Monday, September 28, 2015


We have been relaxing in Emeryville for a couple of weeks and intend to stay here for another.  Our cruising friends, Carl and Cristina, were instrumental in finding us a berth at the Emery Cove Marina – a lovely spot in a “fog hole” - meaning that it is often sunny and warm here when the city is shrouded in mist.  The marina looks full and we feel very fortunate to have found a spot at a reasonable rate.  We have great WiFi, power, clean showers and washrooms, laundry and security.  The marina lies on the north side of a spit of land, capped by a lovely park, which extends out into the Bay. We have watched several amazing sunsets looking west toward SF and the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Looking east to Emeryville  - park in foreground 

Looking  west - Oakland bridge to the left, San Francisco in the middle, Golden Gate Bridge to the far right.  We are in the 5th berth on the fourth dock 
Sunset at Emery Cove taken one evening from our cockpit

The tiny city of Emeryville (about 12,000 p) is wedged between Oakland and Berkley and is home to several high tech firms such as PixarClif Bar and Peet’s Coffee companies also come from here .  Once called “Butchertown”, because it housed the abattoirs that provided meat for the bay area, it is now very “techno urbane”, with ultra modern looking buildings, smooth paved roads, and excellent bicycle corridors.  There are a lot of hipsters who live around here.  
According to the online  urban dictionary, "Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter."   ( 
According to the most recent census, the average age of a person living here is 35 and the population has doubled in the last decade, so it is growing fast.   We have felt totally safe walking and cycling around.  Emeryville is wonderfully connected to the entire SF Bay area by an efficient and inexpensive subway system called the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).  Locals use it to get to SF to work or play, but it will also take them to the airport, or farther out to wide areas of parks and recreation.   There is a wide, paved multi use trail that runs along the eastern side of the Bay which gives quick, easy and safe access to the people in the communities found along it.  No wonder people love to live here.

It is absolutely wonderful to be in a new place and know people who can bring it to life for you.  Carl and Cristina, who we first met while anchored one Christmas in a tiny bay in the Sea of Cortez,  have taken us under their wing and have guided us to understand how this place works.  On one of our first days here, Carl led us by bicycle into Oakland.  I must admit, I was feeling a little nervous about it as Oakland has the reputation of being a very rough place.  We rode down an industrial avenue lined with graffiti covered warehouses and rundown homes, but we were fine.  

Interesting decor in an Oakland brewery's unisex restroom
We cycled along the waterfront and came to the area of Jack London Square – several pedestrian blocks of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, hotels and marinas looking over a channel to Alameda Island.

Cranes of Port of Oakland in background - Emeryville is beyond them
Carl took us to the First and Last Chance Saloon – built in the late 19th century and reputedly the only “original” saloon left standing.

Inside the F/LC Saloon - full of memoribilia, original fixtures - floors and walls twisted and crooked from age and earthquakes
It was one of Jack London’s (of Call of the Wild fame)  watering holes and beside it is his log cabin that a fan shipped down from Alaska.  Apparently sailors have used it for years and anyone going to sea must stop by to imbibe. Thank goodness we have it crossed off our list!!!  

Intrepid cyclists
Since that day, we have been back to Jack London Square several times.  One weekend there was a Food Truck festival where thousands of people of all ages wandered about eating from a wide range of goodies, while perusing arts and crafts stalls, listening to music, playing carnival games and just soaking up the atmosphere. 
They sure park their bicycles different here - a new type of security?

Cool Jack London Suare
We have been on our bikes almost every day. Thanks to a detailed bike map that Carl gave us when we arrived, as well as using Google maps on our smartphone, we have been able to find our way around without any difficulty.  

We have been up to Richmond (about 10 miles north) and Alameda Island (about ten miles south) to visit the chandleries.

A Tesla we found by one of the chandelries - we've seen a few of these electric cars around here

We have taken the bicycles on the BART into the city.  One day we rode from SF to Sausalito, over the Golden Gate Bridge, then boarded them on a ferry back to the city, rode down the waterfront to AT& T Park (home of the SF Giants) where AC/DC where tuning up for their evening concert, back on a ferry to Oakland and a ride back to Emeryville.

