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Birgit has posted new photos under the “Pics” link – a Monterey Bay album – check it out!
October 10, 2014
Yesterday we spent nearly five hours at the Monterey Aquarium. We started with the sea otters – who could resist – and it was their feeding time. Amazing animals, so hyperactive that they eat a quarter of their body weight every day – more or less the equivalent of 20 large pizzas for a medium-sized person. They are smart, playful and engage with the people on the other side of the glass. Their cheerful looking faces kind of overpower the fact that their closest land relative is the weasel. We were lucky enough to also see some in the wild on our walk to and from the Aquarium.
What stopped us in our tracks, though, were the octopi. Three large animals, in separate tanks, and each seemed to want to put on a show for the spectators. They climbed the windows, aiming their intelligent looking eyes at the gawking kids and adults clustered around the glass. One of them gathered up his arms and jetted across the tank with surprising speed and grace.
It’s a great experience. The open ocean and kelp forest tanks are huge, with big Bluefin tuna, sturgeon, and hundreds of other kinds of fish, some of which routinely live for a hundred years – including the varieties of rockfish that I used to gleefully catch as a kid. One large species, the Sheepshead, starts out female, and at maturity changes into a male – if there aren’t already too many males around. We overheard a dad explaining this to a couple of shocked looking kids, who wandered off, apparently deep in thought.
It was also very interesting to see the graphs and historical data on the sardine fishery. Sardine canning didn’t really get going in Monterey Bay until about 1910, but in the following 20 years “Cannery Row” had sprung into full bloom, with thousands of immigrant workers gutting and canning millions of sardines. Until the advent of unions in the late thirties, wages ran around 25 cents an hour, conditions were awful, and the hours extremely long.
Mechanization and the improvement of fishing techniques and equipment vastly increased the efficiency of the fishery and by 1941 Monterey processed nearly two million tons of sardines a season – despite clear and constant warnings that overfishing was endangering the resource. “Economic and political considerations” the exhibit says, prevented any action to manage the fishery sustainably. Sound familiar, thinking about climate change? By 1945 the sardine population had collapsed, and within ten years Cannery Row was a wasteland of derelict, frequently burned-out factories.
“Doc” Ed Ricketts, the marine biologist and friend of John Steinbeck’s immortalized in “Cannery Row” and other writings of Steinbeck’s, had warned constantly of the dangers of overfishing. In 1948 he was asked, “Where did all the sardines go?” “Into cans,” he famously replied.
The only upside of the story is that so much capital was invested in mass production equipment – in the factories and at sea, that the sardines became “economically extinct” before they became actually extinct. These days the population has recovered somewhat – at least to the point that humpback whales are a common sight in Monterey Bay, drawn there by the relatively abundant supply of food. Labor cost in the US is “too high” to consider a reopening of large scale canning in Monterey, since even with all the mechanization, it’s still a very labor intensive industry.
The story of the Grand Banks cod fishery is much the same, and buffalo, and teak – and I’m sure you can think of many other examples – from topsoil in the US Midwest to petroleum, or the atmosphere. Capitalism is not good at planning, whatever its other virtues may have been at various times in its development.
October 8, 2014
Talk about indecision! We are reversing the position taken in yesterday’s post – after looking at the weather reports this morning and thinking about our schedule. We’ve decided to hang out in Monterey for several more days, maybe through Tuesday October 14.
The moorage is inexpensive here, the town is a treat, we haven’t made it to the Aquarium yet, and there is a monster (hurricane force) storm up north that promises big swells this weekend. So, here we will sit for a while. Hannah reports she has made it to Newport, where it is foggy, but will be in SF the 17th through the 20th. Lots of peddling!
Meanwhile, the vast mass of boats heading south toward San Diego for the October 27 start of the “Baja Ha Ha” is passing through Monterey and points beyond, like a pig through a python. Some 170 boats are participating! We hope that by the time we stir ourselves out of here that they will have gone on well past us. Anyway, we are not in a hurry… Nice for a change, and we recommend it highly.
October 7, 2014
Sorry, we’re aware that sitting in a marina doesn’t make for the most exciting reading, but we’ve been watching the string of hurricanes moving through Mexico, and we’re quite pleased with our determination to kill enough time in California to not enter Mexico before the unofficial end of hurricane season on November 1.
We’ll leave tomorrow to head on further down the coast – moderate northerlies and a little fog in the forecast. Our next stop will most likely be the small bay at San Simeon – just down from the Hearst Castle – and our first anchorage on the trip. But if there is much swell coming north from (now tropical storm) Simon, we may head straight to Morro Bay.
