Monday, October 20, 2014

Play-doh and confused seas!

Sounds like an unusual combination? Well maybe, but it all happened yesterday on our less than ideal passage....

Starting with the good of this overnight passage:
  • Tessa is by far the best crew we will ever have. I wish she was old enough to stand watch,  help cooking etc!  Seriously, this amazing  and eloquent 2 yr old is not at all effected by large confusing seas (" I like sailing, mama", she said), does not get sea sick, content to play and just sleeps like we are on solid land. Her parents on the other hand are affected by swells, have a hard time to sleep when off watch as the boat is rolling 20 degrees one way, and then 1 min later 20 degrees the other way. Playing down below, let alone reading books is not what we prefer to do if it was our choice in seas like these.
  • When we started this trip, Tessa had sailed on the San Francisco bay, and somehow we always managed to come back to Berkeley in windy conditions with some chop.  She never showed any sign on sea sickness then, nor do we. Ocean swells are a different kind of animal though, and she had never been on the ocean before this trip. Well, so far so good for her.
  • Bliss is a rock solid boat, and can endure quite a lot. Our auto pilot and her are just the great team, and the best, they don't complain!  We chose to hand steer for 1- 2 hrs at the peak of swells, and boy is that overrated! We also have a Monitor self steering wind vane to be used when under sail, we were just to lazy to rig it up.
  • Our wind generator and 2 solar panels (more to be installed soon)  provided plenty of energy  Nice installation job, hubbie! That same wind generator (10' tall, and 3' installed above water) gives you a good idea what size swell is going on........
  • Looking at the Milky Way, dolphins swimming around your boat, and hearing the rushing waves next to your boat makes me be very much in the present moment.
  • There is a magic about arriving and leaving places by your own boat, hard to really put in words, but it is the icing on the cake.
  • This is likely to hardest passage we have to do for quite a while until we cross the Pacific (knock on the plenty of teak we have on board).  The Central California Coast is rugged and not always that kind ( a few years ago we had a worse rounding of Point of Conception, and an easier one than this one).
The bad? Well, what else to tell? It's behind us, and we are now cozied up in Santa Barbara, where we will stay till tomorrow.
play-doh time early on the passage

 The below is from Tod, a more technical post.

We rolled into Santa Barbara on Sunday morning about 7:30am, after a tough  overnight passage.  We are really happy that we now have two unpleasant  passages out of the way ...possibly the most unpleasant we are likely to  have for the next several months (hopefully!).  The trip from Monterey to  Morro Bay was unpleasant mostly because it was the first overnight, and we  still were pretty affected by seasickness. And this passage last night was  unpleasant because of Point Conception! Almost any sailor who has come  around this point -- where the California coast turns from mostly  north-south to mostly east-west -- knows about the Point Conception  effect.  Rounding the point typically ranges between "challenging" to  "brutal".

I realize that many people may not have a good feeling for what it's like when we do one of these passages on the ocean.  My brother imagined that we were cruising a few hundred yards off the coast.  In fact, we usually go off land by a few miles.  The distance is helpful to avoid coastal hazards like outlying rocks, crab pot lines, kelp beds, etc.  Also important is to allow plenty of time in case of a problem ... in case of a big problem, we want to have a long time before we drift into shore.  Due to curves of the shore line, sometimes the most direct path will take us 10 or more miles off shore.  And finally, sometimes we choose to go farther to make the passage better.  Typically on the California coast, there is a swell coming from the north-west, every 10-ish seconds, ranging from a couple feet on calm days up to 12 feet or more on really rough days.  If our direction of travel is in line with the swell, the motion is not bad -- the boat lifts up from behind, raises the boat, passes under us and accelerates the boat a bit going down the swell.  But if the swells are coming from the side, then the boat will roll from side to side.  That's when it get's really unpleasant, especially if we are trying to move around below.  Doing anything is a challenge, because you either need to be holding on with one hand or brace yourself somewhere to not fall down!  Even simple things like pulling up your pants become a challenge!

Since both Jolanda and I are still a bit susceptible to seasickness (which ought to diminish in the coming weeks), we typically are staying above in the cockpit during the daytime hours of a passage. I know some people have no problem laying below, reading a book for hours, but that is not us... at least, not now -- hopefully we can get to that by the time we do a passage across the Pacific!  Tessa is usually sitting with us, strapped into her car seat which is mounted in the cockpit.  She has been amazingly tolerant, but sometimes she wants to come below to play, so one of us will do that with her.  She has been sleeping amazingly well.

