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Baja Bound Beetle

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  • In Marina del Rey

    Arrived yesterday morning early, to find the sun rising as we approached the breakwater at the marina entrance. It's interesting to compare the marina here to the marina at San Jose Del Cabo - both are completely man-made structures, lines with concrete, dug out of the ground, with a wide sandy beach along the bay. Marina del Rey is gigantic, surrounded by condominiums, and caters to all sorts of boats. The marina at San Jose Del Cabo is inside a single big resort and pretty much caters to only really large boats, little development, and is tiny by comparison if one looks at boat slips; my guess is that the entirety of San Jose Del Cabo would fit comfortably into one half of one side of one finger at Marina del Rey. Upshot is it feels like you're just one of the normal folk here at del Rey, while at San Jose del Cabo you're definitely one of the few in a resort. I prefer it here at del Rey.

    I've got a slip for a couple of days, my brother is in town and he stopped by yesterday afternoon, I also have the dinghy inflated on the foredeck in preparation for applying patches on the little center tube that goes under the floor board - the tube has a worn spot in the hypalon that is letting air out and it needs a patch.

    It was a a quiet run across from San Diego in the dark, except for trying the stay out of the way of Warship 22. The warships like to put out securite calls on the VHF when they are going to do something strange, such as dive operations, high speed runs, continuous turns, that sort of thing - so as to not surprise people and to ask for folks to stay out of the way. Warship 22 put out a call for flight operations and provided a position that happened to be directly in our path but three hours ahead of us. I did not want to get in their way, I call them back and they suggested that if I passed east of them that would be good. However, by the time I got there they were off doing donuts in the water as high speed continuous turns to port, then ran off into the distance, then came back, then announced they were commencing man overboard drills. I gave up going east of them as they kept moving east... so it was many hours to get past them! Turns out that is a huge ship at 684', and I could look up warship 22 and find out it is the USS San Diego 'amphibious transport dock ship' - they were nice on the radio but wouldn't stay put. Would also be handy if they would turn on the AIS transmission as that would make it much easier to plot them on the chart and then I'd know where they were and then I could maneuver to stay out of their way.

    Given the US Navy isn't running an AIS transponder, I turned on the radar when it got dark. I'm quite certain they knew exactly where I was (they probably could also track sea gulls with their radar if they wanted to), but I'd like to know where they are as well. And then suddenly two spots would zoom across the screen - my radar was picking up the low-flying helicopters that are flying about the place. That was different - not often I'm tracking helicopters by radar... though it is difficult to find the spots under one realizes you have to look UP to find them.

    Plan is to be here in Marina del Rey until Thursday morning, and then head out to Santa Barbara and wait for a weather window to scoot up the coast to San Franciscso. From there it is three more hops to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, using Humboldt Bay, Port of Newport, and Neah Bay as stopping points before the final run in to Orcas Island. For each hop I'd like to have a 48 hour weather window and we can power up the coast in slightly less time than that. I've not been north of San Francisco before, so everything up in that area will all be new stuff!

    The entrance to Marina del Rey as the sun is about to poke up is a nice thing to find after a long night's run from San Diego. The water has been glassy all evening - since passing Catalina Island, in fact - and we made excellent time here and managed to show up early. The marina did not open until 8:30AM, and I elected to head in and tie up to one of the end ties that would be available - and that turned out to be the end tie where Beetle was able to stay for the next couple of days.

    The center tube in the dinghy is what holds the floor boards up and the fabric bottom of the dinghy down. The metal boards can chafe on the top of the center tube, and now has rubbed a small thin spot in the tube - it will hold air for a while, then deflates slowly. A couple of oval patches on the tube should have it all back perfect again - to be done today!

    - rob

    April 15
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • outbound from Del Rey, headed for Santa Cruz Island

      It's a somewhat grey iight-air mid-morning here in Santa Monica Bay, Lindi has returned to the boat from visiting up in San Francisco, and Beetle is underway headed west.

      The weather is forecast to build along the coast north of Point Arguello, and while the forecasts have enticing small windows of lighter air right along the shore, those little windows close abruptly during the day. It's supposed to blow hard mid-week, and it would not be fun to be stuck out in the anchorage at San Luis Obispo if it really does come up at 35 knots from the NW. So the Beetle-boat plan has been modified to 'move boat to Santa Barbara and wait for weather window'. To that end, step one is shifting over to Santa Barbara from Marina del Rey, and we're going to do that in two steps mostly because the Santa Barbara Harbor folks have a noon-to-noon transient slip rental policy, and if we show up before noon then we'll get charged for the entire day even if we arrive at 3AM in the morning. To combat this, we're going to overnight at Santa Cruz Island - currently 50 miles out - and then head over to Santa Barbara tomorrow morning, to arrive shortly after 12 noon. I'd like to get good value for my slip fee!

      The AIS transponder is transponding again. This was accomplished by plunking down another $1150 to buy a complete new Vesper Marine Watchmate Vision from Milltech Marine (based in Washington, they have supplied all the AIS gear I've had over the years). The unit swap took all of 15 minutes and it is working correctly. I'm going to send the first unit that has been acting up back to Jeff at Vesper Marine in New Zealand, and hopefully he can sort out what's not right about it. And I do not know if I will be able to return the new unit, or if I'm going to have a backup fancy transponder; I don't really want a backup transponder, I want a unit that works correctly. But the important part is that the new unit is working correctly and that's good.

      MDR was a fun stop, the people at Marina del Rey Marina are super nice, there's a Ralph's super market right there at the foot of the yacht basin, an easy walk to the store to fetch foods. A West Marine is also there, and they had glue brushes for use on the dinghy center tube repair. The dinghy fix went well, two patches installed and the tube holds pressure like it should.