We’ve had a great time in Monterey, seeing friends and family, eating and drinking well (maybe a little too well, but that will improve) and resting up after the trip south from San Francisco. Birgit recovered from sore muscles after wrestling the tiller around on the way south and has been running (!), and Syd has been reading, cooking and going for the occasional walk… We also found a very cool, old fashioned, pool hall in downtown Monterey. Oh, and we saw the movie “Tracks” last night, which gets two thumbs up!
Take a look at the “Pics” tab if you haven’t yet. Birgit has been working on getting some photos posted.
October 1, 2014
It’s so easy to really psyche yourself out, sitting in a marina and listening to the wind howl in the rigging! That’s what we were doing in San Francisco, sitting under overcast skies and reading marine weather forecasts for 15-25 knot north winds in the very area we had to traverse to get to Monterey. It’s only about 90 miles, but the entrance to the San Francisco Bay is such a cauldron of weather, we just couldn’t make up our minds.
But, Tuesday morning we decided to give it a shot. Serafina is a strong boat, and 15 to 25 knots is not much more than typical trade winds – only colder in this part of the world. Most important, we’d be going with it. So, we pulled out of the SF Municipal Marina about 10:00 in the morning to ride the ebb out of the Bay.
Hah! We had five knots of SW wind on the nose for the first four or five hours. Motoring along, grumbling about weather forecasts, we tried to sail without any luck at all. We were also in a big NW swell. But just before dark the forecast began to become through. After trying to sail dead downwind, listening to the main bang hard against the preventer, we came to our senses and tacked out to sea on a broad reach. Pretty soon we were bowling along at seven and eight knots. What a blast! A lot of work too, with Birgit and I alternating on the tiller at one hour intervals.
No sleep, but brilliant stars and a favorable wind, with a wonderful boat. We were never worried, just tired, and realizing that we’ll train some muscles in the course of this trip. About 2:00am Birgit found that lining up Orion’s belt with the port side shrouds was a perfect aid to navigation – for a while. I rediscovered what a really cool drug a strong cup of coffee can be.
So now we are in sunny (!) Monterey, planning a bit more boat work, some leisure time and further planning of the next steps. We’ll see some friends, including my step-sister and her husband, and will look forward to Hannah joining us in another two or three weeks.
September 28, 2014
Those who have been following our location on “FindmeSpot” will have been a little bored for the past couple weeks. But we’ve finally moved! This morning we motored from Vallejo to the San Francisco Municipal Marina as the first step toward pushing off Tuesday for Monterey. Some stiffish north wind is forecast for the coming week, so it should be an exciting ride.
Vallejo was, maybe a little unexpectedly, a wonderful place to rest up and catch up on boat projects and re-stocking – most of which was greatly aided by the car generously provided by our friends Bitsy and Ove. I’ve known them for, gasp, some 50 years, and have yet to find a fault in either of them. Not that I spend all my time looking for people’s faults, but still… We had dinner with them last night, and wish them the very best, with lots of gratitude.
The town itself, and the area around it, were a pleasure too. It’s one of those “post-industrial” towns. It was hit hard by the closing of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1996. Real estate values plummeted, unemployment soared, the city government hovers on the edge of insolvency, but people are friendly, there is a sense of solidarity in the face of adversity, we found an eccentric little marine store with some things we needed at great prices, and the farmers’ market was loaded with wonderful produce and fruit, including perfect vine-ripened tomatoes. The tomatoes went into salsa Mexicana and a pasta sauce of fresh tomatoes and basil. It was all capped off nicely when the marina astonishly decided not to charge us for our second week of moorage.
We made great progress on the list of boat things to do; including bottom paint, a new main sheet, new fenders and, not least, getting the propane cooking system fully functional. Even some more mundane things, like replacing the two pairs of my Levis (out of four) that burst through the knees in the first couple weeks on the boat. Birgit got her camera, and we’ll see results from that soon.
The next challenge will be completing all the paperwork now required to enter Mexico with a boat. We’ll need visas, and a “Temporary Importation Permit” for both the boat and the dinghy. Reportedly, all this can be done on line. We’ll see. You may have noticed that this has been a particularly active Mexican hurricane season, so we won’t be pushing to advance our departure from California, still set for around November 1. We’re greatly looking forward to the arrival of my daughter Hannah, who will be part of the crew on our travels in Mexico and Central America.
September 24, 2014
No rousing sea stories today – instead we got in the car generously provided by our friends Ove and Bitsy and drove up to the Jack London State Historical Park, in Sonoma County’s “Valley of the Moon.” I’ve always wanted to go there, and the dry but well forested landscape alone made it worth the drive. Most everyone knows a something about Jack London, as I do, but the visit to his ranch altered my view of him a little. Mostly, it emphasized what an incredible dynamo of energy he was. He bought the ranch in 1905, and in the eleven years after that, until his death in 1916, he established himself as an inventive and thoughtful agronomist, had a boat built and sailed it from San Francisco to Australia, wrote a substantial portion of his work, established a salon without a par on the West Coast and conceived of and almost completed the construction of an amazing 11,000 square foot house, made of lava rock and peeled redwood logs.
