Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eureka to San Francisco

Eureka was a great place to spend a few days, but Dan and I both began to yearn for a bit more action, at sea and ashore. We did have a great time on our last night in Eureka and went to an art gallery to see the band, Scout Niblett. Scout herself was a slight, unassuming young British woman, very cute, with baggy sweatpants and floppy cowboy boots, who had a beautiful voice, and would mesmerize the small town crowd by singing sweetly while strumming her electric guitar a bit, only to suddenly let loose mega-amplified meaty chords that collectively moved all hairlines back a few inches. Why this soon-to-be sensation was in Eureka, I don't know. We may go see her again soon, as I think now she's in SF. Anway, we somehow managed to get up before dawn the next morning to catch slack water (not a drink) at the Eureka bar . (Bar crossings can be very dangerous as during an ebb current the ocean swells curl and break like surf and can capsize anything but the biggest boat) Past the bar, it was as we expected, large swells and a slight breeze, from unfortunately, the south. We stopped motoring just a few minutes past the entrance jettys to check on the source of some mysterious water appearing down below, and with the boat wallowing the the swell, I immediately had a "cleansing experience" over the side. The end of my sailing career flashed before my eyes, but in a few mintues we were going again, and I steered for the next several hours as we motored and began to feel much better. After we rounded the feared Cape Mendocino, the wind began to build, and our latest "first night out gale" had begun. Our timing is getting consistent at least! We could have waited another day for this small front to go through, but ashore, 25 knots sounds like only a slight breeze, but when you're out there, it all feels like 35, and the waves happily heap up and start to slap the boat around. We were ready to get going, so when its time to move on, you just start moving, damn the torpedoes. It was another long night of going slow, bad visibility, and taking cold spray down the neck of your jacket. Water was forcibly injected into each previously hidden leak in the deck, and almost everything down below was wet. It wasn't as bad as our first night out from Neah Bay, but we were excited for it to be over. At around noon the next day, the wind began to slack off and the waves began their seemingly interminable process of laying down. Wouldn't you know it, the wind kept on dropping down to nothing, and the motor was started to keep something productive happening and not just the maddening lurch to each wave. It was a beautiful sunset, and a clear night, with more porpoises swimming alongside the boat all lit up from phosphorescence. The next day there was not a cloud in the sky and the waves finally responded to friction and gravity and flattened out. The motor purred on and on and I watched the sun blink on from under the horizon, and then amazingly only a few hours later, fall back into the sea. In the time in between, we aired out all the wet gear we could and spent quite a long time just watching the mountains, and rafts of kelp float by. One thing I've always loved about calm weather is that its much easier to see any disturbance on the surface of the ocean. Whales and porpoises and even jellyfish seem to come out in flat seas, but really they were there all along, now its just possible to see anything that touches the surface for miles. We did a slow, cruise-by of the desolate Farralon Islands, and then drifted a bit to wait for slack current at the Golden Gate. As we drifted, a NW wind finally began to rise and we hoisted full sail and set a course for a spot in the haze where the long awaited Golden Gate loomed. It was a fairly intense evening of dodging containerships and finding our way past fourfathom shoal. Only a few miles from the gate the breeze slacked a bit too much and we dropped sail and resumed motoring into the Bay. Crossing under The Bridge, was very exhilirating and every bit the moment we had imagined. It was probably my 13th time passing under its span, but this was the most beautiful and imposing the bridge has ever looked. Its colossal height and breadth have never seemed more like a miracle, with the tops of each tower piercing into the fog. We secured a dock in South Beach harbor and Dan dragged me out to the Mission district in soggy jeans to roust out what adventures might still be had that night. Now I've secured my new permanent table at the South Beach Cafe, a 100% Italian experience, and the sun is shining and we are feeling that a bit of pressure has been relieved, as Mexico is still waiting for us, and winter can come and the harsh Pacific can churn away up north, as long as it sends us a few long days of NW wind in a few weeks. Thanks to any and all who have followed along or offered words of encouragement. If you're in the bay area, drop us a line and we'll have plenty of time for a warm, dry, night out in this wet, foggy harbor.

The dreaded Cape Mendocino Boys, barking at us and playing King of the Hill on the Cape Mendocino Buoy, with Cape Mendocino behind. This band of local thugs was not too pleased with our visit, and motivated us too keep going.

On deck, watching the sun set, thinking too much about land, and life. Scout Niblett and normal life seems another dimension entirely, so distant from this lonely world.

The Porpoise Show. They've been visiting us regularly. Its most impressive to watch them at night when phosphorescent phytoplankton lights up when disturbed. A swimming porpoise will appear as a streaking torpedo of light zooming in toward the boat. When the water is clear and the night is dark enough, you can see a perfect outline of the porpoise, sparkling and shimmering in the most eery and inspiring display. Its as if the ocean has a whole new sensory option, with motion producing its own light.

SE Farralon Island. Pirate haven.


DM said...

SE Farralon Island. Pirate haven.*

*Bad place to swim... great whites go chomp chomp chomp

DM said...

Nic & Dan,

Congratulations on making it to San Fran! I was watching the NOAA weather online the past few days and saw the small craft warnings.

I was definitely wishing you the best.

I keep feeling this huge draw to quit my job and come join you until I read about Nic donating his dinner to the ocean. :)

Seems like you boys have passed the worst of it. Going to stop in San Diego before gettin your Corona on?

Say "hi" to David and Danielle for me.


Capt. Nic said...


I did chum the waters off of SE farrlon with my slimy body just a bit, mostly as a statement to those purported great whites and others that we will not lead quiet "safe" lives in living rooms, watching TV all day as fear mongering discover channel producers scare us into not going into the water and living life.


steph said...

Hey Nic
thanks for your excellent log. It's good to have part of one's spirit skimming the Pacific ocean while going about one's daily chores in grimy London.

Saw Gen and Avi for dinner a couple of weeks ago and they had plenty of stories... I'm hoping you will be around to teach my boys (and me and Brian) some sailing when we finally visit Seattle.

Have fun in SF and say hi to my sister and co when you see them.
Take care
yr London relative Steph

Capt. Nic said...

hi steph, thanks for following along! I've had a great time here in SF catching up with your sis. Its going to take me a bit to make it there up the Thames so dont' expect me any time soon. my email is actually so feel free to drop me a line there. Hope to meet up with your family wherever our paths do cross. cheers, nic