Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and more recently, our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded the boat (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016 Sockdolager found new owners, and we are now enjoying Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. We are currently cruising in Canada and Alaska, and hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

San Francisco Bay Odyssey, Part 3

The views from Angel Island are spectacular.  You can see one span of the Golden Gate on the left, and the entrance to Richardson Bay and Sausalito on the distant right.  To the near right is Tiburon.

The migration will resume shortly:  People are starting to wear sweaters, geese are honking overhead, and it’s time to get moving again.  We’re back in Sausalito, doing some boat projects before heading out to sea after the coming weekend.

Next stop will be Half Moon Bay.  When we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, we figured the stay in San Francisco Bay would be two, maybe three weeks.  It’s been six.  Whoa!  Why does time speed up so much when you’re having fun?

This Sausalito, housemansion, begged to have its picture taken.  

Fun with writing:  Our Bay Odyssey has been so good, in fact, that our new friend and cruising sailor Ladonna Bubak, who is also the editor of Latitude 38 magazine, asked Karen to write about it.  The article will be published in the next issue.  Woot!  The highly recommended web site called Women and Cruising is publishing Karen’s article called “A Sea of Meaning:  How the Sea Changes the Sailor.”  And Good Old Boat magazine will publish her comedy article on anchoring hijinks, called “Hee-Hawse,” in the November issue.  For Karen, writing is like coffee; if she doesn’t get enough of either, things are going to get grumpy around the old Sockdolager.  Plus, the sheer fun of seeing stuff published (and your reactions to the blog) never fades.

Even the wineries are having fun; Ladonna and Rob brought us this excellent vintage as we sit here in view of Alcatraz Island.

Fun with boatgawkers: We’ve found that a big part of cruising involves telling your story.  The better the story, the more fun, so why not make it a good one, right?  And if it’s true, wowser!  (Our stories are all 100% guaranteed-or-your-money-back true, BTW.)  Sockdolager is a cruising boat, but she’s small, and evidently very approachable.  There’s something about a small boat with sweet lines.  That she is well outfitted also attracts attention.  I swear I am not making up any of these comments:

Guy passing by on a Boston Whaler:  Oh my God, that’s a salty-looking boat!  I LOVE it!  (He stops and stares with a huge grin.)

Karen:  Thanks! We do, too.

Guy in Whaler:  No, I mean, I REALLY LOOOVE this boat.  Can’t help but smile.  I run a parts business right there (he points).  If you ever need anything at all, don’t hesitate to call me, okay?  

(Wow, people are super-friendly around here.)

Different Guy on Dock, beer in hand:  That’s a cuuuute little boat.  (belch.)

Jim, mumbling under his breath:  Whaddaya mean, cute? 

Karen, also mumbling:  Yeah, we’re gnarly.

Third Guy, strolling down the fuel dock:  Whoa!  I haven’t seen any of these on Craigslist!

Jim and Karen look at each other in amazement.

Third Guy:  That’s a real retro-lookin’ boat ya got there.

Karen:  Retro?

Third Guy:  Yeah, with those round portholes and all that wood.  I mean, lookit all that wood.  You’re retro.

Karen, mumbling under her breath:  That’s a compliment, right?

Comings and goings:  Rob and Kai on Velella Velella, an Ingrid 38 ketch, have arrived from Port Townsend after weathering a 65-knot gale that made ours look like a cakewalk.  Here's a photo of Velella Velella (which is the genus and species name for a Portuguese Man-of-war) from their blog.

The Pacific seems to be clobbering almost everyone this year; nobody we know has claimed to have an easy trip.  Some giant storm in the Antarctic caused huge surf all the way to Santa Cruz; so big that they canceled a big race because surf was breaking across the entrance bar.  Apparently it set records in Tahiti and other areas around the Pacific.  So this was a good time to keep enjoying the Bay!

Craig McPheeters of Luckness, a Pacific Seacraft 37 from Seattle, has been sailing south in 25-37 knots of wind and is approaching San Francisco as we write this.  We’re looking forward to seeing him again and are thrilled that his passage has gone so well, because he is sailing solo.  His blog is here.  Dai Nakagawa, our Japanese friend, is a week into his voyage to Hawaii, and appears to be making good time according to posts on his daily position.  We’ll miss him and hope to rendezvous down the ocean road somewhere. 

