repaint the bottom's antifouling paint and boot stripe before continuing down to California. While the work was being done we would retrieve our tired old jeep from Seattle and drive home to Idaho with a few things that we did not want to keep aboard for the trip to Mexico. The 15 hour, 90 mile run from Barkley sound to Port Angeles was a classic "Northwest" boating experience. After our 6AM departure, we motorsailed for several hours through fog with visibility often less than 1/8th of a mile. We are getting rather used to the technique of carefully scanning the area ahead while watching the radar for other boat traffic. While not especially fun, the challenge is somewhat like flying "instrument" approaches in bad weather like we'd done for so many years during our flying careers. The cold, wet air sucked the body heat from us as we stood watches in the cockpit and Anne found the poor visibility combined with the rolly seas to be a little hard on her motion-sensitive stomach. As we approached the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, while still in light-wind conditions, our trusty Mercedes diesel engine suddenly quit. Mark had been carefully monitoring out engine operating times and estimated fuel burns and was surprised by the fact that we had run out of fuel in the tank that the engine was drawing from. Although we have fuel gauges, we learned early on that they are only as good as their calibration and that we have yet to accurately measure our fuel tank capacities. We learned later while filling the tanks in Port Angeles that our fuel tanks each hold 15 gallons less than we were lead to believe. Oh well, it's just part of the steep learning curve associated with getting to know a boat. After switching to the other fuel tank, Mark had to open the engine compartment and bleed the trapped air from the fuel lines in order to restart the engine while Anne stood watch and kept the boat moving ahead in the light air. The engine was restarted within minutes but the whole situation was made rather tense by the fact the the engine had chosen to quit in the foggy conditions just as we began crossing the the busy shipping lanes entering the strait. Pilots often joke that flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. This experience didn't exactly fit the "terror" category but was one that we hope not to repeat.

With "Blue Rodeo" pointed east toward Port Angeles. we began to enjoy the building westerly wind and were soon sailing at hull speed toward our destination. The fog stayed with us though and by late afternoon we were seeing building swells and wind speeds approaching 30 knots. We were sure glade we were sailing east. Despite the strong winds, fog continued to menace us and we were dripping wet, not from spray but from the 100 percent moisture-saturated air that we sailed through. Anne pronounced it not to her liking (edited for audiences with sensitive ears) and we both dreamed of sailing in tropical breezes in T-shirts and shorts. We entered the harbor at Port Angeles in the last of the evening light and tied up to the guest dock at about 9:30PM. As our port of entry back into to US, we were required to call Customs and Immigration to officially clear in. This is often accomplished with just a phone call, and we were surprised when the agent we spoke with said he'd be down shortly to inspect the boat and our documents. His visit was short, professional and painless though and we were soon able to put "Blue Rodeo" and ourselves to bed for the night.

As we drifted off to sleep, we couldn't help but reflect back on the grand adventure that the circumnavigation had been. We had met the challenge of safely sailing "Blue Rodeo" through waters not visited by most boaters. We had seen sights that will forever remain in our memories and met new friends that we look forward to sharing with as we continue our travels. There were highs and lows to be sure but our spirits are soaring with warm feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment.

We will return soon to "Blue Rodeo" and, with the help of two good friends, sail on to San Francisco. The adventure is good!

Cheers to all of you that have been following along!

Mark and Anne

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tofino to Barkley Sound

Our second day at anchor in Tofino's busy harbor started with a late morning dinghy ride to the public dock. We walked a short distance to a coffee house carrying a backpack with our laptop computers and grocery bags. The coffee house offered internet access so we had a chance to post an entry to this blog and check our e-mails while sharing a delicious tuna sandwich. When finished, we continued exploring the town and visited several shops and galleries that were closed the night before. Mark had trouble deciding whether to buy a t-shirt with a beautiful, native-style killer whale image on the front or one from Big Daddy's fish fry restaurant where we had had the worlds best halibut and chips the night before. Although both t-shirts were suitable momentos of our Tofino visit, he opted for the killer whale print. After a quick trip back to the boat we returned to town where we boarded the beach bus at around 5:30pm for a ride to Chesterman's Beach which is one of the famous, local surf spots. Although the surf there was small, the scenery there was beautiful and we watched hordes of young Canadian tourists with their rented boards and wet suits trying to learn to ride the waves. A local resident that we met the first night raved about the fish tacos from a catering type truck that parks near the beach. They sounded so good that we couldn't help but try them before heading back to town. We have eaten fish tacos at restaurants throughout the states and Mexico but found these to be the best ever. We look forward to our time in Mexico and will do our best to find fish tacos there that are even better. Before returning to the boat, we made a last trip to the grocery store where we filled our pack and several bags with provisions.

The next day we continued down the coast toward the town of Ucluelet. Ocean conditions were rolly with swells from the previous day's wind and there were areas of extremely dense fog. Visibility was only about 100 feet when we picked our way through the rocky entrance into Ucluelet Inlet. Our radar and GPS were once again worth their weight in gold and when we started up the narrow channel toward town, Mark noticed two small sport fishing boats drop in behind us like ducklings following their mother. We wondered if they were sitting just outside the entrance, unsure of their position, hoping that another vessel would come along to guide them home. Ucluelet is another small town that is trying to promote tourism and sport fishing to replace the waning commercial fishing industry that once made it a thriving place. We anchored a short distance from it's main marina and took the dinghy ashore for a quick tour. It didn't take long to see what the town offered and buy a few things that we needed to restock "Blue Rodeo's" cabinets. Back at the boat, we watched the entire area be again enveloped by dense fog and were annoyed when a speeding cigarette boat (a la Miami Vice) made several high speed passes nearby with no regard for their safety or any others on the water. We expected Ucluelet to have a little more charm and were a bit disappointed overall.