      I was also able to visit with my brother, he was in town from up north in order to get some work done, and it was fun to see his studio. I also borrowed his car and ran over to BioQuip, one of the largest entomology supply shops around and it happens to be right here in LA. Good to see the people there and I picked up a collapsible pocket net to add to the kit.

      Yesterday was the run-around in the marina, did the shop, motored over to the fuel dock to fill up the tanks and the (now) four jerry jugs that live in the cockpit just forward of the traveler, and stowed the interior in preparation for departing this morning when Lindi arrived. The AIS unit was delivered by UPS to my brother's studio, he brought it over to the boat late yesterday afternoon, and all went well.

      So we're off to Smuggler's Cove at Santa Cruz Island, there's a light southerly circulation in Santa Monica Bay due to a mild Low pressure off to the southwest, and we're going nicely along with light wind on the port beam. It's flat flat flat here, and that makes for a comfortable ride.

      Not too much excitement, and that's a good thing. Perhaps it will be warmer at Santa Barbara?

      - rob

      April 17
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • At ease in Santa Barbara

        Yesterday was a great deal of weather watching, phone conversations with Kristen regarding weather, and running up the coast from Marina del Rey. As we were passing Point Dume (where the fancy people have their houses) a new weather forecast was put out by NOAA which suggested a narrow weather window north to Morro Bay. By narrow, I'm talking about +/- 3 hours would make/break the run to Morro Bay. If you made it you were golden; if you missed, you would be hating life for many hours dealing with 25 knots from the NW gusting 30. But at least the window was there... we changed course, abandoning the idea of stopping at Santa Cruz Island and instead aimed directly for Santa Barbara, figuring that the next forecast could be picked up about the time Beetle was outside the breakwater and I could decide at that time to a) go for it! or b) punt and step off the trail and into a comfy slip in the harbor at Santa Barbara.

        About this time the USCG started a broadcast stating that an EPIRB had been triggered somewhere outside Channel Island Harbor - if anyone sees something please to let them know. And sure enough, an hour later there's a Coast Guard orange rescue helicopter buzzing about and then a 25' big red USCG boat comes up alongside and they ask if I have an EPIRB? I say YES (have to shout over their engine noise), and they ask for the serial number. When I read it off to them they were disappointed that it wasn't the one they were looking for. Off they sped, looking for other boats that might have an EPIRB that had accidentally triggered. (later the Coast Guard broadcast that they had in fact found the EPIRB, and everybody on board was safe).

        Then later on in the evening, around dark, the latest forecast was released and it still showed a super-narrow window with significant wind coming in, so I punted. A quick tie up at the Harbor Patrol dock, stepped up to the office to procure a transient slip (paid up thru Sunday night), and it was off to sleep.

        And the steaming light went out again - what's up with that? I checked the bulb and it is definitely blown though I can't see the break in the filament - something to put under the microscope. Lindi ran me up the mast again this morning and I replaced the bulb (again), then walked up to the West Marine store at the head of the marina and, too cool, they had two more light bulbs of exactly the correct kind, so I bought them to put back in the ship's stores.

        Kristen is hoofing it down the coast in her automobile, she's due to arrive in a couple of hours and it will be fun to hang out with her in Santa Barbara. I do not know if Nibs (aka, Black Cat) is in the car with her, or not. One never knows with cats.

        The stop here in Santa Barbara is solely to wait for weather, and it does look there's a good window opening up Sunday night that will run through Tuesday morning, and that should get us to Morro Bay. Assuming the forecast holds, current plan is to bail from Santa Barbara 11pm or midnight Sunday night and do the 100 mile run to Morro, to arrive there Monday late afternoon/early evening. This window has held through two forecasts, PredictWind shows nothing of this whereas the local NWS guys are calling for it as well as the NAM and GFS models. Hopefully this happens, as we can keep on moving up the coast and watch for the next window.

        It's pretty nice here in Santa Barbara, this time I'm over on the south side of the harbor with the bigger boats, and there are some pretty boats here. There's a Sundeer 56 across the dock, a huge Grand Banks trawler the other way, and a bunch of other really well maintained boats. It's fun to see the boats when everything is shining and gleaming and they look good.

        Bad forecast - there's a big patch of green and brighter green down in the lower right corner where I want to go. Would be nice to NOT have green there; in fact, white (0-5 knots breeze) would be ideal! That's the GFS model forecast for midnight Saturday evening local time. You can pick up these model displays from, a super site for quickly viewing world-wide weather model data.

        Better weather. This is for Monday afternoon, lots of white and light blue down in the area of interest between Point Conception and Morro Bay. Of course this is only a computer model output, so who knows if this will actually happen - but I hope that it does. The model data changes every 6 hours, therefore I will be checking it over the next several days to see if the model comports with the NWS Oxnard forecasters - those are real people looking at a lot more data than just a weather model output, and so far they agree with what the model thinks.

        Beetle at the interesting marina in Santa Barbara. In this particular marina you don't get the extravagance of a dock finger on each side of your boat, but you do get a concrete vertical piling to ram into upon entry to your dock; I guess the pillar provides a stern cleat to wrap the dock line around so at least the fenders don't squeak again the dock continuously. Still - if you're going to go to the effort to put in a dock piling then you might as well go ahead and put in the dock to go with it.

        The steaming light is working again. I do not know why it went out the second time - hopefully it was only a bad bulb. The little bulbs are expensive at $26/eaches and I would like them last a good long while. I've now checked again with a voltmeter and ohmmeter the continuity and voltage through the wiring from the circuit breaker up to the wires that enter the light fixture, and everything looks perfect. Hopefully it was only a weak filament that caused the light to go out.

