Sunday morning in Santa Monica Bay

It’s a pleasant Sunday morning out here just west of the shipping lanes, on the way across Santa Monica Bay, though upon studying the chart is does appear that in fact we are in the Santa Monica Basin and the Bay proper is further inshore.

We were motoring through the night in a light NW breeze, and then at 8:30 this morning the wind filled in from the East – which is precisely the direction we are heading. After bonking a half-dozen wavelets and watching the breeze climb to 15-20 as the morning haze/fog burned off we stopped the engine, rolled out part of the no. 2, and are sailing along comfortably on port tack. Of course at this direction we would miss Los Angeles entirely, so at some point we’ll tack over and head in towards shore, perhaps we’ll make it to the Malibu Pier or thereabouts.

Kristen had lots of porpoises around the boat last night, including groups doing big leaps out of the water – much fun to watch!

Sailing in Southern California is much more mellow that San Francisco Bay – it’s January and not that chilly on deck, the big ocean swell is pretty much gone this far inside Point Arguello (which is now 100 miles to the west), and it’s nice to be on deck even when getting splashed a bit. Two other boats are out here, one a sailboat headed west, and the dive boat Truth went by early this morning on their way out to one of the Channel Island dive sites. I think Jordan and I may have done a dive trip on the boat, and it’s nice to see that they are still operating. That also may be the boat that has the hot tub on deck for soaking in after the dives are done for the day.

Currently Marina del Rey is 21 mile to the NE from Beetle, and I’m going to hold this course for another half hour, then tack over and see where we meet the beach. Buoy reports suggest more wind offshore (where we are) and less wind in shore (where the marina is), so it may be advantageous to flop over, enjoy the sail to the beach, and see what is happening when we get there.

Enjoy the morning, it’s nice one at this end.

– rob

9:26 and we’re around Point Conception – nice to be in Southern California

It’s been a fun ride today, the wind filled in gradually throughout the crossing from Point Sal to Point Arguello, and Beetle trundled along. The breeze usually increases at points, and today was no exception; 15 miles out we had 12-18 knots from the NW, and at the compression area off Point Arguello the wind was running a solid 25 gusting 30. At least the sea state and swell remained down, though there was a large cross swell coming in from the west, and when it met up with the NW swell things stacked up a bit and made the Alpha pilot work extra hard to keep Beetle on course.

It was fun to come through here with clear skies – the number of stars was amazing, milky way all lit up in a band across the sky, Venus was super bright after Mr. Sun settled down for the night, the Mr. Moon climbed up over the hills all orange and mysterious.

The missile launch sites at Vandenberg AFB are substantial and spread along a lot of coast line. During daylight hours you can see the various launch pads and associated rocket hangers, and they look somewhat barren and sporadically spread about. At night all the other buildings are lighted and suddenly you realize just how enormous a complex the whole place is.

We made the turn east off Arguello about 7:15PM, which isn’t bad for departing San Francisco some 32 hours previously. There wasn’t much traffic out today north or south bound. One power boat went by around Morro Bay, apparently southbound. And currently the 37 meter Silverado is following in behind, also southbound. A tug and tow was headed north, and that’s about it.

A nifty thing was to have the appearance of a half-dozen porpoise that joined the boat immediately after the turn east at Arguello. Wind was in the 25-30 knot range and with the swell giving Beetle a push we were bombing along, and the porpoise liked that – they came shooting over and hung out in the green glow from the bow light and were popping around the bow, playing chase boat. A second set of porpoise came over a bit later, all were fun to watch, and it’s especially funny to hear their ‘pop-blow’ and see their wake that is out of sync with the prevailing wind waves.

We rounded Pt. Conception at 9:26pm, and are now on a course to run down the Santa Barbara Channel and play dodge-em oil platforms. The first platform you come to is Irene, situated northwest from Arguello – they are really out in an exposed area. Irene is a convenient point to take to port when southbound, as this keeps you off Arguello a couple of miles and the platform is enormously bright with lights, easy to see 12 miles out. Next up are three more platforms offshore, and the turn down the channel that I’m on puts platform Heritage directly in front – another easy marker to find and avoid.

