Despite my accomplishments this past year, another 2500 miles behind me, the Golden Gate in front of me, the Baja bash, Panama Canal, the Atlantic Ocean, behind me, I wonder if I did not make some big mistake.
For not the first time, I wondered about my sudden decision to flee northern Europe two years ago. I loved northern Europe. I loved Ireland. I loved the peoples and the cultures.
I lived for 4 years in Germany and still visit relatively often. The Germans certainly have some interesting attributes. Some of which I even like a lot.
In 2015, I was reminded just like 30 years ago, the different personalities the Germans are along the north coast. These are the people who have known “Auslander”, (from an outside land), for thousands of years. They are not the Germans of the much more insular interior, one meets south of Hamburg down to the Alps.
I dwell on this because stupid Google, out of the blue the other day, sends me my pictures of years ago and says, “don’t you want to post these?”
It reminded me yet again of how great the cruising was along the north coast of Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic and North Seas. The cruising is the best I’ve yet encountered, with thousands of miles of protected skärgärd cruising. With the wind blowing 20+ knots, 100 meters away, you are cruising or anchored with nary a ripple of waves.
All the peoples who inhabit the environs along the coast are sea faring folk. Much like the Celtic culture along the west coast of Europe, from Galicia in NW Spain to Scotland, The North Sea and particularly the Baltic had the Hanseatic League. From Hamburg to Tallinn, they controlled trade and influenced culture from Germany to Russia.
This seafaring culture manifests itself in boat friendly, stranger friendly ways. No matter how small the port, or how many boats are already there, they will find room for you. In the more formal marinas, like Tallinn and Cuxhaven, the American flag was being put up on the yardarm of the marina even as I checked-in. And even check-in itself was a 5-minute process, with reasonable rates, about $0.25 per foot in Holland to $1.00 per foot in Helsinki. Overall average for marina overnights ended up being less than $0.50 a foot for my 4 months in the Baltic and North Seas.
All these experiences were exactly the opposite in southern Europe, by the way. 30-minute check-ins, filing out endless forms, each time, $1.00 per foot was best price and it went up to $2.00.
I was also reminded with much regret that the $1,000 ten-day stay I had at Cabo San Lucas was the same cost of one year! in Waterford, Ireland. Sure, Waterford could not boast like Cabo of having only 7 days a year with rain, but I am sure they can boast that they have at least 7 days a year with sun.
So, all these fond memories really made me question my decision of leaving Europe in 2016. Stupid Google also reminded me of my great trip to Galicia to scope out a winter home for Dauntless the following year. Food, people and marina in A Coruna were fantastic. I could stay there for $500 per month year around. Had I stayed another year as planned, I would still have some options. I could return to the Baltic the following summer or just stay in Northern Spain and Western France. I would have also saved so much money.
Oh Regrets. What would life be without them?
Probably a hell of a lot better!
I acknowledge that 2016 was a traumatic year for me. I often wonder if unexpected life changes led me to make some hasty, irrevocable decisions? It certainly seems so to me when I think and think and think about it.
It would have been just as easy to fly between Ireland or Spain and Vietnam. I picture myself escaping the heat a humidity of Vietnam for the damp coolness of Atlantic Europe.
One key factor drove my decision to leave for the Pacific, the availability of crew. My Hawaiian nephew wanted to take a year off from school before he went to law school. He thought exploring Europe, North Africa and the Caribbean via Dauntless would be ideal. He spent almost a year with Dauntless and I.
He was indispensable. Not only as a great, hardworking, vigilant crew mate, but also as a smart, interesting companion for the boring passage between Europe and the Panama Canal. I couldn’t have come that distance without him.
Dauntless is in Vallejo, California now. I’ll return to her next week for a month of getting her in ship shape. Next spring, I’ll return and weather permitting get her up to the Pacific Northwest by June, then British Columbia and Southeast Alaska for the summer.
Ending up in one of the wonderful, little towns of Southeast Alaska. Which one, will depend on several factors, Dauntless taking second stage for now.
By next year at this time, my life will take another turn, as I gain both a First and Second Mate on Dauntless. We’ll end up staying in Southeast Alaska only a little longer than originally planned. Visa requirements for my wife-to-be and her son require us to live in the United States, so SE AK is the perfect place to settle down for a while and catch a few fish and enjoy the fantastic scenery and wildlife.
What would have happened had Dauntless still been in Europe now? I would truly have a mess on my hands. Instead of struggling with a 2500 trip, I would be looking at 10,000+ miles. Eek!!
Everything happens for a reason. Two years ago, I had no idea I’d fall in love with the love of my life, yet again (ok, I’ve had a lot of lives). Or that she would be in Vietnam or that I’d spend all my free time with her in Vietnam. Or that SE Alaska, then so far away, now so close, would be the perfect place for a variety or reasons.
Passing under the Golden Gate, I felt the chapter coming to the end. Like turning the page and seeing only a short paragraph remaining.
