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adventures

coconuts’ first voyage: point reyes

What are two single sailorettes supposed to do over a long Valentines day weekend? Motor sail 40 miles up the beautiful California coast to Point Reyes, I guess! Here we are, having just spotted the anchorage in Drakes Bay, on top of the world as we’d safely completed our mission having never been anywhere near this area before. It ended up being a bit of an adventure getting up there, so a celebration was in order!

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We stopped in Aquatic Park the night before heading out the gate. When living in Berkeley I used to load up the dogs and the laundry into the dinghy and I would row to the other side of the marina to do laundry. Since I’m not in Berkeley anymore, I have not used my dinghy in ages. I forgot how much the doggies love rowing around! Leann and I both kayaked over to Alcatraz, it worked out perfectly because the Port Authority was on strike so there were no cargo ships and tug boats to dodge. Unfortunately, while both toys were out overnight for some reason my custom teak ladder was gone in the morning. I was an angry mama bear without my ladder!! I wasn’t sure how to get the dogs on and off the boat without it. I mean, come on!

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We scoped out the anchorage and realized that one boat had a kayak tied to it that had not been there the night before. He had to pass my boat to get to his. His boat appeared to be of scallywag material. My ladder was the only thing that could have been stolen that would have been easy to hide. We circled around his boat and I decided to board his boat and look for the ladder. Mind you, the companion way was completely open and I knew there was someone on board. I could see right into his boat, which was exactly like the one I lived on for 2 1/2 years. I knew where to look and wasted no time quietly opening the cockpit lockers.

The only problem was my ladder wasn’t in the cockpit lockers. It wasn’t inside either, from what I could see. I certainly wasn’t going to go inside. Then he woke up. My dinghy was secured to his starboard, and I was on port. I knew I’d been caught… oops? I leaped over to the other side of the cockpit and hurled myself into my dinghy where Bear and Zita were patiently (and quietly) waiting for their crazy mom to finish being crazy. As I was releasing the line attached to his cleat, a small Jewish man with longish salt and pepper wavy hair with a knit hat and welcoming eyes emerged and simply smiled at me. Before he could even say anything, I asked if he knew anything about my stolen ladder. He chuckled, and said no.

We chatted a bit and Leann and I eventually rowed away, taking the dogs to shore for a walk. Leann and I quick;y determined he was a big fat liar. He caught me snooping through his boat and he smiled at us and was so nice. Way too nice! And he said he got back to his boat at around 7 pm, but we were out in the cockpit until 9 or so and we never saw him pass.

We went back to his boat and instead of wanting trouble I kindly asked for my ladder back and promised I’d go away after that. THAT is when he went off on us. A lot. It was well deserved, I guess. He invited us up to snoop through the rest of his boat, and while I was scared to because of how angry he was, Leann kindly checked for me and it wasn’t there. Whoever stole my ladder, it’s probably going to end up at some swap meet or something. Mr. Jacobs, our new friend, later rowed past us as he was heading to shore. He told me he had a present for me, and without hesitation I asked if it was a can of Whoopass. He chuckled again and gave me a Walt Whitman book. Joy, Shipmate, Joy! he told me to read.

So that’s how we began our first ocean voyage on Coconut! I was a pirate before I even lost part of my finger. I now know Aquatic Park isn’t as safe as I thought it was.

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Onward ho! We were set back an hour due to the ladder fiasco, but we were still able to take the tide out under the bridge. You see, Leann and I are both reverse sailors. We both bought boats to live on and then started learning how to sail. Neither of us trust engines. Yes, mine is a Yanmar and brand new, but the whole point of a sailboat is that it can get you around without an engine. My main is not ready to be hoisted yet, but the jib was a possibility.

Leann was getting the jib ready. The hanks were on the forstay, and she was searching for shackles to put on the cars for the tracks and for the sheets. Suddenly, the engine cut out. There was still a hum, but the loud purr was gone. F%*@! NO! We were still in between the Potato Patch and the rocky coast! If the engine doesn’t come on, whichever way the current takes us is no bueno. I removed the key and hit the STOP button and waited for what felt like an eternity. “What lines are the sheets for the jib?” “Is it this one? Or this one?”Leann asked. “I don’t know” I responded. “I have no clue, whichever one you want to use.” I’d raised the jib months ago at the dock, but only to see how big it was. I knew I had lines on board, what they were for I hadn’t a clue.

I put the key back in the ignition and turned it clockwise to hear that sweet sweet purr of the engine. It started back up as if nothing had happened! It continued for the rest of the trip without a hitch. We then relaxed and laughed at what a day we’d already had.

