West Coast 2010

A New Trip for the Johnstons

September 1, 2010
Marina Village, Alameda, CA

I retired from the law practice in June, so getting ready to go on this trip has been combined with trying to find my feet as a retired person. Every now and then I get an email which has to do with my law practice, and I feel a twinge that I'm not back there, involved in that very exciting, rewarding (if sometimes frustrating) way to make a living. We've quit making contributions to the retirement kitty, and now we're starting to withdraw. It's as though every lesson and discipline I learned about money, since I was five years old, has suddenly been reversed. Adding to the angst of that reversal has been the expense of getting Sequoia (and us) ready to cruise again. Just this week we're spending more than $1000 on paper and electronic charts!

We departed from home on August 21. (There is a certain amount of regret about leaving home. This is the best time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The vegetable garden is just coming into its own, and there are those strawberries and blueberries... Our housesitter has assured us, during every conversation, that he's fully enjoying those strawberries and blueberries.) We might not have left on August 21, because we weren't quite ready, but Buck Boston was able to crew for us that week if we could stop and pick him up in Newport. So it was a now-or-never situation, if we wanted to have crew. Not having crew would mean we'd arrive in San Francisco Bay exhausted. Someone always needs to be awake, tending to the sails, the engine, and watching for other boats. If it's just the two of us, an uninterrupted six hours of sleep becomes impossible. So the last 24 hours before we left was a non-stop marathon of trips to the store, trips to the boat, and finding all the hidden stowage spots on the boat.

We sailed partway down the Columbia River, to the Cathlamet Yacht Harbor. There followed a little bit of rain, a good night's sleep, and plans to depart by 8:30 a.m., so we could make the 2:00 slack water for crossing the Columbia River bar. Unfortunately, Cathlamet is somewhat depth-challenged. Our six and a half foot draft was too much for the relatively low-tide depth of 8:30 a.m., and we had quite a few onlookers by the time we determined that there was no route out of the marina that would allow us to pass. One helpful skipper suggested that we try again in an hour, and "go over close to the fuel dock." Back to our slip, and we watched the depth sounder as the tide came in. It had gained almost a foot by 9:30 a.m., so we tried again. We made it over near the fuel dock and then slipped into the ooze again, slithering to a halt. We backed out, tried another route, and the helpful skipper, who had taken to his dinghy with a crew of children, motioned that we should follow his route. He led us out of the marina, and we made it, presumably with scant inches to spare.

The rest of the trip down the river was uneventful. We motored past Astoria, not realizing (until listening to cell phone messages later) that our friends, Chip & Kit, were watching us go by from a waterfront restaurant. We raised the sails before we crossed the bar, and sailed in light northwest winds for a bit, before giving up and turning on the motor, motorsailing through the night. There was enough wind to sail, briefly, before we reached the Newport entrance at 7 a.m.

We stayed that day in Newport, connected with Buck, and watched the windspeed increase to 30 knots. The next morning (August 24), we departed Newport, 467 nautical miles to go to San Francisco Bay. There was good wind all the way - by the time we got there (August 27), we had reduced sail to just part of the staysail, out on a pole. We were trying to slow down so we wouldn't be going under the Golden Gate in the middle of the night. The seas were quite lumpy, and the boat thrashed around a great deal more than I would have liked. On the plus side, I didn't get seasick, and got plenty of exercise staying upright. The wind finally dropped off, and we were through the fog, and under the bridge at about 10 a.m.

So here we are in Alameda, docked among the pristine racing sailboats with their carbon fiber sails. We connected up with another Outbound 44 owner, had dinner with old friends, had dinner with one branch of the family and will be getting together with other family tonight. Tomorrow we plan to set out for several days of cruising around SF Bay, and possibly up the Sacramento River delta. Next week, we'll be back at the dock, attending to boat chores. The week after that, back to Oregon (by plane) to play Beethoven's 9th in Newport (does it seem like there's a certain circularity to all this?)

The long term plan is that we'll be in on the boat in Mexico by sometime in November. Beyond that, the only plan is to enjoy Mexico, get relaxed, and figure out how to be retired.