October 26, 2012 Boatyard Fiasco

So, it was a difficult decision to determine where we would take our precious Cool Change for her first boatyard experience. KKMI has always been considered the gold standard, and they had recently opened a boatyard near us in Sausalito – very convenient. However, they were one of the most expensive yards in the Bay Area, and a friend of ours had had some negative experiences with the original KKMI in Richmond. But, we decided that for these jobs, they appeared competent, and we really liked the convenience. After dropping off Cool Change at KKMI in Sausalito on October 14, we spent hours discussing with the boatyard what needed to be done and how much they were going to charge us for it. Our initial request was for a bottom job, the replacement of a few thru-hulls, and the installation of a dripless shaft seal. Those were all jobs best done by a boatyard. Rick then decided that maybe KKMI might do a better job than he could of installing the refrigeration unit, so we discussed that with them. Their charge for that service was way over the top, until Rick knocked off 10 hours of labor by saying he would do the electrical installation of the refrigerator himself. (It ended up taking Rick only 1 1/2 hours). Anyway, KKMI had numerous excuses for why they were delayed in their efforts, and then the refrigerator unit had to be replaced with a smaller one sent from back East, so the whole thing ended up taking 6 weeks instead of two.

We finally went to pick up Cool Change at the KKMI dock on October 26.  What a fiasco! 

As planned, we arrived at the boatyard dock late on Friday night after KKMI closed for the weekend. Rather than motoring over to our slip that night when we were tired, the plan was to sleep on her at the boatyard dock on Friday night, and then take her out sailing from there on Saturday morning.

On Saturday morning at first light, we peeked out on our deck and found the deck surface to be filthy. I suppose sitting outside in a boatyard for over a month, a boat can pick up a lot of stray dust, paint particles, soot, etc., but this was disgusting. No one had bothered to clean her up, it seemed. She was coated with a greasy, grimy layer, at places ground into the surface by repeated scufs of big boots, especially in the cockpit. We couldn’t wait to clean her up, but first, we wanted to get as far away from that boatyard as possible.

As soon as Cindy put her into gear, there was a HORRIBLE sound and extreme vibration throughout the boat. Cindy put it back into neutral immediately, and Rick went down below to check it out. We briefly put it into gear again, and Rick saw the entire propeller shaft vibrating like it was going to shake itself right out of the boat. Our first thought was, didn’t anyone think to operate the shaft and propeller after having replaced the shaft seal and taken the propeller off and on? Wouldn’t that be standard procedure? There was NO EXCUSE for this!

After smoke stopped steaming out of Rick’s ears, he wrote a terse but polite email to our KKMI Project Manager. Apparently, Rick’s anger and urgency showed through the email, because within about 2 hours, the Project Manager showed up at the dock on his day off. That was encouraging.  But then, without even asking to listen for himself to what happened when we put the boat in gear, he proceeded to stand on the dock for several minutes, lecturing us about how whatever was going on couldn’t possibly have been caused by KKMI, and that the most likely explanation was that we brought our boat in that way! He said they never check the operation of the shaft after changing the shaft seal or removing the propeller because there is never any reason to – nothing ever goes wrong. In any case, there was nothing he could do over the weekend, and they would haul it back out on Monday to see if they could identify the cause of the problem. Meanwhile, our plans for sailing were foiled.

While the Project Manager was there, Rick also showed him the ghastly, childlike attempt at dressing the excess copper tubing from the refrigeration system in the locker beneath the head sink. Rick literally said that a 10 year old child could have done it better. It looked like a nest of copper spagetti. The Project Manager was as aghast as Rick was, and had no excuse except to say that it would be fixed also.

Rick was beside himself. Fortunately, the owner of a deisel engine repair shop next to KKMI happened to be in his yard on his day off, so Rick asked him if he wouldn’t mind coming by to look at the problem. Rick wanted to rule out the accusation that there was something wrong with our engine. The deisel shop owner’s diagnosis was a highly likely probability that KKMI put the propeller blades back on at the wrong pitch. He compared it to trying to start a car in fifth gear. He looked down through the water from the dock at the propeller and could tell the blades were pitched improperly.

After an incredible ordeal and much frustration, KKMI finally admitted on the following Monday that they had put the propeller back on wrong.  They fixed it, and even called the propeller manufacturer to make sure they were doing it right. They took a video of the shaft rotating smoothly, and sent it to us! They also dressed the copper tubing the way it should be. I had paintakingly scrubbed the entire deck and had left cardboard mats in all of the stepping places, and KKMI respected my attempt to keep the boat clean by not dirtying it again. And because it is a three hour drive for us to come down a second time just to move the boat back to our own slip, KKMI moved the boat back for us. We were almost to the point where we might possibly be able to be at peace with using them again, since they had at least made it all right, and then ….

