2 June 2005 – 30 June 2005
Four Weeks -- Casting Off More Than Lines…
A note: I know this first email update is really long and I apologize. I’ll get better as I find my internal editor; please bear with me. Also, if you would rather not receive these, just drop me an email and I’ll remove you from the list. No worries.
There was a moment – an exact moment – when the docklines were cast off. It was a bit unbelievable. After all the talk, all the prep, all the work, on the 2nd of June at 12:53PM, I untied Migration, stepped aboard and… off we went.
It was cloudy as we headed out of Alamitos Bay. But just at the end of the jetty, as I stood on the foredeck hoisting the mainsail, in a gesture I took to be quite auspicious, the sun broke through and bathed Migration in light. Then back to the June gloom overcast as we motored toward Catalina dodging the heavy shipping traffic and being greeted five miles out by a pod of dolphins.
I lay at anchor for two days in Emerald Bay – my favorite spot on Catalina. It’s a beautiful little bay and I’ve spent a good deal of time there.
Then on to King Harbor in Redondo Beach. I anchored behind the jetty and my brother and sister-in-law, Doug and Pseu, picked me up to head to Long Beach for the Long Beach Pops concert with Cherish The Ladies – one of my favorite Celtic groups. Met up with Steve and Shirley and my parents and it sure didn’t seem like I had gone that far!
I stayed in Redondo for 3 days; spending time with friends and family. Doug and Pseu and my nephew Sam came down and we dinghied over to the Redondo Pier and rode the Tilt-A-Whirl. King Harbor’s a nice spot although a bit smelly from the birds and sea lions.
Next I was to head to Marina del Rey. The only problem was starting out. My stern anchor was stuck fast. I was partially pleased that I had selected such an effective anchor, But after an hour of working it back and forth and pulling in a few inches at a time, I found an abandoned 2 inch thick mooring cable lying across the flukes. I had to beat it out with a hammer. By then I was tired, in a bad mood and it was only 10AM. I motored out of the harbor and thought what’s the hurry? Hoist the sails and cruise along at 3 knots on a sunny day and you can’t help but be in a good mood.
I stayed at Burton Chase Park in MDR for 3 nights, with more visits from family and friends. I did have one adventure. I realized I had left a few things I needed in a box in my parent’s basement so I spent a day taking public transport down to Long Beach. It took 3 ½ hours (usually a 45 minute drive) and included a detour around a fire, getting out of the bus to get cars to back up on a side street so the bus could get through, and a break-down on the Blue Line. But I had my iPod and it was really kinda fun. Definitely part of LA I hadn’t experienced. I wouldn’t want to do it every day though.
Next I motored to Ventura. My good friends Riley and Maureen keep their boat in front of a house in the Ventura Keys – an area of Ventura with canals and docks. They know the next door neighbors, Bob & Lucy, who were kind enough to offer their dock to me. Ventura was great as I got a lot done on the boat, met some wonderful people and got to see Riley and Maureen and their son, Liam, nearly every day (and eat R & M’s great cooking as well).
Just to make sure I didn’t get too used to the sea life, I borrowed Riley’s car one day and drove to Long Beach. Did I miss my hometown so much I just had to see it one more time? No, I needed something else from Mom and Dad’s basement. But it was nice to see everyone there.
On 15th June, the real sailing started. When my cousin Loren was Bar Mitzvahed 3 years ago, my gift to him was a dive trip to Catalina aboard Migration. Now he’s 16 and, finally, he cashed in his gift. Since we were in Ventura, the destination was Santa Cruz island – much more remote than Catalina.
We motored most of the way over in overcast and some fog. We made landfall toward the west end and then were able to sail down looking for a good anchorage. We found one in Fry’s Harbor along with a few other boats. Unfortunately I woke the next day with a sore throat. The last thing I wanted was to ruin the trip by getting sick, so I stayed in bed most of the day (Loren made me a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch) and took all my vitamins and and chinese herbs and Julie James’s natural immuno-stuff. Voila! The next day I was fine so we set off on our Great Sea Cave Adventure.
Santa Cruz has the largest marine cave in the world. Surprising, isn’t it. It’s called Painted Cave because of all the graffiti inside it. Not really. Don’t freak. No graffiti (well, now there is because Loren and I spray-painted our initials just inside the entrance…). Actually the walls have minerals which give them some color.
The cave is 7 nautical miles from Fry’s. That’s a good trip in our little dinghy which only goes about 6 knots with 2 people in it. Before we head out, you should be introduced to Plover.
Plover is my dinghy. A “he”, not a “she”, as he’s named after the main character in my first book THE CHERRY MIGRATION (for those who don’t know, that’s where Migration got her name as well). Plover is a Porta-Bote (www.porta-bote.com): a funky-looking folding boat. I get made fun off all the time, but I love this boat. It’s light, stores easy and you feel like you’re in a club – you always wave to other Porta-Bote owners. Probably like having a VW Thing way back when. And, according to the brochure, Porta-Bote’s are made out of materials “originally developed for use in the aerospace field.” Wow.
This is Plover loaded up with crew at Buccaneer Days in Catalina two years ago
Here’s a great shot of Migration. Notice Plover folded up and strapped to back of the aft cabin (under the sail toward the back of the boat)
Back to our adventure. We left early before the wind came up so we didn’t have to bash into it. But finding the Painted Cave wasn’t that easy. There are lots of caves on Santa Cruz and, as you can see from this portion of the chart, there isn’t exactly an X marks the spot. (The line is a mile long).
We finally found it and ventured inside. It was long and dark and the waves crashed against the walls and the echoes boomed. Pretty cool. We anchored in the entrance and had a lunch and watched whales breaching offshore.
