Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catching Up November 9, 2011

Current Status:  Stuck in Cabo San Lucas.  We’re not expecting a lot of sympathy for those of you in the snow or rain or . . . whatever Mother Nature may be throwing your way.  It’s hot and clear and beautiful here – and our engine isn’t working.  So, here we be, scratching our heads and wondering what the *!@% is going on.  On the Pollyanna side of things – we now have time to launch this promised blog and bring you up to date on our adventures.  Because we lack the imagination to do it otherwise, we will report chronologically:
Emery Cove to Morro Bay -- October 7, 2011 to October 9, 2011: 
After waiting out a couple of days of reported bad weather, we motored away from B40 at Emery Cove, waving good-bye to Nadia the Neighbor on October 7 at 0858.  On this leg of Abracadabra’s journey, we were accompanied by Frank Chan and Irene deBruijn (aka Mrs. Irene Chan – a recent title acquisition).  
Those of you that know Frank know that he is an excellent sailor with significant blue water experience.  His presence provided a level of confidence to our endeavor.  Irene is a newish but well trained sailor, possessing the right spirit and attitude for cruising (almost as important as skill, we have learned!)

We motored out under the Golden Gate Bridge, accompanied by two dolphins. The captain and first mate undertook a symbolic kiss to seal the deal (hard to do more while underway, we have learned . . . ).
We had low to moderate winds the whole way (though even 7 knots can feel exciting between midnight and 06:00.  We dined well – a beef stew prepared by Frank (using the last of our cowpooling beef) and a lentil soup prepared by Molly.  Both goumet dishes were served in metal Pusser's Rum cups from the Caribbean received as a gift from niece & nephew Lori Neill and Scott Esterbrook.  Note to sailors: When we were given these cups, we thought they were cute, but it wasn’t entirely clear that they would be useful.  It turns out that eating underway (even at only 7 knots of wind on relatively calm seas) is best done out of a container with a handle.  This significantly reduces the amount of food one may end up wearing.  These cups have been invaluable!  Get some if you are thinking of eating underway – Thanks, Lori & Scott!!
We arrived at Morro Bay around mid-night to find no dock space, so we picked up a mooring ball (well, okay, Frank picked up the mooring ball while the rest of us made encouraging noises and Irene prayed that he would not go head first over the starboard side).  In the morning we realized we were on a yacht club mooring ball (verboten to those of us not yacht club members) – but we departed quickly to drop Frank and Irene off at the public dock before we were embarrassed into confessing our nautical faux pas.  Frank and Irene were picked up by Irene’s son and daughter-in-law and we were left without our safety net! 
All-in-all, we motored about 7 hours out of 41 on this leg.  The engine hiccupped a few times – but started when necessary.
Morro Bay to Santa Barbara – including rounding Pt. Conception -- October 9, 2011 to October 10, 2011:
As reported in an e-mail sent to some by our Captain:

“So, we have rounded Cape Horn. Oops I mean Pt. Conception and now are in Santa Barbara until tomorrow.  Molly is just now looking at the options as to where next so I don’t know yet.  I am only the boat boy.

Frank and Irene jumped ship in Morro Bay Sunday morning.  They enjoyed themselves I think.  Their skills and friendship were essential to getting our trip off to a great and safe start.

