Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Last Legs

Nicole is a complete disaster. We are planning on leaving tomorrow for a long day trip to Half Moon Bay. The following day being the last of this voyage as we sail back into San Francisco Bay. Emotions are heightened and my girl is a mess. Me, I don't think it has really sunk in yet. I keep feeling like it's just another tough bashing long daysail where we once again wake up before sunrise and motor-sail into the wind and seas until the sun goes back down. Just another crappy passage making miles north. It's crazy what you can get used to and this has been our routine for a long time now.
I'm still hanging in there, but I'm sure I will have my breakdown soon enough.

But this is really IT. We are almost there. Almost finished. DK will soon be pulling back into the barn where she started out and the journey will be complete.
And, yes, we are selling DreamKeeper. We have a little work to do to clean her up and put her on the market, but that's just the reality. We just don't want to keep such a great boat sitting in a slip not being used for what she was meant for, even though it will be super hard to let her go. Hopefully someone great will buy her and take her out for another loop around the globe. She is still ready to go and nothing would make us happier.

So, even though we both are going to seriously miss our boat, this adventure, and the whole journey which has been our life now for almost 5 years, we are also ready for the change. But first we have to finish it off and what better way then back under the Golden Gate Bridge, in our opinion the coolest bridge you can ever ever sail under. It will be a crazy reality.

Currently we are in Monterey Bay. This place is just sweet. Yes, it is full on tourist season, but all for a reason. It is a great town with a beautiful marine environment setting. I mean...where else in the world are you greeted by 4 sea otters floating on their backs pounding clams on their bellies for breakfast when you slip through the fog and enter the breakwater to the marina? And not only sea otters, but California sea-lions and harbor seals run this place. They haul out on anything and everything possible and claim it for their own. And, last but not least, the water here is almost crystal clear, and this in northern California. As you can probably guess, we've been to quite a few marinas around the world, and we can honestly say that this one has the cleanest water we have seen. You should come. You won't be disappointed.

Backing up a bit...after Nicole wrote the last blog at the Coho Anchorage before Pt.Conception, we had a little shut-eye and were hoping for a mellow night with the winds laying down and us motoring around the two windy points at 2 in the morning.
But, of course, we should have known better.
At 1 a.m. we both woke with the wind whistling and the boat pounding through the wind fetch. I peeked outside and looked at the compass and wind instrument....what the??? the wind was blowing 25+ from the EAST and we were getting pulled back close to the kelp bed and the lee shore, where two sailboat carcasses were high and dry on the rocks. It felt like we were in a bad movie, the fog was so cold and thick that we couldn't see more then a couple of boat lengths away and the waves were starting to break over our bow. What a fun way to wake up.

We dressed in all our layers muy rapido and went into auto-pilot "time to deal mode". Within 15 minutes we had the hook up and were beating into the gusting winds and seas until we could safely raise our main, turn downwind and actually SAIL?!! Yes, there was something positive that was happening...with a reefed mainsail and my eyes glued to the chartplotter and radar screen, my only perspectives in the thick fog and black night, we sailed around Pt. Conception and Pt. Arguello. And then, a couple of hours later, the wind completely died and we were back to motoring. And that's what we did for the next day and a half, motor through the fog. The only highlight being surrounded by a pod of 15-20 whales, type unknown. Once again another special marine mammal experience.

One last dinner in town, one last warm shower, and we are bedding down for a super early morning departure. The weather isn't looking great, but could be worse, and we are hoping to make decent miles to arrive in Half Moon Bay before sunset.

Wish us luck and thanks again for all the love from our fans!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So Long SO Cal

We can't time all of our cape transits perfectly. This is our last one and we will be leaving Southern California in our wake. Today was just one of those days. Showing up to round Pt. Conception at sunset is a bad idea, even on a forecasted light wind day. The seas kicked up and the winds held steady at 18-20 gusting to 22. And that was 10 miles before we got to the Point. So, lucky us, there is an anchorage just tucked in behind the point where we rerouted to to wait for the wee hours of the night when the winds will hopefully lay down.

