December 27, 1973
56 F, Foggy and cold
Port San Luis, Ca.
30 miles south of Morro Bay
“Hi” to all our friends and those who wonder, “Whatever
happened to Mary and John?”
I can assure you that life has not been dull or uneventful
since we left Steamboat Slough on the 19th of November.
We’ve experienced the rivers at flood stage, gale winds with
58 mph gusts at Half Moon Bay, dense fog near Pt. Arguello, prop
failure while attempting to enter Morro Bay in 25 knot winds,
entering Morro Bay under tow by a fishing boat, the Saint
Different people exhibit fear and anxiety during scary
experiences in various ways. I get quiet, pale, and cold. In the fog
(which was not forecast), and appeared so quickly that we were
totally surprised by it, some of my thoughts were: “If we ever get
out of this, I will never sail again. ” “I wish we had stayed over in
Morro Bay. John asked me if I wanted to. Why didn’t I say yes?”
“Sailors are crazy people. ” “What am I doing here?”.
Well, all that actually did happen, but I really started that
way in order to capture your attention. We have embarked on a totally
different way of life, and there have been many joys, fears,
adjustments, hard times, glad times, proud times, and beautiful
I wish you could see Captain John now. He is very “salty”
looking with a grizzled beard, long hair, tanned face, and a
beautiful sparkle in his eyes which says, “This is living.
It is the evening of December 12 and we are anchored in the
harbor at Port San Luis. It is a beautiful spot about 10 miles from
San Luis Obispo. We have just had dinner which consisted of thick
filets of fresh cod (no, John didn’t catch them), green beans with
mushrooms, salad, biscuits baked in the Dutch oven on top of the
stove burner, and brownies baked the same way. John did the dishes in
order to soak his rope-burned hands. That happened when we had to be
towed by the fishing boat. Bret is making a belt for John out of some
heavy twine, and John is getting caught up with the entries in our
I love an evening such as this but cannot mislead you; this
kind of evening seems to be the exception. We thought we’d have lots
of time to read and write (letters to friends) and sketch and paint,
but so far we are still anticipating such times. Being out in the
sunshine, rain, and wind all day seems to lead to early-to-bed
evenings. We’ve found ourselves ready to hit the sack by 2000 hrs. (8
PM) many evenings. (This is true of our teenage crew, Bret, too.
So far, our cruise has consisted of a run down the river to
Antioch for a haul-out and bottom paint job. We stayed there a few
days to finish up some jobs we hadn’t finished up with while on the
river. Had Thanksgiving dinner of fresh, John-caught bass and berry
cobbler. Enjoyed having a chance to visit with Ted and Bonnie Gaw and
their children while in Antioch. Ted ,Bonnie,David and Kim all lived
aboard "Grand Turk" a 40 foot Sea Witch ketch. Hey, Ted and Bonnie,
we met some people in Morro Bay who are on the way to Cabo San Lucas
who know the Youngs on “The Turtle. ” They are Bud and Helen Holmes,
a retired couple who decided to go adventuring.
Had a long day motoring from Antioch to Angel Island. We
topped off the diesel tank at Pittsburgh. Took 6. 9 gallons ($2. 00)
after 50 hours of running the engine this summer. We left Antioch
early and enjoyed watching the sunrise. Had a hairy experience
rounding Brother’s Rock near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The
current was so strong that we were almost swept onto the rocks.
Earlier that day, we ran aground in the Lone Tree Marina at Rodeo. We
had planned to anchor early since it was our first day out. That
place is not for boats with any draught. Finally we plowed our way
out of there by rocking the boat and pushing the tiller back and
forth. Picked up an 8-knot current out of there and made good time to
Hospital Cove at Angel Island. That is a beautiful place. I didn’t
like anchoring at night though. I may get used to anchoring or
entering an unfamiliar place at night, but I haven’t yet. We saw
Common Loons in their winter plumage there and sea lions, too. Lost
the top section of our telescoping boat hook there. I don’t recommend
that kind of boat hook at all. I was determined not to lose that
buoy, and I didn’t until the hook parted.
