Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sleepless Nights

Do you know what it feels like to be sea-sick in your sleep? Because I do.

Adam and I have finally departed Santa Barbara after being able to spend time with my Grandma and Great Uncle, who live there permanently, as well as two of my uncles, my Dad and his wife Jane.  Everyone traveled in for an extended birthday party and bon voyage.  We also accomplished quite a few of what Adam calls “capital improvement projects.”  He says that soon we will be moving from the “capital improvement phase” to the “preventative and reactive maintenance phase.” Joy of joys.  Still, I have to say that after three (make that 20+) years of brain-intensive work, the novelty of hard physical labor every day has not yet warn off.  We rise with the sun, work hard all day, go to bed with the sun and sleep soundly. 

Well, sometimes it is less soundly than we would like.  Tied up in a nice no-wake marina makes Moments a pretty cozy home, but at anchor we constantly fret about whether the anchor is dragging or not.  I am sure our nerves will continue to be more at ease as we gain experience anchoring Moments.  Or at least I hope this is true because our marina budget is almost maxed out after the trip down the coast!  Currently, we make sure the anchor is holding by leaving the chart plotter on most of the night so that we can see the arc of our swing on the rode (anchor chain).  This is not a great solution as it uses so much of the precious energy we have stored in our batteries.  Currently, I write to you while on my anchor watch shift here in beautiful East Fish Camp anchorage on the southern side of Anacapa Island.  Anchor watch is not a super sleep-friendly option but saves energy and calms Adam’s nerves enough that he can sleep and not walk around like a zombie (a very grumpy zombie) the next day.  Tonight, all is calm; there is a nice breeze blowing in, just enough for the turbine to give the batteries a little juice, and the rolling swell is barely noticeable.  Then there are nights like last night.

We are still not sure what happened, but from what we can put together it seems like the Santa Anna winds blew in across Santa Cruz Island last night at about 2-3AM.  The Santa Anna’s are notorious, warm, strong winds that blow in from the northeast with very little warning.  They are often responsible for the spreading of wildfires throughout southern California.  Yesterday we had a beautiful ride from Santa Barbara during which we saw (not exaggerating) hundreds of dolphins, some that even raced the bow of our boat!  We got to Santa Cruz Island at twilight and decided to stay for the evening rather than continue the passage to Anacapa.  Along with a few other boats, we dropped our hook at Yellow Banks Anchorage where the boat was not motionless by any account, but there was adequate protection from the northern swell.  We had plenty of room to move, even if the anchor began to drag, so we turned on an alarm on the chart plotter, checked the forecast and went to sleep.  I am not sure when it really started to roll, but I do remember waking up nauseous, hardly able to walk down the boat due to the roll and before long I was tossing my cookies overboard.  After significant teamwork and getting soaked by more than a few waves we made it to our sheltered little cove on Anacapa just in time for the winds to die down. We spent the rest of the afternoon at anchor napping and drying our clothes on the rigging.

We definitely learned some things from our experience this morning, and I became much more comfortable and confident at taking the helm during rough conditions.  Still, what I keep being reminded of every time we are sailing is how the ocean is truly amazing.  From the dolphins, turtles, seals and sea lions we have seen, to the fish I dream about catching, to the wind and waves of this morning and then finally the calm rocking this afternoon amongst 30-foot-tall kelp stalks in crystal clear water.  Too bad it is so cold or I would pull on my snorkel gear and go hang with the fishes.

My watch is up and it is my turn to sleep. On to Catalina tomorrow and Newport Beach the next day!  More to come.

BTW I have received many helpful messages letting me know that it is difficult to comment on the blog.  This problem should be fixed, but if you are willing give it a try so that I know you all are out there reading.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bimini Cricket

