Metamorphosis: a lot of work, a lot of play

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe great Aldebaran metamorphosis has begun.. from humble local island explorer to transoceanic craft… so you ask, what’s Team Transition been doing?

Just in time for that first Halloween cold spell, Sabrina and Kristian moved out of their comfortable pad in Mission street (ok, err.. they got kicked out by the landlord.. details, details) and are now full time aboard.

The harbor charges double after 2 weeks, so we had to skip town… Aldebaran set sail for Rosa and Miguel on Monday morning. Soon we realized Jimmy Ryguy had snuck aboard at 3:30 am as a “STOWAWAY”.

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He paid his dues making gourmet pasta and hunting uni like a japanese savage. Meanwhile we got blessed with some of the most beautiful surf and diving we could want.. Ah the joys of having no permanent slip !

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My favorite is to work at anchor… we did some fixes to the windlass bolt (which need refurbishing badly), net sewing (same), solenoid cleaning (might live a little longer). The newest addition to the boat, courtesy of Roach Refurbished Rides: Candycane the 5’10 dynamite 80s board, got her new deck pad.

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Since we were already way out there… we snuck into el rancho for a few days, with Adam Jersey Roach himself and friends, which required some major beach launching maneuvers, but paid off with clean and silky waves; tell me about it!

Sarah escaped to visit us for a longboard session and made an epic Roasted Veggie soup… in short time she discovered we had a propane leak. Dang girl I’m glad for your fine-tuned olfactory senses,

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Thus upon return we spent the last 2 days wrestling the stove and propane lines out of their hibernated locations, replacing the failed hoses. While our galley was a total disaster zone, we thought, hey, let’s make it a total catastrophe and change our fresh water plumbing. So now we have all new hoses to the sinks for clean drinking when we are cruising soooouuuuth~!

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AND tomorrow’s big news: installing a fridge! And hopefully getting confirmation on our haul out on Friday… ready the troops… work may get real soon.

The C hotties charge (and get conquered by) Santa Rosa

The C Hotties

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The ladies called themselves the C hotties (in part, because they are all nurses at a local establishment starting with that letter). Turns out their skills came in handy, sadly.

Sabrina took an over-the-falls wipeout surfing and got nailed on the board on day #2 (after all, it WAS way overhead and elephant seals were attacking her!)  She was in terrible pain and held on like a trooper till we sailed back to the ER. Fortunately, one CT and MRI later revealed it was simply a really aweful muscle contusion, and would heal in a month.

On Day #1 we had a hike through the fantastic rock sculptered Lobo Canyon and sailed around to Johnson’s Lee. On Day #2, after the fateful surfing expedition, the ladies (minus Sab) went kayaking in fearful Painted Cave, and spent the night in blissful Ladies Harbor.

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Awesome formations sculpted by wind and water at Lobo Canyon

Awesome formations sculpted by wind and water at Lobo Canyon

Making the most of the calm conditions on the north side of Rosa to access Lobo

Making the most of the calm conditions on the north side of Rosa to access Lobo

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Swell hitting the island

Swell hitting the island

Full Moon rise looking east to Santa Cruz island

Full Moon rise looking east to Santa Cruz island

Sabrina icing her back with frozen soup ;-(

Sabrina icing her back with frozen soup ;-

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Sunset heading to Johnson's Lee

Battle of Orcas & Gray whales

photos by Kristen Hislop / WayfareCollective.com

Near Santa Cruz Island, 2 miles NW of San Pedro Point…  we saw the big dorsal fin.  Orca!

Everyone was up front, I was on video and steering, under full sail going 7.5 knots. Usually whale encounters are elusive… but these beasts were simply not moving, and not paying attention to us… and I suddenly thought, ‘We might actually run into them’. They were exhibiting a strange behavior, lolly-gagging around in a big cuddle puddle. Ha! Little did I know.

I cranked the wheel to starboard to avoid the mass of whale bodies. I unfortunately stopped videotaping, and then as we rounded them like turbulent buoy, I went hard to port and hove-to. That’s when we saw there was a gray whale in the midst of the orcas.

There was in fact a momma gray trying to keep the baby gray whale afloat; while the orcas kept rolling on top of it to try to drown it. The big male orca had a gigantic dorsal fin – it seemed to clear our railing, which is 6ft about the water. Kristen later said, “I never thought I’d have too much zoom for whales. I needed a wide angle to get everything in the frame!”  We were that close.

It was a terrible, graceful dance of predators, huge creatures moving slowly with precision and determination. Their prey billowed air with forceful fatigue. The baby was getting worn out, the momma was not keeping up with the weight of four (or was it five?) orcas rolling onto it.

