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USA: Washington - California 8.10. - 9.11.2004

8.10.   15.10.   22.10.   26.10.   2.11.   9.11map of the area

8.10.2004 San Fransisco / Sausalito, California, USA
High pressure was still hanging around Vancouver Island, although it was soon October. It was best to hurry south, because a low pressure would give us head winds. On the 30th of September we motored the 50 mile long Juan de Fuca Strait to Neah Bay, from were we started the journey to San Fransisco on Friday, the 1st of October. It was dead calm. This time the Friday departure turned out to be very lucky. A couple of days after we left, a storm warning, 50 knots, was given to west coast of Vancouver Island. Weatherfax looked awful with a deep low; windarrows had a triangel, predicting 55-60 knots. On the US west coast the low appeared as 20-30 knots southerly winds, but we escaped the headwinds narrowly. We were already prepared to pull into Crescent City, 300 miles north of San Fransisco, and wait for the wind to turn, but because it was predicted northerlies for the area ahead of us, so we decided to continue. The whole 700 miles was alike; just a daytrip behind us the wind was veering south, when we had either calm or northerly winds. We were pleased that we didn't leave a day after! The German Miss Sophie departured the same time than we, but with the 50 litres (190 gallons) of diesel she couldn't motor far during the first calm day, and was left behind getting the headwinds.
The west coast of USA from Washington to California is straight forward and difficult to approach. There are no natural shelters. Harbours are difficult to enter because of the sand bars and breaking waves. In addition to continious weather forecast, VHF sends swell and bar reports. It was odd to be six days at sea, but only 10-20 miles from the shoreline. To our mind, it was more sensible to be near the coast than 100 miles offshore as some of the cruising guides advice. Near the coast the Californian current is stronger giving 1-1.5 knots to southbounders. If needed, we could easily pull into a harbour. The disadvantages of the inshore route are said to be fog and traffic. We often had fog, but that is handled with  radar. There was much less traffic than we expected (nothing compared to the busy Baltic Sea). Some pleasure boats and a few ships further out. Fishing vessels seemed to gather in certain areas and they had very bright lights. A real disadvantage we experienced was nasty waves. Maybe the relatively shallow water (50-100 m), closeness of the shore, and currents made the waves grazy as soon as the wind got up. The last night we had 20-25 knots wind, which was enough to make the sea very uncomfortable. We had to handsteer, otherwise Kristiina would have been like a wild horse. A few times we got water inside the cockpit, so that Hannu and his recently washed overall as well as his "sailingshoes" i.e. "grandpa" slippers got wet. During the six days the wind varied a lot, from calm to fresh, but always a tailwind. Twice we hoisted spinnaker for about ten hours, a couple of times we had to take a reef or two, and the last night we took the main down and sailed with the genoa only. At least the trip was not boring.
The highlight of animals we saw, was three bluewhales. They swam on the surface towards north and dived when they met us, but we had time to conclude that they really were bluewhales, the largest animals on earth. Neither of us have seen bluewhales before. The colour was indeed "blue", or almost purpleish with brown dots, probably diatomaceous. The dorsal fin was small, and two of the whales had a different shape fin. They had "big noses", i.e. the nostrils were surrounded by fleshy mounds. And the whales were huge! The back continued and continued, then came the fin, and still the back continued until the animal dived.
One day we got passangers. A flock of sparrows flew onboard. Hannu gave them sesameseeds and water. One different bird, a yellow-green, didn't care for food, and soon it died. Sparrows were not afaird, they ate from our hand and sat on us. As suddenly as they had come, they were gone. Only white poop spots were left. Except one little sparrow. It must have decided that Kristiina is a good place to be. It walked around in the cockpit, ate a little, and then fell asleep. Head hidden in the feathers it balanced on the cockpit floor. But it must have been cold, because soon the bird came in, and finally it slept the whole night at the back of our bunk, balancing on the bedcover rope.

An other peculiar observation was a sunfish. Unfortunately we didn't take a photo. Sunfish is a round, flat fish with a long and narrow dorsal and anal fin. They have no tailfin if the round hemline is not counted. The sunfish can be as big as one metre in diameter, but the ones we saw, were smaller. They floated sideways on surface - sun bathing!?

On Wednesday, the 6th of October, we sailed under the Golden Gate. Impressive! Two kilometres (1.2 miles) long bridge was finished in 1937. The construction has been very difficult work, hindered by fog, currents and wind. Very often the bridge is hidden in fog, but we were lucky: it was a clear afternoon and we got a few photos.