Too bad they left since our next overnight was a weird and wonderful experience.  After a whole day of 15 kt winds and gentle gybes it was midnight when we passed Pt. Conception.  Within about 10 miles of Pt. Conception the conditions went from 12 kts to a steady 27 with gusts to 35 and zero visibility in fog.  But the seas were remarkably flat for those conditions - maybe 4 foot swells - and by reducing to postage stamp-sized sails we stayed at 6 to 7 kts and it was like the boat was on rails, steering easily along. (I now love my radar even more). We passed our waypoint at midnight but just held a straight course due to the winds, etc.  An hour later, still in fog, the winds had abated somewhat but the swells picked up and we turned the corner into the SB Channel; still very manageable but I was glad the swells weren’t like that earlier.  The winds slowly dropped, the seas smoothed out, the fogged lifted and just as I was sleeping and Molly was passing the first of several oil platforms the winds dropped to zero and stayed there for the rest of the night.  We quickly started motoring away as we were drifting towards the platform and its 2161 Marshall Way-sized mooring balls.  We went back into the fog about 4 hours before SB around 4:30 AM and we had to wait at the safe water buoy near the entrance until some boat we assume with local knowledge tried to enter the harbor about 10:00.  We followed and literally 2 minutes later were in brilliant sunshine.”
As reported in the Captain’s e-mail, Pt. Conception was a bit exciting for himself.  Molly slept through the whole thing, though “sleeping” might be a bit of a strong word for what is done in a v-berth underway in busy seas.  While we’ve never spent the night in an operating front-loading washing machine – we now have greater sympathy for our clothes than ever before. 
Another point of augmentation to the e-mail:  the oil platform that we began to drift towards was named – Irene!!  I’m afraid knowing that didn’t make us feel any more comfortable, however.  Those things are like sailing next to a skyscraper that makes deep rumbling noises.  Not something to inspire comfort.  Imagine passing by the following, at night.

The trip into Santa Barbara harbor was very exciting due to the fog.  The next day it was really odd to see from the pier that the distance between the safe water buoy (which we found in the fog) and the entrance to the channel (which we could not find in the fog) was so small!  A testament to the density of the fog at the harbor’s mouth.  We motored about six or seven hours on this trip in the fog and low winds. 
Santa Barbara is a great harbor, with good facilities (read: showers!!), nice restaurants and a lovely beach walk.  We had two very nice days, including a chat with a friendly bartender that poured drinks much too strong for people already unsteady on their pins after several days “at sea”!  Note to sailors: this harbor is rebuilding some of its docks so it doesn’t have many guest slips available – we just lucked out and got the last spot when we came in.  Word to the wise: call and make a reservation in advance!
Molly took the local trolley (25 cents) to the farmer’s market to provision.  It was a lot more fun walking around the market and listening to the local buskers (including a guy with Rasta braids playing an accordion) than shopping at the supermarket.  We ate Santa Barbara veggies and pork much of the way down the coast.    
Santa Barbara to Channel Islands Harbor (Oxnard) – October 12, 2011:    

