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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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. 😊
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.