The Moment

June 18   Saturday Port Townsend to Shilshole Bay Marina, Seattle

We need to set aside seven hours in order to arrive at our home port at 1700 hours. We’re up early and I cook a bacon and egg breakfast for Howard and Connor. And with the aid of two family deck hands (a luxury I’ve not had in a long time) we get underway.

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Connor Edson at the helm

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a dynamic homecoming welcome. I’m still unaccustomed to sighting land or both sides of my position. In the five hours of motoring south down Puget Sound we encountered brilliant sun, overcast and low visibility, rain showers with a bit of lightning, no wind and light winds, and ferry and ship traffic. It is Seattle’s way of welcoming me (or warning me) home.

We pull into our assigned Shillshole slip exactly at 1700 hours. There is no brass band, no press, and no red carpet… just a perfect docking (which always is its own reward). Diana meets us at the dock with a smile, a balloon, and a bottle of champagne.  We are “home”.

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l to rt.  Howard Sr. Connor, Howard III

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The “grand adventure” is a grand success, and it calls for a champagne toast. And I decompress and celebrate simultaneously.   I’ll have time to reflect on what it all means in subsequent weeks, but for now I’ll leave you with exactly how I feel:

The moment is its own pure reward; expect nothing more20160616_141734_001

P.L. to P.T.

June 15-16 Wednesday-Thursday Port Angeles to Port Townsend

I departed Neah Bay at 0900 hours and motor-sailed the 55 nm to arrive at Port Angeles just prior to sunset. The Port is a long, open deep bay with easy access — making it an ideal stop for large commercial vessels.   But the Port Angeleoat Haven marina is not on my list of scenic favorites. And I don’t like dodging deadheads and sinkers (waterlogged logs adrift from rafts or booms — often floating vertically with the intention to spear your hull) to get to the marina or anchorage.

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If you like ginormous ships, cranes, pulp mills (and their odor) and logbooms, you’ll like this Newark, N.J. of the Juan de Fuca. Since I touched down near sunset and departed at 0800 I have no impression of the town.

I departed alongside a small armada of fishing boats. They have their favorite spots in mind for the day, and so do I.

Port Townsend luxuryMotoring along without wind my ETA at Port Townsend will be 1400 hours… in plenty of time to enjoy the restaurants, the boating scene and Victorian architecture of this town (that for a brief moment almost became the state capital).

What’s to love about P.T.?   Just about everything.

High on my on list is

the visible environmental consciousness

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Electric car at charger
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Recycling

 

 

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the main street restored Victorian architecture

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pocket restaurants of every persuasion

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Silverwater restaurant

a hub for wooden boat building

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Wooden kayaks

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Wooden skiff

ambiance and friendliness

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Center for Wooden Boats

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the  retro movie theater The Rose

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The Rose

 

Howard III (son) and Connor (grandson) arrived and we had a celebratory dinner in the fashionable Silverwater Cafe , topped it off with an ice cream cone — always a symbol of a great day.  Tomorrow’ arrival at Shilshole Bay Marina, Seattle, marks the final day of a year’s voyaging/vagabonding/adventuring.

Cape Flattery Tamed

June 14 Tuesday Cape Flattery to Neah Bay

The guidebook has devoted several pages to the risks of rounding Cape Flattery.  It is referred to as “the big left turn” — a meaningful reference to the sharp demarcation between inland and offshore sailing and to one’s commitment to forsake the relative safety of nearby storm hide outs (Niah Bay) for exposure to the full force of the Pacific Ocean and few places to run and hide.

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Cape Flaatterhy
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Cape Flattery

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Raven’s Dance flying her genoa

My luck is back with me   Instead of dangerous conditions I found lake-like seas and a docile 12 knot breeze. So I sailed under mizzen and genoa around the “big right turn” and all the way east to Neah Bay. It was a thrill! Who ever gets a placid sea for an easy day sail around Cape Flattery?

