Can we Stop in Monterey?

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Saturday was a nice sunny and warm day in Half Moon Bay.  There were a lot of people visiting the docks and dozens of small fishing charter boats headed in and out of the bay.  We walked all over Half Moon Bay and watched the Padres play their arch rival Giants in a baseball game to decide which team would be in first place in the NL West baseball division.  We had found an nice, newly remodeled bar that was not crowded and was reasonably priced. 

The sun came up Sunday morning in low clouds and fog with more of the same forecast for the rest of the day. Mirador pulled out of the slip at 8 AM with Monterey programmed into the GPS as the next destination (hadn't that been the case since we left Kingston on September 1 ??).   There was only a very light SW wind and almost no ripples to disturb the surface of the calm sea.   The wind stayed below six knots for the next 18 hours and the low clouds did not lift until Monday afternoon.   More motoring!!

We did see quite a few humpback whales between Half Moon Bay and Monterey.  They swam with us, in opposite directions to us, and across our path ahead of and behind us. 

As we got closer to Monterey I heard the Monterey Dockmaster tell several boats who called him on VHF that they could come into the harbor and he would try to get them a transient slip.   It did not sound very encouraging so we continued south toward Moro Bay and Pt Conception. 

I had really been planning and wanting to spend three or four days in Monterey where Arlene and I had had such a nice visit ten years ago.   A Monterey visit was not so high on the crew's wish list.  That, coupled with the forecast of NW 25 - 35 knots and nine foot seas beginning on Thursday (four days in the future), convinced me that the prudent course would be continuing south to pass Point Arguello and Point conception  in the 20 to 25 knots forecast for Monday evening.

The Thursday forecast of 25 - 35 knots was for Piedras Blancas south thru the Channel Islands and those conditions were to continue for three or four days.   The wind and waves usually intensify between Arguello and Conception and east in the Santa Barbara Channel (the so called "Windy Lane") so I expected there would be gnarly conditions rounding Point Conception on Friday evening after leaving Monterey Wednesday morning. 

We continued to have little wind and calm seas Sunday night into Monday morning.  

Sunday evening, around dusk, we listened to a scary VHF radio conversation between a 28' sport fisherman, Vessel Assist, and the USCG.   The sportfisherman's engine had quit and would not restart about 38 miles west of Pt Conception. The reported location is over 1000 fathoms deep  and is the NW entrance/exit to the Los Angles Basin Vessel Traffic System shipping lanes which are the busiest on the US West Coast.   The captain of the sport fisher was not overly concerned and had a planned rendezvous with a Vessel Assist tow boat which would occur shortly after dark set in. 

About 30 minutes later we listed to the USCG repeatedly make the following call on VHF 16 and VHF 13:

"APL container ship XXXX at location 34 25.49N  120 53.37W on a course of 285 and a speed of 24 knots - Do you see or have on radar the 28' white fishing boat that is dead in the water 3 miles ahead of you, directly on your course?"

As the minutes went by nothing changed except the distance to the projected collision got smaller.  We never heard the APL ship answer any of the four calls made to it by the USCG nor did we ever hear a call from the disabled boat.   We were about 120 miles north of the disabled boat and were unable to hear any of it's VHF traffic.   We did not hear any more VHF traffic about the situation after the last USCG call to the container ship. 

The OH-Dark hours of Monday morning did provide some drama and uncertainty for John and Jim as they tried to deal with mysterious high intensity lights on the sea surface that seemingly jumped a half mile every couple seconds.   I came on deck about 3 AM and saw the same lights that appeared to be a mile or so off our port bow.   The light would flash two or three times and then disappear.  Several seconds later the light would reappear hundreds of yards to the east or west, sometimes up to a mile from their previous location.  This continued for some time and there were no boat lights anywhere near the flashing lights nor did the lights appear on radar. 

Near as I could tell - the flashing lights were strobes on buoys or floats that were right on the sea surface.  As the swells rolled from our direction toward the floats - the slights would be obscured for seconds at a time and usually only one light would be visible at any given moment.  There were two largish fishing boats many miles to starboard and quite a ways north of us so maybe the floats were part of their fishing gear?

Monday was a pleasant day with increasing sunshine and wind as the afternoon progressed.  I was not quite sure how to proceed since we were on schedule to get to Point Arguello around 5 PM and Point Conception before 7 PM.   The Arguello wind at 2 PM was reported to be 18 knots out of the NW but at that time we were 22 miles NW of there and were only seeing 12 knots.  Typically, the Arguello and Conception wind increases by at least 50% between early afternoon and sunset which meant we could expect 25 - 30 knots given our current speed - but there was brilliant sunshine and the air temperature was about 70 degrees. 

The crew decided we were hearty and adventurous sailors and that we should proceed with all due haste - directly to Arguello.  In this case, all due haste meant a Code 0 out on a pole with an apparent sailing angle of 160 degrees, e.g.  almost DDW (Dead Down Wind), with an apparent wind increasing over the next couple hours to 16 - 18 knots. 

I'd love to show you a picture or a video of this excellent sailing, and I had planned on it since I recorded about 10 minutes of brilliant 720p HD footage - all of which has disappeared from my computer in the last couple days!

We passed about 10 miles west of Pt Arguello at 6 PM with about 18 knots true from the NNW which meant it had not increased a bit since 2 PM.  As we sailed SE toward Point Conception the wind increased as did the seas and the temperature dropped precipitously.   At 6 PM we were in tee shorts eating chips and drinking something cold.  By 7 PM we had 18 knots apparent wind from the stern and it felt like it was coming off the polar ice cap - the cockpit thermometer was at 57 degrees.   The wind had gone more to the North so we were on a broad reach with just the 120% genoa up but still making over seven knots. 

We were occupied by dolphins for about 15 minutes just after sunset as shown in this YouTube Video Pt Conception Dolphins

As we approached Pt Conception the wind died and the seas calmed to almost flat water.

And then we were in Southern California!










 Half Moon Bay California Oceanside California

  September 12 September 15 2010
Nautical Miles   388
Elapsed Hours   65
Engine Hours   58
Sailing Hours   7 - all downwind with sail poled out
Sailing with engine on   10 - all downwind in 8 to 14 knots true
Maximum Wind   24 knots from NNW
Sails used   Code 0 or Genoa on pole - all downwind
Biggest Seas   8' from NNW - occasional breaker
Sunshine Hours   12
Rain   none
Fog / Mist   5
Max & Minimum Temperature   72 - 58