So Beetle is now in Southern California, the wind is dying away abruptly as we get east towards Santa Barbara, the swell should back off the further into the protected SoCal waters we get, and hopefully this will be a tad warmer than San Francisco.

Fun run!

Plan is to be in Marina del Rey come Sunday evening.

– rob

Saturday morning and SpaceX launch from Vandenberg AFB

The day is already off to a most amazing sight: the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle rocketing up into the sky on its way to placing 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into their low earth orbit. I knew the launch was scheduled for 9:54 this morning and was on deck peering intently towards the south when a big thick smoke trail shot upwards at a phenomenal rate – the launch!

Kristen was able to observe some live video feed from the launch control room, including the cameras mounted on the first stage of the rocket. That first stage, after separation, was going to try and do a vertical landing onto a floating platform somewhere out here – and according to the happy cheers from the control room that part worked, which is great for the SpaceX folks, they’ve been trying really hard to get that part of the launch profile to work.

Somewhere out here is the bottom end of a rocket floating around on its barge, and we’re here as well. Darn neat way to begin the morning.

I had hit my bunk at 6AM this morning, and Kristen has been on watch until 9:30 when I got up. Beetle continues to run well, the only insult to injury so far is the cracked white nose cone on the AirX wind generator departed the boat some time last night. While that part isn’t necessary (according to AirX), it sure makes the wind generator look more normal. I will see about ordering up a replacement nose cone Monday morning.

The wind is down to more or less patchy nothing, the water surface is highly reflective of the sun which makes it difficult to look forwards as we’re powering along through low swell and a bit of left over wind chop (and some wave reflection off the rocky shoreline. We’re currently 13 miles off the coast, just south of Point Piedras Blancas.). 66 miles to go to Pt. Arguello.

Forecast continues to be for light air in these parts for the day, there should be some breeze coming in towards Point Arguello tonight, and NWS Oxnard calls for that breeze to stay off the coast slightly, meaning we should have a narrow slot to run through to avoid 20-25 from the NW. And we’re all rigged for running in that wind from last night, so no issues rounding Pt. Arguello and getting into Southern California waters late tonight.

Plan for the morning is to have some eggs for breakfast, keep watch on our progress, and enjoy the warmth of the sun. It wasn’t nasty cold last night, but it wasn’t all that warm, either. The sun is an excellent heating system, and the clear sky lets in all the sun that will fit!

– rob

beautiful evening sail so far, off Monterey

It’s been a super nice day on the water so far; sails are up (main out to port, partially rolled up no. 2 out to starboard sheeted through the spinnaker pole – we’re DDW wing on wing), swell has stayed low at 5-6′, wind has stayed between 13 and 19 knots so far.

Moonrise was most impressive as it climbed up over the water, all orange and somewhat flat (I believe it is no longer full, so it has a squashed shape to the eye). Later the moon turned white and brighter as it climbed up above the light overcast and clouds above. There is a High over us, according to NWS, and that’s keeping the air warmer and clearer than it has been of late – particularly when Alameda was drenched in rain; I can’t even remember which day that was, Tuesday, perhaps? A lot has changed since then, for example, I’m no longer tied to the dock at Grand Marina!

Kristen is sleeping at the moment, it’s 21:45 and theoretically she comes on at 22:00. With the motor off it’s certainly much quieter below decks. We’ve been noise-chasing as the boat rolls and causes things to roll about and go BONK. One of the bigger culprits was found to be a jar of pasta sauce that had fallen over in the lower section of the ice box; it would roll towards center line and make a nice loud THUNK, every 30 seconds or so. That was a good find. There are other more subtle noises that I’m still hunting down. Something goes squeak intermittently, and there’s an occasion rattle back aft starboard side – can’t locate what’s doing that, yet.

