Ship’s Log Oct 10: Pillar Point -> Santa Cruz

Oh the fog

We left Pillar Point Harbor (Half Moon Bay) around 10am. The perennial fog blanketed the harbor and mainland but we knew better than to wait for it to blow off. Armed with our trusty chart plotter (INavX for iPad) we made for the channel. Once past the reefs we turned westward and made for the open ocean, in hopes of catching what little breeze there was, somewhere out there. As we headed out we were buffeted by large, short period confused seas, directly on our beam and quarter. While the kids played happily below, we adults took turns feeling queasy and looking for relief. As it turned out lying down was the best medicine so we set the tiller pilot up and took turns on watch.

About an hour later we had made it far enough off shore (8-10 miles) that the wind picked up to a steady 10-15 knots and we started a long SSE course back towards  Point Año Nuevo. On the way we passed a wallowing ketch with no crew on deck. We warned them of our presence with a long blast and were unexpectedly giddy when the skipper poked his head out of the compainionway to wave back at us. Something about finding company in the vast sea of gray fog and endless swell lifted our

"Land Ho!" Shouted Victoria

Our spirits were further bolstered, minutes later, when the first glimpse of the sun’s outline started to become visible through the fog. Within an hour the fog had burned off enough to see the silhouette of land in the distance. We knew from the chart plotter that it must be Pescadero Point. We jibed a few times and kept a distance of several (5-10) miles off the shore. This, by and large, kept the ever mounting swell directly on our transom and allowed the tiller pilot to do its job with ease. Soon we were in sight of Point Año Nuevo, and as we found out later, this is a common place to find higher winds and swell. When we reached Santa Cruz, our neighbor, who was out at the same time, a few miles inland, said that he registered a steady 32 knots on his wind instrument. The bouys reported 8′ seas at 8 secs.

Victoria on the foredeck as the swell began to mount

This was where all the excitement of our passage took place. In one early jibe we had some fouling of lines and decided that our next jibe would be through the wind (a ware or chicken jibe). This seemed like a safe bet at the time, but as it turned out it was completely chaotic for us. As we came through the wind we simultaneously fouled the main sheet on the outboard, tilting it upwards and spilling gas out of the opened (darn it) equalizer valve; lost the life sling overboard (man did it ever surf); lost a jib sheet shackle (and thus one whole sheet); lost our solar shower; and soaked everyone on deck. It was a lively 5 or so minutes before we had the engine on, main sail down, jib mostly furled (we lost the other sheet in the process), and the life sling onboard. With the immediate danger averted I set my eyes to the luffing clue of the jib which was now flapping away several feet above my arm’s reach on the forestay. I clipped in to the jack line and made my way forward to try to secure the jib with the one remaining good sheet. Lisa joined me moments later and suggested that we try to grab the flailing clue with a boat hook. She dashed back to the cockpit and was back in a flash with the hook. With a lightning fast reflex, she grabbed the ring and held it fast. I hopped up onto the bow pulpit and secured the shackle as the boat plunged down another huge wave and yawed up the next.

Soaked and exhausted we returned to the cockpit. I gave the order to turn our transom to the swell and ride south east towards Santa Cruz. When everything was clearly in order, I retreated to the warmth of the cabin to remove my cold wet jeans and put on something more weather proof. Once I was dry and warm again I regained the helm and began the lonely task of learning lessons from the recent experience. I have to admit that this task probably should have waited until I was a bit more removed from the moment, but I wasn’t that self aware at the moment.  Only hours later, as the dark descended, was I freed from my thoughts by a series of events that I can only ascribe to the devine mechanic. The first thing to catch my eye was something red falling into Monterrey Bay. I assumed it must be a flare until a few minutes later I saw a starburst and several more fireworks. Looking behind me I noticed the bright orange, larger than life crescent moon had snuck up on me while I was enslaved by my thoughts. To the left, at the lighthouse on Point Santa Cruz, fire dancers spun their torches to music I couldn’t hear. Then, when I finally felt the stress of the day lifting off my shoulders I heard Victoria gleefully call out “PHOSPHORESCENTS!” I looked again and saw the most beautiful sight. Backed by the warm golden glow of the crescent moon the whole sea was alive with light. As bright green light churned off our stern and in our bow wake little shots of light would shoot out from our beam in every direction. I had to keep an eye on our course and the chart plotter, but every minute or so I would aim us out into the bay so I could safely gawk at the beauty that nature was enchanting us with.

We approached the harbor, and I reluctantly turned my back on the spectacle to make arrangements for docking. Lisa put on dock lines and fenders and Victoria hailed the harbor master. We entered the harbor at a snail’s pace and saw Deane and Cian on the East shore waving at us. We let them know that we were berthing on the West shore and continued to our end tie on D dock.

As I was cleaning up the boat I noticed a visitor and greeted him. Pat lives on the C dock in his Cal 43 (Cricket) and was as delighted as I was to meet another owner. With only 12 Cal 43s remaining, my appearance in the harbor was quite an event. I begged his pardon and promised to find him the following morning. We cleaned up as much as we could and headed below for some grub. After a quick dinner, celebratory margarita, and brief chat with Lisa, we all retired for the night. It was an amazing day that I can now say was well worth the drama.