Our ship was hove-to right next to them, and there was a moment when it seemed they all stopped their theater and looked up at us, “what the hell is this boat doing?”  This momentary lapse broke their attack formation and the grays split, or so we speculate, because the orcas suddenly bolted towards the island.  We followed them under sail, cranking in the sheets to windward, the boat shuddering with delight as the waves began chattering below its hulls. We caught up to them as they were congregating 1 mile east of Little Scorpion, not 60 feet from the cliff, which was a bit too close for comfort for us, but the boat and her skipper were feeling a bit bold, and hove-to again just up-wind of the orcas; we caught a quick glimpse of the gray whales again.

After a minute the orcas dove and began moving towards Anacapa, swimming leisurely now– we could tell they weren’t in attack mode any longer. Did the little gray whale and mother escape?  Did we indadvertedly sabotage their attack?  We looked out in wonder as the majestic creatures swam on, trodding along.

The battle was over. Perhaps we played a role in keeping a little whale from losing his tongue?  So they say, that’s what the orcas eat from the baby grays… Similar, I couldn’t help compare, to how humans will slice off fins from sharks, and let the whole body go to waste.

As we trimmed sail towards the island, after 45 minutes of racing around after the orcas, I thought: how fortunate we were! To be so close to large animals in their moment of ferocious instinct.  Stunned, awed, and somewhat elated, we carried on.

LOG: Islands, Sunday August 12th

6:30am haul anchor and head to the bluffs for an early surf. Yesterday was the dream day- uncrowded (for a well forecast swell) hot and really fun. Today the Conception is there with a bachelor party, who for the most part are thankfully too hung over to surf; and several other boaters. Waves continue with occasional head high sets and excellent shape.

11:30am motor out. Glassy clear water through the kelp. We have a session to ourselves; a boardshort session with the single fin and old school 80s wettie at the little left; everyone is paddling kayaks and snorkeling and swimming until the very last moment possible, loving the scene. Silliness galore, living the essence of “anything is possible in crazytown”

2:50pm after lunch drifting in calm smugglers cove, and cleaning kelp from the prop with a quick free dive, set sail across channel and have a perfect run straight to Santa Barbara. This is rare on the trimaran because from east end of Santa Cruz it’s a close haul and multi hulls don’t do so well with the wind on their nose.

But the conditions are perfect, wind a bit more west than usual, powered up 7-8 knots under genoa and main, absolutely ripping across the water.

Oil rig “benchmark”— we just make it around the left of it, and fly into SB harbor under sail, heave to and drop canvas and arrive by 7pm with sunlight to spare.

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LOG: Islands, Saturday August 11th

5am departure SB. Shooting stars before dawn. Gorgeous! Clear night, not cold, no wind.

Motor at bearing 130 for San Pedro pt, Santa Cruz island, at 1700RPM, 6 knots. Radar and all systems operational.

6:15am sunrise glory.

7:30am cross container ship. Anxiety in the crew. Captain acknowledges miscalculation, looks like ship is slower than usual- maybe 15knots, reduced speed in channel for whale safety?

Extremely calm channel conditions. Not a cloud or waft of fog entire crossing. Lovely.

8:45am. San Pedro point.

10am. Arrive at south bluff. Chest to head high, glassy and hot. Visiblity 30ft at least. Far fewer people than expected. Everyone is nuts about how good the conditions are.

5:30pm. Leave for Yellowbanks, note kelp bed is smaller than normal, check other spots then anchor near Ross’ 36ft Catalina, Corsair.

Pasta dinner by Lucas — culinary extravaganza with Pinot noir and Shiraz and excessive silliness and monkey business, heightened by a pitch black night visit to Corsair, and a return with them to chill on the nets and watch the Perseus meteor shower. “oh!” “ah!” all night long…

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LOG: Islands, Sunday August 5th

Raise stern and bow anchor, steam out of Coches in cloud cover 6:45am.

The bluffs are a bit inconsistent and crowded this morning but the fellas get a few rides and satisfy the wave-nutrition.

All signs of mild discontent are put to rest with Leslie’s fantastic pancake breakie topped with fruits and coffee.

We motor to Scorpion for a hike, drop off cre at the pier just in time or Island Packers to show up. Visibility is amazing- a big ray is laying on the ocean floor under the boat.

Sail off the hook at 2:30pm and cross channel with some bump and breeze 12-15knots. We average 5.5knot speed and arrive around 6:30pm in SB with the last 45min motor-sailing upwind.

Boat is clean and all happy.

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LOG: Islands, Saturday, August 4th

Dawn. Red orb sunrise silhouette Anacapa Island.

