Day One – Aug 15, 2020
Long day today. Woke up at 3 am and hopped on a flight from SeaTac, WA to Long Beach, WA. Planned to sleep on the first flight, then on the layover in Oakland, CA to get coffee and breakfast. All went to plan until Oakland. The airport had significant portions physically closed off, including all the restaurants and coffee shops…
Finally arrived in Long Beach and went right to the boat.
42’ Uniflite. The boat had been working as a commercial dive boat, taking groups out to Catalina Island. It was somewhat modified. Customers dropped off over the last couple of years and the boat was retired. The owner is moving it up to Tacoma, WA, and converting it back into a pleasure craft for cruising Puget Sound. There was still a lot on it from it’s working days. We hauled a lot off the boat.
Later met a great guy named Gary. Friend of the owner. He had a beautiful 75’ Chris Craft. We ran hard today. I was ready to drop at midnight. Fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I never did get any coffee…
Provisioning Day – Aug 16, 2020
Fiddled with the AIS this morning. Something wonky going on. It is transmitting, but also throwing an error. Turned out that the antenna was being shared by the VHF and it did not like that. Acquired a new antenna to install tomorrow.
Jesse and I went on a provisioning run. The amount of food we purchased is astonishing. I lived on a 33’ powerboat with my wife, and we cruised. 36’ sailboat. We always had plenty of food, but it was tight. This boat is 42’ and has a full-sized fridge and freezer! There is also a large chest style fridge for drinks. It is provisioned to the gills with so. Much. Food.
Tomorrow is the final prep day. We need to install then antenna, retrieve spare parts from a storage shed, finish resealing one window, and secure loose items, then we are ready to head out! Santa Barbara will be the first stop. Short hop/shakedown cruise.
Final Prep Day! – Aug 17, 2020
All the last minute projects got completed today. 8 person self-inflating life raft was installed, and Jesse did a stellar job of cleaning the carpets.
My good childhood friend, Josh, moved down in this area a couple of years ago. Had not seen him since. He was able to stop by after work for a couple of hours. I missed that guy!
Missing Alix and Clara too. Clara gets excited to see me on FaceTime. She is 16 months old and adorable as heck.
All systems go to cast off in the morning!
Cast Off! – Aug 18, 2020
Left the dock at 7:31 AM
Big fog rolled into the harbor, but between the remaining visibility and our radar, we were not to be stopped.
Running at about 15 knots on fairly smooth seas. Engines running strong. They are brand new Cummins Diesels with only about 500 hours on them.
We got into Santa Barbara marina around 2 pm. Today was intentionally short. About 80 miles. We can run 150 without issue. Shakedown cruise for the owner.
Every boat in this marina is nice. A big change from San Pedro, where most boats looked like derelicts. Walked passed an amazing sailboat, Moody DS54. Would be a fantastic offshore boat. Perfect for this area. The cabin was massive. Good for entertaining and cruising. On sailboats with that big of a hull, the sail-ability of the boat usually suffers, but this boat had a massive rig. It looks like it could be a good performer.
Getting up early in the morning and making a fast run to either San Lius Abisbo or Morro Bay, depending on the weather. There is a big northerly coming in in the afternoon that we want to avoid. The boat can handle it, but it would be a very uncomfortable ride.
Day Two – Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo – Aug 19, 2020
Up at 6 am, left the dock at 7am. The seas here are very calm.
Passed an oil rig that was stinking up the whole area. It leaked something and the water around for miles had a smelly sheen on it.
Weather is looking good for a run to San Luis Obispo. When we get close we will reevaluate Morro bay and head there, depending on the weather. I would prefer to get further north myself and do not mind bumpy conditions for a couple hours.
We headed to Morro bay. Had a few interesting moments. This boat is capable of 24 knots, which is pretty quick. We had been cruising at 17 knots when the waves started building. I was using the head (boat speak for toilet) and just pulling my shorts back up when we launched off a big wave. Suddenly I was floating weightless! It felt like minutes, but it was likely 5-10 seconds. We hit the bottom hard and I crumpled to the floor. No damage done to me or the boat.
Winds whipped up shortly after that. The storm that was coming in arrived a couple hours early and made life uncomfortable.
Whales! There were a lot of humpback whales playing around us, spread out for miles. Blowing spouts, slapping tails, and a bunch of full body breaches as they jumped out of the water. It was fun to watch and a nice distraction from the lumpy water.
I have only been seasick once that I can recall. It was just off Washington, as the sailboat I was on turned South. The water was all mixed up and it was like being in a washing machine. In those conditions being inside the cabin is one of the worst places you can be. I stayed up on the flybridge, but even so, the stomach felt a little funny.
Once we got around the point the water calmed down and we were able to punch up to 17 knots again. During the slop we had slowed to 12 knots to prevent slamming into the waves.
Morro Bay Layover Day – August 20, 2020
The storm out on the coast is blowing gale force (25 mph+) winds and there are 8-foot waves at 5 seconds apart. That would make for a very uncomfortable and dangerous ride. We are sticking in Morro Bay today.
Harold and I walked the town. 20,000 steps in! Founds some nice gifts for ourselves and our ladies.
The forest fires are filling the area with smoke, blocking the sun and lowering the temperature. It was chilly. I wound up in my sleeping bag with pants and a sweatshirt on!
Morro Bay Layover Day Part Two – August 21, 2020
Today is the 5th year anniversary of the wedding with my lovely and wonderful wife, Alix Lobaugh. The last 5 years have been some of the most amazing and formative years of my life. Thank you, Alix. I love you!
