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