Completing the Southern California Tour, Stabilizer Trouble and off to Mexico!

While the first four months of Operation Hurricane Hideout were busy with big boat projects, roadtrips and family visits, the last six weeks stateside were slow…even though we were in some pretty nice places. Simply put, we were ready to be cruising again.

During our summer and fall in California, we visited Catalina’s mooring fields and lovely marinas in California’s beautiful coastal communities. Other than at Catalina where everyone is visiting, most of the time we were the only, or one of a handful of visiting boats in a marina. The marinas would become busy on the weekends with people enjoying their boats, whether in the marina or for a weekend trip. On the weekdays all was quiet once again. There were very few liveaboards, only a few transient slips, and no one actively cruising. We missed talking with other cruisers about their plans, experiences and adventures. We missed being on our own journey, and while we were in really cool towns, we felt a little bit stalled. That said, we did meet some fun and friendly people who welcomed us to their communities. We continue to be amazed at all of the cool people we meet, and how we never would have met any of them if we were still pulling our car into the driveway in Seattle.

This awesome photo was taken as we were leaving Ventura Harbor by new friends Craig and Lisa Eichman. Thanks guys!

In mid-October we left Ventura and made the 22-mile trip north to Santa Barbara. Now, Santa Barbara is first-come, first-served for moorage, and there isn’t a whole lot of transient space. We had been calling every other day to ask, “so… how does it look now?” One Monday morning we were surprised to hear that there was room. We kicked our visiting daughter off the boat (we did give her a to-go cup of coffee), threw off the lines and pointed the bow north, all in about 10 minutes. Go, go, go! Speeding Nordhavn alert! Of course, there is no such thing as a speeding Nordhavn, but we went as quickly as we could.

Heading to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara moorage is $1/foot per day with no power charges. You can stay for 14 nights at this rate and then the rate doubles. With the marina’s location by the vibrant downtown, it is the deal of the century.

Looking out from the cockpit.
Even the water taxi wears a mask in Santa Barbara. Smart little boat.
Love watching the kids race. Here they are coming back into the dock all tied together like a small sailing herd.

Santa Barbara is a gorgeous town! Our visit included a tremendous amount of walking, some beer drinking, some great wine tasting, a rental car tour of the area, provisioning (there were dock carts afterall!) and boat waxing. Boat waxing? Well, we were just too embarrassed of our rapidly oxidizing grey hull. It had to be done. I must say, we did a great job! In fact, I think our wax work was better than any of the professionals we have paid. We had visits from our daughter Kirsten, flybridge drinks with our friend Deanna from the good ship Bella Luna (55’ Selene from Puerto Escondido, Mexico) and lunch out in a beautiful courtyard with new friends Monica and Alex. COVID changes how we experience a place, but in the sunny weather of southern California, there is a tremendous amount we can do safely, while outside.

The Old Mission in Santa Barbara, founded in 1786.
The Old Mission.
Lunch at this market/food hall was fabulous.
Cool artwork in the Funk Zone – these are actually storefronts that open. Clever idea.
Max assisting with the wine tasting.
Wine fam. Introducing Kirsten to wine tasting!
Dogs are not to be left out!
Beer is also delicious in Santa Barbara.
Beautiful landscaping around the marina.
Gorgeous artwork everywhere.
I will never get tired of palm trees.
Doggos playing on the beach.
Sad moment of reflection. The Conception, the vessel that burned and killed most of its occupants in the Channel Islands was from Santa Barbara. This was at a memorial for the divers and crew who passed away. It is located at the end of the jetty that protects the marina.
More of the memorial.
Kevin was Wax On. I was Wax Off.
So shiny!
We are a football family. It was so fun to be near Kirsten this fall so she can watch with us. GO HAWKS!

