A nice trip back to Oxnard

Saturday morning arrived with light air, fairly nice clouds up high, and the sun poking through in various areas. Following an egg and bacon breakfast up came the anchor and off we headed on a light air beam reach along the south side of Anacapa Island.

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Anacapa Island’s arch rock is still there at the east end of the island. That’s the Ventura coast line along the far horizon, some 10 miles off. Visibility was excellent on Saturday.

One thought was to run up the watermaker and verify it was up to snuff; sure enough it powered up just fine and started to kick out fresh water, but I hadn’t charged the batteries much as I wanted to minimize load on the transmission. With battery voltage around 12.1 the little ShurFlo pump was pushing 93 PSI to the watermaker with resulting output at 4 gallons per hour (GPH). The watermaker is rated for 6.3 GPH, I looked through one of my notes about the watermaker and it pointed out that fresh water output is directly related to pump pressure input and pump pressure correlates to voltage at the pump. I turned on the engine to charge the batteries (in neutral, no load on the transmission) and pump pressure jumped to 150 PSI with 13vDC and fresh product water went up to 6.7 GPH – all is good with the watermaker. I let it run for two hours, producing enough water to fill up the day tank as well as flush the watermaker with fresh water to push the salt water out of the system (pump, filters, membrane).

The breeze gradually filled through the afternoon, eventually backing to the west, which made for a pleasant gybe to port and we haded towards Channel Island Harbor.

Got to watch the USCG perform a ‘rescue’. Over the week I had kept the VHF radio turned on to VHF 16 and heard quite the variety of boaters calling for help to the Coast Guard. “I’m out of fuel”, “My engine won’t start”, “Battery is dead”, “Stranded”, my favorite was an on-scene Good Samaritan boater at the west end of Catalina Island standing by a non-working boat: “they have a dead battery, are dead in the water, don’t have a VHF, anchor, GPS, or cell phone” … on it went. In each case the Coast Guard would verify that there was no immediate danger, ask them to put on their life jackets, then ask if they were a member of Boat US Tow or Vessel Assisst – and all stated they were. The Coast Guard would then connect the caller with one of those services and that was the end of their involvement. Nice to have the Coast Guard acting a dispatch for those services.

Things were different Saturday morning when a boat called Coast Guard to say he was adrift off Anacapa Island in his 23 foot power boat, dead battery, not sinking. The Coast Guard asked for his GPS position, there was a pause (I couldn’t pick up the power boat), then the USCG fellow says, “Can you read to me the numbers that come after the 34 and the 119?” That was too funny. Next moment he says they have an asset on its way to his location, ETA 30 minutes, and then we see one of the orange rescue helicopters go zooming out across the water and can track it right to where it goes into a low hover and the pilot calls over the radio, “We’re going to keep you company up here until the rescue boat arrives.” And then one of the 45′ Station Channel Islands boats roars by – they go quick when they want to. We met up with them again at the entrance to Channel Islands Harbor – the USCG boat ahead with the small power boat under tow behind. The Coast Guard must have been running a drill with the helicopter and the rescue boat, and when a call came in from a suitable location the Coasties turned the drill into an operation so they could actually do something. Moral of story – if you’re going to get stuck out on the water at the Channel Islands, know the drill times for the Coast Guard and you might get your own helicopter on scene!

When we got into the harbor there were lots of little Duffy boats about, we dropped the mainsail, engaged the transmission and it worked, and got into the slip without a problem.

Today’s task it to check the transmission fluid to see if it is dark, and it occurred to me last night that the problem could be in the damper plate – I’d forgotten about that plate, it’s a spring-loaded steel plate that dampens the successive bangs the driven piston creates on the crank shaft as diesel explodes above the cylinder head. If the springs or plate have failed that could make a noise, though any noise the damper might make is supposed to be less pronounced as RPM increases – which is not the case here.

I will find out more today about what to do with transmission. Cats are curled up mostly asleep, Kristen is discussing the finer points of fly catching with NumNuts. I’m not sure he’s paying attention…

– rob

Saturday morning and time to head back to Channel Islands Harbor

Good morning – it’s a glassy smooth sea with a rolling 3′ swell coming in from the south, the Low pressure system off to the west has slid by to the north and missed the area, which was rather nice of it. There are four boats here in Smuggler’s, a Hawkfarm, a larger blue Jeanneau, Beetle, and a small power boat with a kayak sticking out of the cockpit. A bit rolly last night but pleasant after the wind died off late afternoon.

