Sunday, 23 July 2017

Land Based USA

On the Sunday, before Sal Darago was hauled out, Kathy and I used public transport to travel to Sunnyvale where we borrowed Simon and Erin’s Pontiac Vibe. We used this to return to Sunnyvale on the Thursday night and based our future trips from there using their lovely AWD car. Here’s some of what we did.
We ate well
We tasted 57 wines
We borrowed some bikes
We relaxed
We were together

Kathy and I decided to borrow their car and..

We drove to Yosemite and saw the falls
We wandered up to Nevada Falls
I ate snow
Then found Dog Lake
And much to Kathy's delight we met a mule train
In the Gold Rush town of Columbia, we found a Wells Fargo Stagecoach
So Kathy persuaded them to let her ride SHOTGUN
And afterwards she had to have a sarsaparilla

Not content with that we tried a road trip next and...

We drove through Vegas and saw Trump Tower
We climbed Angels Landing in Zion Park
And reached the top
More driving and the Arches National Park. Wow!
Across to |Canyonlands
The views were fantastic

And the formations fascinating

Followed by Monument Valley

And the Grand Canyon
One mile deep, vast, stunning and magnificent

Followed by the long drive back to Sunnyvale

Thanks Simon and Erin for putting up with us and loaning us the car to make this whole trip amazing.
The end.

San Francisco to Napa Valley Marina

Sailing under that bridge with Simon and Erin
Sensible Erin with lifejacket
Art Deco Redwood City cinema
The purpose of the trip was to see Simon and Erin, so we were delighted that they could join us on Saturday evening and sail down the Bay to Redwood City Marina on the Sunday. We had a delicious meal at their apartment before returning on Sunday night to SD. 
Kathy and I explored Redwood City which was quite interesting and “historic”. Many places claim to be “historic” in America, but we think that could be stretching things a little. The fact the city gained its name from importing wood from the north was interesting. We were sad the quay, which used to intersect the main street, had been filled in. Simon arrived by bike and he and I successfully connected our new transformer to convert the American 110v to 240v that SD requires.

We left Redwood at 0650 to try to catch both the tide north and the weaker morning winds. We were successful, arriving at the beautiful Clipper Cove Anchorage, Treasure Island at 1055.

Clipper Cove
At night

Unfortunately, we went aground at low tide in the tricky entrance; our excuse being it was just after the summer solstice and a very low tide. Antony at Treasure Island Marina, kindly let us use the dingy dock and Kathy and I walked around the island. We noted the fenced off areas with dire warnings of radiation poisoning from the previous use by the American Navy. We also found a useful general store.

Where is that Cable Car?

Ah, there it is.
Hanging on the outside
Alcatraz was sadly completely booked so we decided to buy a day pass on the transport system and enjoyed jumping on and off trams, seeing Pier 39, walking up to Coit Tower and lunch in Mario’s in Washington Square, before returning to SD by bus and dinghy.
Coit Tower
Mario's for lunch
We sailed to Sausalito to fill the diesel tank. We had lunch at anchor before motoring to China Camp for the evening. On Saturday 1st July, we motored and sailed up to Napa Valley Marina, where we were well received by Cory. Kathy and I worked very hard to clean all of the equipment and stow it by Thursday when Sal Darago was hauled out and placed on beams.
Up the Napa River
Sal Darago showing a clean bottom

  It was the end of another epic voyage in which our trusty Westerly had served us incredibly well.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