What an amazing two weeks it has been!  Since my arrival in Santa Barbara, Adam and I have done a little traveling, some socializing and lots and lots of boat work. So goes the life of a boat owner. Actually, one of the more candid books I have read about the cruising life defined cruising as the art of doing boat repairs in exotic locations. Luckily the majority of our projects have been related to improvement rather than repair.  Still, we are currently stocking up on extra engine parts and reading (tantalizing, I assure you) instruction manuals for the many devices on the boat.  While Adam puts those rock climbing skills to work and shimmies his way up the mast for rigging and electrical work I have been rather domestic. Aside from freakishly organizing the entire boat into a series of labeled Ziploc bags, and becoming acquainted with our Fisher-Price-sized kitchen my big project of the past few weeks was to create a sun-shade, or bimini, for the cockpit of the boat.
Rachel sewing by headlamp
The trip down from Seattle was not particularly sunny, but for where we are headed a bimini may help us to avoid looking like lobsters.  Due to the 24/7 exposure to UV radiation, most boat canvas is made of a special material called Sunbrella.  This synthetic fabric with individually died threads has the advantage of not decomposing or fading in the sun but it also carries a hefty price tag. Hiring someone to do the canvas work for us was definitely out of the budget.  Frankly, hiring anyone to do anything for us is out of the budget.  Luckily, I have been stitching away since I was old enough to see over the machine while sitting on two phone books. However, as I learned in July while doing some sail repairs, my Mom's Singer is far tamer than the industrial beasts required for heavy duty work.  It is as if you had learned to ride on a Shetland pony and then you drew the baddest bronc at the rodeo.

Another obstacle was that I had never sewn something this large without a pattern.  Sure, the Bennie Baby sleeping bag (there may have been multiple) I constructed as a middle schooler was nothing short of a work of art, but for the bimini we are talking about a much larger scale.  We soon came up with the brilliant idea of stitching together two bed sheets to make a pattern of our own.  This was a much larger production than it sounds due to the fact that without a canvas cover holding them together, the bows of the bimini are free to move and fold as they will.  After expending an entire role of masking tape to stretch the sheets into place I drew the desired outline of our bimini.  A fool proof plan if I ever saw one! Pattern in hand, Adam and I zipped around downtown Santa Barbara on our folding bikes to order the canvas before we left the harbor to anchor for a few days off the beach.  More on this experience later.

When your home constantly moves, and has no flat surface larger than about three feet square, it is not exactly conducive to large sewing projects.  You have to get creative.  My creativity led me to the local carousel where there are large areas of semi-covered concrete on which I could spread out to cut the final pieces of precious Sunbrella. In the end, the pattern ended up looking more like an overgrown, oblong amoeba than any bimini I would want to sit under.  After many renditions of the fabric wrapping exercise discussed above we eventually got the correct shape, despite the fact that we were now anchored and the boat was actively rolling. (Not so good for sleeping either...)

Bobbin-eyed from too much sewing...

To make a long story short, with lots of help and patience from Adam, car rides and phone calls from my Grandmother, Rob at Bob's Canvas and a wonderful man named Grant House at Grant House Sewing Machines I was able to construct a bimini that we have now been enjoying for a week.
Moments has a new hat!
Today Adam told me we will have to cut some holes in the back in order to mount the solar panel.  Alas.....

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Francisco Arrival

Written September 3, 2013...posted a bit later...

All smiles on Moments as our team of four crossed under a socked in Golden Gate Bridge after an exciting run from the sunny Eureka, CA. This is the milestone I've (Adam finally blogs!) been waiting for since months back, signifying a trustworthy boat, a capable crew and, well - whether this year off sailing plan will actually work. Looks like it will!

A quick recap: Left Seattle Aug 11 for Port Townsend. Then to Port Angeles, Neah Bay, Westport, Newport, Eureka and San Francisco Aug 28. Justin Cherniak anchored the team through the full route, with Nathan Nelson and Claire Leake keeping watches f rom Seattle to Newport tagging out to Bryan Reeves and Kristin Saunders for the run to SF. Big thanks to the crew for making it a fun and safe trip through some gnarly waters, for your patience waiting for weather and hard work on various boat projects along the way! We did it!

Bye Claire and Nathan! (Justin - Moments is not through with you yet!) Newport, OR

Welcome to the party Kristin and Bryan!
So, how 'bout that exciting run from Eureka? First, man…it felt good to pull into Eureka. After another foggy battle dodging F/Vs (fishing vessels) crossing the coastal bar, the sun burnt through revealing a blue sky and that which we'd craved for days - warmth! We didn't mind doing a few laps in the harbor in search of the diesel dock as many layers of foulie begged to be shed to reveal what I can at least admit to is some serious NW Dweller ghost-pale epidermis (med student please assess appropriate usage). After a couple nights on the water swapping 3-4 hour shifts, some serious napping was due and achieved in the CA sun. However, with fair winds in the forecast, after some rest and check-ins with the usual stakeholders (Hi Mom! Hi Rachel!), we were back off to sea, racing an impressive Humboldt State University research vessel between the red and greens (that’s the buoys on the way out the harbor).