Raise anchor and head to south for a wave at the bluffs. Just us surfing for an hour, hooting and sharing waves chest to shoulder high.

The “wetsuit chefs” cook up sourdough french toast for breakfast – thus named because they kept on their suits while cooking so they could get another swift session in. Raspberries and honey.

Anchor at Coches, nice conditions but jellyfish funniness in the water. Crew goes hiking. Captain volunteers the Riparetti bros. to assist with scrubbing bottom, which between the three of us takes 1.5hr free diving.

Afternoon is a napping smorgasbord. Later the sea breeze calms and we snorkel, see some Garibaldi and lots of urchins; and a late sunset hike. Dinner is greek kale rice and cherries and chocolate for desert. Cozy fireplace.

Night at Coches is cooler with an offshore breeze, but the hardy crew still prefers sleeping outside, leaving one big bunk open. Arrrr….

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LOG: Islands, Friday August 3rd

Breeze ruffling flags in the SB harbor 11:30 as we sail off for Santa Cruz island. Heading to east end, first stop yellowbanks!

Crew are the Riparetti brothers, Alexa and Leslie, my brother Dylan and girlfriend Christine.

We cruise at a dainty 5-6 knots under all three sails, bearing 165 deg and wind 15 knots out the W. Arrive San Pedro Pt after 4.5hr then yellowbanks half hour later. Look around the corner towards blue banks but the wind is howling, clouds pouring over the hills, we backtrack and anchor at yellowbanks. Calm and lovely.

Fireplace warms the cabin to pesto pasta and red wine. Orange full moon rises. A few brave souls sleep on deck.

Engine hours start: 1850.

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Flying her sails

The "Californian", the official tall ship of our proud state, here in SB waters! Info on the 130′ schooner here: http://www.sdmaritime.org/californian/

Californian has nine sails, carries 7,000 square feet of canvas, and is armed with four six-pound deck guns.

Californian was built from the ground up in 1984 at Spanish Landing in San Diego Bay. She was launched with great fanfare for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In July 2003, the Governor signed a bill into law designating the Californian as the official tall ship of the State of California. She is the only ship to carry this prestigious title.

The Californian is a replica of the 1847 Revenue Cutter C.W. Lawrence, which patrolled the coast of California enforcing federal law during the gold rush. The Revenue Cutter Service, along with four other federal maritime agencies, was consolidated into the United States Coast Guard in 1915.

LOG: outrigger race, Sat July 28

State competitor for outrigger canoes, we head out 1pm to watch from the Aldebaran.

Friends paddle out on surfboards and kayaks from Leadbetter beach to join the festivities and then we sail a few miles offshore in the glorious sunny warm af

The we sail a few miles and meet up with Ed B’s Islander 38, side sail for a while.. Warm and gloriously sunny! End up enjoying sunset anchored next to the Stern’s Wharf.

A fantastic day in Santa Barbara waters.

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Smoothie-Making at Anchor

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“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” So said Robin Lee Graham, author of Dove, the story of his circumnavigation (he departed Los Angeles as a teenager on a 24ft sloop named Dove, in 1965, and returned 5 years later with a wife).

Less is more, especially at sea, but importing certain luxuries can provide imesurable delight.  Smoothies are just such a case.  A good bottle of wine stashed in a cupboard is a treat; a bar of chocolate can be a life-saver; but smoothies require enough devotion and effort that it has a special place in my luxuries list.

Smoothies demand first of all the correct electrical system — usually a decent blender needs a 110v inverter to convert the 12v sailboat battery power. This small technological accomplishment is in itself satisfying.

Next, smoothies need fresh ingredients, fruits and juices; forget the possibility of ice cubes and frozen fruits of course. Creativity is required. Bananas, pears, apples are mixed with various flavorings like cinammon, honey, ginger, and added for texture/protein with nuts or oats. Every variation under the sun is possible, the delight of self-expression.

The smoothie won’t be icey cold, but it’s delicious natural and sweet, and when you are rocking in a little cove like Fry’s Harbor, surrounded by rocky cliffs on all sides, the cool freshness and intoxicating novelty of the moment makes it all worthwhile…

Valentine’s Day Trip: weathering the storm

February 18th, 2010. Those strangely calm, hot days of California’s mid-winter, which are stabilized by high pressure systems, were coming to an end. Thus claimed our VHF radio’s weather forecast, with NOAA’s machine-voice: “South-east winds 20-25 knots, thunderstorms and rainshowers.” Translation: storm coming in 2 days.

