Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Oh geez, try and keep up now

Not all of our days are sunny. This, of course, applies to everyone, everywhere, but it seems to be so cut and dry out here on this adventure that it sort of makes you feel like you're losing your mind.

As I look back over my journals from our four days at Redondo Beach one day it sounds like life is perfection. Swim suits, yoga, craft projects, joy and sunshine. The next it sounds like the end of the world. Stress and fighting and crying and no place at the inn for ol' Malabar. Seriously, it is exhausting being me sometimes. Just imagine how poor Keegan feels!

But, this is life! This is change and growing pains are lame, but necessary!

The great news is that I think we've had a real mental breakthrough about this whole cruising lifestyle thing. Here is it, straight from the journal:

We had a great breakthrough the night before leaving King Harbor. Up to this point in our sailing careers it has been all about the actual act of sailing. We took sailing classes, sailed every weekend, practiced, practiced, practiced.

But cruising, it seems, is all about the destination. Enjoy the Journey - Yes, if you can, but don't count on your good memories coming from your journey, but from the destiation. Sailing is often stressful and laborious and boring, but it takes you to many beautiful places that you would never otherwise get to visit.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love our boat, our home and this realization doesn't make us regret anything. But, it has caused a very real shift in mentality, allowing us both to approach travel days and non-travel days in a much more positive light.

Enjoy the Journey. Sure! But it's more about appreciating the journey because of where it is taking you.
I feel a huge sense of freedom with my new mentality about our jouneys. It is making every day more enjoyable and less stressful.

Watch out we come!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Redondo Beach

Yesterday we made our way from Marina del Rey to Redondo Beach and King Harbor. A short 8 mile jump down the coast, we waited until 11am to depart in the hopes of catching some of the forecasted afternoon winds.

We bobbed outside of MDR's breakwater for about 90 minutes before the small gusts that kept giving us hope turned off completely.

The motor to King Harbor was uneventful with one exception. We saw our first pair of bottle nosed dolphins! Up to this point we've only seen the common and the Russo dolphin. I was so surprised at how BIG the bottle nosed is! One surfaced right beside our boat and Keegan and I were both taken aback.

We entered King Harbor and headed for the pump out and harbor patrol office to check in. Harbor master must have been out to lunch because he was nowhere in sight. So, we utilized the world's sketchiest looking pump out and pulled out to attempt our first bow/stern anchoring.

**As a side note: We actually found the primary pump out  station as we headed to the anchorage, but it had been commandeered by a family of sea lions. I'll take sketchy over angry male sea lion any day!

Anyway, the anchoring procedure was practially flawless. Go us! For my non-boater friends we usually just drop an anchor from the front of our boat then back up the boat while letting out line (The line is called rode). We take the number of feet of water under our boat (say, 10') and multiply by 7. This is how many feet of rode we spool out. It ensures that the angle that the rode is pulling on the anchor is not too steep, which could cause it to pull up. Yikes!

The boat then swings around the anchor as the tide move, which is perfect as long as you have enough clearance 365 degrees around where the anchor dropped.

At King Harbor that is not the case, so we set out a second anchor off the back of our boat to hold us in place and prevent us from swinging around in to the rocks. The primary purpose of this second anchor is to limit lateral motion.

Goodyear blimp

Doggie paddleboarding

Keegs at the fish market

Happy as a ...clam?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Marina del Rey and L.A.

We motored into Marina del Rey without a plan. This marina is gigantic but, thankfully, well organized. We slid up to the transient dock and started calling yacht clubs in the hope that one of them would have some vacancy at their guest docks and offered reciprocal benefits with our yacht club, Marina Bay YC.

So far on our adventure we’ve been very fortunate to have spent 13 nights at the guest docks of various yacht clubs and all but four of those have been complimentary. If you’re thinking of cruising give some serious consideration to joining a yacht club. The benefits have already paid for our yearly membership!

The Pacific Mariner’s YC here at del Rey kindly made room for Malabar at their docks and we had a home for three nights. Best of all, it is very close to Joe and Maryann DePietro, the friends we’ve come to Los Angeles to visit!