We had planned to visit the Channel Islands, but the wind and swell patterns just weren’t cooperating with our timeline. And, we had this annoying list of boat projects to finish before we headed south to Mexico. With all that in mind, we decided to head back to San Pedro and focus on polishing off the project list. Cabrillo Way Marina is a great place to work on projects as there isn’t much nearby to distract us away from the boat. It is a gorgeous marina though, so the perfect place to get things done. A few of the projects: servicing the windlass (which ended up to be a bigger project); replacing and tightening bolts on the davit; sewing fraying dinghy seats; adding external antennas to the cellular router; adding Maretron tank monitoring systems – starting with freshwater tank; troubleshooting the Headhunter freshwater pump (one of two – one wasn’t working; adjusting the shaft seal on the wing engine; and of course, more organizing.

Cabrillo Way Marina has super cool palm trees too!
While we worked on boat projects, Kirsten drove down from Marina del Rey to pick up the dogs and take them for a Saturday hike.
Here’s where the dogs went hiking with their human sister! It was a hot day!
Windlass deconstruction – in the process of cleaning and re-greasing.
Kevin in the chain locker removing gear oil from the windlass gear case.
Windlass gear case and electric motor hanging out with some chain in the chain locker.
Power tools. 🙂 Changing out bolts on the davit base.
Boat projects are rewarded with margaritas.
Or sometimes boat projects are rewarded with trips to a nearby brewery.

Our son and daughter-in-law are not able to come to Mexico for Christmas this year as their employers require a 2-week quarantine if they leave the country. The solution? An early Thanksgiving in California! Back to Marina del Rey where our daughter lives. On our last visit to MDR we met an awesome gentleman, Norm. Norm and his partner have a stunning Italian vessel, but are considering a Nordhavn. They visited us on Red Rover, brought us amazing donuts and kept in touch. Fun! Our first ride on a Nordhavn was the day we surveyed Red Rover. I remember looking around as the boat slowly moved through San Diego Bay, wondering how we could be buying something so expensive without experiencing it until we were almost at the transaction finish line. As we had a simple and fast trip to get to MDR, we invited Norm along for a three-hour tour so he could experience a Nordhavn underway. The experience kicked off with a visit to the Jankovich fuel dock to top off the tanks – 750 gallons of diesel. Always a good start to the day. Our short trip included a long visit from a pod of playful dolphins and gorgeous sunshine.

Zoe, Norm and Kevin chatting with the dolphins.
Red Rover tied to the guest dock at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey – only boat there.

Once in MDR, Norm lent us his car which was incredibly kind. We picked up the fixins for Thanksgiving and settled in for a fun weekend with our kids. Beaches were visited, turkey was eaten and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” was watched, as is our family custom. I should add that the kids were already on their way to MDR when the governor asked people to not gather for Thanksgiving (as our turkey was early).

Masked up on Venice Beach – Mike, Jenny, Kirsten and Kevin.
Early Boat Thanksgiving with the kids
Our kids are big fans of stuffing and sweet potatoes. So we had a lot of them. Oh there was a turkey too.
As is the tradition, the dogs enjoyed a little Thanksgiving dinner too!

With early Thanksgiving complete we prepped the boat for a 14-hour run to San Diego, and left Marina del Rey at 3:30 am. At about 7:30 am an alarm buzzed relentlessly in the pilothouse. It only took one look out the windows to see the horizon tilting and we knew what the siren was for. The stabilizers were not working. The stabilizer control panel had a not so welcome message – error, contact the factory. It was still pretty early and we were a good 8+ miles offshore. Cell service was coming in and out. While the seas were pretty calm, with swells on a long period, we had many hours ahead of us. We made the decision to turn around and head to San Pedro, where we knew we could get a slip and figure out the problem while safely tied to the dock.

A beautiful sunrise as we headed south… the first time.
Not a promising message.

On our way into the marina, Kevin called ABT/TRAC, the manufacturer of our stabilizers. Graham, an incredible technician called us back within 15 minutes. He and Kevin discussed the problem, our history of system maintenance and what could potentially be wrong. Within 30 minutes of tying up Graham and Kevin had confirmed the issue. We needed a new servo control box – basically, the computer/brain of the stabilizers. Graham called Steve, the parts guy at ABT/TRAC and Steve called us immediately. The part would arrive the next morning and Kevin would install it. Like clockwork, the next morning the box arrived and Kevin got to work. With a few calls to Graham to confirm details, we were back in business! We ate a turkey sandwich, took the dogs for another walk and headed back out to sea, with the stabilizers functioning perfectly.

