Sunday, November 29, 2009

Last minute preparations

Thanksgiving Week just flew by, and we were glad we had come to San Diego a week early to get last minute chores done. We took the Coaster train up to Oceanside, where my cousins collected us and took us home for Thanksgiving. Bob and Phyllis had 17 relatives (plus various in-laws and outlaws) at the table. This picture only shows about half the group.

The next day, we visited my niece Briana at the wine store where she works, before taking the train back to San Diego.

One of my last minute tasks was to get advice from this guy in Old Town on how to tell a good Cuban cigar!

Monday, November 23, 2009


We biked from Coronado to the Mexican border today. Well, as close as we could get. Had to park the bikes and walk the last half-mile along the beach. There were no fewer than 8 helicopters circling overhead like a carousel. Then we came to the outlet from the Tijuana estuary. We didn't want to wade across, so we sat on the beach and looked at the last half-mile through binoculars. I was curious to know if there really is a fence running all the way into the water. Of course there is! When it comes to securing our border, our government doesn't spare any expense.
Watched white pelicans feeding, and had some excellent fish tacos for lunch! Then came back to the boat and graded papers. :(

Sunday, November 22, 2009

sailing with Everardo

More than 25 years ago, my parents took in a young Mexican who was working in a nearby nursery but didn't have a roof over his head. Everardo helped tend their trees and did a lot of beautiful stonework around their property. He also helped my dad build a log home in Oregon. Everardo eventually got his green card, started a family and became a successful first-generation American. But he never forgot my family and has always stayed in touch through the years.
So we were very glad when he said he was coming to visit us before we left for Mexico. He drove 2 hours this morning, with his 14-year-old daughter Kelli and 11-year-old son Daniel (their mother Paola had to work today). We had to go get them in the dinghy, since we were anchored out.
We took them out for a sail on the bay and they had a great time. They all took turns steering and cranking in the jib, and were excellent crew members. It was a very fun day for all of us. They had a new experience and we were so glad to be the ones to provide it.
Afterwards, we went over to Anon for a delightful dinner with Keith and Olina.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


We decided to take a couple of days off from boat chores (and expenses). We cast off our lines and sailed down San Diego Bay, past Larry Ellison's personal yacht Zenji ( Ellison is the principal backer of the BMW Oracle trimaran which will race for the America's Cup next year). We also passed close by downtown, and by innumerable naval vessels and onshore facilities, as we continued south toward the head of the bay. After a couple of warm and sunny hours, we retraced our track and entered Glorietta Bay.

We're anchored a stone's throw from the venerable Hotel Del Coronado built in 1889 and still in magnificent shape for a wooden building of that vintage. Keith and Olina took us ashore in their dinghy and we explored the hotel and nearby beach.

Offshore, backlit by the late afternoon sun, were a square-rigger and an old schooner. On the way back to the boat we passed a heron searching for dinner.

Friday, November 20, 2009

San Diego

We're still at the "police dock," the best value in town for $10.50/night. Unfortunately you only get 10 days here, so we are figuring out how to best use our available time. Since we can't run as many errands on the weekend, we'll anchor in Glorietta Bay for Saturday and Sunday, and come back here Monday.
We've gotten a lot done, or I should say, a lot of money spent, since we've been here. We have Mexican fishing licenses, Mexican liability insurance, a functioning toilet and waste system, a new extra propane tank, and myriad odds and ends that may or may not be useful, depending on how lucky we are.
We also applied for Mexican visas, but were turned down (they wanted to see a rental contract from a marina or other proof that we were storing the boat in one place, while we want to be on the move most of the time). Its not a big deal; we will just get the usual 180-day tourist permit when we enter the country.
We've met a number of boaters that will be on about the same schedule as we are heading down the Baja Peninsula. One of the more interesting couples are Keith and Oline, from Vancouver, who were heavily involved in the saga of Luna the lost killer whale a few years ago. They have hydrophones aboard and are studying the acousting signatures of any cetaceans they come across.

This is one of the noisiest harbors we've spent time in, due to the massive military presence. There are helicopters and jets flying at all hours. Ships are constantly coming and going too, but they're a lot quieter!

The most interesting watercraft we've seen so far is the BMW Oracle racing trimaran, which will race for the America's Cup next year in Spain. It is 100 feet long, 90 feet wide, 185 feet tall, and of course very fast.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The definition of cruising

Someone pointed out to me that our blog is mostly travelogue, with not much nitty gritty about the daily aspects of running a boat. I will attempt to rectify that oversight!

Cruising has been defined as "repairing your boat in exotic places." That is more or less accurate for every boat I've ever seen. Even the new ones are not immune to equipment failure. A 21-year-old boat like ours needs constant upkeep and attention.