Joe and Maryann took us on a tour of LA. Past the Chinese theatre, by the Hollywood sign, thru Beverly Hills and out to Malibu. We had an amazing weekend hanging out with these two. I think our favorite part of the visit was hanging at their apartment and having a music night. So fun to sing and play and laugh with good people. 

As we’re wrapping up our LA experience I think Keegan and I can conclusively say that this is not the town for us. It became a running joke during our tour with the DePietros that “We can go see that....but you’re going to be disappointed.” Between the volume of traffic, people and smog and the lack of green spaces and natural breasts I think we’re ready to move on and leave LA to the stars.

Joe and Maryann in Malibu

Music night

Yay coffee!

Speaking of underwhelming..tar pits

This TOTALLY redeemed the tar pits

Monday, November 18, 2013

Beautiful Days Underway

As we departed Ventura, again, Keegan and I were joined by some guests on our 8 mile sail to Channel Islands Harbor. Jonathan, Audrey and Wyatt Eells were all aboard for an absolutely gorgeous hop down the coast. 

It was so great to have them aboard. A great downwind run in the warm sunshine was exactly what I’ve been dreaming about in this sailing journey. Unfortunately, as the seas got rolly and the wind died down sea sickness got the better of some of us. 

Luckily, we were just outside of the harbor so the sail came down and we motored in the last 30 minutes. Thanks Eells for the great day!

We departed Channel Islands Harbor the next day, but only made it an hour out before it became apparent that the wind and seas were not in our favor so we yet again turned around and spent two more nights at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club in Channel Islands Harbor. 

Turning around again way HARD. Infuriating even. It was starting to feel like we were NEVER GOING TO GET OUT OF VENTURA COUNTY. 

We used the two days of rest wisely by re-provisioning the boat, getting Keegan a haircut and re-tightening our stuffing box which had started to drip, drip, drip.

As we departed Channel Islands Harbor, again, we had wind on our nose and choppy seas for about two hour, but then the wind shifted and the rest of the day was absolute perfection. 

We passed by Malibu and along the Santa Monica coast. The water here is a beautiful, sparkling blue. Just to add more magic to a wonderful day trip we were visited by huge pods of dolphins on three different occasions.

What a treat! As the first pod passed we heard them squeaking in communication with each other! 

The sea gives and takes. It freightens and sooths the soul. It is endlessly unpredictable and yet it seems that whenever I have almost nothing left to give it fills my spirit to overflowing.

Keegan working on the stuffing box

Staying entertained with knot tying games

Thanks for the awesome game Celeste!

Heading out!

Shaking out a reef

Wyatt and Keegan play chess underway

Wyatt and Audrey enjoying a snack

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reflections on the Journey so Far Part II

Ok, husbands. If your wife reads this blog and you're trying to shelter her from some of the less appealing parts of sailing around the world, this might be a good time to distract her! :-)

First, let me say that Keegan and I have a good relationship. Our communication is good and when we fight it is usually swift and apologizes and forgiveness arrive just as swiftly. For those of you who know us, I think you'd all agree...we're gross.

The weeks leading up to departure were stressful and the first week of our journey was full of anxiety. I mean FULL of anxiety. I lashed out at Keegan like it was my job. I was not pleasant and I felt like I was not in control. 

Stress usually comes along with change, but the time between San Francisco and Monterey was not pretty. My body wanted to revolt against itself. My brain could not process. I was a mess. A majority of the reason we stopped into an actual slip in Monterey was because I just couldn't take it any more. It just felt like too much change and that my brain was going to melt. 

After a full week in a marina and a LOT of sleep the anxiety started to subside and life started to feel manageable again. Everyone deals with stress differently, but I'm pretty sure I was in Monterey for three full days before I felt a genuine smile cross my lips. 

Since then, their have been more moments of deep anxiety. As the sun set on our first overnight sail I again let fear get the better of me. And again as we rounded Point Conception and waves slammed us around in the pitch black night. But these experiences have both been manageable in the long run.

I feel like I'm starting to come around to the idea of this cruising life. I'm starting to realize when I should be scared and more alert and when I just need to calm down. You can't live your entire life on high alert. 

