Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises. Sounds, and sweet airs, mist, hot and cold gusty winds, that give delight and hurt not. Well, mostly not. Anyone who thinks this island is not enchanted is badly mistaken. Witness the last two days.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, we had a white out that very nearly pooped our sightseeing trip on catamaran-extraordinaire, Catallac. Fifteen short minutes before picking up our passengers the sky cleared as if it had never held a cloud in all that seamless blue.
The dolphins played hard to get but the barracuda were abundant chasing bait fish that chittered the water ahead of the boat.
Monday afternoon the wind got weird and blew as-hot-as-a hair-dryer-on-high from the land side. After my evening broadcast at KISL 88.7 Island Radio (during which I played a recorded segment of Captain John’s Buffalo Beach story from Sunday), it was still as hot as an oven outside. A cold beer was required before rowing my dink back to my boat across the harbor.
This is when I knew some magic was afoot. My right shoulder received the baking heat from land while my left shoulder clearly felt the cool breeze from the ocean. Flags flew next to each other in opposite directions. The sparkling stars and occasional green meteor prevented me from sleeping until 2 am, so now I need a nap.
It’s official, I have now earned the title Doofus after drifting up on the rocks yesterday. I was doing fine until the motor cut out. I think it has a low idle problem. Now that I have a manual I will fix it. That was embarrassing. No damage done, save to my pride.
I’ve been moving around a bit because when the swells are too big in the harbor it gets a little pukey on the boat. Shifting to a different mooring can make all the difference in the world; such as when we had a Santa Ana coming in and I came back to find my dinghy gone. Actually the whole dinghy dock was gone and there was no access to the water.
The patrol came and picked me up and found my dinghy for me. Apparently when the bumpy water comes in they pull the docks to the side so they won’t bash to bits. Good plan.
And I finally got a little trip into the interior. This place is Never Never Land meets Jurassic Park.
I have been riding twice at Middle Ranch (I always think Middle Earth, as in The Hobbit), and yesterday came to a point during a trail ride when the view took my breath away. I had mountains, ocean, and horse under my butt all at the same time. A fantasy come true.
Austin is considering running for Mayor of Avalon. He has been Glad Pawing all over town, expanding his Pack daily. This place is good for him – and I think good for me too.
It seems ironic that now that I live more in camping mode (no electricity) than I have for the past five years, I need advanced technology (smart phone) just to do basic stuff like get and keep jobs.
The good news is I traced back through the solar panel wiring with my meter and found where it was incorrectly connected. Within a day the batteries were charged back up and no more shlepping heavy computer into town to charge it up. Home office is back on line.
So now my trips to town are mostly about dog and social stuff. Sometimes both. I continue to be amazed by how deaf people get when I tell them no, please don’t touch the dog.
It’s always the same. A fixed stare at Austin’s big dark eyes and doe-like ears and muzzle, and they MUST touch him. As if in a trance. “Is he friendly?” they say, not waiting for an answer. ComPLETELY unnerving to this 18 lb. dog to have a 6′ tall stranger reach for his head. I don’t blame him.
Some fool threw chocolate cookies on my deck while I was out and Austin was on board. a) chocolate can be lethal for dogs b) throwing anything on a stranger’s boat is very poor boat etiquette – not to mention the mess of melting chocolate and c) teasing a small dog for sport is just mean.
So I put up signs: “Do Not feed my dog, you could hurt him.” “Do NOT throw anything on my boat, it’s rude” “Do NOT tease my dog, it’s mean.”
But it is pretty cute when Austin comes to the “door” to say hi, so I can understand how people might be drawn in to look.
I can see that I will have to invest in a wind generator for the boat. The sun doesn’t shine consistently enough to keep the house batteries happy. Or the panels are so old (10+ years) or inefficient, or badly installed, that they won’t function. All I want to do is charge my computer. I use no fridge, and my evening glow shines purely from the 12-hour candle and the solar boat light. The oil lamp works but is too stinky. Must get different lamp oil.
So if anyone knows of a really efficient and QUIET wind generator, I’m interested in learning more.
I have a “smart” battery charger that is “smart so you don’t have to be.” But since the boat hasn’t been plugged in to shore power for a month, it’s not so smart after all. Ha.