The migration of boats is in full swing on the west coast, with many headed for a rendezvous in San Diego to participate in a cruiser's rally called the Baja Ha-Ha.  Is that a good name, or what.  It starts October 23rd and they’ll sail down to Cabo San Lucas with several stops along the way.  There are biiiig beach parties with several hundred boats participating.  We’re not going to do the Ha-Ha because our boat speed is probably not fast enough to comfortably keep up with the fleet of much larger boats, and also, while we’re social, we’re not sure we’re that social. 

A gracious welcome:  Cruising boats stopping in Sausalito should introduce themselves to Ladonna and Rob, who live aboard a Pacific Seacraft 37 and make cruising sailors feel welcome.  Ladonna's contact info is listed in the magazine.

Speaking of social:  We now have a YouTube channel!  Thanks to Yvonne for suggesting it.  Jim is still working on a compilation of video clips from our passage down the coast, but we did post a clip of us performing a song Karen wrote about cruising in British Columbia, called “We Been Everywhere,” with abject apologies to Johnny Cash. 

Speaking of anchor hijinks:  We have discovered a new self-protection technique.  In Clipper Cove over Labor Day, a big Bayliner attempted to anchor directly to windward of us with a 2:1 ratio of scope to depth. (Nonsailors, this is a no-no.)  The boat dragged merrily downwind.  On their fourth try, Karen went into the cockpit and fixed him with the stinkeye.  On the sixth try, Jim came up to the cockpit, and Karen perched on the cabin top.  On the seventh try, we both perched on the cabin top like a couple of vultures and gave him the double stink eye.

This worked, and he went off to anchor on a nice lee shore behind everyone else.  Later we learned that this was, we kid you not, International Vulture Awareness Day.  How cool is that?

Sunset in Paradise Cove

Then a nice wooden Grand Banks trawler anchored directly upwind of us in very seamanlike fashion.  They didn’t drag, but committed a worse sin: They fried bacon.  A huge load of it, with the smell wafting downwind.  We were out of bacon, so Jim told them how cruel they were, doing that to a poor little sailboat.   A week later and still fresh from the bacon trauma, we anchored in Paradise Cove just before the wind picked up to gale force.

We were told that the wind blew 40 or 50 in Sausalito, but we only got 30-35 in Paradise Cove.  Still, there was a bit of swell.  This is another Dana, Carroll E, at anchor.  They're everywhere, these Danas.

Two Danas.  Figure the odds: Here's Chris Humann aboard the Carroll E, another Dana 24 that we mentioned in an earlier post.  It was too windy for him to come to our boat to dinner, but we were having leftover mystery casserole anyway, because we were out of everything.  Chris called over, “I may set up my barbecue and cook a steak, hope you don’t mind.”  O!  The agony!  But Karen replied, “Jeez, it’s a shame it’s too windy to share our fresh-baked bread with you,” thus mortally wounding the culinary advantage he’d enjoyed.  We hope the next boat to windward of us is full of vegans.

When the wind died down the next morning, we sailed alongside Chris for awhile.

THREE Danas!  The Flying Dutchman:  And then ANOTHER Dana 24 appeared around the point!  It swooped in, rocketed around our boat, and swept out again.  Was it a ghost?  No,  it was Chad Schwartz on Bambolina, and he sure made an impression in that howling wind.  He radioed that he was going to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge to watch the sunset and moonrise, and he did. 

And ANOTHER Dana owner!  This is Todd Vorenkamp, owner of the Dana 24, Morning Call.  He’s a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard (currently based in Oakland) and is also an award-winning photographer.  Hoo boy, the at-sea rescue stories he can tell!  We spent an enjoyable evening with him. 

Hospitality personified:  The Vallejo Yacht Club has our vote for the friendliest, most down-to-earth yacht club ever.  We were guests of Rob and Ladonna, who are members, and the VYC made us feel at home and welcome.

