Thursday, February 12, 2015

AHHHH……ALMOST MEXICO

We may not be in Mexico, 
but we are close enough for the real deal, Gordon's in Chula Vista.
Al Pastor, My VERY Fav!

El Tiburon has found a new spot that includes a gym, pool & spa, and it comes a restaurant that delivers to the boat. We love the Kona Kai on Shelter Island, we had an end-tie here 3 years ago, and its great to be back. We are close to the yacht clubs, chandleries, running beaches for Spark, long walks for us, lots of cafes, and an endless amount of entertainment in San Diego. Darrell's business is doing well, he's selling solar, wind generators, inverters, batteries, chargers, just about anything that will help manage your energy needs aboard your boat, RV, home, or business. Check out Erickson Energy Management at www.ericksonsolarwind.com.  
 Our Hood.
Big Boy Neighbors.
 Attessa, a 300 foot Fedship comes with a Rolls Royce.
The rich are NOT like us.
More of the hood, with  
Big Blue & Stars and Stripes in the background.
Another nice thing about being in San Diego
 is hanging out with sailing friends from Mexico.
Spark goes swimming as Fred and Darrell sail by on Tapatai.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

ROMANCE IN AVALON

In the fifties the Four Preps sang "26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is waiting for me. The island of romance. Romance. Romance. Romance". Yep, 4 refrains! This song plays over and over and over and over in my head every time we come here. 
Darn near everything is romantic in Avalon in the winter. 
Spark, El Tiburon, the Casino, the weather; its all good.
And of course, Darrell is muy romantic!
The Harbor Patrol assigns our mooring, then
comes aboard to ensure our head is contained so there is 
no discharge into the crystal clear water. Sparky
gets his usual attention. They actually remember him!
Spark brings Lambie as a gift to the Harbor Patrol.


The first order of business after we check-in and get squared away with a mooring, is a bit of work for Darrell. Selling all those solar and wind systems is hard work, and makes Darrell very thirsty.
 Work.
More work.
Still working, at the Sand Trap,
 while waiting for his tacos.
Darrell makes every minute count.
Gotta love this this guy.
Romance.
After lunch we decided to go for a long walk through town, visiting some of our favorite spots. First up, a boutique owned by a local woman who also has a Vizsla, named Lucy. Behind her counter was a big fluffy overstuffed dog bed with a big fluffy blankie - just like Spark's, and just like about every other vizsla we have ever met. The shop owner also keeps a bag of organic cookies for her furry friends. Lucy wasn't too keen on sharing, but Spark got his share anyway. No romance here.
 Lucy is 10 years old and very fond of cookies.
Sparky is very fond of Lucy's cookies too.
Spark is pursued everywhere we go.
Appears Spark has no romantic interest in the buffalo.


We continued our walk towards the Casino, built in 1929, rich in art, culture, and history, it continues to draw large crowds for a variety of functions today. For me, it is the grand architecture and the colorful art deco tiles that grace its walls that always knock me out. The tiles below can be found along the quay leading to the casino. Catalina has a slew of attractions that lure tourists including; dozens of hikes, camping, zip lines, golfing, the Wriggly Mansion, wine tasting, music concerts and an annual fest, marathons,  all kinds of boating, scuba diving, abundant wildlife, and just about anything your imagination can come up with to do in paradise. Past blog posts showcase many of these wonders of Catalina, so I will not repeat myself here.

California State fish, the protected Garibaldi
A happy otter swimming amongst kelp.
Palms, blue sea, and a passing boat make a pretty romantic setting.
Add a pina colada or a mojito, and Viola! More Romance.
 Avalon Pier welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each summer,
but only a few thousand in the winter.
Winter's empty mooring field provided plenty of peace for us.


Winter storms, especially dreaded Santa Ana winds, can be treacherous in Avalon. The anchorage faces northeast and over the years has suffered severe damage when harsh weather approaches from that direction. Consequently, the number of boaters and visitors decline in the fall and winter months. Boaters must be extra cautious, listen daily to marine weather, and be ready at a moments notice to flee the anchorage. A New Years Eve storm this year did serious damage to the long pier and to several boats. Unfortunately, it also claimed the lives of two residents. A member of the harbor patrol died a hero trying to save a boat, and another resident was found drown. Debris from the storm and a memorial for the two men were sober reminders of how quickly the weather can change, and how vulnerable we are when it does. Life is precious, and each day a blessing. Our hearts go out the the families of the lives lost.
Remnants of the New Years Eve storm.
Wreaths commemorate the two men.

