US Pacific West Coast

Our Position as of December 25, 2003

Lat 32 42.59N Lon 117 14.08W


Click on red city names below to view photos of that area

     Our planned departure from Nanaimo, B.C. on the 30th August, is the only thing that has gone to plan so far!  We spent the first week harbour-hopping in the sunshine and promptly bumped into winter as soon as we approached Juan de Fuca Straight.

Our delays started almost immediately as we tried to leave Port Renfrew to round Cape Flattery.  We had already decided the weather was not favorable to visit the Broken Group of Islands, and so waited for the best weather window to cast off directly into the Pacific.  What should have taken half a day to sail around Cape Flattery, turned into several tacks, making little ground, across the straight.  As dark fell, the wind had already started to pick up considerably and the seas had turned into confused, sharp-peaked, heavy swells.  As the wind continued to gust up to 35 knots, we were still trying to clear Duncan Rock, off Tatoosh Island and avoid a slow log boom, which was obviously having difficulties against the swells and wind.  As we were contemplating another tack, we heard a loud bang and squinted in the dark to see a large sea-kelp bed which sheared off a part of our wind vane system.  This made the decision for us, and we tacked again to put the wind behind us and head for Neah Bay.

A shaken crew finally dropped anchor at midnight and collapsed into bed with the wind still howling in the Bay.  We spent the next week here, trying to locate spare parts (the kelp had sheared off the break-off bolts, saving the gear but leaving us with the problem of replacing them) and finally jury-rigged the vane and headed for Westport, where a machine shop was reported.

Westport was a delightful town, the machine shop in Aberdeen happily fashioned the specialized bolts for the bargain price of $130 US, and we spent a wonderful week exploring the amazing surfing beaches, whilst waiting.

These delays were eating into the end of summer and the weather windows seemed smaller already.  We decided to harbour hop the rest of the way once we heard news of the hurricane that had just hit Mexico, and so set off for Newport as soon as the weather permitted.



We only spent a day in Newport, since the weather was good, and headed out for Coos Bay with a bright blue sky and the wind behind us.  After only a few hours of delightful sailing, we were in a fog bank which stayed with us all night.  As morning approached Greg reported a boat on the radar which was taking a long time to pass, and although it passed within a quarter of a mile, we saw no sign through the thick fog.  Shortly after this we lost all forward transmission and we had slowed to 1.5 kts in a very light wind.  Further investigation showed that we had a big problem with our transmission and we were ghosting in very light winds 8 miles from Coos Bay.  As the winds got lighter, we put out more sail, but eventually slowed to less than a knot.  We informed the coast guard of our situation and they checked on our progress on an hourly basis.  We were obviously not going to make the bar crossing before the ebb, and so the Coast-guard decided to come out and tow us the last 3 miles.  We had only made 4 miles in the last 6 hrs and I guess the coast-guard was getting pretty bored watching us!

After removing the transmission and delivering it to a mechanic and then finding out it would cost almost as much to repair as to buy a new one, we installed the new transmission and waited for the weather to clear. More than three weeks later we are finally on the way south again with a three day weather window.

Arrived at Fort Bragg, Noyo Bay, California at 0700hrs Tuesday morning and very tired we were too. We had large swells from the NW for the whole 48 hour trip and good choppy waves from the NE which made it a difficult sail as the swells would tend to twist us sideways and often the wind was just too light to steady us. We ended up corkscrewing our way down the coast.

Most of the sail down was on the staysail alone as a good blow off
Cape Blanco had us haul the reefed main down before dark. Rounding Blanco was a relatively easy enough task and the weather was clear and sunny with good views of the coast from about 3 to 5 mile out.

We began to go around
Cape Mendocino just before daylight failed us and it felt good to be leaving this cape behind as night fell. At about 8pm as we were inside taking turns napping with our auto pilot steering the boat quite nicely and the engine giving us a little push to help the staysail run Seafire along at around 6 knots when we experienced some real heavy slewing. We popped our heads out into the dark to look up at huge seas on the stern and blasts of sea spray in our faces. The auto pilot was beeping furiously and the boat was slewing off course towards land and presenting the hull to large seas. The increased wind was overpowering both our staysail and autopilot so I jumped on the tiller and steered us through hull speeds up to 8 knots. We finally decided that with me on the tiller Julie would have to crawl back to the stern and engage our windvane which could steer much better than I in the dark. With it being so black out I could not keep us perfectly stern on the swells so we would occasionally slew wildly sideways and we feared a broach. With the windvane on line things immediately got better as Seafire steered herself a perfect coarse down wind. After a couple or hours the wind that had accelerated around Mendocino slacked and the waves that had steeped on the shoals subsided and left us once again with only the light NE wind and NW swells.

Daylight saw us through an easy entrance on a low slack tide and grateful for a rest. We have been unable to anchor here and the slip we have is costing us $18 a night. It looks like we are the only cruising boat in the whole Noyo river basin the rest is all commercial. Hopefully we can get out again soon but are truly glad we are here now because the seas out there were absolutely spectacular yesterday and the wind was awe inspiring.