I douced sails and motored into Neah Bay at 1500 hours. If you can’t raise the harbor master, or anyone, on the VHF, just grab any available open slip. You quickly surmise there is room for everyone, little need for discipline and no need for regulations.

 

 

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Neah Bay Marina

 

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This is a world-forgotten peaceful little Indian reservation (it is not a town, and therefore doesn’t have the support a town gets. You may find the dockmaster in, or not, and restaurants may be open during feeding hours, or not. And the Internet is old dial-up speed, when it is working, or maybe not. Fishing is the local talk, and the town business is fishing charters, but there is no business todayl RD is the only sailing vessel in the harbor. Overall everyone is lay-back polite, and no one seems to care about you.

I needed more rest, so I slept for awhile and then was lucky to find Linda’s restaurant a couple of blocks down the street… open, and serving individually cooked fresh cod or wood-fired pizzas… as delicious as you will ever find.

Tomorrow’s goal is to make 50 miles east to Port Angeles.

La Push

Monday & Tuesday June 14 La Push to Neah Bay

In a sense I missed La Push because I was blown out by the punishing seas and the past three day/night sailing marathon. I stopped here because it was the last stop before sunset and about as far as I could go physically and mentally (I wasn’t willing to endure another twelve hours until daylight returned.) So La Push was my chosen location for a recovery of my blurred senses.It is my belief that it is the last 100 yards of a voyage where most mistakes are made. I can not trust my lulled senses and dulled skills, and so I must become alive, alert and awake by an act of will (and talking to myself loudly). This is especially true now since the La Push harbor area is a picture fraught with a shipwreck without warning for any lapse of attention or course deviation. Worse yet it is reported to be inadequately charted.

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La Push Needles

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La Push harabor entrance rocks
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La Push Needles just offshore
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La Push Needles just offshore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance to La Push harbor is the
most picturesque of all the Oregon ports. The immediate area is dotted with tall monoliths, and the largest rocks rival Morro Bay’s. When picking your way between marks and keeping an eye on the depth gauge (I made it across the bar with a one foot clearance) the small craft basin comes into view. It is a sleepy Indian nation town, and for residents it is an important fishing charter center. Color this place “sleepy” –the perfect place for me to recover some sleeping hours. They get few cruisers; I was the only one there during my stay. Don’t expect a general store or a fuel attendant, or indeed anyone to take notice of you. The only restaurant, the Quileute Rivers Edge Restaurant, may or may not be open.

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Nature’s litter on La Push beach

I’ll remember most a chily walk along the rugged Oregon coast, crashing waves topped with a frothy frosting, and drift wood bleached white and strewn about in contorted shapes — quite at contrast with walking on a Mexican beach!   I want to return by car in the near future.

 

I was still sleeping soundly when the morning alarm went off. Shortly I got underway and gawked at the moss-covered granite rocks somehow topped by a grove of trees – looking like so much hair on a head.   Fortunately my departure was not complicated by either fog or swells.

Falling on hard times

Friday June 10 – Saturday June 11 Coos Bay northbound

My good Luck has finally run out.  The Oregon Coast is long and with open ocean and few safe harbors. It’s been a long haul from Humbolt Bay (Eureka) to Coos Bay.   Tommie and I shared stories and had our heartfelt moments, but overall it had been a long often unpleasant (read dis-comfort)passage in which we were ghosts passing each on change in shift struggling to either be awake or asleep. We arrived in the morning.   Tommie continued to deal with his family crisis on his cellphone while sitting on the dock and waving off my invitation to go to breakfast.

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Coos Bay

I delighted in returning to this familiar territory after so many stops where the first order of business was to get the lay of the land before taking too many steps from RD.

You may recall our previous experience nine months ago with the restaurant just at the top of the ramp, where the customer service was abysmal, and we were even shooed away for excessive use of their Internet (when no one else was in the restaurant).