Had an interesting interaction with the Coast Guard earlier in the evening. Beetle is running with an AIS transponder, which means that the boat is broadcasting position, course, speed, and name every couple of minutes (it’s a Class B transponder, the commercial ships run Class A units that broadcast far more frequently than mine does, Class B is good for me as it uses way less power than what the ships run). Turns out the USCG is watching AIS (as one would expect), and out of the blue they called in on the VHF radio, to Tiger Beetle, by name! Turns out they wanted to know if we had seen any flares or a boat on fire out in front of us, as they had a report of same from near out position. And no, we hadn’t seen anything untoward, so at least the Coast Guard didn’t have to go look in the patch of ocean we could see. And the Coasties were interested in where Tiger Beetle was headed, I mentioned Southern California / Marina del Rey, so perhaps we are on one of their float plans now. Certainly doesn’t hurt that they know we’re out here and what our intentions are.

The USCG at Pillar Point put out a broadcast saying there was an empty liferaft from the vessel Wombat, and to keep a sharp lookout for a person in the water. That didn’t sound so good, as it came across as though someone had found the liferaft and the liferaft had no occupant – not the preferred way to be found.

So we’re trundling along towards Point Sur, currently 25 miles out in front. Current buoy reports have 11-15 knots from the NE to NW down the coast, the 8:45PM forecast is for slightly stronger breeze from Pt. Pinos down to Pt. Piedras Blancas at 15-25 knots, and then backing off southwards of that on Saturday (NE 5-15), and all the 30 knot gusts have dropped out, which is nice.

And last super cool thing is the new Iridium GO unit on board, courtesy of my parents; this unit does satellite communications through the LEI Iridium constellation, and makes it very quick and accurate to get weather data on board. For example, the get a complete NWS weather forecast normally involves find the currect VHF channel for your area of interest, then listening to the broadcast of Perfect Paul for as long as it takes to get to the bit of the forecast of interest, then take notes like mad for a minute or so to capture what he says.

With Iridium, I can set up an email through Saildocs, send that email through SailMail via Iridium GO, and check for the resulting return email in about two minutes. And I get the entire coastal inshore (0-10 mile) and offshore (10-60 mile) forecast right in my SailMail inbox. Then I can read, and re-read, the forecast to my heart’s content. This is pretty amazing.

So now it’s back on deck, we’re moving southwards at a reasonable speed, and weather outlook is good.

= rob

Beetle headed South from San Francisco

It’s a fine Friday afternoon, and as it turns out it is also a Friday the 13th – these tend to be auspicious days in the Macfarlane family, so I’m quite happy to have gotten underway today.

Kristen is on board the good ship Beetle, we departed Alameda this morning and motored directly into thick fog right in the estuary. It was thick enough that we couldn’t make out the giant container ship turning the inner Oakland harbor turning basin until we were right in front of the ship. At that point a SF ferry boat shot by to the ship’s stern, so we followed and didn’t have to wait another 30 minutes for the ship to be turned by the three attached tugs.

The fog lifted about the time we got to the Golden Gate, breeze of 3-5 knots and flat water – off we headed south under power.

The sun has stayed out all day, which has been quite nice and it has been cold in these parts, at least by my standards. It will probably be cold again tonight and tomorrow night, and hopefully by then we will have turned the corner at Point Conception and be on our way to Marina del Rey.

Currently we’re 4 miles west of Pigeon Point, a bit of wind has filled and we’re sailing along at the moment, mostly very deep (AWA 170) and have left the main in it’s motoring configuration of tripe reef and unrolled the no. 2 genoa – mostly the genoa is pulling us downhill at a pleasant 6-6.5 knots. Not as quick as the 7 knots we were seeing under power, but much quieter. Keeping the main reefed down makes the autopilot happier as it isn’t fighting the mainsail’s tendency to round the boat up to windward, plus the upper section of the genoa sees the breeze over the top of the main. The no. 2 pulling the bow forwards makes an even easier job for the autopilot.

Have seen several whales today, lots of crab pots, and a few small clumps of bull kelp to avoid – nothing dramatic, but there is definitely some life out here even though it is January. A couple of fish boats went by, have seen several container ships, and visibility has been phenomenal, on the order of 40 miles.

