All posts by El Capitán

Back in SB!

We are back in Santa Barbara for a couple days after spending a great week on Santa Cruz Island! The forecast is calling for gale force Santa Ana winds that blow offshore from the mainland. They are suppose to kick up this evening and persist until Saturday evening. We decided that instead of getting tossed about in an unprotected anchorage, we would make the leisurely 4-5 hour sail back to sunny Santa Barbara; so far we made an excellent call :-)

We just went on a run along the waterfront. There were palm trees and mountains to the north and the beach and ocean to the south. It was beautiful and seemed like we were running through a movie scene!

We plan to spend the next day or two here before heading back out to the islands and then Catalina.

We’ll try to make some posts while here to share our experience at the channel islands. We had an amazing sail out, escorted by dolphins of course! Then we spent the night in a tight (and sketch) berth deep inside Frys harbor, then sailed to Little Scorpion anchorage for a few nights where I speared my first fish while diving!! Then we stayed a very rolly and uncomfortable night at Smugglers Cove before returning to the mainland yesterday.

Will try to upload pics and video later but may not have enough ‘down time’! We’re going to explore downtown today and then there are the obligations that get in the way like happy hour at the the endless summer beach bar ;-)

Hope everyone is having a great Friday! We miss you all!


Swimmin’ in Sunshine So Cal Style!

We made it safely to Santa Barbara yesterday and this afternoon are headed out to the islands for a few weeks before heading to San Diego. We will be diving, spearfishing, hiking and just chilling out. We may not have an internet connection for a while but we’ll see when we get out there.

Btw, this southern California weather is amazing! 10-20 knots every afternoon and then it dies to less that 10 for a good nights rest! We may stay a while :-)

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Rounding the Cape Horn of California!!

Reporting live from Ellie’s cockpit on passage from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara. Its 1:30am and the notorious Point Conception is to port. We made it to sunny southern CA!! The conditions became a lot better one we were to the lee of Point Arguello and even more so now. I am on watch and the mermaid is snoozing in the sea berth.

I just had the most amazing moment. There was a beautiful half moon rise and the I started noticing glowing streaks in the water. The water biolumineces here and there is a steady green glow from our stern. But these glowing streaks were different than anything I had seen.. I watched the blackness for them to appear again.. Then I saw one, then two, then a half dozen darting and dancing all around the boat. It was our dolphin companions!!! I clipped my tether to the jacklines and went to the bow to watch in awe as the dolphins made these green glowing streaks while they played in the bow wave. It looked much like the streamers that trail stunt kites. What an amazing spectical!!

We Shaved off 2 Degrees of Latitude!! We’re in Morro Bay!

Hey Everyone!  We made it to Morro Bay unscathed!  What an awesome passage!  180 nautical miles in 31 hours.  We pulled anchor in Half Moon Bay at noon and were tied to the mooring ball in Morro Bay right at sunset the next day…

The sea gave us a wild ride but we took care of Ellie and she took great care of us!  We sailed 90% of the passage, only using the engine for three hours when the wind died down below 8 knots.  This is monumental because the last time I came south on my previous boat, I was singlehanded, scared and less experienced so I dropped sail WAY too early and motored south on the rhumb line straight to Morro Bay.  That was a bad call and the motion was extremely severe.  Not this time!  We jibed all the way down the coast and actually SAILED here!  We are anchored inside the Morro Bay estuary getting tossed about in 30 knot winds but our anchor is holding solid!  We have the generator going and are hiding in the cabin with the heaters on.  We went for a dink ride over to s/v Follow You Follow Me (Alyssa’s parents boat.  They are sailing on the same itinerary south to Catalina Island) and in the process we saved a power yacht from grounding on the rocks!  We saw it drifting and radioed the coast guard and the harbor patrol zipped over and towed the yacht off the shore just before she was bashed against the rocks!  Anyway that was our morning … so here’s the story of the passage….

We left Half Moon Bay at noon under clear skies and in relatively gorgeous conditions.  The winds were right in the sweet spot – 13-15 knots from the NNW with a 5-7 foot long period swell and 1-3 foot wind waves.  We raised full sail and were cruising along at 6.5 knots.  The monitor windvane was steering a rock solid course and Ellie was in her zone.  We enjoyed every minute of it because we knew these conditions would not last.  The marine forecast was calling for 20-30 knots with gusts to 35 off Point Sur…

The wind started to pick up off Point Ano Nuevo so we tucked in a first reef on the mainsail…..then a second shortly thereafter.  When the wind picked up above 20 knots we rolled the jib in most of the way but Ellie was still hitting her hull speed.  We decided to heave to and drop the main.  Now for those of you who are sailors, you know to heave to on the side that puts the bow mostly into the swell….well hindsight is 20/20….and we didn’t.  Ellie was bucking like a bronco trying to keep her mast from taking a dive into the icy waters of Monterey Bay, and the Mermaid was on the foredeck holding on for dear life.  After about 8 frantic minutes we had dropped the main and tucked it away in the stack pack (sail cover on the boom).  We fell off from our hove to position and were sailing along nicely at 6 knots under a half furled jib.  The monitor liked sailing under jib alone so all hands were content and under control.  We pushed on.

