Friday, October 31, 2008

Johnny leaves us - Boo Hoo

So here we are in San Diego - actually we've been here 3 days - and after 2 months of Johnny's more or less constant companionship he's headed back home to resume his life. What a pleasure its been to have him with us. There's not many people could have successfully shared this tiny living space with us. Perhaps its his love of the Simpsons, Arthur and basic toilet humour which made that possible. We miss him already.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bob's missing picture

Hi Everyone, This is Tony. I had a visit from and old friend Bob Chrustie who lives in L.A. It was a pleasure to see him again after so long. He drove 70 miles through L.A. traffic to come to Newport Beach, What a trooper. Nancy took a great picture of us both on the boat, but unfortunately when we were trying to download it to this site it was scooped up by some spyware porn site and disappeared into cyber space. So if anyone comes across a picture of me and Bob on such a site, don't be alarmed. Stay tuned, it's off to SanDiego next

Avalon, you can see Moondancer in center

Friday, October 24, 2008

Avalon to Newport - 21st October
Catalina Island definitely rates BIG with us – from Emerald Bay which helped us forget all of the cold wet miserable nights we spent getting there, Isthmus Bay, a tiny beach resort with outside bar/restaurant on the beach through the isthmus to Two Harbours where I discovered ripe prickly pears growing wild everywhere (got a few spikes in my lips and tongue as the price for peeling and eating on the spot).
Then on to Avalon.
What an incredible resort town it is – glad we were not there during the summer season when, so we are told, it is impossible to move around and lineups are everywhere for everything. Avalon, which was developed in the 20’s as an offshore playground for the rich and famous (only 25 miles from Los Angeles) is full of contradictions. On each of the two closest hills which overlook the town are 2 mansions, one very traditional American style and the other more of a sprawling Spanish villa. The first is still known as Wrigley Mansion (chewing gum) and the other is T.K. Wrigley Mansion (perhaps a son of chewing gum magnate). Wrigley Mansion is now a very exclusive hotel and the other – I don’t know, maybe Wrigley descendants live there.
My theory is that Avalon was built by Sicilians initially, before the Spanish/Mexican influence kicked in – I can imagine that many of the rich (Maf--) living in Los Angeles in the roaring 20’s brought their families over from Sicily and housed them on this beautiful Island. Of course I could be completely wrong, but see the photos and make up your own mind. Another unique feature of Avalon is the golf carts. Very few people are allowed to have actual cars on the island, but golf carts abound.
From the harbour the homes we could see were all multi-million dollar palaces – even the condominiums. The town itself definitely has that typical slightly seedy resort town feel – probably the rich people don’t actually shop where they live. We did not find it particularly expensive; the $33 to hang on a moorage buoy was actually less than Isthmus Bay and because it was off-season they offered us 2 days paid for and 5 days free.
We took them up on the offer and stayed a couple more days, played a round of mini-golf right in the middle of town on a 40 year old course, which was a lot more fun than I expected, hiked up both hills, resisted the $35, 2 hour bus tour which promised we might see buffalo (Oh – only $30.50 for me as I now qualify as a senior). I was hoping to see roving buffalo – but no luck – perhaps next time. We made new friends in Avalon – Steve and Kathy on Lilly; we originally met them in Monterey where they were docked next to us. They were also in Isthmus Cove where we joined them for happy hour.
And then Avalon – by that time they were definitely our longest standing friendship and we had a lovely dinner together and got to know each other. As they are also heading for the Caribbean we look forward to meeting them again somewhere along the way.We had a very pleasant crossing from Avalon to Newport, we are moored ($5 per night) within a cluster of moorage buoys (there are hundreds more) about 50 yards from the back gardens of beautiful homes which surround Newport Harbour.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Catalina Island - alias Shangrilah