I’ve been able to trade a couple of SMS messages with Jeanne Socrates, she’s in San Diego with her boat Nereida and is hoping to get south (think Banderas Bay). She’s done some amazing sailing, what with making it clear round the world non stop singlehanded on her boat – starting up in Vancouver, BC I believe. She was supposed to NOT be in San Diego now, but instead out on another round the world lap; unfortunately she hit some terrible weather on the way south and her boat was damaged, so now she’s in San Diego with a ton of food on board (enough to last for perhaps 9 months) and is getting Nereida fixed up to go back to sea. Hopefully I can cross paths with her, that would be fun.

So it’s on into the evening, we’re doing a near-coast run which makes it darn easy to get buoy reports an NOAA/NWS forecasts as I can go online and simply pull them down – most unusual for me!


– rob

French Polynesia long stay visa has arrived

It took a while, involved an additional round trip to the French Consulate in San Francisco – and I now have a long stay visa (type ‘D’) for French Polynesia firmly affixed within my passport.

I applied for the visa on October 18, and a month later the consulate telephoned to let me know the visa had been granted and I could come on over to the consulate office to have the visa placed into my passport.  Great!  I did the bus/BART public transit run over to the 6th floor of 88 Kearny Street, and that’s when the problems started.

The long stay visa I was issued has a 90 day window within which the Haut Commissaire in French Polynesia must be visited and the Carte de Sejour application is completed (the Carte de Sejour is the resident permit card).  The 90 day window had never been mentioned by anyone or anything that I had read, so that was a surprise for me; and the issued visa can be post-dated at the French Consulate San Francisco no later than 90 days after the date the visa application was submitted.  I submitted my application October 18 2016, the visa was issued with a from-date of January 18 2017 and a to-date of April 17 2017.  This is no good for me as I won’t be in Nuku Hiva until early May.  I pointed this out to the fellow at the consulate and he indicated there’s nothing he can do as the visa has been issued, he can’t post-date the from-date more than he has, and perhaps I can simply show up over there and see how it goes?

When I got back to the boat I did some additional reading and then telephoned the San Francisco French Consulate – only to learn the visa section will not accept phone calls, everything is by appointment only and to please go online to make another appointment.  I do – for December 12.  Arrgh!  In the meantime I trade some emails with Tehani at Tahiti Crew (in French Polynesia) and I am informed that the French Polynesia immigration folks are quite serious about dates so I can not expect to show up after the visa to-date and have things magically work  out well; ain’t gonna happen.

I make up an entirely new visa application package, figuring that I need to have everything I could possibly want with me when I re-visit the consulate in December.  I do a bunch more digging on the web and realize that there are two dates that could have gone into Box 26 of the application form: the date of departure from the USA (as per the consulate’s instructions) or the arrival date in French Polynesia (as per the form itself).  My new application specifies both dates!  And I print out the inconsistent instructions to show the consulate in case I can’t explain the problem in a way that makes sense.  Off I go to the consulate.

Turns out the fellow at the consulate is an avid sailor, and he’s surprised to see me, surprised that the dates won’t work, and I show him the inconsistent instructions.  Much conversation occurs on the other side of the bullet proof glass between the fellow helping me and a young lady that actually issues the visas.  They examine everything minutely, review my original application, re-read the form and instructions, and work out that they will cancel my original visa, issue me a new visa using today’s dates as the starting point for post-dating the issued visa, and voila!  No need to send everything off to Tahiti again, as I’ve already waited all that time, and I don’t need to pay for a visa a second time as the instructions were confusing. Can I come back tomorrow and pick up my new visa?    Of course!

Next stop is to wrap up boat preparation; nearly there!

– rob

A week in the yard, going well

It’s been a busy week here at Svendsen’s, the bulk of the heavy lifting is done, and now I’m at the other end of the project – waiting for the sun to warm up the air sufficiently to continue rolling on bottom paint and roll-and-tip the transom paint.

The blister repairs have proceeded normally, grind out with Dremel, tape off the divot, apply fairing, sand with the roloc to knock down the fairing compound, remove tape, and then the remaining small square of fairing is quickly brought down to be fair with the hull using the Makita random orbital sander.


Blister divots ground through to the underlying polyester fairing compound, then surrounded with 3M green tape. The tape minimizes final sanding as the only part I want to sand is the divot repair, not the surrounding hard epoxy bottom paint.