I mentioned fair winds, but alas, they did not blow our way until some hopeful sail trimming followed by concurrent grumbling by both our crew and diesel engine. Rounding Cape Mendocino, known for its propensity to blow, we caught comfortable North winds for a wing-on-wing downwind run for the record books highlighted by a respectable appearance by The Flasher (our scandalously named asymmetrical spinnaker - thanks for your mid-80s creativity, UK Sails) and an awe-inspiring dance through a pod of about 15 tail-wagging and puff-breathing (insert marine biology-speak here) whales. This experience was exactly what these cruising trips should be about.

Kristin and full sails looking good!
The pure bliss ended rapidly (as I'm learning things usually do out there) with a casual comment, "Do you think it looks like some fog is rolling in soon?”, followed by Mother Nature's confirmation and accompanying blow/reef/radar fixation (Meaning the fog rolled in, the wind picked up so much we had to reduce our boat’s sail area, and then our only eyes were through the lens of green, yellow, and in the worst case red blobs on our chartplotter's radar screen – video games!). These exciting moments get the adrenaline going, but luckily have so far ended in "Well, that wasn't so bad...". However, for the other sailboat off in the distance, it was a bit worse…

Foreground: California - Background: Oregon & Washington

Turtle Circus (boat name changed to protect anonymity) hailed us on the radio, a bit frantically, inquiring whether we had successfully handled the prior blow. While the mood was quite calm on Moments without too much of the usual chaos, this other vessel had apparently almost suffered a knock down (top of mast touches water!) and was quite alarmed. They must have had it worse than us or were pleasantly asleep down below when the wind unexpectedly piped up. After a bit of conversation with the other boat - a bit of a rare treat out there amongst many hours of empty waters - both vessels continued onward until nightfall.

Just as our team's night watch was about to come on deck, the United States Coast Guard Sector XYZ, United States Coast Guard Sector XYZ, United States Coast Guard Sector XYZ (they always repeat that jumble three times making them professional tongue twisters) came on the radio alerting mariners to "extraordinary endangered whale populations" sighted in the area - proceed with caution! Just as the message ended with "United States Coast Guard Sector XYZ - Out" one of said beasts exhaled full lungs within what was (perhaps exaggerated) 200 feet of the boat. Regardless of true range to the animal, we learned that the announcement was perhaps better left unsaid, as a whale collision occupied our tired minds throughout the course of that night. The unfortunate bit was, we later heard that a sailing vessel was disabled in the area that night due to a "collision with a submerged object" (we decided it had to have been a whale). Poor Turtle Circus…

Whale vs. Turtle Circus
So, after all that excitement, we had to get under the big bridge at some point. I can verify that the Pacific Ocean must be pretty darn big, because we waited and waited and waited as the miles racked up in the dark approaching the Golden Gate which seemed so increasingly close but not quite there. Bryan and I battled the sail trim for some time that night, until we finally pronounced the wind "dead". Once again we elected forward progress over the wave bobbing alternative, so Moments trusty, shiny, brand-spanking-new Yanmar stinkpot (what the cool sailing kids call an engine) grumbled to life, just in time for the San Francisco Vessel Transit System (where the shipping vessels prevail over whale sightings) to heat up. Then we got attacked by pirates...


Well, we never quite figured out what "it" was, but it was described by the crew as an Inhuman Drone Pirate (IDP) determined to prevent our entrance without folly into the thriving Northern California metropolis. Like all alarming middle-of-night other-boat encounters, the IDP appeared first not by a convenient electronically-named triangle with speed, heading, and destination information (Google "AIS" to learn about my favorite new toy I've installed on the boat), but as an intermittent green to yellow to red blob on our not-quite-military-grade radar display (combined with our not-quite-military-grade radar interpretation skills). These blobs could be boats or land or buoys (avoid hitting those!) or they could be patches of dense fog or rain (try desperately to avoid those and panic when it's impossible while praying to your maker as doom by massive tanker collision is clearly imminent...then just get wet[ter]) depending on your state of mind, lack of skill at radar tuning, and maybe what is actually out there. So, we tried to avoid as usual, going likely ridiculously far off our course as a 6-mile radar range seems much closer on a tiny screen than in reality. However, this time, our yet to be identified bogey seemed to be...following us! In fact, it truly was following us, which was clear by the time we'd changed course a few times in effort to lose them. Well, the impending doom feeling started to kick in again, so we flipped through the usual VHF channels announcing our intentions not be followed and run over. Without any reply, the battle continued, until through the fog the perpetrator first showed his “face”.