We arrived at the boat the next weekend, once again to go sailing. When I looked at the helm, and there was something wrong with the gear shift lever. On our boat, we have two levers at the helm; one for the throttle and one for the gear. The throttle lever is straight up in nuetral, and forward for more power, but never is the throttle lever pulled aft. But, someone had. They had obviously forced the throttle lever in a direction it didn’t go – it must have taken quite some effort to do so; not something you would do accidentally. There is a saying on sailboats – if it doesn’t move smoothly, don’t force it – instead, take your time and find out what is stopping it from moving smoothly. Otherwise, you are sure to break something. Well, they broke something, all right. We had to take the helm apart and reset the throttle lever in its proper position. Fortunately, one of our dockmates, Dan, spent his life on the ocean in charge of engine systems so he made quick work of the job. Wanting to give KKMI the benefit of the doubt that somehow there was an explanation for all of this, Rick wrote the Project Manager another email. He never responded.

It was not all bad, however. In the end, Cool Change had a new refrigeration system, two new thru-hulls, a bottom job and a dripless shaft seal, all installed properly, and we were able to repair their throttle damage without permanent injury. Best of all, Rick learned that even the “gold standard” of boatyards screws up sometimes, and that he has as good a likelihood of doing it right as they do. The refrigeration system, once we saw how it was installed, was certainly something we could have done ourselves, and Rick would have dressed the copper tubing properly the first time. If only we have enough time, I am confident that many of the projects we have left to do, we can do ourselves. And boosting our confidence of doing it ourselves will help us not only to save money, but also to be better informed about our boat when no boatyards are around to help us.

Posted in Deck and exterior maintenance, Engine |

The Cruising Outfitting Has Begun!

Watching our friends Nancy and Rob take off in Shindig for their world cruising adventure last weekend inspired us to get moving on getting Cool Change ready!

So, October 1st or not, we have started buying for our long term cruising.  How exciting!  One of our first major purchases is our refrigeration system.  We currently only have an

The Isotherm ASU SP 3751 Refrigeration System

ice box.  After extensive research, we have decided on the Isotherm ASU SP Refrigeration System.  It uses less energy than any other system on the market, is quieter because there is no fan, and takes up less space on the boat.  Energy and space are premium commodities for us.  It cools by means of a thru-hull so there is no need for a fan, resulting in a smaller footprint for the compressor.  We believe this compressor will fit under the head sink.  That would be perfect.  We bought it now because we are scheduled for a bottom job in a couple of weeks and wanted to take advantage of the haul-out to replace this thru-hull.  At the same time, we will replace one or two other thru-hulls and add a dripless shaft seal.

Cindy has been holding off on a number of comfort and convenience items until we knew we were keeping Cool Change, so now she is ecstatic with the fun of getting all those things. The first thing she ordered was Bottomsider cockpit cushions.  Finally.  And then a  matching plate set made for a boat with sticky bottoms.  And then, a cockpit table.  We also had Tap Plastics cut us some green plastic window shades that we will adhere to the port lights with small velcro patches.  These are just some of the minor dressings that make the boat so much more livable!

Rick in the meantime has been researching power requirements.  He has decided that we need 450 amps of battery power, and found that in just two, very expensive and heavy batteries that will fit nicely into our only decent-sized cockpit lazerette.  He is planning the installation now, along with increasing the size of the alternator.  We are both exploring solar and wind power.  Although we won’t install the water maker until closer to our departure date, it takes up so much room that we are planning now for where all its parts will go.

We put together a list of every major category of things we need to do and set forth a schedule to get it mostly done in the next 18 months or so.  It seems daunting now, but I think it will go smoother than it seems.  After Rick finishes the electrical upgrade, we will purchase the windlass and ground tackle.  Rick will install the electrical wiring and then we will hire KKMI to do the deck work to attach the windlass in place.    We hope to have all of this done by February, 2013, since they are all necessary for us to use Cool Change as our “tag boat” to complete our Coastal Passage Making certification.

After that, our next major task is scheduled to be our cockpit configuration to accommodate a wind generator, solar panels, a bimini, dinghy davits and a wind vane self-steering system.  We may need an arch built.  We will definitely need some design help on that effort.  Close behind is a complete overhaul of our standing and running rigging systems.  The mast may have to come down.  Tied to that effort is the replacement of our main sail and perhaps the purchase of additional sails, like a genaker, and all the rigging that goes with that.

Next will be the upgrade of our electronics and communications systems, including new radar, a chartplotter, AIS, new instruments, an SSB, and anything else we need in the electronics realm.

By January, 2014, we hope to have all of these things accomplished.  We will still have some minor plumbing changes to implement, seals and latches and bedding improvements to make, an engine overhaul and autopilot check, and the water maker to install, along with probably dozens of little jobs, but mostly we hope to take 2014 to test all of our new systems thoroughly and get to know them before we cast off the dock lines in September!

