A 12 year old girl on a family vacation to Florida, seeing the ocean for the first time was life changing; stirring restlessness for the sea to be my home. And one day, it happened. A personal celebration, these are stories of my journey to seamore…
Twelve hours until push off time with the rest of the Baja Ha Ha gang. It feels a bit like the night before running a hundred mile race, a bit like graduation, and a bit like a party. Today’s crew and skippers’ party brought this year’s preparation to a close and put things back into perspective for Captain Chameleon. Months ago when I thought about how this day might be, the focus was on the future. What will we see, who will we meet, how will the weather be, and so on and so forth. I did not expect to be saying “so long until we meet again” to so many wonderful people that we have connected with quickly. From our dock neighbors, to the couple we met in the boatyard,and to people from across the dock, we are exchanging hugs, a beer or two, and many well wishes for peaceful travels. Seamore Pacific and her crew are ready.
The weather forecast is for rain and wind on the nose throughout Monday. Rumor is that Tuesday and Wednesday will be picture perfect days of sunshine and fair winds. First stop is Turtle Bay.
Unsure about when we will have internet access again, so here’s a Happy Halloween, followed by wishes for peace and good times to you and yours.
A round trip interstate drive across the beautiful states of Arizona and New Mexico to hand over Francis to my parents went smoother than I could have hoped for. Cruise control set at 75 mph, following a generic interstate road offered up no surprises. Just what I wanted; plenty of gas stations, Taco Bells, and Starbucks within a quarter mile of an exit. I brought along the IPod, but didn’t need it because surfing for music on the radio and talk shows passed the time. Besides wishing I had more time to visit with my parents, the only other thing I would have liked on the trip, is to have ventured off the interstate and driven the Historic Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road” in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. But, not this time. I needed to get to Phoenix faster than a pokey two lane road would allow. 1240 miles of solo driving in 36 hours; a simple journey with a quick glimpse of trees, flowers, buildings, and rock formations.
With seven days to go until Seamore Pacific’s dock lines are untied and she heads south to warmer waters, I wonder in earnest, how will it be? The first leg will be from San Diego to Turtle Bay. What will it feel like to have 2 1/2 days of ocean pass beneath her hull, changing winds tickle and fill her sails, and the sun charge her batteries and power her instruments? That’s assuming Hurricane Raymond doesn’t add in a few unseasonable surprises. Unlike rural routes becoming obsolete to interstate road systems, sailing routes endure time. No engineered salt water and wind improvements have been invented to replace the longitudinal sea highway from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. We aren’t guaranteed a fast, predictable, and efficient trip. Just when I begin to get smug about sailing the same waters as explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, I think of Steve Jobs and Apple. What would the two talk about? Would Steve say to Juan, “Hey dude, this is an I Pad. Download the Navionics App for fast, predictable, and efficient navigation.”
This time next week, somewhere between Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, I’ll imagine Juan and John singing Jimmy’s song.
A Pirate Looks At Forty by Jimmy Buffet.
Compliments of Latitude’s 38, this is next week’s schedule of events:
October 27, 1:00 p.m. – The Annual Ha-Ha Halloween Costume Party and BBQ in the West Marine parking lot. Co-hosted by West Marine and Mexico Tourism. Come in costume! Skipper and First Mate get T-shirts, hats, tote bags and other souvenirs, as well as a free Mexican ‘tune-up’ dinner. Dinner and beverages for additional crew is $10. T-shirts and other souvenirs will be for sale. 1250 Rosecrans St, San Diego; (619) 225-8844.
October 28, 10:00 a.m. – Baja Ha-Ha Kick-Off Parade. Complete schedule: 9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. – South Bay boats pass San Diego to Harbor Island. 9:45 a.m. – All boats gather off America’s Cup Harbor between Harbor Island and Shelter Island. 10:00 a.m. – Parade past southwest corner of Shelter Island past San Diego fireboat. 11:00 a.m. – America’s Cup starting gun begins Baja Ha-Ha XX. View a diagram of the parade route here. For more information, contact the San Diego Port Tenants Association, (619) 226-6546.
October 28, 11:00 a.m. – Start of Leg One for all boats off Coronado Roads – about 90 minutes from Cabrillo Isle Marina. Wear your Halloween costume on the starting line and be eligible for a special prize!