As I made my course eastward under the bridge, the winds picked up as forecast to westerly at 20 to 25 knots. I was happy to have just gotten up the coast before the band of strong northwesterly winds had reasserted itself.
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I also knew now that no matter what the winds did, my ride to Vallejo would be relatively smooth and it was. The picture shows the Maretron data with winds as high as 32 knots, but the roll reduced over what it was on the ocean.
After a few hours of motoring up the channel, Fly Wright was there to greet me.
I had to dock outside my covered slip that first night, as I had to lower the mast and the paravane poles.
With many hands helping, the mast the poles were easy to lower, though I wondered how I managed to do it myself a few times.
We had a great dinner that evening at the Sardine Can, a good restaurant near my slip. The next day, I moved Dauntless to her winter home. She’ll be there, out of the sun and rain until next spring, when we continue our northward trek.
This time I remembered to change the oil right away. I also had a long list of items to do before I flew away.
I’ll be back to her in September to commence a long list of projects that hopefully will be done by spring.
On the 63rd day since getting underway from Huatulco, 2300 hard miles ago, I got up for the last day at 02:00.
70 gallons of fuel would be more than enough to get Dauntless the last leg to San Francisco Bay and Vallejo.
Checking the current tables, I had to get to the Golden Gate by 13:00. Then the current would push me the last 40 miles to Vallejo at plus 2 or 3 knots. To make that happen, I had to depart by 03:00, planning 10 hours for that 65 nm.
02:33 Engine start. We (Dauntless and I) were underway at 02:45, with scattered clouds and southerly winds.
I had about an hour of cruising WSW, before I could head NW. After a few hours, just after sunrise, I was able to go on my final course of 340°. The winds stayed southerly at 12 to 16 knots for the rest of the morning. Just enough time for me to get into San Francisco Bay.
Videos I took that morning:
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At noon, 12:00, I was entering the Golden Gate channel. My goal of the last 10 months was in sight.
And it was an impressive sight. To be looking at the Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific on my own bottom. How many people can say that?
I was proud: of my accomplishments, of my determination to complete these goals, of this Kadey Krogen that was so strongly and safely built.
We could not have come up with a better name, Dauntless, determined, never give up.
I still needed to get Dauntless out of this harbor safely.
After a close call, like I just had, it’s easy to relax your guard, but it’s still dark, in a narrow channel lined with boats, piers, infrastructure and even sleeping otters.
For 30 minutes I threaded my way thru the horseshoe shaped channel.
At exactly 02:00 I passed the outer marker and set my course to the northwest. ETA to Santa Cruz marina was 19:00
Video of us leaving Morro Bay:
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I took a few deep breaths, regretting that that I didn’t have a sheep, goat, first born son or even a chicken to sacrifice to Poseidon. Did a few Hail Mary’s and settled in for the rest of the night?
Windy.com had depicted a very narrow inverted trough moving off the coast during this 36-hour period. What that meant was that now, 02:00, winds were light from the land (the nightly land breeze) but would strengthen rapidly during the early morning hours. Then stay strong, 20+ knots out of the south for the next 24 hours, before the dominant high-pressure system, which had dominated the weather in the eastern Pacific for like forever, or much of the spring and summer so far, would bring back the strong northerly winds.
This meant I had until noon the following day to get thru the Golden Gate. After that, winds would be 20+ from the north.
I kept the rpms up, 1700, boat speed varied between 6.3 to 7.3 knots due to the coastal current. With no current, the speed should have been about 7 to 7.2 knots at 1700 rpms.
Pitch and roll were ok, pitch was a few degrees up and down, roll +5° to-8°, the Krogen had an easy motion. There was a swell from the NW at 4 to 8 feet and wind waves from the SE at 1 to 3 feet.
It felt so good to have the wind behind me. I could open the pilot house door without the fear of the wind grabbing it from my hand. I could stand there and just watch the ocean and the sky. I love the ocean as a fish loves water.
By noon, winds had picked up to 15 knots, still from the SE. I estimated the NW swell now at 8 to 10 feet. (which meant my earlier estimate of 4 to 8’, made in the dark, was probably understated).
Video of us underway at 13:22:
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By 14:00 the winds had increased from the south and were now, 180° at 19 gusts to 25 knots. Pitch and roll had doubled: pitch was +4°/-8° & roll +11°/-11°. That roll was at a point I would deploy the paravane stabilizers, however in this instance two factors mitigated against it:
It would take a knot off my speed and
I had just passed many fishing boats. I got tired of fishing trawlers buzzing me because they thought I was stealing their fish. In the heavily regulated fishing industry in the USA, it’s not as much of a problem, but I’d just spent 4 years outside the USA.
At 19:00 I entered Santa Cruz harbor. Was tied up at 19:19.
We did 121 nm, 17 hrs:42 min, at an average speed of 6.84 knots.
