Friday, December 21, 2007

Life in San Diego

San Diego has been our short-(er, long-)term stop-off and stomping ground through the fall. We left San Diego mid-September after getting Pangaea settled at Harbor Island West Marina and flew back to Seattle to get our affairs in order for our longer departure to come. We moved out of our rental house, stowed our stuff in storage, farmed out our pets to unwitting friends and family members, and spent precious time visiting all before saying our farewells. Ben had an interview with Customs and Immigration and passed with flying red, white and blue colors. In celebration of his new citizenship, we taught him the secret handshake and made him recite the Pledge of Allegiance (feeding him the lines, of course).

Mid-October we drove Ben's truck south to San Diego, visiting Natasha's family in Newport, and Mary's in Eugene, OR en route. It was fun to see the new additions (Benjamin and Iris), checkout Natasha's and Charles' newly acquired veterinary hospital, and tour Mary's and Ryan's new home and property. How cool! Our truck was loaded to the hilt and our shocks were toast so we gas-guzzled and bounced our way south.

So, now here were are! We have been splitting our time between life aboard on the boat, and late nights and sleep-overs at Kristi's and Lili's place in Crest, in the hills of east San Diego County. Fun times: visiting with my mom on her week-long visit; late-night chats with Kristi and Lili, soaking in Kristi's new jacuzzi on a deck overlooking a canyon, with a view to sunset and stars; side-trip to Mazatlan to see vet school friends; cavorting with dogs; decorating and landscaping with Lili, harvesting; crossing items off our list of things to do. Less fun times: sanding; varnishing; window-mounting; toilet installation; evacuating Kristi's home from California's fires of the century; getting the truck towed; getting the truck towed a second time; making lists of things to do.

Sadly we lost Wolf to his 2-year battle with cancer in November. He had accompanied us on our drive to California, and settled quickly into life on a sailboat. We knew his time was near, so we cherished every moment we could have with him and, when he was no longer comfortable, we let him go. He rests now at the foot of a boulder at Kristi's and Lili's place, overlooking the canyon. We were lucky to have him in our lives. We love you Wolf!

Now we're heading into crunch time, madly dashing about to finish boat-related projects, arrange our affairs and plan for destinations ahead. Christmas is soon to come, and go. And with the approaching New Year, we'll be off....!!!!!

Special thanks to Kristi and Lili for support, companionship, sleeping accomodations and creative inspiration.

Love to all of you!

Side-trip Reunion in Mazatlan

In October I met up with vet school friends Jeanie, Kristi and Heather in Mazatlan for a week of long-overdue catching up. We stayed in a time-share resort but escaped its confines for fun in Mazatlan's center, primarily walking, talking, tequila-shotting, shopping, iguana-watching, music-sharing, beach-combing and exploring. The trip coincided with Mexico's Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead), so naturally we made toasts to the deceased.

Mexico was as warm and friendly as ever. We met some gracious locals, one of whom, "Jesse James," invited us to his home and directed us to his favorite beach-side restaurant (Lety's) for a day trip to Stone Island. On the Day of the Dead we followed a parade to an altar made in memory of Frida Kahlo, and then visited the city's museum of art to view a special exhibit for the occasion. The night before, Halloween, we had drinks in the old town plaza and watched trick-or-treaters in search of sweets.

The highlight of the trip? Late nights of chatting, sharing, debating and gossipping (often sprinkled with a little Pictionary). It's so good to see friends.....!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Where (and when) is here?

So, phase 1 of our journey began Thursday, August 30, 2007, at 10:30 pm. After the summer's frenetic preparations, and with the much-appreciated assistance of friends and family, we were finally set to sail. We took on our crew, friend Victor Lavergne, and aweighed our anchor, leaving Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle, bound for Port Townsend. We stopped in PT for 8 hours or so to wait out a gale blowing in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, then continued on our merry way.

We bade farewell to Washington's Cape Flattery in the dawn light of September 1st, and made a bee-line (in zig-zag fashion) off shore. We avoided fishermen and tankers, and made our first gray whale sighting along the way. Heading south along the Pacific coast one is usually accompanied with favorable following winds. And yet, we weren't. We beat upwind through two fronts passing overhead, making the trek down through Oregon and northern California a bumpy one. Oh well, baptism by fire. And this was a first for Victor!

On Sunday Victor made good use of the fishing gear he had brought along. We towed the line for awhile under motor, with no bites. But moments after resetting the line once under sail, we hit pay dirt! A beautiful and unwitting albacore tuna had taken the bait. And there was more where that came from. We sailed through a school of tuna for awhile, spotting jumping fish off and on through the day. I was alternately jumping for joy, and crying for the tuna's inevitable end. Anyway, we ate well.

