We made our big escape from the San Francisco bay at 11:45 Wednesday morning and sailed under the Golden Gate bridge at about slack tide; we thought we’d be out of Coyote Point by 6am and have plenty of time to get to the bridge but of course we didn’t get out until 9 or so. Unfortunately the slack tide heralded the incoming tide and not the outbound tide and so after about an hour of tacking around, the waves got all wonky and choppy and the inbound tide created eddies and all sorts of general ickiness. Wind was strong and we were able to fight our way out, but it was not a comfortable ride. Welcoming us to the Pacific were a couple of dolphins (oooo!) and then some gnarly patchy downpour, dark, and a lightning storm (bleargh!), during which I probably asked eight times: “So, is this something we should be worrying about?” (Answer was something like this: “Probably. Don’t touch anything metal.”)
Finally the lightning went away and then so did the wind. After flopping around off Pacifica for 5 hours, someone had the bright idea to start the motor.
We saw lots of wildlife. Seals! They like to hang out in groups out in the middle of the dang ocean with their flippers and noses up in the air; they look like some weird kelp forest until they notice you and totally go haywire swimming around and around in manic circles about your boat jumping in the air and barking their heads off.
Sunfish! We saw two of these because they like to swim at the surface of the water on their sides with one fin flopping back and forth out of the water. They are also really really strange looking fish capable of disconcerted expressions. I know this because in order to get a better look at the guy, we swung the boat around to circle him and all hung off the rigging trying to get a better look; he stopped flapping and sort of regarded us with unease.
Humpback whales! We saw several of these guys traveling in groups, some far off so you could only see the spouts, some closer and doing that thing they show you in whale calendars where they jump halfway out of the water and then make a big splash when they come back down (wheeee! Fun! Get the camera!), and then we saw one of them 30 feet up in the air and 20 feet off our ama. This means that the entire whale minus a bit of tail was completely OUT. OF. THE. WATER. Gets you a really good look at the thing. Also scares the crap out of you and has you looking around for things to hold onto because after all, there were two of them to begin with. Seeing a whale was impressive enough since I had never seen one before; seeing one just up in the air and giving us the eye like that is wholly unreal. When she (we decided she was a she) came back down, we all got splashed and the boat rocked. We all began wondering out loud, “Where’s the other whale” and “She knew we were here, right?” “Where’s the other one?”
The other one surfaced over on the other side of the boat and they both moved on. We were all spazzed out and spent the next few hours talking about it and discussing how marine mammals use sonar and cell phones and all that stuff to navigate and not come up under boats or possibly land on them when jumping completely freakin’ out of the water.
Jeff was the only one with any sense to actually hit the “take photo” button on his camera when the whale jumped out of the water. Seems he was still zoomed in from the last shot when the whales were a 100 feet or more from us.
We went across Monterrey bay and around Pt. Sur with reasonable wind and relatively comfortable seas. Monterrey bay started off with some confused seas but mellowed out once we got a bit south. Night watches went with everyone crashing around 6-6:30pm, me staying up until 10 or so, then Joshua and Jeff the rest of the night, me again early morning. We had an almost-full moon and lots of light most of the nights so that was great. Weather reports were saying that a strong storm off Alaska was sending some big ol’ swells our way (15-20 feet but with 12-second periods), due to hit Friday. Weather was good so we decided to skip Morro bay and San Simeon and all that and get south of Conception asap (like, before 18-foot seas hit us). Friday wind was perky and swells were maybe 10 feet at best. No 18 footers. My seasickness began to go away—did I mention I was seasick? Bleargh. That chop off the GGBridge did me in. Felt better after barfing but didn’t really eat much for four days. Joshua was the rockstar and made egg tacos every morning and spagetti and stuff every evening for dinner.
We were going to hit Conception around 3am Saturday morning and still our Alaskan swells had not hit (disconcerting); they never really did either—we saw maybe 15 feet at best but not consistent. The 30+ knots of wind the weatherbot mentioned, however, did arrive around midnight and turned the ocean to glowing green foam (I was trying to stay in my bunk at this point listening to the scary scary noises). Things quieted down when Joshua and Jeff dropped the jib and ran under only the reefed main. By the time I was roused to drive again, winds were back down to 20 knots maybe, the seas were mellowing, and we were right at Point Conception. That morning in the channel we hit some 30+ winds and clocked in at 13 knots speed and then the wind died. Completely. We motored the rest of the way to Santa Barbara after drying out and flopping around some oilrigs for a few hours. It was Saturday evening, 3.5 days after leaving San Mateo.
Santa Barbara, aside from being spectacularly located with steep green mountains and blue ocean, has the nicest public shower I have ever laid eyes upon and we had some rockin’ showers. We anchored one night and then headed on to Los Angeles.
Here’s the sunset we saw en route to LA.