        My brother demonstrates how to look good on a boat. He actually was a male model at one time and it's important in this pose to NOT have your entire hand in your pocket, that's why the right hand thumb is exposed on the outside of the pants pocket. Note the upraised eyeline to camera right, the chin is solid, I think we have a winner here. It was fun to grill up some burgers and catch up on news with him.

        - rob

        April 18
        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


        • Beetle arrives at Morro Bay

          Had a good evening last night running up the coast from Santa Barbara, out and around Point Conception and Point Arguello (home to Vandenberg Air Force Base), past Point Sal and San Luis Obispo, around Point Buchon and zoom into Morro Bay and the Big Rock. It's now 6PM Monday night and both Lindi and I have got in our naps to make up for last night's limited sleep.

          Morro Bay is a fine place to be, a bit grey and much colder than Santa Barbara - we are no longer in Southern California, and instead get the wind in directly from the Pacific Ocean with no filtering, heating, or mixing over the land. It's even downright chilly at the moment! Time for jackets and wool caps. Beetle is tied up at the Morro Bay Yacht Club dock, a single pier that runs parallel to the tidal channel, with a Whitby 43 now rafted up outside us. Based on displacements (we're nominally 21,500 and they are similarly 25,000) and the large number of fenders both of us have out, Beetle should be just fine, in fact even snug as a bug.

          The run up was Santa Barbara was fun, we got going just about sunset and by 10pm were running along in calm conditions past the oil rigs. For this 105 mile hop I was working with a weather system coming in - it's unusual for the USCG to put a call out a weather-related Securite call, and they are doing it every four hours or so telling everyone the National Weather Service is calling for widespread and strong gale force winds Tuesday and Wednesday and therefore to get into port before the wind shows up. Based on the weather forecast we wanted to be off the water no later than late Monday night. Given the relatively short hop and the narrow weather window I ran the motor up to 2150 RPM and kept it there - we are less efficient at burning fuel but are loping along at 7 knots and have a lot more power for punching into chop and don't slow down that much on each little bump.

          We hit Point Conception about 1AM and turned from the relative flatness of the Santa Barbara Channel into the chop and 12-14 knots wind from straight ahead as we powered up towards Point Arguello. We ran about 1.5 miles off the coast, it was quite dark, and used the radar and a prior track on the chart plotter to make sure we didn't get set in towards the rocks on the shore. And we started to go BONG! off the chop, throwing huge sheets of water sideways as the bow section of the hull belly-flopped onto the chop. It's a lot of fun to watch that happen in the half-glow of the red/green bow nav light, up until the first time the mast makes a big bang as well. I tightened up the backstay and runners (we had the 3rd reef up on the main to act as a steadying sail), and I went to sleep as Lindi took over the watch. It was somewhere during her watch that Beetle stuffed a wave, resulting in a lot of water running over the pulpit, down the deck and up over the top of the dodger. Lindi said the dodger worked great, she was under it and stayed dry, I managed somehow to sleep through all this so I missed it.

          3AM we were around Arguello, turned northwards and found the swell to be large at 12-14' but conveniently well off to port, so we stopped slamming so hard, and then the wind backed off to very light. It was neat to see Vandenberg AFB in the dark from that close, lots of lights, and later on the moon came up and helped out. The swell stayed way up for the rest of the run to Morro. And some idiot sets crab pots out in 400' of water! - nobody needs 400' deep crabs, particularly when it calls for three-float trap lines strung about in front of us. I spent my entire watch in the dark standing behind the dodger playing dodge-em crab pot. The closest call was having one pot line hook up on the rudder while swerving to avoid the floats, and fortunately the floats did not get caught up in the propeller.

          Lindi took over again at 7:30 Monday morning (this morning) and took us up to the entry at Morro Bay, we popped into the channel which only had mild 5-6' swell despite the very large swell offshore, dropped the main, and motored along the channel to the Yacht Club. Tied up, powered up, connected to the club's WiFi, got a nap in, and now it's evening 'round these parts. A very satisfying run up the coast and we did not get caught up in any bad weather. Turns out Lindi grew up in this area and may be able to visit with some friends during the time we are here waiting for the weather to improve.

          Santa Barbara itself was a fun town to visit, dinner on the wharf at the marina, walking around to look at boats, Kristen and I spent a morning at the Natural History Museum, which I thought was a well-done smaller museum that included minerals in displays that hi-lighted the differences in how rock responds to light wavelengths, plus displays of local insects, mammals, and birds. At $12 eaches to go, I would highly recommend spending several hours there! Kristen also wanted to visit the wineries in a section of town coined the 'Funk Zone', we stopped at two and she found several bottles of vino she quite liked.

          Now it's time to pause here in Morro Bay and wait out the weather coming in. Looks like the next weather window is opening up Thursday evening - we shall see!

          An amazing glass wall display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, displaying insects local to the area. I've not seen a display like this before, it's a 1/2" thick sheet of acrylic, with pinned specimens set into the plastic from both sides, so at first it looks like you're looking at a mirror to see the underside of the specimen until you realize you're looking through the acrylic to see the underside of a specimen on the opposite side of the display. Very well done, the note on the case said 4,000 specimens were in the display!

          The museum went to great effort to be not just a display of things, but also to bring in relationships between animals and weather and people, so there is a lot to read and a lot to learn as you move through the rooms. This is a case study of fire resistant chaparral, and also brings in the animals that repopulate and area that has burned out. It's a terrific museum!

          Inside the bee colony room in the museum, looking up. There's a mirror on the top of the hexagonal bee hive cell, so it feels like you're in the middle of a bee's honeycomb. I'm not sure that bees carry iphone cameras and samsung cameras, but those two bees have them.