After spending four nights and way too much money at the commercial boat basin docks we decided to carefully map the waters of the river channel just outside the basin breakwater. It turned out that the depths were just enough for Seafire if we stayed very close to the river bank and dropped an anchor both fore and aft to keep us pointed upstream. After a very peaceful three more days at anchor and lots of spectacular walks along the rocky and wild coastline we finally got another weather window and jumped at it.

Bodega Bay, central California is now our home port after an overnight and uneventful trip in moderate seas. The scenery has changed dramatically with golden grassy and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Once again we have met some wonderful people and have been taken home for dinner and driven around for provisioning. I really can't say enough about the people we have met and how friendly and helpful everyone has been all the way from Washington to California.

Bodega Bay is an important marine and bird sanctuary and we have seen tons of new and interesting species. Our bird highlight of the day was spotting a flock of huge White Pelicans preening themselves on the beach. These birds are much larger than the Brown Pelicans, with wing spans of up to five feet. Yesterday took Julie and I on a fabulous trip starting at Bodega Head trail up the coast through grass covered dunes rife with deer and skunks and so many new kinds of grasses, bushes and trees. This area is one of the most beautiful we've experienced.

Anchored at the head of Bodega Bay was very pleasant until some stormy weather whipped up the bay and things got a little hairy as our anchor began to drag, with no room to let out more chain we had to pull it up and head into the Marina for a couple of days. Spud Point Marina is very clean and modern with good facilities and a charge of $20 a night for up to 50ft vessels. The weather is calming down enough for us to drop the anchor again and wait out in the bay for the weather to improve enough for the next jump south.

The day trip down the coast to Half Moon Bay was uneventful other than being very rolly as the swells were up to about ten feet. Seafire rolled most of the trip down even with the main up and the motor pushing us south at about 5 knots. Light winds and clear sunny skies were the order of the day. Spotted some grey whales in San Francisco Bay and had a bunch of porpoise buzz us a couple of times. Dropped anchor just behind the first breakwater in Piller Point Marina but outside the marina breakwater. Good holding ground with lots of room for many boats. Not much to see and do at this marina situated in El Granada but a short bus trip to Half Moon Bay five miles south takes you to a very well looked after heritage town of beautiful buildings and shops. Another side trip on one bus, a train, a streetcar and a cable car took Julie and I to San Francisco for a fantastic day of sightseeing. This truly is a city for the tourist with so much gorgeous architecture and scenery. Last night in the anchorage at Pillar Point Marina we stayed awake all night with gusts of wind up to 30 knots blowing Seafire back and forth and straining hard on our anchor chain. Next morning as we sat with our coffees in hand a glance out the porthole alerted me that Seafire was dragging. We narrowly missed a collision with floating bait dock and pulled the anchor to find somebody's roped tangled up in our anchoring gear. After re-anchoring in a new location with more scope  we rode out the winds and later that afternoon were able to once again leave the boat for some more exploring.

A short day trip of 10 hours took us on to Santa Cruz where we anchored off a shallow sandy beach with an amusement park at the head, very pretty spot with a large dock sporting many restaurants and a casino. Next morning we promptly pulled anchor and proceeded south to Monterey just 20 miles away. No protected anchorage is possible here so we have had to once again spend precious money in a marina at $18 a day. Monterey is one of the most interesting cities so far that Julie and I have been to. The city boasts may historical museums depicting the Mexican history of the area and all the buildings are well maintained in original states. The people of Monterey have been very friendly and helpful and the marina is top notch with all facilities excellently maintained. During the summer months anchorage is possible outside the breakwater and buoys are available as well.

At the first opportunity, we left for Morro Bay, departing at 2.00p.m. and making excellent time for a morning arrival.    An easy bar entrance and  a sheltered anchorage awaited us.  Morro Rock is a dominant peak 580ft high, which was once underground, until volcanic activity changed the shape of the land and created an island.   Today it forms one wall of the breakwater to the north,  the extensive sand dunes giving shelter from the west and south and providing many hours of hiking entertainment.  The estuary formed by the breakwater and Morro rock is a protected park and attracts many birds to the wetlands.  This pretty tourist town has many sights to the delight the eye.

We spent two delightful weeks at Morro Bay and had plenty of side excursions, thanks to Claire Butler, a friend of Julie's who she met in Malaysia and grew up in Morro Bay.  We waited for a good weather window to go around Point Conception and set off with the intention of sailing directly for San Diego, if the weather remained good.  We had a fantastic trip with the swell starting around 9ft, but with a long period, so it was quite comfortable.  As we rounded Conception, and into the  Santa Barbara Channel, the swell reduced drastically and we had a really great ride, with warmer temperatures (I mean it wasn't freezing on night watch, but you still needed your long johns!).  Things got a little hectic as we crossed the busy Los Angeles shipping lanes at night time, but apart from that, a great trip with lots to see (our first oil rigs, our first large dolphin display and the Disney fireworks, to name a few!)  As we saw San Diego entrance buoy, a storm front approached, and we just beat it to the public dock, making our timing near perfect.   Our friends we met in Morro Bay, Bob and Doreen aboard Scottish Mist, were waiting to take our ropes, so despite a strong wind, we happily docked with no problems.  We spent 5 days at the public dock for $10 a day, and took the opportunity to top up with water ready for our Mexico departure.

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