Yesterday had the best dive so far despite the surge that built up through the day as the swell rolled in from the south. The bottom here is sand with rocky clumps to which the kelp attaches, when the surge gets going along the bottom the sand twirls up into the water column and visibility goes way down – that’s what was happening when I returned to the little kelp patch in search of Gorgonians. I finally did find the Gorgonians, along with a rather pretty nudibranch and a cowrie (snail?) doing its thing. The camera in the dive housing with a Gobe 1000 lumen wide angle dive light attached to the cold shoe worked great, and I also tried out the Backscatter air lens that factors out the magnification you get in the water. The light would shine out in front of the lens, though the light is only coming in from one side (the left) and near the top of the frame – so the lighting is a bit uneven but interesting nonetheless. It’s difficult to actually know what the camera is doing so I took lots of pictures of everything and a couple of them worked out. So I had a good dive despite the surge and loss in visibility, especially for first time playing with the light on the camera. Makes one want MORE light!

Kristen got out on her SUP and did laps around the boat, lots of them, and practised balancing the SUP board through power boat wake – didn’t fall once, and the cats are getting more and more interested in getting on the board and making Kristen take them to shore.

The cats are also on fly patrol, they are keen to give chase and the flies have given them reason to get up in the morning. The kelp flies are rather slow and therefore make good targets, so far it’s Nibs 2 Flies 0. NumNuts got several also though I don’t have an updated count.

We capped off last evening with a viewing of the surfing film In God’s Hands, definitely family-level material as Tri-Star (which I believe is Disney) was part of making the movie. Silly story, fun to watch the real surfers on big waves at Jaws in Hawaii, lots of pretty imagery. Later on last night we were listening to our small swells crunch onto the beach and wondering whether or not there were big waves headed this way. Perhaps watching movies about big waves while you are anchored off a beach with waves is not the best way to prepare for sleep.

Today’s plan is to make our way back to Channel Islands Harbor, need to take it easy on the transmission as I still think it has a problem. Ran the motor yesterday to charge batteries and it runs fine and there’s no alternator belt slippage, which makes the transmission still the primary suspect for the unhelpful noise heard on our way out. The forecast calls for light wind this afternoon, I’m thinking to head out a bit before Noon and see how it goes. It’s not far to travel, 17.5 miles to the harbor, even at super slow speeds we’ll arrive well before dark.

All is well here!

– rob

Gorgonian up close

trying out the macro focus feature on the camera - i foud the Gorgonians again.

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pretty nudibranch

the nudibranch stood out abruptly from the background with it's purple/blue body and fire orange tufts.

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Friday morning at Santa Cruz Island

Good morning – it’s Friday, another morning over mostly-solid marine layer, not much breeze beneath, and a new 2-3′ long period S swell is rolling in to the beach, suggesting a powerful storm somewhere well to the south – though the last time I looked I couldn’t find that storm. Perhaps there is something about Southern California such that a long period swell can set up without a storm, something to look into. June is just around the corner!

Thanks much to Tom, he sent a note identifying the marine colony critter as a Red Gorgonian (Lophogorgia chilensis) found in this area. I’m planning to revisit the Gorgonian today and bring along the camera and a dive light to try out the camera’s ability to take close-focus macro images. I know which kelp clump the Gorgonian is at the base of so have reasonable expectations of being able to find it. Once found I can sit on the bottom and experiment with the camera for a while and see what I can make it do.

Yesterday we had Dinghy Adventure to Internet – Kristen and I ran the dinghy out to the NE tip of the island and floated around in the calm water and tried out the cellular telephones. My phone uses AT&T and it picked up enough signal to check email, Kristen’s phone using Verizon did not pick up a signal so she used my phone to check her email. The return trip along the rocks was a good opportunity to inspect the shore from close on, and also to spot several Orange Garibaldi fish swimming lazily along the rocks.

Oddly enough later in the day Kristen’s phone picked up a signal all the way back in the anchorage for two brief periods; this was after the sky had cleared and sun came out. I’m wondering if the reduction in suspended water in the air allowed enough signal to pass through for her phone to work.

The ocean was fairly calm in the morning so Kristen decided to get out on her SUP, made several wide circles around the boat, and didn’t fall in once. It’s more difficult to balance on the board out here with the undulating water surface than in a marina with flat water. The cats were most interested in the SUP, quite possibly as it might be used to get to shore. Nibs in particular much prefers flat non-moving docks to a rocking boat and keeps looking for ways to get to shore – only none are presenting themselves here at anchor.

