Sunday, January 6, 2013

Feliz Año Nuevo!

It was a memorable New Year, ringing in the new year while motor-sailing along the Southern california coastline, the occasional firework on land in the distance, with a bright moon and clear, cold sky helping to light our way. But we're getting ahead of ourselves so let's back up...

Many friends wished us a good trip with the hope of dolphins and whales escorting us out of San Francisco. Yeah right, I thought, how often does THAT happen? We left Point Richmond on Dec 30, 08:45. "We" included not only Tom and me,  but our friends Brian and Bruce. Our first Pacific Cup race was on Brian's boat and he recently completed the Singlehanded Transpac from SF to Kauai with much success. Oh, and he sailed home solo as well. Bruce is an accomplished racer and world sailor with God only knows how many ocean miles under his salt-patinaed sea boots.

 As we motored past Corinthian Yacht Club we were met by a pod of Harbor Porpoises feeding in the transitioning currents at the point of Belvedere Island. OK then, there were our dolphins!

We motor-sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and were met by two more pods of dolphins. As we exclaimed over them we suddenly spied a whale spout nearby! A young gray whale swam by, rolled over and eyeballed us on his way toward the the gate. Unbelievable! So much for pooh-poohing the idea of dolphins and whales.

About to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge

Brian spies the whale!

We rounded the first of Central California's two "big" points, Point Sur, later that night. The sea was well-lit by the super bright, nearly full moon. From time to time a plane would fly overhead leaving a bright silver contrail across the sky. It was COLD and hard to warm up during the off-watch. Our hot water thermos was working full time keeping our mugs full of hot water, cider, cocoa and tea.

The next day was similar to the first, clear sky, light wind and the helping swell. We sailed around the second significant feature, Point Conception, that afternoon. The seas were so calm that we were within two miles of the point.

All Conception roundings should be this pleasant.

That night we celebrated the New Year by opening a bottle of that is. Tom brought out his vintage bottle of Firestone 14th Anniversary Ale. That, and the chocolates provided by Synthia, made for a perfect Happy New Year treat.

Bruce, Tom and Brian ring in the New Year sailor-style.

The next morning, as we navigated between the coast and the Channel Islands, we were joined by several pods of different kinds of dolphins. At one point some unusually tall, black fins passed by and several Killer Whales broke the surface. This was the first time I had ever seen Orcas in the wild! I definitely hyperventilated. There were also numerous pods of escaped, inflated balloons floating all over the ocean; no doubt residual from the festivities of the night before.

That night we had to stop in San Diego for two reasons: one, to refuel; and two, to eject Brian, proud owner of an expired passport. Unfortunately he would not continue with us south of the border.

We refueled, had a short dinner, bade farewell to Brian and carefully navigated through the numerous, annoying crab pots that littered the water just outside Mission Bay harbor.

Welcome to Mexico Gringos, now prepare to get your butts kicked:  Later that night I was woken from my off-watch by the sound of all hell breaking loose. A strong offshore breeze had kicked up and brought with it some nasty wind chop. Apparently Tom was on deck alone, doing his best impression of the Vendee Globe. All I can say is sometimes it's hard for a racer to throttle back and not careen through the waves like a bat out of hell. Well I was going to have none of that so I suited up, joined him, and convinced him to reduce sail area. We furled the jib most of the way just as the wind piped up to 29 knots. We waited for a lull and were extremely proud of ourselves for putting a second reef in the mainsail during such a long lull. Well, said lull went from 16 knots, to 8 knots, to 4 knots, to 0 knots and stayed there! The wind gods continued to torture us in this manner throughout the night. One minute the seas were calm and there was NO wind, the next minute the wind would come howling off the land, whipping the ocean into a frenzy.

All good things come to an end however, and at dawn the winds and seas had calmed down. The big bay outside Ensenada was filled with whales and we calmly entered the harbor, found our way to Baja Naval and tied up at the dock.
Finally made it!!

Luckily the Anti Seal (as in marine mammal) Devices were turned on which helped perk us up a little everytime we happened to step on the live wires.

Thanks to the skilled assistance from Brian and Bruce, Cinnabar had completed another successful trip from San Francisco to Ensenada.

We did manage to find Ensenada's brewpub on our first stroll through town, but more about Ensenada in another post.

Cinnabar and Ensenada's famous bandera.

STATS: 620 miles (including our diversion into San Diego), 74 hours from dock to dock, and only 4.5 hours of motor-off sailing! Except for all that motoring I think we picked the perfect weather window for our trip down the coast.

A few more pictures of the trip can be found here.


  1. What's up with all the clothes in the pictures, is S.Cal and Mexico not warm? Jude & T

  2. Hey, Sylvia, thanks for checking in! Great writeup of your voyage. Somehow I had it in my feeble mind that it would be a much greater distance and longer time but it sounds like you had fun. Except for Brian.

  3. Poor Brian missed all the fun of the wind and waves. Hopefully he'll get his passport in order and join us when we get to a good surfing spot. That should lure him south of the border.

    J&T, Ha I knew you guys would rub it in about the weather. It is not really warm here. Thank goodness one of my telenovelas was filmed here and I was highly suspicious because the characters were always wearing jackets and windbreakers. I came prepared. AND...we just found out from one of the boatyard guys that the water is colder than normal too! All the bar and restaurant employees wear jackets while they work. It's not the Ensenada that Judy visited with us in August '07, but it's still warmer than back home. Usually.

  4. I needed a break from the work craziness and decided to check in on your guys. Glad you are safe and well...the trip down looks that you saw so much wildlife.

    Thanks for the post, and I'm looking forward to catching up with you soon.