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September, 2011:

Prying ourselves loose from the Bay

Sausalito has really really sticky mud. And nearly all of Richardson Bay has depths of 15 feet or less which means that about 50 feet of our 60 feet of scope was smothered in thick, black, gooey muck when we finally cranked it in for the last time yesterday. Despite taking an absurdly long time to wash the chain off with our bucket, the process wasn’t nearly as difficult as starting to hoist the chain in the first place.

We’ve had an amazing time in San Francisco, splitting our time between the conveniences of Emeryville and the quaintness of Sausalito. We had friends and family scattered all around the Bay and spent nearly every day visiting with someone. It was a nice change from what was sometimes a lonely cruising life up in B.C. and if the hoards of southbound cruising boats indicate anything it’s that we’re not likely to be lonely again for a long time.

Golden Gate finally astern (and one of the newest members of our solar farm)

When we weren’t visiting, or exploring downtown San Francisco, or eating Dim Sum in Chinatown, or ice-cream in Sausalito, or riding the BART to visit old friends in the Mission district, we were spending money. Lots of it. Sadly, our old Costco dinghy finally bit the dust when the transom drain plug rotted out and we couldn’t keep the water out so we picked up a new West Marine RIB. Despite scouring Craigslist for months we were unable to find a used dinghy at a decent price so we broke our longtime tradition and bought a new one. The price was right and after zipping around in a RIB for the past week we’ll never go back to a flat-floor dinghy again. Oh, boy is it fast, stable and fun!

We also added two more solar panels to our aft rails, a project we knew we’d have to complete in San Francisco. With four panels we now have 530 watts of solar power, plenty to keep our little vacuum running daily to pick up all the cracker crumbs that are constantly finding their way to the floor. And the laptops, autopilot, stereo, toaster, lights, HAM radio….

So, despite having many many reasons to stay for another week in the Bay we were getting itchy to keep making our way south as October(!) is only a few days away. We reluctantly washed the Sausalito mud from our anchor chain for the last time and motored out the Golden Gate yesterday. With a perfectly clear blue sky and a 4 knot flood current against us we had plenty of time going out to gaze at the brilliant orange bridge we’ll always be fond of.

The water is getting warmer! (Half Moon Bay)

Our 25-mile trip down to Half Moon Bay was pretty uneventful, excepting a 12-15-foot high swell that was rolling down from the NW storms brewing off the coast back home. It was more than a little nerve-wracking crossing the infamous San Francisco bar (what if there’s a rogue wave? Oh god, this one is like a mountain, what if it’s going to be the one that breaks??) But despite our sweaty palms we were in deep water soon enough and greeted with a pleasant SW wind that kept our sails full and nearly on the beam for a few hours.

By late afternoon we’d made the easy entrance to the Half Moon Bay break-watered harbor and were anchored in 10 feet of perfectly still water, the anchor quickly setting into sticky black mud, no doubt.

Sweet life in San Francisco

I gripped the clear plastic frosty cup in one hand and with the other held the green straw steady so I could take a sweet long pull on my drink. My eyes nearly rolled back in my head as the icy taste hit my tongue. We had held out for nearly three days after arriving in Sausalito but we couldn’t resist that green sign with the mermaid and the “free wifi” sign on the door any longer. Before we knew what was happening the four of us were sitting in Starbucks, the girls slurping down organic vanilla milks, Michael with a java chip frappacino and myself deliriously inhaling a caramel frappacino, my first in nearly three months.

Will that be an ice-cream cone or margarita? California has something for everyone!

Since we had arrived in Sausalito late on a Friday evening, the customs agents didn’t arrive until nearly noon the next day to clear us in. [Note to anyone sailing directly to San Francisco from Canada, or any other foreign port: do go directly to Oakland as the customs agents suggested we do, it is the fastest way to check in.] After the agents had left the boat once the five-minute check-in process was completed, our amazing crewmember Garth hightailed it to the airport to catch his afternoon flight home in time and we stayed onboard the boat for yet another hour or two just wondering what to do next. Finally we put on our shoes and walked ashore to meander down the Sausalito streets.

The land swayed underneath our feet as we made our way through the Saturday throngs of tourists. It was dizzying in other ways: it felt like we were suddenly weaving our way through millions and millions of people after not bumping elbows with a single soul for months in Canada. Cars, buses, bikes, planes, ferries hurtled by; we were overwhelmed by the huge variety of sights and sounds around us after seeing only sea, trees and rocks for so long. One thing was for sure, we were hungry for a non-home cooked meal and made our way to our favorite hamburger joint, waited in line for about a half hour and walked across the street to the park with our bag of huge, juicy handmade cheeseburgers and fries. Paradise.

