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.

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