Posted in Anchoring Systems, Deck and exterior maintenance, Dinghy and Outboard Motor, Electronics, Engine, Interior Cabin, Galley, Head, Maintenance and Enhancements, Plumbing, Preparation Details, Sails and Rigging, Uncategorized |

An Update as of September 7, 2012

I haven’t posted here for a while and thought it might be a good idea to mention why.  The weekend after our passing Skipper, we spent two weekends and the week in between, out on a private whitewater wilderness trip on our 14-foot AIRE raft with eleven other wonderful river friends on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, one of our favorite rivers.  It has a few class IV’s but is mostly just an incredibly beautiful canyon that stretches 100 miles through the River of No Return Wilderness area – no way in or out except by water or by a few isolated small-plane landing strips.  We passed natural hot springs every day of the trip, and stayed or played at a few. The following weekend we hosted our 7th annual benefit river rafting trip for Environmental Traveling Companions (E.T.C), where we get friends and coworkers to join us on a river trip and the proceeds go to E.T.C., a nonprofit organization that provides river rafting opportunities to people with disabilities and others who might not otherwise have the chance.  The next day, on August 6, 2012, I had surgery to replace my right hip.  Something went terribly wrong, and my operated leg came out way too long, so they had to redo the surgery on August 27th.  The second time around came out much better, and I am recuperating quickly.  We hope to join our friends on B-Dock in Sausalito Yacht Harbor on September 15 to send out the Gate two of our dockmates to their full-time cruising adventure to the South Pacific, and then spend the night on Cool Change.  It will be slow going for me, as it will have only been less than three weeks since surgery, but being back on Cool Change and with our B-Dock friends will be worth it.

Other news is that after our pending sale of Cool Change fell through at the end of May, we spruced her up a bit by getting the hull polished and the brightwork redone, and hoped for another offer soon, as our broker promised.  But none was forthcoming.  Cool Change is a beautiful boat for the right person, but it is true that a lesser boat can be bought for far less money.  This economy seems to be the time for bargain hunting, not for shopping for quality.  On the other hand, our own shopping efforts brought forth a number of very promising candidates for larger and better cruising-equipped boats, although NONE of them could compare to the quality combined with versatility of a Pacific Seacraft in our price range.  Although we found some absolutely gorgeous boats, I still frankly hadn’t found one with a pullman berth and a modified fin/skeg-hung rudder of the same quality as the Pacific Seacraft, my two minimum requirements. When we bought Cool Change, we traded in size for quality, so we have a smaller boat with high quality instead of a larger boat with adequate quality.

However, in all this time while waiting for Cool Change to sell so we could get a bigger boat to start outfitting, the clock is ticking to our departure date.  It is now only two years away.  So, we have decided that if she doesn’t sell by the end of September, we are taking her off the market and will start seriously outfitting her for cruising like we had planned when we originally bought her.  At that point we will not sell her because the investment will be too great.  So if you want her, you’d better speak up soon!  Our plans include replacing the sails, the canvas, the liferaft, and the electronics and communications systems; adding a bimini, refrigeration, a windlass and chain, a watermaker, a wind generator, and a wind vane steering system; and upgrading the electrical system, along with a number of other smaller improvements.  Yes, we will be pouring a lot into her, but what a great little cruising boat she will be when we finish!  And we figure with the savings of the sales commission and sales tax associated with selling/buying, and the savings incurred in the long haul by just having a smaller boat, we will still come out ahead.  She will never sell for anything like what we will have put into her, but that’s not the point.  Maybe we’ll never sell her!  And most importantly, we will know that when we are out in the ocean in the thick of it, we can count on her.   Viva Cool Change!  This next stage of outfitting her should be really fun – stay tuned!

Posted in Deck and exterior maintenance, Sailing Northern California |

Rick and Cindy each pass CPM “Skipper!” July 13-15, 2012

In our ongoing sailing education, the next step in the US Sailing Coastal Passage Making certification process through Club Nautique was for each of us to be the student skipper of different vessels, with crew randomly assigned to us from the pool of other students, and an instructor on board to evaluate us.

I was assigned the 41-foot Hunter called “Unleashed,” and Rick was assigned the 49-foot Hunter called “Belle Colette”.  I was glad to get the smaller boat, although it was probably just because I had been navigator on Belle Collette already, and Rick hadn’t sailed her yet.

