Well, after a 10-day delivery turned into a few months of cruising the Washington, Oregon and California coasts, my Cal 2-27 "Sirena Gorda" has finally made it home to San Francisco Bay. The last two legs, from Brookings, OR to Bodega Bay, CA and then from Bodega Bay to San Fran were both memorable and fun. In Brookings, I mounted an 80-watt solar panel and a Navik self-steering windvane. "Sirena Gorda" started out as a typical daysailer and weekend pleasure craft and has been transformed into a formidable pocket cruiser in the past couple of months. I dig it. Definitely good to be back in the Bay and i'm immensely happy to finally have my "home" be at "home", instead of obscure coastal towns in Oregon... Slight change of plans and i'm shipping the Moore 24 home to sell her. A full season of offshore racing is coming up on the Reichel-Pugh 45 "Criminal Mischief" and i'm working hard on finding a sponsor to help me achieve my dream of racing in the Vendée Globe. My new website is up, www.ronniesimpsonracing.com. You can check out my sales pitch and sponsorship proposals for the Vendée. Speaking of which, MASSIVE CONGRATULATIONS to Francois Gabart for winning this Vendée Globe. A bit bummed I wasn't at the finish after being at the start, but c'est la vie.
Sirena Gorda now sporting a Navik wind vane and 80-watt solar panel
After flying back to the mainland from Hawaii on New Year's Day, I made my way back to Brookings, OR just a day or two later. No surprise, it was raining again in Oregon....
Since I had left the boat in late November, my firends Brian and Linda on the S&S 34 Gitano had also arrived in Brookings. Brian and I did Transpac together in 2011 on the 1D35 "Alpha Puppy" and the 3 of us have crossed paths in Newport, Coos Bay, Brookings and now.... Alameda. Brian had installed a new Aries wind vane in Coos Bay and when I got back to Brookings, we were all waiting on a window to head south. I had a Navik wind vane in the v-berth and a solar panel so I got to work. I ended up finding this awesome metal shop in Brookings. I walked in on a rainy day with some metal from Ace Hardware, hoping to have some cusotm wind vane mounts made. I told the shopw owner that I needed to have the metal cut and drilled. He replied, "drill press and saw are over there. Get to work.". He obviously wasn't too concerned about liability. 2 hours later, I had some mounts made. Joe said that since I did all the work, I only owed him $5. He said his favorite beer was Miller Genuine Draft, so I left and came back with an 18-pack and set a $5 bill on top. The next day, with it barely raining outside..., Brian and Linda helped me install the vane. Piece of cake install with my transom layout. I finished up the Navik install and then went back to Joe the next day. I found some stainless steel, cut it, marked it, drilled it and then handed it to him and he bent them each 90 degrees. Bam, custom brackets for my solar panel. Total cost $39 including a nice piece of super-heavy stainless. That's Harbor Logging Supply in Brookings, OR. Quite possibly Sirena Gorda's first sponsor.
On Friday afternoon that week, Brian and Linda left Brookings. I would have loved to leave and it would have given me the best weather window to get all the way to San Fran but I just wans't ready. Still finishing up some jobs with the Navik and solar install. That night, my last in town, I had dinner with a couple named Dave and Laurie on a big Hans Christian. They're from Brookings and just retiring to head south. Hopefully i'll see them in SF soon. The next day I finished up my boat work and was officially ready to go, but I needed to provision. The weather said that the sooner I left, the better weather I would have. The tide was ebbing and the breeze was northerly, so I shoved off the dock, rather spur of the moment. Dave and Laurie watched me drift out of the narrow channel with no engine and took some cool photos. Just ouf of the harbor, I had about an 8-knot breeze fill in and my Navik, which I have named "Francois" would *almost* steer the boat. Once the breeze freshed to 12 knots, it was game on. I didn't touch the tiller for about the next 36 hours.
By sundown, I was reaching in 15 knots of breeze and Francois steered SG south like a laser beam. Passing Crescent City, we had a beautiful sliver of moon, tons of stars and amazing clear skies. The breeze built to about 20 over night so I put a reef in. The next morning, we were running downwind in abour 22 knots of breeze passing Eureka. By noon, we were rounding Cape Mendocino with breeze in the mid-20's. By that afternoon, we were 10 or 15 miles southeast of Mendocino in a gale. Brian had told me about his Korean friend who circumnavigated in a Cal 2-27 and that he ran under bare poles a lot in the Indian Ocean. I was running downwind and it was blowing about 38 so I tried it. I've never run under bare poles. Wow. It worked beautifully. I literally dropped the main, went down below, closed the hatch boards and made some tea. Francois was steering and I think I was reading an e-book on my iPad when3 large waves broke into the cockpit. It was surprisingly mellow and udner control. Definitely confidence inspiring in a big blow.
The gale lasted 4 hours and then quite abruptly dropped to 15 knots, which dropped to 12 and then 10 by Fort Bragg. I switched from Francois to the Raymarine tiller pilot in light breeze. Wind vanes suck in light air. Because a wave had broken into the cockpit and damaged the cockpit-mounted electrical socket for the tiller pilot, I had to cut off the plug and jury-rig the tiller pilot and hard-wire it to a battery. A bit ghetto but it worked to get me back to port. Before day break, I was staring at Point Arena. The next night, I was still staring at Point Arena. The breeze shut off. I don't really want to talk about it. It was the sails slatting, boat rocking, GPS reading 0 type of breeze that drives sailors insane. For the first time in my life though, I kept my cool, read a book, slept a lot and just chilled out. I saield to within 5 miles of Bodega Bay and then removed my wind vane from the transom (it's light so you can do that) and re-mounted my 8 hp outboard and motored into port.
Breeze shut off on the coast for a week (at least it was sunny and warm), so I came back to San Fran for a few days and then returned to SG. I installed some new spectra lifelines, hung out for a couple of days and then left for SF. With a northerly breeze, I was able to sail out of the narrow Bodega Bay channel without using the engine and had an absolutely incredible, full-moon clear-sky sail around Point Reyes and into SF. The breeze shut off 5 miles outside the Golden Gate, so I had to motor in and then motor 9 miles to Alameda. This trip from Tacoma, WA to San Francisco was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy longer than I originally planned but whatever, it's cruising. Don't sail on a schedule. I really have to say, even though Washington and Oregon arent' my favorite cruising grounds (I like warm places), I am absolutely sold on the idea of going cruising. I truly enjoy sailing from point a to point b only to leave for point c a couple days or weeks later. If my Vendée Globe aspirations don't pan out, I think i've pretty firmly committed to taking Sirena Gorda either to Costa Rica, Australia or Asia. But somewhere.
So there, that's it. I know it's been a while since i've udpated, but that's the last couple legs of the maiden voyage of Sirena Gorda. I'm going to Hawaii to ship US 101 home this week and then sea trials for Criminal Mischief are all of the week after that. I've got a full season of racing lined up, re-fitting Sirena Gorda, some veteran's sailing clinics and trying to make stuff happen on the Vendée Globe front. I have still been paying the bills by writing for the last few months, and I must say, developing that professional writing skillset can come very much in handy when working from random places on a sailboat. Next time you read an article on Latitude 38 or Sailing Anarchy, just know that I may have written it at sea and gybed inshore into cell-phone range to e-mail it out :)
Fair winds and following seas,
Sirena Gorda out