The last two days have been pretty mellow until this afternoon. The nights are cold and wet. A marine fog layer hangs low and limits our visibility. We've been lucky though, at least in So Cal, the marine layer has been burning off by noon or so and the sun peeks out for a little while. Playful bounding sea lions do tricks in our wake and wide-eyed seals make my heart melt. Today in the Santa Barbara Channel we passed though what seemed like a sea of dolphins, numbering most likely 700 or more individuals. Big males jockyed for prime position at our bow and smaller ones accompanied us at our beam. It is really something to see so many of these incredible animals appear seemingly like alchemy from the sea. We never cease to delight in their visits and are grateful for each return.

I am tired and words are hard to come by. Gar is snuggled into the port sea berth already and I long to crawl into my own, on the starboard side. The winds are beginning to settle down and we are rolling in the swell. Two old skeletons of unfortunate sailboats lie awash on the shore. Kelp waves in the shallows, creating a slick of calm. A sea lion is barking somewhere nearby. The orange sun sinks behind the giant oak-like trees onshore, leaving them in silhouette. We're off at 2am to round Pt Conception and hope to get to Monterey Bay or beyond before the wind again diverts our progress.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back in the land of Yanks


Yeah, crazy crazy crazy feelings happening. Emotions are riding the roller coaster. Even though we aren't officially finished, being tied up in San Diego and having the Baja Bash finished are both big mile-markers for us on this last stage of the journey.

Yesterday we had a sweet day. The winds backed to the southwest and the seas were mellow. We flew along at 6-7+ knots the whole way and actually passed Pt.Loma and sailed into San Diego in the late afternoon. Checked back into the US by the grumpy customs officials and tied up next door at the municipal docks by 5 pm. Sweet. We thought we'd maybe get there by midnight and we were more then ready to be done.

But there's no rest for the weary as a hole is still open heading north around Pt.Conception that we feel we should take. It is bittersweet. If we don't go now we don't have any idea how long we'll be hanging in southern California and even though it sounds fun to reconnect with some friends and chill out, we also are ready to finish off the journey in SF and celebrate the adventure properly...something we really haven't done yet at all.

So we are both tired and ready for a break, but we are going for it again. Heading out the barn tomorrow morning after topping up the diesel, we plan to head straight on the rhumbline through the Channel Islands towards Pt.Conception. Looks like maybe a 3 day window so we hope to either get to Monterey Bay or Morro Bay before holing up again and waiting for the strong northerlies to blow through.

We'll keep on rolling the BLOG. Thanks to all our people for the love and support!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Last Leg

When the boat heaved, shuttered and stalled again yesterday, with green water sloshing over the decks trying desperately to escape through the scupper drains, I really had to ask myself what we were doing out here. We were hit again and again for hours with walls of green water, beating into big seas and not going anywhere fast at 2 knots. My heart sunk as I imagined the worst, that it would take us another week of this maddening pounding just to reach San Diego.

Everything is a challenge when it's like that. We don't eat and if we do its crackers or a bar or a cup of tea. Going to the bathroom is a chore in and of itself. Where else does one have to sit on the pot holding onto a handrail with one hand, and bracing with a foot under the toilet and one on the wall. Meanwhile you have to flush in the middle so nothing sloshes out.

Then a few hours later, after leaving the currenty Canal Keller behind us, the face of our world changed again and we were free. The seas became more predictable and the walls of water became mere hills rolling beneath us. The wind backed and we were able to clear our hazards so we were pointing and making miles again. We had a decision to make. To go on the outside of Isla Cedros Island reaping the benefits of a better sail angle later with the possible challenge of crappy seas and stronger winds or go the easy run along the lee of Isla Cedros setting us up with a harder beat and confused seas on the north side. Things were looking good so we stuck with it and gambled on the outside.

It turned out to be a good call even with winds up to 20 and some sloppy seas. We averaged 5 knots and came over the top of Isla Cedros with a great wind angle to cross Bahia Vizcaino. The weather files were right; it was a good as it was going to get, 10-15 out of the NNW, with occasional winds pushing 20. The Bay is the last spot after Cedros where there can be really nasty conditions. We got off easy, even with the seas kicking up and an extremely frustrating 2 knot counter-current.