          Nibs, aka Black Cat, did make the journey to Santa Barbara. He made the journey down in Kristen's car, and then spent the weekend carefully exploring Beetle to see if anything had changed. He also slept a great deal, generally speaking directly next to Kristen's shoulder, if not actually on top of her. He wasn't too sure what to make about the seal that hauled out on the dock, and the heron that was bigger than him did not make him want to chase birds - quite the opposite!

          It got chilly as the sun set in the Santa Barbara Channel after we departed the marina. It's 40 miles to Point Conception and is generally a mild run through relatively flat waters. There's a lot of naturally occurring tar in the water, seeping up from the oil bearing floor of the ocean. There's enough tar to smell it for miles, and when I was here as a kid we'd find gooey black blobs of it on the rocks - much fun to play with, and darned hard to get the brown stains off your fingers.

          Morro Bay has a gigantic rock, which is the first thing you see when rounding point and turning in towards the harbor. I talked with the USCG via VHF at 4AM to ask if there were any issues with harbor entry closures, as there was a rather large swell running - generated by a Low pressure system way up to the north. The USCG came back and said no bar closures were anticipated for the next 8 hours, and to check with the harbor patrol when I got within range.

          The dock at Morro Bay Yacht club is really quite pleasantly wood, after all the concrete docks in the other places I've been stopping at. Somehow the wood is more pleasant under foot. Morro is a narrow strip estuary with a large sand bank to the west between the boats and the ocean, and there's a commercial marina up near the entrance. When I asked the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol about berthing they said they send sailboats over to the yacht club, which doesn't require reciprocal privileges - you just tie up and make sure to sign in. I signed in and have a key to the heads, showers, and laundry facilities, plus we're welcome to stay here as long as needed - provided we don't move in permanently! The boat outside of Beetle is also headed to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to Port Townsend - just north of Seattle.

          - rob
          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


          • Headed north from Morro Bay

            Good morning - it's 4:48AM this fine Friday, and Beetle is under power in light air about 14 miles south of Point Piedras Blancas, making good time towards Point Sur and Monterey Bay. The weather has been more or less windy from the north since Tuesday morning, and tonight is the first good opportunity to work north - the pressure gradient is sliding southwards with max winds moving down the coast to Southern California and reduced winds the further north one goes. Hopefully the forecaster folks at the National Weather Service Monterey got it right this evening and we can make comfortable time all the way up past Point Sur.

            Point Sur is the the 'big' point 60 some odd miles to the north, and tends to be the starting place for relatively strong breeeze 'round this part of the coast. Being north of Sur means you're getting into the calmer breezes in Monterey Bay, being south of Sur means you can get bottled up in Morro Bay or San Simeon while winds whistle down the coast past you - the wind is fenced in by the hills and cliffs south of Point Sur and therefore the wind has nothing to do but accelerate and run along the cliffs. This is not so good if you are a north bound boat!

            Tonight the three north bound boats departed the most pleasant guest dock at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. In the lead is Seevogel with Cameron singlehanding his way north, he left at 11:30pm. An hour later Waverider departed with Doug (and jim?) on board, and then we split at 2AM. The yacht club has been a great place to hang out while waiting for a weather window, a quiet facility, a nice dock, and a web cam overlooking the dock that Kristen quite enjoyed looking at to see what everyone was up to. The fuel dock is up the narrow waterfront, there are two bars in town that were recommended to me by the fuel dock operator whilst he was unloading Dungeness crab from the big blue fish boat Fierce Leader. I also heard that Fierce Leader got stuck outside in the big blow that was here on Tuesday - they were taking water clear over the entire boat, that would be something like 20 feet tall and maybe 70 or 80 feet long - the fuel fellow was observing them with his binoculars and said it was pretty spectactular to watch them hammer up the bay to the entrance at Morro Rock. For those of us inside the bay it was very windy at 27-32 knots, sounds like it was extra nasty outside. But there was Fierce Leader tied up to the fuel dock and preparing to offload their crab into 38 degree water inside a dozen 4' cube boxes with hoses running between the boxes to keep the water pumping. I wonder if that particular temperature is a good one for keeping crabs quiet?

            I made two runs to the fuel pier with the dinghy and took on 30 gallons of diesel. The fueling setup in Morro Bay is geared towards big fish boats and they have a tall pier, no dock, and lots of barnacles growing on the pier pillars. It did not look at all inviting to bring Beetle over, so instead i put together the dinghy and ran up and down twice to visit them. The fuel pier also operates a small set of adjacent slips and I was able to run the dinghy to the small boat dock, tie up, and walk up to the diesel pump with my jerry jugs under the arm as it were. It's pretty funny to use a 2" diameter hose to fill tiny little jerry jugs; to make it work the operator threw the flow control valve mostly-closed to avoid having the diesel come crashing out of the hose at speeds designed to fill 1500 gallon fuel tanks.

            And another small-world event on the docks; when you're all sitting around waiting for weather to turn in your favor, one of the topics of conversation is, 'Where is everyone going?'. Turns out that Cameron (Seevogel) is bound for Orcas Island, same as me. His folks are on the island, and his address is in Eastsound. He was very surprised when I told him I was also headed for Orcas, and it is likely i will run into him at Doe Bay and Westsound. He had just purchased his boat (O'day 39, I believe) and a bulkhead had fractured in a place where too many holes had been drilled in close proximity for purposes of passing bilge pump lines; he spent his time at the guest dock grinding fiberglass, vacuuming, and applying glass and epoxy to the cracked area. He was pretty happy to get that job finished this morning.