October 31, Halloween! – No-host party at Vera Cruz Restaurant in fabulous downtown Turtle Bay.
November 1 – Famous Turtle Bay Beach Potluck Party from 11 a.m. until sundown. Be careful landing your dinghy – you don’t want to be dumped and have your outboard chop you up!
November 2, 8:00 a.m. – Start of Leg Two to Bahia Santa Maria.
November 4 – ‘Bahia Santa Maria Day’ – a lazy layday meant for relaxing and exploring the Bay.
November 5 – Hiking, beach walking, sports and beach party – if surf permits – at Bahia Santa Maria.
November 6, 7:00 a.m. – Start of Leg Three from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas.
November 7 – ‘Can’t Believe We Cheated Death Again’ dance and party madness for the young at heart at Squid Roe until the last body falls. Optional.
November 8 – Cabo Beach Party all afternoon on the beach and perhaps with bonfire into the evening. Details on the site and time to be announced later. Hopefully we’ll get discounted food and drinks again this year. Either way, no problema for a fleet that knows how to have fun.
November 9 – Awards Presentations hosted by Cabo Marina adjacent to the fabulous launch ramp in Cabo. Maybe there will be a couple rounds of free beer again this year – but you never know.
My runs these days are short on distance but long on scenery. The usual is a comfortable pace from Bali Hai to Kona Kai, then a walk through the city dock marina (Police Docks) where boats are either clearing customs or hanging for a night or two, then over to the docked super yachts to view each’s name and hailing port, and finally a sprint home; passing a string of sprawling marinas. It’s twenty-five minutes of nosing around the perimeter of Shelter Island that affords both a cardio-workout and a feeling of being part of the community. Like the first crisp morning that signals Halloween is just around the corner, boats from as far north as Canada were arriving in San Diego Harbor this morning with their Ha-Ha flags flying! For a novice, it was exciting and spectacular. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Captain Chameleon. Super charged with ten days left to go or wanting to please me, by the time I’d finished my shower, Captain Chameleon had hoisted up our very own Ha-Ha issued flag. Texas, here I come.
Not everybody aboard Seamore Pacific is eager to be on a boat. Francis, our seven month old cat has taken to jumping ship. He especially likes to get off the boat at night time making it very difficult to see him. Worried for his safety at sea, we have decided he will winter in Missouri with Maw and Pa. It has been another lesson, as I have come to recognize that Francis is his own little being and not like the two content cats that I once had living on a boat in the Florida Keys. I’m happy that Francis is making his wants known and that my parents are gracious enough to meet me in Texas for the quick exchange. I’m really, really happy that it will give us a chance to hang out together for an evening. Like Bob sings, “Don’t worry ’bout a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
If it wasn’t today’s morning run, or my upcoming Texas road trip, it has to be our Shelter Island Boatyard experience that also has me smiling. The crew at Shelter Island Boatyard exceeded our expectations. Last year when we were looking to purchase the boat, we used them to haul her for the out of water survey. Pleased with their professional service we became repeat customers. Staying on a boat while it is in the yard is not everyone’s cup of tea. But, we started each day working with cheerful, courteous, and professional yard employees and ended the day by ‘talking shop’ with another couple staying aboard their boat. If it wasn’t for having to climb down a ladder and walk a half a block to the ladies room in the wee hours of the night, I just might opt to stay there instead of doing the Baja Ha-Ha. Ha ha.
Launch Time for Seamore Pacific.
Painting the bottom of Seamore Pacific’s keel
Preparing her for the sling.
Reggie driving the lift. Wish this was a better picture of Reggie…
Before and after
Saved from Seamore- our 44ft Thompson Trawler we lived aboard in Boot Key Harbor (Florida Keys).
