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Monday, March 15, 2010

Another post from Stu

Hello again - it’s time for my much overdue posting.

A lot has happened since my last post as I am sure you would know if you have been following Kym’s posts or checking Bruce’s blog.

We finally left Dana Point on Friday the 19th and had a pleasant although windless sail to Avalon on Catalina Island, which is probably the most popular of the Channel Islands. At Dana Point we were warned that Avalon was the ‘Vegas’ of the Islands and they were right. As you enter the harbor you have to radio in and advise the Coastal Patrol of your impending arrival which we did and were duly met by a man in a boat who gave us a mooring number and directions before relieving us of $35US. Finding the mooring was not the easiest, however we were in a fairly good position a few hundred meters off the beach and jetty. The moorings are a fore and aft set up where you pick up the bow mooring and it has a sunken line that goes back to the aft mooring. The good part of this mooring set up is that the boat is secure and you are free to leave it without worrying about dragging the anchor. The flip side is that you are crammed in like sardines and it has a marina feel to it as the boats are all lined up in the same direction (and close enough that you could easily have a conversation with the crews of the boats on either side). The other issue is that if there is a swell rolling into the bay the boat may lay at a poor angle to the swell and then roll all night as it did when we were there.

After launching the dinghy we went ashore and started looking for places to eat. There were lots to choose from and we finally decided on a back street restaurant which served a great meal at a reasonable price. Also it was full of locals, which is always a good sign! We have had terrific meals throughout the trip. After dinner we explored the Avalon waterfront which was very ‘Gold Coast’ and surprisingly busy as it winter here. I am sure that in Summer people would be lining up to get a table at a restaurant and that you would have to crawl over half a dozen dinghies to get to your own. As we settled into another drink on the boat we noticed on the back of the mooring receipt that we had to vacate the mooring by 0900 the following morning, which was a bit disappointing as we would have liked to see a bit more of Avalon but did not want to stay another night due to wanting to leave for Hawaii asap. If time had allowed the local businesses would have seen us again.

After leaving Avalon we headed around the other side of the Island to Catalina (Cat) Harbor which is at a neck on the Island which has a harbor on either side. After a meal at the hotel we met some locals who told us that the whole island is owned by the Wrigley family (of chewing gum fame) and that everyone who lives on the island must be employed by and rent from the Wrigley family. Some former employees now live on boats at Catalina as they did not want to leave the Island.

Thankfully we were on the protected side of the island this time and had a really peaceful nights rest.

Due to bad weather we waited until Tuesday morning before leaving Cat Harbour as I wanted a nice fair weather start to the trip. We spent most of the day passing the other islands and had a quiet night with little breeze. At about 10am the following morning we were buzzed by a US Navy plane barely 100 meters away from us! It was pretty amazing as the plane was a big 4 engine propeller cargo type. On its second pass he made contact via VHF radio asking our course, speed and destination as they were wanting to start a live fire exercise and were trying to clear the area. After a few minutes they buzzed us again and asked if we could sail due South for 20 nautical miles which was about 90 degrees off our course and would take 4 to 5 hours. We agreed to their request and changed course, as you do…

As the day went on and we resumed our course the breeze picked up and we soon found ourselves beating into 25 to 30 knots which was fast but not very comfortable. We continued throughout the night under a partly rolled genoa and a reef in the main as the night went on the wind headed us more and more. In the morning the breeze eased but stayed hard on the nose with a confused sea. We tacked a few times during the day trying to get the best of the shifts but progress was slow.

On the forth night at sea we were still hard on the wind and waiting for the elusive trade winds when the wind started to increase and the barometer dived from 1030 to 990, and then 970. At the peak of the storm I read the barometer at 956 hpa. As we reduced sail to just a triangle of jib the boat was still travelling too fast and launching itself off large waves with a bone jarring crash. At this time we decided to heave to which was not overly successful under headsail. Eventually we tried running with it as it was now a full blown gale. This really improved the motion of the boat but with speeds of over 10 knots and a really big breaking swell I was worried that we may broach so we streamed a 300 foot line in a loop with a fender tied in the middle. This dropped the boat speed considerably and made Pelon far easier to steer. At this point we were steering a course closer to San Francisco than Hawaii however the boat was safe and under control. This continued throughout the night and the next morning until it eased enough to recover the warp.

With the breeze still on the nose and having used more fuel than planned I decided to head back to Catalina to refuel and have a sail repaired which had been damaged when a furling line parted releasing a 130% genoa in 45 plus knots of wind. It took two days to sail back to Catalina with the wind only dropping out on the final night; I think that we were all pretty happy when we motored back into Cat harbor.

I have only been in two storms that I feel were worse than this one, the first being on New Year’s Eve 1989-90 off Matsuyker Island when we had 60 plus knots for about 12 hours and then in 1994 during the Sydney to Hobart when we had a really bad storm in Bass Straight. This storm was not in the same league as the earlier two however it was still pretty nasty. I spoke to the Harbor master who said that the storm was the worst that they had experienced in decades. While it was really unlucky to get caught in this storm it is good to know how the boat performs in adverse conditions. I have a real feeling of confidence in Pelon - she is strong, safe and sound.

After a night at Cat harbor we decided to sail to Newport Beach to have the sail repaired. At Newport we rented a mooring for $5 per night which is really cheap. The only downside is that the harbor is so regulated you can only land your dinghy at 4 or 5 spots in the harbor and if you leave the dinghy on this side of the pontoon there is a maximum time limit of 20 minutes and the other side of the pontoon is 2 hours while if you leave the dinghy at the back of the pontoon it can stay for 12 hours before somebody will impound it. Also, if you leave your dinghy on a beach it will be impounded. This all makes movement within the harbor difficult as the docks are all on the wrong side and the closest Laundromat is a 20 minute dinghy ride away.

Bruce and Claire have decided not to continue on the trip to Hawaii. It is unfortunate that this storm may have put them off offshore sailing as they both did such a great job on the boat. Kym and I will continue alone and while it did take Kym a day or so of soul searching before agreeing to give it another shot, I think that she feels that this is business that needs to be completed. We are now both looking forward to round 2 which will hopefully be a quiet trip to Hawaii.

It is now Saturday night and we were hoping to leave tomorrow however we will most likely leave on Monday as Steve, the owner of another Catalina 42, is delivering another genoa on Sunday. We spoke to the sail maker who said that our original genoa had seen better days, and that to put good money into repairing it may not be the wisest move. As Steve was looking to sell his in order to hopefully buy a larger 150% genoa we were able to buy his old 130% sail. The extra sail is really just a back up, however as we have already blown one ‘back up’ up we think it is worth waiting the extra day!

So here we are sitting on the boat with the larder full trying not to break into the goodies too early. We expect that the trip will take somewhere between 14 and 21 days so we have catered for 20 days of good food and another 20 days of emergency food which is generally can based long life type. We carry about 500 liters of water in the boat’s tanks and about 100 liters of bottled water just for drinking, and we also carry 40 liters in 2 jerry cans that is purely for emergencies. If we were to drink 3 liters per day each (and I doubt we could) over 20 days we would need only 120 liters, if the trip doubled in length to 40 days we would still only need 240 liters from our 640 liters on board. We intend to use salt water for showering and cleaning.

Yesterday we went to Universal Studios. It was our second attempt; the first ended when we saw the entrance queue stretched about a kilometer long with very slow movement. Fortunately yesterday’s queue was about 5 meters long. The highlights for me were the Waterworld show and seeing Magnum PI’s Ferrari and the Mini from the Bourne Identity.

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