We were amazed at the level of their enjoyment of the Wednesday Night Races.  Let's just say that they are REALLY into cannon signals, and there were three starts in which to use up all that gunpowder.  Here are some slightly deafened friends enjoying the excellent dinner in the yacht club's dining room after the races.

Two more reasons to call at Vallejo:  We visited with Jim’s high school classmate and friend Monica (Hutchens) Tipton, who invited her fabulous neighbors to her house while we were there, for a mellow evening of laughter and conversation and, later, poring over yearbooks.  Karen enjoyed the reminiscing, because it seems most high school stories are the same; only the characters change.   She also enjoyed seeing photos of Jim at age 17, hubba hubba woo-woo.  We didn't get a decent photo of Monica unfortunately, but we thoroughly enjoyed her company.  

The third reason for visiting Vallejo was that our friend, former Port Townsend resident and sailor/rigger Leah Kefgen (who made most of our boat canvas) has enrolled in the California Maritime Academy, and she gave us a tour of the ship (the Golden Bear) that she’s currently living on.  She wants to be a pilot, and we think she’ll be a good one. Go Leah!

This is Leah testing out our spiffy new storm trysail deck bag with Kim at Hasse's Port Townsend Sails loft.   (This was before she moved to California.)

Leah is nothing if not thorough.  This test was an obvious success.

Here's Leah at the California Maritime Academy in front of her ship, the Golden Bear.   

When everyone's in uniform, someone's gotta salute.

Angel Island:  Although we gulped at the $30 fee for using the moorings in Ayala Cove overnight, it was well worth it.  We’ve decided to take advantage of day tours when that’s the most efficient way to catch the history and context of a place, and their $13.50 tram tour was a gem.  The island has a compelling history, and the views from the top are spectacular.  We also went for a hike on a switchback forest trail, and loved it. 

We had Ayala Cove all to ourselves for the night after the tourists and ferries left.

Messages from friends:  Our Canadian friends Marty and Mae live in Prince Rupert BC.  They don’t mind sailing their combination boat/fishing platform Wild Abandon in sideways rain (which is a good thing because that’s all they had this summer.)  They sent us not just one, but a whole series of photos and descriptions of the huge salmon and lingcod they’ve been catching and eating.  O!  More agony!  In our fishless condition, this seems positively lurid, bordering on piscatorial porn.  But hey, down here we got the good weather, behbehs!

Karen waltzing with the dancing bear in warm sunlight, not a drop of rain in sight.  Nope, not a drop, guys.

Somebody throw her a line:  Of the explanation on our efforts to heave to, our friend Virginia wrote:  “What is a scrap of genoa?  Is it some kind of sausage?”  Hmm…  let’s backtrack.  Take this sentence, from the last blog post:  “There’s that little scrap of genoa that made the boat heave to so perfectly.”  Yes, Virginia, you may be right.  If we’ve given non-sailing readers the impression that we use scraps of processed greasy meat in our rigging to “heave to” under sail, and we’ve emphasized the fact that there is a slick to windward of the boat, it may confirm their suspicions that if we just stopped doing that, Jim’s stomach might feel better.  Yes, we can see how this could happen.

Jim communing with a giant propeller.  He just couldn't find room on Sockdolager for it, dagnabit.

A serious discussion:  One of the highlights of our stay in the Bay Area was a long, free-ranging and  refreshing conversation with Douglass Carmichael, a psychologist and friend from Stanford University.  His thoughtful blog is here.  Like many, he acknowledges that it’s almost impossible to think in a context as big as the one that enwraps the world’s problems, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, so we did:  how do we (the human race) solve the most pressing ecological problems--at the top of the list being climate change--without looking at the underlying economic causes?  We plowed through a lot of topics that included who owns the air and the oceans (different laws apply, amazingly) and why do corporations always own their successes, while the public always owns their failures?  We talked about the remorseless U.S. progress toward corporate statehood, which may not have begun with the merchandising of our democracy, but is heading toward a firmer division of economic classes, where among voters and taxpayers, there can never be enough ignorance to suit some.

We didn’t come up with answers, but we did make connections.

