Archive for September, 2009

Balloon Bay

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

This morning (Monday) we woke to find that a record number of balloons had washed into Albert Bay overnight.  All told, we counted three in the water and seven on the beach.

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Of the seven mornings we’ve been here, balloons have washed in on four of them, each in the early part of the week.  K’s theory is that they float in on the land breeze overnight after stupid balloon birthday parties on the weekend.  This may or may not be noteworthy to our favorite oceanographer, Curt Ebbesmeyer and his band of intrepid beachcombers, but we’ll make a report nonetheless. 

K gathered them all up and brought me a beach balloon bouquet. 

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(Here he thinks he looks like the famous “Crying Indian” enviro-mercial from the 70’s.)

Not to point fingers, but one was clearly labeled “Trader Joe’s.”  These Monday balloons joined those collected earlier this week (and the rest of our trash) in the anchor locker to await proper disposal.

That evening as we sailed for Catalina, we passed yet another seafaring balloon, probably on its way to a beach party at “Balloon Bay.”

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33°58.26′N 119°41.98′W 28-Sep-09 12:30 PDT

Albert Bay, Santa Cruz Isl

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Albert Bay has been home for almost a week. We anchored in the center of this idyllic bay with a two-point anchor spread to keep our head into the swell and we’ve seen no reason to leave.  We get a light east breeze during the day and at night, a delicious warm land breeze infused with sage, eucalyptus and occasionally skunk. The skunks are a mystery, maybe they fight on the beach after the bars let out. Its dark, I’m not checking.

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Half the time we’ve had the place to ourselves, the sole guests of our friends on the shallow kelp rocks two boat lengths astern.

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Without the ship’s naturalist we’re guessing at their names but…

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clearly a Bluefish

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in another ocean, we would have called this a Cow Nose Ray

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A sculpin-shaped rock imitator.

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A wee anemone in the holdfast of a kelp.

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Wee yellow schoolers in a kelp garden

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Wee yellowtailed blue schoolers in a kelp garden

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We know these as: Sardinyweenies

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Grunnions? Juvenile Sardinyweenies? Who knows?

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This nudibranch was searching for the seabush to his left  using his highly developed sense of chance…

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so that he could wreak havoc on its delicious soft coraline goodness, leaving a black trail of nudibranch death and carnage! If they only had better eyes these little blue and orange jellybellies would rule the world.

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Anemones with sand in their mouths. It must be awful.

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These characters had less of a school and more of a loose affiliation.

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It hasn’t always been sunny, but a bit of fog makes the hot days better.

33°58.30′N 119°42.00′W 25-Sep-09 20:30 PDT

Scorpion Bay, Santa Cruz Isl

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The northeast points of Santa Cruz Island erupted from the fog to show many fine anchorages and more sea caves than we could have imagined. This island is eaten up with caves.SanMiguelToSantaCruz 111

We picked up some crew for the weekend.

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There was much to see.

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We had other friends in the Santa Barbara Channel too.          

R/V Atlantis was conducting dives with Alvin near the Traffic Separation Zone.   I gave them a Glosten shout-out and they told me that they were having trouble with the number of humpbacks roving through their site.  While we chatted on the VHF two whales passed us by stern with a 100 ft CPA. Then the lad on the Atlantis bridge called me “Captain FitzGerald”, a very satisfying afternoon.

Then came the dolphins….

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It was a weekend of excellent parings, Bint al Khamseen  & R/V Atlantis, kids & dolphins, menfish & seacaves, sunsets with sweethearts & wives. SantaCruzIsland 006

34°02.80′N 119°32.80′W 22-Sep-09 20:30 PDT

Santa Cruz Island

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

We love Southern California! It’s finally warm enough to go snorkling (with a wetsuit), and I haven’t worn a fleece in days.

We spent a nearly sleepless Monday night rolling back and forth in Coches Prietos bay on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. So this morning, not very bright or early, we motored around the corner to pretty little Albert bay. After making our peace with a large underwater rock that lurked near the beach, we spent the afternoon snorkling, climbing the rocks along the shore, and doing a little beach cleanup. Most of the litter was styrofoam, but we also scored a few tennis balls, a couple of water bottles (recyclable), and a small wheel. There were balloons too, on the beach and floating in the water. Hold on tight to your balloons!

Posted via our SSB radio, we’ll post some pics when we get an internet connection.

33°58.24′N 119°41.96′W 22-Sep-09 22:18 UTC

Stink Blown Off Us

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When S was little her mom would tell the kids to go outside and get the stink blown off them. It won’t last, but for the moment Bint al Khamseen is 100 % stink free. I know this because we have 32 kts in the San Miguel anchorage and we just put out the #2 "sleeping anchor" so we can sleep without prairie dogging out the hatch every 30 minutes to see where we’ve dragged to.

The stink abatement began yesterday evening when we sailed into the dark night and left the daylight world of pleasure sailing. We entered a cold, wet and foggy night of high speed wave hurdling (and a little hurling) and marine freeway traffic avoidance.

