Thursday, 4 January 2018

Point Conception to Santa Catalina Island




Santa Barbara Harbour
All went well while I was on watch going round Point Conception, except for something small on the prop, which came off first time. Dawn broke over Santa Cruz Island, turning the sky and the sea red.
When Jeremy came on watch he felt sure there was still something round the prop so he stripped off and went overboard with the bread knife. Minutes later he came back on board with a handful of seaweed and a short piece of rope.

Christmas Eve on Sal Darago
We arrived at Santa Barbara Harbour just after 11.00 am on 23rd December and stayed for four nights. We were able to wish our family and friends Merry Christmas and generally relax after shopping for Christmas. We ate well on board on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We even had a Christmas tree! We went to the carriage driving museum after Christmas and were impressed by the many carriages, saddles and bridles on display. Entrance was free.

Kathy at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum
As we prepared to leave Santa Barbara, a fellow sailor came along and gave us a bottle of wine. Thank you, Mark.
Mansion above Paradise Cove
The next stop was Channel Islands Harbour for one night. We decided not to buy a shower and gate key card for $25 as we were only staying one night. We showered on Sal Darago and discovered the next morning that the bilges were full of water. Our shower bilge pump had not been working. Much pumping followed and later Jeremy found that the float switch was not working.

Outside the Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles
On our way to Paradise Cove, off Malibu Beach, we passed numerous dolphins and many sealions. It was difficult to find a place to anchor on our arrival as there was a forest of kelp and many fishing pots. Fortunately, the night was calm, so there was no dragging.

Fame indeed
It was a short hop the next day to Marina del Rey on the other side of Santa Monica Bay. We spent 4 nights on the guest docks and used the marina as a base to visit Los Angeles. It took about an hour and a half by bus and train to reach Hollywood but only cost $7 each with a Metro TAP card. 

Hollywood Boulevard
We saw a number of hand and footprints of the stars of yesterday and today as well as many famous names on the Walk of Fame. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was a peaceful oasis and the long bus ride down Sunset Boulevard passing Sunset Strip and Beverley Hills was an interesting experience.

Hollywood sign from Forever Cemetery
The next day, Sunday 31st December, we went to Downtown LA, visiting the Walt Disney Centre, the Music Centre, City Hall and Central Park. All the buildings were closed on Sundays but they were all worth seeing.

Carollers in the park, Marina del Rey
 Back at Marina del Rey preparations were underway for New Year’s Eve. 

Jeremy at the Walt Disney Centre
The party in the park next to our berth started at 7.00pm. A ten minute firework display, at 9.00pm, celebrated New Year on the East Coast and another ten minute firework display, at midnight, celebrated New Year on the West Coast. Hundreds of people gathered in the park for the free evening. We had a clear view of the fireworks from Sal Darago’s cockpit.

Music Centre, Los Angeles
On New Year’s Day we bought a new float switch from West Marine and treated ourselves to new pairs of boat shoes from their sale. Jeremy replaced the float switch in SD’s shower, so we were ready to go to sea again.

City Hall, Los Angeles
Today, 3rd January, we are about to spend our second night at Santa Catalina Island.

Santa Cruz to Point Conception



 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers.
Royal Presidio Chapel
It was sad to say goodbye to Simon and Erin at Santa Cruz, but perhaps they will join us in Mexico where the weather is warmer.
Coulton Hall

We motored across Monterey Bay in calm weather on 17th December and anchored for two nights outside the harbour. Jeremy fitted a new aerial and wire for our Garmin GPS. Previously, we kept losing satellite navigation on an intermittent basis. We’ve had no trouble since the new aerial was fitted.

