The trip back from Mexico can be a bit of a slog once the Pacific High sets up a strong circulation pattern along the coast. The winds are on the nose, and reinforced around the various headlands and islands. Add in the occasional bit of countercurrent – which is what’s going on in the photo above – and the waves can get quite steep. These seas are running 8 to 14 feet (2.4 to 4.2m) with a boat length between crests. Look at the sea looming in the background.
We’ve made this trip many times and the same logic seems to work in all seasons. Make progress when the breeze is light under power in the early morning hours, and then sail through the afternoon. Duck in and anchor under a headland when the sea breeze reinforces the high pressure gradient. Sometime after midnight the offshore flow starts, which reduces or (hopefully) stops the high pressure gradient, and then it’s time to get under way again.
The later in the season you are heading back, the more established the high, and the harder the trip. Late April to mid-June is typically the worst period. This same system – making tracks before the sea breeze reinforces the prevailing pressure gradient – applies in many parts of the cruising world.
Of course Wind Horse is designed for going uphill. Sure, we’d rather have it smooth, but even in the conditions shown above, in this case just north of Cedros Island, we keep plugging along at our 10 to 11 knots. There are some advantages to this type of stinkpot!
This also gives us a good chance to test our motion with different displacement configurations, increasing and decreasing total weight with salt water ballast, while moving fuel and water to different tanks. What we are after, aside from the most comfortable ride possible, are data points that we can compare to our original calculations. Because the sea states vary so much in such a short distance, this region of the Pacific Coast is an ideal testing ground.
The scenery close to shore is spectacular, if somewhat barren. Note the whale blowing in the middle right.
We were continually being visited and entertained by the local gray whales (we were probably entertainment for them as well).
All the way up from Cabo San Lucas, right to Los Angeles Harbor, we were seeing gray whales breaching and blowing, some very close by.
Here is something you don’t often see on RADAR. Remember the movie The Poseidon Adventure with the giant wave on the ship’s RADAR? Look just above the + in the photo above. That’s a wave front at a current shear line south of Turtle Bay. The waves were 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.9m), and the edge was well defined in the otherwise fairly smooth ocean.
We passed three sailboats heading south while we were beating north. All had a nice northwesterly pushing them downwind. Two of these boats had their mains up, no headsail, and were rolling quite heavily because of the unbalanced sail plans. The boat in the photo above, north of Turtle Bay, had no sails up and was rolling through 30 to 40 degrees. They would be better off with some sail up, even if just the main sheeted amidships, in which case they would be going faster and more smoothly.
We’re not into staying at marinas if it can be avoided. We much prefer the peace and quiet of our own anchor. However, San Diego harbor has all sorts of rules about who, what, when, and where you can anchor, with formal permits required. So, for the few days we were going to be on hand we decided to stop at Kona Kai. Very nice spot, and check out the gates – a work of art, no less!
The Kona Kai gets the trophy for the nicest trash receptacles we’ve ever used. And check out the recycling bins. That tells you we’re in California for sure.
Speaking of California, the number one attraction, as far as we are concerned, is In-N-Out. They have the world’s best fast food hamburgers.
OK, they cost twice what the other fast food joints charge, but they are actually quite tasty. If you have not tried one, and are visiting, check it out. In and Out is a cultural icon – one of the few things we like about California.
San Diego is a treat for boat watching and VHF listening. These guys were headed to sea, doing a sedate 14 knots (rumors are they’ll do close to 50 knots at flank speed when fully submerged). We heard the the following exchange on the VHF:
"Fishing vessel 4000 yards to our north, this is the US Navy Submarine to your south."
"This is the fishing vessel Stella back to the Submarine, what can I do for you?"
"Fishing Vessel Stella, US Submarine, we are the give way vessel and plan to alter course to starboard, what is your intention?"
The fishing vessel wisely replied, "We can alter course and take your stern if you prefer."
"Thank you, Captain," was the sub’s reply. "Have a nice day."
How cool is it that a multibillion dollar nuclear sub is actually following the rules of the road!
We saw Sea Fighter, which looks like a high speed helicopter and troop ship, doing sea trials. They were turning, accelerating and stopping, and generally testing what looks like a new type of vessel. Hey, that is a catamaran!
Now here is an interesting craft. The new sport of stand-up paddling has taken hold in Dana Point, California. And most of the paddlers have four legged crew. That’s world-renowned surfer and board shaper Mickey Munoz (check out Mickey in his younger days in the DVD RidingGiants). Gidget is riding the bow.
Being a rescue mutt from the pound, Mickey and Peggy Munoz are not sure of Gidget’s heritage – but she is a true water dog.
If any of you are old enough to remember when Hollywood discovered surfing, with the movie Gidget, think back to the scenes of Sandra Dee as Gidget riding her surfboard. That was actually Mickey in a blond wig!
Heading up from Dana Point to our temporary berth in Marina del Rey we spied this lovely sail training schooner on the horizon.
We’ve had so many lovely vistas to enjoy the past six weeks that we’re including this final shot over our bow, looking toward the San Pedro and the Palos Verdes peninsula. Calm seas, and lots of…smog.
But there are advantages to smog. You can see what you are breathing; all that dirt in the atmosphere makes for great sunsets; and finally, in four or five weeks we’ll be heading back to Alaska.