The servo control box – the culprit!
New servo control box
Old one, new one… hmmm.
Servo control box bottom
Access to the servo control box is great fun, under the helm. Zoe offered her dog bed for a more comfortable install.
Zoe is tired of boat projects. And especially unexpected ones!

A huge shout out here – the people at ABT/TRAC are amazing. We went to their hydraulics class back in 2018, which they provide free of charge to boat owners that carry their systems. Their facilities, their people and their product are impressive. But even more impressive is their commitment to customer service. Red Rover is almost 16 years old. We are her fourth owners. No matter. This is a company that stands behind their product and works hard to keep their customers on the move. With care, kindness and professionalism. And an understanding that urgency is a good thing. Amazing. KUDOS ABT/TRAC TEAM! We so appreciate you.

Ok, back to the story. We were now behind on our plan to go to San Diego, meet up with Michelle and Hugo on our buddy boat N55 Gitana, grab our mail and some parts for other Mexican boater friends and head to Mexico. After a little phone conference with Hugo and Michelle, we decided to run directly to Ensenada from San Pedro, an 18-hour ride. Gitana and her crew would pick up the mail and the parts, and come out to meet us in front of San Diego around 1 am. A night run! Now we’re cruising. 😊

Back on the big blue watery highway. Heading south! Again!

The seas were gorgeous and flat with barely any wind. We had a current providing a little extra push and we cruised south at about 8.5 knots at a lower rpm than would have otherwise been necessary. Beautiful. After dark, thick fog rolled in, creating a super black night. At one point during one of my watches I could barely see the point of our own bow. But few other boats were out and the cruise went smoothly. After almost six months of not seeing Hugo and Michelle it was awesome to hear their voices on the VHF and see their running lights about a mile off of our port side. Together again!

Kevin and I had a little party dance celebration when we crossed back into Mexico and settled in to enjoy the rest of the quiet night cruise. The sunrise brought panga fishermen to sea from the nearby shore, the light glimmered on the water, and all was once again right in the world. We were back in Mexico.

Sunrise in Mexico. Life is good.

14 thoughts on “Completing the Southern California Tour, Stabilizer Trouble and off to Mexico!

  1. Your writing style is delightful and I have just discovered many more of your posts that I have not yet read. Thank you for vicarious pleasure.

  2. Thank you so much. Love your reports. Clear, concise writing, excellent pictures with funny captions. Having lived in SoCal for 10+ years at one time, I was right there with you. Thank you! Enjoy your time in Mexico on your beautiful ship!

    1. Luc, you are too kind. You know, Kevin is pretty sure that he is the funny one on this boat. I need to subtly show him up. Ha! We are excited to get rolling further south!

    1. Hey Dragons! So sorry to have missed you since we didn’t get to come back to SD. Wannabeez….right. Where I wannabee is on the good ship Dragon!

  3. Hi guys. I’m really enjoying your blog. My partner and I bought a Selene 43 in January this year, and it has been a life changer for us. In every conceivable possible good way.

    I have a question. We’re equipping the boat for travel to and in Alaska this coming year, and as part of that process we’re having a FLIR camera installed. You mentioned in one of your posts some time back that you have both a FLIR camera and a heavy-duty LED light bar. Could you say a few words on your experiences with the FLIR and the light bar? Do you find it useful to have both? Do you find yourself using one but not the other?

    Thanks, and happy trails-


    1. Hi Steve, congrats on the boat! We feel the same way!

      We put the flir on (entry level PTZ) as well as a Rigid industries 50″ single row light bar. For us, the flir is to low rez for what we wanted it for… Picking up items in the water when we are doing overnights offshore. Light and sea conditions have to be near perfect (moon/stars on clear night with smooth seas) to maybe see things like a crab buoy. We don’t use the light bar all the time – mainly when we run area with crab/lobster buoys… And it works great. Definitely would skip the flir if we had the option.

      Good luck with your new ish to you boat and upcoming travels!

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