I had a nice dinner with my new-found cruising friends, Ralph and Kristen.
By 21:00 I was tucked into bed, with the alarm set for 02:00 and my last day of the 2018 Baja Bash.
10:22 Change course to 016°, 1600 rpms, 6.2 kts, 3.5 nm to Morro Bay entrance. 7 knot winds on beam are producing a lazy roll of +10° (to stbd)/to -05° (to port).
11:30 Enter Morro Bay. Spot my first Sea Otters. Great. One more thing not to run over besides the ubiquitous paddle board and kayak people.
12:03 With a slow, almost idle, 4 kt approach (The minimum speed to have enough way to control boat), I approach the Morro Bay Yacht Club dock. It parallels the coast and there is ample room for me. I make a 180° to port (the direction this KK loves to turn) and am tied to the dock minutes later.
12:05 Docked at MBYC. An easy day, 3:55, 23 nm, 5.9 avg speed.
Morro Bay turned out to be a delight. Delightful people at the delightful Morro Bay Yacht Club (MBYC). If I was ever in one place long enough to join a yacht club, MBYC would be the kind of place I’d love to join. Having to wait out the weather for four days turned out nice. Really reasonably priced at $35 per day, it was a pleasure to be there. I felt good and knew that time wise, I’d be good to go if I could leave on the 30th.
I watched the winds every day and the forecasts were tracking well. I thought to leave Friday, but the winds were still up and while forecast to go down later in the day, this is a perfect example of when I say, “Don’t leave based on a forecast”. If your waiting for light winds, wait until you see light winds.
Also, MBYC had hamburger night Friday evening or maybe it was cocktail hour. In any case, I vowed to leave early Saturday morning, if winds were light as predicted.
Now the plan was getting down to hours. The anticipated 36-hour weather window showed light winds becoming increasing strong, but from the south as Saturday progressed into Sunday, but by Sunday afternoon, the northerlies would be back with a vengeance, 30+ knots west of the Golden Gate.
Additionally, the trip up San Francisco Bay must be timed for the currents and tides. The currents are as strong as hell’s Gate in NYC. So, I had to back up all my arrivals and departures so that I would arrive at the Golden Gate between 12:00 and 13:00 Sunday July 1st.
To get there at that time, I had to leave Santa Cruz before 03:00. So, if I wanted 5 hours sleep in Santa Cruz and a time to have dinner with some new boat friends who had their boat there, I had to leave MBYC at 01:00 to do the 121-mile trip in 18 hours, getting me to Santa Cruz by 18+1= 19:00
No problem. Just an early evening and get up at 01:00.
Dauntless was parallel parked between two sailboats. The evening before I had asked about leaving that early, anything I needed to know. Everything seemed routine. I should be able to just push the bow out as I realized the last lines.
Maybe the sailors giving me this advice did not realize that Dauntless was 44,000 pounds? Certainly no one warned me about the current.
01:15 up, Saturday morning dawned with the expected light winds, I was ready to go.
01:20 As I did my routine combined current check and pee, it was obvious that the current was not insignificant.
The next 8 minutes were the most harrowing of the last three months.
It was obvious I couldn’t just undo the lines and push her out away from the dock and SV 15’ in front. Plan A was dead.
The stupid sailboat in front of me has two solar panels out behind his stern. On the first picture of this post, the sunset, the solar panel array is visible on the port side stern of the sail boat in front of me. They are probably 12 to 15 feet from my bow pulpit, which is 5 feet above them. But my hull will impact them before it hits anything else. No fender could protect them. This guy should be on a mooring.
Plan B: I untied all lines, but for the midship cleat. I wrapped it around the dock cleat near the stern, so it would slide thru once I released tension on my side. Meaning the line was secured to the boats stbd midship cleat, then back to the stern cleat on the dock and then I’m holding the bitter end in my hand while on the dock, near the pilot house door. The boat is in neutral at idle. For this to work, my plan is to give the bow a mighty push from the dock, releasing the line while I clamber on board.
With one mighty heave, I was truly seconds from disaster.
Dauntless was not moving out as much as I had hoped. I also was keenly aware that I was risking her leaving without me.
I clambered on board, as dauntless drifted forward crab like, her bow maybe 15 feet from the dock, stern still near the dock. I debated momentarily, for a split second at most, whether to just give her a shot of power, hoping that she would go straight out into the channel.
At 1.5 knots, that about 2 feet per second. In the 6 seconds it took me from release of the line, get on board and into pilot house, Dauntless moved 12 to 15 feet, the bow pulpit was almost over the left side of the sailboat. The stupid solar panels are a few feet from my stbd hull.
It was clear to me in a moment that if I gave it forward power, it would rake the entire starboard side of Dauntless against the stern port quarter of the SV.
I quickly put her in reverse and slightly increased power to 1100. I also had a sailboat behind me. I ran out to the bow, just in time to find off the stupid solar panels as the Kadey Krogen finally started to retreat.
