We arrived in San Diego on November 17 after two days and two nights of non-stop traveling from Morro Bay and a total of about 14 days actual travel time from Seattle. (Some of those travel days were full twenty-four hour days, while others were days spent traveling with a night at the dock or at anchor.) The rest of the time since we left we have spent in port. Silhouette has gone 1,046 miles since she left the dock at Eagle Harbor! When we arrived in San Diego, we tied up at the Public/Transient dock next to the Harbor Police dock on Shelter Island, but today we moved Silhouette to Half Moon Marina. The marina is in close proximity to the marine services we'll be using while in San Diego (we are back in project mode!) and within walking distance of grocery stores, etc.
First on our agenda was catching up on sleep. Yesterday, we washed down the boat, went over the project list and visited with my mom. Patrick also went to Village Marine to test our watermaker and learn the ins and outs of it first-hand from the Techs there. We were happy to find that the membranes were still good and we could keep the new ones we purchased as spares.
The first day out of Morro Bay was a bit of a rough ride, with large swells from the gale that had just passed. However, the ride was not intolerable; we never saw gusts above 21 knots (there was a steady 15 knots most of the time); and we got in some sailing. After rounding Point Conception, everything flattened out and we had to motor the rest of the way.
Going through the Santa Barbara Channel was like visiting the Land of Oz, with so many oil rig platforms lit up like so many Emerald Cities.
We encountered a huge amount of shipping traffic in the Santa Monica Basin (Huntington Beach/Los Angeles area) and the San Pedro Basin. Some night watches are more interesting than others, and I had one of my more interesting series of watches during this stretch of coast. Sure, it's peaceful and beautiful cruising along under the Milky Way with the soothing sound of wavelets lapping at Silhouette's hull...so soothing, in fact, that it often has the soporific effect of a lullaby. Sometimes, it's easier to stay awake if there are other vessels to pay attention to. There are no shortage of these in southern California, and on our transit to San Diego, we encountered some unusual situations.
On my first watch, it was not a vessel, but a whale, that first came alongside the boat. I heard a loud blow right next to the boat. Whale!... or dolphin? I thought. A second loud blow: Definitely whale! I moved to the helm to slow the boat down. The third blow was followed by the back and dorsal fin of the whale as it dove about 30 yards off the starboard side. I didn't see it again and maintained the boat's heading and speed.
The next challenge was identifying a huge vessel, the size of a city block or large aircraft carrier, which was obviously right on our course. I saw the vessel ahead, but it didn't come up on our AIS (Automatic Identification System) immediately, so I could not tell what the vessel's heading or speed was. Sometimes it appeared to be moving west, but other times it looked like it was off our bow. I didn't know whether I would have to change course to avoid the vessel or not. We got closer and closer, and the vessel still wasn't coming up on the AIS. Finally, I woke Patrick for assistance. About the time I was coming to the conclusion that the vessel wasn't moving, it finally popped up on the AIS. Patrick noted that the bow was pointing in one direction, but the vessel appeared to be traveling in the opposite direction. He suggested that the vessel was drifting, which made perfect sense. We altered course to steer clear of the unpredictable behemoth. As we drew closer, Patrick noticed that the vessel was displaying two stacked red lights: the sign of a vessel not under command. (That means they probably had a watch present but were unable to control the ship.) They might have had engine trouble or trouble with steerage. After I went below and Patrick began his watch, the Aries Explorer finally got underway and its AIS signal reported its destination was Singapore. The AIS data also indicated it was carrying "Class A, IMO Hazardous" cargo. That translates to "International Maritime Organization, Dangerous Goods, Explosives." Apparently, the wide berth we gave her was warranted.
On my next watch, about three hours later, I noticed yet another vessel right on our course. A naval vessel had been making announcements on Channel 16 about performing maneuvers at a certain latitude and longitude. We were approaching these coordinates. The vessel was making a series of repeated starboard turns as outlined in their broadcast. Again, I woke the skipper, who decided to make radio contact with the vessel. The warship reported they were concluding their maneuvers, and it was safe to pass astern of them. All was well, but that's just not a situation one expects to run into at three o'clock in the morning! (There was also another navy vessel nearby conducting maneuvers "with small arms fire" and advising mariners to maintain a 5 NM distance!)
We will be staying in San Diego for about a month in order to finish some of the boat projects we didn't get done before the weather window closed in Seattle. We will also spend Thanksgiving with my family. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!