Santa Barbara - Santa Cruz Island - Ventura
November 20, 2016
Tied up in quaint and quiet Ventura marina. We had an excellent sail over from Santa Cruz island a few days ago, steady 15 knots for most of the short trip. A glorious morning, full sun, large gentle swells to keep things interesting. The marina was pretty easy to navigate, though at near low tide there were several spots that left only a few feet under our keel. Once we settled into our slip and the tide hit its lowest point we had about 6 inches under the keel. The past month we’ve made our way from Santa Barbara to Ventura with a few nights spent anchored at Smuggler’s Cove off Santa Cruz Island.
Santa Barbara was intended as a short stop to install our wind generator and solar panel. It was a classic lesson in how we continue to under estimate the time and complexity of boat projects. We had all the parts, we thought, and a clear plan for installation. Douglas had spent considerable time in the planning phase and working with E-Marine, where we bought all the parts for the project. In our minds it was as simple as clamping a few parts to our stern arch, running wires down through the stern arch, through the convenient areas under the cockpit coaming, to the quarter berth and wire in the control panel, a couple other small steps and we’d be wired into the battery bank making free electricity.
The plan didn’t go as planned. It was about two weeks of solid days working on the project, with I think 4 side trips to Santa Barbara proper, I abandoned my post twice to check out the amazing farmer’s market and felt slightly guilty until I realized as I walked into town that I hadn’t been out of the marina in days and only off the boat for the hour or so lunch break we took for fish tacos.
But the project is completed, and the electricity we are getting from both the solar panel and the wind generator, although not much, is exactly what we wanted. We have a genset, an on board diesel generator, that we can run for 50 amps of power - that will run our refrigerator, and other high demand equipment, as well as charge up the batteries. We like to run it as little as possible, and can usually get by with running it for the fridge every couple of days or so for an hour. That doesn’t fully top off our batteries, and our AGM battery bank likes to be topped off regularly. With solar and wind we can keep pace with our daily use, running the chartplotter, lights and other small electrical devices, and still top off the batteries.
Solar power had always been high on our list of projects for Tumbleweed, we just kept pushing it back waiting for prices to go down on hardware and for the technology to improve. It is the last of our intended projects for Tumbleweed, a major milestone for us. Future projects will be maintenance or repairs, replacements, etc. but we don’t have anything on the books of that sort. Which feels pretty good. We ended up installing one 100 Watt solar panel, and a 75 amp wind turbine, with a second solar panel that could be, one day, daisy chained to the first and run through the same controller.
Santa Barbara was a beautiful place to be stuck working on projects. We were at the eastern most end of the dock, looking out over the breakwater to the sea and to the east to the San Ynez mountains. The harbor dredging contraption is kept near there and is the home to hundreds of birds - pelicans, ducks, herons, gulls - including laughing gulls. The neighbors had raised a pair of mallards who had given a late season birth to a duckling. The experience was a vibrant choir of fowl. In the mornings we’d wake to the sound of the mallards honking and bleating to be fed, in mid-thought we’d be interrupted by the maniacal laughter of a gull, walking down the dock in the evening we might startle a heron and off it would go with a thunderous, cranky rant of a call. Pelicans would skim the waters of the marina, egrets would stand still on the breakwater as evening fell, their pure white glowing off the darkening rocks. It was a mesmerizing place. In the evenings, usually for an hour or so, the winds would shift from the east and we would get a wave of eye watering air from the bird community. Hundreds of birds can be a beautiful sight, but also a pungent one.
I give the Santa Barbara marina high marks for running a tight set up. They were near capacity for transient yachts when we arrived. The docks were clean and newer, and the marina staff were professional. Very few of the abandoned yachts that seem to be the scourge of almost all the marinas we visit. The boats that have been abandoned and sit there in the slip, rotting away, someone still paying the fees but never visiting the boat, keeping new folks from getting a slip and casting a sort of pall of doom over the vicinity of where they are tied up. In Santa Barbara they have a weird rule whereby the renter of a slip can sell their option to rent the space - which means that often times people selling a boat sell it with the option to rent their slip, people pay X for the boat, something else for the slip, then sell off the boat and and park their own yacht in the slip. There were slips listed for $100K…. for the right to rent the slip from the city. Bonkers.
We met a man who spent 28 years building a perfect wooden sailboat. Ken Minor built a Lyle Hess cutter, Morning Song. It is a stunning vessel, built by a perfectionist with the talent and patience to take boat building to another level. Morning Song is named for the time in day he would spend at the beach in religious contemplation, and there is something sacred about her. Webster’s defines a vessel as “a person into whom some quality (as grace)is infused”, and though some might think it a stretch to think of a vessel as a person, sailors tend to acknowledge the spirit within their boats.
Webb Chiles has written of how he “loves to enter the monastery of the sea”, Morning Song, with her perfect lines, trim almost spartan interior and glorious cabin brightwork has the feel of a space for contemplation. Running my hand over the interior’s woodwork I could grasp how a man would undertake the work of decades to be in the space of bringing such a vessel into the world.
Morning Song is identical to Taliesin, designed by Lyle Hess for Lin and Larry Pardey and made famous in their books and articles. That small boat and the couple who sailed her launched a generation of dreamers and romantics to all points of the world. The story of building Taliesin is described in “Bull Canyon” and “Details of Classic Boat Construction”. I was struck by how spacious the cabin felt and how light worked into the interior through the deck mounted prisms and small port lights.
I spent several hours over a couple of afternoons talking with Ken, part of the time on camera. At some point I’ll post a video of our conversation. I’m glad to have met him and Loretta. Inspiring people. A group is working at creating a full documentary on the building of Morning Song. They were funded through kickstarter and have a trailer for the film here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/morningsong/ken-minors-morning-song-the-film I wish them luck. It would be cool to see this story as a film.
From Santa Barbara we had a short sail over to Santa Cruz island. We dropped anchor at dusk, just as the moon rose over Anacapa island. It was the night before the full Super Moon, and the moon was massive and haunting, filtering through the various bands of color of dusk. Santa Cruz island is beautiful, barren, arid. The views from Smuggler’s cove are open, and we felt exposed, the winds died and the gentle swell was enough to keep us rolling about the time we were there. With no wind to keep us turned into the prevailing swell we would just bob back and forth. Occasionally a heavy swell would march through, tossing us from side to side, flipping plates or cups across the table, sending us lurching about, grasping for handholds, trying to balance whatever item was trying to escape what was once a level surface.
From Santa Cruz island our plan had been to sail for Ensenada, check in there and start exploring Mexico. But in the course of a routine inspection of the engine Douglas realized that we had a small fuel leak in our fuel injector pump - specifically in a delivery valve. That shifted our plans, we’d rather deal with something as complicated as a fuel pump here in California where shipping is easy and we have access to people we’ve worked with in the past. An hour after tying up Douglas was working the phones and tracked down a solid diesel engine mechanic nearby. Steve, the mechanic, has been really helpful and talked us through a few diagnostic tests we could work through ourselves.
We are pretty sure at this point that the O ring on one of the valves needs to be replaced. Steve is dropping by tomorrow with a set, and is going to show us how to replace them, and give us a set of rings to replace the others if that is a problem down the road. If all goes well we should be able to leave on Tuesday. We’ll see - our plans tend to take on a fuzzy edge when we are working on a project.
We hope to send out our next update from Mexico.