Tuesday, November 27, 2012

San Diego, California...Antsy...Part VI

We have been in San Diego since October 30th, a total of 29 days and I have to say that I am getting a little antsy to leave.  The majority of boat projects are done though there are a few more that need to be completed before we can actually leave for Mexico.  Richard has been in North Carolina visiting with his mother over the Thanksgiving holiday and I am excited about his return tonight.  While he was gone, I have been busy completing the boat projects on my list which included sanding and re-varnishing the cabin sole, applying oil to all the teak in the cabin, getting my provisioning list together (can we find peanut butter outside of the US?!), doing laundry, attempting to keep up with the massive amount of bird droppings on the deck, researching cell phone plans for when we are in Mexico and abroad...the list goes on and on.  Somehow I know we'll get through this but, like I said, I'm anxious to leave.

Not that San Diego is a bad place to be stuck; it could be worse (remember Eureka?).  The weather is conducive to getting outside boat projects done which is more than I can say about trying to get these tasks done if we were still in Seattle.  The convenience of our marina couldn't be better with marine and grocery stores located a short walk away, laundry on the premises, restaurants, and, yes, a bingo hall!  But as time goes by and boats start leaving I can't help but think that it should be our turn to sail away.  It has been fun seeing friends (shout out to De'Shaun and Chris!  Thanks for including me in your Thanksgiving plans and it was fun hanging out and cooking the bird with you both!) and socializing with our friends on Rhythm and Charra, but the time has come for us to leave.

...but dealing.
Yesterday, our friends Kathy and Tim, and their trusty sailing dog, Peanut, cranked on the engine and slipped out of the marina at 5:30 am.  I got up to see them off and helped them toss off their docklines and took pictures of their departure.  As I watched them from the cockpit of Osprey motor out of the dark marina (and into the fog), it was with equal parts of sadness and excitement.  We have buddy boat-ed down the coast all the way from Seattle, and had some great times together, so their absence is palpable. I will miss our times at bingo, hanging out on the dock between projects, and the dinners we have shared.  I am excited for them as they make their way south into Mexico and know that in a few short days Richard and I will do the same thing. Mexico is so close that on a clear day you can actually see it!  

According to my desktop counter, Richard and I have been on this trip for 2 months and 17 days and a lot has happened in that time.  Mexico represents, for me, the actual beginning of our "tentative" circumnavigation, being the first foreign port of call.  It also represents the beginning of our being less connected to family and friends in the States as our cell phones will be less convenient and our internet connections are likely to be spotty. But "getting off of the grid" and loosening these connections is part of the trip too.  I am excited by the prospect of ditching the cell phone and internet and trading them in for exploring new countries with Richard.  I've always felt that connections are not dependent on cell phones, email, blogs, etc., but rather, things that we carry with us, in our hearts and memories.  

Osprey's ready.
Leaving San Diego also represents the tangible ending of our time in the Unites States.  I'm not sure when I'll be able to hop on a plane and fly home to see my family, and share with them their celebrations; and that does cause me to stop and think about what I might be missing out on while I'm gone.  But at the risk of getting too sappy, my family and friends know that I will be thinking of them while I travel from place to place on this journey.  Hopefully this blog can provide some semblance of where I've been and what I've done along the way so that the time between visits might seem less noticeable.

As we get ready for our impending departure from the United States to foreign ports, I just want to say that I appreciate the time that people have taken to stay in touch with us by visiting when that's possible, calling and watching our blogs.  We definitely appreciate those efforts to keep us in your thoughts and hope that our posts assure you that we are safe, having fun and fulfilling our dreams.

Well, Richard gets back tonight and I really should do something about the never ending bird droppings on the boat and finish up some last minute projects.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

San Diego, California...Sightseeing...Part V

Santa Fe Station in downtown San Diego.
In between getting the boat ready for our departure south into Mexico, Richard and I have been trying to put aside some time to check out San Diego. Since our boat is in a marina across San Diego Bay from the city proper, any trip into town is an adventure that usually involves a bus, light rail and a hefty amount of walking.  I have made several of these trips out to suburban malls in search of a new backpack, animal identification guides and monkey cups.  