I ran to the side deck to see what kind of room I now had behind me. I need to be tied to the dock I bought myself some more seconds by leaving her at idle in reverse. This gave me enough time to get to the side deck and get a line on the dock cleat. I made it tight and thought about what to do.
I took some needed breaths. I had to be calm now What were my options? It’s almost 1:30 in the morning. No one is getting up soon. On one hand it’s only a schedule, but being alone, makes the schedule even more important. If I didn’t leave now, I would be forced to run overnight. Which then has an impact the following day.
The Golden Gate timing was immutable.
I wanted to leave, but the idea that I start me day be destroying this boat’s solar panels would really fuck up my day.
I tied the boat thru the stern cleat to the dock’s cleat just a couple feet away.
I would try to push the bow out with the stern tied. I wouldn’t do anything else. Engine at idle, transmission neutral. It was just an experiment to see how far the bow would actually go out. If it went out to 45°, It would probably work.
It went to maybe 20°.
Tied again with a little more slack on the stern line, same results, but now she headed for those f…ing solar panels again like they were a magnet.
I had some seconds to spare this time, but I had to get her in reverse. We were still attached to the stern dock cleat. I had tied it so that while in reverse it did not have enough slack to hit the boat behind me. In other words, while I could watch the bow, I had to make sure when backing not to hit the boat just behind me.
Then I noticed an interesting phenomenon in reverse, attached to the stern cleat, the bow came out.!
That made perfect sense since Dauntless stern always wants to starboard. I need 2° of right rudder to go straight. In reverse, the prop walk is still to the right, to starboard, which is pone of the primary reasons, I always try to dock and tie on the starboard side.
(which in a recently found video has me backing into the slip in Golfito, Costa Rica. Once I figure out how to get it not inverted I will upload)
I checked the line on the dock and boat to make sure they were secure and then gave her more power in reverse. The bow keeps coming out more and more. This would work.
Back to idle, I quickly retied the stern line so that the closed loop was over the forward horn of the cleat. I then ran the line thru the stern hawse pipe forward inside the boat to the midships cleat.
I put the boat in reverse and added some power.
The bow came out further and further. Still in reverse, I sent down to the midships cleat, and took the line in my hand and walked it back to the pilot house door. With the line in my hand, I checked the port side to make sure it was still clear, gave her more power and the bow came well out.
Now, I knew the terrible downside of this plan. If that dock line snagged on something, at best it would slam the boat back to the dock hitting the boat ahead, at worse, I could drip the whole dock up, causing even more mayhem.
And I couldn’t check it. I still had to get the stern out to not hit the sailboat.
When it seemed, the bow would come out no more, I had to force myself to be slow and put her in idle, neutral, forward, power. Probably two to three seconds.
But remember at 2 feet per second forward due to current. In just doing that, reverse to forward, without slamming the damper plate, used half the distance between the two boats.
I stayed right behind the helm. I had to hope the line slipped off cleanly. As the solar panels were about two feet off the pilot house door, I swung the wheel hard right and goosed the power, to kick the stern out. The boat was still crabbing forward, so even with that maneuver, the stern only cleared by a few feet.
But she cleared. I hauled in the stern line quickly and turned on my driving lights to make sure I didn’t run over any sleeping sea otters.
01:28 Underway to Santa Cruz. I thanked every god I knew.
In hindsight, some thoughts:
It’s a no-brainer that I should have just swapped positions with one of the two sailboats. Either being in the front or end, would have been leaving no problem. Also, everyone at the YC was so accommodating, it would have been no problem.
Not as obvious is how the lack of a functional bow thruster affected this. It’s been three plus years now since by bow thruster stopped working. At least two times, we thought it was fixed, only to discover it wasn’t. But clearly, it hasn’t been a priority. Why?
Before it stopped working, there were two memorable times when I needed it, but winds and currents overwhelmed it. Thus, it has seemed better to just learn to live without than to depend on something that may not work as well as hoped in the worst conditions.
Be cause of that, I also stopped doing stuff because some marina or dock master suggested it. Now, I’ll say, “I don’t have a bow thruster, I can’t do that” Oh, no problem, we’ll put you on this “T” then! Duh!
And now this experience reinforces my feelings that at least for me, I’m better off without it. My first thought was if the bow thruster was working this would have been easy. And therein lies the problem. I would have pushed the bow out, jumped on board, used the bow thruster without the understanding that the boat was moving 2 feet a second and while the bow would have missed, the broad side of the boat would have slammed into the stern of the sailboat. No way was it going to get out of the way in the 10 seconds I had.
Yes, God certainly Watches Over Fools and Drunkards.
Larry had returned to Alaska also, so when I got back to Dauntless on the 24th. I’d be taking her the last 400 miles of this 2000+ mile trip to Vallejo on my own. I had a plane ticket to leave Sacramento on 3 July to Austin.