We quickly adjusted though and after a day or two were dancing with joy at all the easy access to, well, everything here. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not really the cheeseburgers, cheap delicious beer, amazing Mexican food, Starbucks, Targets, West Marines, Trader Joes (oh hallelujah!), fresh juicy produce, rich dark coffee, mail deliveries, sunshine, free anchorages, free hot showers, or copious wifi that’s got us loving life here. It’s the people, of course. Our days have been jam-packed with visiting friends both new and old. We’ve met up with fellow boats from the Northwest also on their way south, a number of close family and friends that live in the area, a huge handful of friends that we cruised with nine years ago that make their home in the Bay again, and of course, new friends.

Leah & Ruby

A few days after arriving in SF we rolled out the genoa and scooted eastward across the bay to Emeryville where our kindred spirits on Convivia have been living on and readying their Cal 43 for cruising, now only days away from their own departure date. We’d only “met” online up to this point but minutes after we pulled into our borrowed slip on their dock their daughter Ruby, 7, and Leah were already skipping down the dock holding hands and making plans for their slumber party that night. We talked into the afternoon, then talked over dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, then tucked all four kids, Leah, Ruby, Miles and Holly, into bunks on Convivia while we parents sipped Tucker’s famous margaritas and talked and laughed late into the night.

The people here are the sweetest part of this city for sure.

Sailing to San Francisco, in photos

Hover over photos for description, click to see full size…

August 2011 Cruising Expenses

Yet another benefit of exploring the Canadian wilderness was that we were away from town much of the time in August and were able to make our monthly cruising budget goal of $1200. The cell phone bill was actually from July but we paid it in August so it’s in there. Of course, we’ll be spending the next month and a half in California so our budget is going to be blown away (but we’re trying hard to keep it reeled in). Thankfully most of November will be spent off Baja so we should be able to balance it out a bit which is what this is all about.

S/V Wondertime’s August 2011 Cruising Expenses

activities – $20
allowance (Leah) – $8
beer – $87
boat bits – $41
boat insurance – $50
books – $10
cell phone – $55
clothing – $18
diesel – $103
eating out – $119
fishing gear – $65
fishing licenses – $14
groceries – $440
laundry – $44
moorage – $94
personal care – $2
postage – $3
propane – $18
showers – $12
souvenirs – $6
supplies – $12

total: $1,221

Sailing to San Francisco – Day 7 (we made it!)

At 1830 today we passed through the Golden Gate and are now docked in Sausalito! Here we are in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t see it (as we couldn’t either until very close to it due to all the fog). In fact, Point Reyes was our first sighting of California land the whole trip down and we were only about 10 miles off most of the way due to higher winds in the waters further out. But on the other side of the bridge? Sun! And wind! We rolled our genoa out and sailed into San Francisco.

So happy to be here!

Total miles: 749

Sailing to San Francisco – Day 6

We finally got a break from motoring this morning as we rounded Cape Mendocino, the last of the tricky spots. We’re on the home stretch now. If we can keep our speed up we may be in Sausalito by tomorrow night. Most likely we’ll stop at Drakes Bay in the late afternoon and then pass under the gate Saturday morning.

We had a lovely 15-20 knots from the NW for several hours as we rounded Mendocino this morning, really fun sailing. However the winds abruptly shut off as soon as we got around the cape and underneath the land. We’re back to motoring again in the fog, surrounded by undulating gray seas and a misty white sky. It’s been foggy for the most part of the past three days and we haven’t even seen the California coast yet and we’re only 5-10 miles offshore. Hopefully we’ll get a little scenery before we actually reach the Golden Gate.

When we’re traveling like this, hour after hour after hour you can’t help but think about how nice it is to have so much free time. I’ve spent literally hours just watching the sea go by while the children nap or play below. It’s been a long long time since we’ve had this much time to just be. I’ve even felt bored and that’s not something that’s happened in years. This morning while the guys were outside sailing the boat I cuddled with the girls in our bunk. Surrounded by blankies and stuffed animals and pink pillows we read stories for about two hours. No pressure to do anything else or be anywhere else because there just isn’t anywhere else to be. I could get used to this.

Of course, we’ll be in San Francisco in a day and a half; we’d better relish all this time while we can.

Total miles at noon: 568

Sailing to San Francisco – Day 5

We spent last night anchored in Port Orford, Oregon. The anchorage is exposed to the south but delightfully protected from the roaring northwesterlies we could still hear howling outside the bay. We definitely all enjoyed the break from moving and relaxed thoroughly. Not long after dinner we all went to bed and slept like rocks.

It was still out when we awoke. Michael downloaded the latest weather forecasts; today’s weather was supposed to be (and has been) light winds but with more gales coming on Thursday to that area. It was definitely time to get going again.

After a quick cup of coffee we cranked the chain up and were off by 0830. We’ve been motoring all day, only a few knots of SW wind to speak of. We’re only about 5 miles off the coast and have been watching the beautiful coastline go by. Nothing remarkable happening which is just fine by us.

We continue to be surprised by how quiet and easy the girls are underway. Yesterday while we were rounding Blanco, they spent hours in our bed, reading books and (I admit) eating Oreo cookies. While we were sluicing down the steepest waves they’d discovered that they could lay sideways in our bed and as the boat would roll they could just lay there and slide from side to side without any effort. They were laughing uproariously and having a great time. Today after breakfast we let them watch a few DVDs. After lunch they both were apparently exhausted and napped most of the afternoon.