We were cruising along nicely at 6 knots so I decided to put out the fishing gear.  We picked up some Salmon and Tuna lures while we were in Half Moon Bay.  We were still in less than 400 feet of water so I put out the salmon rig.  A couple hours later we were crossing the Monterey Canyon – a huge underwater canyon with very deep depths to about 2,000+ feet – so I brought in the salmon rig and out went the tuna lures!  Wish I could report the massive bluefin we brought in…but alas we didn’t hook any.


What we did see while sailing across the Monterey Canyon was better!  A huge school of hundreds of dolphins!!!  It was incredible!  They would swarm the boat and play in Ellie’s stern and bow wakes and then jump from the water!  So awesome!  The water was relatively crystal clear and we could see them to about 10-15 feet of depth.  They followed us for about 45 minutes.  It was an amazing moment and I will not forget it anytime soon.

[dolphin video to come once we get a wifi signal!]

After the dolphins went on to wherever it is they were going, we hit fog and the winds started to increase.  By this time we were about 30 miles offshore and smack dab in the shipping lanes.  I spotted a ship on the radar about 16 miles to our stern so I decided to jibe towards Point Pinos (Carmel).  After we jibed I was looking out of the cockpit on the starboard side and saw a huge whale breach and blow less than 40 feet from us!!  I yelled to Alyssa to turn off the depth sounder and threw the wheel over to port.  We didn’t see the behemoth again but it was sure scary and awesome!  See, whales can sink yachts.  It’s true.  And the popular sailors myth holds that whales are attracted to the echo-location sound that a depth sounder emits.  So better safe than sorry..  After 10 minutes and no whales in sight we turned the navigation instruments back on.

Alyssa took the first night watch and I went down below to take a nap.  I told her to wake me if she saw anything on the radar or if we deviated course.  A couple hours later I took over and she went down below for a nap.  The winds thankfully died down off Point Sur and we turned the motor on for a few hours to get south past what in the past has been a nasty stretch of the CA coast!  Once just south of Point Sur I took over and Alyssa went down below for a nap.  The winds built back to the usual 20-25 knots and we killed the engine and continued to jibe down the Big Sur coast.


About 20 miles south of Point Sur we were rockin’ n’ rollin!!  The winds picked up to 30 knots and the seas were about 16 – 20 feet!  There was an 18 foot long period west swell with 5-8 foot wind waves over it.  It made for a wild ride south under a tiny handkerchief of jib while sailing 6-7 knots!  Every once in a while we would get tossed down the face of a wave but Ellie always kept her composure and sprayed her bow wave at the passing swell as if she was splashing a kid in a pool and saying “take that swell!  Is that all ya got?!?”  haha.  The boisterous conditions became less scary and more fun and we sat in the cockpit in awe as the huge rollers overtook us.  What an incredible feeling to be out in those conditions yet in control.  I couldn’t be happier or more proud of the way that Ellie and Alyssa handled those seas.

Wild Ride

We reached the entrance to Morro Bay just before sunset and were glad to be in calm water.  We slept like rocks until 10am.  Shortly after making tea we had to slip our lines from the mooring ball because the ball the yacht club assigned us was apparently designed for a 20 foot boat.  Once the winds kicked up to 20 knots the ball was pulled enough to put our stern into the channel marker!  So we decided instead of smashing our beloved monitor windvane into the marker we would go anchor out.  We are getting tossed about but our trusty spade anchor hasn’t moved a foot!  We love that thing!  Oh, and we are anchored right next to s/v Fire Water!  We caught up to them! As you’ll remember we met them in Sausalito.  We brought them some fresh zucchini bread that Alyssa cooked.  I’m sure we will find time to catch up with them once the weather abates…


If time allows, I’ll update the blog with our Half Moon Bay adventures and our failed attempt of lying to the para anchor in rough seas!!

Hope everyone is having a good week.  Please feel free to let us know how much we are missing out on in the office / school / real life ;-)




Wild Ride Down the Coast!!

Hey everyone! Good afternoon from aboard Ellie. We have been at sea for 24 hours now and are hoping to make Morro Bay by sunset this evening. We are off Piedras Blancas about 15nm due west. Its blowing about 30 knots and we are riding down 18-20 ft waves. Its a wild ride but the monitor is steering and Ellie is sailing like a champ. A huge school of dolphins were playing in our bow wake, we almost hit a whale and have seen all variations of weather and sea state since leaving half moon bay. Pictures and video to follow once we reach port. Hope all is well in your respective worlds! Talk soon. Fair winds, Lewis

Out the Gate!