Assuming I had to arrive on the 2nd, I had 8 days to get to Vallejo. Ray, one of my boat mates in the new marina had kindly offered to give me a ride to the airport at 0h dark-30, so, I was back on the clock.
The first leg was critical, 70 nm to Point Conception. Winds had been light or southerly for two days, while I was in Salt Lake City, now, my day of departure, Monday they were forecast to increase from the west as the day progressed. (This is the way I use weather forecasts, looking at the trend, but not necessarily believing the specifics). 70 miles is 12 hours steaming time. I wanted to get around Point Conception before 16:00, otherwise as winds picked up on the bow, we would go slower and slower and I would become ever more miserable, yet again.
Therefore, I planned my departure from Kyoko’s dock at 04:00.
I never sleep well before embarking on any kind of trip, be it, by plane, train, automobile or boat. Thus, I was up just after 3 and figured I may as well get this show on the road.
I have a standard departure procedure. One that I adhere to since pulling away from the dock in the Chesapeake, 4 years ago, only to have the engine stop two minutes later from no fuel. At that time, I dropped the anchor in emergency mode (pulling the chain out of the wildcat and letting the anchor freefall) to stop our drift into nearby boats. Once that was done, I headed to the engine room to see what happened. A quick glance showed both fuel tank feeds were closed. Since I had just opened one, it was clear to me that in my mindset to “open” a closed valve, I had closed the one that was open. So much for check lists.
Way back then, I still did not have my auxiliary fuel pump installed, so of course it took 10 minutes of lift pump masturbation to get the air out and everyone happy again.
Consequently, I follow a standard start up routine, which consists of:
Engine room check, smelling and looking for obvious leaks and confirming fuel feed and Racor use.
Turn on breakers for:
“Loran” that’s the breaker used for my USB ports now
Check Anchor light is off
The boat computer, modems, router, Maretron system, two Samsung LCD displays are all 12 volt and on a separate breaker that is not on the pilot house system. They were already on, as that system takes a few minutes to boot up, as the router can be picky.
Now, on this night, I had already taken one spring line off before I went to sleep. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake, as it got me out of my routine.
03:30 I did my engine room check. I was also out of my routine because my engine room bilge pump was off and had been for the 10 days I was on this dock. With the little leak I had from the transmission, while no significant oil would be discharged, it would still make an embarrassing oil sheen, would not be nice for Kyoko and Mike, who had so graciously given me this spot. I could easily wait until we were off-shore.
03:43 Engine start. To this day, it is unclear to me what I was thinking. But I didn’t turn on the Auto Pilot or the Radar. More likely I did, but in any case, I untied from the dock, without realizing that neither was on.
03:52 Free from the dock and underway. I make the 90° turn to starboard to clear the dock, at which point I realize the Radar is not on. It’s dark. I don’t travel without the radar in the daytime, let alone now. But what to do.
These fairways were relatively wide, maybe 150 feet, but with boats and/or docks on either side. To return to Kyoko’s dock, I would have to do a 180° to port, then a 270° to dock bow facing out, as I was. In the dark, alone, that did not appeal to me. I also did not want to dock bow in, tie on the port side, as all my lines were on the stbd side. Again, being alone, limited my options. I decided to press on and look for a convenient place to stop to be bel to diagnose and solve the electrical issue.
In hindsight, I should have turned around and docked bow in. As it turned out, where I did decide to dock had a current that was vexing. At least this was a dock I knew. But at the time, I was more concerned about hitting something and felt it would be better someplace else. There must be some fuel dock or some such on the 40 minute it would take to go thru the channels and harbor to the sea.
My abrupt stop of video and boat for that matter is because while approaching the bridge, I was sure it was the same bridge I had come under two weeks earlier. But then, it that moment of panic, I thought maybe in the dark, I had made a wrong turn. I didn’t, but that’s what being in the dark will do for you.
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So, I slowed to inch under the bridge. I then proceeded to spend 15 minutes trying to back in a dock. With no current, it would have been easy, but in this case, there was a current, pushing the boat and especially the bow to port, so as I backed I’d end up almost perpendicular to the dock. After 3 or 4 attempts, I gave up and decided it would be easier to just go bow in around the corner. It was, and I did.
Just tied to midships. The boat secure, I was able to get under the helm to see why I had no power to the radar and autopilot.
Pilot house voltage has been an issue since day 1. I need to run a bigger or additional line and ground to the pilot house. When on long cruises, once the batteries are fully charged, the voltage at the batteries goes to 12.85v or thereabouts. The problem is that voltage in the pilot house is down to the low 12v. The Raymarine radar display will blink out momentarily when the voltage dips below 12. This usually happens when the auto pilot commands a longer turn. It gets annoying. So, since I never got around to running the additional wires, I instead did my normal half-assed fix of jumping from one buss to the other. The pilot house electrical panel has three separate busses. It used to be two, but sometime a couple years ago, I thought I had a fix for the radar by making a third buss. It sort of worked.