Cindy (left), Crew and Instructor on Unleashed

I was nervous.  Even though Rick and I generally swap “skipper” roles on Cool Change every hour, he had always been there to make subtle sail trim suggestions even when I was skipper; he wouldn’t be there this time.  Could I make the right decision at the right time without him?  Any doubts I had, with great effort I consciously forced them into a subservient corner of my brain in favor of capitalizing on my assets of being a relentless organizer and believing in thorough, advance preparation.  Fortunately, my instructor valued those qualities (not all do).  The work that was done before we ever laid eyes on the ship make the weekend go much more smoothly.  Between coaching my navigator on his plans, outlining the roles, setting up the cooking and watch schedules, preparing the MayDay instructions, etc., I felt pretty good that things would go smoothly on the trip.  My confidence was boosted when all of our docking practice on the same boat in the same slip the previous week paid off – the docking and maneuvering components of my skipper test went flawlessly – I backed in to the slip with the “slide” approach, which frankly is kind of classy!  My pre-cruise talk was about as thorough as one could get – I touched on every possible safety/emergency scenario I could think of, and recruited the crew to take an active role in planning, and the instructor complimented me on the talk.  (I think my river guide experience may have helped out here a bit).  And I had a crew of willing and able sailors, who respected my authority but also contributed their own skills greatly to our success. We found ourselves all rooting for each other as a team; this was the ideal situation I was hoping for but wasn’t certain would happen.  There were, of course, some minor personality issues, but nothing that couldn’t be handled for a weekend together.  Our instructor was outstanding; I was so relieved that he was such a thinker and so rational – I think he was both an engineer and a Ph.d. in physics or something like that! He talked a lot and gave a lot of good advice, as well as many exercises for both me and the rest of the crew to ponder, before and during the trip.

Rick (far right), crew and instructor on Belle Colette

Rick had a different experience, but I believe, equally satisfying.  He found preparing for Skipper to be a lot more comfortable for him than preparing for Navigator, the last position we had tested for.  He slid painlessly and willingly into the role, as though this is where he was meant to be all along.  His instructor took a back seat approach and instructed Rick to make all the decisions without hardly any feedback, so Rick did.  His trip didn’t start out so well, when they discovered while motoring to Richardson Bay that the fuel tanks, which appeared full at the dock but couldn’t be verified due to a broken fuel gauge, were actually close to empty.  So he had his first tight manuevering exercise in a real-life situation, having to motor over to the fuel dock in Richardson Bay.  That has a shallow entrance and a narrow exit for a 49-foot boat, but he did great, again in part due to our motoring practice the week before, and in part due to the fact that we know that fuel dock well, since it is the one we go to for Cool Change.  What good fortune!

All the class boats that weekend went to the same place – Half Moon Bay.  We started out Friday night by sailing from Alameda to Richardson Bay.  We had a late start of after 2000 and weren’t making much headway because the wind was coming from exactly the place we wanted to go to.  At one point we considered taking a slip at South Beach Harbor (I was surprised the instructor would have allowed that), but there was no room.  We finally put out enough sail and changed our point of sail sufficiently to make some headway, and got ourselves over to Richardson Bay about 2200.  That was okay, because the tides wouldn’t let us leave until later in the morning anyway.  As we were about to leave the gate, our engine overheated.  Oh dear.  I probably had the rpms too high, trying to get under the gate before a swimming race crossed our path, but we handled it okay.  We idled the motor, raised the sails, turned off the motor, cleaned a dirty raw-water intake strainer, and watched the engine temperature drop, and were able to motor sail out the gate without hitting any swimmers!  Phew!  From leaving the Alameda dock to getting to Half Moon Bay, my Navionics track showed we sailed about 64 nm at a max speed over ground of 8.6 knots.  It was fairly good weather the whole way.

In Half Moon Bay, we rafted up with Rick’s boat and got some pictures.  Club Nautique staff could never remember another situation where a husband and wife team each tested for skipper on the same weekend, so we got our pictures in the Club’s newsletter.  We anchored out Saturday night and had a lovely return trip on Sunday back to Alameda.

And we both passed!

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

The Fourth of July and Motoring Practice, July 5, 2012

After a whirlwind week up in the State of Washington for our daughter Andrea’s wedding and to visit our sons Dan, and Drew with his wife Carmein, we flew back to Sacramento on the afternoon of the 4th of July and drove directly to Sausalito.  We were able to hop onto the boat and get ourselves anchored out in Richardson Bay for a perfect view of the fireworks being shot off a barge just a short distance away from us.  It was a clear, cool night.  We BBQ’d shrimp and sat on the bow, wrapped in blankets, sipping wine, eating our shrimp and saying “uuuu” and “ahhhh” as the sky was bombarded with color and light.

Once the fireworks ended, we waited for the crowded anchorage to clear out before we motored back to our slip – there were some crazies out there with no navigation lights, or anchors that weren’t set right so they drifted, and we didn’t want to increase our chances of getting entangled with them.