Typically, “faces” out there have a standardized pattern of navigation lights that identify what they are and where they're going. The ones coming at you (aka following you like an inhuman drone) show off Christmas lights (that's red and green side lights with a white angel on top of the tree - two angels?'re that much closer to heaven or the opposite because that is a REALLY big boat coming at you!). However, the new friend we were making did not play by the rules, was less festive than St. Nick without any red or green side lights, and was persistent in his (most boats are "hers", but I seem to have fallen into "his", likely since I've never met a woman this fierce) use of two one-billion-candle-power, in-your-face spotlights. As the vessel approached rapidly, and our forearms grew increasingly tired from pumping up the rechargeable, delightfully eco-friendly, but utterly impractical West Marine Eco Air Horn (please don't ever buy one and invent something better – should I still link to Pay-Per-Click?), our final resort was to fight fire with retina-burning fire. So, we pulled out our one billion divided by close-to-equally large number candle power, Stoneway Hardware (shout-out!) special spotlight, and fired away the universally accepted "for the love of God please don't run us over" five short flashes. Over and over again…

Well, we lived to tell the tale, as you might imagine, so the way that wrapped up is that we flashed 'em four or five times like that and they eventually beared away, but they got pretty (expletive) close. A few more shout-outs based on the experience: GreenPeace - chill out about those whales. Clearly there were plenty that day and that is our mast, not a harpoon. I consider it unjust vessel profiling if you're coming at us just because another sailboat (Turtle Circus!) went out and keel-punched some blubber-back that day. That's only legal in Arizona. (Shout out to the recently engaged Ashley/Eric combo! Congrats!) Obama - sure, fine, test those new drones all you want, but please put nav lights on them so we at least have a fighting chance to outrun them at our blazing 6 knots. Poseidon - if you're going to take us, please send the Kraken (I mean Beast-that-shall-not-be-named) to devour us in our entirety and instantly from below as the whole chase scene scenario was really stressful there for a few minutes.

To cap off this post – we survived the Eureka Desert sun (scary for the Seattleites [and Riddick BTW – donations being accepted in order for me to see the new movie!]), whales and inhuman drone pirates so far and the only thing left was the…you guessed it…San Francisco Fog. Pshhh…fog…this crew sailed from Seattle 75% of the time in the fog – ain’t no thang. So, no worries, we were ready for that, but what gives – we barely got to see the Bridge, even from directly below it. Oh well, it was a bit eerie which was cool, but we made it, there was much rejoicing (un-enthusiastic “yaaaay” a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail). To Berkeley Marina!
Appropriate arrival.

Sea Bear, The IT Guy, Raccoon Eyes

The Architect and The Bridge

I’m tired – to be continued, along with news of where we are actually at now a month later (hint…sunnier!).


Berkeley Sun!

Land Ho!

Another long overdue post of Claire's thoughts during the Seattle, WA to Newport, OR leg. - Adam

We arrived in Newport! I've(Claire) been wanting to visit the aquarium in Newport since moving to Oregon four years ago.  It's about a 2 hour drive from Portland and I finally get here after sailing for 2 weeks....go figure.  Thanks to Rachel's advice this leg went much better.  I didn't get sick because I didn't take Dramamine after finding out it interacts with some medication I take.  We sailed 30 hours from Westport to Newport. We just returned from dinner where I ordered an appetizer, dinner, and dessert!  I am relatively exhausted after five shifts of 3 hours, but am still not ready to go to sleep and have the whole trip end.  The weather mostly cooperated.  Northwest winds in the beginning allowed us to head wing on wing downwind for 15 or so hours.  The waves were a little wild, some wanting to jump in the boat.  The wind switched south in the afternoon and then died, so we had to motor the last few hours.  Adam tried to fish for tuna and caught a seagull instead - oops (Adam notes that the seagull was set free and appeared to be in good condition - a relief as killing a gull at sea is bad juju given they house the souls of sailors lost at sea).  Kristin and Bryan (crew for the Newport, OR to San Francisco, CA leg) took the train and a bus from San Francisco. They are the next set to make the trek.  We are currently having fun drinking dark and stormies and getting to know each other.   