But coming north with Larry the radar display (not the transmitter or computer, only the display) started blinking again. I added another jumper. Worked great. But then upon arrival, I redid in a different way. Why? who knows!!
That different way is what was not working. I realized right away why the autopilot wasn’t getting power. So, I put it back the way it was, and all was good. That took 5 minutes. The additional docking took 45 minutes.
That delay would bite me in the ass later that afternoon. Once I got out to sea, the winds were light from the south or southwest. I was headed 280°, just north of west. Winds out of the south were good, east better. Late in the morning the winds started to turn to 280° at 06 kts, right on the nose. 3 hours later at 14:00 they were 28012 g 15 kts, pitching had increased to 12° up and down and speed was reduced by one knot.
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I was able to make the turn to the NNW, 340° at 16:00. Winds had already increased to 290° 14 g 20. The turn took the winds and seas off the bow to the port forward quarter, much better than dead ahead. I was grateful for my early morning start.
The rest of the day was a piece of cake. Winds stayed 300° 15 g 20 for the rest of the evening. We were pitching and rolling, but it was tolerable. I didn’t jump overboard as I have been tempted to do when going into ahead sea.
And now you know the rest of the story.
I arrived in off Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo Bay around 22:00 and anchored that night using the radar. But then you already knew that.
I was on schedule, the one I’d made month’s earlier. It was June 10th.
460 nm to go to our winter home of Vallejo, close compared to only a month ago, but now time was getting compressed. My hard, drop dead dates were also much closer. July 6th was the hardest one, my flight from Austin Texas back to SGN, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam.
Airline tickets can always be changed, but at a price and I was tired of just pissing money away.
I also had a wedding in Salt Lake City June 23rd, that I really, really wanted to attend. Three years earlier, I’d crossed the stormy North Sea to get back to Ireland in time to meet my dear friend Jennifer, who was coming to Ireland just to see Dauntless. I’d known her since she was 8 years old. Now, she had met the love of her life and was getting married. I had to be there.
I also wanted, needed to go to Fairbanks, Alaska before I left the USA
I’d already arranged the marina for the winter, in Vallejo California.
It was simply going to be a busy month, but doable if the weather cooperated.
The most recent version of the plan had Dauntless and I getting to Vallejo by the 17th, flying to SLC on the 21st, then onto Fairbanks on the 25th, ending in Austin, Texas on the 3rd. I have good friends there and it so happens that the plane ticket to Vietnam is significantly cheaper if it starts in Austin (or other smaller markets) then NY or Detroit, even though my routing goes thru Detroit.
What are friends and family for? Friends and family are there to talk you out of stupid ideas or better said: to help you see the better plan.
My friends, Mike and Adrianna, who now also have a Kadey Krogen 42, called While Knuckles, had suggested earlier that I stay in southern California longer. The reason I had resisted was that that plan upset my sense of completion: let’s get Dauntless settled, then travel.
The Pacific off the Southern California coast, south of Santa Barbara, has significantly better cruising weather. The winds are still predominately from the NW, but more like 50% of the time versus 90% further south. In addition, there are long periods of light & variable winds. Perfect cruising weather.
And that’s what we had for the next five days.
Mike and Adrianna keep their boat in front of a friend house in Channel Islands harbor. They spoke to their friend, Kyoto, and she was happy to have my Kadey Krogen there, while White Knuckles was in Ensenada having some extensive upgrades taken care of.
The weather was also changing. It became clear that I would have to wait to do the last 270 miles from Point Conception to the Golden Gate and Vallejo. So, I took
Mike and Kyoko up on their offer to keep Dauntless there as long as I needed, while I:
Waited for weather
Attended the wedding and
Flew to Fairbanks and back
Spent more money on tools and spares at Harbor Freight
I had to change one place ticket, but this was a much better plan. I was able to travel to the wedding and then Alaska knowing Dauntless was in good hands with sharp eyes watching out for her. I really appreciated the hospitality and it made for great 10 days
Dauntless returned to the USA on June 9, 2018; four years after she left Cape Cod, Mass. I left with Julie and came back with Larry, an interesting swap. But it’s nice to share special moments with special people and I’ve known Larry since we met on T-3 in 1973.
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He’s good crew. He knows how to find the best ride for the conditions of wind and seas and he knows when to call me.
The check-in pier to the USA in San Diego is at the police dock at the entrance to the harbor. When we arrived at 19:00 there was a large fishing trawler occupying most of the dock. A spot on the Visitor’s Pier was open and I took it. Upon calling customs and Immigration, they told me everyone was busy with that fishing trawler, took my number and said they’d get back to me.
Some minutes later, they did just that. Telling me they were busy, they asked if we had Global Entry. We did, they took our passport numbers and welcomed us to the USA. After the nightmare of paperwork that the Caribbean is, I welcomed some common sense.
