Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prep work in Spud Point

After waiting for several hours the folks at the Spud Point Marina decided to give us a hand again and take another look in their office. Surprise – the keys were easily found. And we were able to get into our boat.

It’s a Hunter 44. Humbly described by its prior owners in their online post as the equivalent of a Dodge or Ford. It’s pretty decent and gets the job done, but nothing fancy. As  you can guess, the 44 refer to it’s size – 44 feet, which is a decent size. It’s got a v-berth in the bow and a nice room in the stern. Cuno took the stern, which is good because it makes him more accessible if anything happens when he’s sleeping at night. The boat has a nice galley, with a  separate fridge and freezer, although not a lot of storage space for bowls and dishes. And it’s got two heads with showers, one for Cuno and one for me. Very nice.

The yacht’s name is Groovy. Not the best name for a sail boat in my humble option, but it connects to sailing “in the groove”, and it’s not my boat so who am I to judge. Upon arriving at Groovy I also noticed that she has a furling mainsail. This means that the sail slides in and out of the mast, instead of rising from the boom. It’s a nice luxury, because it makes it very easy to get the sail in and out, which appeals to the lazy guy in me. It also perform less well than a normal sail because it isn’t shaped in the same way, in order to fit it in the mast. Plus, it doesn’t have horizontal baffles to give the sail shape. Plus, it’s one more thing to break down, which can be a pain if  you’re trying to sail. (That’s a little literary technique I like to call foreshadowing…)

So we were finally on board. We spent some time exploring Groovy to see what we had on board. It was just a preliminary check, as the big review was to be done the next day. We made our beds. And we settled in.

By this time it was time for us to get some dinner. The food onboard was the owners, and not for our consumption, although the next day the owner kindly told us to have at it. There were two restaurants across the street from the marina. Cuno and I walked up at around 6:30 to find both of them closed. A helpful person at one of the restaurants said that you could get food across the bay, it was just a bit of a trek. We also asked for directions to a grocery store, but were told that there was nothing in the area, and that a taxi to the closest town was $50 plus. He recommended we use the deli across the bay, which also carried some groceries.

Cuno wasn’t very hungry, so he decided to pass on dinner. He hasn’t eaten much at any point so far, which is a bit odd. He’s a fit looking guy, but he doesn’t really eat anything at all. It was still early, so I decided to make the walk to the deli. It was a nice evening, and it only took about 20 minutes to get there. It turned out that there wasn’t just one deli, but three or four places to get some dinner. I did a preliminary scouting of the deli, and then chose a fish and chips place that came recommended on TripAdvisor.  The fish and chips were very good. I’m not sure what kind of fish it was, but it certainly wasn’t your standard cod or halibut. I picked up a bottle of Blue Moon beer for the walk back to the boat and headed back.

It was a nice evening on the harbor when I returned. Cuno and I hung out on Groovy and had a chat, then called it a night. Earlier that evening I had been texting with my sister and she had wanted to know if I was OK, because there seemed to be a lot of issues. I had told her that even if it sounded like some things were challenging, I was very happy. It was good to be on the water and in this beautiful place.

The next morning, July 20, started, as all mornings do, with a pressing need for coffee. However Cuno isn’t a coffee drinker. He sticks to tea. And in all my searching through our kitchen I hadn’t come across any tea. An odd thing, since Cuno’s preferences aren’t actually all that odd. Additionally, the only coffee was of the Folgers variety, and we didn’t have a coffee maker, so I went off to get us beverages at the nearby restaurants. Bodega Bay in general and Spud Point Marina are big commercial and recreational fishing areas, and the fisherman were already out telling their fisherman’s tales. Coffee was easily found. Tea, not so much. The first restaurant’s spigot was broken, so they couldn’t pour hot water. The second had green tea, but had to search for some black stuff after he made me a couple of breakfast burritos. After a good search, no tea was to be found. I went back to the broken spigot place to ask if I could just have a tea bag, no water. After a good search their they gave up too. Cuno would not have his tea. He’s a good natured type and took it in bewildered stride, but still, you’d think you could get a cup of tea. A few minutes later I had an epiphany – there was a gas station a few minutes further down the road. I told Cuno I had one more option to try and headed down the dock. This gas station was the most beautiful example of a small town gas bar, broken down and beaten up, but with two super friendly and helpful people behind the cash register. And, they had tea. I bought a couple of bags and made my way back to an appreciative skipper. He didn’t eat the burrito I brought back for him, a recurring theme, but he embraced his tea heartily.

The day was to be spent checking, testing, victualing, and generally just giving Groovy a good run through prior to setting sail. We dug through every locker, hatch and opening on the yacht to ensure we knew exactly what was there. A note to any potential smugglers out there who want to hire Cuno’s company to get stuff across a border – don’t even try it. He’ll find it. Cuno has the longest check list I’ve seen to ensure that we have reviewed every aspect of the yacht. Everything may not be on the boat or in proper working order, as we discovered, but at least we know what we’re dealing with.

We spent a good amount of time with the engine, since the winds are not looking in our favour so we’ll be under power a lot of the way. It appeared all good, with lots of spare filters and impellers. Cuno also had me go through every hatch from stern to stem of the boat, to inspect all the hoses and the various places where there are, essentially, holes in the boat, to make sure that everything was properly clamped and secured.