A lifelong socialist, London resigned from the Socialist Party in 1915 because, he said, of its lack of commitment to the class struggle. He had previously been a member of the Socialist Labor Party, but had resigned from that when he concluded that it had lost its fighting spirit. An extremely complicated product of the mixed bag of early 20th century west coast radicalism, London, at one point said, “I write only to be able to buy another 500 acres for my Beauty Ranch.” One of the most impressive aspects of the visit to the ranch is the meticulously maintained office where he wrote, and the sun porch where he died – perhaps of alcoholism and a rich diet, or maybe because of a lingering bacterial infection he picked up in the South Pacific (yaws), or maybe the treatment for the disease, or a combination of them all.
His oldest daughter, Joan London, herself a passionate socialist throughout her life, wrote and interesting biography of him called “Jack London and His Times.” It’s hard to find and out of print these days, but well worth reading, both for the biographical information and to understand the complicated character of the radical politics of the time. A great day, some long walks, and so nice to know more about an old friend. I still think “The Sea Wolf” is one of the best structured novels I’ve ever read.
September 23, 2014
Here’s something different – a “special interest” post. These will appear from time to time, and are primarily for the technically obsessed. You know who you are!
As some already know, we began noticing propane issues on the boat as we began to do more serious cooking on board – more or less coinciding with our departure from Seattle – although we seem to recall that the oven let Andy and/or Luis down on at least one occasion after a race. And the barbecue has been weird for a while, not providing its original blow-torch equivalent output of heat. Intolerable! But given my very limited knowledge of propane, a daunting problem – there are so many elements in the system: tanks, valves, connectors, “OPDs”, Excess Flow Controllers, the solenoid, the regulator, and then the stove itself.
Fortunately, trying to barbecue a couple steaks last Saturday provided some inspiration – the barbecue got only slightly hot – it took twenty minutes to get the steaks less than raw – and, ta da, the barbecue has its own regulator. So the main regulator was not the problem – it was something between the tanks and the regulator. After web searches and calls, I ran across a guy who works for a big propane distributor about 15 miles from Vallejo who was interested in the problem.
This morning I took the entire system, minus the stove and the barbecue, to their shop. In an hour they had found the problem. The ancient hoses leading from the tanks had “Excess Flow Controllers” in them that, from age or corrosion or whatever, began to regard anything above a trickle as excess flow. As a result, running one burner on the stove was ok, but anything more than that – forget it. In a small side drama, the solenoid wouldn’t work in their shop, for whatever reason. We were able to locate a distributor who will overnight one, and it will be put back into the system on Thursday. In the meantime, everything is working just dandy – and we are turning off the propane manually rather than electrically when we don’t need it.
I learned a lot about propane hanging around and watching the guy work on the system. One little detail – there is no polarity concern on the solenoid – negative or positive, who cares – and that’s official, from the manufacturer. Another interesting little detail is that cylinders, especially small ones, are routinely overfilled, despite the “Overfill Protection Device.” OPDs, and I saw one, are cheap little plastic thingies that break all the time, especially if the cylinder is subject to lots of motion (think, waves). The guy (Arron, by the way) gave me a little fitting to stick in the tank if I’m concerned – to open the valve and see if liquid comes out. If its ok, clear gas will come out. If it’s a foggy cold spray, that’s liquid propane, which should be bled off until it turns clear (not in an enclosed space…). That’s it.
I hope most posts will be of more general interest, but you know, it’s a boat. Always Something.
September 20, 2014
Okay, here we go. This is largely test content, to get the page set up. With enormous help from our friends Andy and Anita, we made our way down the coast from Seattle from the San Francisco Bay Area, where we will be until around the 1st of October. Those who follow the weather will have seen that the East Pacific (Mexican) hurricane season is nothing to be taken lightly. As a result, we won’t be leaving California for points south until November 1.
This has given us time for friends and family in California, boat projects and a little exploration. We’re based in Vallejo – a friendly little town in the northern Bay, and we have a car thanks to some good friends here. The exploration has included a trip up to Napa, notable for great wine, good food and, lately, earthquake damage.
Typical of the dark side of boating, it wasn’t more than three hours after a rousing send off from our slip in Seattle until we discovered that our new radar wasn’t working. Joe Miller of Miller and Miller Marine came up to Port Townsend on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend to get us going again. Thanks Joe! Finishing the repair required a new part, which was sent to us here in Vallejo, and all systems are now boomps-a-daisy.
To follow our location, you can go to this website (which maintains data on our movements for the past seven days): http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0PUkEtQa3NP5gJonJmiCS0OunmO56Eh7U