Jeremy outside the Custom House
Monterey was once the capital of California and an interesting place to visit. The Visitor Information office gave us a map and information for a self-guided historical walking tour. We saw the first church in California (the Royal Presidio Chapel) the first public building (Coulton Hall) and the first government building (Custom House). In addition, we stood outside the French Hotel where Robert Louis Stephenson stayed and went into the room in John Steinbeck’s house where he wrote “The Pearl”. We viewed Cannery Row and the Aquarium from the sea as we motored out of the bay on our way to Morro Bay.
The Californian Constitution was signed here in Coulton Hall
This was an overnight trip in fairly calm conditions, so we motorsailed until there wasn’t enough wind to fill the genoa. At 2.00am, in the cold and dark, something went round the prop and almost stopped the engine. I was off watch and in bed. Jeremy called me up because he thought he would have to go overboard to free the prop. Fortunately, at the 4th attempt in reverse, the prop freed itself and we continued our journey with no further incidents arriving at Morro Bay at 0800 on 20th December.

Perhaps Steinbeck wrote The Pearl at this table
Morro Bay has the most dangerous entrance on the Californian coast. There was barely any swell at all when we arrived, but I persuaded Jeremy to call the Coastguard as our cruising guide advised, to check on the entrance conditions. It was fine. 

Approaching the entrance to Morro Bay Harbour
We anchored in the harbour, but there was little swinging room between the moorings, the fairway and the shoals. After a while Harbour Patrol came along to warn us we were in danger of going aground, so we weighed anchor and went to Morro Bay Yacht Club, where we received a friendly welcome and access to hot showers and a laundry. We stayed for two nights and sampled two of the many eateries. We also walked up to the cinema and watched the latest Star Wars film, “The Last Jedhi.”

The chimneys dominate Morro Bay Harbour
On 21 December, it was strange to be listening to Maghull Radio at 5.30 am, but we did not want to miss Dave Hughes’ show and hear “A Spaceman Came Travelling”, which Dave played for us. Thank you, Dave for thinking of us.

SD tied to the dock at Morro Bay Yacht Club
We had another overnight sail ahead of us which would take us around “the Cape Horn of California”, Point Conception and on to Santa Barbara. We flew full sails for a short time and then the wind died away, so it was back to motoring. Jeremy was on watch as it went dark. Suddenly, he was startled by a missile exploding overhead. Fortunately, the Coastguard broadcast soon afterwards reassured mariners that this was routine missile firing and there was no danger to shipping.

UFO or USA Missile?

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Napa Valley Marina to Santa Cruz



 Sal Darago was launched at Napa Valley Marina on Monday 4th December, after 12 days of hard labour in the workyard. All the staff were friendly and helpful, the chandlery is well stocked with marine hardware and groceries and you can liveaboard and work on your own boat (unusual in California).

Jeremy antifouling
Two days after launching, we woke to find ice on the decks and frost on the pontoons. Sometimes it was so cold at night we slept under two duvets with a hot water bottle each, wearing hats and thermal socks. In the daytime it was warm and sunny and shorts could sometimes be worn.
Heading for the slipway

We met Seth, Sophie and Casey on their yacht, Liberty. Seth was very helpful to us in the summer and continued to be so with his invaluable information about anchorages in the Sea of Cortez, which is our destination in Mexico. Thank you Seth and co.

The maiden voyage went well, motoring down the Napa River and into San Pablo Bay. As darkness fell we anchored in a strong, tidal current off China Camp, where the wind increased to 17 knots, giving us a bumpy first night on anchor.

Almost afloat
Jeremy had contacted Anthony, the Harbourmaster at Clipper Cove, Treasure Island before we left the UK. Last time we anchored. This time we had a berth in the marina and made use of the excellent toilet and shower facilities in the nearby ex-Naval Administration building.
It's a long way up to the prison

The next day we went under the Bay Bridge twice and crossed San Francisco Bay to Aquatic Park, where we anchored for two nights with permission from the relevant authorities. Simon and Erin arrived by train and taxi in the evening. Jeremy picked them up from the beach in the dinghy, where a rare wave swept over them, giving them a damp start to the weekend.
Next batch for the cells

