Under Way

Posted: March 12, 2013 by bcbuzzards in Surf/Sail
Tags: , , , ,
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, http://www.etsy.com/shop/CACoastalWoodCraft). 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.


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