In two days another device will add to the charge demand. I’m finally joining the dark side and getting a so-called Smart Phone. I’ve been out of contact with the world long enough.
So I have become expert at finding little spots out of the wind where it is acceptable to sit and work on the computer while charging. I don’t mind the change of scenery. I hope no one minds me lurking in the corners.
May 1st will mark one year that I have been adrift and without a dock to call my own. I am no longer, technically, a Dock Dork. I am, rather, a Buoy Bimbo. Ya, sure.
Avalon Harbor is a busy little partially protected bay. On the sail over from the mainland we screamed along with steady wind that abruptly halted as the island blocked the airflow.
There’s nothing in the way of the airflow through the harbor tonight. In a three day breeze extravaganza, the wind is now coming from over the top of the mountains – a landscape that smacks of Jurassic Park. I half expect a T-Rex to lumber out of the canyon and roar.
But it’s the wind that roars here. The boats are swinging and groaning on the moorings. It’s not nearly as bad as Cojo anchorage, but enough so that not much productivity is going to happen here this evening. No cleaning or food prep or writing the great American novel. As a bonus, the wind distributes the pollen and makes us sneeze and sniff as we row hard against the 25 mph gusts.
Still Paradise, yes, but with a few challenges to make it interesting.
I didn’t know whales had feet. Google “Whale Footprint” for pictures on line. My mouth was too busy hanging open to take any of my own photos. I saw about a dozen of these slick spots in a line right after two whales gave me a full fluke wave ( their tails were wider than my boat was long!). I only recently learned that the strange group of floating smooth bits were made by the whales. That solves that mystery. Sort of.
Spending the day on the water as deckhand on Afishinado Charters. Fun stuff, that. Zipping around on a luxurious multihull, bringing joy and amazement to the passengers who don’t usually get to see the nifty water creatures out there.
The fog that has pillowed my travel in Southern CA waters may be lifting. In each port I have looked for indications that I could stay put for a while. Become part of a community. Many places had strong draws but ultimately I moved on. I see it as the rhythm of the cruiser. Go, stay, go go go, stay, go, stay stay stay… In some ports the bureaucracy was too demanding and menacing. Port authorities presented bizarre paranoid hoops to jump through. Some communities were disjointed and disinterested. Some places I didn’t really connect with anyone. Other places I didn’t have enough time with the cool people I met – like the fabulous folks at the Seal Beach YC. Wish I could have spent a week with you guys! Sailing back to San Pedro from Alamitos Bay I succumbed to the sin of racing. A Cal 24 was gaining on me and I started consciously trying to stay ahead of it. I miscalculated and went around one of those man-made oil islands and was then in the work boat thru-ways. A big bumper work boat with 6000 horsepower motors on them roared up and blasted his horn just before his wash knocked my momentum wonky. What was the point of that? Rude little boys. Sound your horn so I can get out of your way in time, or go around. It’s a big bay. Idiots.
This is the scary Port Police boat that came to collect my paperwork at a free anchorage. I guess they are the largest port on the coast so maybe they have a right to be paranoid and nervous. I decided to flee to the Island to find more hospitable waters.
Along the way during the picture-perfect sail we had a wee little wardrobe malfunction. Fortunately it was a parted seam and not a tear. I will be able to hand sew it back up with no trouble. We have the technology.At some point I noticed that the water turned a ridiculous Disneyland Aqua blue. So clear you can see the critters swimming around under the boat. We made it in to the mooring in time to walk dog, get a bite to eat and go to the movie just as it started playing at the 1920′s Casino building (not a gambling establishment). The movie was Oz and was beautiful and colorful, but nothing compared to the theater murals when the lights came up. My wow was amplified when, stepping outside, a perfect cheese orange full moon sat in the sky lighting a path across the harbor – again did Disney have a hand in this? All of us exiting the theater remarked at how amazingly fake it looked in it’s perfection. It would have been a jaded comment if we weren’t all grinning like idiots. Down the pier, to the short dinghy commute and I slept like a rock on my first night in Avalon.
I stuck my nose out into the fog at Marina del Rey to see if the NOAA water vapor loop was accurate. It showed dry clear weather, but my eyes saw a whiteout. Upon inquiry at NOAA I was informed that the loop only measures cloud cover 16,000 miles up – great if I were going to be flying.
