I get a lot of work moving boats uphill - upwind, upswell, upcurrent - and it's work I'm glad to have. But every now and then I get a nice downhill run. At the end of '07 I brought a just-commissioned Beneteau 43 from San Diego to Oregon with the owners and their daughter onboard (issue #91). There were some bumpy parts but it was an easy trip. Last month that same boat was ready to come back.
My brother Rusty lives on a lake in the pine forest above Seattle and so I popped in for a visit. This time we took out the "lake boat" - a section of floating dock with lounge chairs, a cooler and an electric motor. I then drove the 500 miles to Brookings Oregon. That is amazing scenery, steep and green without much development. I stopped at Depoe Bay. They have an amazingly jagged harbor entrance. I felt compelled to have a quick coldie at the Pirates Booty. A perfect dive, the locals welcomed me in like family. It made me want to stay … until my beer ran out.
I was the first to arrive at the boat. The docks at Brookings are full of old fishing boats and derelicts. Our new white Beneteau had just been polished and stood out like a pearl in a bin of shucked oysters. It was going to be me and the family again only this time we would have both of their twenty-something daughters. Looked like I would be sleeping in the saloon again. I dropped my stuff off and walked over to the seaside diner to get my last meal. I love those little local places.
When I returned to the boat the clan had assembled and was raring to go. We checked the engine and secured gear and fired her up. The boat was new before we left on her maiden voyage, the trip that brought her up. They tried to get someone to do the first engine service while she sat in Brookings but never found anyone qualified. This was unfortunate but as Captain Ron says, "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen out there." And so we left.
Just as we passed the outer wall, engine alarms started going off. We shut her down. Motor shmotor, this was a sailboat. We would just sail for a while. I went to crank out the in-mast furling. It jammed. "It's OK," the dad explained, "the same thing happened on the harbor checkout cruise. The dealer said that it's normal. You just have to crank it in and out a few times until it un-jams." Two words: Stack Pack.
Down below in the ER I could see shreds of the belt hanging below the belt cover. The replacement belt was a little small. While I was contemplating the situation I overheard the mom on the cell phone leaving a message for their Beneteau guy to call us back adding, "It's an emergency". I cringed. We try not to use that word around boats unless we mean it. While awaiting the thrumming of helicopter blades; three of us pushing, pulling and prying got the belt on.
Back on deck it was raining high-end ball bearings. Someone had mounted the boom track too far forward and when the furling main was brought all the way out it pulled right off the track. Remarkably they are still making these track cars with loose bearings. For icing we had the standard Raymarine issues with intermittent gps signal, random resetting and kindergarten software.
But finally we were at sea, home sweet home, cruising merrily along down the coast. It was end of winter so it was chilly. I didn't bring my heavy foulies, I like to travel carry-on when I can. With 5 onboard I was expecting short watches. As I was making up the watch schedule it was explained that the kids would not be doing their own watches. That sounded nice, some quality time sharing watches with mom and dad, something that families don't do enough of in my opinion. Then pops started to not feel well, he had a stomach issue, which left just two of us doing watches. I have to say that mom and the girls, admirably, picked up the slack. I talked to him about doing his laying around while sharing a watch up in the cockpit but he was too ill for that.
Me and mom had a talk. If dad was on the verge of death maybe being at sea was not the safest place for him. We decided to get him to shore. We pulled into beautiful Bodega Bay. One idea that filtered through was that the parents would drive a car back down to San Diego while the girls and I carried on with the delivery. Right about the time Dad caught wind of that plan he made a miraculous recovery. We fueled up and headed back out to sea.
A note when cruising the west coast. We had been seeing a lot of crab pots so I consulted a local fisherman (common cruising oracle). Bodega's Jonny Cod informed me that we would see pots out to 60. Seems I had been seeing pots out to 150 feet deep. No, he corrected me, fathoms, which is 360 feet. That's some ambitious crabbing I thought. Cold dark water is the one thing I admit to being afraid of (besides Canadian midget strippers). With no kelp cutters on the prop I moved our gps track out past the 360' line.
We blew by San Francisco without incident. On the radio the Coast Guard was issuing a weather warning. Seems we would soon be running in 40 knots of wind. I had confidence in the boat and thought to carry on. The boss and I talked it over and decided that they weren't fired up to weather the blow at sea. We pulled into Moro Bay. On the upside I had not come into Moro from sea before. On the downside we were going to miss the first good wind of the trip and a prime opportunity to put the boat through her paces. It's a great way to find out about things we may want to adjust or change on the boat. Another downside is that bad weather can close an entrance to a bay like Moro which would trap me. I guess I'm afraid of that too.
We pulled up and parked in front of the Moro Bay Yacht Club. What a great group of people. We also met young Dane heading out to cruise (http://danejyhrr.blogspot.com/). Back onboard another plan was hatched. With our new schedule the girls were going to miss their flights out of San Diego so the family decided they’ed all hop in a car and drive down. I started the crew search. She works a lot and so is rarely available. Great company, great food and seasick-proof, having Dena available to crew an easy downwind leg was like getting Babe Ruth off the bench for a local softball game.
After spending two nice days trapped in Beautiful Moro Bay, Dena and I fueled and headed out through a still breaking bar entrance. The trip continued uneventfully. Like a typical leg cruising: smooth downwind conditions, dolphins everyday, passing through islands at night (Channel Isles), taking hors d'oeuvres and sunset coldies on the aft deck. In trade for servicing a head pump-out misstep (wasn't me) we won a few hours at our favorite local island stop – Two Harbors, Catalina. Beautiful boat, socal weather, Buffalo Milks and a live band on the deck of the Harbor Reef Bar.
Up early, a sunrise to sunset run brought us to our destination, funky San Diego, where the parents took Dena and I out to dinner overlooking the bay. A perfect wind up.