On July 27th we motored the short distance up the northwestern side of Barkley Sound to Pipestem Inlet and an area known for having a beautiful series of pools and waterfalls accessible at high tide by dinghy or kayak. As we approached an anchorage in a small cove nearby, Mark spied another sailboat and announced with excitement that it was another Deerfoot, the same make as "Blue Rodeo". It turned out to be one of the few production built "Sundeer" yachts that were built in the 1990's. We anchored nearby and were excited to see the owners return and could clearly see similar expressions on their faces when they recognized our boat as one of their sister ships.
After a brief introduction we invited the owners Russ and Gwen and Gwen's brother Mike aboard to see "Blue Rodeo" and to have a drink. What fun it was to compare notes about our two boats! Since so few Deerfoot designs, either production or custom, were built we found it an amazing treat to be sharing an anchorage in such a remote and special part of the world. We joined them later for a tour of their boat, drinks and Gwen's delicious, homemade chocolate layer cake topped with Hagen Daas ice cream. We laughed, told stories and spent the evening getting to know each other. Its magical times like this, in the company of new friends, that continues to make sailing and cruising such a splendid lifestyle. They planned to travel the short distance the next day to the Pinkerton Islands and showed us on a chart a small anchorage that they had used before. Not wanting to part company so soon, we quickly agreed that, after touring the pools and waterfalls the next day, we would join them in the Pinkertons. We have been so fortunate to have had mostly sunny weather and no rain up to this point on our trip but are disappointed by a new trend toward mostly foggy days with only brief, late afternoon clearing. Its during these foggy days that Anne begins to question whether she will ever be able to be aboard a boat without long pants and multiple layers of clothing. She is so looking forward to the warm water and air temperatures that Mexico is famous for. Mark tells her to be careful what she wishes for and can envision a time in the near future when it is too hot and humid to even sleep comfortably aboard the boat. The trip to the falls and pools the next day was extra special as we had the place all to ourselves. The dinghy ride up the creek at high tide revealed a Disney-like scene with fern covered grottos and multiple-tiered pools with cool clear water cascading from one to the next. The area is known as Lucky Falls, a title we felt especially appropriate as everyone who visits feels lucky and privileged to behold such pristine beauty. Despite the cool water temperatures and gray skies we felt compelled to plunge into the pools and scamper over the rocks that surrounded them. We could only imagine how wonderful the place must be on a warm, sunny day. After returning to the boat, we raised our anchor and proceeded to the Pinkerton Islands where we rendezvoued with Russ, Gwen and Mike. Earlier in the day, Anne had extended the invitation for them to join us for dinner aboard "Blue Rodeo". While Mark tidied up, Anne prepared pork tenderloin, roasted vegetables and homemade chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for dessert. Gwen brought a great salad and we shared the wonderful food over lively conversation. Russ started telling jokes that were made especially funny by his ability to mimic many different accents and before long we were all laughing until our jaws ached. Mark joined in and shared many of our favorite jokes that he often forgets until someone like Russ gets the ball rolling.

The next day Russ, Gwen and Mike aboard their boat "A Train" sailed to the town of Bamfield for provisions and returned a day later. While they were away, Mark took the opportunity to work on some rewiring projects and Anne baked wonderful pumpkin, current scones. Cruising is often a mixture of highs and lows and a low point came that afternoon when Anne announced that the toilet did not appear to be flushing properly! Even though Mark had already spent hours crawling in and out of the engine room pulling dozens of wires through it's convoluted spaces, he had no choice but to go in again with rubber gloves, towels and a plastic trash bag to disassemble the offending portion of the toilet's plumbing. Needless to say, he was not a happy camper. A similar low point would occur yesterday when we discovered that we were out of fresh water in "Blue Rodeo's" tanks and our last watermaker pre-filter was nearly clogged. We had saved about two gallons as an emergency drinking supply and were able to make six more before the filter gave up the ghost.

After a second day of boat chores in the Pinkertons, the sun finally peaked out about 5pm and we went for a delightful paddle board tour from our tree-lined anchorage through a marshy meadow up a stream that eventually narrowed to only 3 feet wide. We wound our way through, ducking overhanging branches and the surrounded shrubbery worrying that bears might be watching us from the banks. After returning to the boat, "A Train" returned from their provisioning and extended an invitation for us to join them aboard. We happily excepted, anticipating more stories and laughter over cocktails, but were soon treated to meal fit for kings and queens. They had harvested fresh oysters and caught a number of prawns. Gwen combined them with another delicious salad and, once again, we found ourselves sharing a great meal with our new friends. We parted company that night promising to keep in touch as they were planning an early morning departure for Victoria.

On the 30th we motored the short distance through the northern portion of the Broken Islands and anchored off Reeks Island for the night. Although somewhat disturbed by an occasional wake from fishing boats in the nearby channel, the anchorage was stunning. We watched two seals splashing and cavorting and marveled at our surrounding's change of color as the light faded in the evening. Anne had trouble with the fog and gloom all day and the sun never once made an appearance. She tried to take her mind off of it by cooking a turkey, vegetable lasagna but had conceded that her mood was as dank and gloomy as the gray skies that surrounded us. While we have had incredible weather overall (no rain), it has been disappointing to now have such foggy conditions. I guess this is just another example of the highs and lows of cruising.

Sunday, July 25, 2010