Saturday we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge for the last time until (if) we return!!

It was a typically foggy day with winds forecast to be 5 – 15 knots from the NNW.  We picked up Bob (our friend who joined us for this leg) at the fuel dock in Sausalito, had breakfast on Ellie, stowed the dink and pulled anchor.  We raised sail and were under the bridge right at slack tide at 10:30am.  The winds started kicking up to 20 knots, then 25 knots gusting to 28.  We pushed the iron genoa hard into the 4 – 6 foot swell in the potato patch and shot for a course running parallel to the deep water channel so we can avoid being run down by a supertanker.  The waves in the deep water channel were large enough to send spray from the bow to the top of the cranes on top of a huge bulk tanker that passed us about 400 yards off the port beam.

Once we passed the last green marker we unfurled the jib and were sailing a nice broad reach towards Pillar Point harbor.  We set up the windvane and let Auto (what we call the monitor windvane) steer us south.  The winds got a bit flukey 8 miles out of Pillar Point so we fired Auto and took turns at the helm keeping Ellie on course.  We tied a preventer to the boom to stop the slamming caused by the mixed swells. We set up a course to take us safely through the reef that is just offshore and were in flat water by 3:30pm.

A great sail and great visit with Captain Bob.  We are now anchored in Pillar Point harbor (Half Moon Bay) for the week.  We are looking forward to visiting with friends while we are here and finishing up some boat projects.  I also want to try out the para anchor so look for a post about that later this week!

Here are some pictures and a video the Mermaid shot under way.  Hope everyone is having a great weekend!  Cheers, Lewis

IMG_0333 IMG_0298 IMG_0310 IMG_0312 IMG_0317 IMG_0323

We’re leaving the BAY!!

Today we are prepping Ellie for the Ocean!  That means everything stowed securely, life raft and ditch bag accessible, jack lines rigged, etc.  We plan to head under the gate and into the dense fog tomorrow morning.  We will head offshore and turn left!  It’s finally here!!

We plan to drop anchor in Half Moon Bay by Saturday evening.  The Legendary Captain Bob will be joining us on the passage.  He sailed with me from Half Moon Bay to Redwood City when I first brought Ellie up the coast so it will be cool to do the reverse trip with him aboard!

Look at all that fog!  Gotta warm up the radar!!


Stay tuned!


One Month In!

Today marks one month since leaving the marina.  We have made it a whole month without breaking anything, killing each other, or losing our minds!  It also confirms that we can actually live on the hook and stay out of expensive marinas.  In the past month we have only put into a marina for one night (in the Delta) and we have spent a grand total of $37 on slip fees.  We are slowly getting used to all the sounds Ellie makes while swinging on the hook and the Mermaid is almost able to sleep an entire night without waking in fear of running aground, swinging into other boats, having our dinghy or outboard stolen, etc.  We are leaving the bay tomorrow and heading down the coast!  Mexico here we come!


We made it to Sausalito on Wednesday morning and dropped the hook in a great spot near the Clipper Yacht Harbor fuel dock.  There was just enough space between the other boats.  It’s really crowded here because of America’s Cup, but it makes for perfect cockpit time people watching! Surprisingly, we found a great spot tucked in right in front of Clipper Yacht Harbor with a public dingy dock outside Fish Inc. Restaurant.


We quickly landed on an end tie at Schoonmaker Marina and filled up our empty water tanks.  We hadn’t taken on water since Pittsburg.  Then we dropped the hook, cleaned up Ellie and headed to West Marine (or as Captain Bob says: Worst Maroon!) for some spares and random parts we wanted to take aboard before heading down the coast.  A few hundred later (and only one bag!) we headed back to Ellie and made some minor repairs to the forward dorade boxes.  I also bought a stainless guard that I am going to splice into the end of our 400′ long 3/4″ storm rode.  We will use this to connect our para anchor.  I’ll post again once I make the splice (first I have ever attempted).

We also met a nice couple who are anchored next to us on Fire Water.  They sailed south from Alaska and have been living aboard Fire Water and cruising together for over 40 years!  They invited us aboard for some beer and apple pie (random combination I know) and it was an interesting and educational visit.  When they invited us aboard I said yes without hesitation.  Phil (Alyssa’s Uncle) and my buddy John both told me on separate occasions that the one thing they regretted from their travels was not accepting offers from strangers, whether for a visit to their home or an excursion or the like.  So when Fire Water invited us aboard we went.  Richard told stories of how they have sailed over 300,000 miles and this is the 21st time they have headed south along the CA coast. He also told us his secret canning tricks and how to dry fish.  They haven’t had a fridge EVER and live off canned food and good ol’ SPAM.  They also haven’t had a working head (toilet) in 20 years!  haha  He said they just use the ol’ bucket!   They will be heading out the Golden Gate on Saturday at the same time as us and we will likely be chasing each other down the coast all the way to Mexico.  photo (3)