To my delight, it was clear just outside of the marina. A bubble of sunshine escorted me to Redondo Beach, around the Chevron tanker and tugs. Once inside the breakwater the fog closed in again and didn’t clear up for two days. Here is the King Harbor YC web cam view.
An excellent dog park within biking distance was the main attraction. As I was leaving the yacht club was installing their docks back in for the season on those empty piling posts above.
My next stop was Hurricane Gulch YC in San Pedro. HGYC is a paper club that still manages to accommodate traveling cruisers through an arrangement with Cabrillo Marina. They have possibly the most active cruising schedule I’ve seen, with 11 trips planned during the year. As a group they have decided that the camaraderie of trips is more important than having an expensive clubhouse to maintain. I was treated to an excellent tour of town, a tall ship, and the mammal rescue center. Thanks Jeff, Chuck and Barbara!
Cabrillo Beach YC was right around the corner and much closer to the dangerously fun Kelly’s boat consignment store where I picked up the coveted Bruce anchor I’ve been hunting for. The marina is a great place to walk the dog, with a nice grassy greenbelt area nearby, but the offleash dog park under the bridge is a bit bleak.
It turns out the Long Beach harbor from San Pedro to Alamitos Bay is similar in size (end to end) to the Bay Area from Richmond Bridge to Bay Bridge, with about the same amount of traffic. The Alamitos Bay YC hosted me for three days and we did a burgee swap at their monthly membership meeting.
Dogs are not allowed on the beach except at Rosie’s Dog Beach, a bit of a walk up the Ocean Park walkway, on the way to the Arco that sells gas $1 cheaper/gal. than at the marine fuel dock.
…is knowing when it’s time to go.
I’m not sure who said that, but I heard it in a Michelle Shocked song. Sounds true. Now here it is opening day weekend and we’ve been in the same harbor for almost two months, rubbing elbows with some fancy neighbors.
The rhythm of cruising is hurry up and wait.
* Arrival in a flurry of sensory expectation; new sights and sounds wrapped in a familiar watery backdrop.
* Investigation and discovery come next, plus the inevitable thought, maybe we ought to stay here for a while.
* Routine starts relatively quickly. Easy to become “Regulars” at the local Starbucks or library.
* Fidgety restless chart reading ensues accompanied by rationalizing changing venues. When you have no reason to be anywhere, rationalization is essential.
* Anxiety about imminent departure sneaks up. Best not to tell anyone when you’re leaving.
* Relief when back on the water. Whatever hesitations you may have had have vanished with the wonder and delight of that other salty world.
* Landfall feels too soon and the cycle starts anew.
I just experienced my personal internal version of global warming. I caught the classic week-long childhood flu (everything listed on the NyQuil bottle) complete with an escalating fever that reached 102.1 before tapering off. I usually run a cool 96.8, so that was a bit much. I started wondering at what point does a fever start cooking and killing your brain cells? I need every one I’ve got.
This is the first time I’ve been sick on the boat other than bouts of Mal de Mer and one freak incident brought on by not enough salt (go figure). I figured that being on the boat kept me away from the hordes of sniffling coughing humanity and that outside living kept me strong.
While radiating so much heat that the dog wouldn’t sit near me I had time to think about how fear of illness is one of the things that prevents people from cruising. What if I get sick? is a common refrain when justifying not going anywhere. As my temperature crept up, my buddy boat and I considered options for health care. I wish I could afford health insurance but I can’t – in this country. And that means that I cannot also afford any fines that might penalize me for not having health insurance. I have heard about a Cruiser’s Health Insurance, good anywhere in the world. I’m looking into that.
My Buddy Boater has Kaiser and he called in to see what they would do for him if he had my symptoms. They were going to sell him a dose of Tamiflu for about $100 (on top of his monthly charges). Wow. Tamiflu that isn’t useful after being sick for 48 hours and has a ton of side effects.
The local walk-in clinic said they would charge $100-200 for the check up and any medicines would be additional. I didn’t want to pay them to tell me to do what I was already doing – constant fluids, chicken soup, rest.
Fortunately this morning I am on the mend. And the answer to What if I get sick? is the same whether you are on a boat or on land. You take care of yourself the best you can. And hopefully you have a Buddy who brings you ice and Kefir and ginger ale.