We departed Morro Bay after only one night's recovery from the previous  overnight passge, mostly because the weather looked good but was going to  get worse in the subsequent days, which would have kept us in Morro Bay for  the coming week.  And by "good", I mean predicted 15kts wind, swells 5-7  feet, wind waves less than 2 feet.   So we left there at 9am for the 120+  mile journey to Santa Barbara -- the distance depends on how you want to  approach it.  For this trip we chose to go pretty far off land, about 15  miles. Doing so added some miles to the trip (was 136 miles total), but we  wanted to stay far out, away from the land mass to minimize the effect it  has on the winds. Also we were in no rush, since we did not want to enter  Santa Barbara harbor in the dark.  Even so, we still had winds that gusted  to 30knots and swells that were probably 10 feet or more at times.  We were  sailing with jib alone most of the afternoon, but switched to engine by  early evening.  The swells were on our starboard quarter most of the time.  It was a rather uncomfortable ride.  Finally about 11pm it started to  subside a bit, and by 3am it was a pleasant ride down the Santa Barbara  channel, with great stars, some early examples of the Orionid meteors, and a  rising crescent moon.


  1. Wow. Glad you have arrived there. Hope you get caught up on sleep. Thanks for the details of the trip - and some time in the future when there are swells like that, post a photo for those of us who aren't used to that kind of action:):) Petra

    1. Hi petra, yes a picture would tell so much more! Will try next time (hopefully not happening anytime soon), if not too occupied with surfing the waves :-)

  2. We're following your progress and love reading the blog entries! Have a wonderful time in Santa Barbara.

    1. Thanks Gwen! Tessa loves the outfit you gave her last year, in fact the long sleeve shirt is one of her favorites!

  3. We know who to call when we need an extra watch :-)
    Or maybe she can play down below with Piper who does not seem to be too fond of sailing yet.

    1. Haha, nope she is taking for! Hopefully Pipes develops his sealegs soon.

  4. I am so grateful to be able to follow your amazing journey through your blog. Love all your posts, and so touched by this one.. Tessa is such an angel. "Looking at the Milky Way, dolphins swimming around your boat, and hearing the rushing waves next to your boat makes me be very much in the present moment" - happiness can be so simple.

    1. Hi Alana, happy to hear you enjoy reading about our trip, and you're right, happiness can be very simple.

  5. This is amazing. I have always thought that the seasickness is not binary but rather a variable thing i.e. if you find the "right" conditions, also the sailor who has never suffered may fall.
    Anyway, good job.
    Jolanda: I understand that feeling you are talking about and compare it to the icing. Difficult to explain... I agree.
    And thanks for sharing with us your experience.
    I wish I could be sailing with you...
    I have a wonderful memory of Santa Barbara! beautiful place.
    I wonder: in percentage, on average how much do you motor?
    And why this conception point is so bad? currents?

    1. Ciao Paolo, we wish you would both would be sailing with us too! So far we have motored maybe 70 % of the time. That second diesel tank comes in handy. Point Conception is the place where the California coast turns from mostly north-south to mostly east-west, developing gusty winds and confused seas.

    2. Re: motoring -- we think the proportion of motoring will come down in a few weeks, since now we are trying to do big distances, and conform to Tessa's sleeping schedule. But we'll see -- there is often not much wind in Mexico.

      Re: Point Conception, below I have quoted some info from this website:

      Richard Dana, the author of a famous memoir "Two Years Before the Mast" (which I would like to read), referred to Point Conception at the "Cape Horn of California". Some excerpts of his are included below.
      Knowing well the nastiness of Cape Horn, Dana still saw fit to compare Point Conception to it, which surely is some proof of the Central Coast headland’s formidable nature. The treacherous seas off Point Conception result in part from the confluence of cold and warm water oceanic currents. Typically it is a region of unsettled, foggy and blustery weather and rough and turbulent chilly water that has long played havoc on passing vessels.

      A short distance up the coast from Point Conception, at Honda (Pedernales) Point, one of the largest peacetime disasters in United States naval history occurred, when on September 8, 1923, a navigational error in foggy or misty weather led seven destroyers aground on the jagged seashore and 23 sailors died.

      As the United States Coast Pilot publication of 2012 notes:

      Point Conception has been called the Cape Horn of the Pacific because of the heavy NW gales encountered off it during the passage through Santa Barbara Channel. A marked change of climatic and meteorological conditions is experienced off the point, the transition often being remarkably sudden and well defined.

    3. uhmm wow...
      amazing how small changes (of course from looking at the map!) can produce such phenomenon!

  6. What an exciting experience for the 3 of you! I really admire your way if life. Love to read about it

  7. Glad Tessa is such a good sailor on such fought seas. Someday, when you grow uP, you'll be good sailors t.oo! Alive


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