Well, we did it! We cut the dock lines as they say in cruising circles. At 9 am on Monday morning a huge box full of donuts along with coffee and hot chocolate arrived (Thank you Sterling from the beautiful motor yacht “Molly”!), which fueled our departure. We pushed off from the dock at high tide and slipped down the Napa River. Cameron will definitely miss the abundant supplies in the store and the wealth of information he gleaned from everyone there.
We navigated the river carefully with Cameron at the helm and the girls and I munching down donuts as fast as we could while spotting all the local wild life. At Vallejo we took a left and headed into the marina to pump out our waste tank, have a little lunch and fill our water tanks (the Napa Valley Marina water was less than tasty).
Having lived on Banyan for over a month we have been getting to know her pretty well, but after a few days on the move, I am now realizing just how much more there is to find out. As we were filling the tanks we wanted to shock them with chlorine. We have been using the water tanks for washing dishes and cook water etc, but we have not yet drank straight from the tap since we don’t really know how clean the tanks are. There are 5 stainless steel tanks for water totaling about 200 gallons on board but some time between 1979 and now the system has been changed so that the only separation between the tanks is between the port and starboard sides. This is too bad as it makes it harder to track your usage and isolate tanks for safety. In addition, nowhere is it written how many gallons each of the individual tanks are. So… one challenge with adding the chlorine was to know how much to add since… we didn’t know how much water we were adding it to. So we do what we do; we wing it until we have time to gauge each water tank.
We added a good dose of chlorine (12 oz to the port side and 15 oz to the starboard side). We pumped a bit through the faucets and then let it sit and marinate. We were pleased to smell a nice strong, but not too strong chlorine smell come out of the faucets.
After leaving the Vallejo Marina we headed out into the bay and raised sail. It was a glorious feeling to easily pull up that new sail and eventually turn off the engine and feel the boat pull us along gracefully. The breeze was perfect around 10 – 15 knots and the boat balanced so well we hardly had to steer. As the current was ebbing (going with us), we tacked up the channel toward China Camp, our destination for the night. Before we got to China Camp the wind kicked up and we had to shorten sail, (we are very happy with our new main sail set up). The wind was cranking up and we had a nice little shake down cruise.
When we got to China Camp we were a little disappointed by how unprotected it was from the very unusual northerly breeze. We had the option of sailing another hour to a different spot, but no guarantee that that spot would be any better and getting into a spot we didn’t know later in the evening wasn’t sounding safe. So, we settled in to a nice meal and some bubbles (Thank you Jennifer and Mark!) to celebrate our first night out. We dropped our oversized anchor and left out legions of chain to hold us in the rough conditions. We bucked and rocked and rolled all night long with whipping winds and a strong current pulling us this way and that so that we were side on to 2 ft swells at times. Thankfully none of us got sea sick – testament to living aboard for a month. Through the night Cameron was up a bit checking all the sounds the boat was making and ensuring that our anchor was holding and generally being worried that all would be well. We made it till morning and we learned which halyards and lines needed to be adjusted so they didn’t slap the mast all night long and keep us up.
In the morning we had eggs, sausage, fruit and fresh bread as we motored out of our not so comfortable spot and headed for Richmond to meet the canvas maker. During that little passage we completely emptied our water tanks down to the last drop, thankfully they were not too muddy at the bottom.
We popped into a slip near the canvas loft (which is in a boat!) and got measured up for a new main sail cover, a sail bag to replace one that is a bit tired and a few other bits and pieces which should be ready to pick up in a week.
After our meeting (during which the girls and I ran off and found a playground), we popped out of the Richmond Marina to head over to Treasure island for the night. We had a great sail past the southern tip of Angel island, we spotted seals and pelicans and big and little boats. As we pulled into Clipper cove we had a bit of a navigational challenge. Cameron recalled getting in and out one way from his OCSC teaching days, and the charts showed a different way. Banyan Draws 7 ft and the big mud bar that sits in the opening of the cove is only 3 ft below the water in places. We have a depth sounder, but we didn’t know how accurate it really was. As we slowly pulled in to the cove we both were feeling uneasy, realizing that it was low tide and our memories were not agreeing with the charts. Thankfully we were going very slow when the depth sounder read 3ft and we felt the boat stop. Cameron grabbed the helm and threw her into reverse and we backed out of there as fast as we could. My eyes were popping and I had visions of the coast guard pulling us off the bar. Thankfully we pulled away smoothly leaving a big muddy churned up spot in the water. We tried two other spots but both times we bailed when our depth sounder started to read 4.5 ft. We snuck around the corner and anchored for a few hours to wait for the tide to come up. The girls got some ipad time in, I worked on some barrel plans and Cameron rigged up the steering vane while we waited. When the tide did come up, we slipped into the anchorage without “bumping” the keel. Once in, another local sail boat came in and we got the skinny on the deepest place to pull in. He confirmed that a boat as big as ours can really only get in and out a few hours on either side of high tide. Well, the nice thing was that we got to know our depth sounder in the best possible situation (soft muddy bottom with the tide coming in and with wind on the nose). How does the song go……**Getting to know you, getting to know all about you**
We were only planning on spending one night and it’s now our third (ahhh, the cruising life…). It’s a nice spot, just under the new span of the bay bridge with easy access to public transportation. We have a few things on our scavenger hunt list and a few jobs that need doing. Cameron has been getting our dingy and outboard up and running, deconstructing and rebuilding a winch that has never worked since we have owned the boat along with sourcing parts for that and many other bits and pieces. He also has been on his belly fixing the shower sump pump, hanging out on deck shortening the baby stay using a compression fitting, cramped into the forepeak stowing our secondary and tertiary anchor lines, puttering around retrofitting the outboard handle and building an outhaul for the mainsail (to adjust the foot tension on the main sail). My main job has been keeping the girls occupied, fed and watered. I’ve also been getting our taxes finished up, dealing with some health insurance stuff, working on a few harvest and barrel plans for clients, ordering barrels, keeping the place clean and helping Cameron when he needs an additional hand.
Life on board has been great, Banyan is home and it all feels right, but we have so much to do still! Before we head off shore we want to be sure the boat systems and our safety gear is ready. We are heading over to have a free Coast Guard inspection over the weekend and they will walk through our boat with us and make sure that we are set up properly. I have to get our Ditch Kit put together as well as set up the satellite phone and Cameron wants to work on our SSB Radio so we have it in addition to the VHF. We’re taking our time to work out the kinks and hope to head south in the next couple weeks.