Next up was an inspection of the rigging. We reviewed every line, to make sure we knew what it did and that they were all in good order. Since winds in the harbor were very light we were able to let out the genoa and then give the main a shot. The furling main proved tricky, because it kept getting jammed. Then, when thought we’d got it all out, we looked up and it was all bunched up at the top. Something was preventing us from getting it all the way out. Cuno didn’t think twice about it and said “So one of us will have to go up there.” He enquired about my experience hoisting someone up a mast, and I told him I never had. So he decided that he should do the hoisting and I should be the hoisted. A fair decision, since the hoister is more in control and responsible, although now I was going up the mast, not something I’d planned or looked forward to. Cuno was surprised that I’d never been up a mast before. I’m not sure when I would have. It’s not something the RYA includes in their skipper training programs, although they probably should.

Cuno, bless him, had a super bad-ass harness, rather than the standard bosun’s chair, so I had more safety than normal. We had to play around with the lines a bit to ensure we had a good back-up safety rope, but once we did, and he threw a couple of bowlines around the harness, I was ready to go up. Fortunately for Cuno we do have a nice electrical winch, so he didn’t have muscle me up. I ascended perhaps less than gracefully, but I made it around the stays and spreaders, checking out the various attachments on the way up, such as the wind speed indicator. All looked in order. When I made it to the top I grabbed the sail and yanked it out, millimeter by millimeter. Eventually it came free, without me having to do any extra acrobatics that I was dreading. It was extremely creased, which gave the impression that the sail hadn’t been fully out of the mast for quite some time.  Cuno let me down, with me only straddeling the wires connecting to the mast in a most awkward way twice on the way back to the boat. I got my feet back on deck and released the harness with relief. Cuno provided a congratulatory high five, which I appreciated. I was no longer a mast climbing virgin.

After the rigging we checked the lights. Our red port side LED was out, and that bulb seemed like a real specialty item not easily replaced. There were a few other things missing, so I went through the rest of the hatches hoping to find them. I didn’t have much luck. No replacement nav bulbs. Terrible life jackets. Coast Guard approved, but not the very nice inflatable ones that you can wear all the time on board, which I would have been much happier with. No safety lines, for tethering yourself to the boat in case of bad weather. And limited spare lines. So a few deficiencies, but nothing that was going to prevent us from leaving the next morning.

Oh yeah. One element I forgot to mention. I had originally said there were to be four on board including Cuno and myself. It turned out to be just two of us. The fourth never seemed to be in the plans, and the third bailed on the trip the day before. It appears he got cold feet. It’s really too bad, because three people would make for much more reasonable shifts. 3 hours on 6 off, or 2 on 4 off. And much more pleasant at night. I’m annoyed by the guy who bailed at the last minute. Not a very classy move. But I suppose that’s what happens when you rely on volunteer labour.

I also did a quick inspection of the exterior of the hull. We let our dinghy into the water and I paddled about with Cuno’s camera, taking photos of any existing hull damage. The owners seem great from what I can tell of Cuno’s interactions with them, but you don’t want to arrive at your destination with them claiming that there was damage caused on the way. With that documented I next topped up all the water tanks. Two were showing full, with the third empty, but now we were full on all the tanks.

That was about it for our boat inspection day. It sounds pretty straightforward, but it had been a good solid day’s effort. We took a short break and then we were going to head off to dinner to the same area where I’d had the fish and chips the day before. Cuno also wanted to buy a celebratory drink, for my losing my mast virginity. We stopped to eat at a place called The Birds CafĂ©, so named because this is where Hitchcock filmed the movie The Birds back in ’63. I’ve never seen the whole thing, but I know it’s one of his greats. I’ll have to see it when I get back on land. I had fish tacos, which were very good, and juice. Cuno had water. This guy…

After dinner we tried to go for a drink. But none of the restaurants in the area sold anything other than beer and wine. I’m a beer guy, but Cuno prefer’s rum and coke, and the only place to get that was further down Highway 1. We weren’t about to make the walk, so we went grocery shopping instead. We went to the deli and picked up almost everything we needed. The options weren’t great, but we did the best we could under the circumstances. We’re also aware that meals are going to be prepared whilst underway, which makes fancy cooking much more challenging. We’ll be better off with things we can just throw in the oven to cook.

One more deficiency on this yacht that I didn’t mention before. Normally there’s a piece of metal on top of a boat’s stove that allows you to secure pots and pans while underway, so that you can boil a kettle without worrying about the kettle falling off. We don’t have one of those. It’s a little thing, but it may make a big difference.

The little store did have a liquor section, so we picked up a bottle of rum and some Coke for a celebratory drink back on the boat. There’s no drinking once were underway, since we’re on three hour shifts the whole time and you’ve got to remain sharp, but we could have one tonight. We had brought backpacks with us for the groceries, since there are no taxis in the area, and we loaded them up and hoofed our way back to the boat. We unloaded, poured a couple of drinks, and settled into the cockpit to enjoy a sunset and a beverage. It was a very nice ending to a hardworking day.

Some photos of the marina:

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