The next morning, we drove over to Alameda and spent the entire day just getting to know the boat that I was going to test for “skipper” on.  The first few hours, Rick and I did a thorough “pre-cruise” that would normally be done be 4-5 people as part of a Coastal Passage Making class.  We found every little nick, every inoperative component of the boat and every thru-hull, we carefully examined the engine and I did it twice; if I was going to skipper this boat I wanted to be thoroughly aware of where everything was and how it worked.

Then, we spent, I’d say, another seven hours taking turns motoring the boat around the marina.  Some of the things you need to be “checked off” on as skipper include docking the boat by backing in,  turning into the wind and away from the wind in tight quarters, and backing into a side dock.  All day long, we did those maneuvers over and over again.  By the time the day was finished, we both felt a lot more comfortable with those maneuvers, and felt reasonably sure we had a decent chance of being successful at our first try in performing each required manuever.

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

Coastal Passage Making Class, June 22-24, 2012

A corner of one of the Farallon Islands, near where we had our first whale sighting of the trip

Both Rick and I were scheduled to “test” for the position of “navigator” in our U.S. Sailing certification program of Coastal Passage Making.  This would be our fifth time out on the coast for the weekend as part of one of these classes.  We had passed the positions of “crew” and “jr. navigator” already, and we had a dry-run as navigator on a “tag boat”.  Now it was time to step up and be tested on our navigation skills; this is also a step up to “management” in the hierarchy of boat decision-making.

For the first time since we started sailing together, we were not going to be on the same boat – there is usually only one designated navigator per ship.  And the job is a lot harder than just planning alternate courses, plotting your estimated position on a chart, doing a few fixes here and there to verify your location, keeping track on the chart of where you have been and where you are going, making adjustments for wind and for instrument error, monitoring large ship traffic, radioing the boat(s) you are travelling with on a regular schedule, and keeping a log, not that “just” doing those things is a walk in the park.  But on top of it, you have an instructor asking you for information all the time, just to keep you on your toes and test your limits, and you have a list of requirements to meet that forces you to take special kinds of fixes, for example, that you otherwise might not take at that location, just so you can demonstrate your ability to perform them competently.  You also have to be competent at all of the electronics at your disposal, including RADAR and the chartplotter.  And finally, you have some responsibility to provide opportunities for training for the “jr. navigators” along on the trip.

Rick and I dedicated two weekends and almost every night for two weeks, preparing our navigation plans for every possible destination and route, checking weather, preparing anchor plans, etc.  I was already exhausted before the trip even began!  It was very stressful for each of us, and each of us had different but equally challenging circumstances to face over the course of the weekend.  In my opinion, being tested for  navigator is absolutely exhausting.  By the end of the weekend, neither of us were certain whether our instructors would pass us or not, and it came down to the wire, especially for me.  But we both did get us to our destination, Drakes Bay via the Farallones, and back without error, we each had charted well and kept a good log that reconciled with our charts, and we completed enough of the requirements, so, we both passed!  We also had the added thrill of seeing whales more than once during our respective trips.

The good news is that coastal navigation isn’t always as stressful, I don’t believe, as it is when being tested for it.  When Rick and I went down to Monterey, we  had to prepare a navigation plan and follow it, and we chose to chart and keep a log just like you are supposed to.  We did fine with it without hardly any stress.  I understand the concepts well, I believe, and have confidence in my navigation skills.  And so does Rick.   We both learned a lot in the process of preparing for the weekend and during the weekend.  But I am really glad that test is over!

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

The Sister Cruise, June 10, 2012

Sharon, Linda and Cindy sailing, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the backgroun

They had been asking to come for a while, so we finally got Cindy’s sister Sharon, and Rick’s sister Linda, out sailing on the Bay on Cool Change.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day.  It was so warm in the slip and while moored for lunch in Ayala Cove, we thought we were in the Bahamas.  But out in the slot in the late afternoon, we had 29 knot winds!  What a glorious day.  We started by sailing across the Bay to San Francisco, with great opportunities for Golden Gate Bridge shots in the background, then down the San Francisco waterfront, back across the Bay to

Sister Sail. Started at 10:30 a.m., back to dock about 5:20 p.m.; 20.9 nm, max speed 7.5 knots!

behind Angel Island, and then into Ayala Cove for lunch.  After lunch, we through caution to the wind, as they say, and came back around the back side of Angel Island to face big winds.  We managed to get ourselves over to the “alleged” wind shadow of Alcatraz, hove to, reefed the jib and double-reefed the main, and then sailed back to Richardson Bay.  We got kicked pretty close to Angel Island due to a big flood and big winds, so we  had to tack a few times to get away from it, but still, it was a ball.  So glad our sisters could join us!  They are both natural-born sailors, and ready to do it again!

