It’s been so long since we’ve posted a blog entry, I thought I’d start with looking back at our trip down the Pacific coast to San Diego.
We’re currently lying at anchor in La Paz, Baja California Sur. We’ve been here for several days after making the trip around the southern end of Baja. La Paz is one of the two choices most people make on entering Mexico – you either spend a little time here, or you jump straight over the Gulf of California and cross to Mazatlan. More on that later, as I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Bellingham to Neah Bay
We had stopped in Bellingham for about a week to get some boat jobs done before heading down the coast. We left in good weather and spent one last night in Blind Bay before heading to Port Angeles for a night. From Port Angeles we made our way to Neah Bay for another overnight and a fuel stop. Carrie drove us out of the marina in the dark. We did hit some tidal flood and punched through some wave action mid-morning, but set the hook in Neah Bay with about five other boats. Amazing Grace III followed us most of the day (notable as they are now down here in La Paz as well). Our port nav light gave up the ghost and I Macgyvered a LED courtesy light that lasted us all the way to Alameda. I also jury-rigged the up switch for our windlass, where the button on the footswitch decided to stop working. It was foggy and cold.
Neah Bay to Coos Bay, OR
Carrie & I left Neah Bay in the dark before dawn in order to hit the slack water on the entrance to Juan de Fuca. We toughed out some sporty seas as we rounded the corner and turned southward. It was a sunny day headed toward the mouth of the Columbia river – we were both surprised at how far out the current extended to sea as we lost about a knot plus of speed over ground passing by.
One of our highlights from this part of our trip was Carrie’s dead reckoning and navigation planning to get us to Coos Bay before nightfall – we nailed our approach timing within minutes.
Getting through the Coos Bay bar involved some white knuckle driving – big rollers crashing on either side of the jetties and a big following swell; all while trying to stay lined up on a set of range markers. We followed a tug & tow in and quickly settled in at the public dock. The bar ended up being closed for two days while we waited out some wind and rough swell.
We saw all the big tourist stops in Charleston: Englund Marine and Chuck’s Seafood. We shared the dock with SV Raven and two other southbound boats.
Coos Bay to Alameda
We made our way south with a good weather window rounding both Cape Blanco and Cape Mendocino. Getting past here was a big sailing milestone for me; I had studied and studied the weather here for a long time.
Things really heated up for us as we made our way past Point Arena and into the Gulf of the Farallones outside the Golden Gate bridge. By now it was the middle of the night. We had sustained winds in the mid-20s, and 6-8 foot following swell and breaking wind waves. We managed a chicken jibe under power past Point Reyes and surfed our way towards the Golden Gate. Part of me was glad it was so dark that we couldn’t really see the stuff behind us. Carrie and I struggled, back-winding our main while trying to keep the boat on a point of sail that kept us on course. I should mention we were hand steering, taking one hour watches, and not sleeping. We both developed a serious case of The Grumpies.
Dawn came and the Golden Gate bridge emerged in a light fog. We slipped past the outbound commercial traffic and the wind died under the bridge. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning as we motored past the cityscape towards Ballena Bay.
There’s really nothing like sailing past San Francisco – the city skyline is really a delight – with the Palace of Fine Arts, Coit Tower, and the Ferry Terminal sliding past.
It was a good end to what was an 18-hour slugfest for Carrie and me. We both felt like we had earned our stripes to a fair degree getting to this point. Once we got the boat put to bed, we did the same thing ourselves, sleeping for something like 14 hours.
Alameda really deserves its own post, so I think I’ll do that later. What was planned as a week-ish visit for family & friends turned into a month and an intensive mechanical project.
We stayed in Ballena Isle on the west (Bay) side of Alameda. We both found Alameda rather charming. The old Naval Air Station made me nostalgic; they have managed to repurpose several of the old hangars, including making one into a pretty good brewery (by, ahem, Portland standards) that also came with a really good view of the city. We had an intensive week of visitors coming in to see us, then spent the remainder of our time getting the boat ready to head south again.
A big tip of the hat goes to Team Robertson – Cheri & Dan played the role of gracious hosts to us on more than one occasion – Taco Tuesday, the Dimond Octoberfest, and we got to spend a good dose of quality time with Johnnie & Page. When Dan worked, he made a point of coming by in the fire truck with the crew to say hi and make a visit.
Alameda to San Diego
We left Alameda on a slightly foggy morning and caught the slack water at the Golden Gate, enroute to Pillar Point at Half Moon Bay. We motor-sailed the throught the day, anchoring in Pillar Point. Our original plan was to go from there to Monterey and then harbor hop down the coast, but prevailing weather had us truck past Monterey and San Simeon, heading down to Port Luis – San Luis Obispo.
We had a spat of windy downwind weather again, but managed it a lot better this time around by only flying our working jib almost dead downwind. This made the boat sail a lot deeper and made jibing a single person affair. Carrie and I both expressed how much more comfortable we were in the bigger winds. People often say the boat handles the weather better than you can, and we found Dharma Girl to be a rock solid performer. Thanks, Bob Perry!
We spent several days in Port Luis anchored off of Avila beach between the Cal Poly pier and the muni pier. It took those days for the weather to settle down at Point Conception. I don’t recall us doing whole lot – lots of reading and movies and staring at the Windy forecast twice a day.
We did a fair bit of sailing rounding Point Conception, then the wind died at dusk as we rounded the point into the western end of Santa Barbara Channel. We motored through the night and the following day, arriving at Point Loma outside of San Diego proper at dawn.
San Diego also deserves its own post – as it was a flurry of boat fun getting ready to join ~ 150 other boats for the Baja Ha-Ha rally.
If you’ve read this far – as always – thanks for stopping by! Our daily routine is now slowing to a pace where we can actually start remembering what we’ve done and be able to write it down – although we still don’t know what day it is half the time.
We’ve become instantly fond of Mexico and we’ll share more with you all in the days to come.