Last night brought the coldest temperatures we've had so far. Everything was damp and chilly. We sit day and night in our foulies, thick socks, fleeces, and sea boots, sipping tea and nibbling cookies to keep warm as much as pass the time. The wind bites through our clothes and we are grateful to crawl into the warm sea berth of sheets, blankets and sleeping bag when off watch.

By morning we were well past the hardest parts and on our last legs to San Diego. It's impossible to tell what time it is with this cloak of gray clouds covering the sky. The light has been sucked out of the once brilliant blue ocean replaced by a sharp graphite gray. We have had many visitors in the last 24 hours. Sea lions barrel through the waves, spinner dolphins race and leap over the swell and some kind of large whales, possibly fin whales, spout and dive.

We've got just over 120 miles to San Diego. We're still fighting a counter-current but are hoping on making it to California sometime tomorrow night. The last of the light disappears with the hundred dolphins that just crossed our bow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Half Way to the USA

Dolphins cruise in lazy circles around us as we bob restfully next to a kelp bed in Turtle Bay. The sun has broken through the cloudy marine layer and the wind has even settled down, allowing a quiet peace to envelop us for a change. It's 4 in the afternoon California time. Yeah, that's right, California time. It's been 4 1/2 years since DreamKeeper has been back in this time zone and for us, it's just one more conscious connection about how close we really are to being back in the USA.

Today is a much appreciated day. We were ready for a break and Turtle Bay has been kind to us.

Yesterday afternoon was a total contrast. We had made good time in the early parts of the day and I even saw a few whale spouts and a big fluke of a diving gray behemoth, most likely all gray whales. But then old man northerly wind decided to perk right up and let us know who 'el jefe' was out in these parts and that the bash was definitely not over yet. As sunset grew closer, we pounded and pounded into the steepening spicy seas and the 25+ knot wind decided it was time to put us in our place once again. We tacked back and forth trying to allow DK to gain some momentum and raise our speed above 3 knots before we would slam her nose into another neck-jaring steep wall of water which would stop us in our tracks completely. Of course, our autopilot wanted nothing to do with these conditions and let us know it was done for the duration. Between some hand-steering and old faithful, Monitor, however, we persevered.

And then there was the back-of-my-mind thought wondering if we would have enough diesel to make it. We were burning almost twice as much as normal pushing the revs on the Yanmar to punch through some of the seas to make headway. We knew it would be close, but did we actually have enough? Would we actually make it into the Bay or were we going to hear the second tank dry up in the middle of the night and that would be it, under sail alone from there on out? Just another factor playing out in the constant game of our bash strategy reality.

It went on like this until almost midnight and believe me it was no better trying to rest in the sea birth as every steep wave would throw you up into the air from the coffin-like nest we made for our frigid bodies down below. There were some shut-eye times only to be awaken rudely like a slap in the face not knowing if you are in the dream world or something less gentle and kind, which we were.

But a little after 11 the wind relented and we could once again point back towards our waypoint and our oh so close destination of Turtle Bay. We crept into the bay after midnight with a full moon piercing the marine layer of clouds and illuminating the guardian rocks at the entrance where the familiar sounds of our seal friends called out to each other. We dropped the hook on the outside of the anchorage and it wasn't long before we were tucked in until morning, except for Nic and her craving for toast at 2 am before joining me in the non-rolly, non-slamming, warm duvet-covered bliss in our V-berth.

So we are a bit over half-way to San Diego. We are fueled up and rested. We took a cockpit shower this morning and scrubbed our disgustingly stinky bodies clean with hot water. Now, we are ready to take on the next leg of the Baja. We raise the hook tonight again at midnight and for the next 24 hours or so will be bashing north into what should be the last difficult section of this coastline, out and around Cedros Island. After that, the weather files are showing everything mellowing a bit more and we are hoping for an easier last 2 days travel north as we finish off the last of our Mexican journey.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Making Miles

It's always hard for us to leave an anchorage at night. There's something I dread about leaving our cozy nest to pull the hook up and set out into the cold, dark, windy, night. For us it's much easier to leave on the dawn of a crystal clear, beautiful blue bird day. But leaving Bahia Santa Maria, we started our journey around a cape and here on the outside of the Baja the winds and seas generally die down at night. So at midnight we were off.