Linda and Rick at Ayala Cove







Relaxing in Ayala Cove

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

Night Owling with Dad and Mom, Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mom and Dad, the night owls, on Cool Change on a mooring ball at the Sausalito Yacht Club

Mom and Dad arrived at around 7:00 p.m. for a night cruise on Cool Change.  It was a bit bumpy and cold at first, motoring along the Sausalito waterfront and then over past Tiburon and their new/old favorite restaurant, and then back to a mooring ball at Sausalito Yacht Club.  But then, once the evening breeze shift completed its course after the sun set, the water calmed to gentle undulations, and wind quited down, and we had a lovely visit on the ball.  Rick BBQ’d some marinating shrimp, we sipped wine, and talked the night away.  Afterwards, we motored along the Sausalito waterfront again, and took in the gorgeous views of the San Francisco lights at night.  We didn’t get Mom and Dad back to the dock until after 11:00 p.m.!

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

2012 Memorial Day Weekend Cruise to Monterey

Club Nautique organized a “4-bay cruise” to Monterey Bay over Memorial Day weekend.  Only “CPM-certified” skippers were allowed, unless you had your own boat, and of course, we did!  We thought for a while we couldn’t go because Cool Change was in escrow, but then a week before the cruise, the buyers backed out.  That was their loss, our gain, because now we could go to Monterey!  We had gone on overnight trips outside the Gate in friends’ boats and with an instructor on our CPM classes now, for five different weekends, but this was going to be our first time out for a long-distance venture on our own in Cool Change.  It was a  big step for us, and we were oh, so excited!

There were 12 boats scheduled to partake.  The plan was to check in Friday morning at 0445 at the Golden Gate Bridge and depart at 0500, to coincide with the early part of the ebb tide, and to allow sufficient time to get all the way down to Monterey in one day, a 77 nm trip.  We planned to leave an hour earlier than that, for two reasons: first, we were a smaller boat so our hull speed was slower and it would take us longer, and second, the slack before the ebb was actually at 0400 and it was preferable to leave at slack.  (Leaving the Golden Gate Bridge at an ebb tide is always risky, especially so when the wind is westerly and there are big swells rolling across the huge fetch of the Pacific Ocean; the swells and wind waves from the west meet the ebb from the east and cause a lot of turbulance).

We’d spent the whole day Thursday preparing every last detail for the trip.  We went to bed early and had our clothes laid out and ready to put on in an instant.  As we went to bed, I checked my email and saw that the next smallest boat in the flotilla scheduled to go to Monterey, a 36-foot Catalina, had tried and failed to depart Thursday morning due to big winds and seas out the Gate, and had decided to remain in San Francisco Bay for the weekend after all.  When our alarm went off at 0230, we were awoken to the sound of the wind howling through the marina, and the rocking feeling of Cool Change moving about in her slip.  We turned on the instruments to find that the wind speed in our well-sheltered marina was 21 knots!  Buoyweather, our paid subscription service weather website, said the wind was gusting to 39 knots outside the Gate (gale force).  Did we really want to venture out alone as the first boat in the middle of the night into gale force winds?  We thought it not wise.  Surely the organizers would come to the same conclusion we had, postpone the departure and modify the cruise plan.  I texted some of the other participants, not wanting to wake them, but received no response.  We had to make a decision.  So we emailed our family and friends who were expecting us to leave, letting them know we wouldn’t be going at this hour after all.

Just to confirm that the organizers would make the same decision we had, we kept the VHF radio on as we lie in our berth.  We felt so conflicted about the decision that we really couldn’t get back to sleep very well anyway.  Then, at about 0430, we heard from the first boat to check in, a 44-foot private boat.  They were already well out the Gate.  They reported that while the winds were indeed blowing 25 to 30 knots, the waves were just “moderate”, and there was really no reason to turn back.   Rick and I reconsidered – should we go after all?  We still decided, no, it wasn’t a good idea.  So I called the lead communications boat on the cell phone and told them we wouldn’t be going.  After that, one by one, we heard several other boats check in, either at the Gate or heading out.  Everyone else was going!  Oh No!

At about 0450, after most of the boats had already headed out the Gate, Rick and I lie in our berth, wide awake, regretting with every inch of our beings, the missed opportunity.  Then the moment came.  We turned to each other and said, “Let’s go!”  Within 10 minutes, we dressed, unplugged the electrical cord, tossed off the dock lines and were underway.  It took us another half hour to motor over to the Gate, so we actually started our track at the Golden Gate Bridge at 0534, a half hour after the scheduled departure time.  And instead of being the first boat, we were the last.