Who stole the bed?
This is how they escaped
The Rock

Simon, Erin and Jeremy on Alcatraz
Arriving on Alcatraz
On Saturday 9th December, all four of us went to Alcatraz. We had a great day, spending as much time as we wanted on the former prison island, tasting clam chowder served in sour dough bowls on Pier 39, drinking beers in Red Jack’s Saloon and spending quarters in the antique slot machines at Musee Mechanique.
Not quite drunk and disorderly
Back at the beach in Aquatic Park, someone had left two bottles of beer, a lifejacket and a metal nut in the dinghy. We left them on the beach. Later, Jeremy found a message on his phone from Joe Butler saying he had left the gifts. Joe is the telephone contact for the rowing and swimming club, who told us where we should leave our dinghy and how to exit Hyde Pier when the Maritme Museum was closed. The next morning the beers and lifejacket had gone. Jeremy and Simon found the nut, which came from Alcatraz. Thank you for the souvenir, Joe, and the advice. Sorry we left the beers.
Fun in Musee Mechanique
Sunday morning was relaxed and sunny after a cold night. We motored down to Redwood City Marina with Simon and Erin doing most of the steering and Jeremy providing bacon and egg butties. Once safely tied up and fees paid for three nights, we left in their car for Paulo Alto. We parked the car in the basement of the offices where Simon works. From there we walked to the world famous Stanford University campus and then to McArthur Park Restaurant where Simon and Erin treated us to a delicious dinner.
Yummy meal out

We slept at their apartment in Sunnyvale on Sunday and Monday, returning to SD on Tuesday with clean clothes and loads of shopping. Simon joined us for dinner while Erin went to a works’ “do”.

After returning to Clipper Cove, Treasure Island for another night we left San Francisco Bay on Thursday 14th December, motorsailing along the waterfront and under the Golden Gate Bridge. Wow!

Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge
Quick turnaround for a better view
Several hours later, we anchored in well-protected Half Moon Bay and watched the sunset from our cockpit. From there it was a 48 mile motor in big, long swell, but little wind to Santa Cruz. Here are spending two nights in the Small Craft Harbour sheltering from gale force winds. It’s only a 45 minute drive from Sunnyvale.  Simon and Erin have come down to go surfing and tonight we’re all going out for dinner at Johnny’s.

Half Moon Bay

Monday, 27 November 2017

Back in the USA



Hello from Napa Valley, California. We arrived here on Wednesday after spending the night with Simon and Erin in Sunnyvale.

Simon, Erin and me in Sunnyvale.
Two weeks ago in the UK, I had the remains of a tooth extracted. That put me out of action for a day; then it was all go spending treasured time with Emily, Ben and the grandchildren, packing and cleaning the house.
Hever Castle, Kent
One week ago we went to a very special celebration at Hever Castle in Kent. A surprise 70th birthday party for Jeremy’s brother, Gavin, was organised by his four children. 

Back row: Helen and Gavin. Front row: Julian, Amanda and Robin
It was a wonderful evening and we felt honoured to be invited to join Gavin and Eileen, their four children and wives/husbands and their eleven grandchildren, along with older brother, Ritchie and his wife, Catherine. The celebration continued the next day with lunch for everyone at Robin and Victoria’s house followed by a Spencer family tradition, the Pub Game.
Helen made this fabulous cake
 Once we were back in Suffolk we had one day before our journey to Sal Darago in Napa Valley. We still haven’t stopped, except to sleep. We were relieved that SD was in a structurally sound condition, infested with flies outside, but OK inside. There had been huge forest fires nearby but all was well at the marina.
The roof was cleaner than the side decks
 Simon and Erin spent Thanksgiving with Erin’s brother and sister in Los Angeles. We were invited, which was very kind and thoughtful, but we needed to start on the long list of jobs that have to be done before SD can be launched. So far, Jeremy has sanded down SD’s bottom in preparation for antifouling and I have scrubbed the filthy decks. Both sails are on, along with all the halyards and sheets. Unusually, it rained for most of the day today but Jeremy still managed to remove the propeller so that he could replace the cutlass bearing, which was fitted in Gladstone, Australia in 2011. We’ve done a few miles since then!

Cockpit muck
Finally, a very big thank you to Simon and Erin for going food shopping for us, ordering a cruising guide, putting us up and sorting out a new smart phone for Jeremy.