A seven hour sail, with spinnaker time and some minor motoring.  We had a large dolphin accompaniment around 1430.  The engine quit, but Bryce changed the fuel filter underway and we motored on. 
CHI’s facilities are minimal, but we had a dock to tie to and a shower room.  As we were motoring in at dusk, the flying fish were flapping all around us – kind of like motoring in a pot on the simmer.  The dock was near some condominiums, so it was kind of like tying up in a new suburb. 
That night, we cooked Santa Barbara pork chops and green beans – all quite civilized! 
CHI to Redondo Beach – October 13, 2011:
We motored almost the entire way due to light winds.  It was sunny and clear and we had beautiful views of Pt. Dume (kind of disconcerting name – but no ill winds there). 
Notwithstanding the cruising guide we had purchased for the trip, Redondo Beach’s private marinas do not have guest slips (or at least none of them answered our call for a guest slip), so we anchored out between two fishing boats that, based on the amount of bird doo on them, had not been out for some time.  Our first anchoring experience went well enough – we stuck, anyway, and avoided running down any of the paddle-boarders or dingy sailors enjoying the evening in the harbor. Bryce did the anchoring, Molly stood at the ready behind the wheel and the wind on our nose did the rest. 
At this point we must pause to report that though we made light of the cans of chicken provided by crewmember Frank Chan (he’s a Costco member – and we foolishly made fun of his bringing six cans of chicken and eight of tuna on board for a three day trip!), we have now come to appreciate canned chicken.  Canned chicken, onions, garlic, and Santa Barbara sweet peppers served with pasta make a really great meal at anchor! 
Redondo Beach to Long Beach – October 14, 2011:
Molly reports a really good job of backing off the anchor in Redondo Beach. Reverse isn’t her forte so she’s quite excited about doing this well!  Departure around 1100, and we a great sail early on, but the wind died and was against us, so we motored a lot on this leg.  Bryce saw a whale in the morning, comfortably far away from Abracadabra (though without concrete evidence we cannot be sure what species he saw).
The excitement of this leg was finding our way through Long Beach Harbor (the busiest harbor on the west coast, we’ve heard) at dusk with visibility limited to 50 feet due to fog.  At one point, we were peering over our starboard side to keep the breakwater within site, and when we next turned to look port we saw a container ship at anchor not more than 50 feet away – it had just appeared out of the fog.  Thank Neptune the thing was at anchor or, well – we would not be entertaining you with this clever blog! 
Long Beach has nice facilities (read: laundry) and one can walk to a nice Irish Pub that serves single malt (is that the way to say it with Irish whisky?) whiskies if so inclined.  Don’t try the Mexican pizza they serve in the mall.  It is as bad as it sounds.
Long Beach to Dana Point – October 15, 2011:
Another short sail; the morning lovely with 15- to 11-knot winds, and motoring in the afternoon.  The wind picked up around the point, and helped us in, but it was becoming dark as we arrived.  We had hailed the harbormaster earlier, and been told that their office was staffed “24/7” – but when we called via cell phone (the preferred method of contact according to the person we had talked to) – no answer.  There were lots of spots at the guest dock, so we simply tied up for the night without electricity or water or gate access.  So – no report on the facilities here.  It was Saturday night and several of our neighbors had a really good time (read: noisy) but all-in-all it was an okay marina.  In fact a pretty good one given that we didn’t pay for it!
Dana Point to Oceanside – October 16, 2011:
Another short sail day – but this one with nice 11-knot winds.  We arrived around 1300 and were greeted by a friendly harbor patrolman.  The harbor here is fine – but without much for provisioning (as good as the canned chicken is, it has its limits).  We ate out at the best looking restaurant on the boardwalk, surrounded by other tourists.  Great views of kids paddle boarding.  All the t-shirts one could want, however.  There is a small chandlery there, and we finally bought a water hose (it was becoming embarrassing to ask to use other boaters’ hoses . . . ) and a few small items. 
Oceanside to San Diego – October 17, 2011:
As we started out from Oceanside, we were hit by a wall of fog.  We left the dock at 08:20 and by 08:25 we couldn’t see the mouth of the harbor.  Yikes.  We returned to the dock and retrieved our gate key from the harbormaster’s office and took ourselves out for coffee.  After waiting for several hours, we decided we could see far enough in front of our faces to make it out without running over or being run over and left around 1400.  We were in fog all the way to San Diego – but sometimes with up to 2-3 miles visibility.  By the time we got to San Diego it was clear – but dark.  And we had no map of Shelter Island Marina.  After more than an hour motoring around with Molly hanging off the side of the boat with the binoculars trying to read slip numbers, we found Shelter Island, and took a spot on the mega-yacht dock.  The size of the yachts near us inspired us to speak in high squeaky voices that befitted our size.  Someone in the world has a bucket-load of money!  We finally found a security guard that helped us locate our slip, and we tied up around 2100.  A long day indeed.  We munched on cheese and crackers and drank a bottle of wine to celebrate surviving this leg of the trip – and promptly fell asleep!
San Diego – October 18, 2011 – October 27, 2011:
Showers!  Laundry!  Groceries!  An insurance agent!  [Our insurance did not cover Mexico and we had been dealing long distance with a broker from Newport Beach – the deal was finally sealed in San Diego and we were much relieved to have insurance for the rest of the trip.]
Our crew for the HaHa – Corinne Hackbarth and Rick Nelson – arrived on the 19th and were promptly put to work.  Rich and Corinne were asked to accompany us because they are light-wind racers from Seattle, and have both done long passages.  But the first week, we simply used them as forced labor! 