We considered radioing the communications boat at this time, but because we had changed our minds so many times, we thought it best to get out the Gate a bit first, and see if indeed we would hold our course or turn back, before we radio’d in.  The navigation plan and course I had previously calculated was to depart from the Bridge center span and head over to the south side of the ship channel immediately, on a course towards Mile Rock, but as we approached the Bridge, we listened to Channel 12, the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service, and confirmed with our Shipfinder web-based application, that three large container ships and/or tankers were either departing the Gate or coming in, just as we were leaving.  So we had to stay on the north side of the channel, at least until they passed.

Cindy at helm on the first day

Well, I don’t know if it was because we were facing more of the ebb than the first boat who reported “moderate” seas, or whether it was our smaller boat, but these seas were far from moderate.  Rick was at the helm for most of it because I was the designated navigator for the day (we switched off each day), and besides, my eyesight is not the best in the dark.  For some of the bigger waves, we’d head up the wave, sometimes slowing to just over one knot boat speed, and then, once over the wave, we’d race down into a steep trough, at which point, Cool Change wanted to round down and broach sideways against the wave, so Rick would have to anticipate the rounding and steer up to counteract it.  As navigator, I preferred to wait until we got up to the farthest point away from the Gate along the north side of the channel before we crossed the channel, because it was narrower there, but Rick wanted to cross sooner to avoid the messy water near Point Bonita.  When there was a break in the ship traffic, Rick went for it.  So I quickly ran below to plot the crossing and determine how far he needed to go before he was across it.  By the time I got back up into the cockpit, he’d gone too far!  We then turned back onto a course along the south side of the channel, constantly fighting the waves and wind to get right alongside the channel instead of being pushed into the shoals on the south side of the channel.  The apparent wind was a minimum of 25 to 30 knots, but read 39 knots several times.  And the worst was that nobody knew we were out here!

It was such a relief when we made it to R-2, the first buoy from the sea on the south side of the channel, and turned to the left, downwind.  The apparent wind dropped to 17 knots, we rigged our brand-new preventer line, and off we sailed on a sleighride to Monterey.  I then tried to hail the communications boat on both the designated VHF channel, as well as the Coast Guard hailing channel 16, but no one responded.  Could they actually have gotten that far ahead of us that we were out of radio contact?  I emailed our family members and friends again, just for the record, to note that we had changed our minds again and were on our way, so that at least someone would know we were out here!

When we finally were able to reach someone on the radio, it was the first boat who had checked in earlier in the morning; due to crew seasickness, they had decided to stop for the day at Half Moon Bay rather than continuing to Monterey.  They told us that the reason we were unable to reach the lead communications boat was that it had had an accident and had to return to Alameda!  No wonder we hadn’t been able to reach them!  Apparently, as the lead boat was departing an unfamiliar yacht club mooring in San Francisco near the Gate that morning, they had a collision with an unlit, large, metal mooring buoy, and put a “hole in the hull”!  OMG!  Over the course of the day, several other boats also bowed out early and held up at Half Moon Bay due to crew seasickness.  (Okay, I’ll have to confess, I got sick too; but it was just a quick perging and a few minutes of discomfort and then it was gone; this was the 11th day I had been out into the ocean in a row without getting sick, so I figure my odds were still pretty good, as long as I continued with the patch Scopalomine; Rick, on the other hand, has an iron stomach, which his father insists is due to his Greek heritage, and never even gets queezy).

There were a couple of times when secondary waves crashed into us on the side, resulting in a slight “pooping” of the deck; once when Rick was at the helm and once when I was – each time, we got sprayed with seawater from head to toe, and the floor of the cockpit filled with maybe 4 or 5 inches of water.  I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t draining faster until I realized I had my feet braced at the exact place on either side of the cockpit where the scuppers were!

Golden Gate to Monterey, 5-25-12, 77 nm, 13 hours, average speed 6 knots, max speed: 9.2 knots!

But the excitement for the day wasn’t over yet.  As we approached Monterey Bay about 7 nm out to the west, we released the preventer and then changed course onto a beam reach to approach Soquel Cove in Capitola where we planned to moor for the night.  The apparent wind instantly picked up to at least 25 knots, with gusts to well above 30.  Cool Change healed over and we sped like a race horse to the finish line, all the while being careful to maintain a course with the waves still slightly to aft, and again having to anticipate the tendancy for Cool Change to round up and broach into the waves, steering downwind to counteract.    What we thought would take us over an hour was over in 40 minutes!

In all, only five of the original 12 boats made it all the way to Monterey that day, and we were one of them.  Of course, we arrived later than everyone else, but still made it in 13 hours at an average speed of approximately 6 knots, which wasn’t bad for a boat with a nominal hull speed of 5 knots.  At some point, we clocked 9.2 knots, which is I think the fastest we have ever gone!  We must have been planing above the water!  That was probably sliding down one of those larger waves on our sleighride to Monterey.