Waiting for the ferry in Sausalito - SF in the background
On the Oakland ferry, looking to the Oakland Bridge and Treasure Island

On our way to Oakland on the catamaran ferry 
On another day, when Carl and Cristina had generously lent us their car, we drove up to Healdsburg, Sonoma and bicycled 35 miles through gorgeous vineyards dripping with ripe grapes.  We followed a route following the Dry Creek, Russian and Alexander Valleys outlined by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club ( which stuck mostly to the back roads, though there were occasional heart stopping moments on busy roads with no shoulders.

The bikes have been essential to go shopping and tour around.  Unfortunately, Doug has continued to have problems with the bearings in his front wheel hub, and when on our vineyard tour, one of his pedals broke.  We brought both our bicycles to Warm Planet Bikes (, the Dahon dealer in SF, to get Doug's fixed again, and mine to be looked over.  We were told that the bearings needed replacing again and, after checking with the Dahon company,  this time we would be given a completely new wheel and pedals.  My bike was fine.  We have been very impressed with the service we have been getting from the dealers and the company.  Hopefully it will all be sorted out by the time we leave the USA as we have become very dependent upon them.  

Carl and Cristina also introduced us to the local Tilden Regional Park and we have gone on some awesome hikes into the hills behind Oakland and Berkley.   These walks in the rolling and steep terrain rewarded us with spectacular views of almost the entire Bay area.

Oakland to the left, San Francisco centre, Golden Gate Bridge to the right

 The flora is dry grasses, bushes and trees, interspersed with sweet smelling eucalyptus.  We’ve seen deer, wild turkeys and cute little leaping lizards.  It is hot and dry in these hills which stretch inland to Mount Diablo and a very good work out.  Needless to say, with all this biking, hiking and exploring we are getting very fit!

Although we are finding it less expensive to stay in Emeryville, the cost of dining out is still high, so we have been eating most of our meals aboard, with a couple of lunch time exceptions that still startle us.  It is hard to pay the equivalent of 17 Canadian dollars for a hamburger and fries! However, on one of our first nights here, Carl and Cristina brought us to a fabulous Thai restaurant with authentic dishes and realistic prices.

We have discovered the Berkley Bowl, which is an incredible market with the most amazing variety fresh produce, baked goods and dry goods items.  It is still more expensive than Canada, but the quality makes up for it.

You get the idea - foodie mecca - really makes you want to eat your veggies!
There are still Safeways (though more expensive than Washington state), Target (which sells groceries here) and Trader Joe’s.  Carl and Cristina have invited us over to their lovely loft condo for delicious meals and they have visited us as well.

Cristina and Carl in their cozy kitchen

Authentic Catalan Black Paella - YUM!
Last night we all had a bbq dinner in the cockpit and watched the eclipse of the moon.  That was special.

We have been doing minor boat work and research on our upcoming passages and plans for the winter – though at a very relaxed pace.  We want to go to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival this coming weekend and very soon after that we will sail to Sausalito to position ourselves for an early morning departure under the Golden Gate Bridge with an ebbing tide and before the wind picks up.  Our first stop will be Half Moon Bay, a half day’s sail away, where we will anchor for a few days.  We stopped here on our last journey down the coast and want to hike in the hills there again.  Besides, they now have a craft brewery!  In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy this lovely place and the company of good friends.

Carl and his "tug".

Saturday, September 12, 2015

San Francisco - The First Days

We were up early on Thursday, Sept 10, to make the passage into the big city.  We wanted to be sure to ride the tide in and go under the bridge as it flowed.  Unfortunately, there was no wind and we found ourselves in heavy fog - which stayed with us until we reached the Golden Gate.  Fortunately we have a good radar system and between that and the chart plotter we were into the main bay and the sunshine by lunch time. 