One approach to fairing in the divots is to smear the epoxy and microballoons fairing compound over the divot with a putty knife, as this saves all the time it takes to put on and take off the one and a half rolls of green tape I went through when applying the masking.  The downside of not taping the holes is there is a lot more sanding to do to get the hull shape back to what it was before the fairing was applied.  As Joakim pointed out to me a long time ago, it’s much easier to put on and take off tape than it is to sand.


More green squares on the port side of the keel…


And finally all the little green squares are in place, ready for fairing to be squashed into the divots.

After the tape is on it’s an easy job to use a 1″ putty knife to press in the epoxy and microballoons, then wait 12 hours for the material to harden.  The tape also handles issues with shrinkage – the fairing is a plastic and shrinks slightly as part of the curing process.  It’s no fun to lay down the fairing flush with the hull surface only to have all the repairs then dishpan and shrink to be no longer flush with the hull (if that happens, you get to apply fairing twice and wait another 12 hours).  Fairing flush to the tape means that when the tape comes off your repair is slightly proud of the hull and ready for sanding.


Spooge applied (no need for it to be nicely flat, the sander will take care of flatnitude later). The 407 microballoons make the semi-clear epoxy look pinky-red.


Tape removed, leaving little thin squares to be knocked down flush to the hull.

With the blisters well under way, it is time to work on the transom paint.  The paint is Interlux Brightside one-part Polyurethane in Matterhorn White (which has a slightly grey cast to it), it goes on over a two-part epoxy primer that is a paint to work with as the primer is thick with solids.


Third round of fairing in place on the transom and surrounding aft end of the hull. I’ve made lots of modifications to the stern over time, and the paint has protected the underlying fiberglass work from UV degradation.


Final primer in place, it took two coats to fill in the orange peeled surface, and then another day of sanding to work out the brush marks.

For some reason that makes no sense to me, I decided to attempt a roll and tip approach to the primer.  This was a mistake, as the primer goes on super thick and doesn’t like to flow even when thinned as per Interlux’s instructions.  The result was primer with fairly deep brush strokes in it, all of which had to be sanded out.  The final prep surface is supposed to be 220-320 grit paper,  which is getting pretty smooth (much smoother than the initial 100 grit prep for first coats primer, and 150 grit for second coat primer).

There are at least two ways to sand a surface; if you want to change the shape of the surface then you use a hard pad, and the pad will cut down high points and leave low points untouched.  I have lots of those kinds of pads as most of the time one is sanding in order to alter the shape and make it fair.  The other way to sand is when you don’t want to change the surface’s shape, but simply make the entire surface uniformly smooth.  For that, I need a soft foam sanding pad that will follow the contours of the hull and cut into both high and low spots (particularly when dealing with compound curves typical of a boat hull).  Svendsen’s had the perfect kind of pad for this (they would, as they specialize in sanding boat hulls), but they did not have any 220 grit gold sticky-back 3M paper in stock… and then they found a roll of 240 grit, which worked fine except that it takes even longer to sand sound brush marks in primer when each swipe of the sanding pad is taking off a really really thin amount of paint… so I sanded for five hours and got out the brush marks.  Note to self: next time, do not tip off the rolled on primer.


Apply this…


Mixed with 15% of this…


And you get this. First coat on, two more to follow.

The application method for the paint was a 4 inch foam hot dog roller, thin to 15% (manufacturer says no more than 10%,  I can’t get the paint to flow at 10%), roller on a thin coat in a vertical strip about two roller widths wide, use a 3″ foam brush to tip the paint horizontally and knock down the air bubbles from the roller, and move quickly.  The polyurethane paint skins in less than a minute and you have to a) knock down the bubbles and b) get the adjacent strip of paint on.  Goes pretty fast, and came out much better than the older paint.

And now I’m waiting for it to get warm enough to apply the second coat of polyurethane to the transom, and continue with bottom paint.  Tomorrow Tim is going to suspend Beetle in the travel lift slings overnight and that’s when I can work on the areas of the hull where the cradle pads are, and also the bottom of the keel.  So it’s going to be a fun day, no sanding, only painting!

– rob