Au contrare I later found The Barn, with its combination of a sincerely welcoming owner and good food at a fair price. When we last departed Coos Bay I made myself a bet that “the grinch” restaurant would be out of business and the Barn would be flourishing when we returned.

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The Grinch empty restaurant
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The Barn – inexplicably closed

But I lost my bet!

 

 

The Grinch restaurant was open (but empty) and The Barn was closed. I was dismayed that good (meaning good customer service) does not always win out. Apparently location, location trumps customer service.

While I was at breakfast Tommie texted me as follows:

“the kids have a crisis that required my immediate decision. I have left Coos bay of Eugene to flfy out or rent a car.

Thank you for the amazing voyage. I know you play it safe, so no need passin that thoughtit on. I see a safe departure and a safe return… for both of us! 

Be well my friend.   Make it a great summer!

Kindest regards,

(real name)

 

I was shocked. I never saw this outcome coming.  First of all he was the best crew I’d had the entire journey. He was competent as a sailor and trustworthy in his actions. It was easy for me to sleep with him at the helm (my measure of a crew member).

I was stunned at his abrupt departure and didn’t know what else to say. All I could muster for a response was:
travel safely, do good work at home, and stay in touch. HE

His departure left me with questions . Did he really have to leave rather than manage the crisis over the phone?   Was the “family crisis” the reason for his abrupt departure, or had I pushed too hard from Eureka, and was I pushing too hard for a departure late today? Or had I asked too much of him? Or was it that he expected a more leisurely passage —   more sunshine, comfort, and less discomfort. Was the prospect of several more days/nights of the rollies enough for him to jump ship, but he couldn’t say so.? We were operating in “delivery mode” which in pressure-packed and lacks the appeal of a leisurely exploration of towns along the way.

I sat in a coffee shop and pondered how I should interpret his abrupt departure? Should I give him credit for being a heroic father wanting to be on site to deal with the ongoing saga of his girls’ alcoholic mother? How could I fault him for that, except to wonder why he couldn’t deal with it over the phone and finish his commitment in a few more days (or even one more leg) and then return home?

Or were there signs that the “family crisis” gave him the opportunity he was looking for to jump ship while saving face? At one point he said “I didn’t sign up for this” and it may have been more prophetic than I realized at the moment.   At another point he admonished me to say “please” before asking him to ready the fenders.   Was I impolite or discourteous?   I don’t think so, But how can I tell how my style is received?

Do I feel resentful? No.  Was I grateful that from Monterey to Coos Bay he showed himself as the best crew I ever had? Yes. Was i Unhappy? Yes. And concerned about how I could now get RD home safely on the longest, most arduous part of the entire journey.

All this chatter was rattling around in my head, along with the problem that the loss of crew presented me.  I wasn’t thinking clearly, so I decided to get lunch, grab some sleep – or at least rest, and depart on the schedule agreed to with Tommie. In other words, nothing had changed. I will simply stay focused and do what it takes to deliver RD safely to Seattle in a few days, single-handing. I will attempt to do a single run (and stay ahead of the weather)all the way to Port Townsend, almost 400 nautical miles. Or I will go to my limit and pull into a port when I can go no longer.

I have not had a storm that severely tested me. Maybe it will be this endurance test that does. In Mexico I had been up for two days/nights with only cat naps on two occasions when I had to sail when the engine failed. But this will require a Herculean effort to sustain my physical and mental ability sufficient to sail RD safely alone for 3 days and nights, possibly longer.

Here is my last look at the boatmans’ activity in this working man’s town.

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I set out from Coos Bay at 1700 hours in beautiful weather, with a simple plan: motor, motor-sail or sail about 400 miles to Port Townsend, WA.   And if it appears that I must surrender to exhaustion and that I fall short of this goal, I will pull in to the next safe harbor and get some rest.

