Sunday, October 27, 2013


We left Marina del Rey in the late afternoon on Friday and headed south across Santa Monica Bay.  We had enough wind to sail and we enjoyed sailing for a change.  We started seeing dolphins right away and had dolphins playing in our bow wave all through the night.  In the dark of the night, dolphins appear as glowing streaks in the water.  At dusk, we rolled up the sails and motored south.

We arrived in San Diego about ten in the morning and pulled into a slip that Ingemar had arranged for us at the Cabrillo Isle Marina.  Several other boats on the dock are also participating in the Ha-Ha.  There was a party atmosphere.  Unfortunately, we were still working frantically to get the boat ready and weren't able to participate in the fun.

Scott and I worked on resurrecting the water maker.  Ingemar, Joel and Charles worked on installing dinghy wheels.  Michelle and I walked to the grocery store and bought provisions for the remainder of the trip.  Joel and I re-installed ceiling panels and the dashboard.  We were very busy for two days.

Sunday afternoon was the kickoff party for the Baja Ha-Ha.  It was a costume party with lots of goofiness and dancing.  It was a great opportunity to put aside our boat troubles for a few hours.  We aren't ready to leave tomorrow, but we will get out of here one way or the other.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Leaving Vallejo
We left Vallejo about 6:00 last night and headed out towards the Golden Gate, making six knots under power.  The night was clear and the moon full until we reached the gate where the fog was in and thick as pea soup.  There is a little brass plaque on our companionway that says, "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."  I was below, trying to sleep prior to my midnight to 4 am watch, when I heard exactly that occurring above me.  The light on the compass was not working. There was a freighter outbound, which had caused us to hug the shore. Suddenly the radar was telling us that we were close to the rocks and Scott couldn't know which was up in the fog.  It was pretty tense for a few minutes but, by the time I got my glasses on and scurried up the companionway, Michelle had produced a headlamp with a red light that made a spiffy compass light and we were steaming under the ghostly yellow lights of the bridge.  Phew!  First adventure survived.

For the benefit of those who will be following this blog, I will take this opportunity to introduce the crew of Fool's Castle.  Our official skipper, who conceived of this voyage, is the perpetually natty Ingemar Olsson.  The owner of the vessel and first mate is the camera shy Scott Bonomi.  Don't expect a lot of photos of Scott.  Next, we have the veteran of Pacific crossings, Charles Kite.  Ingemar's friend, Harry "Joel" Curtis-Brown, a power boat skipper, is joining us on his first sailing voyage.
Michelle Futerman is my dear friend who helps to keep the mood light.  She and her husband, our faithful shore crew, Joe Futerman, are contemplating buying a sailboat to live aboard, so this trip is an experiment for her.  And lastly, yours truly, cook and blogger, somewhat less dumpy than formerly, although I was recently the victim of a horrible haircut.

Once we passed under the Golden Gate, the visibility rapidly improved.  It was still overcast and damp, but we could see well enough at sea level and the moonlight was diffused through the clouds, making it easy to distinguish the horizon.  We were quite alone and did not see another vessel until we reached Monterey Bay the next day.  Most significantly, it was bloody cold.

We are standing four hour watches.  Scott, Charles and I are the watch captains.  Charles has 4-8, Scott 8-12 and I 12-4.  The remaining crew stand watches offset by 2 hours.  Theoretically, this allows us to always have someone fairly alert at the helm.  Ingemar has 6-10, Joel 10-2 and Michelle 2-6.

Moss Landing Fuel Dock
Our arrival in Monterey Bay was magical.  We were greeted by a large pod of grey whales, blowing and flipping their tails all around us.  We also saw many sea lions, some of them leaping out of the water like dolphins with feet.  The bay teemed with sea life.  We pulled into Moss Landing just before noon to take on fuel and talk to a marine electronics dealer who will be providing us with the latest navigation equipment early next year for our Atlantic crossing.  Moss Landing is a small fishing harbor with a very New England feel to it.  We went ashore and had a seafood lunch in a nearby restaurant there.

Fishing Vessel in Moss Landing
 We wasted a few hours trying to sail after we left Moss Landing, but finally gave up, rolled up the sails, and resumed motoring, since the wind direction was preventing us from sailing out of Monterey Bay.  We did get to see more whales, however.  Finally, we motored out of the bay and headed off towards the next waypoint off Pt. Conception, 114 nautical miles distant.  We would not round Pt. Conception until the early hours of Thursday morning.
Scattering Billy's Ashes

Somewhere off Port San Luis, we scattered the ashes of Charles' brother, Billy.  He had passed away twenty years earlier and had been residing in a can in the closet of one relative or another for the past two decades.  Charles thought it was time he was released to the universe.

Tuesday night was extremely cold, but Wednesday night was slightly warmer after we rounded Pt. Conception, although still bitterly cold for those without proper clothing.  Joel said his watch from 10-2am felt like sitting on a chairlift at Sugar Bowl for 4 hours.  It was cool and overcast all day, as well.  We kept a sharp eye out for freighters, but did not see another vessel until we reached Santa Monica Bay.