Larry and I celebrated our return by going to the typical restaurant & bar ubiquitous in the USA at upscale marinas and sea shores. We paid a lot for the crappiest meal we’d had in weeks. Welcome Home.
It was 17 days from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego. I’ve written about most of the highlights or lowlights already. If you missed it, here are some links:
People tell me how brave I am to cross oceans in a little boat like my 42-foot Kadey Krogen. That’s a sentiment that always makes my uncomfortable. I know I’m not brave and I hate fixing things because I suck at it.
But I’m prepared, and I pride myself on being self-reliant.
That self-reliance trumps everything else. It tells meI Can Do It; even when waves are towering over my head, as we bob in the middle of ocean until I solve the problem.
That self-reliance washes over me like a breaking wave, letting me sleep at night, enjoy the day and think, reason, all the time.
My mother and god-mother were always quick to relate the story to anyone who would listen of when I was very young, so young, that I have no recollection, of me crossing the street with my god-mother and my tricycle. Getting to the curb on the other side of the street, my god-mother went to help me lift it onto the curb and sidewalk, but I didn’t want any help and became adamant, yelling, “Self, Self”, evidently the only words I knew at the time.
That’s not bravery, I just didn’t want any help. My self-satisfaction comes from getting the job done myself. When I must ask for help, I feel a failure. I wasn’t prepared.
Like one Christmas eve before Dauntless came into my life, my wife and I were on one of our winter adventures, this time on the Gaspe Peninsula, well north of Novia Scotia and north of New Brunswick. We found ourselves stranded on a mountain trail. (Google maps depicted it as a road, but in fact it turned out to be a skimobile track, as I discovered trudging thru the heavy snow looking for a place marker) I had strayed off the snow-covered road and the right side of the Jeep was in a deep ditch. After spending hours doing everything I knew to get us out, I finally relented and called the Canadian Mounties. Another hour later, they showed up with a tow truck, who pulled me back onto the road and we were good to go again.
I was bummed that we’d had to call for help and further bummed that we were so close to getting over the mountain heading to the coast, and now, we would have to backtrack and take the long way around. As you know from my experiences in Cabo, I hate turning around.
But only a couple hours later, ensconced in a warm, little restaurant, that was luckily open on Christmas Eve, another adventure that ended well and a lesson learned: when in Quebec, learn French.
While I no longer have that Jeep or that wife, I still find myself reflecting what I should have done differently. After years of thought, a little fortress type anchor with a come-a-long, would have gotten us out on my own. I think!
When I became the commander of a weather station in Alaska, while in the U.S. Air Force, I remember my commander making it clear to me that my job was to make sure he never heard from me. No news was good news. That was simple, direct and effective.
Of all the organizations I have worked for and with, I found the USAF to be the best at teaching leadership and thus building consensus within units. For people who have never served in the military, the perception is that it is a top down organization. In fact, that’s not the case.
Our military is not like the German’s of WWII, in which the SS was tasked with executing German Army members found to be retreating or the Russians, who had political minders in every unit ready to shoot anyone who turned their back to the enemy.
Our military leaders, officers and non-commissioned officers (sergeants) are taught to build consensus through trust and respect. Nobody is going to charge that hill if they think, you, as their leader, don’t have their best interests in mind.
It’s why when push comes to shove, I think we do have the best military people in the world.
Taking the leadership skills, I learned in the Air Force suited me well in my education career. When I became the principal of a failing school in the Bronx, I did turn it around. To do so, I needed the support of the teachers, which I had, despite a couple of malcontents.
In fact, despite them, we were able to make significant changes to our programming, like adding block teaching classes and longer one-hour periods, that required the approval of the teachers and the teacher’s union representative. Every year these initiatives were approved because of consensus building. Our results reflected this success, with a more than doubling of passing scores on the years’ end tests and our graduation rate. Chancellor Klein said to put the kids first and I did. Simple.
Now a normal minded person would think that self-reliance is a good thing. I don’t take it to extremes, I’m still not stuck in the snow waiting for spring.
So, what’s the downside?
I never recognized that my immediate boss in the NYC Dept of Education, hated my self-reliance. It was my Achilles heel. I thought our data spoke for itself. Our school was doing much better than our peer schools. But New York is nothing if it’s not political and I’m not so political if you haven’t noticed.
When the regime changed, my focus on students and their success, no longer mattered. My supervisor didn’t want a self-reliant principal, she wanted a sycophant. I should have been calling her every week, asking for advice, letting her help me wipe my ass.
But then, had I done so, I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t have Dauntless and most of all, you wouldn’t be reading this.
After arriving on the southern tip of Baja California May 9th, two weeks later we are faintly getting out of this tourist trap. Oh, Cabo, or better yet, Cabo Falso, has finally loosened her grip on us to to us pass.
