Archive for March, 2013

Under Way

Posted: March 12, 2013 by bcbuzzards in Surf/Sail
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Enroute to the Islands

Enroute to the Islands

Departing from San Francisco we encountered many firsts. First night sail, first gale beat down, first time drifting in open ocean for 2 days while the winds were dead. We made good time heading south, survived our first nights on watch with only mild discomfort and quickly fell into a comfort able rhythm with most aspects of boat handling and living at sea.

As we approached Point Conception the winds stiffened, as is normal for the area, but there was an associated weather system that kicked the winds into high gear. We had sustained 30 knot winds (with gusts to 35) for about 36 hours which whipped the seas into a frothy mess. We settled on a course to the west that the boat happy on and when all was said and done we found ourselves 200+ miles offshore. We headed east to make use of the lightening winds and slightly more organized sea state as night fell. When dawn broke we ran out of wind and found ourselves seven miles east of San Clemente Island.

Enjoying a post breakfast swim

Enjoying a post breakfast swim

After getting over the initial short-lived frustration of having no wind we quickly fell into a routine. Sleeping and eating seemed to occupy most of our time followed by swimming. Turns out sailing is tiring. What little time was left in the day went to working on the never-ending projects list. Since we were going nowhere fast we stopped standing watch and opted to stick our heads out the hatch a few times each night to check our location. The only disturbing thing we noticed were creepy light less silhouettes of Navy ships against the night sky. Turns out that San Clemente is used by the Navy for training exercises (including strafing runs)and not open to the public. After being becalmed for 2 days we finally got underway.

Shortly after our departure we lost control of our rudder. Thankfully we  quickly found the cause and Ralph weaseld his compact frame into contorted positions to reach the steering quadrant and fix it. About 2 hours later our auto pilot failed. Deep in the night we lost our GPS. Thankfully we were able to fall back onto traditional navigation techniques to keep us on course. Ralph woke me at dawn to let me know that we were getting ready to pull into San Diego. The failure of the auto pilot and GPS were good reminders that they are just luxuries and not necessities. After 7 days on the water we took our first wabbly steps on land.

For the next week San Diego would be our base of operations for working on the boat. We made a ton of progress on the magic to do list and the only casualty was a cut on Ralph’s finger requiring a few stitches.During this period we came to the realization that though we could still make out final destination, La Paz, with the time left  but it would be hurried and defeat the purpose of taking our time scouring the Pacific coast of Baja for surf. So I canceled my return flight from La Paz and we sailed back north to spend our final 10 days poking around the northern Channel Island group.

The Channel Islands proved to be well worth the visit. While we didn’t find much surf, mainly due to lack of swell, we spent a lot of time in the water snorkeling. We rowed ashore daily to  stretch our legs and sample the islands offerings. Lots of rad wildlife sightings from owls and octopus to bison. Thats right, I said bison. What was just going to be a brief overview of the islands turned into us planning a return visit before heading down through Baja. We jammed back to the mainland to find a slip for the boat to stay in until the next leg begins. We got the slip and spent the next day cleaning and packing.


Landing at Santa Barbara Island

Sadly the end was upon us and the responsibilities of life were looming. Ralph flew out and I had a ticket on the train early the next morning. I headed to the beach with a surfboard and 2 beautifully crafted handboards (by Benjamin Barnhart, I arrived at the beach as a light rain started to fall, quickly donned my wetsuit, stashed my pack in the jetty and got in the water. The last two surfers had just gone in. The rain became steady but clear skies to the west provided an epic backdrop  and sunset. I spent the last hour and a half of waning light playing alone in perfectly mediocre 3-4′ surf, switching surfcraft about every 30 minutes. All was right in the world.


Not so Fast

Posted: March 12, 2013 by bcbuzzards in Surf/Sail
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Departing familiar territory


It was known from the day that Ralph got his boat that it was going to be used as an escape pod. A vehicle to transport body,mind, and spirit into personally uncharted realms. An instrument to purge some of life’s venom from ones system. To that end we decided that the only way we would ever leave was to put a date on the calendar and go.

It doesn’t get much more simple, throw the boards into the boat head out the Golden Gate and turn left. That is all we had to do. We both had 4 weeks off work and unlimited psych to get some real sailing experience under our belts. We had done some local trips like a sail out and around the Farallon Islands and a sail up the coast to surf for the day but neither of us had all that much sailing experience. Certainly no long passages or seemingly endless nights spent on watch in foul weather. What we lacked in experience we certainly made up for in optimism and naivety. What could possibly go wrong?