Monkey Cups!
What are monkey cups you ask?  Well, only the most incredible drinking vessel ever created!  When we were in Seattle getting Osprey ready to head south, we ventured into a Target one day to look for kitchen supplies and ran across these little clear plastic cups with swinging monkeys on them so we bought two of them thinking that they would make great juice cups.  Fast forward to our first port of call, Port Townsend, and the first get together between Osprey and Rhythm.  Aaron brought out a bottle of rum and the crew of Rhythm each came over with a nice glass to sip rum from as we toasted a successful trip up from Seattle.  I went into the galley to grab a couple of glasses for Richard and I and when I put the monkey cups on the table everyone laughed at the silliness of the cups.  Since that time, way back in early September, I have been on a quest to complete the set.  Well, I am pleased to announce that the monkey cup set is complete and we now have six of them on the boat.  They make excellent juice glasses but also serve as fun wine glasses or sipping glasses for stronger spirits.  And that, my friends, is the story of the monkey cups, which just goes to prove that it really is the little things in life that sometimes bring the most joy.

A rubber stamp makes anything official.
Okay, enough about the monkey cups.  But hey, what a great segue from monkey cups to monkeys and other critters at the San Diego Zoo.  Last Thursday, Kathy, Tim, Richard and I got on a bus heading for the zoo but first stopped at an office in town where we could purchase Mexican fishing licenses.  The way it works in Mexico, for any boat entering Mexican waters that has any fishing equipment on board, each crew member must have a fishing license, regardless of whether or not he or she intends to fish.  We filled out the paperwork, paid our fees and got our licenses.  I was especially excited when the fisheries guy pulled out an official rubber stamp and stamped our documents as I have read that in other countries, rubber stamps make everything "official".  We just don't have enough rubber stamping here in the USA.  In preparation for these rubber stamping adventures, Richard and I designed a rubber stamp for the boat; I can't wait to use it!

Architecture in Balboa Park.
So after procuring our fishing licenses, we started to walk towards Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.  Balboa Park is a beautiful expanse of Spanish-styled buildings, manicured gardens and outdoor art, and also plays home to several museums (check out the exhibits on Instruments of Torture at the Museum of Man or Chocolate at the Museum of Natural History!), a theater, an artist colony, sweeping views of downtown San Diego and the San Diego Zoo.  We could have spent an entire day just going through the various museums in Balboa Park but we had critters on the brain and decided to just take in the sights as we made our way to the zoo entrance.  

Critters galore here!
The San Diego Zoo has been called one of the best zoos in America and you can see why once you start walking around. The animal pens tend to be designed to maximize viewing opportunities and going through the zoo in the morning is recommended as the critters tend to be most active during the morning (well, except for the nocturnal animals, that is). 

I want to put in a caveat here regarding my thoughts on zoos.  For the most part, I don't like the idea of zoos. I mean, what would be the chances of a polar bear getting lost on an ice floe and finding himself in San Diego?  The unnaturalness of zoos, the displaced animals from all continents, confined in artificial spaces, does not appeal to me in the least.  On the other hand, zoos have evolved over the years and appear to be taking on a more critical role in a world where wildlife habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate and where poaching and other "legal" takings of endangered animals continue to this day despite international agreements meant to protect the more vulnerable of species.  That said, zoos could be the last places to see some of the more critically affected species, and efforts to assist in the reproduction of the species and hopefully, eventual re-introduction into the wild (with more enforceable regulations aimed at protecting the animals) oftentimes begins in zoos.  Enough of my soapboxing...here are some of my favorite animals seen at the San Diego Zoo.

Malayan Tiger

Giant Panda

Grevy's Zebras


North Chinese Leopard

Asian Elephant

Secretary Bird

California Condor

Mandarin Ducks

I guess you could say I'm on a Bingo roll!
I mentioned a few blog posts back that the crews of Osprey and Rhythm attended bingo at the Portuguese social club here located right up the street from the marina.  Well, last week, after a day at the zoo, we returned for more linguica sandwiches, Sagres beer and bingo fun.  This night, both Kathy and I were winners; Kathy won a consolation prize during one of the bingo rounds, and I won a Thanksgiving turkey during the holiday raffle. As next Thursday is Thanksgiving, there will be no bingo held but you can bet I will be back the following Thursday for another round of Portuguese bingo!