I'm sure that I am still many weeks away from fully adjusting to this new lifestyle from an emotional perspective and I'm also sure that it's okay. One shouldn't expect themselves to change so many things about their day to day life without some bumps along the way. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reflections on the Journey So Far Part I

Although we have only been traveling for 30 days I thought I'd throw out a few pieces of information and experiences for my friends out there who might be interested.

People wonder what it's like to live on a boat. To have all of your worldly possessions on a 36ft x 10ft house that floats, rocks side to side and can be moved just about anywhere in the world, given enough time.

Although I'm sure I'll talk more about this later, below are some observations that might start to give you an idea.

My Favorite Things
Before departure we tried to think of everything that might be important, and many of them have been, but there are a few things that I wouldn't trade for the world after actually spending some time under way.

1. Thermos: We boil up water before departing on a leg and it allows us to have hot tea, soup and ramen along the way. Since travel so far has been both cold and rocky this thermos has been one of our most valuable assets.

2. Free Gloves:  Right before we left I was given a pair of thermal sailing gloves. I would have never thought to purchase a pair myself, but they were absolutely KEY to staying warm under way.

3. Hoodie-Footie Pajamas: So, my husband bought me these pajamas last Valentine's day and they are warm and literally envelope you head to foot. They were sort of a joke, but let me tell you, if you are traveling along the coast of Northern California they are a necessity. I'm pretty sure I would have never gotten warm without them!

I feel like I had some pretty reasonable expectations when we departed from Richmond, but there have been a couple of things I hadn't even considered before departure! May they help you if you ever decide to go cruising!

1. Marinas: We had basically no experience with other marinas before departure. Even if you are anchoring, not docking or mooring, there is a learning curve to entering and existing marinas. We've found it challenging as you pass the breakwater to locate the Harbormaster, the diesel docks, etc. It takes a few minutes to get your bearings, stay in the marked channel and make it to where you need to go. We now have a gameplan in place each time we enter a new marina, but there was definitely additional stress involved in the first three or four because we had never practiced traversing marinas that we weren't familiar with.

2. Docking and Motoring: I am really lucky. When it comes to docking and motoring of Malabar, Keegan is a boss! We had practiced motoring and doing upwind and downwind and side tie dockings, but we didn't ever go to an unfamiliar marina, or even to a different dock within our own marina to practice and I think that could have been very advantageous. If we had exposed ourselves to docking scenarios where we had very little information prior to arrival I think that would have been helpful. So far dockings have gone well, but again, stress could have been reduced with more practice.

3. Engine Usage: So far on this journey we have used the engine a LOT more than I thought we would. I'm thankful that all of the oil and filters were changed and added right before departure. The wind has been basically non-existent except for one day where we were able to sail for about 10 hours. With the really long legs of this journey behind us for a while hopefully we will get in some more sail time. We weren't patient enough to tolerate only making 1.5kts when we were trying to complete 130 miles. Hopefully our patience increases too! :-)

Up next in Part II -- Emotions. EMOTIONS!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Channel Islands and Running For It

The day we departed Ventura Harbor could not have been more perfect for a sail to Santa Cruz Island. The sun was warm and the dolphins were out to play and entertain us on our sail.

We dropped the hook at Prisoner's Cove around 4pm. Although the views were absolutely divine, this anchorage was less than ideal. It rolled all...night...long! Keegan was able to sleep but I had less luck in the rest department.

The water in the anchorage was quite clear and we could watch the schools of fish swimming around the boat and the giant kelp growing up from the sea floor.

The Channel Island visit only lasted until 3:30pm though as we flippped on the weather radio after feeling an increase in the rockiness at anchorage. A small craft advisory had just been issued and a gale warning was heading our way.

Seeing as our anchorage was so uncomfortable the night before where there was no wind, we decided the most reasonable action to take was making a run for it.

The engine was on, the anchor was up and we were making a bee line back to Ventura within 10 minutes. Immediately after leaving the anchorage we found the wind and the waves. Nothing like the rocking of angry waves at your beam!