Time to keep El Tiburon moving towards San Diego, and onward to our final destination for the next few months, Marina Coral in Ensenada, Mexico. By 5am the next morning, we slipped off the mooring lines, threaded our way through the moonless anchorage, and headed south in the early dawn. Still dark and chilly, but an hour later the sky lit up with bold vibrant colors.
 San Clemente, faintly seen in the foreground, lies 32 miles west.
 Snow covers the distant mountaintops.
Weird.
A true Vizsla, Spark seeks cozy warmth.
Vizslas are not early risers.
 Catalina, the island of romance, off our stern. 
Drumroll. A new day is born.
Our destination, San Diego, 72 miles southwest.
The visibility was incredible. The winter months are usually crisp with increased visibility, but the past few days have been unusual. Dry weather, no morning dew on the decks, and extreme visibility are hallmarks of Santa Ana winds. Yep, time to get rolling to a safe harbor in a snug slip! Sounds like the Southwestern and San Diego Yacht Clubs to me! We will also be meeting up with sailing friends from "Gate 11" in Alameda who have relocated to SoCal. David and Cate, aka sv/Timeless, have also become confirmed warm weather sailors. We are also looking forward to catching up with Fred and Penny from sv/ Tapatai. People, one of our favorite things about the cruising life.
A rare photo of yours truly, 
chronicler of fun and adventure aboard El Tiburon.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

DODGING SANTA ANAS and BUFFALOS

Grinding the winch in light winds.

We left the Ventura Harbor early in the morning to make sure we had enough daylight to travel the nearly 70 miles to Santa Catalina Island before nightfall. I have sailed to Catalina many times in the past 40 years (OMG 40 years!), but this time - January - was the BEST. Brilliant blue skies, clear water, a warm breeze, and great views across the channel towards Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands. All was mellow. We were looking forward to some peace and quiet at Twin Harbors on Santa Catalina. As we approached we called the harbor patrol and were told there was a threat of a Santa Ana and it would be best for us to take cover on the west side of the island and to pick up a mooring at Cat Harbor. Santa Ana winds are powerful winds that whip up quickly in the fall and winter. They come over the desert head northeast roaring down over the Santa Ana mountains. Gusts from 25 to 60 knots can reek havoc in the Channel Islands. Both main anchorages at Catalina, Twin Harbor and especially, Avalon are at risk. Who are we to disagree with the harbor patrol - so we did a 180 and headed around to the more protected backside of the island. The change in itinerary presented us with a spectacular red sunset, but also meant we entered Catalina Harbor in the dark. We had to thread our way to the assigned mooring ball using our Chartplotter, which is great, but I always prefer eyeballing anchorages as we enter them.  Only a handful of boats were there, so the job wasn't too tough. After an 11 hour passage from Ventura we were tired and hungry and glad to be out of harms way if the dreaded Santa Ana winds materialized. They did not.


Spark goes nowhere without his Lambie and Blankie.

We all slept well knowing we were in a secure harbor. Bright and early the next morning Spark was most anxious to get off the boat and run about. So were we. The island is lush GREEN, the greenest I have ever seen it. SoCal had a lot of rain in the previous weeks  turning the hills emerald, the flora and fauna big and bright, and the red clay ground muddy.
Faster, Faster Dad! I gotta go!
 Green
 More Green
Flora and Fauna 
Firepokers & those purple thingies that butterflies love.


It's a 10 minute walk from Cat Harbor across the isthmus to Twin Harbors, and every inch of the walk is splendid. Winter here is utterly fantastic. It's quiet and peaceful, an extreme contrast to the hordes of summer-folk who flock here in their boats. In January, there are few tourists, some hikers or divers enjoying the island beauty, but mostly it's the full-time islanders that work here. What a life! A few years ago, D almost had me convinced to do this. He had his application already to be a harbor patrolman, I wanted a house. And the rest is history. And we are both content. Right now, we feel like we are cruising again, and glad to have the house sealed up, and back on board El Tib.
 The only people on the pier! A winter blessing.
 The poor ole lonely harbor master. Not.
Empty mooring fields that will be packed in 6 months.