Karen here:  I don’t normally wax political on this blog, but there is a reason.  Simplifying your life does not mean dropping out.  It means tuning out the noise and paying attention to what’s important.  Going to sea, to be in places where I’m the foreigner, is to get an education that will give me a glimpse of the extent of my own ignorance about the way the world really works.  To learn from being in new places where ordinary people, whose lives are, to me, extraordinary, might teach me what questions should be asked, and where answers should be sought.  What matters to a fisherman whose island culture is changing?  To a taro farmer?  What qualities of place can keep someone there for a lifetime, or cause them to leave?   What is the thing ordinary people love most, or fear most whose loss is unimaginable?

When I’m alone on watch under a starry sky, the size of my ego shrinks down to a blip on the galactic radar screen.  In this watery world it’s me who’s the foreigner, and that’s a good thing to be reminded of.  I’m the one who’ll get indifferently swallowed with one lapse, one slip from the utmost care and caution.  A hundred miles offshore, where these thoughts were born, the world exists only in this moment, not for me, but for itself.  The sea has the power; one rogue wave, one sleeping whale, one errant log, and life changes instantly.  Life becomes a series of moments linked together like a string of pearls; right now is a good one, but tomorrow we may get a bad one.  My senses are vivified, almost sixth-sensed.  My brain gives up its land-based worries and submits to rhythms, movement, textures, moods, smells (was that sudden fishy scent to windward a whale exhaling?) --of being, completely and without reservation, in the present.  You live out here now, comes the oddly comforting thought; you share this ocean with billions of other lives

There is a dropping away of need, because money, power, influence, fame, and excess stuff don’t mean as much when you are so humbled by the richness of simply being alive and in the world.  That’s the gift that comes from living a dream like this one.  Global warming may prove to be too much to overcome, as Bill McKibben has written, and we may lose the fight against those who would sap our lives for their own advancement.  But we still have the choice to live while we are alive.  By doing that we may even help solve some of the world’s problems. 


  1. It was really great getting to know you guys! Thanks again for the fantastic dinner aboard Sockdolager. FYI, Chris Humann sailed his Dana in the Singlehanded TransPac Race...TWICE! The dude's hardcore. Also, 'velella velella' is the scientific name for the By-The-Wind Sailor, not Portuguese Man O' War. They're those adorable little blue guys the size of a dollar pancake that float around the seas. Have a great trip south and don't forget to stay in touch!

  2. Likewise, Ladonna and Rob, it was great getting to know you both! We will stay in touch, and look forward to meeting up with you again somewhere. Yes, Chris is hard core and we expect him to keep on doing Transpacs until the Carroll E wins. (Got that, Chris?) Nice to know Rob's going to be so involved in the Transpac next time around. Glad also to hear a Velella doesn't have major stingers, too.

  3. Jim and Karen,
    What a delight meeting you in Clipper Cove, trading stories and touring Sockdolager. For the record, I do not believe Sockdolager is not fast enough to do the "Baja Ha Ha" as my wife and I did the "Sweet Sixteen" in 2009 fairing better (in my opinion) than most of the larger boats, however, I agree there is something to be said for sailing down the coast at a leisurely pace! Yesterday, I was sailing on the Bay (practicing "heaving to")and sailed into "Paradise Cove", but you were long gone. I want to write to wish you a delightful sail south. Do not forget your many friends in San Francisco. Keep us posted as to your excellent adventures. Fair Winds,
    Jay Bowden
    Little Lara
    Dana 306

  4. Jay, thank you; we won't forget our new friends. Keep sailing and practicing those skills; we will too. We've been in touch with Hasse (ordered a backstaysail), Larry Pardey, and the Gale Rider folks, and will let you know via the blog what shakes out on the efforts to perfect heaving to. It's a work in progress, but we've learned that the Dana is by no means unusual in not pointing high enough when hove to without a sea anchor.

  5. Thank you for writing this post. I enjoyed it immensely especially the " A hundred miles offshore, where these thoughts were born, the world exists only in this moment, not for me, but for itself." I just wish there was a way more of the worlds population could feel and understand that sensation. It's certainly not unique to sailors, but that's how I got to understand.