This year has been surreal. Thirteen days and then we Ha Ha (Baja Ha-Ha XX) and from there go on to sail parts of the Sea of Cortez. It was a year ago that Captain Chameleon and I visited San Diego for the 2012 Baja Ha-Ha weekend kick-off. For two days we walked around Shelter Island for glimpses of boats flying the Ha Ha flag. We attended a seminar for cruisers entertaining the Pacific Puddle Jump and we rehashed to each other, our ‘once upon a time’ life of living aboard Seamore in the Florida Keys. On the way home Captain Chameleon was all smiles when he inquired if I enjoyed the weekend. “Yes, if watching other people live their life is fun.” Hmmm. It wasn’t the answer he was expecting, but the one that needed to be said. It was time to stop dreaming and start doing. There are three things associated with being a hospice nurse that Captain Chameleon has come to expect from me: he gets less than half-an-ounce of attention for colds, scrapes, and cuts; every new mole, bump, or pain becomes a ‘this could be cancer’ trip to the doctor; and a belief that dreams die when not given life. Captain Chameleon’s kind and ordinary question caused us to reconsider things and make a few out of the ordinary decisions. So here we are, breathing life into a dream. This week’s breathing feels like we are running uphill but I’m enjoying it all the same.
Thirteen days to go and we have found ourselves down to the wire on finishing up projects. Seamore Pacific is in the boatyard for usual boat maintenance. The adrenaline is kicking in and productivity is going up. Captain Chameleon is a bit weary and stressed at this point. So, what does one do when the ‘to do list’ is a nautical mile long? Add slip covering to the list. Seamore Pacific from the very first look has had a neat vibe to us. However, the dated cushions have gone way pass nerve grating. As one would expect, Captain Chameleon popped another Tumms when I casually mentioned getting her cushions re-upholstered. In all honesty, with the budgeted money flying out the portholes to get her ready to live off the grid, I couldn’t justify the cost and time involved to have all new cushions made. However, slip covering might be an option. It was my triple lucky day that within 5 minutes of entering the upholstery store that my eyes would fix upon fabric that had me day dreaming about hitching a boat to Hawaii; and it was on clearance, plus marked down. All of this joy for $2 a yard.
The silver lining to making slip covers is that oddly, memories of a few teachers from high school broke through the constant zig-zig-zig hum of the sewing machine. Cutting and pinning the fabric, I was reminded of the velour burgundy suit I made in Mrs. Smith’s Wardrobe Planning class. Then, out of nowhere came the cautionary words from George, guidance counselor and every student’s buddy, for passing up chemistry to take Mrs. Turner’s Journalism class. From across the desk his baritone voice bellowed, “You are making a huge mistake. Huge.” How big of a mistake, was my unspoken question. Fine, I’ll live with the consequences. Little did George know it wasn’t the journalism that I was interested in, but rather the gentle tenacity and gladness that Mrs. Turner brought to the classroom.
Gentle tenacity and gladness are what I’m thinking about these days, as we make our uphill run to October 28th. I’m glad for many things, including the folks at Shelter Island Boatyard for approaching their work with great pride. Today they are starting repairs to the propeller, grinding out the few blisters in the keel, drilling a thru-hull for a new depth sounder, checking the rudder tension, and working with Captain Chameleon on the electrical installation of the water maker. Hopefully, all will be finished by Thursday, bringing our boatyard living to a close.
Seamore Pacific is back in San Diego awaiting her next assignment, a haul-out at Shelter Island Boatyard. She needs new bottom paint, a new depth sounder, welding on the anchor chain plate, and a buff and wax. In three weeks she will take us south to Cabo San Lucas and be one of 162 sailboats entered in the Baja Ha Ha XX. Now at the three week countdown, it is all but consuming as we focus on what still needs to get done before leaving for Mexico. Stop. Not so fast. It is the journey, not just the destination, right? It is interesting and a bit mysterious that last week’s shakedown cruise to Catalina Island would become more than a pre Ha Ha event of checking out Seamore Pacific’s systems. Instead, it became a time of contemplating life, death, what happens in between, and Charley (RIP).
The last time I had lunch with Charley, he talked about his cruise to Ensenada and Catalina Island. Characteristic of his usual colorful story telling, he shared what he liked and didn’t like about Catalina and how he had won the dance contest on the cruise ship. By the end of lunch, my mascara was running and my side ached from laughing with Charley. We said goodbye, hugged, and promised to meet up in San Diego and have cocktails aboard Seamore Pacific. We had many more stories and good times to share; all left unfinished when he suddenly and unexpectedly died. Going to Catalina was bound to remind me of Charley. Arriving to find a Carnival Cruise Ship waiting in port…well that caused a ‘shout out and thumbs-up’ to my ole friend Charley.