Around 1700 we passed the border into California and are passing by Crescent City as I type this. Less than 300 miles to go!

Total miles at noon: 429

Sailing to San Francisco – Day 4

Dear Cape Blanco,

First off, you are a beautiful coastline (when you’re not covered in dense fog that is). Your water is clear blue, your skies often sunny and warm. So why do you so despise small sailboats sailing past you? You send wind howling down onto your waters, kicking up waves that are steep and treacherous. You laugh at weather forecasters. They say to expect 15 knots from you and you instead throw up 30 or 40. Especially when it gets dark you love to kick it up yet another notch. When small boats want to reach a safe harbor onshore your steep close waves prevent them from safely traveling eastward. You must really get a kick out of that.

We’ve truly have enjoyed our sail down the west coast. Up until now it hasn’t been too windy, it’s been sunny and we’ve been steadily making our way to California. The Cape Blanco forecast was for 10-15 knots and we thought that we might get another sweet spinnaker run in today. But alas it was not to be. In your classic Blanco fashion when we were but 20 miles north of your Cape you switched your wind on from 0 to 20 then when we were committed to rounding, you kicked it up to 30. We spent the morning hand steering, surfing down your ridiculous waves and making our way painstakingly eastward to safe harbor.

You didn’t get us this time though and we get the last laugh. We were anchored down in the safety of Port Orford just to the south of you by early afternoon and enjoying the gorgeous scenery of southern Oregon and clear turquoise Pacific waters. And cold beer and zucchini pancakes.

Not your fans,
The Wondertime Crew

Total miles at noon: 405

Sailing to San Francisco – Day 3

We kept the spinnaker up until nearly sunset last night then took it down before nightfall. With this coast’s reputation (at least in my mind) of the wind picking up at night we’re only using our best downwind sail in the daytime. That was fine anyway because it was barely an hour later and our genoa started flogging badly; the wind had dropped below 10 knots and the engine was started with reluctance after nearly 26 hours of sailing.

At 8 pm we tuck the girls into bed. They’ve been sleeping with their heads at the foot of our bed which is a wonderful protected cubby. Michael and I each stuff ourselves between them when we are off watch. They make the most marvelous lee cloths and the whole bunk is warm and cozy with all the bodies. It’s a lovely way to sleep and the nights don’t seem chilly at all.

With our third crewmember, Garth, onboard our watch schedule has been truly luxurious and for the first passage ever we’ve all been getting plenty of sleep. I take the 8p-12a watch after the girls are in bed, Michael has the dark 12a-4a watch and Garth gets to watch the sunrise during his 4a-8a watch. During the day we each take turns napping and playing with the girls.

Our appetites returned our second day out and last night I was able to put together a lentil sausage stew (actually Michael put most of it together when my stomach couldn’t handle anymore after chopping the onion…still working on my sea legs). Thanks to some mealtime teamwork, we all savored the warm meaty meal.

This morning brought even less wind so we continue to chug along. Thankfully we have had a 1.5 knot current running south with us and are making great time. We passed Newport, Oregon around noon today and should be crossing the California border Tuesday morning. Almost half way there!

Total miles at noon: 263

Sailing to San Francisco – Day 2

After sleeping nearly all day yesterday the girls finally woke up this morning. All of us are getting our sea legs on now in fact; we are less queasy, have a little bit more energy, and have been given sailing conditions so perfect that it would be impossible not to be having a good time out here.

We had the motor on and off until yesterday evening. When we were finally free of the mouth of Juan de Fuca and south of Cape Flattery the NW wind filled in. We rolled out the genoa and put two reefs in the mainsail for stability and set our course for 170 south. All night long we had a steady 15-20 knots of wind and rolled back and forth in the sea and swell that always live here. I was able to put together a quick macaroni and cheese dinner and the crew wolfed it down, a good sign.

Last night was the kind of night I’d only read about until now. The phosphorescence was so bright we watched the glowing green waves flicker and dance around us and bright foamy billows light up our keel when we’d surf down a wave. Our wake left behind a glowing trail. After the half moon set around 11 pm the quantity of stars out was simply awesome. A night of pure magic.

The wind let up a bit this morning to less than 15 knots. Our genoa started flogging back and forth in the leftover wind waves and Michael I doused it and put up our spinnaker. We’ve been cruising along all day like this with bright sunshine above, clear green water below and a rainbow of color pulling us along.

All five of us sat in the cockpit just watching the sea for several hours this morning. The girls asked for books and toys and started to get back into their regular play routines. In the distance we saw a little brown bird fluttering its wings, exhausted. This little woodland guy, at 40 miles offshore, had clearly made a wrong turn. He flapped around our boat and then landed on our stern rail and rode along with us for an hour or two, resting and snacking on cracker crumbs the girls tossed to him. Our little visitor making the ride all the more sweeter.

Total miles at noon: 132