It was a new experience to navigate at night. A bit scary to
me, very scary, really. I’ve found out that I’m a real worrywart. I
don’t like entering new places in the dark. I’d rather get up very
early in the morning in order to get to the anchorage in the
We did anchor at Aquatic Park in San Francisco Bay in the
daylight. We spent five days in San Francisco and I loved it. Think
Bret liked parts of it, too (not the museums and art galleries,
though). San Francisco is John’s hometown, so I think he enjoyed
showing it to us. We played tourist and rode the cable cars and the
Muni buses. Fascinating to me to watch the people. We visited
Ghirardelli Square, gorged on colossal, chocolate confections;
watched the street musicians; and shopped and window shopped. Got a
kerosene lamp for Oliver David. It was really cold at night so we are
finding that the lamp serves a dual purpose of heat and light. We
took care of business while in San Francisco too. Had to get 3rd
class radio operator’s licenses, took care of boat documentation.
Oliver David is now a fully documented vessel. John has his passport
now, but I still have to apply in San Diego. I marked into the
Federal Building with my completed application, passport photos, and
my birth certificate in hand. Had to have a certified copy of it
instead. Have that now so it should be simple next time. Had a good
dinner at a Basque pension with Curt Kaufman and Monique Lowe. Later
on, we marveled at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Bret is captain of the dinghy. While we were anchored at
Aquatic Park, he got enough practice ferrying us back and forth to
shore to become very proficient. Even on the beach in the surf, he
does a good job. Loren, I laugh when I think of the dinghy we were
building. It would never have held the three of us and our gear after
a trip to the supermarket.
Merlyn Adams joined us in San Francisco Bay for the sail to
Monterey. Turned out that Bret, Merlyn, and Merlyn’s well-fortified
sea bag were well over the dinghy’s capacity. Things got wet as they
tried to get out through the surf and that load ended up being
ferried out to O. D. J. in two trips.
We motored out under the Golden Gate before dawn on the 29th
of November. Bret was alerted that we would be passing under the
bridge, but he didn’t get out of the sack for the event. (Correction:
Bret says he did stick his head out of the forward hatch then. ) We
felt that we were finally on our way when we passed under the bridge.
We didn’t have much wind so it took a long time to get to Half Moon
That harbor sure has an exciting entrance. One has to enter
broadside to the breakers and swells. We hung on very hard as we
tossed from side to side. The inclinometer indicated that we were
heeled over at 35 degrees. We were lucky that we made that harbor
when we did. A real blow had been coming our way. We anchored and the
wind hit us hard. John rigged up the anemometer so we could read the
wind speed. Gusts up to 58 mph! The wind shrieked through the rigging
and the white caps broke over the sides. It was a wakeful night with
one or the other of us getting up to see if our anchor was dragging
or not. John and Merlyn did get up to reset it once.
The winds calmed down a bit around 0230 so we left. That was
really exciting. I sure didn’t like leaving in those big breakers in
the dark. I don’t like the ocean when I can’t see it, and sometime I
don’t like it when I can see it. Other times I love it. Have to take
the good with the bad. I had the tiller as we left the harbor, Merlyn
was conning, John was doing some captain’s work with the charts and
the nav. lights. John asked me how I was as I was hanging on to the
mizzen mast with one arm and the tiller with the other, and is said,
“I’m O. K. , but I don’t like it. ” I’m becoming more honest in my
later years. Bret slept through it all. He’s the sailor.
The cruise from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz was long, wet,
cold, and exciting (nauseating, too). Thank goodness Merlyn was with
us. He is a real, honest-to-God seafaring man!!!!!! He sat at the
helm for 16 hours with very little relief. John was seasick and I was
“queasy. ” I found it hard to control the tiller because the seas
were so rough. I kept being thrown by it. We had some squalls which
gave us wind occasionally for some good sailing. Had 10-12 foot
swells and 6-8 foot seas. The swells were a new experience to Bret
and me. Fascinating and awesome. (I think I have my “sea legs” now
since I’m typing this out in the cockpit on our way from Los Angeles
to Newport. ) Things are really a mess down below. I thought I had
battened things down pretty well in case of rough seas, but I found I
had missed a few items. Merlyn said that this wasn’t really any kind
of weather really. It was really something to try to heat water or
make sandwiches. Found that crackers, plain or with peanut butter,
are good fare on seasick days. We really like the ABC Sailor Boy
Biscuits; they are thicker and not so salty. It was really reassuring
to have Merlyn aboard. Wonderful to share the real beginning of our
adventure with him. Thank you, my friend.
