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Oct 24: Passage from Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, to Sunroad Marina in San Diego

If you've been following the last few entries, you see that I've been joined by Sean and Sara in writing the web logs! I love to write, really enjoy telling stories, but my therapist tells me I need to share more. Plus this way I can get outside and get some sun too. They'll be writing more for sure.

The trip from Avalon to San Diego is a long one, something like 80nm, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to do a true overnight; they mess everyone up, we end up sleeping most of the next day away anyway, and it's tough to stay awake! Plus the forecast was <10kts from the Southeast - exactly our direction of travel! Ugh.

We decided to leave at 3AM, take advantage of the calm morning, and make headway by motor. I'm a morning person now - dunno when that happened - so I volunteered for the 3-7AM watch. The harbour was pretty tightly packed, so we all helped get the boat out into open water in the dark.

I've noticed it's getting harder to wake Sean up in the mornings. He now sleeps with earplugs, and occasionally with a pillow over his head. Flashlights no longer work. Even vigourous prodding has limited success. Maybe the engine noise woke him up, maybe it was my crazed muttering. Anyway, he joined us just as we cast free the mooring balls, and the three of us carefully navigated the maze of sleeping boats. We didn't want to fuss with putting Purpeat back on deck, so we towed him behind Wanderlust.

Once we were out to sea, Sean went back to bed and Sara and I hung out for a while under the stars. We were about a knot slower than we should have been for the given engine RPM and sea state, which we initially blamed on the dinghy. After some further inspection, we realized it was towing funnily, and I could just make out that the outboard was still down! Whoops, that can't be good for our speed.

We pulled the dinghy closer and tied it off, then I clipped into the dinghy, climbed on, made my way to the back, and pulled up the motor - while being towed at 6 knots! Maybe it was sleep depravation or something, but it felt very safe. Anyway, we let the dinghy out further, regained half of the knot of boatspeed, and Sara went to bed a half-hour later.

Alone, I settled into my night-watch rhythm: check the radar/gps/map, check the engine revs and temperature, scour the horizon for other boats, and kick back with some deep thoughts. It's cool to be out in the middle of nowhere, engine purring away beneath you, boat slipping through the water, with no land or man-made light in sight.

With nothing to do, it's pretty easy for your brain to wander. Thoughts come out of nowhere and brew in your subconscious while you stare at the stars. Deep thoughts. Like what's for dinner? How old is the light coming from that star? Why am I so hungry? Is the star still there? Did I eat anything recently? Is it really 3000-feet deep here? Should I get an apple?


I saw the cruise ship way before it showed up on our radar, the thing had so many lights on I first thought it was an offshore oil rig. They weren't moving quickly, maybe 10 knots, but our paths were going to cross up ahead. We motored on, so did they, and when it was apparent it was going to be close, I grabbed our 10-million candlepower light and gave them a flash.

Cruise ship


Big mofo spotlight

This thing is bright. Sara turned it on me in a wild fit of rage once - totally unjustified, by the way - and it is blindingly bright even during the day! At night it is very very powerful. I totally lost all my night vision. The coolest thing was the cruise ship reaction.

It's 4:30AM, they must have seen our huge radar reflector, they totally know we're here, and their radar system probably can calculate that they're going to clear us by a longshot, but they still must have had a watch out. I flashed them twice, one or two seconds each, and no more than ten seconds later their bow-mounted spotlight came on. It must have been motorized because they carefully walked it over to us (x & y) and gave us two flashes back.

Awesome. At the closest point we were about a third of a nautical mile apart, neither of us changed course or speed, and I felt very secure and confident. No idea who they were, but it was a pleasant experience for sure. It would suck to meet one of these big guys on a stormy night with no response. I've heard horror stories about unattended ships on cruise control at 30 knots.

The sun very slowly rose; I took these pictures from the same spot on the solar panel with a long exposure time to bring more light into the lens. You can see the slow roll of Wanderlust in motion as the sea and horizon blurs.










There were lots of other big boats, mostly container ships that must have been on their way to Long Beach or LA, North of us. None came too close. One was adrift - no kidding - in the middle of nowhere.

Container ship


Drifting! Crazy

Just as the sun came up, dolphins jumped around our bow. With the other two asleep, I had my own private fifteen minute show. Wonderful.




Sean woke up and we traded off around 8AM; Sara was up an hour later; I slept until noon and we all had a nice lunch/breakfast/brunch together.

Just before 2PM we saw a line of dolphins - hundreds of them - jumping out of the water and heading towards us like crazy! We took some photos but the distance was quite far. A few minutes later we saw a submarine! Woohoo!

Crazy dolphins!


Will and the submarine

For Sean and me, seeing the sub was as cool as the dolphins. Maybe cooler. Nuclear-powered, capable of traveling totally undetected under the water, armed with hundreds of first-strike conventional and nuclear weapons!

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Designed for a war that will probably never happen, totally inappropriate for the new 'war on terror', yet still absolutely necessary for US military domination - I give you the submarine.

How awesome cool


Sara prefers dolphins

Sara wasn't as excited about the sub - she pointed out that the sub sonar was probably driving the dolphins nuts. She's probably right, they certainly weren't playing around the sub like they were happy. It seemed like the sub was driving them forward. Dolphins be damned! That's a submarine! Woohoo!

Ok, I feel bad about the dolphins, but still, how cool are submarines? Very cool, that's how cool.

As soon as we got within cellphone range we called Sunroad Marina and secured our slip. I guess the woman who did slip assignments was dodging me, because I had to ask for the manager, and after talking to him we got a slip right away. I had been leaving her messages and sending her emails for the better part of a week!

Downtown San Diego



The rest of the trip was cool - we motorsailed into San Diego harbour, dodging military and commercial boats, found our marina, and just missed the harbour master. We were stuck on the dock for the evening. We managed to borrow a key for showers, but no shore parties today. Secure in the slip, we all slept like babies. No anchor watch, no vigilant Will waking up five or six times per night.

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