Trolling along the Potato Patch 

Golden Gate Bridge appearing out of the mist

Proud captain

We did it!
We headed over to the welcome dock at the San Francisco Harbour thinking we might stay a week.  We had really enjoyed our stay there the last time we were here, five years ago, but were quite shocked to discover the rates had doubled – now $2.00 (US) a foot.  We decided to try for reciprocal privileges at the St. Francis Yacht Club, a little farther in the harbour, and were given two nights at a reasonable rate.
St. Francis Harbour boat haven view - Ka'sala dead centre

SFYC front view

  This club is the premiere sailboat racing home of Olympians, America’s Cup, Rolex Big Boat sailors, etc.  Its walls are covered with medals and trophies, as well as paintings of famous boats.  There are not many (if any) cruising sailboats on their docks and the club was preparing for the Rolex Big Boat series, which begins next week.  Some very amazing racing machines and their crews arrived each day.  The clubhouse is sumptuous with several dining rooms, event areas, fitness room, showers, etc.  The entire front is lined with enormous windows, giving breathtaking views of the harbour and the Golden Gate Bridge.  On our first evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner in their bar, watching flocks of pelicans drifting by as the red glow of a fiery sunset lit up the western sky.  Ah!  Civilization!  ( for more pictures and info)

Sunset over the GG Bridge
With Ka’sala safely docked, we took the first afternoon and walked all the way to the touristy area of Pier 39.  We noticed there weren’t as many tourists as there had been the last time we had visited, but that could have been because school was now back in session.  We retraced our footprints and enjoyed being among people again.  On our second day Doug built the bicycles and we rode up to the Bridge and back through the Presidio before returning to Chestnut Street in the Marina District for a lovely fresh veggie filled lunch in a sidewalk cafe. 

Birthday Girl!
Later that evening we walked down to Fort Mason to take in the “Off the Grid” food truck event.  About 35 of these vehicles had formed a big circle like a wagon train, serving everything from ribs, curry, hamburgers, crème brulee, Korean BBQ, tacos, cotton candy, to fish and chips and everything in between.  Inside the circle was a craft beer tent, cocktails and wine, as well as live music.  Hundreds of people sifted through, lined up, took pictures, milled about and seemed to be having a very good time.  The average age seemed to be about mid twenties, but we didn’t feel out of place.  However, it was a windy night and very cold, so we didn’t linger.

Off the Grid

Stunning sunset on a chilly evening

Today we are anchored in the Aquatic Park Cove behind the breakwater and right beside the historical Hyde Street Pier. 

Although not in this aerial shot, we anchored just inside the breakwater behind the curve to the lower left

We needed to get a permit to do this and because we are a sailboat we were allowed to do so.  (Details on their website:   The “Sea Music Festival” is going on at the pier and we are hoping to catch some of the tunes. 

Antique scow with motor leaving the Park - Alcatraz in the background

The bay is home to a very active swimming club and as we came in there were dozens of them in the water.  I stood at the bow to make sure we didn’t run over any of them! 

Posted signs at the entrance to the Aquatic Park Cove

Swimmer or seal?

Behind us is the streetcar terminus and the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory.  The city rises behind toward the financial district and tenderloin.  Coit Tower overlooks from the east and the hill leading to Fort Mason is on the western side.

Tomorrow we will head to the Emeryville Marina across the bay between Berkley and Oakland.  Cruising friends Carl and Cristina have helped us find a berth there where we plan to stay for at least the next two weeks.  There are a lot of boat chores to be done, not to mention laundry.  We are looking forward to spending time with our friends, catching up on our sleep and taking it easy for a while.  There are great bicycle paths over there and a good public transportation system to give us access to the city if we so desire.

Alcatraz - this one is for you, Wesley

Friday, September 11, 2015

Neah Bay to Drake's Bay Sept 2 - 7

We left Neah Bay at 10:30 am on Wednesday, September 2.  The forecast for the week ahead predicted light southerly winds gradually shifting to light westerlies, then progressively stronger from the north as we sailed down the coast.  We motored out of the bay with the mainsail up and soon had the jib up, motor off and were sailing at 6 knots.

Leaving Neah Bay
As we passed Tatoosh Island a ferocious squall blew down on us causing very steep choppy seas and 35 knots of wind.  We reefed down and rode it out over a 2 hour period.  It was not fun.  Over the next 48 hours we encountered a number of these squalls, though none as intense.  Each was accompanied by rain showers and they happened day and night.  Some had lightening, some didn’t.  We sailed, motor sailed and just plain motored to get through most of it.  