While the weather predictions have been favorable for working north (light nw winds and seas of 3 feet) RD responds to the northwest swells by rolling back and forth. This motion knocks everything off the counters, and makes cooking a challenge. The rollies are continual discomfort. After a few hours I begin to negotiate with the sea gods to get just 5 minutes of relief. But the gods are not dealing today. And I must learn to sleep.

Saturday sunset
I have been awake and busy for over 24 hours now. I’m into my second day of a three-day passage to Juan de Fuca and Port Townsend, and then on to a final destination, Seattle. I have not felt tired. I think the antidote is to keep busy. Today I read, wrote, polished recent photos — all this of course all the while being on watch. I saw only one other boat all day. I timed my dinner with the sunset and fixed myself a fine meal of steak potatoes and a fruit compote.

As twilight dims I prepare RD and myself for a dark night. The Radar is on and sweeping the horizon for traffic. So far nothing found.   I do my customary close look at the deck before sunset. If anything needs adjusting I want to do it during delight. I avoid going on deck at night whenever possible.I am showing my first signs of tiredness.

The day has been sunny and the seas calm enough to maintain 4.0 knots. Not great but sufficient to meet my self imposed deadlines. Unfortunatelly I am experienced some of the worst conditions of the past several days. We are motoring directly into the swells and a 15 knot wind. This results is some to the worst hobby horsing and slowest average speed (a shade under 3 knots) that I have experienced. It looks like I’ll be feasting on this diet all night. It’s the kind of motion that one dreads.

RD rolls in a corkscrew fashion. Moving about the cabin is a struggle, and I must hold on at all times moving around the saloon or galley. The motion is hard on RD and hard on me. Our fuel consumption is high and our speed is low.

I do the following to keep my spirits up:

  1. heck all the boat systems each hour.
  2. Keep regular meals even if I don’t feel like   it. Eat small but adequate proportions. Don’t overeat; don’t drink; and don’t snack between meals.
  3. Keep busy and also do something for myself, such as listen to my favorite music for part of the day.

The whole situation is thoroughly unpleasant. Yet we must push on.

 

A New Challenge

June 05 – Sausalito

Once again the weekend passed all too fast.

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l to rt:  Donn, Richard, Jee

On Saturday afternoon RD took Donn, Jee, Richard and me for a sailing tour of the Bay. The weather sucked when you were in it, but it had a certain ethereal beauty when you were looking at it from inside a glass cage (which you can do comfortably on

 

On Sunday Donn was in his usual form of leader of the RD support team, and the troop descended on me to clean the boat, offer up snacks, sprinkle a few laughs about, and then “POOF” they departed as quickly as they had come.

0605_SF_Nikon_0406-1I single-handed RD back across the Bay to our favorite Sausalito anchorage in 30+ knot winds. I chose a longer route but one in the lee of Angle Island. So often the best sailing route is not the obvious or shortest line. It’s always a bet, but today it turned out to be a good choice.

I decided to dink to town for dinner and to get this blog post published. I was thinking regressively — of a Denny’s dinner — you know — meat, mashed potatoes and a veggie that fills a dinner plate. But this is Sausalito, and you can’t order such a meal in this upscale community of refined tastes and prices. So I enjoyed my pasta with complex ingredients I don’t recognize, and garlic toast. Maybe in Coos Bay I can get an old-fashioned “meat and potatoes” meal.

The San Francisco Bay Area is an awesome place to live or visit, and I have enjoyed my time here. Now that I have refreshed faded memories, visited old friends, know favored restaurants, the bus system, dinghy docks, and how to get to the library or to Starbucks, it is time to leave.

Tomorrow begins a new and final challenge to this adventure — sailing north along the coast to Seattle this early in the year, when prevailing winds are on the nose and storms predictably march one after another south from Canada along the coast.   It’s a game of matching wits with Mother Nature. Poor weather prediction, long distances between safe harbors, and hazardous entrances all add to the risks for the mariner. The problem is that the game is not fair.   Only she knows the rules, and she occasionally unexpectedly changes. And you get severely flogged for nothing more than guessing wrong.