Monday, November 12, 2012

San Diego, California...Boat Projects...Part IV

Rebuilding the head...a messy job,
but someone has to do it
 and that someone was me.
Some might think that I am constantly blogging about various boat projects that need to be completed and wonder whether Osprey was truly ready for this voyage.  The truth is, Osprey is a sturdy, safe and well maintained vessel that is more than capable of the type of cruising Richard and I have planned.  At the same time, she's a lazy boat in that she doesn't rebuild her head (toilet), change filters, tune her engine, apply Cetol to her woodwork, polish her brightwork, complete sewing projects...the list goes on; I think you get the point.

We moved the sewing sweatshop from Seattle to San Diego.
That said, there is always something to do on a boat.  And these are really just maintenance projects; sometimes there are projects that are the result of some system failure like a clog in the domestic water system, which needs to be addressed as soon as possible and other times they are projects that we are just getting around to like making an awning for the bow of the boat so we can keep the hatches open during warm weather when it's raining. 

Nothing lifts the spirit like Cetol-ing the woodwork.
In addition, remember, Osprey is our home, and just like all of you landlubbers, we need to clean house on a regular basis, defrost the fridge/freezer, do laundry, shop for groceries (and typically lug them over a mile back to the boat)...and this, that and the other thing!  But I know that I'm not getting any sympathy from anyone reading this given that I am on a sailboat heading down to Mexico for the winter and then off to the South Pacific for the cruise of a lifetime.  Then again, for all of you out there that think that this trip is nothing more than sailing from one tropical location to another (which we will do), and enjoying frou-frou drinks with umbrellas or cold beers on the beach (which we will also do), the cruiser's definition of cruising/sailing is more like repairing your boat in tropical locations!  Okay, so San Diego isn't quite tropical, but we are getting there, and the repairs and time spent working on the boat is ongoing (Oh, poor me!).

San Diego, California...Portuguese Bingo!...Part III

Tim, Richard and me with daubers ready to go.
On our way to the lecture at the Downwind Marine store the other night, Kathy and I noticed that the Portuguese social club held bingo every Thursday night.  I think both of us may have screamed as we realized how much fun this could be. So, on Thursday, I scoped things out and found out that entrance was $21 (I know, steep on a cruising budget!), and that dinner and drinks were served all night long.  I passed this information along and Kathy and Tim decided to join Richard and I for an exciting night of bingo...Portuguese style!

Bingo action!
After paying our entrance fee and collecting our daubers and playing cards, we headed into the hall and found a table. More importantly, we found a local woman who was more than patient with explaining the various strange ways bingo is played nowadays (this isn't your grandmother's bingo!).  A linguica sandwich set me back $3.75 and Tim bought the first round of Sagres (Portuguese beer, at $2 a bottle!).  All in all, I spent a total of $31.25, which, as I mentioned, is steep for entertainment on my cruising budget.  Kathy and I had previously discussed that the cost of playing bingo was more than one night's moorage at the marina and in order to offset this cost, it was decided that who ever won would pay the rest of the table's entrance fee.  Well, as luck would have it, I hit the second highest prize of the night and won $300!  After paying off everyone at the table I still walked away with over $200.  Needless to say, I'm pretty sure I'm going back next week!

San Diego, California...Settling In...Part II

Richard waiting for his dinghy ride to the lecture.
Last week the crews of Osprey, Rhythm and Charra went to a lecture on marine communication systems held at Downwind Marine.  The lecture costs $3 per person and was adequately informative to justify this expense.  After the lecture, the six of us headed to Mitch's Seafood; Yelp! said it had good take out seafood on the cheap.  Mitch's got mixed reviews from the group but no one could deny that the beer was cold.

We were sitting around the other day wondering where we might be able to watch the presidential election results and given our experience in Marina del Rey, we thought it would be a good idea to check around to make sure we weren't left out in the cold (or usurped by sports fans!).  I did a quick check in the marina and discovered that Pizza Nova would be not only putting the results up on their big screen television but would also provide some volume so we could hear the pundits hedging and hawing throughout the night.  As a bonus, Pizza Nova has a great happy hour that we were able to take advantage of while crossing our fingers that our candidate would win. You really can't beat $4 personal pizzas and other goodies in addition to $4 draft beers.