All checked in and paid up - we thought $51.00 was steep for a mooring in the winter, but in reality who can complain? Not us. We were ready for a nice long stroll, being on the lookout for the local buffalo who roam the countryside. Fun to spot. We saw a big guy grazing on the hillside as we landed the dinghy onshore. But, we are also a bit leery, since a couple of years ago the oldest-biggest-baddest buffalo gored a tourist! Yikes! They are supposed to be able to run very fast! So we keep our distance and eyes peeled.

Buffalo prints. Nothing to laugh at!
Strange, but true the harbor restaurant serves Buffalo Burgers. $11.50.
Regular hamburgers are only $8.50.
 No Thank You!
Buffalo like the beach just as much as anyone else.
Now, back to our walk.                       
 Spark, unaware of the buffalo lurking in the background, 
is poised to run!
El Tiburon snug and secure.
Land's End. Spark loves to pose.
Looking southwest, our planned sail tomorrow as we head to Avalon.
San Clemente Island lies 18 miles to the southwest.
The boys look forward to Avalon.
Up early the following day, 
and headed around the corner to Avalon Harbor.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

TURNING THE CORNER

Morro Bay can be perfect in the winter, and our stay there was indeed perfect. Spending time with old friends, a long visit with our daughter, Hana, and of course, the comfortable familiarity of our original home port, the Morro Bay Yacht Club, was just what we needed. A lovely hike above the golf course, strolls down the Embarcadero, and a dinghy ride to the sand-spit completed our stay. Darrell and I both started our sailing careers in Morro Bay back in 1975. Although our paths did not cross for two decades, we met and fell in love in 1996 on this Bay. What's not to adore about Morro Bay?

Morro Bay Anchorage is a welcome port in any storm,
or any weather!
Approaching The Rock at the mouth of the harbor as we head out.
 Happy Man
Happy me and Lap Dog Spark

Yes, we love Morro Bay, but we also LOVE warmer sailing weather. A mid-afternoon departure would get Darrell, Pat, Spark, and me around Point Conception in the wee hours and put us into Santa Barbara for breakfast. So, we planned. Santa Barbara is a Port of Refuge and always open to visiting boats, right? Not this time. For Some reason, Darrrell decided to call and see they had changed their rules about "NO Reservations", well they hadn't. In addition, the harbor has been closed to transiting  boats while they are reconstructing their docks. Bummer! I had been counting on martinis and fresh oysters at Brophy's on the pier for days. It was only another 20 miles to Ventura, and Pat reassured me that there was a Brophy's at the Ventura Harbor. The trip along the way was pretty darn memorable.


RED SKY, and more, abeam Point Sal.

No Big deal that Santa Barbara was closed, the weather was great, seas mellow, and wind a bit too calm, but good for getting around Points Arguello and Conception. The big corner turning California southward into the Santa Barbara Channel makes for often choppy seas with big winds. The calmer the better for me these days. I planned my night-watch to coincide with the rounding. Vandenberg was lit up, and the ever-increasing oil fields guide you towards Santa Barbara. The moon was bright, and land loomed dramatically dark. The anchor light of a lone vessel tucked into Cojo anchorage could be faintly seen from our position of four miles offshore. The change in temperature as you head further south can be felt here, and the seas had just enough bounce in them to remind me of the potential danger that lurks here. I have sailed - or motored - around Conception close to 2 dozen times. Each time is different, and each time, I am reminded of my insignificance. After 40 years of sailing these waters, I want just one more opportunity to experience the grandeur of this corner of California's coastline. I love Northern California, it is my home, my land home. For me, boats and warm weather reign supreme, but El Tiburon will have to make another trip to Morro Bay in order to satisfy my lust for rounding Points Arguello and Conception.


Palm Trees are always a good decision!
Sunset signaled cocktail time.

The VYC is always welcomed respite, 
and always a friendly place to stay.

Sparky has asked to put his 2 cents in as well.
 45 steps to the beach from VYC, and no NO DOGS signs.
 All poised, me for the ball, and the surfers for the next ride.
Surfer rides one in with Santa Cruz Island in the background.
There are only NO DOGS signs there.
I WOOF Ventura.

Ventura is not all lovely beaches, it is set amidst large produce and flower growing fields.
 The Country Market is a couple of blocks from the marina.
The BEST Strawberries and Golden Beets are to be had here.
Local grown flowers of every color.
I Woof Ventura too!