[Corinne looks quite sailor-like in the above photo – but Rick seems to be confused by all the equipment . . . !]
Our friend Terry Heil also pitched in.  The three guys worked to install the water maker, fix the compass light, install fans, install the music radio, etc. etc. etc.).  Terry taught Molly how to transfer the music on our computer to our I-Touch and how to sign on to Skype (let us know if you have an account – we think we can do this on our own now, though we haven’t yet!).  There were a few cracks about bringing Molly into the 21st century . . . all in good fun, we’re sure.
Our friend Lynn Basquez was the entertainment committee.  She joined us for dinner one night – and took us to watch her classmates perform Flamenco at a local restaurant.  Next trip, we hope to see Lynn on stage! 
We went to the HaHa costume party – outfitted from Target at bargain basement prices!  Notwithstanding the low budget nature of our costumes, they were of sufficient specificity to be recognized by at least one other partygoer as magicians and the rabbit that came out of the hat (get it? Abracadabra?).  We think Rick is rather fetching in his bowler, don’t you? 

San Diego to Turtle Bay – October 24, 2011 to October 27, 2011 (and October 27 – 28 On the Hook):
We participated in the HaHa parade (see ), and crossed the start line at 11:00.  [Thanks for the pictures, Terry!]

Dolphins joined us at 12:00 – a veritable phalanx of them!  The winds were low and we motored quite a bit.  Around 1700 a tiny little bird joined us – even flying into the V-berth where Molly was sleeping!  Molly proved once again to be a championship sleeper, and didn’t even know that the bird had been there, and had been captured in flight by the Captain.  Bird hid below the dingy (strapped onto the top of the boat) for awhile and then departed without fanfare. 
We sailed on the spinnaker or motored most of the first and second day.  Because flying the spinnaker requires someone to go forward to move lines for a gybe, we decided to fly the genoa at night (which can be gybed from the cockpit).  Unfortunately during our highest winds – gusting to 24 knots per hour – the genoa furling line jammed.  This meant that we had to sail on a full 140% genoa – a scary prospect to have that much power in that high a wind.  Think having your accelerator pedal jammed in your Toyota doing 75 miles an hour on the freeway and you’ll get a sense of how the crew on watch felt. 
We crossed the finish line for the first leg of the HaHa at 05:00 on Thursday – and arrived in Turtle Bay at 13:30.  The remainder of that day we slept and took care of personal hygiene issues (showers of a sort and hair washing).  We ate on board that night, too tired to make the effort to go into the little village.  Speaking of hygiene underway – were we? -- a shout out to Irene deBruijn who, on our first two nights underway introduced us to the idea of Huggies Babywipes as a method of bathing!  It has made our entire trip oh, soooo much nicer.  Four people in a 36’ boat without Huggies is now unimaginable!
On the second day on the hook, we took a panga to the beach party, a potluck by the HaHa fleet (which, as we hadn't thought to bring anything, we avoided!) and tacos from a local taco stand.  Beer was consumed, a walk on the beach was had, and it was a great afternoon.