The crews of Osprey, Charra, and Rhythm enjoying
happy hour and watching the election results at
Pizza Nova (we were not usurped by sports fans that night!).
With that information in hand, I texted everyone and relayed my findings and plans were made to head up to Pizza Nova in time to get a good seat and take advantage of the happy hour.  We all met at the bar and were soon seated at a table with a good view of the big screens strategically placed throughout the bar. We had a great time talking about our cruising plans and catching glances of the ever increasing (albeit a slow one to get going) lead our candidate was making as the night progressed.  After spending some time at the bar, we all headed back to our boat for dessert and to watch the final tallies come in on our laptop connected to a tiny rabbit ear antenna.  Needless to say, most of us where kind of shocked (and happy) when Mitt's concession speech came so early in the night.  Oh well, why drag out the inevitable?  In addition, several key initiatives in Washington also passed, which provided additional reasons to celebrate. And celebrate we did!  I broke open a bottle of champagne and the six of us toasted (1) all making it safely to San Diego, (2) success when we all head south to Mexico, and (3) Obama's re-election.  It was great to be able to take part in the democratic process even though we were miles away from home.  Thanks to Joyce for hand delivering ballots to Osprey in time for Richard and I to vote!

The next night, Joyce and Bob invited us all to their boat for dinner.  Bob and Joyce are staying at Point Loma Marina which is literally a couple hundred feet between gates. Kathy made a salad, I made some chocolate covered strawberries, Richard made a loaf of bread and Joyce put together an amazing rice penne with shrimp dish in a sun-dried tomato, pesto and cream sauce.  We had some fantastic wine, a superb dinner and great conversation on s/v Charra.

San Diego, California...Arrival...Part I

Shelter Island, San Diego, CA.
We finally made it to San Diego!  We got here about two weeks ago and have been busy getting the boat ready for our departure at the end of this month for Mexico.  We have a list of boat projects that need to be attended to before we leave; mainly to ensure that we can obtain needed parts or products as we are not completely sure what we'll be able to find in some of the more remote areas of Mexico that we plan on visiting.  

Kona Kai Marina had some pretty big boats.
The trip down from Dana Point was uneventful and without much wind so we ended up motoring most of the way.  As always, we encountered a school of dolphins that swam with the boat and provided spectacular acrobatics for us. We also noted a different species of dolphin/porpoise that I have to investigate further before conclusively stating what they were.  We pulled into Kona Kai Marina on Shelter Island in San Diego Bay on October 30th, knowing that we would be moving within a few days as we wanted to locate a marina that could accommodate us for the month of November at a reasonable price. Our neighbor at Kona Kai had recently adopted a cat who hadn't quite acclimated himself to the boundaries of his boat and Richard helped the cat find his way back to his boat on a couple of occasions.  

We spent the next day checking out the many marinas in this part of San Diego Bay. We had contacted our friends Bob and Joyce of s/v Charra and they were staying at a marina in America's Cup Harbor so after exhausting our search on Shelter Island, we headed over to where they were staying.  We spoke with the marina personnel at Point Loma Marina and then decided to check out one more marina before heading back to our boat.  It turns out that this last marina was the one we would finally choose.

Osprey at dock in Sun Harbor Marina, San Diego.
Sun Harbor Marina boasts being the first LEEDS certified marina in the world and also provided us with a monthly rate that made us both happy that we decided to check out one last marina.  So the next day, Richard and I tossed off the docklines and made the short trip over to what would become our home for the month of November.  The marina is close to a number of amenities that we were looking for; specifically, West Marine and other chandleries are within walking distance, as are grocery stores, a post office, internet cafe, and restaurants.  As an added bonus, the people we have met on the docks, some permanent residents, others on their way south too, have been very welcoming and helpful.  I am always amazed at how easy it can be to meet new people with common interests while sailing and look forward to the new friendships that seem so easy to foster.