            Kristen and I have been having weather talks on the telephone, she is getting pretty good at sorting out what's going on, what's likely to occur (the forecast), and then factor in boat speed to see where Beetle is likely to be at a given time as we move up the track. Game plan is to clear Point Sur this afternoon, get out into Monterey Bay (less wind as the wind field can spread out across the bay), and hopefully continue straight on towards San Francisco. The big Vallejo Race is this weekend, and if we are in the bay Saturday morning it would be fun to run up to Vallejo and hang out there; Kristen should be there (racing on a boat), as is Lindi's Jon (racing on another boat). I have no idea if the two marinas there have dredged since last year's race, when they had not dredged and as a result Beetle, along with several other deeper draft boats, spent the evening anchored out in the channel instead of rafted up inside.

            So we're powering up the coast, it's 5:15AM now and I will be waking up Lindi at 6AM for her watch. Conditions continue to be moderate, a 5' swell or so, winds in the 2-5 knot range from in front, and to do the occasional bonk but not very hard. This makes it nice to type this note on my little Apple blue tooth keyboard into my very cool Samsung Note tablet thingy. Given all amazing variety of electronic gadgets on board, the Samsung by far gets the most use. And as I am running only 3 miles or so off the coast the MiFi unit can connect with the shore cell towers - I can send email, get weather data, and even read the BBC news. Much fun!

            - rob

            April 25
            " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

   Photo Gallery


            • The Beetle's Northward Migration

              Rob MacFarlane stopped by his old home in the Alameda Estuary and relaxed a bit, visited some friends and reprovisioned then wasted little time getting going to Beetle's newest destination in the PNW. Here's the lastest as he heads north!


              Headed North

              Beetle is departing San Francisco in about 40 minutes (2AM) this quiet Thursday morning. First stop is hoped to be the Humboldt Bay fuel dock - perhaps by 5pm Friday evening.

              Weather is forecast to lay down along the coast, the forecast says we want to be north of Pt. Arena by Friday evening.

              John Guhl is joining Beetle for the run northwards, hopefully this is fun!

              I will send more information once we get underway.

              - rob

              May 8


              Thursday with Cape Mendocino Up Front

              It's Thursday afternoon and we're trundling along up the coast in the misty afternoon low fog and drizzle, wind is out of the south at 10-12 knots and that makes for a very pleasant ride northbound. John is asleep in his bunk, I'm up on watch sort of beneath the dodger and I've got my little Samsung unit and Apple keyboard set up on top of the sliding companionway hatch - the hatch makes for a convenient table in these conditions and I can keep watch whilst typing my note.

              We departed Alameda at 2AM this morning and have made good time since then. There are a few crab pots still out and about, they mostly look like abandoned pots (lots of green growth on them), the pots that the fishermen could not find when they went out to retrieve all their gear at the end of the crab season (I believe that crab season has ended on this coast, though I could be mistaken).

              Off Bodega Bay, in the fog, we ran into a whole heap of fish boats tooling around very slowly in search of salmon - looks like salmon season must be here! Also made for dodge-em fish boats and John has now learned a great deal about how to operate the autopilot he finds on Beetle. Certainly don't need sunglasses here though wool caps and full foulies are in order.

              For my part I'm mostly keeping busy staying warm and monitoring everything while letting the boat run north - keep the fuel up in the day tank, maintain course, and watch out for the fish boats.

              The weather window we're enjoying right now is the driver we're out here at this time - there's a lightweight front moving overhead and through at the moment and the front is bringing light southerly winds with it (plus fog and drizzle). When the front departs to the east the wind is forecast to fill in from the NW; all the forecasts have suggested that if one is north of Pt. Arena before the front clears then there is going to magically appear a large bubble of High pressure all the way up to Cape Flattery at the top end of the coast in Washington. It's that bubble that we're hoping to travel in as we proceed north. To do that we're running at 2150 RPM to try and keep speed around 67.5-7 knots over the ground despite bucking the Humboldt current, and so far that's going about right.

              There are two planned fuel stops: Humboldt Bay on Friday and Newport Oregon on Sunday. The fuel dock in Humboldt closes at 5pm Friday afternoon and if we're there in time then we refuel and keep going. If we're slow then there is another fuel dock 56 miles further up the coast at Crescent City - so all we would need to do is skip Humboldt and move on up to Crescent City for fuel Saturday morning (when the fuel dock opens) and then be on the road north again. Currently we're 23 mils from Pt. Arena as of 2:20pm running at 7.4 knots (must be some good current behind us) and that would have us on schedule for fuel in Humboldt.

              All is good, nice to be on the road and feel the boat moving with the small waves, and it's been interesting to watch the temperature fall as Beetle moves north. I wonder if an Eskimo would think of this as warm t-shirt weather?

              - rob

              May 8

              Midnight off Fort Bragg

              It has continued to be a most excellent run north - it's midnight and we've already rounded Pt. Reyes and Pt. Arena and are now just north of Fort Bragg and headed for the next point: Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino. As I spent the winter studying Mexican navigation charts, I now know that Punta means Point. I've never heard of Punta Gorda but most folks that have listened to NOAA weather radio have heard of Cape Mendocino.

              It's fun to be north of Point Reyes, as this is all new territory for Beetle and me. That said, mostly what I've seen of this new territory is low clouds and fog - running along 5 miles off the coast and still no coast in view. That's why it was fun when the lights of Fort Bragg popped up from under a cloud and now I can see the town. The cell phone also worked there, and Kristen gave me the low-down on the current weather forecasting up the coast. So far it looks like all systems are go and I continue to hope that Beetle will be around the top end of Washington and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca come Monday night.