After two nights in Bahia Tortuga we began Leg Two.
Turtle Bay to Santa Maria Bay – October 29, 2011 to October 31, 2011 (and October 31 and November 1 At Anchor):
The start was at 0800, and we sailed in light winds.  After hearing the radio chatter about the fish being caught by the rest of the fleet we were emboldened to attempt to catch something ourselves.  We used the gorgeous rod and reel given to us by our friend Martin Roysher, and the lure provided by Terry Heil.  And, almost immediately Rick caught a little mackerel.  Almost too little, but we decided that it was worth practicing our post-catch skills on.  After Molly and Corinne bludgeoned it to death, Corinne set about gutting and filleting it – no small feat given that this was done on the pitching deck of the boat (well, not that pitching as the winds were low – but a challenge nonetheless).  Molly tried to be helpful, but mostly got in the way of the filleting knife, scaring Corinne.  The deed was eventually done, resulting in a couple of tiny mackerel steaks, but engine difficulties intervened causing the fish to stay too long in the marinade, so we decided to dispose of it and call it a learning experience. 
The real fishing adventure was on day two.  Before you proceed, you may want to take the smaller children from the room, as some audience members may find the following picture disturbing.   
This time Corinne hooked a fish – this time a big Dorado!  It was ultimately measured at 42” – a creditable catch in anyone’s books, and a really big deal given that we are all relatively (some of us completely) clueless about fishing.  It did take us over an hour to land – everyone had a turn at tiring the beast out (and so that we would all feel responsible for its demise – sort of a On the Orient Express kind of thing) we were trying to play it ou t so that we wouldn’t have to chase it around the deck with our hammer (like we did the poor little mackerel).  This caused us to forget to take the requisite triumphant fisherperson picture, and we didn’t get a shot of it until it was well and truly gone. 

None of the gore and violence dissuaded us from enjoying a really delicious dinner of grilled fish!
We crossed the finish line for leg two at 00:55 and arrived in Bahia Santa Maria at 1500.  This was due to the engine not wanting to participate – thus we sailed much more of this relatively slow leg than we would otherwise have (more on the result of this later).
The party at Bahia Santa Maria was – as the Grand Pooba (the ring master of the HaHa) described it – “surreal”.  Bahia Santa Maria is a fishing camp with a couple of concrete buildings – period.  And from across the peninsula had come a band and several “Pacifico Cerveza” tents.  The meal was reminiscent of community fundraisers around the globe – a crew of cooks in one of the houses, others at the front door, and about 300 people being served fish and shrimp and rice.  Quite yummy fish and shrimp and rice, we might add (beats any jello salad dinner in any church basement in El Norte!). 

This is where the sunstroke event mentioned in an e-mail sent by Bryce took place:
“Safely in Cabo after 6.9 days of sailing (only 5% motoring) including lovely stops at downtown Turtle Bay and Sta Maria Bay, 4 parties, one sunstroke (Molly), 6 nights of sleep deprivation, three nights of noisiy Cabo San Lucas marina so far ,one diesel engine that quits mysteriously at random times (to be looked at by a real mechanic tomorrow), a 42 ½” Dorado/Mahi-Mahi/Dolfino fish (name varies depending on who you ask) one five star Mexican meal at Tres Hermanas prices, several dips in the Romano’s condo pool (they are here for the week – we call them our sailing groupies), numerous sailing adventure moments including a wild ride when our 140% genoa furler got fouled up and we had to spend the night running downwind in 25 kts of wind with way too much canvas up.  And last but not least: a first place finish in our division (the Ceviche division) which I can only believe is due to a programming error in the massive Cay computer aboard the fleet’s mother ship.  And I have the coveted lime green HaHa t-shirt to prove it!”
We have since had e-mails suggesting there was tequila involved, but the truth is that Molly wimped out behind two Pacifico beers, and not enough water.  She did provide a great deal of entertainment to everyone at the party and managed to meet a number of the medical professionals in the HaHa fleet.  Her word to the wise: if you’re in need to immediate attention, pay more attention to the paramedic or nurse than to the anesthesiologist (he was very thoughtful and kind to help, but his skill set isn’t what the sunstroke victim needs). 
After two nights at anchor in Bahia Santa Maria – off to Cabo San Lucas.
Santa Maria Bay to Cabo San Lucas – November 2, 2011 to November 4, 2011:
We sailed across the starting line for leg three at 0700.  This leg seemed really long – in part due to low winds, and the motor acting up – but also because we’d been at it for several days and were just tired.  We crossed the finish line for leg three on November 3 at 23:05.  Our motoring time for the entire trip was only 5.3% -- in large part due to the fact that the motor refused to cooperate much of the time, and when it did cooperate, it would do so for an indeterminable period of time.  But – we think this resulted in our grand victory!!  Abracadabra took first place at the Ceviche division for the 2011 HaHa!!!!  And we have the little wooden fish with a glued on ribbon to prove it.  Eat your hearts out, Ceviche division!
Our delayed arrival due to lack of motor caused us to miss the “We Cheated Death Once Again” party at Squid Roe in Cabo – but at our age we figure it was probably a good thing.  FYI, there were over three sailors on the HaHa over 80, and a number over 70.  Now that’s a goal! 
In Cabo – November 4 to Date: 
Our friends Bob and Kathy Romano came to greet us on the 5th – what a joy to have someone from “home” greet us.  Not to mention they were staying in a really nice condo with two-for-one happy hour every afternoon and a great pool.  But we digress.  Bob and Kathy took us to breakfast and welcomed us to Cabo. It was wonderful. 
Until they left us on Sunday, we hung out at their pool while not doing laundry or provisioning again.  We’re now left to scratch our heads about the engine problems.  A mechanic consult is scheduled for tomorrow morning.  So far – it remains a mystery.  And as we close in on the possibilities, they all seem extremely expensive and time consuming (somewhere close to a new fuel tank . . . or new fuel intake . . . ugh).  We are trying to keep focused that, though Cabo is a tourist pit – it’s warm and the food is tolerable (some, as Bryce said, is very good) and we’re here and not in the snow somewhere (recognizing as we do that some people actually like snow – but we generally are not among them). 
More on our progress in the future when we have something to report. 