We brought the wrong boat to the Santa Barbara Channel, we should have brought something with an electric coffee pot and a wheelhouse where you can steer in your PJs while a Red Dot heater blows on your feet. You can keep the fish but the wheelhouse would have been nice last night.

The upside? It was a curative overnighter for our homesickness over the Straits of Juan De Fuca in November. Bint al Khamseen is riding nicely but she wishes she had a scarf…

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San Miguel approach, after the wash but before the wind rinse and dry cycles.

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Hare Rock lurks before the island

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A pocket beach we did not visit, but would like to.

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The dunes of the cape.

34°03.18′N 120°21.42′W 16-Sep-09 20:30 PDT

So Beautiful it Hearsts

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

There are more bad Hearst puns than we ever imagined before we sailed into San Simeon Bay and anchored under the shadow of the Hearst Castle.

Now… who hasn’t wondered what would happen if you jammed your camera into an ocular on your binoculars?

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Ladies and Gentlemen… a Binocam view of Hearst Castle.

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San Simeon Bay. These Hearsts were no dummies when they picked their castle spot. We know nothing else about them.

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A rare clear view of California from the sea. So far, we see the coast about once every 500 nm of coastal sailing.

35°38.40′N 121°11.30′W 14-Sep-09 12:39 PDT

The Molinator

Monday, September 14th, 2009

We located a pair of Molas in the fog (no small feat, it was destiny).  We chased this Mola with the Yanmar in idle for quite some time over a distance of two boat lengths. It was like a sack race at Sloth Elementary. In fact juvenile Molas often compete in the same aquatic division with SE and have made it to the regional’s more than once (we’ve had to make up this story and others since we lost the Ship’s Naturalist).

Our Mola made a subtle escape at full Sunfish throttle.  Only his wide eye betrayed his attempt at evasion. We tried not to run over him.

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We answered a long debated question; what does a Sunfish do in the fog? It turns out they do the same things but with less enthusiasm. Its the same for us.   For most of Saturday, this was all we could see.

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Later we sailed through a pod of fog whales. We heard them through the hull. They told us things we could not understand.

37°19.50′N 122°37.60′W 13-Sep-09 12:00 PDT

Sausalito, Last Stop in the Bay

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Sausalito was good to us. For a week we avoided it for its upper crust reputation but we were well served with laundry, marine parts, and provisioning.

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We bought a tomato the size of K’s head (kind of medium large for a tomato) and he took a self portrait (K, not the tomato).

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SF in the fog and the Sausalito ferry dock.


A rig check before we head offshore. Thanks Momo!

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The view from the top.

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Hmmm, that’s one foggy, high-traffic channel.

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We had to use all our tricks to get past the bridge and across the Traffic Separation Scheme without bonking into anything. We found a hole in the shipping traffic and eased across at a blistering 5 kts.

The two towers of the Golden Gate called out their presence in the fog, one a deep baritone (LeavingSF.mp3), the other a higher tenor. We were grateful they kept calling to each other as we blindly groped our way under the bridge. The only stress after that was avoiding a USCG patrol boat doing important donuts in the fog at 20 kts.

37°51.47′N 122°28.64′W 13-Sep-09 08:00 PDT

Favorite Boats, Part II

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

The best part about collecting favorite boats is that it is a life long pursuit on a never ending waterfront of weird and wonderful vessels. Today I found two more.


Someone in Sausalito has converted this retired US Army Balloon Barge (that’s right, Balloon Barge) into a fantastic live aboard. This is just the thing I’m always trying to talk P Smith into. Who knew the army flew barrage balloons from barges? And that they make such great floating homes?


Age of Russia was a failed attempt to enter a Russian competitor in the 1992 Americas Cup Race. They were not a recognized national competitor but flew their boat to San Diego anyway (even though it was returned once for $150k unpaid postage) and commenced a turf battle with the recognized Russian syndicate, Red Star’92 (who didn’t have a boat). Neither ever raced.


Continuing on the theme of decay and beauty, this little house barge was clearly the work of a craftsman. It was sunk and beyond salvage in a small creek on Texada Island in British Columbia. (Photo credit to A, Ship’s Naturalist).


Finally, a project that may have never ended. I used to drive past this thing between New Orleans and Morgan City. Note to self: Never build your ark within view of a major highway, you’ll spend all your time making angry signs.

Treasure Island

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

We concluded an unexpectedly delightful holiday weekend at the Treasure Island Yacht Club, marked by unwarranted hospitality and endless offers of logistical support, and hamburgers. Never met a group working harder to have fun and entertain visiting sailors.


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John; Treasure Island YC roving ambassador and recruitment specialist on his way through the anchorage.


Can’t avoid one more update on the Bay Bridge span replacement with a view from the USCG Vessel Traffic Service station on top of Yerba Buena Island. The new span was in place and the old span was slid out of the way, but they found a huge crack in the clevis of a tension member in the truss section that extended the closure by a day. 

37°48.90′N 122°22.00′W   07-Sep-09 21:39 PDT