              Most of the day was spent running north under the small front that has now exited to the east. Life within a cloud is chilly, wet, limited visibility and lots of wet. While at Fortman Marina in San Francisco last week I did a temporary fix to the forward big hatch on the foredeck; that hatch has leaked for a bit and the proper fix is to pull the hatch and re-bed it. I didn't want to get into that project in Mexico, nor did I in San Francisco, as there's a possibility of damaging the hatch frame and that would be a time consuming problem - so something to look into when I get to Orcas Island. In the meantime I purchased a tube of Liquid Life Caulk and squeeged that around the perimeter of the hatch frame and pressed it in with my finger (which became wonderfully black as a result). And it has worked out that the frame is now not leaking where it meets the deck - at least for the moment.

              Out here on the water I can see a bit of the moon poking through in between cloud bands, there are a couple of big back fuzzy drizzly clouds drifting about - one is behind (more wet on deck for a while) and the other is approaching. There are also two fish boats in the area, the one ahead seems to be running north at about the same speed and course as us, the one behind has been south-bound and is all lit up with the gigantic sodium lights that attract the squid.

              We're about 84 miles from Humboldt Bay, and hope to be there tomorrow afternoon to take on fuel and keep the show on the road. I'm going to send this note out over the SSB radio, then wake John for his 1AM watch.

              Nice that we're able to scamper north so quickly!

              - rob

              May 9


              Fri at Point Mendocino

              It's Friday morning and Beetle finds that the Mendocino coast is nearby to starboard, the sun is up albeit a bit shy hiding behind the clouds, the wind has gone to somewhere else leaving zip here, and there are interesting white caps in the water where the big swirls of current collide with one another. A very nice morning to be up and looking for the buoy moored off the cape. Plan is to take the buoy to starboard thereby avoiding the reef inshore, turn right a bit, and run up the coast and enter Humboldt Bay. Humboldt sometimes closes, as in there are breakers clear across the entrance and the USCG will close the port and bar crossing to all traffic - that should not be an issue today as the swell is moderate and there's no wind and no storm on the way in.

              During last night's watch a pod of small black with white stripe dolphins came by to play in the dark. I did not get a good look at one, it being dark and all, but John had a whole ton of them come over later on during his watch and he got a good look at some of them. Neat playful animals.

              Today should be fun, as we're going to try out the new fender boards on the boat when we tie up to the fuel pier in Humboldt. The fellow I spoke with on the telephone last week said they do not have a floating dock for small boats, but rather a tall pier set up for fish boats in which you lay against the vertical pilings (often covered with creosote, barnacles, and other lovely hard things) and he passes down the fuel hose. Fender boards are the answer to that sort of arrangement for small boats when you prefer to not have the hull crunching up against the pilings. Not having such boards, I went and made some while in SF, using a 2x4 cut to 7' length (to facilitate storage by making the board long enough to span two stanchion bases for lashing-to-stanchion-base purposes), and cutting some lines to size for tying the fenders to the board and the board to the boat. I have two of theses 2x4s, and I hope they work as otherwise it's going to be a somewhat arduous job to run jerry jugs up and down the fuel pier while not actually tying up to the pier. Think somewhat similar to San Carlos pier, but hopefully not as windy.

              And while there in Humboldt I can check weather forecasts and then we can depart and put the show back on the road. This bit of coast has a well deserved reputation for being particularly nasty and it's really nice to be running out here with calm winds and moderate seas making good speed.

              - rob

              May 9


              Northbound from Humboldt Bay Friday night

              Good evening, the pit stop for fuel at Humboldt Bay went well, I'm glad our arrival aligned with daylight as that would not be the most pleasant place to enter for the first time in the dark - big swell building up as you run in towards the beach that would not be well lit by buildings behind as the town is not on the beach. Running in towards a beach never seems like a good idea, though there are two large parallel breakwaters that extend out to sea which do provide some protection as you enter. Once inside you turn left and run 4 miles up the river to the Englund Fuel Dock - a building on a tall pier lined with concrete-filled steel pilings. Fender boards worked great, and I have figured out how to whip a dock line around a fat piling (which you cannot put your arms all the way around) such that the end of the line wraps around the piling and back into your hands - that's how we lashed Beetle to the pilings.

              Took on 43 gallons of red-dye diesel no. 2, and three hours after passing the outer buoy on our way in, we were past that buoy on our way out.

              Once north of Humboldt we fell in with a fish boat that appears to be doing the same run north that we are, though he is taking time out periodically to stop and fish - perhaps that is a way to pay for the fuel costs of the run they are doing. Currently the boat is hanging about 2 miles to the west of us as we run parallel to the coast towards Cape Blanco, the next big point to round, currently some 66 miles ahead.

              There hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of sea life to be found out here so far, but today fixed that: found a large grey whale right at the entrance to Humboldt Bay, he or she was spouting and hanging out at the river mouth, lots of albatross winging around the boat this afternoon, and then early evening observed three different sharks pass by the boat very close as in 5-15' away depending upon the shark. My guess is we are seeing Mackerel sharks (a cousin of the Mako, according to my fish book) that is found up here in the colder waters. Definitely not a blue shark as it's way too cold for them and the fin didn't look right for a blue.

              Conditions are slightly more lively than last night, we're moving with 8-12 knots of breeze from the west, the occasional large rain cloud moving by from west to east that brings some rain and colder air, swell is up at 6-8' from the west, and we do the occasional BONG when a white cap plonks against the port bow.

              Running well, should be at Blanco sometime tomorrow morning, and that will put Newport Oregon squarely in our sights. Crescent City is to starboard and the border between Oregon and California is just ahead. Plus we're having a good solid moon today in between the high clouds, and the moon really lights up the water out here - nicer to run when you can see the waves as compared to running in total blackout conditions.