It was a fascinating day. The sea showed us many of her faces.
We really screamed along once in awhile when the winds were right.
Merlyn talked to the winds and the seas. Coaxed and cursed them, too.
we realized that it wasn’t realistic to try to make it to Monterey so
decided to spend the night at Santa Cruz.
Now we had been told that getting into Santa Cruz is a bummer.
Ted and Bonnie, everything you have told us has sure been true. Well,
we could see the entrance, white water from the breaking wave leading
the way in, but by now we were committed,so we tried it. Merlyn had
the tiller and John and I conned and we made it. It is another tricky
harbor entrance. Had some mechanical problems once we were inside the
harbor, but I’ll let John relate that to you. Anyway, he and Merlyn
ended up this exciting entrance rowing O. D. J. into the slip with
the dinghy oars!
Our captain is a darned good man. He took the crew out to
dinner that night, and you wouldn’t believe how rapidly our seasick
stomachs adjusted to the prospect of eating steak in a nice, warm
place with a proper table under our elbows. After the dinner with
wine and a bit of gin under our belts, we really crashed. Welcome was
the quiet water under our keep and the peaceful sleep.
Next day was bright and clear, warm and sunny, and we enjoyed
being in Santa Cruz harbor. Had a hearty breakfast on board O. D. J.
from the left-over steak, eggs, and sourdough bread. Gail joined us
as we did various chores, and we all went out to dinner at Adolph’s.
If you have a chance to eat out in Santa Cruz, try Adolph’s if you
like good, family-style Italian food. House wine is D’Agostini.
We had a nice, slow, calm trip across the bay to Monterey. Now
we were a crew of three as Merlyn left us at Santa Cruz. Porpoises
played around our boat. What fun they are. It seemed as if they were
sending us a message of fun and frolic. Again we entered a harbor in
daylight. Hooray!! It was hard for Bret to study because there is so
much to see out there. Several kinds of shore birds, sea lions, and
porpoises, plus those pelicans. It is a riot to watch the pelicans.
Saw brown pelicans many places and saw white pelicans at Morro Bay.
We had a wonderful time in Monterey due to the hospitality of my
cousin Chet and his wife Margaret. Home-cooked meals, sightseeing,
transportation, all the comforts a beautiful home can offer;
beautiful slide shows of their travels in Europe, Japan, and Russia.
It was a wonderful thing to experience such warm hospitality!
We stayed several days in Monterey. Arrived there on a Monday
and left Friday. Another highlight was getting our first mail there
since leaving. Left there at 1100 hours. We planned to sail all night
in order to reach Morro Bay the following day. There are no really
good anchorages between Monterey and Morro Bay. John had the helm
almost all night. I took it about 0400 and watched the full moon set
and the sun rise. That was a beautiful watch. No wind to speak of so
we were motoring slowly. We keep telling ourselves that someday we
will SAIL. Had two warm and sunny days in a row that time.
Mechanical problems developed as we were entering Morro Bay
just at dusk. We were tired, too. Anyway, we were suddenly without
power, the wind had sprung up very strongly, and we couldn’t sail in
because the wind was dead ahead. We turned about and headed out to
sea under sail so John could try to replace the sheared pin. Spotted
a fishing boat headed in to the harbor, so I waved a red shirt at
them and they responded and gave us a tow. Thank you, crew of the
"Saint Rita" out of San Francisco. I forgot to mention that John
called the Coast Guard at that time but got no response; turned out
that we could receive but not transmit. That has since been repaired.
We dropped the hook just in front of the C. G. station and John was
just emptying out the lazarette so he could repair the problem and
the Harbor Patrol flashed up and asked what the problem was and gave
us a tow to the Morro Bay Yacht Club. Doug Walsh, skipper of the
Allan Vannin on the way to Paris, helped us tie up alongside his
boat, took us down below for coffee, and told us where to find good
food. The vice-commodore of the club asked us up for drinks. Soon we
were sitting in front of a fireplace, sipping gin and tonics. People
have been very nice to us all along the way (except for one officious
man at the Coast Guard office in San Francisco). Well, back to
Morro—I was really all wound up—that has been an awful lot of
excitement all crowded into a little bit of time. It had been such an
exciting day that I couldn’t eat. Had a huge place of fried scallops
in front of me and couldn’t enjoy it. Told John that my insides
hadn’t calmed down enough to be in tune with the outside of me.