After the Golden Gate we entered the anchorage in Sausalito, located on opposite San Fransisco. Jean ja Sylvie from Patago were waiting, and we shared the anchorage drinks, and news from past two months. Sausalito is a tidy and wealthy town next to San Fransisco. A bus or ferry takes you to downtown San Fransisco, from where it is almost impossible to get a transient slip. So Sausalito is nice, more quiet and fresh than the big city. After one night in anchor, we moved to Sausalito Yacht Club buyo. The elegant YC has a clubhouse, bar & restaurant, and shower, but no slips for the members. They keep their boats elsewhere. The hospitality was really welcome for us, because the anchorage is shallow, and with Kristiina's 7 feet draught, we were far from the dinghy dock. Now it's close and we don't have to get wet if it's windy. And the hot, tidy shower wasn't bad either.

 

15.10.2004 San Fransisco / Sausalito, California, USA
The past week has gone really fast. We have mainly been tourists, but one day Hannu fixed the leaking toilet, and Auli was shopping. She came home with five shirts and one skirt. All together 20 dollars. San Fransisco has several second-hand stores, where you can make good deals. Inexpensive mark clothes donated by rich people.

The city sights include the Fishermen's Wharf and Pier 39, where you can watch urban sea lions. These Californian sea lions moved after the 1989 earthquake to the city harbour, and the population has grown since. Today, about 900 sea lions overwinter on Pier 39. During the summer most of them move 300 miles south, to the Channel Islands.


About 900 Californian sea lions live in central San Fransisco. 
The smell and noise of animals beats the fumes and noise of the city. 


San Fransisco is build on hills. 
There seems to be more uphills than downhills...


Cable car moves attached to a wire 
running in the middle of the rails.

After four days of shower-buoy life we moved back to the anchorage. There is a lot of traffic and time to time it's very rolly. There is no shower facilities on land, so we use the cockpit. The weather was almost tropical, round 85 F, for a few days, but now it's normal 70 F again, 58 during the nights.
The next big port will be San Diego, the border city 400 miles away. Probably we stop on our way. The Channel Islands, eight islands all named after a saint, lie about half way. Soon we have a new country to explore, Mexico.

California is the third largest state of US, the land area is larger than Finland. The biggest cities are San Fransisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Sacramento is the state capital. California is the leading agricultural area in US. In addition to its well known wine and grapes, also vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, dairy products and eggs are produced. By the coast fishing is still an important livelihood (tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel, anchovy). A third of California's population are Black, Latino and Asian. The China Town in San Fransisco is the largest community of Chinese in US. USA gained the area of present day state after the Mexican War (1846-48), but the California Peninsula, Baja, belongs to Mexico. (Mexico became independent in 1821.)


Fransiscan monks established about 20 missionaries along the coast during 1769-1823 under the rule of Spanish King, in purpose to hinder Russia - and other countries - to gain power in the area. Russian fur trades lived near San Fransisco until 1823. 


Sausalito, where Kristiina is anchored, 
is located on the top of the map. Bus to San Fransisco 
dowtown takes 30 min. and costs 3,10 $.

22.10.2004 San Fransisco / Alameda, California, USA
Our departure is delayed. Presently, we are in a marina reparing damage caused by British SV Vanessa Rose, which run into us after dragging her anchor in early Monday morning. A gale warning had been given, and during the night it started to blow. Not too much, about 30 knots, from south. The open and shallow bay was soon affected by 3 feet (1 metre) waves, which became very sharp and nasty when the tidal current was against the wind. At 4 am we moved to cabin sofas from our v-berth where it was too restless. Hannu didn't sleep much, he was keeping watch. When it had just become light in the morning, we heard a bang. A 50 feet fiberclass boat had bumped into Kristiina. We rushed out into rain and wind, and started to blow the horn. Nobody came out from the boat, so we thought it was empty. The boat was stuck from its stern to Kristiina's bow. It's dinghy was on port side and the boat on starboard side, bow towards Kristiina's stern. Its whole weight was on our anchor chain. We continued to blow the loud fog horn, and finally a sleepy and confused man came on the deck. We shouted to him to start the engine, which he did, with the help of a big generator sitting on the aftdeck. So everything was taking time, while the boats were madly smashing each other. We tried to prevent the beating with fenders. It wasn't easy, the boats banging with such a force. Kristiina's sturdy bowsprit was hammering Vanessa Rose. Pieces of styrox were floating on water: Vanessa Rose's life buoy. Vanessa Rose was unable to get away, she didn't have enough power to back. At last Hannu forced Kristiina forward - after Vanessa Rose's dinghy had been moved to the other side - and the two vessels came off. We started to lift the anchor, and the skipper got Vanessa Rose up to wind after drifting a while.
The pulpit of Kristiina bended and came almost loose. Teak toerails were broken and the hull got a few deep scratches. Vanessa Rose's backcorner stanchion was bended, flagpole and antenna came off, and the life buoy was destroyed when its holder was bended. All in all, very little damage. It could have been worse, fortunately nobody was hurt. The British skipper didn't have an insurance, so we made a deal that he pays a slip for four days, so that Hannu can repair our damage. Good deal for him. On Thursday we motored to Fortman Marina between Alameda and Oakland. Price level here is different than in Sausalito, a slip costs only 15 dollars per night. Also the boats look different (normal!) than in the rich area. And the people have been very frinedly.