You can get pinned down in a port or anchorage for a day or weeks. Between storms there may be a weather window of unpredictable duration. The best you can do is run north during a weather window and hide before it closes.

There is no doubt that in this environment setting a firm date for an arrival in Seattle is a bad idea.   “Pressure to get there” is the number one killer of recreational pilots and mariners!   Hopefully I am wise to this fatal error. However I secretly want to get “home” before the fourth of July.

It looks like the best bet for my crew “Tommy” and me is to leave tomorrow before noon and run at best speed for two days/nights and duck into Eureka no later than Wednesday at 2 pm. But there is an old Irish saying’

If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.

So we’ll play Nature’s game and welter along and see how it turns out.  Bodega Bay is our backup.

I leave you with a pot pourri of iconic Bay Area scenes that only a mariner could love.  I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed living them.

 

Notes Along the Quay

SausalitoPan2Raven’s Dance does.
Most houses don’t have an unobstructed view for 360 degrees; Raven’s Dance does. Most houses don’t turn slowly to change the view; but Raven’s Dance does. Most houses don’t have a mote, and one you can swim in; but Raven’s Dance does. Most houses pay dearly in taxes while Raven Dance’s view is free.

It’s night and each dot on the Sausalito hill to my east is a multi-million-dollar home (no exaggeration).   And each has a million dollar view of the bay, or at minimum a partial view blocked by trees, neighbor’s roof, telephone wires, etc.   But Raven’s Dance has the premier location at the center of it all. Lucky wealthy homeowners wake to their million dollar view while I wake to a trillion dollar view.

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Sausalito sunset

I make it a practice to return to RD in time to enjoy the sunset. Here the sun does not set into either the sea or behind a mountain; it sets into the fog.

 

 

 

Marc & Pam
Old friends from Boulder, CO, Marc and Pam Weiss, who have retired in Aptos, CA drove up to Sausalito. They were my guests on RD for the weekend and we sailed the Bay together — some of it in heavy weather. RD healed heavily under the strain of gusts under the Golden Gate Bridge. Marc, in his understated way, said he felt better after I assured him we were safe.

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Marc at the helm of RD 

It was a good reminder for me since I have become so accustomed to heavy weather sailing that I consider it normal. They love being crew and time at the helm, so we split the workload (they did most of it).  Later Marc was amazed that I could handle RD alone — something else I’ve become as accustomed to as walking into a library.   They made our time together joy-full, and the weekend went all too fast.  GGBridgeMarc&PamThey drove me to the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, where we parted.  Marc is thoroughly enjoying is second childhood… particularly  his first sports car convertible.

 

A Best Old Friend: Harry Battin
Yesterday I had lunch at the famous Buena Vista Cafe with an old, dear friend and college roommate, Harry Battin. The easiest way to get to the Cafe from downtown San Francisco was via the Hyde Street cable car, but while waiting in line I discovered the ride now cost $7.00.

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SEVEN DOLLARS!

SEVEN DOLLARS! That’s outrageous. I used to ride it to work for 25 cents and I remember how incensed I was when the fare incensed to one dollar. But times have changed and the ridership has shifted from basic transportation for citizens to a maga-tourist attraction, and even at $7.00 the cars are full. I suspect they would be full at $20.00 per ride. After all it is a must-do if you visit San Francisco.

But I, being a frugal cruiser, chose instead to walk through downtown, through China town and to North beach.

Harry and I had a delightful lunch, mostly of reminiscing our college years, and my memory was jogged by things long forgotten.

Behind every old man is a young boy who wonders what the f*** happened.

Afterward we treated ourselves to ice cream and and  enjoyed people watching.
Is this a great city, or what?

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Tourist bus in Ghiradelli Square
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Calvary of Segway tourists

I asked Harry if it ever occurred to him that this might be the last time we are ever together. The question surprised him and he gave me a quick “no”.