Friday – October 17th
And this is all beginning to make sense. The last couple of days have been incredible.
We arrived just after a spectacular sunrise yesterday in Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, so named because – yes the water is emerald and incredibly clear. The bay has about 50 mooring buoys, which we did actually attempt to tie to, but when we came up close noticed that all of the rings to tie to seemed to have been removed – we thought probably because this is the off-season. Fairly close to each buoy are rods sticking out of the water – we didn’t understand what these were for either so we came back out a little way and anchored beside Bird Rock –also aptly named. It took us about an hour to get out the diving equipment – tanks in aft lazarette, weight belts in bilge and dive bags in forward cabin under all of the ‘rubble’ that Johnny has to sleep beside.
Johnny couldn’t wait for us to gear up so he jumped in right away and announced it fantastic but a little cold. So we put on our full gear; Tony had to remind me of how some of these things go together, and as usual I huffed and puffed, complained like hell about the general discomfort, while Tony gets on with helping me and gearing up himself.
And then – it all became clear, as soon as we descended down the anchor line and I got myself together, Tony pointed behind me – it was like those magic pictures that are made up of millions of tiny repetitive shapes that you stare at with squinted eyes for a while and then the image jumps out at you. We were swimming in a wonderland about 30 – 40 feet deep with a visibility of about 60 feet – among long ribbon shaped shoals of sardines, beautifully colored fish I do not know the names of, got up close to a leopard shark – a spotted dogfish – swam through kelp forests. The experience was totally worth taking my padi course in February in Sidney and sailing approximately 1500 miles south for. I was so happy while I was underwater I could have cried. The rest of the day we spent snorkeling together, lying in the sun and complementing ourselves on our good fortune.

On Tuesday 14th we left Port San Luis at 1500 hrs – even though we have found that the waves are quite a bit bigger in the afternoon, we were also intent on arriving at Point Conception (in my mind another Cape Mendecino) sometime in the middle of the night when it is supposedly least horrible. As we were heading for Catalina Island we would not be coming in close to the point and as it was we had a pretty uneventful night – sometimes a rollicking sail in manageable seas and sometimes motoring.
The sky was totally clear with a full moon. This is our 3rd full moon since leaving Canada, but the first unobstructed moon. (On the night we sailed from Monterey to Port San Luis I saw the moon set at about 0600 hrs, an incredible orange ball sinking into the west – photos didn’t work I’m afraid - then an hour later a spectacular sunrise in the east. I love the dawn watch)
Wednesday we were motoring all day – the highlight of which was when we were visited by a pod of Pacific White Side dolphins. There were hundreds of them around us and they were coming in smaller groups to bow ride our bow wave. They stayed with us about an hour and because of individual markings we could recognize them when they came back for another turn. They seem to have a lot of scars on their backs – probably caused by doing exactly this. Johnny got up in the pulpit and took lots of video – see webshots. Later in the afternoon we spotted what our resident marine biologist thinks are ‘false killer whales’. They are grey and white, have tall sickle shaped dorsal fins and are a bit smaller than killer whales.
That evening we decided to have a barbeque as we weren’t in a particular hurry – we didn’t want to arrive at Catalina in the dark, so we cut the engine, Johnny went for a swim, Tony fired up the barby and we had a lovely meal in our own little world and life felt really good.
The night passed without a watch contributed by me, so I’ll just quote the log:
Tony – 2300 – beautiful slick ride, moon and stars shining, cirrus cloud whisping, crew sleeping. Johnny 0100 – Tony is a poet and he didn’t know it. Mine will be simpler – ditto. Tony again 0500 – getting closer to Catalina – very mild and humid, still motoring.I know that we have a long way to go and then to keep going - but being in Emerald Bay at Catalina feels like we’ve arrived at the beginning.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Finally out of Monterey and at Port San Luis

Not too much to report this blog - just that as I have access to the internet, thought I'd let everyone know where we are.
We left Monterey Sunday early and sailed through the day and night, arriving in Port San Luis Monday morning - yesterday. Again we had the big seas and strong winds for awhile - they are good of course in that we make good progress, but definitely not comfortable sailing. Suppose I'm just going to have to get used to this, must just be characteristic of the Pacific.
Once again I had cause to be very grateful for Johnny's cool head and strength, as he kept the boat's head up when we were overwhelmed by a big offshore gust.
The Santa Ana winds have been happening on this part of the coast for the past couple of days - the Coast Guard, who do an excellent job put out general warnings of weather conditions.
They lifted the warnings as of 5.00pm yesterday, so we'll leave today and head out past Point Conception. We are told by local people that once around the point the weather conditions become much less 'wild' and more tropical, like a great big lake apparently.
Coming into San Luis we saw an amazing amount of wildlife - whales playing in the water at Sunrise - Dolphins playing around our boat in the anchorage and sea lions group fishing trips.
San Luis Port is a lovely little town which was completely rebuilt about 30 years ago.
We have a few more photos to add. Perhaps the next post will be from Catalina Island.
We are all well, tanned, sometimes tired and mostly excited about what we are doing.
We miss our friends at home.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Almost native Montereyans