We decided to check out some of the other caves on our way back. Good thing we did. Because then we found The Painted Cave. We’d been in the wrong cave. The Painted Cave was big. Rowing in the entrance, wonderful spooky sounds came from inside. Moans and roars and hisses. It was like the Pirates of the Caribbean without the pirates. Water dripped from the ceiling and it took a long time for our eyes to get used to the darkness. Around two twists and toward the back there was a second chamber filled with dozens of sea lions laying on the rocks. Every few minutes a large set of waves would come through and crash against the walls, then rebound, creating a washing machine effect. Then it would be relatively calm until the next set. THIS was cool. And a bit scary. So we left. It was good adventure. Just the right amount of fear.
The next day we did two dives. The harbor seals were in great form. At one point Loren tapped me on the shoulder and pointed behind me. A harbor seal was 2 feet from my face just staring at me. I practically swallowed my regulator and then laughed and laughed. The seals played with us for the rest of the dive. Shooting in and out of the kelp, hiding behind rocks, staring at us upside down. It was so fun. Their eyes remind me of black labs..
On our last day we dove a kelp forest in the morning. If any of you ever dive and haven’t been in a kelp forest, you must do it. It is a holy place. The sun filters down golden through the leaves and the beams light up the rocks and fish. Loren and I sat on the bottom for 10 minutes and just enjoyed the peace.
We followed that wonderful dive with a perfect sail back to Ventura. Migration was happy and so were we.
Loren left and I spent a couple more days in Ventura preparing the boat for the trip north and seeing if the cute girl at the dive shop was interested in sailing around the world (unfortunately, no). Then, at 3AM on the morning of the 23rd, Riley and I set off for San Francisco.
Now it’s important to understand that heading north on the California coast is not something that one looks forward to. Pt. Conception, between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, has been called the Cape Horn of the North Pacific. Many sailors have gotten thrashed there and there are hundreds of shipwrecks. Winds are typically 15-20 knots higher than surrounding areas and the surrounding areas can be very windy. Then add Pt. Sur to the north and a long coast with not a lot of shelter, and you get the makings of what can be a nasty, nasty trip.
Or, as in our case, you can have an incredible time and never see wind over 15 knots. We stopped in the early morning in Santa Barbara for fuel and then continued to Coho Anchorage which is right behind Pt. Conception. There it did blow hard but it is well protected. We left in the middle of the night and were anchored in San Simeon Bay by the afternoon. What an amazing spot that is. To the east is a long beach backed by the green-gold hills of the central coast climbing to the castle. The point to the west has beautiful low cliffs pockmarked with small caves crossed by fallen trees looking just like a Japanese print. As I was inflating the kayak on deck, four dolphins entered the bay and swam around the boat. How come I get to do this? I felt amazingly blessed. Wow.
Another early departure in the darkness. But that brought us along the Big Sur coast in the morning. The calm conditions continued and we rounded Pt. Sur in shorts and t-shirts and we were able to stay close to this gorgeous coast. I brought the speakers up and listened to the Beach Boys’ “Holland” which is one of my favorite albums and has a great song about Big Sur. It was totally cool. That afternoon we were anchored in Stillwater Cove off the 18th hole at Pebble Beach watching the weddings onshore. Another beautiful spot.
Unfortunately a beautiful spot that likes to eat anchors. When we hoisted anchor the next morning there was the clunk of chain against rock. We motored around trying to free it but nothing. So I put on my dive gear and jumped in. We certainly couldn’t have tied our chain around a rock in such a complex fashion if we had tried. But it was easy to clear once I was down and we were soon on our way.
A quick stop in Monterey for some clam chowder and then a great sail to Moss Landing where we were the guests of the Elkhorn Yacht Club. Both Riley and I had always wanted to visit and we finally did. Elkhorn is a funky, friendly club whose members and boats have lots of character.
We fueled up the next morning and headed out. (Oh yeah, we went aground in the channel for about a minute). A short trip up the coast to Capitola where we ate at Riley’s favorite bakery (Gayle’s), rode the Santa Cruz roller coaster with my friend, Sherry, scored a half a salmon from a fisherman on the pier, had another amazing Riley dinner, and Riley got to surf. No complaints.
Another easy motor to Half Moon Bay and a quiet night at anchor. Riley and I were both amazed at what an easy and enjoyable trip we’d had. We were a half-day away from San Francisco Bay. Because of that, the next day’s lesson was: Don’t Get Complacent. Half Moon Bay is surrounded by reefs (the famous Mavericks big surf spot is close by). As we motored out in the light fog, I nearly put Migration on one of those reefs. I saw my mistake in time and shoved the engine in full reverse. There was dark water signifying a rock under the surface just a few feet in front of the bow. My knees didn’t stop shaking for a half hour. It was a good wake up call and my navigating has been much more thorough ever since.
We sailed under the Golden Gate without ever seeing the tops of the towers. But it cleared up when we dropped anchor in Aquatic Park directly in front of Ghirardelli Square. We walked to Riley’s favorite Italian deli on Columbus, Riley rented a car, we loaded up and, I was alone.
That was strange. I do enjoy sailing with friends and after such a great trip with such a great friend, it was a hard adjustment.
That was yesterday. Today I had a wonderful visit with my good buddy, Regan, and now I’m writing to all my friends to let them know how this strange, wonderful, challenging, exciting, life is. Tomorrow I haul up the anchor and head up the San Joaquin River into the Delta. More adventures await!
Where We've Been #1
Where We've Been #2
This site was last updated 01/31/12