The next day we were pleased to see northwesterlies, giving us some lovely downwind sailing. We poled out the jib top and made good time. By nightfall, (oops) too much sail area for the mounting winds and seas caused us some grief. We were thankful to have Victor's help. After a bit of unwanted excitement wrestling the pole and jib down, we were doused and panting. And it wasn't over, as we had yet to reef the main. Ben volunteered to take the helm....all night long....and into the following afternoon. Once day broke we could finally appreciate what the seas around us looked like, that is, tall. It's hard to tell when you're in it, but we estimate the waves at ~ 20 feet. Man, we were hauling ass, with peak speeds ~ 18 knots, surfing down the waves under a double-reefed main. Needless to say Victor and I were only too glad to leave the helm to Ben. And, sleep-deprived or not, Ben was glowing with glee.

On Tuesday night we finally started our approach to San Francisco Bay. We were surprised how un-crowded it was wending or way in through shipping lanes. Easy as pie. By now we were motoring once again - wind is fickle. We passed through the Golden Gate Wednesday the 5th at 8 am, as dawn was breaking. How cool is that! We were ready to crash, shower, and eat hot food. Oh yeah, and find a functional toilet, as ours had bitten the dust days before. Ode to the bucket - and let's leave it at that.

We parted ways with Victor (thanks for your help Victor!!), and met up with our incoming crew - John Fiddler. We needed a couple days to clean, restock and recupe, but we finally set sail once again on Saturday, September 8. We tacked our away around obstacles solid, darting and unyielding. It was a brief blast of excitement on our way out of the City by the Bay, soon to be met with winds clocking in at ~ 0 knots. So, we shifted into slow mode, twiddled our thumbs and motored. Fiddler, our poor adrenaline junky was running low on adrenaline.

Luckily were were graced with the wonder of wildlife. A whale (gray?) gave us a show with some breaching and tail-slapping. (Does anyone know what this means?) I don't know if he was feeling randy or, rather, agitated. Whichever may be the case, he was expressive to say the least. We passed through a few expansive smacks of jellyfish (we've recently learned this is an ominous sequela to global warming that other sea life aren't excited about), leaping seals, sea lions, otters and birds. Watching dolphins dart through the waves at night, aglow with phosphorescence, is a sight to behold.

Of course, no wind = motoring = fuel. So, our journey south was interrupted by fuel stops. The first attempt was made at San Luis Obispo. Unfortunately we made landfall at night (as per usual) and were directed to a floating dock adjacent to the fuel dock until morning. We had no easy way to get off the boat without swimming, so instead we waited out the night with a serenading gang of randy sea lions nearby (like, 10 yards near). Come morning, San Luis Obispo lay quiet with an electrical black out, so fuel was a no-go. We left with Santa Barbara on our minds. Finally, nearing Cape Arguello, we found wind. We navigated around oil derricks (under an ever-watchful eye), groped through fog, cavorted with more whales, and arrived in Santa Barbara that night (yes, again at night). Fid left us the next day, to visit a friend and ensure he wouldn't miss his ride (ie, plane) back to Seattle.

Well, Ben and I found ourselves, for the first time, alone. We had just a short bit to go, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, our destination. This was a good test of our ability to handle the boat on our own, and we got plenty of practice as we encountered a little bit of everything in the way of wind and weather. We were pleased with ourselves in the way of performance and, besides that, we had such a good time. We cruised in to San Diego early morning on September 12th and celebrated our accomplishment with a toast!

How did we get here?

Ben and I began scheming our exit strategy back in 2003, shortly after I started ER veterinary work at Animal Emergency and Referral Center (now VCA Veterinary Specialty Center). Funny how hard work gets you thinking about vacation (insert tropical backdrop). So, we hunkered down to pay down debt, buy a boat, and grow a nest egg to sustain us once unemployed.

After a year's search, we came across our Ross 40, built in 1987 in New Zealand. With only two of these on the west coast, we found ourselves on a plane to LA to check her out in September 2004. She's a roomy racer-cruiser, but had only been used to race until now. She was seaworthy and well maintained but spare in the way of live-aboard amenities. We took her out for a test sail, and we were smitten.

The past 3 years have seen us scraping our knuckles, bruising our knees, bumping our heads, sustaining small lacerations, bickering, nagging, and getting married (not to mention getting washed aground when our anchor gave way). And yet, here we are - almost done getting Pangaea ship-shape for our needs, and almost ready to shove off for tropical destinations. Southward ho!