San Luis Obispo to San Francisco

We checked the weather from various sources and saw that the coastal winds were easing but the swell from a storm further north was 3-4 metres high. We decided to wait a little longer and leave San Luis Obispo (SLO) at 0300 on Thursday 22nd June.
At last the fog clears and we can see San Pedro Point
We left in the dark in thick fog. The lights on the piers were shrouded in a veil but at least they were visible. The radar was on. It detected something close by, which turned out to be an anchored fishing vessel with no lights. By 0600 it was light but visibility was still less than half a mile. The big ships had to be in the offshore Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), recreational boats would be mad(!) to be out in such conditions so our main concern was fishing vessels.
Uh oh! The fog's out to get us again
Around midday the fog lifted giving us about 2 miles visibility for a short time before closing in again. The wind began to blow gently from the SE, as predicted. The flapping mainsail filled, the current was with us and we started to make good speed with a following sea and big swell. It was cold and damp all day and night. On Friday morning the visibility cleared as the fog became patchy. We creamed along at over 6 knots with the rare following winds reaching 20 knots. We saw fishing pots and touched one before the fog closed in again.
Our first glimpse of a bridge
We were going to stop at Half Moon Bay to wait for the right tide at the Golden Gate Bridge, just over 20 miles north. Jeremy worked out that of we kept going and averaged 6 knots or more (we usually average 5 knots) we’d catch the last of the flood tide into San Francisco Bay. We went for it. Sal Darago was amazing. The fog swirled in and out giving us glimpses of the coastline, which was rocky and inhospitable. A whale blew and dived just off the port bow.
It's red, not gold. Have we come to the right place?
At 1335 on Friday 23rd July, we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was shrouded in fog and the fog horn was sounding non-stop. It was an exciting moment and we were elated.
That must be Fort Point under the arch
Then we were in San Francisco Bay, watching the fog lift off the waterfront, noting a misty Alcatraz Island on our port side. Surely, we were in a film. It felt surreal. We had to concentrate, keep our course, be aware of vessels of all sizes and head for the anchorage at Aquatic Park Cove, next to the Maritime Museum.
Another first for an elderly Westerly and her crew
The sign on the wall said “Watch Out for Swimmers”. We were surprised that we were allowed to anchor is a place where people could swim near the boats and we were shocked to see most of the swimmers were not wearing wet suits in water that was much colder than in Mull. Another sign told us that we must ring up for permission to stay overnight and the maximum length of stay was 72 hours. There was a bit of a glitch in the exchange of text messages, but we were given permission and there was no charge.
Four pelicans and the Palace of Fine Arts behind
Jeremy informed Customs and Border Patrol of our whereabouts and intentions and booked two nights at Redwood City Marina in the south of the Bay, only 20 minutes’ drive from Simon and Erin’s apartment.  We arranged to meet Simon and Erin on the beach on Saturday evening. They would come up by train and sail to Redwood City Marina with us on Sunday.
San Francisco skyline
That evening we celebrated our arrival with sundowners in our chilly, sunless cockpit wearing jogging bottoms, fleeces and woolly hats. Swimmers came past wearing only swimwear and goggles! They were from the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club, which was next to the impressive Art Deco Maritime Museum building on the beachfront. The city of San Francisco rose up behind them. We were here, after sailing 10,655 miles from the River Deben. Well done, Sal Darago.
The Maritme Museum in Aquatic Park Cove. Can you spot SD?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Santa Cruz Island and Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo


We weighed anchor in Smugglers’ Cove at 0600 on Thursday 15th June. The sun was rising over the east end of Santa Cruz Island. As we passed San Pedro Point an arch opened up in the cliffs.

Santa Cruz Island arch
The first hazard we encountered was a Maersk container ship coming south in the TSS (shipping lane) just as we were about to start our crossing. The morning fog cleared and the ship passed by safely. Once across the TSS motoring in calm seas, dolphins arrived to play in our bow wave. We noted many oil rigs quite close to the shore south of Santa Barbara.

Jeremy on Stearns Wharf
Jeremy called Harbour Patrol to ask if we could take on diesel and have a berth for two nights. We had to tie up to the fuel berth first, then move to the nearby Harbour Patrol dock, tie up and go to the marina office. The cost was $1 per foot per night and we had to have dye put in our holding tank so we could not flush in the marina – another first. By midday we were tied up in our berth. In the afternoon we made good use of the marina laundry.

