Thursday, October 21, 2010

San Francisco to San Diego (2010)

We left San Francisco early in the morning on October 6th. We were concerned about the strong winds and high seas that develop regularly along Point Conception, over 200 miles south of San Francisco. We listened to the weather daily on the VHF before leaving and found a couple days with light winds and calm seas and headed down the coast. We started out with five to seven foot seas, but over the course of the day the seas become calmer and by the evening were almost completely flat. It felt like we were in the Puget Sound, not in the Pacific Ocean. We bagged the sails and motored all night. For the last few hours before the sun went down, we encountered all sorts of marine life ten miles west of Santa Cruz near Monterey Bay. We saw over twenty gray whales, a few humpbacks and had dolphins swimming with us on several occasions. Here is a link to a You Tube video clip showing some of the whales and dolphins we saw that night. It is a little rocky, so hopefully it doesn’t make it you seasick to watch it.

We like to motor as little as possible to save fuel and because the noise from the motor makes it difficult for us to hear each other when one of us is down below and the other in the cockpit. Despite this, we opted to motor most of the first two days, as the winds were very light and we wanted to cover the 200 miles to get beyond Point Conception before the weather changed. We spent quite a bit of time on those first two days just reading in the cockpit as the calm seas allowed us to do so without getting seasick.

On the second evening we went by several offshore oil/gas platforms. They look like small island cities at night. The next morning we passed by one within about a half mile to get a closer look.

We reached Point Conception a little before dawn and passed the point with relatively calm seas. Early in the afternoon on the third day, the winds started building and we had some good sailing for the next day. It was nice to finally turn the engine off. We decided to stop at Santa Catalina Island, about 25 miles southwest of Los Angeles. We pulled into Avalon Harbor on the southeast side of the island at about 9:00 am on October 9th. It was Saturday morning and the harbor was packed. We were lucky to get one of the few remaining mooring balls.

Santa Catalina is a popular destination for southern California boaters as well as those coming from the mainland by ferry. There are tons of restaurants, hotels and tourist shops. In the short period of time we were onshore, we saw four weddings on the beach. We spent most of the weekend walking around and exploring the harbor. It was nice to stretch our legs again. By Sunday afternoon most of the weekend crowd had left and we contemplated staying for a few more days, but decided we better head to San Diego so we could get started on our last big boat projects before heading to Mexico.

Avalon Bay, Catalina Island

San Diego is about 70 miles from Catalina so we knew we were going to have a long day ahead of us. We untied from the mooring buoy and left about 7:00 am. We had four foot swells from the west and 2-4 foot wind waves from the southeast. The wind was blowing directly from the direction of San Diego. It was going to be a bumpy ride. The NOAA weather forecast mentioned that the winds would be backing to the south in the afternoon, which would be better. We headed as close to the wind as we could sail, which was due east. The winds did back more to the south later in the afternoon and we were able to sail more in the direction of San Diego, but the indirect route added quite a few miles to the trip and we arrived at the south end of the approach to San Diego at 9:00 that evening.

About a mile before we were about to turn north and head into the channel we noticed that a ship that we had been keeping an eye on for the last half hour was heading for us and it did not appear to be turning in the direction of the ship channel like we thought it would. We both realized very quickly that the ship approaching from the south would have a very difficult time seeing our lights as they would be blending in the with city lights from San Diego to the north. We quickly turned on our spreader lights for a couple seconds. These are spotlights mounted on the spreaders, about 20 feet above the deck and they are the brightest lights we have. They light up the whole deck as well as the bottom half of the sails. Within seconds this large ship made a hard turn and headed east. It was surprising to see a ship that size turn so abruptly. That was a little too close.

We dropped the sails and motored through the channel. Navigating the approach to large cities at night is very stressful as it is hard to pick out the navigation lights from the city lights in the background and there are all kinds of hazards if you get off track. Di stood on the bow and directed us while I steered. We pulled into the marina at 10:00 pm. After 14 hours of sailing into the wind, we were exhausted. We went below to make a quick dinner and noticed a crackling sound coming from all over the boat. It sounded like we were floating in a large bowl of Rice Krispies. Several ideas involving fiberglass delaminating and electrical shorts went through my head for several minutes, but after ruling those out we were stumped. We were too tired to think and decided it was a project for tomorrow.

When we checked in at the marina office the next morning, we asked if they had any idea what it could be. Maybe it was the concrete docks. The woman at the office informed us that many of the San Diego marinas have brine shrimp in the water and they are responsible for the noise. It is hard to believe that these tiny shrimp can make so much noise, but this meant that we didn’t need to make a new repair and we were relieved.

We are going to be in San Diego for four to five weeks to finish up a few projects before heading across the border. The next day we started by washing Saviah. We’ve traveled over 1,200 miles since we left Seattle, and she is salty.