              All is well on board, hopefully it continues that way.

              - rob


              Saturday morning off Port Orford and Cape Blanco

              It has been a good night's run up from Humboldt Bay, and with the sunrise we're out here off Port Orford with Cape Blanco in the offing not too far away.

              Had our first problem of the trip - the starboard fuel filter failed to pass fuel when Is wrapped over to it, resulting in shutting down the engine (fuel starvation). I was swapping filters in the Racor 500FG ganged filter set because the port filter was showing high enough vacuum (sucking too hard to get fuel through the filter) that it needed to be replaced. This has always simply meant swinging the fuel flow handle to point to the starboard new filter, the motor continues to run, and I can change the port filter at my leisure. Not this time. I swung the handle and within seconds the vacuum gauge goes way high and the motor dies... rats! We drifted around for 10 minutes while I swapped in a new port fuel filter paper element and the motor fired right up. I pulled out the starboard pap;er element to verify I had in fact replaced it (Marina del Rey? San Diego?) And it looked just fine - so at least I hadn't done something dumb like swap to the new fuel filter and forgotten to replace the old one. Will want to sort this out in Newport Oregon - our next port of call.

              There were several large black fuzzy squall clouds that we went through last night, though it's really more that they ran over us as we don't go fast enough to avoid them. Beetle got a good fresh water rinse with lots of rain falling out of several of them. And in the middle of the second rain cloud (which you can see easily on the radar, even to the point of knowing when you will exit the rain) we came into a bunch of south bound fish boats running with super bright lights on pointing forward. I called one of them on the VHF to ask what they were up to - fishing? Netting? Squidding? And I did not want to run into their gear. The first boat that went by us called over to the sailboat on his port side and he told me they were out shrimping, everybody was shut down, and there was no gear in the water for me to worry about. That was most nice of him.

              I talked with Kristen via telephone when we were abeam Rogue River - she's on the train headed for Newport, there to join the boat for the remainder of the run up the coast. She was seeing snow (!) Outside her window as they ran along the tracks through the mountains. I imagine the big black squally things we're having out here are turning into white fluffy snowy things in the mountains. These squalls should represent the backside of the front that went through last night to the north of us, I have now arrived at that latitude, and should see better conditions (as in smoother) as the front clears off to the east and we motor up what will now be the west side of that front line. Make sense?

              Weather forecast continues to look good for departing Newport on Sunday to continue the run up to Cape Flattery, nothing big is forecast to move in other than the High which is due to appear over Vancouver BC - the folks in Seattle are all excited about getting some sun! I wonder if they will know that Beetle brought some up in a box from Puerto Vallarta just for them

              All is well so far this morning, I'm now keeping a closer eye on the vacuum gauge on the port side fuel filter (running with no resistance at the moment), we are 10 miles south of Cape Blanco with a lalrgish swell running at 8-10' and 10-12 knots of wind from the NW - not too bad at all as the water is remaining fairly smooth over the swell.

              Enjoy the day!

              - rob

              May 10

              ************************************************** **

              Monday morning at sea – Columbia River coming up

              That was a mister toad's wild ride for the first 6 hours after departing Newport Harbor last night. We had cleared the harbor entrance with the last of the sunlight at 8pm, straight into 20 knots from the north - exactly where we wanted to go. The wind would not have been so bad, but it had been blowing out there all day long and had generated a wicked 3-4' chop and we started to pound the moment we turned onto course 351True from the harbor's outer buoy. After a few minutes of this, which mostly involved banging into a steep wave and lifting up most of that wave onto the foredeck and watching the water come rolling down the deck and into the cockpit (plus a couple of deeper waves that rolled up and over the dodger) we turned west 20 degrees and slowed the boat down in an effort to get away from the coast and the crab pots and not to bang directly into the chop.

              Kristen doesn't do well in these conditions and promptly got seasick and emptied her stomach contents into a ziplock baggie she had in her hand expressly for that purpose, then managed to get some sleep in. John took first watch, I took second watch, and we tacked back towards the coast when we were 11 miles offshore. The NWS forecast called for stronger wind from the north outside and lighter wind inside - so we headed back inshore after going through a 50 degree tack (motorsailing with the third reef up). The swell was negligible, but the chop kept up slow and wet.

              About 2AM Kristen was back up feeling much better and stood her watch, and I kept running fresh fuel into the day tank with an idea to keep the fuel level higher in case there was in fact something going on with debris in the tank and keeping fuel high would lessen the sloshing effect in the tank. I have no idea if that helped, but the fuel filter I swapped into place in Newport harbor is working perfectly, 0 vacuum, and we're continuing to make good time moving along at 2000 RPM.

              And now I've just woken up, it's 8AM Monday morning and we're running at 6.8 knots through glassy conditions with a bit of left over motion about 29 miles from the border between Washington and Oregon. Washington here we come!

              Goal is to carry on up to and around Cape Flattery, hopefully arriving there 24 hours from now (Tuesday morning some time), and if necessary stop in at Neah Bay for fuel, and carry on for Port Angeles and stop there Tuesday night. If that happens, then it becomes a relatively shortly hop across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Orcas Island on Wednesday. NWS forecast indicates that all this will work well given the weather out here: we're north of the wind that is supposed to fill in today off Newport (same 20 knots we had yesterday), there's light 0-10 knots all of today and most of Tuesday, and we will be in the Strait before the wind fills in at 20 knots Wednesday off the west coast of Washington. Will be interesting to find out just how well the wind reads the forecasts.