And so it was, for the next few days as Captain Chameleon and I wondered about the island, I would be reminded of what Charley liked and didn’t like about Catalina; and filled in the rest with what I believed, knowing him, he would have liked or not. What could have been a state of sadness, was instead filled with joy, love, and gratitude. Charley traits.
Accompanied by Charley’s memory, the Catalina trip was apparently earmarked for contemplating death as one reminder after another took to the stage. With each stark reminder an instant pang, then fleeting sadness would give way to wondering what traits and legacies did the dead leave to comfort their family and friends. For one dead individual, the sun faded memorial perched high on a hill, overlooking the azure waters, was testimony of an untimely death of a “fun guy” who loved, and was loved in return. The second reminder of death came via a Coast Guard alert over the VHF, the morning we departed Catalina. It was an alert to all mariners for a missing male diver off Santa Barbara Island. Several hours later, the radio traffic indicated his body had been located, recovered, and displaying valor, was being accompanied back to shore by fellow divers. Midday an alert of a navigational hazard was broadcast when a dead whale was found floating just off shore. By sunset the Coast Guard called out the “all clear” for diver missing; another person had joined ranks with the dead and released their legacy.
As if my heartfelt journey to Catalina was a play, then 9 miles off Point Loma was it’s curtain call. A fitting finale to a week of pondering life, death, joy, love, and gratitude as dolphin hung close to the bow and whales spouted, a dozen or so miles off starboard.
Moored in Avalon harbor and perched comfortably on Seamore Pacific, I’m ready to handle a bit of multitasking: journaling; scanning the waterfront to marvel at Avalon’s beauty; and people watching, specifically other boaters. Arriving just two days ago, a Catalina routine has taken shape. Parts of the routine are enviable and other parts, not so much. Our Catalina shakedown cruise has been true to it’s name. It has shaken loose a few of my whims, wants, and obsessive compulsions.
Captain Chameleon has long accused me of throwing things away, including the sandwich he is eating if it isn’t nailed down. Guilty. However, after Monday night’s 72 nautical miles (14 hours) I have new insight into the error of my constant de-cluttering. I’m humbly and eternally grateful for two items he salvaged from the give away pile they had been banished to. First, a brown goosedown comforter that came with Seamore Pacific (previously the Bobby McGee). After a washing it still smelled a bit musty and the color too drab for adventure seeking. Second, a tangled mess of line and metal hoops, otherwise known as his and hers harnesses; ones that sailors rely on to reduce the chance of being thrown overboard. Captain Chameleon had acquired them when he purchased his Moody 33 and with our move to Phoenix they followed, ultimately hogging precious shelf space in the garage. Sentimental to him, they had been saved from my de-cluttering wrath only because they harkened a chance of going to sea.
Thank you Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for the brown comforter that provided warmth, relief, and security from the dense, dark, and chilly night. The ocean air was damp and windy, but it was my inner timid state and waiting for “the shoe to drop” that was the real cause for feeling chilled to the bone. And thank you for the harnesses that safely tethered us to Seamore Pacific as she sliced, rolled, and rocked through westerly moving rollers. Finally, thank you for Captain Chameleon’s understanding of my whims, wants, and trivial obsessions in life.
Safely making it to Catalina and having the good fortune to enjoy her beauty has caused me to reframe whims and wants. Internet access doesn’t come easy these days for Seamore Pacific. However, I’ve quickly come accustomed to our Catalina routine of dinging ashore, walking to the library, and logging in as a temporary Los Angeles library card holder. Swell!
Leaving for Catalina Island this evening. It is our first voyage with Seamore Pacific and a shakedown cruise before next month’s jump off to the Sea of Cortez. 18 days ago I was biting at the bit to sail to Catalina, but little did I appreciate how many details still needed to be tended to before taking a new (to us) boat on a 70 mile crossing at night.
Depth Sounder snafu fixed-check. New batteries and solar set-up adequate at keeping navigation instruments going-check. Lines leading to the sails non-chaffed and strong-check. Windless and anchors ready-check. Radar and reflector ready-check. Ditch bag packed-check (the one thing I pray we don’t need to use). Chocolate chip cookies and party food- almost. I’ll be baking chocolate chip cookies this afternoon.
Captain Chameleon says he will sleep under a comforter in the cockpit when I’m at the helm; instead of going below. It will be my first time to navigate at night and dodge freighters. Sounds a lot like a kid’s sleep-over party, huh?