We made it back to the channel outside Ventura Harbor without incident, but our arrival time was 7:30pm. Very much after sunset! This was our first time entering a marina after dark and even though we had already been in and out of this marina it was still a challenge.

Trying to decipher the lights showing us the navigation channel and the stop lights in the town was more challenging than we anticipated. I found myself perched at the bow of the boat with our giant spotlight calling out directions to Keegan as we made our way back to the Ventura Yacht Club and a safe slip.

The Eells were there for us with a warm meal and a much needed hard cider. All in all our
Channel Islands adventure ended abruptly, but we are safe and warm and well fed. We'll wait out the gale for the next two days and then continue on with our adventures!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Visiting in Ventura

Our visit to Ventura has been fantastic! Our good friends, the Eells Family, have played host to our visit. So good to see them and hang out.

We've prepared for Halloween with a trip to the pumpkin patch and constructed costumes for the kids. Keegan and I also sent the kids on an educational scavenger hunt around the marina because we love to torture children. And, of course, up the mast I went on s/v Valhalla to install their mast boots!

The time off to relax has been much needed. It took two entire days after the trip from Morro Bay to get rested. The first night we were tied to a dock Keegan and I both had trouble falling asleep. I had to convince myself that we were safely in a marina and that my body could relax.

We want to extend a big thanks to both the Pierpont Yacht Club and the Ventura Yacht Club for the reciprocity during our stay! Both yacht clubs had nice facilities and very friendly members. We'd recommend a stop by either of these clubs if you are heading down the coast!

As much fun as we've had eating and drinking and hanging out with friends we are again feeling the call of the sea and tomorrow we will depart for the next leg of our journey, the Channel Islands!

Thanks Eells Family! You guys are the BEST!

Scotch inspecting Keegan's hair

Wyatt and Keegan work on a scavenger hunt

Installing the mast boots on s/v Valhalla

Audrey at the pumpkin patch

Sydney picking a pumpkin

Me and Brenda on pumpkin patrol

Audrey in the hay maze

Brenda, Sydney and Jonathan

Wyatt, Sydney and Audrey

Monday, November 4, 2013

Morro to Ventura

After several days of rest, my first public shower requiring quarters to operate and a re-fueling of the boat it was time to head south again. It was time for our longest leg yet! 130 miles, through the night, rounding Point Conception.

For those not familiar with navigating the west coast, Point Conception is a part of the state that juts out into the sea. It marks the unofficial division between Northern and Southern California. It is also infamous for its terrible sailing conditions.

Departing Morro Bay was divine. Wind at our backs and comfortable seas which  made for a great day of sailing!! We quickly discovered the benefits of a preventer as we managed to snap our boom vang moments after putting up the sail. Fortunately, we were able to do a temporary fix on the vang, get the preventer attached and be on our way.

We made great time throughout the day as we sailed south at 6 kts. As the sun began to set a pod of 100 dolphins celebrated with Malabar as they splashed and bounced and jumped on all sides! They were even jumping across the bow in front of us. It was a wonderful way to head into the night!
We took down sail and started to motor for the night portion of the trip and the rounding of Point Conception. We were not disappointed as the Point lived up to its reputation. Winds went from 5kts to 30kts and the waves came from every direction. Keegan stayed at the helm for four straight hours and fought the seas. He and Malabar held their own and got us to the other side safely.

Keegan had one moment of true fear as a wave broke into the cockpit, but it drained quickly and was not too severe. But imagine the sensation of feeling water come into your boat when you can't see it coming! The moon had not yet risen and it was DARK!

After we passed around Point Conception life got easy. The winds calmed to nothing and the seas were flat. The air began to warm and Southern California welcomed us with a beautiful sunrise.

As we entered Ventura Harbor our friend Jonathan rowed out to meet us and guide us to our slip. We were absolutely exhausted, but so excited to see our friends, the Eells Family, that we didn't care about all of the hours and miles and stress of the previous 26 hours. We had made it to a safe harbor with the promise of a few days of earned rest ahead!

Sydney and Audrey walking around the Marina

Sydney taking a break!