My sons
My day was punctuated with the very best of Memorial Day Skype conversations with my two sons.  I hit the hay feeling that I am lucky beyond belief.

 

 

 

 

San Francisco

May 25 Wednesday

Our prize for sailing through the night  is the unmatched thrill of riding the swells under the Golden Gate bridge and gawking up at it.  What a welcome to this great city!

I have the good fortune to have a new crew member on board from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and beyond. That enables me to have more options and rest on long legs. The leg from Santa Barbara to San Francisco is 24 hours long, and we can easily do it non-stop through the night.

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Tommy saying goodbye to his wife

I can not disclose the name of this crew person, nor show who he is, not because he is wanted by the law or because he is in hiding from an ex-wife, but because he is a well-known actor — not quite as well known as a Jeff Bridges or a Brad Pitt, but he plays in that league and has a distinguished career in feature films and plays. I can only use his pseudonym; “Tommy Lee” Henceforth he will be called Tommy in this blog.

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San Francisco Bay area from Sausalito
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Sausalito anchorage
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Sausalito hills and houses

We are anchored off Sausalito to await a rendezvous with Donn and Jee on June 3-5. Thus I awake each morning with a view that no million dollar homeowner has. I see the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge, Mount Tamalpias, and Tiburon, houses that dot the hills of Sausalito, the crowded sailboat sticks rising from the several waterfront marinas, and nearby other sailboats spaced about five acres from each other, And a classic yawl draws a line in the water as she glides silently down the narrow channel from Sausalito to the Bay… all reflecting in a glassy sea.

All this teaches me to live with a mind as calm as the water which surrounds me. I can remember when I was a frenetic clod of hopes and fears — living a life of poor me — because I thought my ego was important and the Universe wouldn’t bend to my will.

After I had spent a long time looking at the infinite expanse of sea around me something mysterious began to overtake me. I no longer defined myself as an individual ego and the notion that I was separate and special from everything around me dissolved. Scanning an endless horizon made me feel an integral part of everything there is . It has taken me a lifetime of missteps and seeking to come to this awakening.   .

The way to deal with Nature is to be it, to understand it well enough to play your symbiotic part in it — without trying to conquer it! This is how I awoke to the beauty which surrounds me this morning. And coincidentally this is how I sail.

And now it’s time to get on with enjoying friends and the San Francisco Bay area.

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Ferry approaches Sausalito landing at sunset

 

Don’t climb the rock

May 20-24_Morro Bay

Morro Bay is blessed with two symbols that represent the town. So outstanding are both they can easily be seen twenty miles away.

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Morro  Bay rock in fog

One is the Morro Bay rock.   It is the natural remains of a volcanic plug that formed millions of years ago. I’m told the Army blasted away at the rock during WWII in order to use the stone for a breakwater, so the rock is about 1/3 smaller than originally formed. Today it is on State Park land, once again immutable in time.

Recently a drunk male climbed the rock in a misguided attempt to inspire his girlfriend to marry him. He got to the top and called her on his cellphone and proposed. She rejected him. Then he couldn’t get back down under his own power, and he subsequently had to be rescued. Finally on level ground he was promptly arrested. Now that’s a bad day!

If the thought has crossed your mind, it’s illegal to climb the rock!

The second symbol is the three large smoke stacks above the (now decommissioned) power generating station.   They were constructed in the early 60s as the answer to a pollution problem. The answer in those days was send the pollution skyward and it will disappear. I wonder what we are thinking about pollution control now that will seem just as absurd to the next generation.

And again, if the thought has crossed your mind, it is illegal to climb these towers!

Morro Bay is a natural stop between Santa Barbara and Monterey. It has none of the panache of Santa Barbara nor Monterey. It is just the right size to have enough of everything and only a bit too many small retail shops and bars. It’s homey, salt-of-the-earth,  unassuming and laid back: almost like a town on island time. A fine fishing fleet anchors the town — making fresh fish prices low and the waterfront picturesque.