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Once we got into the anchorage, we’d passed the only other sailboat there and asked if we really needed to anchor so far away from the shore. We did, he confirmed. We set anchor in 18′ of water and began preparations for dinner. I wasn’t feeling so hot, honestly. I was burping (my seasickness I guess) and had hardly eaten all day. After eating everything in sight and still feeling like I was wasting away, I realized I was slowly dying.

You see, Leann is a vegetarian. I bought a bunch of food she and I could share and thought since we’d been backpacking several times together and eaten the same food I’d be OK. Not the case, as the packaged meals we were eating on backpacking trips had additives to prevent a carnivore like me from death. The PB&J, the pasta and veg spaghetti sauce? Not so much. I realized in a semi-conscious state that I had eggs, which Leann kindly cooked up for me to bring me back to life.

The next morning I was feeling soooo much better, we went to shore to explore, hike, and take in the beauty of this area I knew nothing about.

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It didn’t take long before I started getting lectured left and right about my dogs and the seal pups. By the end of the day, I was pretty annoyed. The laws just changed that boaters aren’t allowed to come to shore anywhere there is a seal to protect their dwindling population. Well, where are we supposed to go then? Nobody had an answer. Oh, and “dogs are SOO disruptive to wildlife.” SO ARE HUMANS! Humans are worse for God’s sake. My dogs were on leash, they weren’t picking fights or chasing birds, I picked up their poop, leave me alone dammit.

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Anywho, I learned a lot about this area. Way before the Coast Guard, there used to be a lighthouse and a lifeboat saving station. There was a crew who lived at the station, and one would walk up and down the long coastline in shifts, looking for shipwrecks. When they spotted one, they’d go back to the station and everyone would carry their gear out to the wreck. I never knew anything like that existed, but I suppose wrecks were more common back then without all the technology we have today.

Also, the deal with the seal pups? It was mating season back in Feb. and the seal pups don’t have good odds at survival. Their mama stays with them the first 4-5 weeks of life. She leaves because she gets hungry, as she hasn’t eaten at all since giving birth. It takes another 4-5 weeks for the pup to figure out that there’s food in the water, even though they don’t know how to hunt or eat or anything. Only 50% of pups make it to the first year of life. Something as simple as lifting up its head to see if it’s in danger or not can waste valuable calories it needs to survive.

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There were plenty of bird enthusiasts, and we were just a couple of weeks shy of whale watching season. The population of grey whales has increased significantly in the past several years due to the ban on whale hunting. I still have not seen a whale! I saw a spout of water off the pier in Santa Cruz, but mama whales with their calves would be amazing to see.

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We ended the day of sight seeing and hiking with opening a bottle of home made key lime vodka. It had been marinating for well over a year, I was afraid to open it and consume it. I’m not much of a drinker, but why not celebrate such an amazing voyage? Thankfully the weather was warm enough to swim in, albeit I jumped in and swam directly to the dingy. We ended up dancing under the warm kiss of the sun, Zita did not approve as you can see. Bear was happy in his “recliner” set in the shade. We danced until we, for some reason, decided to row far far away to visit a fishing boat who was anchored out. There were two sailboats near us, but for some reason that fishing boat was calling our names.

The three men that we met, whose names now escape me, were thrilled (but not too thrilled if you know what I mean) to have us visit. We got a tour of their boat and hung out until we rowed back in the fog, to my boat, that was now too far away to see. Leann was legitimately terrified, while I was genuinely optimistic. Zita’s barks lead me the way, bless her loud little soul.

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The foggy morning came and went as we made our way back to Aquatic Park where I dropped Leann off so that she could attend her classes. I met once again with Mr. Jacobs, the man whose boat I boarded. He asked if I had read the poem, Joy, Shipmate, Joy! I had not, so told me to read it to him. Out loud, him in his kayak, and me in the cockpit of Coconut, I read to him.

Joy! shipmate–joy!
(Pleas’d to my Soul at death I cry;)
Our life is closed–our life begins;
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last–she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore;
Joy! shipmate–joy!

 

Categories
adventures

a romantic new year

How did everyone celebrate? Party like it’s 1999? Stay at home and watch the fireworks on TV? With a kiss from your special someone?

I only got kisses and cuddles from Bear and Zita, but, the evening somehow was very romantic. When I was having a hard time finding somewhere to live when I first moved to SF, a co-worker asked what I was going to do (month four of having no permanent residence). In frustration and just hours after I’d learned that people live on boats I let out a “I’m just going to sell everything and move onto a boat” sigh of defeat. Her silence said she knew I was just frustrated and that I didn’t really mean that. I certainly did not realize the craziness that came out of my mouth was soon to become a reality.