Vanessa Rose, 50 ft and 35 tons, in next day's sunshine.
She has a 45 lbs CQR. (Kristiina, 26 tons, has a 60 lbs CQR.)
The boat weights are in pounds, the eq. figures in kg are 16 and 12.

Although the marinas in Sausalito are full of luxorious yachts, in the anchorage you can find boats like this:

We said goodbye to Sausalito, as well as to Claude and Dominique on Apollo. Patago and Miss Sohie we will meet in San Diego, if not under way. We had a lot of fun together in Sausalito, here one moment in the cockpit of Kristiina:


Sylvie, Jean, Claude, Dominique, Verena, Harald

26.10.2004 Alameda, California, USA
Five days we have been working on the boat, and tomorrow, Wednesday, it's time to leave towards San Diego 450 miles away. The repare of the damage took only one and half days, but we have been taking the advantage of the slip by doing a lot of other things as well: removing rust, painting, washing, waxing and cleaning the boat inside out.


Our neighbour in Alameda, Robert, helped us with a lot of things. 
Thanks!

2.11.2004 San Diego, California, USA
Four days and 450 miles behind. We arrived to San Diego on Sunday morning. We had very light winds, from behind though. Usually the breeze started in the afternoon and it lasted until midnight. Either spinnaker or main and genoa+pole spread on each side. The nights were gorgeous: full moon, bright stars, no fog. In the first night we saw the full eclipse of the moon. That was beautiful! Slowly the shadow of the earth covered the moon and it became a huge, orange ball floating in the space. The next full eclipse will be in 2007.
Also Patago and Miss Sophie left San Fransisco same time with us. Patago arrived to San Diego six hours after us, Miss Sophie 24 hours later than Patago, because they had stopped on the way to wait for better wind. 


Kristiina in the Bay of San Fransisco. On the background is 
Alcatraz, the former prison island.
Photo: J-F André

Before we got ashore in San Diego, we were anchored in three different places. The anchorages are monitored by the Harbor Police, and you need a permit to anchor. Each of the four anchoring areas have own rules (for instance one, La Playa, is used only on weekends), and the Police decides when some area is full or closed. Next to the Harbor Police Office there is a municipal dock, only 10 dollars per night, so you can imagine it's a popular spot. Boats can stay for five days, so fortunately there is a constant turnover. After two days waiting, we got a slip, and writing this, we have just settled in. Easier than life in anchorage. Next to us is a Swedish Swan - first Scandinavian boat since New Zealand.


Glorietta anchorage and Patago. On the background hotel  Del Coronado, where Edward, the Prince of Wales met Mrs Simpson, and where some movies have been made.


Miss Sophie arriving to Glorietta.

The anchorages are like flyspecks in San Diego Bay. There are thousands of boats in marinas, yacht clubs and moorings. We heard that you have to wait two years for a buoy mooring. In addition, the navy is very visible in the Bay. An air base takes half of the Coronado Island. We saw three gigantic aircraft carriers. Fighters and helicopters are flying above the area, warships and smaller navy vessels are using the narrow channel - as well as police boats, coast guard vessels, tugs and cruising ships. It's a busy bay. And the traffic on VHF is constant.

9.11.2004 San Diego, USA
Today we leave for Mexico! We cleared out yesterday, and in a couple of hours we are ready to go. There is only 8 miles to the border and 60 miles to Ensenada, our first Mexican port. The forecast promises normal light northerlies, so probably it will be a lot of motoring again.
The week in the "policedock" has been very social. All the twenty-some boats are heading to Mexico (except Patago, who will sail directly to Panama). The atmosphere is different than is normal marina, because all are transients and all are cruisers, will that mean several years' cruising or the first trip to Mexico.
San Diego has a lot of boatgear stores and other services for boaters, and the concurance must be hard. Customers are attracted by free internet (good idea), with barbecue (free beer), lotteries and other stuff.


Ready to go south!

There is enourmous amount of information concerning Mexico: handbooks, guides, leaflets, magazines and papers. Above that comes the experiences and stories of sailors that have been there (or haven't). Nowhere else have we met this kind of situation, usually you know a bit of the country and its regulations, the rest will be clear when you arrive. There is so much information, that you don't want to listen it. But also we went for a piece of advice: we bought a liability insurance (150 dollars). It's valid only in Mexico and the underwriter (company) is Mexican, because that's how the story goes: marinas ask for the insurance and it has to be local. I hope we don't have to test it in practice.

Otherways we have been mostly turists again, visiting among other things the aircraft carrier Midway. During its 47 years of service (from  World War II to the Gulf war) 225.000 soldiers have been aboard.


The flight deck of Midway can carry tens of aircrafts.

 

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