  1. Great blog guys.....I am living vicariously through your stories. Imagine the oil derrick being named after me. Perhaps I should be changing my first name too..... hurricanes, derricks, what next?
    Loved the fish story but sorry to hear about Molly's sunstroke. I hope you are over it.
    All is good here in Sac, cool, cool fall weather and colors starting in earnest. Frank and I are heading down to SLO this weekend for Natalie's senior recital then we are off to Vancouver next weekend where we hope to catch up with your crew while staying with Bill and Lisa.

    We miss you, keep up the blog posts. Where can we send some more "huggies"?

  2. Nicely written blog. Wished we could be there to share your 47 lbs. dorado. May your engine come back alive and take you and your crew safely to Mazatlan.

  3. Wow! 4 weeks seems like such a long time! Just for fun I plotted your stops and the notable places you mentioned in your blog. It can be viewed here:
    Take care! ~Tara

  4. Molly and Brice, Hope the engine heals and you get to sail away. Love the blog. It is raining and cold in SF on this Veterans Day 11-11-11 (just so you know what you are missing). I wasn't on your email string, but got your info from Elaine. Please add me to your crew. Aloha, Mary

  5. Wow!! How did I manage to talk so much during our rendezvous in San Diego that I didn't know about your grand adventures getting there? I'm LOVING your blog and so glad you did it! VERY happy to know you are safe, albeit somewhat stranded, in Cabo! Think I'll go make a margarita to celebrate your Ceviche Class win of the HaHa!! That is indeed a feat! Ok- I'll try to go a sentence or two without an exclamation point... I must confess to wondering if the engine died as kharmic retribution for its frequent use on you trip south; isn't sailing about sails and wind? Hope it is resolved in good time... much love! -Lynn

  6. Anne Israel-ConnollyNovember 16, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Dear Molly and Bryce: Wow, you have already had quite the adventure...really liking the descriptions..dolphins, whales, birds fish and friends!
    Happy to hear you are being very cautious with the fog...sounds amazing. Back in Sacramento we plan a traditional Thanksgiving with famiy and friends. Dan Steward will be among us...
    Take Good Care and keep in touch!!!