True enough, night-time temperatures had been “chilly” in the low 50s, sometimes upper 40s, but day-times were gorgeous. Alyssum and I had been snorkeling in the kelp beds (which look like backlit Sequoia forests swaying dramatically in the wind); we had hiked in the hills and nibbled on prickly pear cactus (very carefully); and kayaked into big sea caves that gurgled and made a decent stab at capsizing us with sudden nearly-breaking surges.

Lush vegetation above Fry’s
Prickly Pear Cactus
Humm… it appears we forgot the kayak paddle

In strategic anticipation of the nasty conditions, we sailed from Fry’s to Pelican’s, which is one of the popular summer anchorages, but we only had to share it with one 50-ft research dive sailboat. The owner was an ex-urchin diver and now collected special fish specimens for university labs. His motor-sailor had big tanks of water with the valuable fish critters.

Pelican’s is a real treat. The anchorage is calm. There are ruins of an old house/hotel, and neat coves to investigate by kayak. The hike to Prisoner’s Harbor is stunning in terms of flora, scenery, and the island foxes that scurry about.

In the evening, with approaching rainclouds looming close, we took the Aldebaran to “weather the storm” at Prisoner’s, figuring it would be in the protected lee of the strong south-east wind. A 34 foot sailboat was at anchor with four guys clad in foul-weather gear, which they chartered on their own. Crowded and rolly… That night, the rain came down in sheets, the rigging howled, and the sea was lumpy but fine aboard the trimaran’s stable footing. Huddled underneath blankets with the wood-burning stove crackling, we made sun-dried tomato and garlic pizza and watched a movie on the laptop. Cozy!

Pelican’s Harbor and the fish collecting motor-sailor

Picking miner’s lettuce (yum yum) along the trail from Pelican’s to Prisoner’s
Incoming dark clouds did not faze the mighty Aldebaran

The stormy night was not only uneventful, it contributed to the overall romantic atmosphere. I was emboldened by my decisions as skipper– there had been consideration of returning to Santa Barbara due to this storm, which I had waived off non-chalantly –and thought we should do part of the hike leading towards Scorpion Bay, in the east side of the island.

Here is where my calculations went astray. I was unwittingly having quite a nice time hiking in the fresh post-rain air; walking by the campers at Del Norte Campground giving them an attitude of amusement and mild contempt (due to my sense of deranged superiority — I had, after all, spent that soggy night in a comfortable yacht); without realizing the notorious clearing winds of the North-west had begun howling.

Prisoner’s Harbor, safe anchorage until the winds shift. Rapidly.

Nay, I’ll be frank–  the gale winds had shown evidence of manifesting already that morning. As we paddled the dinghy to the pier before hiking, the horizon was a shaky mess. Yet I misjudged and upon return it was howling goats. Luckily we had a downwind run in the dinghy (our soaking would have been three-fold, if it had been anything else), and the anchor had re-set magnificently to account for the now windward shore. That is, a wind that is blowing the vulnerable vessel directly towards the unmerciful tentacles of rock and beach.

Thus humbled, the skipper led a quick escape and set sail, in the only direction possible, or at least desirable, which was downwind and towards the east end of the island, where we hoped to find shelter.

Valentine’s Day trip: lovable sea lions

How many temperate climates can boast to winter-time sailing?

On February 12th, 2010, the Aldebaran set sail for Santa Cruz Island. The first 5 days of the trip had glorious weather on the north side of the island: anchoring at Fry’s Harbor and Pelican Harbor.

View from the beach at Fry’s

After the rough-and-tumble of the Channel’s “Windy Alley”, the incredible calm of Fry’s Harbor is a delight. The valley above Fry’s tends to funnel warm, dry air into the harbor, creating the illusion of summer in the middle of February. It is only a harbor in name; there are no facilities whatsoever, only a nice anchorage, crystal clear water, and a cobblestone beach.

Kelp forests make spectacular snorkeling and diving

My favorite place to do boat maintenance is on the Islands, vs. the marina. It is instant gratification: working on the boat that brought me to this gorgeous place. Work becomes fun.

This was even more the case when I donned SCUBA gear and dove to replace the zinc on the propeller: a sea lion turned me into a playmate. What happened was that after the new zinc was secured, I swam around looking for treasures on the sea floor, until a sea lion brushed my fins. I was startled, and then somewhat anxious when it returned and rubbed against my tank, but the lobo marino was just teasing. After some playful jabs I scratched its neck and it seemed rather pleased (the fact I had gloves made me a little more bold, I’ve heard sea lions can take little bites). The lovable lion (LL) kept nipping at my fins even while I was readying to climb the ship-ladder, “why are you leaving?” it seemed to say. Lacking the blubber, I shivered from cold, and had to sit thawing in the sun, sadly watching LL swim away. Who says love can’t happen underwater?

Anchored at Pelican Harbor