I was able to show up a couple of days early to tie up a few loose end projects on the boat. Upon arrival I learned the mast step (where the mast attaches to the boat) had basically disintegrated over the past 35 years. Therefore the mast was out of the boat. In classic boat maintenance fashion when you do something you do it right. So we stripped the paint, repainted, rewired, added a new wind gauge, and rebuilt the winches. It turns out all these things take time, apparently much more than we thought it would. Additionally shipping delays for roller furler parts were not readily available and the boat yard was closed when they arrived, so more delays ensued. This was in addition to the projects that we had planned to complete before departure.

Amigos del mar

Amigos del mar

We had two dauntingly full pages of projects that needed attention. Some were quick, some were immense multi day clusters. Crossing anything off the list was cause for celebration. But alas there was no time to celebrate for there were dozens of other projects to work on.

At this point, over a week past our original departure date, all we were hoping for was to depart the morning after the yard dropped the mast back in. On a Monday morning with a heavy rain falling, the boat yard was finally ready to reinstall our mast. As they began to raise the mast the crane ran out of fuel. Yet another delay. Once the mast was finally reinstalled we put on the new sail and… it didn’t fit.  After nine very full days and very little sleep we were both at wit’s end and wanted nothing more than to leave. Thankfully a quick call to Pineapple Sails put our frustration back in check. They would be able to trim the sail for us today. Ralph leapt into action getting the sail to Pineapple and I started packing the boat. Darkness fell and with it Ralph returned triumphant with the sail. We spent the rest of the night mired in pre departure minutia.

Master and Commander

Master and Commander. Ralph at the helm.

The long-awaited day had finally arrived! After a few hours of sleep we woke to clean smelling post storm conditions.  With a huge breakfast in the belly and goodbyes said and were able to cast off. The relief to have finally left was overwhelming. The rejoicing was short-lived for there were still many small projects to complete. Twenty minutes after departure from Berkeley Marina Ralph was at the helm and I was back in the bilge wiring a pump, but it didn’t matter, we were on the way.


Posted: March 12, 2013 by bcbuzzards in Surf/Sail
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Lost Coast

Solo mission on the Lost Coast


At the awkward age of thirteen I went on a weekend trip to Santa Cruz with my dad. It was a typical trip that included play time at the beach, enjoying the rides at the Boardwalk, and stuffing my face with funnel cake. On the way out of town we dropped into an antiques store where I found a fulcrum that would shift my life onto a different path. It stood in a dark corner covered in dust and dirty half melted  sand encrusted wax. It stood tall at 6’1″ and it drew me in with the luminescence of its yellow UV damaged foam. My dad continued to browse while I lurked hard next to my coveted discovery. We left the store empty handed despite my clear desire for the board.

After a week of incessant pestering my dad caved and we made the two hour drive south and he forked over $25 for the board. It was another year before my mom would actually let me take it to the beach. Fifteen years later after surviving a tortuous life being dropped, crushed, operated on, having all the fins snapped off, and being ridden in powder that was not deep enough we parted ways and the board now hangs on the wall of a ski patrol room in Tahoe. That board provided my first real connection with the ocean.


Ready to launch

Ready to launch

At the age of 28 out of the blue I received a call from my uncle with a request for me to swing by for a visit.  After lunch on his 33′ sailboat/ home we walked down the dock until we got to a small wooden sailboat that belonged to a friend of his. I was told that it would go cheaply to a good home, I stated that I had only sailed once and that ended with me clutching to a capsized catamaran. After 20 minutes and multiple failed attempts to right it the Avila Harbor Patrol showed up and helped us right it. He told me to not rush my decision, spend the night on it and give my answer in the morning. As the evening went on my thoughts turned to using the boat as a platform to access waves.

The next day I was the proud and clueless owner of an 80+ year old wooden sail boat that “only needed a coat of paint”. Three brutal months spent in the boatyard  full of scraping, sanding, painting, and extensive repair work I had a boat that was sea worthy. Now I had to learn how to sail. Fortunately my buddy Ralph was a game to get some more water time and we fumbled through the learning process together with only a few near misses. Over the 3 years that I had the boat it became a trusted companion who provided me with shelter and another toy to enjoy the ocean with. I eventually passed the reins of the boat to friend, master craftsman, and boatwright, Benjamin Barnhart. While I am no longer the caretaker, the lessons learned remain and have provided the foundation for to start the sail/surf trip that I’ve dreamed of.

Finally on the water

Finally on the water


Scattered but not distant

Posted: March 12, 2013 by bcbuzzards in Uncategorized

While the buzzards are currently scattered, geographically speaking, they continue to remain close to their core values and up to mischief regardless of their location. The next few posts are updates on what we have been up to in our particular place of residency (regardless of how temporary). Despite the many miles between us the bonds forged during past exploits remain stronger than ever and plans are constantly being hatched for future jaunts. Hope you enjoy.

Ratio of man meat to sq/ft of ledge is way to high. Palisade Traverse

Ratio of man meat to sq/ft of ledge is way to high. Palisade Traverse