October 11th – October 19th, 2019
With the San Francisco Fleet Week Airshow complete, it was time for Atica to head back out to sea. This time with a crew of three, as Don was coming along on the overnight passage to Santa Cruz. At about 1700 we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and shortly after hoisted sails. We enjoyed a few hours of sailing out the bar, the wind dying down just before dark as we turned left to head down the coast. With almost no swell or wind we motored under a huge moon that made it almost seem like daylight. A refreshing change from the dark moonless nights we had had on recent passages.
At 0430 Elise was on watch and accidentally bumped the cockpit switch for the windless. A few minutes later Elise yelled down to Austin that she thought something was wrong with the anchor. He assured her that the anchor was secured well to the deck and it was probably fine. A few minutes passed and Elise started to smell burning plastic. Austin checked the engine and everything was fine apart from the alternator spiking up and down a few times. Not again with the alternator we thought. We chocked up the burning smell to the nearby forest fires and continued on. With the smell worsening and alternator continuing to surge Austin went up into the v berth to check the batteries and that’s when he heard a squeal from the anchor locker. He quickly flipped the breaker for the windless, threw open the doors to the chain locker and smoke billowed out. The switch in the cockpit had malfunctioned and the gypsy had spit out 15ft of chain on deck before getting jammed and overheating the motor. The burning plastic smell had been coming out the chain locker vent above deck but could not be smelled down below. The sounds and smell now made sense, and luckily nothing had caught fire, unfortunately it looked like the windlass motor was toast. Now that anchoring wasn’t a reasonable option, we decided to head into Santa Cruz Small Boat Harbor for a few days to sort things out.
At 0530 we entered Santa Cruz Harbor in the dark as many small fishing boats zoomed out the bar with bright LED lights making it hard to see the small cans marking the channel. The marina office didn’t open until 0900 so we tied to the fuel dock and we all passed out for a few hours. After getting a slip assigned and hot showers for all, we went for lunch in town before Don flew back home. It was fun to have another person onboard and we learned some good lessons for when others want to come for a visit in the future.
After some research and testing the windlass motor, we succumbed to ordering a replacement motor from the West Marine in Santa Cruz. An unplanned hit to the cruising budget but a part of the journey. With a few days wait for the motor to come in we did a few boat chores and explored Santa Cruz. We completed the tiller pilot installation, naming her Nutmeg since she works well with Ginger the Hydrovane. It is kind of silly but it seems like everyone we talk with has funny names for their favorite boat equipment. We named our blue and yellow asymmetrical spinnaker the green shoot for example. We read in the Hydrovane brochure that there isn’t a Hydrovane out there, without a nickname!
Our good friends and Guemes Island neighbors Michael and Nelly Hand were in Santa Cruz for a funeral so we planned to meet up with them. They drove us around the town that Nelly grew up in and we had a delicious burrito lunch sitting on the rocks watching surfers. Great to see friends from home even under less than happy circumstances. We also explored the Santa Cruz boardwalk and pier. It was mostly closed for the season but still quite the carnival affair.
On Tuesday the windlass motor was due into West Marine and we were anxious to get it working again. We called the store and the manager was incredibly rude saying it was probably there but she couldn’t be bothered to check. We decided we were better off to just head for the store. We jumped on Uber electric Jump bikes and pedaled the 2 miles to the West Marine from the marina. We had a blast zooming up hills hardly pedaling at all. The West Marine was out of the ride zone for the bikes, a rule that we did not entirely understand, when Elise locked her bike it would not let her unlock it again. Luckily Austin hadn’t locked his bike yet! We headed inside and reported to the counter that we were here for the motor. The manager slid the box across the counter, and said in a snarky tone “I made this my priority” before turning and walked away. A nice young lady started checking us out and Elise noticed a crack in the motor housing. The manager was called over and she said with the same tone, “There’s absolutely nothing we can do about this, I’m busy, I can’t help, all you can do is refuse the item” and then turned away. We were a bit confused and then the nice lady said she could order another one but it would take several days. We opted to have it shipped to the Monterey store so we could continue on to the next port. After a disappointing trip into the store we now had one jump bike, 2 miles to the boat and 45 min until we had to leave the dock. Elise sat on the seat while Austin pedaled. We looked pretty silly and attracted much attention as we headed back to the boat. Luckily, we made it in one piece and were able to get Uber to wave the fee for locking a bike out of the zone. Lesson learned.
Elise met a lady at the dock in Santa Cruz who kept her boat in Moss Landing. She mentioned that there was a small yacht club with a dock and she recommended we visit. We had not planned on stopping there but with the windless still out of commission, a few nights on a free dock was calling our name. We sailed on a reach with 10-15 knots of wind all the way and tested out the new Nutmeg and Ginger combo. As we were about to enter the channel Elise shouted “Whale! Full breach!” A few minutes later we both saw the whale come fully out of the water again and roll a few more times. The Elkhorn Bar was lined with sea otters as we motored in and made a left through a very shallow channel to the Elkhorn Yacht Club. The docks and boats were in rough shape and there were no signs for the guest dock. A friendly lady working on her boat pointed us to the end of the dock and said we could tie up there.
We planned to stay three nights in “Moss”, as the locals call it. One day we inflated our kayaks and paddled up the slough to see the local population of Southern Sea Otters. A kayak guide we met on the dock said it’s the largest population of the West Coast! The otters, seals and sea birds were all curious about the kayaks and we enjoyed slowing down and taking in the nature. When a gale and high surf warning was posted we decided to stay another night and had a picnic on the beach to watched the big waves coming in. We met up with a friend, Jerry Moxley and his girlfriend, on their way to SF. Moss Landing was a great break from the hustle of the last few weeks.
We woke up early to travel from Moss Landing to Monterey. With no wind to speak of and high swell left over from the past days of stormy conditions it was an uncomfortable motor. We had to zig zag into the swell because our course was perpendicular to the wave direction. We saw a blue whale tale and a few fin whales in the swell on our way across the bay. We squeezed into a very narrow slip in the early afternoon and had lunch on the boat. Austin walked to West Marine to get the windless motor and Elise went to do laundry. This time the motor was all good and within an hour Austin had it installed and running again! We made a plan and a label to remind ourselves to always turn off the windlass breaker when it’s not in use hopefully avoiding problems like this in the future.
We met up with Jerry Moxley again and had a beer at the Dustbowl Brewery. He gave us an early release of his new music album “Wayward Jerry” and a copy of a neat documentary called Blue Ocean White Death, a 1960s exploration to film great white sharks in the water for the first time. Sadly, the Monterey Aquarium was a bit out of our cruising budget but we figured we are getting a pretty good sea life exposure on this trip anyways. Especially in the days to come… We did take advantage of the free trolley bus to Cannery Row and on Fisherman’s Warf we ate all the free samples of clam chowder we could handle. In Monterey we met a couple sailing from Olympia, WA on their Passport 40, Polaris. They had recently retired and it was their one-year wedding anniversary and one-year anniversary of owning their boat. We mentioned we planned to sail to the Channel Islands the following day and their response was “I think we will follow you out”. We would run into them again in Santa Barbara and Oxnard. The weather window looked windy and we were ready to keep heading south into warmer weather. What we got was a little more than we expected…