Friday was a sight-seeing and shopping day, after we had washed our No.2 jib in fresh water. There was a shuttle bus which ran along the waterfront and up the main street called State Street. Rides for seniors cost only 25c each. We got off at the historic Stearns Wharf and enjoyed reading a plaque which told us how Sir Francis Drake sailed to Drake’s Bay north of San Francisco, nailed a flag ashore and claimed all the land for Albion.

Kathy and view from the top of the Old Courthouse
We had been told we should see the Old Courthouse and go up to the viewing area at the top of a tower. The advice was good and the 360 degree views spectacular. We were soon down to earth for lunch and for shopping at Ralph’s supermarket. The shuttle bus took us back to the marina.

Simon and Erin arrived about 10.30pm after a five hour drive from Sunnyvale. It was wonderful to see them again after two years and to give them big hugs. We celebrated with drinks in the cockpit, chatting until midnight.

Simon and Erin dolphin watching
On Saturday, we left Santa Barbara at 0710. We took turns steering, making 6 knots on the 25 mile passage to Santa Cruz Island. We saw whales blowing and diving, tails up in the air and had to alter course to avoid being too close. Soon afterwards lots of dolphins arrived to swim with SD. Simon and Erin watched these amazing sights from the bows. Jeremy was first to spot a baby dolphin with its mother – a first for all of us.

Scorpion Bay with Little Scorpion in the background
We anchored at Scorpion Bay. Our first choice, Little Scorpion Bay next door, was fully occupied. Our bay was quite busy with trip boats bringing out campers and kayakers. We had lunch in the cockpit, celebrating our reunion properly with a bottle of champagne. We decided to weigh anchor afterwards and head for Prisoners’ Bay, where Simon and Erin had been before (but not gone ashore) in a charter yacht with the Worrell family. Here, we anchored and went ashore for a walk along one of the trails. Almost immediately we saw a Santa Cruz fox. Simon warned us about some wasp-like insects called yellow backs that were flying around the stony beach area. It was very hot ashore. Back on SD, we enjoyed sundowners in the cockpit and pasta Bolognese for supper in the saloon.

Erin, Simon and Jeremy at Prisoners' Bay
Everyone had a more leisurely start on the Sunday. We left Prisoners’ Bay soon after 0800 and had a good sail back to Santa Barbara. We saw more whales and dolphins on the way. Jeremy made bacon and egg rolls for everyone for lunch, which we ate on passage. We tied up to the Harbour Patrol dock in Santa Barbara just before 1400 and said a sad good bye to Simon and Erin. They had a long drive back home and we had an overnight motorsail to San Luis Obispo.

Hiking on Santa Cruz Island
On the way, the smell of fumes from oil on the sea was overwhelming at times. It was very calm and distant oil rigs could just be seen in the worsening visibility. Soon after supper, just in time for my three hour watch, the fog closed in and I had less than half a mile visibility until 10 minutes before Jeremy took over. He saw us safely round Point Conception, the Cape Horn of the Western Pacific, and I took us safely round Point Arguello. It was hard to distinguish all the lights from an oil rig to port, various fishing vessels and shore lights. I called Jeremy up to help and together we found a safe passage through.

Misty oil rig
Thick fog descended again on our dawn approach to Port San Luis Obispo. We made good use of our radar, chart plotter and GPS until we could see the entrance buoys and those that marked off lying rocks. We asked permission to anchor between the Avila and Cal Poly piers from Harbour Patrol. No problem except the Avila pier was condemned so we could not land the dinghy. To go ashore, we had to dinghy two kilometres to Harford Pier then walk three kilometres back to Avila – aarghh!

Kathy with Avila Beach behind
We spent the day ashore on Tuesday 20th June, walking between piers, eating lunch in the only grocery store that sold bread, apples, eggs and small yoghurts (which cost $3.70 each), but little else. The sea was too cold in the bay for me to swim. Perhaps the seas and wind will calm on Wednesday in order for us to continue to San Francisco, 200 miles away.