For the first 24 hours I was terribly sea sick.  I had not had a bout of seasickness since we left Mexico 4 years ago so was taken totally by surprise.  Luckily, the heaves and retching only lasted a day, then the second day I took it very, very slowly spending as much time as possible lying flat on my back in the sea berth.  The winds were quite light, but the seas were very rough with waves coming from every direction and Ka’sala was tossed about.   I was still able to hold my watches, but Doug was really having to look after us both.  Not much was eaten – the first day of what we jokingly called “The San Francisco Diet”!  I’m afraid the first part of this passage was a bit of a miserable blur for me. 

By Friday, I was pretty much back to normal, but neither of us was feeling 100%.  We did have about a dozen hours of sailing at 5.5 knots, wing on wing, which calmed the movement of the boat through the waves, though we paid for it dearly when the wind completely died around midnight, leaving us once again in terribly confused and rolly seas.  We discussed the possibility of going in to Crescent City in northern California to get some rest  before continuing, but when we got a favourable forecast on Saturday morning, just south of Cabo Blanco, we decided to continue.  This forecast called for the higher winds we were expecting, but the peaks were predicted at 25 knots.  We felt these winds would give us a reasonable and fast passage to San Francisco after rounding Cape Mendocino.

Saturday was a lovely day, sunny and warm with a good sailing breeze.  By midnight the winds were 30 knots and, over the course of the next 36 hours, we rode gale force winds peaking to 50 knots an hour and steady at 40 to 45.  There was no room for fear.  We had to live in the present.  Doug had configured Ka’sala, initially with a double reefed main and reefed headsail, but very soon we were flying at 7+ knots under postage stamp jib alone.  The sea state was acute.  Waves rose at least 14 feet in the air, crested, plunged, tumbled, and roared.  They slapped the hull sideways, pushed Ka’sala over their crests and we surfed down the other side like any Mavericks pro.  Ka’sala had become a 34+ long surfboard and she took these steep, close together wave conditions in her stride.

Beaufort Scale - wind at sea is reflected in knots, not kilometers
The monitor, our self steering device, was crying and moaning through her pulleys.  One of us had to sit behind the helm with one hand on the wheel to help guide her through the seas.  At certain points the stern of the boar reared up and I would look straight down the bow into the trough of the following wave.  At another time, dozens of dolphins joined us, rushing our bow, hurling themselves out of the waves and under our keel.  We could see them clearly in the translucent seaglass green swells, their taut grey and white bodies like torpedoes.   I have a very clear picture in my mind of looking behind to see a roller coming toward us with a half dozen of these amazing sea creatures cascading down inside the break above us as it plummeted down. 

During the day, the sun shone, shattered and sparkled the light in the crests of the waves.  The night moon was so bright it did the same and millions of stars crowded the sky to look on.  The froth and spume of the collapsing waves were outrageous shades of clean white, sea foam green and irredescent blue.  I was absolutely awestruck by the beauty of the element we found ourselves in.  Was I scared?  No.  Not once.  Yes, it was living life right on the very edge, with very little margin if anything at all went wrong – but other than riding it out there wasn’t much we could do.  One of us always had to be on deck, so we were alone with most of what we saw while the other tried to rest in the sea berth below.  As I am writing about it now, it seems like I may not have even been there – that it was some kind of dream.  But the reality is I was there.  I did live it.  The proof is that we are anchored here in Drake’s Bay, five hours away from San Francisco.  We did it!

Riding the Gale
The strong winds slowly subsided as the day progressed on Monday and we gradually added more sail.  Three hours before we reached Drake’s Bay we were motoring along with the mainsail fully up, recharging our batteries.  Under a starry sky and a brilliant slip of a moon we dropped our anchor among a small fleet of tiny fish boats behind the majestic bluffs at about 5am.  We could smell the land all around us, including the familiar scent of cow dung.  Cow dung?  That would be explained the next day.  Meanwhile, the dawn soon followed and we enjoyed the bracing cold rush of a much anticipated victory beer before crashing into our bunks.  We had expected a 7 day passage.  Instead, it took us 5 days and 20 hours to get here – 6 days if we had continued in to San Francisco.  By far the majority of miles were made in the final three days.