10th October and we're still in Monterey. Again waiting out weather - along with a few other boats all doing the same thing. We've spent some time with friends we met in Moss Landing, Scott and Michelle - Scott is the Food and Beverage Manager of the Portola Hotel and has built a very successful brew pub called Peter B's. Great beer and wine and a really great concept where regulars have a type of membership in the pub, buy their beer for $3.oo/pint. Great way to create regular clientele. We've met American sailors who have sailed to Mexico in the past and like it enough to be doing it again.
Yesterday we took a local bus to Carmel, looked at some fabulous art and even though we are not likely customers were well received in a couple of galeries. We walked down to the beach where the breaking waves that we could see all the way out to the horizon made us very happy to be on the beach and not on the horizon. Johnny, the golfer ran up the beach as far as Pebble Beach golf course to take pictures of one of his 'meccas'.
Then the highlight of the day for me was the Carmel Mission, founded in the 1700's by a monk from Mallorca, Father Junipera Serra - some of the Mission is original, but in the 30's major restoration took place, and now it is a Catholic Parish church and a Catholic school. The atmosphere in the church and the grounds was very peaceful, and as always happens to me in such places I am reminded of my catholic upbringing. I am sure that Tony and Johnny also found being there a moving experience. Mostly I am glad that it is not just a museum, but a viable community.
We are all looking forward to getting going on our next leg, which we expect to be Morro Bay. The time is getting closer to Johnny's flight home on the 30th October, so we definitely want to be in San Diego by then having seen a little more of Southern California before winding up there, perhaps Catalina.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October 7th - we're in Monterey

This is our third day in Monterey - and we already know our way around. We've not been able to get internet at the marina and have found it a little difficult to find cafes with open nets.
This is one of them.
Our trip from Moss Landing to Monterey was a brisk sail - about 4 hours, big swells on the beam again - I think we'll just have to get used to them, and look forward to the less big ones.
We anchored out the first night - the anchorage if you can call it that is pretty wide open, very rolly - we did not include flopper stoppers in our inventory of things we need - but we might make them before we spend all of our cruising budget on marinas.
We came into Monterey Harbour marina for the next night and last night. Our plan from here is to make a couple of longer harbour hops - the next being 75 miles to Morro Bay, then 100 or so to Catalina Island, then San Diego. We're keen now to get down to better weather and are told by sailors who have gone before us that conditions generally improve past Point Conception.
Monterey Bay is a beautiful town - the architecture is starting to look very Spanish, a lovely waterfront and beach and the Aquarium is worth every penny of the $25 to go in.
We spent a few hours there yesterday and took loads of pictures. I'll put them in Webshots.
We did actually attempt to leave here early evening - intending to start the next leg overnight so that we would arrive mid-dayish the next day. Naaat!!!! Our weather information for the next few days is not good, but it was supposed to be not too bad last night and today. After crashing though 8 foot seas and wind on the nose for an hour - we changed our minds and came back.
We'll be tourists for a couple of days - maybe go see Carmel by bus tomorrow, enjoy the farmers market this evening.
We've met 2 other boats from our Van Isle Fleet group who are in the marina also - Dolphin Tales with Lin and Debbie and Kalagan with Rick and Dawn. Its really neat to see them and exchange our stories for the trip down. We seem to be of the general opinion that none of us would like to repeat that exercise.
Hope to get moving on Friday - maybe sooner if weather conditions change.
See webshots for pics.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Elkhorn Slough - Moss Landing