(crew from Seattle, WA to Newport, OR)

Nathan getting his morning coffee or breakfast dark 'n stormy (?) in the appropriate Lake Mendota mug (all 4 of us met sailing on this lake in Madison, WI). (Photo courtesy of Moments #1 crew member, Justin Cherniak, appropriately dressed for the chilly Pacific Northwest ocean weather - see below Nathan's photo)

Lessons Learned in Port

A long overdue post of Claire's thoughts during the Seattle, WA to Newport, OR leg. - Adam

September 2, 2013

It's Claire again, what, you say, is she still doing on this boat? It is a great question and the impetus for this post on a lesson learned from sailing, patience.   We have been stuck in Westport, WA going on four days now.  We theoretically plan to leave tomorrow, but only time will tell. We arrived in Westport and thought the winds were going to shift the next day, but Mother Nature had a different idea.  She threw in a gale down south where we need to go and so we have stayed.  The interesting thing about sailing the Pacific Coast is that there are not a lot of places to pull out.  There are marinas from here to Newport, but all the guidebooks say entering them is treacherous on a good day and so once we leave we need to be able to sail 20 or so plus hours to Newport because there is really nowhere to go if the weather gets bad. And so we have waited for Mother Nature to give us the right conditions.  Of course we would all like to be sailing rather than stuck at the marina.  We thought we were going to be in Newport last Sunday, but that just wasn't in the cards.  So when sailing, one has to be flexible and patient in order to be safe.  We have spent the last few days reading and doing boat projects.  Adam just finished installing a new chart light and re-gooped (technical I know) a whole bunch of things we thought leaked in our first leg out a sea.   The bright side of being stuck in port is that you get to explore a town you might not ever had considered visiting.  Nathan and I walked to the lighthouse today and then to the grocery store. On way back we found a local brewery and came back with a growler (another plus to being stuck, we can go ahead and imbibe a bit).  And so we hope that our wait was worthwhile.  Two boats left yesterday which made us doubt our plans, but then we heard a few calls over the radio for help and we decided we had made the right choice.  Good things come to those who wait, right?

Once out on the water you are at the mercy of the wind, waves, and current and can only go as fast as these forces allow.  Again one has to be patient, you can calculate that the trip should only take 20 hours, but it very well could take 30. There are so many charts and reports to read to help you predict, but at the end of the day, these are all still predictions.  I think it is much easier to be patient and flexible when you are not working. Nathan and I had planned to be on our way to Glacier at this point, but it's just not going to work.  There is nothing we can do about it, so no need to be angry or mad, because it just is.  Justin, on the other hand, has a deadline, so has been concerned about our slow progress. He has, however, thanks to the interwebs, been able to get some work in.  

The second lesson I have learned is that it is possible for a girl and three boys to live on a 36-foot boat.  Things are tight, but we make it work. Adam sleeps where we eat.  Nathan and I have to move loads of things in and out of the v- berth daily as it serves as our sleeping quarters at night, but storage for lots of random things during the day.  Things on the boat serve multiple purposes. For example, I just used the stovetop toaster to steam green beans tonight.  We have a composting toilet that requires quite a bit of attention when you have four people using it pretty consistently and only one cook can be in the kitchen at a time without bumping butts. But it works.  All of Adam’s possessions are on this boat and we have stuffed our few in the cracks.  It turns out you don't need a whole lot. I mean we all know this, right? But it is not until you live on a 36ft boat (or a cabin in the woods as Nathan and I did our first year in Portland together) that you actually really think about what you need.  It makes me think about our trip to Utah earlier this summer.  When Nathan and I were in Arches National Park, we saw an old house built by a civil war veteran and lived in for about a decade with his son, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.  The building was literally the size of our kitchen and I thought, how did they do it? Now, I sort of understand it all.  If that is what you have then you make do. And so I guess I will try to keep this all in mind when I think about what I "need" and what I "really need."


(crew from Seattle, WA to Newport, OR)

Claire and Nathan rewarded while patiently waiting for wind. (Photo courtesy of Moments #1 crew member, Justin Cherniak)