Ariel view of Drake's Bay - light at top centre - we passed along the topside and rounded the craggy  point pictured below

 We woke up late morning on Tuesday to a dry, sunny day.  We were alone – no boats anywhere.  This bay is enormous.  A string of bluffs protect it from the prevailing NW winds.  At the extreme south end is an area of broken cliffs and reefs, the graveyard of many shipwrecks from bygone years attempting to reach San Francisco.  There used to be a lighthouse at Reyes Point but now there is only a very bright light and horn.  The bluffs are covered with cropped rolling hills and cattle.  Along the shore looks to be the service wharfs for the original light house, but now may be a coast guard out station and access for the cattle ranches farther along the bay.  This place is very desolate and breath takingly beautiful.  The surf crashes on the shore and when the tide is right an enormous blow hole spews sprays of water high into the air putting us in mind of grey whale spouts.  There are no houses, no streets.  The sky is a crystalline blue, the bluffs and sandy cliffs golden.  To the east of us, the bay straightens out to coastline with barely discernable brushy trees cloaking the hills as they fade into the mist toward San Francisco.  

Ah, but not everything is perfect.  We have been infested with a plague of cannibal black dung flies that seem to be able to transmogrify our screened portlights and sneak into our hair.  They don’t bite or sting, but they lurk and land and are really quite disgusting creatures.  We have become quite proficient swatting them with our Mexican “matta moska” backed up with citronella.

We spent the first day at anchor cleaning up Ka’sala and it was very satisfying work.  Despite our rough passage, we had no breakage or loss.  I used one of the fresh water jerry cans we carry on deck to scrub the salt out of the cockpit.  We had taken the kayaks off the carriage roof and had lashed them to the sides for the passage.  This configuration worked out splendidly and there wasn’t even any water inside them when we flipped them back on to their racks.  Everything was damp, so we had lines drying, as well as wet weather gear, cushions and pillows.  No water had come inside the boat, but the nights held heavy dew in addition to the salty spray and breeze – everything felt sticky and damp.  We had produced enough hot water by motoring the last couple hours to have wonderful showers in the head.  We have learned over the years how to be efficient with water and yet come out feeling totally clean and refreshed, not to mention a sparkling toilet!  I also used some of the fresh water to wipe down the inside of the boat.  By the end of the day we were back to rights, bobbing on the anchor, enjoying a bottle of wine and our first sit down dinner in the cockpit since Port Townsend – tacos with all the trimmings.

Today we had planned to anchor a little closer to the shore so we could launch the kayaks and do a bit of exploring, but there is a steady wind today and the waves crash on the beach making landing unlikely. There are also tendrils of fog on the bluffs, looking to spill over.  So we are satisfied to stay aboard, catch up with our reading and journals, make Ziploc bread and generally relax.  After looking at the tides, we will haul anchor at dawn tomorrow morning and hopefully sail under the Golden Gate Bridge – avoiding the Potato Patch – of course!

Postcript:  We arrived in San Francisco at noon on Sept 10 and are currently on the docks of the St. Francis Yacht Club.

St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco

A Word on Communications at Sea

We have a Pactor Modem (Mode 3) and a Winlink address.  This allows us to send and receive email, as well as download grib files and other weather-type information through the world wide network of amateur radio operators (HAM ).  In order to be part of this group you have to have a radio license which requires passing an exam. Doug has this license and under his supervision I am able to use it.  Winlink is managed by a slate of volunteers who generously donate their time and access to their equipment over HAM to connect us with family and friends, as well as allowing us to receive important safety information.  In order for it to work we need to be able to get good “propagation” over the air waves.  This generally means tuning in to the waves and finding an available station - usually in the evenings after the sun has gone down.  Sometimes it takes an hour to get a good connection, sometimes it happens right away and sometimes we can’t connect at all and have to try again at a later time.  The speed of the sending and receiving of the “traffic” varies from painfully slow to lightening fast.  The body of a message must be svelte – no pictures, no bounce-backs, etc.  We have been accessing stations all over North America and have focussed on a few favourites that seem to give us the best connection and speed.

 I was able to post to my blog while we were at sea through Winlink.  On this passage I certainly didn’t want to write more than the bare essentials as, for the most part, it was very rough and it’s hard to type in these conditions – eyeballs rolling around in your head and fingers mis-keying!  I had promised family I would let them know how we were progressing, but I was also concerned that if I missed a post, for whatever reason, family and blog followers may be worried that we were in peril.  In a way, it is a blessing and a curse!  So in the future, if you are following our progress when we are at sea, know there are many reasons why we may not be able to post every day.