I ran the dive compressor, adjusted the auto-shutoff pressure as per Alan’s (the unit’s builder) instructions, and filled up the two tanks to good resting pressures after cooling to ambient: 3400 PSI final on the first tank, and 3350 on the second tank. The compressor is now adjusted to shut-off at 3700 PSI, the tanks are rated for 3450 PSI and I expect the 250 PSI overfill (7% over pressure) won’t hurt the tanks. It makes sense the second tank would come out slightly lower than the first tank as the compressor was hotter while filling the second tank.

Last night was a wonderful phosphorescence show under grey cloud and no apparent moon. There were dozens of small pools of glowing areas all through the water column, moving this way and that as the fishes scooted around. I spent a while with a flashlight trying to catch what was disturbing the plankton that do the glowing, and turns out it is a thin narrow fish 6-8″ long that is entirely photophobic. The moment I turned on the flashlight all the fish would shoot away and disappear. Took me a while to finally catch one fish directly in the beam to get a good view, and then it zapped off and disappeared. Turning off the flashlight and waiting a minute or two would get everybody up and moving again in the water and bring back the green glowing blobs. Much fun to watch.

I just sent up two pictures (resized and resampled to keep to tiny file sizes) via Iridium, definitely life in the slow lane as regards data transport but it sure is amazing that small recreational boat can utilize satellite communications! Only took 6 minutes to send 33452 bytes of data, that’s running at 743 bytes/second – super slow but it works.

Enjoy the day!

– rob

Running Klaus the Kompressor

Filling the dive bottles with Klaus the Kompressor after adjusting the end-point pressure.

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kristen out on her SUP

Victory at the end of a perfect lap around the boat.

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Thursday morning and calm with overcast

Good morning – everyone on board Beetle slept well last night, including the two cats. We had calm conditions through the night, little boat bonking against the water, and awoke this morning to the view of the Montgomery 17 heading out to explore more of the island. We had spoken with them last night, turns out they trailered the boat in from Flagstaff, Arizona to launch locally and are on their first visit to the area. Turns out there are three people on the boat, and the kayak they are towing behind looks to be as large as the Montgomery. Nice people to chat with on the radio.

Got in a nice dive yesterday back on the patch of kelp at the spit between Smuggler’s and Yellow Bank, and this time I added complexity by taking along the Olympus TG-6 camera in its dive housing. The camera was fun, the dive was fun, it’s a bit chilly down at 30 feet and a fair bit of surge, and I had a nice first opportunity to try out the camera. I am trying to send two images from underwater through Iridium to shore, the files are tiny compared to the originals (37KB vs 5.5MB), hopefully these go through. I expect that when I have access to regular terrestrial-based internet service I will replace the little versions with original versions.

Today’s plan includes running the air compressor to bring both dive bottles up to full, and adjust the compressor’s cut-off pressure to be 3650-3700 PSI (which is what it is supposed to be for the high pressure steel tanks) – for some reason the pressure cut-off is happening at 3350 PSI which leaves the tanks slightly underfilled.

Kristen has her inflatable standup paddle board (SUP) all ready to go, currently resting on the side deck. She’s waiting for the air to become a tad warmer and then she’s planning to explore Smuggler’s by SUP. The board rolls up when not in use and stows in a bag, and becomes quite hard and solid at 11PSI inflation pressure, the roll-up feature makes the board easier to transport on a small boat as compared to a solid SUP.

The cats are looking forward to a long difficult afternoon of resting alternating with bouts of sleeping. They are already practicing this morning after a difficult meal of cat food. Interestingly enough, the cat that sometimes wants to escape Kristen’s home to explore the backyard (Nibs) does not hang out much on Beetle’s deck and instead prefers belowdecks; the other cat that has little interest in outdoors (NumNuts) really enjoys wandering the deck and defending from flies and herons and seagulls. NumNuts is the better boat cat, I would never expected that. As soon as we sat down for dinner the sea gulls showed up; Kristen thinks it’s because they smell the food, I suspect it’s the sound of clattering silverware that attracts them. either way, NumNuts went on guard!

I understand that the NASA SpaceX astronaut launch was postponed until Saturday due to inclement weather at the Cape. I wonder what they will do with a rocket full of fuel when the launch is scrubbed – they probably don’t want to leave a giant bomb out on the launch pad for three days and must have a mechanism for de-fueling the rocket. Things to find out.

Enjoy the day, time to work on breakfast at this end. Should be a fine day on the hook at the island.

– rob

underwater colony of some sort

not sure what this animal or plant is, something to find out

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kelp snail

a snail working along a stalk of kelp

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