We have heard from more than one seasoned captain the golden hours for travel along this coast are from 2300 to 1100 hours. So far we have found this advise to be true. It's 0345 as I write this and it's blowing 9-11 knots. We can't sail exactly on our course but we are making 4.5-5.5 knots even with a counter current running against us. A fishing boat just passed us. The air smells like squid eggs, pungent, sweet, and briny. Dark clouds cloak the sky and fly swiftly towards the southwest. They have revealed the glowing moon to me only once with a swift swipe of the clouds. She hung rounded side down, just over the horizon of rolling seas. She is getting bigger.

Today the winds have been kind to us. Although it is now the sunset hour and the seas and winds are kicking up, slowing our good progress. We pitch up and down but the boat is strong and we are cozy and dry.

The water is getting colder. Long whips of sea kelp float aimlessly in this stretch of ocean. Some kind of gull rides the troughs of the swell. A thick band of high cumulus clouds bows above us.

Today has been a good day. We have 134 miles to go to Turtle Bay. Here's to hoping the winds lay down with the sun's departure.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Onward to Turtle Bay

This morning we awoke to terns calling and I got my first hit of real sadness. Sadness that this journey will be over soon and we will be leaving this life. Anchoring in stunning places and being part of the place is something we have absolutely loved. We haven't been able to do enough of it lately so this one is bittersweet. This is the first actual location we've returned to. It brings back so many memories, surf landings, crabs on the beach, sand dollar frisbees, lobster pasta with new cruiser friends at Xmas time, and delightful local fisherman. Like we've said before, we're ready for a change but there will be so many things we will miss.

The cruiser tribe that was here all left early this morning. This is one thing we won't miss. We haven't been around the cruising community much in a while and didn't think about how big of a deal the Baja Bash is to so many sailors. We have been sitting here with 10 other boats in the anchorage and the VHF chit-chat has been almost non-stop about the weather and when and how boats will leave. Even more annoying, our 18 channel on our VHF bleeds over to 16, so when boats switch to 18, which they have been doing constantly, we can hear their conversations too. At times, we smile and are cheaply entertained but at other times we've had to switch off the VHF entirely just to have some peace.

Don't get me's not that we are better then all these other cruisers. We are just different. We've almost never wanted to be part of these circles where everyone is always sharing plans and buddy boating along together. It's just not us, and takes away from the adventurous and independent side of the cruising life which has always been our way. When a certain boat here in the anchorage is calling for a "cruiser net" in the morning and evenings for all the boats here to check-in and share weather data, we opt out. A "cruiser VHF net" in Bahia Santa Maria? It's a bit much for us.

On a positive note, the VHF is an helpful and important tool. Just yesterday a boat was calling looking for a barometer for their clipper route (offshore) passage to Oregon and a boat in this anchorage swiftly responded with one. We have seen this thing happen again and again. The cruising community really is amazing most of the time. We all would do anything to help another one of us. Out here with people we may never have befriended in another world we would automatically go out of our way to help them if we could, and most other cruisers would do the same. It is a special thing to know you have a community that you can depend on.

We have spent the last two days cooking soups and baking cookies and banana breads, watching movies, catching up on TIME magazine articles, and going through old photos. Returning to Bahia Santa Maria and reflecting on where we came from and where we've been, we realize we've come a long long ways since when we arrived to this bay 4 1/2 years ago. We were pretty green back then. And even though we chose not to buddy boat or join a group of cruisers south to Mexico like the Baja HaHa, we hadn't done that many overnight passages together on DK and we were nervous. Now that's all changed. Even though the Baja Bash isn't fun nor easy with all the beating into the wind and seas, by no means is it that tough. Being smart with planning and patient with weather windows helps a ton. And then accepting the reality of motor-sailing for 2-3 cold nights in a row is part of the deal. Thankfully this is isn't the southern ocean with big storms and massive seas nor is it filled with
possible potential pirates. This is still Mexico and there are places to anchor, hide, and actually escape from the winds and seas if you need to.

We'll leave tonight about midnight and hope the boats ahead of us are fairing well and the VHF chatter isn't floating too far on the airwaves. The weather forecast looks good and we're hoping we can get to Turtle Bay in a couple of days, do a quick refuel, and continue on. All rested up and ready for Leg 2 to begin.