Soquel Cove Moorings

When we arrived at the mooring balls, a kind gentleman in a large dinghy (“water taxi”) motored out from the dock to help us tie off.  Rick and I were so beat that we fell asleep before dinner!  I woke him up at his request to stagger out and BBQ some marinating shrimp, and I managed to roast some asparagus, which we nibbled on before climbing into our v-berth for the night.  We planned on getting a good night’s sleep and leisurely rising in the morning, but the mooring field rolled a lot so the sleep wasn’t as sound as we would have hoped.  It was lovely there, though.

The next day, rather than joining the few determined souls who sailed over to Stillwater Cove in Monterey to accomplish the 4th bay goal for this trip, we decided to limit our trip to 3 bays only, and stay in Capitola for the day.  We hopped onto the water taxi for a ride into town.  We did have our dinghy and motor, but putting it away and washing it off back home was a chore we hoped to avoid by not inflating it in the first place unless we had to.  And the water taxi was only $2.  Capitola is adorable.  Here are some pictures.







Sunday, May 27, 2012











On Sunday morning, we headed out just after 0500 for what turned out to be a 13 hour motorsail for 58 nm up from Capitola in Monterey Bay, to Half Moon Bay.

We averaged only 4.5 knots, with a max speed of 5.7 knots, heading as much into the wind as we could while keeping our mainsail full, albeit reefed and traveled up.

Everyone else, having larger boats and faster hulls, left later than we did and nevertheless passed us up on the way, all doing the same as we were – motorsailing.  However, as you can see from our track, we did try to keep our mainsail full, so we did tack somewhat more than if we had just motored straight up.

Polonaise II, Captain Thomas Perry's Jeanneau 52

Cool Change underway to Half Moon Bay

The highlight of the day on our way up to Half Moon Bay was a two-whale sighting.  For a good three to four minutes, we watched two whales off our starboard bow, spouting and playing in the water.  They were swimming parallel to our course, their bodies undulating through the waves.  How glorious!

Here is a link to Rick’s video of the whales:


And here is another one, taken by one of the other boats on our trip, at a different time on the same day:


Half Moon Bay Anchorage

By the time we arrived at Half Moon Bay, the folks who had driven down from San Francisco to join us had a good start on the party.  We were told our slip was a starboard tie but when we got there, it was port, so I had to back in rather than moving all our dock lines and fenders; maybe the fact that the party was well underway made it so our flotilla-mates didn’t notice so much that it took me two tries to back into our designated slip!  I was anxious to get cleaned up and checked in, and by the time we finished that, the party had moved over to the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club.

Half Moon Bay Yacht Club

The Yacht Club treated us to a pre-paid dinner of steak and veggies, and had a very reasonable no-host bar.  There was a large crowd, obviously having a Memorial Day get-together that we were able to join.



Half Moon Bay to Sausalito, 5/28/12, 33 nm, 6 hours, average speed 5 knots, max speed 8.4 knots

As if to save the best for last, the trip up from Half Moon Bay to San Francisco on Monday couldn’t have been better.  The sky was blue, the seas were gentle, and best of all, the wind decided to blow just right for the direction we needed to head.  Once out of the harbor, we were able to sail up the whole way.  The course was a little more westerly than to Half Moon Bay because we were heading out to the beginning of the shipping lane near the San Francisco Sea Buoy (“Lightship”).    So we were close-hauled up to the shipping channel, making a surprising 6 to 7 knots in only about 12 to 17 knots of apparent wind.  Then, as we crossed the shipping channel and headed downwind towards the Gate, we fell into a deep, broad reach.  We deployed our preventer once again, and even though the jib winked a few times, especially with some good-sized waves hitting our port quarter, our point of sail was fine, and we skated into the Bay with following winds once again.  This time, however, the seas were with us – we were entering at slack before flood, just perfect.

Rick at helm coming through the Gate on our return

All in all, we sailed  168 nautical miles in 32 hours over 3 days, with a day of rest in between.  This was the longest trip we’d taken in Cool Change to date, and she performed like a dream.  Cool Change Rocks!

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

May 5-6, 2012 on Cool Change

19 nm, max speed 8.1 knots, max winds 24 knots, glorious blue sky and fresh breezes

Knowing that we had a bonafide offer on Cool Change, we came back this weekend to clean her up and remove all our things, and to say goodbye to her with on last sail.  God it was heartbreaking.  We love her so much; we have so many fond memories together on her, and we know her inside and out.  After unloading a lot from her on Saturday, we took off Saturday afternoon and sailed her around the bay, and then anchored out for what we thought would be one last time on Cool Change in Richardson Bay, then motored over the next morning into Raccoon Straits and back to our slip to finish her prep for the new owners.  Little did we know, two weeks later after a glorious sea trial, the buyers backed out for reasons unclear to us.  All the better for us!  She is still ours and we love her!

Posted in Sailing Northern California |