October 29, 2008

Channel Islands interlude

yes, they hiked in crocs.
Originally uploaded by behang

Just a quick plug for the handful of pictures we took on our visit to Santa Cruz- click through this one for more. Baker family- don't you dare skip these next year in a rush to get south. After exprienceing the magic of kelp forests firsthand, Niall went from a reluctant near-swimmer to diehard snorkeler (we had to drag him back into the dinghy).

Life is good!

October 23, 2008

We're not in Kansas anymore

Dall's Porpoises
Originally uploaded by behang

We spent several idyllic days in Monterey, soaking up Julie & Gloria's hospitality. I walked around trying to keep jaw off the ground at the beauty around us, from the curve of Carmel beach and glittering water to their time capsule, movie-set home in Pebble Beach and the striking views across the bay. They tried to tell us it's not always this nice, and although it may well be true- it was hard to imagine it any other way than warm and sunny.

It says something about the boating community that before we even got to the harbormaster's office, we ran into familiar faces (the Stewards on s/v Alert) and made new friends (Ann, Eric and Bear on m/v Oso Blanco- we'd been following them on AIS down from Half Mon Bay, and they'd heard us talking to Alert on the radio- having been tipped off by mutual friends to look out for Totem, since we'd be in the same area). Bear is 6 and immediately became fast friends with our crowd- we're looking forward to seeing more of them in Mexico this winter.

Our first full day was spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium- and I mean, it was nearly the whole day. We arrived with the Oso Blanco crew, on their bikes, barely 15 minutes after it opened in the morning- at 3:00 pm, when he was told it Really Was Time To Leave, Niall had tears in his eyes. They loved it, needless to say! The docents couldn't believe how much Mairen knew about kelp ("how old is she? really") ...smart little boat girl that she is.

Gloria and I found driftwood on the beach that became the perfect bench on a swing she crafted for the kids. We made "good for you, really" (according to the guy who sold us the All Natural Vanilla Marshmallows at Whole Foods) s'mores on the patio at sunset. As anyone who knows my family well, of course, you'll also know we played cards! Julie cleaned up, but Jamie was a close second...Glo and I are hopeless. :-) She's an ace at tennis with the kids, though. I think one of my favorite images is the kids getting cleaned up after a walk on the beach. Check the Flickr stream for pictures!

We pointed south on a foggy morning, and (unwisely it seems) skipped the meclazine with the children...Niall and Mairen had their first experience with seasickness within an hour, although they did recover quickly. Heading south from Monterey, we were dazzled by visiting dolphins. First, a larger (100+) pod of Risso's dolphins crossed our path- stunning displays of acrobatics as these bigger(12 foot) dolphins frolicked the boat. Later, a smaller pod of Dall's porpoises danced and played on our wake. It was pure magic.

Initially we planned a stop at San Simeon to see Hearst Castle, but all weather signs pointed to this being an excellent time to keep going through to Santa Barbara. This would let us put Point Conception, the last intimidating point of land for a while, comfortably behind us. Changing gears was a no-brainer!

Niall helped Jamie and I with the watch schedule that night. He was SO excited and SO proud to have watch responsibility...writing in his log about how we were going to be up all night, looking for boats, watching for the oil rigs, etc. I started to wonder how we'd get him to actually sleep! Jamie and I traded off, and eventually Niall crashed in the cockpit inside a fleece sleeping bag (still in full foulies and wearing his PFD and harness).

Santa Barbara has been stunning. From the moment we arrived- OK, from the moment we recovered from a night of little sleep- it was clear we'd shifted climate zones. Different flora, different birds, different breezes, different colors in the water. The transition felt more dramatic than simply putting Point Conception behind us. I'm wondering why people we know who lived here ever left (Curtis, you've got some 'splaining to do)- it is simply gorgeous. We've filled our stay with exploring the "old town", visiting the historical museum (a small, but concentrated and fascinating collection). Our paths took us through the farmer's market- I still can't belive the variety and beauty of the produce, and how reasonable it is compared to Seattle- a nod to the climate. There were fun new things to try- fresh passionfruit, even, the kids loved scooping it out with a spoon!

Tomorrow we take off for the Channel Islands. We've been reading Island of the Blue Dolphins together (set in those islands), and the children learned native Chumash oral histories at a closet-sized visitor center we stumbled into in town. It will be as much as a week there, weather dependent, before we return to keep bouncing down the mainland.

October 16, 2008

Making progress south

Although we left Eagle Harbor back on August 21, in many ways it was the departure from Alameda, and the SF Bay, on October 13 that marked the beginning of what Niall long ago christened The Big Trip. The Seattle departure was without the children, since we wanted to spare them the discomfort and probable stress of a passage down the west coast to northern California. When they arrived in Alameda with my parents, joining us on board wasn’t terribly different than life aboard back in Eagle Harbor in many ways. We all felt the significance of starting on this next leg on our journey.

We had expected to leave sooner, but waiting for truly benign weather (wanting to provide the smoothest ride possible out the Golden Gate, for the children’s introduction to ocean swells) also gave us a welcome chance to spend more time with friends and family. I want to squeeze every minute with Jim and Diana, who are like family. Their kindness, enthusiasm for our plans, and willingness to share from the wisdom of their experiences- are a wonderful gift in our lives. The extra days also meant we were able to visit with both Christy Buckman, in town for a conference, and with more relatives- Auntie Mum & Uncle Niall, dinner in SF at the Minuths and Shields family…Maris and kids visited earlier in the week as well).

The fact our departure day turned out to also be Columbus Day added an ironic twist! Friends new and old from Gate 11 came to untie our lines and wave goodbye: Jim and Diana (who we look forward to seeing in Mexico this winter!), Dennis & Carol from Evergreen, Dave & Carmen from Crusin’ Crew, Doug & Carla from Moondance (they’re leaving shortly after us to join the Ha-Ha this year), Jon & Barbara from African Rover, Brian from Swiftsure. Have we mentioned what a great place it was, how hard to leave?

At her request, we called Timmie Cosovich- mother of grade school friends- as we made our way out of the estuary and into the Bay…she donned red fleece for visibility, and then came down to the dock to wave us on our way. Her small act of kindness, waving us off on our departure, felt tremendous! It was hard to know if it was her, but we waved back at a spot of red along the waterfront and felt the well wishes sending us on our way.

Angel Island had a large wildfire, started the night before and already 200+ acres that morning; when we first saw the smoke in the distance, we thought it was fog coming in through the ocean. Not so, as we realized the day was sparkling and clear- and the size of the smoke plume from the burn was sobering. On the SF side, ships in for Fleet Week made a dramatic impression- I got a quick picture of Russian Hill, and the house I grew up in…the Art Institute tower next door makes it easy to find. Over towards Marin, we could clearly see the awesome spectacle of the Maltese Falcon. We’re hoping to see this magnificent boat down in the Mexico this winter, where we hear it’s going to be participating in research activity in the Sea of Cortez.

Passing under the gate was uneventful, as was the rest of the approximately 6 hour transit down to Half Moon Bay. We were able to sail part of the time, but ultimately powered more than sailed- having waited for nice weather, it was so calm there wasn’t enough wind. It all ensured and easy trip for the children, though, which was what we wanted. The dolphin escorts that brought is in back in August appeared again on the way out, much to the kids’ delight. Niall, Mairen and I took the kayak to the beach, and promptly got lost in the tidepools…finding eels, crabs, snails, and watching cormorants splash as they hunted in the shallows. We left early the following morning for Monterey, where we've found a snug berth and plan to stay for several days visiting family- even spending the night ashore (gasp!). More to follow...we'll likely be here until Saturday.