My two previous attempts were unpleasant at best, more like miserable. And on each the previous attempts to round the cape in ferocious seas and winds, I had tried two or three times, either tacking away from shore or closer to shore to escape her grip. Each time, I dragged myself back to Cabo, tail between my legs.
On the second attempt, the autopilot also started to not act right, so I felt the failure even more.
With thousands of boats in Cabo San Lucas, I thought it would be easy to find the little “O” ring and broken circ clip my Octopus pump needed. After walking around to numerous places in the hot sun, I found the ring, but not the clip. I called my followers who is a plethora of mechanical advice (he’s the one who told me how to make emergency hydraulic fluid in the middle of the Atlantic), who explained that the circ clip was just a stop, so the screw would not come all the way out. It was already out, so that solved that problem. I put the new “O” ring on, leak stopped, and pump worked fine.
I am really in debt to Octopus Pumps. This is on the list of winter projects. I really need to have a spare.
We waited and waited. I was very conscious that every day was costing me $100+ The reality is on my budget with all the cruising I do, necessities come first, so a marina becomes a convenience. Thus, it’s the one place I really try to try to control my costs.
That I didn’t like Cabo just added insult to injury.
I make a habit to only look at Windy.com and the forecast winds once or twice a day. With crew on board, I look at it more often to make them happy, but I really don’t. The nature of forecasts is that if they change radically, they are most probably wrong. Thus, once a day will provide enough guidance. Also, while nowadays, the forecast models are run more often, at least every three hours, planet Earth still has a 24-hour day. In simplistic terms, the winds and weather are driven my differential heating caused by our day and night cycle. Therefore, running the model more often does helps, but it won’t totally cure instability issues with the forecast.
I know this is getting too complicated. Let me say this, if you are waiting for a specific weather window, like I was in Cabo, how many times have you noticed that during the day, the forecast is changing, only to return to what it said originally 24 hours later? So, looking at a forecast more than a couple times per day is simply not helpful and more often confusing. This was quite apparent as I watched the winds off the southern Baja Peninsula.
The other phenomena with numerical forecasts are the sliding weather window. I mean it shows favorable whatever in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. But the following day, the favorable whatever is still forecast to come in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. It’s like the forecast is waiting for something to happen. It is in fact; numerical models are just predictors of fluid dynamics. But something in the real world is not acting like the model suggests. Therefore, it keeps sliding the forecast.
Which is fundamentally why numerical models have not replaced weather forecasters. Weather forecasters will know the proclivity of each model for each area and time of season. Changing seasons is the biggest bugaboo for both man and machine. That’s why some months are easier or harder to forecast.
Enough weather for now.
Rounding Cabo Falso
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On 23 May 2018, we finally got underway heading to Ensenada with stops along the way. The first protected stop was Maddalena Bay, about 200 miles up the coast.
Coming abreast of Cabo Falso, winds had picked up to 310° at 15 gusting to 25 knots. I put one bird in the water to reduce the roll, which had gotten to 10° to 15° to port, as the winds were on the forward starboard quarter. We were pitching 6° to 8° up and down. Not fun, but tolerable for a while.
Six hours after departure, we were finally around the cape and heading NNW. Winds had died down to 10 knots, but we still had an unpleasant pitching motion.
During the spring and more recently in my time in Cabo, it was apparent that there are three distinct weather regimes off the Baja coast. The southern third has the strongest and most consistent NW winds. The second third has slightly more variety, while the last third, north of Tortuga Bay, must more variable weather, more like southern California.
Not until we were close to Magdalena bay did the winds back around to the west, though they were strong at 15 to 20 knots.
We pulled into Magdalena Bay 17:00 on the second day, the 24th, we then spent a few hours going up channel to Puerto San Carlos, to be protected from the coming wind storm.
Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart. It did stay like that the entire time
Cabo San Lucas is a sunny, dry, playland for those with more money than sense. It’s a step towards reality, if your starting point was the Mexican Pavilion at Disney World or Las Vegas.
It’s everything I have a point of avoiding during my last 40 years of international travel and exploration.
Worse of all, it was expensive for Dauntless, almost $100 per day at the IGY Marina. The marina in fact, was on the only bright spot of the whole experience. Accommodating, warm, friendly staff. It was no problem for me to stay on the “T”, as I did not like the idea of trying to maneuver down the various slip xxx.
And then there was Pancho, the 12-year-old sea lion, who lives in the harbor and this marina it seems.
The other bright spot of time spent in Cabo, was meeting a family, wo was having a birthday party in town at their son’s bar. Larry and I were the only patrons and seeing me eyeing the cake, they must have felt obligated to invite us to share it with them.
We inquired about finding really food, not tourist food, and they squeezed us into their little pickup and off we went to the Mexican part of town. Whatever we ate was delicious and I cherish these types of experiences. A wonderful experience in otherwise a boring town.
That’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly are best left unsaid. There is no reflection here, no lessons learned. I knew what it was and it was.