Grey Days
The early hours of Thursday saw us through the Santa Barbara Channel.  We plotted a course between the shipping lanes and the oil platforms.  It was the first time we had been in sight of land for a couple of days and it was nice to have city lights to look at and use to confirm our navigation. When the sun came up on Thursday, we finally saw the sun for the first time and it felt very welcome.  Everyone was on deck as we sailed along the coast of Malibu and waved at Michelle's brother, who could see us through binoculars from his home in Paradise Cove.
Just Before Pt. Dume

Marina del Rey Breakwater
We rounded Pt. Dume and headed across Santa Monica Bay in the early afternoon.  This was familiar territory for Charles, Michelle and myself, so we had fun picking out familiar landmarks that lead us to the harbor entrance.  We arrived in Marina del Rey at 2:30 PM on Thursday, exactly when we had calculated we would arrive.  None of the yacht clubs had room for a vessel of our size, so we landed at the public docks at  Burton Chace Park and (Ah!) headed for very welcome showers.
Fool's Castle in MDR

Joe met us later with parts he had located for the forward head and we all repaired to my favorite restaurant, Killer Shrimp, for a delicious dinner.  We were all quite content to fall into our bunks and make an early night of it.

Monday, October 21, 2013


The newspaper article in the Vallejo Times Herald says that we left yesterday, but we are still here.  A couple of last minute engine and steering issues have kept us tied to the dock. We had actually decided to call in a mechanic, but he didn't show up for work today.  Now, Scott is working on the engine again after getting some telephone advice.  We still hope to leave today.

The shore crew left us yesterday afternoon and we cooked a nice dinner and spent some time getting to know each other.  This morning, we had a chance to do some of the things that we thought would have to wait for San Diego, but now we are just waiting and holding our breaths.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I can't remember the last time I was this stressed.   After a week of long days and late nights, we still aren't ready to go.  An old sailing friend of mine once divided boat owners into two classes.  The "carpenters" work on their boats, "getting ready to go cruising," forever and never go.  The "sailors" go whether they are ready or not.  I guess that makes us "sailors," since we are leaving at 2:00 with the tide, ready or not.

We don't yet have a working stove and the SSB antenna is still lying on the deck.  We have a literal truckload of stuff to stow and we have three hours.   I'd better start working on Plan C.  Plan A was to leave yesterday.  Once we leave the house in the next hour, we won't be back for months.  We'll be out of here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


We are inching closer to our departure, or rather I should say that the time is flying by, but the tasks seem to be completed only slowly.  However, the engine is functioning and, tomorrow, we will finally leave Napa and move the boat to Vallejo, where it will be much more accessible.  We still lack a working range and lots of other important things and the boat is still too torn apart for us to begin loading aboard equipment or provisions.

I have been taking this time to prepare paperwork, devise menus and shopping lists, cook and freeze meals, clear out my closet for the house sitters, and anything else I can do without access to Fool's Castle.  Once we get the boat to Vallejo, we will meet and determine a plan of attack for completing the necessary pre-departure tasks.  Many intended upgrades will have to wait for layovers in distant ports.  Isn't fixing your boat in exotic locations what cruising is all about?  Adventure happens while one waits for parts to arrive.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have told you that we would never get out of here next week.  Today, however, it seems to be coming together.  We've gone from every cabin being a filthy disaster area to something that resembles a habitable, if still cluttered, boat.  The varnishing is done and the galley and heads are clean.  Some of the new curtains are hung.  Almost all of the spare junk has been removed.  Anchors and chain is aboard. The sails are bent on.  We can do this.

There are still endless tasks to perform and we have yet to start the engine, but that is coming soon.  Tomorrow, I need to replace the burners on the propane stove, which involves cutting larger holes in the sheet metal.  The refrigerators are clean and functioning, though, and we even have an icemaker.  We may not be able to go anywhere, yet, but we can make cocktails.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


It's hard to believe that you're really leaving on a long sailing adventure when your boat as been up in the air in the yard in Napa with the engine out of it for a year.  We've been planning to leave this October to sail from here to Sweden, but I didn't want to write about it and jinx the whole thing.  Now that the boat is scheduled to be launched tomorrow, I feel that I can start to talk about it.

The first leg of our trip will be the delivery from San Francisco Bay to San Diego.  That's about four days of sailing, but we'll have time to stop and relax in LA or Catalina if we get out of here on 10/19 as planned.  If not, we have 2 or 3 days of extra prep time.  We are hoping for a crew of six and have five firm commitments and a maybe, so far.  The boat is Fool's Castle, a Nauticat 43' (a motorsailer ketch, not a catamaran), which belongs to my partner, Scott.  Our skipper will be Ingemar, a retired Swedish Marines vessel commander and licensed captain.  Additional crew are Ingemar's friend, Joel, another licensed captain, although not a sailor, and my friend, Michelle, a new sailor investigating the lifestyle before buying a boat and moving aboard.

We will leave San Diego with the Baja Ha-Ha, a cruisers rally to Cabo San Lucas.  The Ha-Ha is sort of like Burning Man for sailors.  It is reputed to be the most fun you can have with a boat.  The Ha-Ha stops in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria (two tiny towns in the middle of nowhere in Baja California), before terminating in Cabo San Lucas.  I have been over the route before back in 2001, although we were headed the other direction.  This should be much more pleasant, since we will be going with the wind and current.

Just because we are launching the boat tomorrow, doesn't mean we are ready, however.  The boat is still a disaster!  We have a "To Do" list a mile long.  I am in the process of replacing all the curtains (I washed them and they disintegrated.) and stripping and varnishing a large portion of the interior.  Stove and refrigerator are both apart and EVERYTHING needs cleaning and servicing.  We haven't used the boat at all for several years and Scott moved in with me back in 2007 and had never really cleaned his things out of the boat.  Making room for six people to live comfortably is challenging, especially when there is a gaping hole in the middle of the main salon where the engine goes.  I'm just aiming for all the vital systems to be working and all the junk to be stowed before we leave.  Additional projects can be completed along the way.