On New Years Eve three years later: I had the Golden Gate Bridge behind me, the beautiful Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge ahead of me, Ghirardelli Square to my right and Alcatraz to my left. Are you freaking kidding me? I got here on my own. I left the dock, motored, and dropped anchor all with not a soul to assist me. I wanted it this way. How else am I going to learn? It’s scary because I am not used to relying on a motor and this baby can’t sail yet. The engine is brand new, less than 35 hours. I still I don’t trust it, mostly because I have never relied on an engine before. I’d never dropped anchor before either. What if I drift and hit something? How does the windlass thingy even work? Putting faith in something I don’t trust or understand is pretty nerve wracking. Alas, if I’m ever going to get comfortable taking people out on Coconut I need to learn her quirks to ever be in charge.

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I made hot toddies and snuggled in the cockpit with the fur babies and watched the fireworks burst out from behind Coit Tower with a huge smile on my face. I shouldn’t forget to mention that bacon and eggs were on the menu, and I had a quick chat with my bestie as the clock struck midnight.

I didn’t really see this as romantic when my former co-worker said that, but it actually really is. I just wanted to keep my family together and this was the easiest way to do so. And bam. There I was hanging out on my boat in the heart of San Francisco enjoying a few days peace in beautiful and sunny (but cold) weather.

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I anchored out for three days total. I actually did drag anchor, like I woke up the second morning with a boat that had been behind me suddenly in front of me. I hope I didn’t hit it in the middle of the night (it was on a mooring ball unattended). I didn’t really want to pull up the anchor and re-set it. How was I going to do it better? Behind me was the pier and I certainly didn’t want to hit that, so, I had no choice. Pulling the anchor up only pulled me closer to the boat ahead of me, which was no bueno. I decided to motor forward gently to the left a little to ease up on the chain and get away from said boat.

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Thankfully the wind shifted and I was able to pull the anchor up (by hand of course, I couldn’t figure out the windlass) without hitting the boat. I circled around in the tight anchorage and thought I found a good clear spot, but I still didn’t quite get it right and pulled up the chain (by hand!) and tried again. A nice man who had arrived the night before waved and after complimenting my beautiful boat said he had to put out 150′ of chain before he felt safe. A nice way to say “put more chain out!”

I played it cool and responded with “I’ve never anchored before I don’t know what I’m doing!” He offered assistance if I needed any, but thankfully I felt something different the third time that I hadn’t felt the other times. I set out a bunch of chain. And then more. And then more. I reversed the boat, to which it instead went to the left and sideways. I let it settle with the engine in neutral and watched the north tower of the Golden Gate bridge to see if I was still moving backwards or not. I felt a bit of a tug and suddenly saw that we moved forward. BAM! Anchor set! Now all I need to do is mark my anchor chain so that I actually know how many feet are flying by as it goes to rest on the bottom of the bay. Honestly I have no idea how much I was putting out. 20′? 30′? Probably not what I should have, but in a small anchorage I didn’t want to put out so much I came too close to the other boats.

I had only previously checked to make sure I wasn’t drifting 2,394 times and as soon as I got a comfortable night’s sleep I drifted. Everything was OK though. What happens on boats happens so slowly, thankfully you have time to react. I also watched my battery usage, I hardly used anything at all. Granted I only have the fridge, radio, and LED cabin lights, I was happy to see the volts meter hardly budged in the three days. I did notice that the engine, however, isn’t charging the batteries. I need to look into that to figure out what that’s about. The first night out I used my awesome oil lamp instead of the cabin lights. But… I’m thinking of dumping the Kerosene and putting something else in there. What is up with the black smudge left behind?! Gross. I was breathing that. Anyone have recommendations for oil to use in a lamp that doesn’t leave a nasty residue?

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Last but not least, a former neighbor from the People’s Republic of Berkeley, who had moved his boat to San Francisco, came out to visit me for a minute. He didn’t know I’d gotten a bigger boat. Oddly enough, the same kind of boat I used to live on was anchored right next to me. What a good feeling to have made so much progress!

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Initially I was trying to recreate the same lame NYE I had last year. I’d gone over to a friends boat and by 10:30 pm we were both falling asleep, so I went home and called it a night. I had the best year of my life! SO I had to be lame again, which was what I was aiming for. I don’t think anything I did was lame, actually it was awesome! I did feel guilty when friends were asking if there was anything fun going on just hours before midnight. No, no, nothing happening over here 😉