It’s the perfect size for a community, enough of everything and nothing extra. The community is full of sailors, paddle-boarders, hikers, kayakers and outdoor types. If that’s not enough activity you can take a harbor tour or go whale-watching, picnic (but don ‘t climb the rock). The fish is fresh, the food prices are reasonable and the locals are as welcoming as in any Mexican village.

And I enjoyed playing Coast Guard for a day!!

Of course the picture is not entirely pretty.   The fishing industry is on a slow relentless decline, the jobs replacing those are lower paying,and housing prices are going through the roof, driving out affordable rentals. Tourism and sales in small retail shops can only pick up so much of the economic slack.

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Morro Bay Yacht Club

For mariners the Morro Bay Yacht Club is the hub of activity. It’s a volunteer club with access to moorings in the bay. The current is strong, so it is advisable to tie to one of their mooring – at a fair price of $25.00 per night. Just how friendly are they? I had multiple offers to give me a lift to the grocery chain store, and all the lay-of-the-land advice my brain could hold. By the way, the MBYC holds a regular Friday evening cocktail hour and guests are invited.

 

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Glen & Ann Albright

And a big shout out to new friends Anne and Glen Albright, for hosting me to the best breakfast in town.

 

 

 

 

 

What I like the very best is that their Internet access reaches to their moorings, so for a rare time on this trip I have the luxury of good Internet service on RD (more valuable than a hot shower).

When it was time to leave my mooring line snagged on the mooring chain under water and I was struggling with it (for an hour) when a harbor patrol boat came by and asked if they could help. They spent the next hour untangling my bow line. When I asked them how I could thank them they answered “you just did.” That’s the kind of town Morro Bay is.

I departed at 1530 hours for an all nighter and a 90 miles of motoring under clear skies and a full moon to arrive in Monterey Bay the following afternoon.

 

 

Sailing in the absence of light

May 19 Thursday on the water somewhere between Santa Barbara and Morrow Bay

It was dark and foggy when I up-anchored from Santa Barbara at midnight in inky black, and my navigation until first light was exclusively by chart-plotter and Radar. Underway, staring out the windows was like looking into a blindfold. They could have been painted black, for there was not a pinprick of light in any direction, giving me the sense of being blind and suspended in space. Gravity was my only orientation.   Throughout the night a blip on my Radar screen was the only indication of a nearby vessel, land or oil rig.   The fog was so thick that I couldn’t make visual contact with a vessel appearing as a blip on the screen 1/4 mile away.

RADAR is an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging It’s history goes back to the 1880’s but the modern version was developed in secrecy independently by the Germans and the Americans during WWII. It actually alerted the Americans in Pearl Harbor about an approaching apocalypse from the air, but Radar was new, and so its message wasn’t considered credible by the brass (bureaucratic incompetence is a more credible explanation).   In any case it has developed into many uses, and mariners use today’s lighter, energy-efficient designs for navigation because it does two things really well:

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There’s an oil rig in this picture

(1) it “sees” objects around you in low visibility and (2) it accurately displays the distance and bearing to that object. It sees out the window I can’t and alerts me to the hazards of  oil rigs, cruisers, fishing boats or obstructions. Unfortunately it doesn’t see whales sleeping , cargo containers, small prams or crab pot buoys lying in wait to tangle my propeller. And its blips need interpretation.
Nevertheless as an article of faith, mixed with a little luck, I give my life to it. It’s my “blind luck” and it propels me safely through a dark and foggy night.   I have the same unconditional trust in Radar that I’ve had with my golden retriever (in our 13 years together neither one ever broke trust with the other).

After a while dawn breaks and I get my eyes back and see the magnificence of sea and horizon once more.   In the late afternoon I arrive at Morro Bay.

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Welcome to Morro Bay