Finally - we've found a coffee shop where we can plug in our computers.
We came into Moss Landing 1st October having enjoyed a great sail from Santa Cruz.
Moss Landing is recognizable by 2 huge chimneys - 528 feet high, which are part of a steam powered electrical generation plant - the 2nd largest facility of its kind in the world. So even though visibly its definitely incongruous to its surroundings, its actually not hurting the wildlife at all.
Speaking of wildlife, Elkhorn Slough which surrounds the yacht club at which we are moored is a beautiful ecological reserve, and there are 2 marine research ships working out of Moss Landing.
We took the dinghy into the slough yesterday and saw many beautiful creatures. The birdlife is getting much more interesting and we wish we had a book to help us identify the different species of birds we are seeing. I think we saw egrets yesterday, a beautiful slender heron like bird - smaller and pure white. Also some medium sized beige colored birds with very long pick like beaks - very similar to kiwis.
Our favourite creatures are the Sea Otters - quite different from the River Otters we are used to shooing off our boats on White Rock Pier.
These otters are not interested in boats - have no fear of them - and roll around from their fronts onto their backs eating, breaking shells with stones, preen themselves with their hands, and are generally so gorgeous you want to pick them up. In the early evening they pair up and roll around playing/fighting each other. There are so many of them near our mooring.
I'll put some pictures on next time I get to the internet - didn't download them from the camera yet.
We've checked weather and have decided to leave tomorrow - to get into Monterey for the next couple of days - there's a weather system moving in until Monday that doesn't look too good.
We'll go to Elkhorn Yacht Club's social evening tonight and glean as much information as we can from the locals about places to go in Monterey.
The people we have met here are very helpful - in fact everywhere we have been this has been the case.

Santa Cruz to Elkhorn Slough near Monterey

Photos will follow - its been difficult to get on internet the last week.

October 1st 2008 – Santa Cruz – Monterey Bay

Its 07:44, the sun came up about 1/2hr ago in Santa Cruz - we’re anchored off the shore in 23 feet rolling about in the swells and listening to the California Sea Lion symphony - well I am, Tony and Johnny are still asleep. We have no internet and as I did not save my last few blogsite entries I don’t know where I left off.

Lets start at Half Moon Bay which we did actually see for a couple of hours before the fog socked in and then we didn’t see much from the boat. We launched the dinghy and went ashore and found that its quite a ‘funky fishing’ little town – small; a couple of hotels – lots of bars advertising live music and dancing, which we didn’t feel like doing at 11:00 hrs. The HMBYC – half moon bay yacht club has quite a presence behind the breakwater with Saturday afternoon racing and Sunday all day racing. We went for a long walk with Johnny trying to find access to the long beaches we had seen on our way into the harbour. On the way we found a little farm stall and bought quite a lot of heavy vegetables – so we stopped helping Johnny and headed back – he went on with skim board on back looking for the perfect ‘skimming waves’.
There is a huge pelican colony on the breakwater here – definitely worthy of a few photographs – and though they are smelly we really like pelicans
Its actually a little hard to see them camouflaged against the rocks.

We only stayed in Half Moon Bay one and a half days – leaving early Monday morning. The thought ‘heading south’ is always accompanied in my mind by images of sailing in warm breezed wearing very little clothing – kicking back in our deck chairs – on our deck with margaritas – or in Tony’s case ‘a cold one’, dropping anchor in crystal clear torquois seas, diving off the boat at intervals just to cool down, and occasionally visiting shores just to see where we are.
Definitely doesn’t include fog.
We motored most of the day Monday intending to reach Santa Cruz around 16:00. The fog lifted late morning and we were making good time at about 6 knots, the breeze turned into a good stiff breeze and we sailed wing on wing for the last couple of hours into Santa Cruz. Our plans to anchor overnight were thwarted as the wind piped up a bit too much, so we went into Santa Cruz harbour, where we rafted up for the night.
Yesterday was a beautiful, hot sunny day and we spent it anchored beside the pier looking onto a long sandy beach with a huge permanent fair ground with roller coasters, ferris wheels and lots of other machines to help you empty your pockets and your stomachs.
Tony and Johnny went ashore in the dinghy. The pier has a few small docks where a dinghy can be pulled up – that’s how they got to shore. Johnny went skim boarding and Tony went sight seeing, and arranged to pick Johnny up later.
The pick up didn’t go very well. The rollers coming onto the shore unfortunately were not as regular as Tony’s timing and he was tossed upside down onto the shore underneath the dinghy and dragged back into the surf. Johnny was close by and helped up-right the dinghy, retrieve most of the contents and help Tony back into it, so that he could limp back to the boat, sculling with one paddle. The outboard engine was of course defunct but he was not hurt, and miraculously our camera, which he was wearing around his neck as he toppled over also survived.
The rest of the afternoon was spent drying everything out, washing the outboard with fresh water and changing the oil. It runs fine now.We plan to leave here today and head into Moss Landing. We have heard about the wildlife reserve in Elkhorn Slough, and look forward to seeing that in the sunshine.