We are sticking to Morro Bay for one more day. Conditions are not horrible out there, but would not be comfortable. Tomorrow looks promising, with the following days forecast to be quite pleasant. It hope they are and we can make some good headway. I would like to be able to finish the trip and not have to fly home. California is a long state! It takes several days to traverse. Once we get to Oregon and Washington the trip will move much faster.
Onward! A dash to Monterey Bay – August 22, 2020
We boogied out of Morro Bay around 7 am. Waters were initially calm. All was calm and boring in the beginning, but we knew that somewhere near Point Sur the water conditions would go to crap, and boy did they. The waters pile up from two directions around the point and collide together, making for some very confused and lumpy seas. We had to slow quite a bit to keep from slamming down. Ran at 10 knots. It was a lumpy and uncomfortable ride till we got around the point. To add to the misery, a thick fog rolled in.
Just past Point Sur a 15 foot Bayliner flagged us down. Three men were fishing and had become lost in the fog. We stopped to help them. Only one could speak English, and that barely. They followed us into the Monterey marina. The direction they were heading before was taking them AWAY from land. That would not have made for a happy day.
Cruised past the Monterey Bay Aquarium where my sister-in-law works. She saw us through the binoculars.
Monterey Bay to Bodega Bay – August 23, 2020
Pulled away from the dock about 7am. Headed from Monterey Bay to Bodega Bay.
This will be our longest single push. About 120 nautical miles. The seas started calm and we have been making 17 knots. There was a thick fog in Monterey Bay that dropped visibility to 150 feet or so.
Made it safely to Bodega! Little fishing marina. I like the people here. Some neat looking fishing boats. I think If I lived on the ocean I would be happy to have a commercial fishing vessel.
The fog lifted some out of Monterey Bay, then came back with a vengeance and stayed with us till Bogeda Bay, where it magically lifted.
No heater in the boat. I was freezing. Could not find my jacket. Looked all over my bunk and suitcase. Guess what…. after shivering for hours, we get to the dock and the jacket was hanging right above my head. What a dummy I am!
There was some debate about Fort Bragg or Eureka tomorrow. Eureka would be a long slog. We could make it, but Cape Mendocino is right before Eureka and we may take a beating there. After most of a day out there it would be rough. So Fort Bragg it is.
Getting near the end of my work vacation time. Did some future scoping- I think that I may make it, but the weather has to 100% cooperate with us. I would like to finish the trip!
Bodega Bay to Fort Bragg – Aug 24, 2020
Left the dock around 7am again. The weather is looking ok early in the day.
Mostly easy going for the morning. Saw a pod of Blue Whales and Fin Whales traveling together. That was pretty neat! The Blue Whale is the largest mammal on earth, coming in nearly 100 feet long. That is more than twice the length of the boat!
We ran into a fog wall. Amazing how one second you are in clear skies and the next a murky white soup. As soon as we entered we were hit by two very steep eight-foot tall waves. Of course, they came from different directions too… gave us quite the knocking about. There were a lot of fishing vessels in the fog. We passed nearby them and never saw another boat the whole time, the fog was that thick.
Fort Bragg is crazy. Whoever thought of putting a marina and building a fishing village here was nuts. The entrance is between rocks and has lots of wave action. Once you get inside that, there is barely enough room for two boats side by side. The channel is dredged to about 20 feet, though there were many times it was a lot shallower. If you miss the marina entrance you will almost immediately go aground!
We ran into a snag with fuel. There is no fuel dock. You have to call a fuel truck and they will come to you. Unfortunately there is no truck till 1pm tomorrow.
Cape Mendocino is the next leap. It has a bad reputation, justly received. When I brought the sailboat down we nearly got stuck there from a strong north-flowing current.
The weather window to get around the cape is early in the morning tomorrow. Miss it and the wait is almost a week before it is safe again. We missed it.
I am unfortunately throwing in the towel. My journey with Second Stage ends here. It will not be possible to make it home inside my time table. I am bummed about it. Even if we were able to leave, there are several other stops along the trip that we would get stuck at due to weather. They will not be home for at least another week, maybe two.
As luck has it, there is one car rental place in the area and it is two miles from the marina. I put in a reservation to get a car tomorrow. Will fly home from Sacramento.
The journeys end – Aug 25, 2020
Renting a car at Fort Bragg and driving it to the Sacramento airport.
There is one rental car agency in the area. I made the two-mile walk and their lot was empty! Wanted to leave at 10 am. Turns out that most people rent cars one way, away from here. There is a truck on the way, carrying cars back.
11:30 am the cars arrived! The lady here was extra nice and offered me my pick of any car at no additional cost. I picked the brand new Dodge Challenger. Looks fun.
Back to the boat to pick up my bags, then heading toward the airport!
The drive from Fort Bragg to Sacramento airport took four hours. There are lots of curves on the 20. That Challenger was super fun to drive. It swept around the corners with style and grace. Smoke from the forest fires in California was intense. It was like driving through a thick brown fog for 4 hours. Luckily the A/C system in the Challenger had a recirculation mode that worked excellently.
Was delayed by some construction. Flight at 5:20 pm, arrived at the rental drop off at 4 pm. I was sweating for time, but everything went smoothly from here. Walked to the shuttle area and one was there- stepped aboard and the door shut. Nobody was in the bag drop off line. Took the escalator up to the train to TSA and it left right as I stepped on. Walked right through TSA. Made it to my gate with 15 minutes to spare before boarding! Just enough time to grab some chicken nuggets. 4:30 pm. I had not eaten all day!