Since leaving Newport, Oregon, I've changed the oil and filter, put new sacrificial zinc anodes on the propeller and shaft, cleaned the bottom, and tightened numerous loose screws. I've also varnished the dinghy oars, cabin sole (floor), handrails, and some of the interior trim. This is just normal maintenance and doesn't include constant cleaning of the topsides and interior.

We've also replaced two water pumps, and had the mainsail cover repaired after we blew out a zipper. Minor stuff, although not inexpensive. The water pumps were $350 a pop.

The autopilot had some problems, but we were able to patch it back together. We also found a similar used unit that we can scavenge for parts in the likely eventuality of more parts wearing out.

Today I'm up to my armpits in everybody's favorite type of repair, to the ship's sanitation system. Urine and saltwater combine to form a crystalline lining in the waste hoses. Its kinda like hardening of the arteries: over time, the buildup shrinks the size of the opening, and eventually nothing goes through the hose. So I've removed the hoses and valves between the toilet and the holding tank, and purchased replacement parts. The removal wasn't much fun because of the smell and cleanup, but the installation of the new parts is far worse, because of the small spaces I have to work in and the obduracy of the materials. Sanitary hose is incredibly stiff and unyielding. I'm worn out, and I've barely begun getting it back together. It'll have to wait til tomorrow.

These are the times I envy the simpler sailing craft: no engine, a bucket instead of a head, etc. Yeah, right, who am I kidding? The old salts had it far worse dealing with wooden hulls, cotton sails, and hemp ropes. At least today's materials are far more durable.

We're at the "police dock" in San Diego. There is a German boat, a Danish boat, and a US boat from Rhode Island. Tomorrow we're going to a cruiser's get-together at a local marine supply store. Then its back to wrestling hoses!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mission Bay

We got our first glimpse of Mexico, the Islas Coronados, as we sailed south from Dana Point today. We started out before sunrise, as days are much shorter now. We saw another pod of Risso's dolphins, with large dorsal fins like orcas.

We also had a close encounter with a Navy hovercraft, on manuevers near Camp Pendleton. Otherwise we pretty much had the ocean to ourselves.

There's only one other transient boater anchored here in Mission Bay. Tomorrow we'll head around Pt Loma into San Diego.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dana Point

We're finally on the move again, after a very pleasant one-month hiatus in Newport Beach. Mark's cousins Glenn and Donna let us stay in the Balboa Beach house that was built by Glenn's father back in 1929. We were visited by many old friends and extended family members, and spent a lot of time with Mark's niece Juli and her family (pictured here at our beach house). We enjoyed the ambience of Newport Beach, which is still a beautiful and laid-back beach town despite being somewhat taken over by the rich and famous. We kayaked the Back Bay, bicycled along the coast to Huntington Beach, swam in the ocean, and marveled at the plentiful wildlife. We saw dolphins and/or whales on virtually every occasion when we took the boat out of the harbor.

Now the time has come to make last-minute preparations for crossing into Mexico, and these are best accomplished in San Diego.

Yesterday we had a very easy sail down the coast to Dana Point, with Mark's niece and her dad aboard (Juli's husband Willie and their 2 kids met us in Dana Point). We will visit more family and friends here for a couple of days, and then one more hop to San Diego.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


A nice fall day in Avalon. Mark B took us on a hike up to "the wishbone", then we went back to Mark & Mardy's house for breakfast. After eating, we went on a golf cart tour of town, with another great view from the old Wrigley house (now "The Inn at Mt. Ada."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A whale of a sail

After more than 2 weeks living ashore, we are finally back on the boat for a few days. We've had a string of family visits with both Mark's and Vicki's relatives, and gotten a lot of work done on the boat. We've also gotten a lot of exercise via walking, swimming, bicycling, and kayaking. But we've only had a few day trips on the boat, and have missed our little home on the water. So we decided to go back to Catalina Island for a few days.
We headed out into a pretty thick fog, but it cleared about 4 miles out from shore, and the wind came up, so we raised sails and shut off the engine. Within minutes, Vicki says, "I think I hear a whale." I didn't hear it, and was about to tell her it was probably just a wave breaking. Just then it surfaced, a mere 50 feet from the boat! It was a small whale with an orca-like dorsal fin, and as it dove back down, we could clearly see the patch of white on its pectoral fin that identified it as a minke whale. We didn't get to see it again, so it must have sounded and changed direction. But we encountered 3 separate pods of dolphins within a few more miles. We were hard on the wind to make our course to Avalon, and blasted along at up to 7 knots. We stayed dry in the cockpit, but the entire front of the boat was soaked by the time we got into the lee of the island and dropped our sails.
Outside of the harbor, a cruise ship was picking up its passengers and making ready to sail for Ensenada. We picked up a mooring near the Casino and headed ashore to meet some friends for dinner. Mark and Mardy both taught school here on the island, and had some great stories to tell about their times at Toyon Bay.