              So, morning here, nothing broke last night, Kristen is sleeping, I'm typing, John is looking around for sharks and whales, the sun is up with a crispy clear sky, water is a shiny mirror with zero wind. Not too shabby given what we started out just outside the bar at Newport!

              - rob

              May 12

              ************************************************** **
              Monday afternoon, passing Gray’s Harbor, 100 miles to Cape Flattery

              It's been a super pleasant day today as Beetle tools along smoothly through the flat water off the coast; breeze has held at 0-10 knots from the NE and N, swell is running at 1-2', and wind waves are on the order of six inches - makes for kindly traveling conditions.

              The three of us have been taking turns hanging out in the cockpit to soak up the sunshine, read books, and tell stories. John's Nikon camera lens has magically come back to life after several years of having the autofocus mechanism not work - now it works and he's amazed! Kristen has been feeling better, brought Fred (the big beanbag chair) up to the cockpit and has been mountain-peak-spotting. I've been reading, along with resting/napping and keeping track of fuel usage - so far I've run two of the jerry jugs into the port tank as the port tank is the easier of the two tanks to fill, and we're doing fine at this engine RPM.

              There has been very little marine life visible out here, apart from the Murres and gulls. We did have a couple of people-related events today, namely a huge number of triple-float crab pots set SE of the Columbia River, and the case of the mysterious drifting bulk carrier. The crab pots were set in 450-500' of water, which is real deep in the world of crab pots, and there were hundreds of the floats set about the place. There was also a longline flag that we saw, and then beyond the flag and pots was a great big blue fishing boat- at 100 foot or longer it looked like the kind of boat that would have set tons of pots out here. I called him the radio, he answered, and told me that we were seeing either crab pots or long lines, and either way the gear was not on the surface and therefore don't be worried about running into any lines. There miles and miles and miles of pot floats! We only actually deviated course for two of them, which was not so bad.

              And the Columbia River is a pretty busy port, lots of traffic in and out, including big full size container ships. We went by to the west of the pilot area, and watched on the AIS, and then later just by looking over the bow, a giant bulk carrier that didn't seem to be doing much - circles, perhaps? - at speeds reported via AIS to be 0.2 knots. I called up the Zambesi and they told me they were drifting, I told them I would avoid them, and they were pleased I was not asking them to turn on their engine and move out of the way. So we got to motor right by their bow and got some fun pictures of their ship.

              It's now around 6pm and we're organizing our gear after a decadent day of lounging in the sun, in preparation for running tonight. Fred's bag has been put away, food bags are stowed, shoes have been put in their places so we don't trip on them, and foulies and tethers and hats are being arranged so they can be found in the dark. Tonight should be our last night-run on this trip, and it would be good to go through the night uneventfully; at the rate we're traveling we should be around Cape Flattery in the daylight tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and then carry on to Port Angeles by early evening.

              - rob

              May 12

              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

     Photo Gallery


              • That boy does get around.................


                • The Further Adventures of Tiger Beetle continues as Rob and Kristen embark on their great Alaskan voyage of 2015!

                  It's a fine Saturday evening, Beetle is happily riding at anchor in 45 feet of water, and the US Customs and Border Patrol let Kristen and I back in to the country. They also took away half of our dinner (the uncooked chicken), but we perservered what with smoked BarS sausages and salad. Seems that avian flu is to blame for us having our chicken taken away.

                  The day started with a walk ashore to check out the insect population along the road-side at Montague Harbor (some particularly nice yellow furry syrphid fly bee-mimics were present), Kristen took a harbor tour in the dinghy and discovered where the Canadian Geesers and Goslings hang out (to the north side of the Montague Provincial Park, on a rock ledge that created a pool of water for them), and the wind filled. It filled rather a lot, up to 22 knots through the anchorage which is heaps more than we've had all week.

                  We upped and outed, narrowly avoiding the Queen of Nanaimo BC Ferry boat - these boats are huge, fast, white, and sneaky - they like to appear abruptly from around the rocky point/corner and are traveling way quicker than anybody else - so you have to be on your toes when BC Ferries are about. A couple of hours later we rounded North Pender Island the wind died away, leaving behind funky current-driven chop for the hop over to Roche. Whereupon we discovered an unexpected side-current traveling under the US Customs Pier, which kept pushing Beetle away from the dock - took three tries to get tied up! But they let us in anyway.

                  The interior as it looks at the moment. All our gear is stacked port and starboard behind the lee cloths, the floor boards are in temporarily, and the forward floorboard isn't even the correct floor board - but we're out having fun on the water anyway. Note that the fold-down table is no longer baltek balsa core color, and the overhead is a nice shade of new white paint.

                  We are now at anchor and have had a chance to push two of Kristen's videos to the zenfolio account, should people be interested in short clips of Tommy Transit's bus (from the inside), and the sea plane taking off as it roared past us...


                  Tommy Transit. We are driving back from the Hummingbird Pub, and the chef is the one in the back seat wearing the superman shirt and the hula hoop. He has been practising hula-hooping whilst Tommy drives folks around, and he's pretty good at it - he can stand up, no hands on the ceiling, and keep the hula hoop going for a while without falling down as the bus spins and turns around the country lanes.


                  this is what a De Havilland Beaver looks like when, on departure from Montague Harbor, it lines up aimed at you, revvs up the motor and then accelerates through the boats on its way into the air. There are big hi-tension transmission power lines on each side of the entry/exit to Montague, so the planes get airborne and then stay real close to the water until they fly *under* the power lines on their way out.

                  So we are back in the land of AT&T connectivity, and the little Sierra Wireless aircard has done the trick of getting the videos up and out.

                  Enjoy the evening!

                  by rob macfarlane

                  Read on
                  " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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