Boy—did we crash that night—were in bed at 2000 hours. Just a note—I
keep meaning to write a whole paragraph about Bret and so far I
haven’t. He is one cool crew member. I am very proud of him. He takes
that tiller and keeps us right on course. He is very capable and cool
in emergencies. I sure have enjoyed his company. He is going to fly
home for Christmas. I’m hoping he will want to join us later in La
Paz. It is too bad that our trip down the California coast has been
so slow because Bret was anxious to see Baja.
We spent a day just relaxing in Morro Bay. That is a very
beautiful spot. We walked out to Morro Bay State Park. Sat in the sun
eating bread and cheese and drinking wine while admiring the boats at
White Point. Took a tour of the museum there. That is a fine little
natural museum there. I enjoyed it very much and I think any of
Bret’s teachers would have considered it a proper educational
experience for our delinquent student Bret.
It is a long haul from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara. Point
Arguello and Point Conception (wish they hadn’t called it the "Cape
Horn" of the Pacific in the boating almanac) must both be passed and
there are no harbors between. So we decided to make an overnight run
of it. The weather was clear and the forecast good. We were about 10
miles from Pt. Arguello when, at about 2000 hrs. , the fog sneaked up
and caught us. Lost sight of the Pt. Arguello light and turned back
toward the light at San Luis harbor. John got a compass reading on it
before the fog was too thick. We decided to run into a bay and anchor
there and wait out the fog. It was damned scary to me because the pin
on the drive shaft had failed us again that day, and John had
repaired it at sea. We didn’t want to get caught off Pt. Arguello in
the fog with no power, so we made the decision to turn back. With the
radio direction finder we knew which direction the radio beacon at
Port San Luis was even though we couldn’t see the light. Thank
goodness for charts and modern nav. aides. We motored for hours to
get within the 15 fathom line where we knew we would be well offshore
and out of the normal shipping routes. We anchored and crashed. The
swells were the biggest yet! We had the side boards up on the bunks.
Bret was in one and John and I in the other. The wind came up very
fiercely later, and we felt we were too exposed to stay there if a
real, full-force southeasterly was coming. So we were at the ready
with John coming in the cockpit to keep a close eye on our situation
in case we had to run for Port San Luis before first light. Thank
goodness the wind died down and we woke up to less fog. Motored to
Port San Luis. The harbor master there is a really fine man. John
told him what had been happening with our drive shaft, and Kendall
Jenkins sent us to a good man in Morro Bay. Ken drove us there and we
decided to have a new shaft made. He also gave us a very good tour of
that pretty with a most interesting dialogue about its history.
Well, that brings us up to today, which is Friday, the 14th of
December. The drive shaft has just been delivered and John is getting
ready to install it. It is beautiful. It will be a huge relief to
know that we won’t suddenly be without the motive force of our
propeller again. We had to be hauled out here in order to get at the
shaft. It may be a day or two before we can be dropped back into the
water. It all depends on how smooth the seas are here. We were lifted
out on a type of elevator, and it is a very delicate operation
requiring smooth seas. So we may paint Oliver David Jones. He looks
like a kid with a dirty face right now. I know; boats are always
female, but Oliver David??!! Believe me, this has been a quick
report. Life has been almost too full of excitement and newness these
days. We hope things will slow down soon.
I wish you all a most happy Christmas season. You’ll be
hearing from us again in the New Year of 1974. Wishing you peace and
joy with love.
P. S. Every time I made a typing mistake and every time the
machine couldn’t handle the four carbons, I wanted to apologize but
decided to do that just once. We need a copying machine.
A word from our captain (CAPTAIN)
Mary has become chronicler, historian, and master logsman
about all things on "Oliver David"—she has written an accurate
account of our travels and her thoughts of our first few weeks—rather
than try and fit my thoughts into her letter—I’ll only add a few
The journey so far has presented all of the challenges that I
feel that we could reasonably handle—we’ve had rough seas, strong
currents, heavy swells, high winds, fog, and mechanical problems—I’m
only very grateful and happy that these things happened sequentially,
one after another, rather than, as they sooner or later must, in
concert and collusion.
The physical adjustment of a constantly moving environment,
with never an absolutely still moment, has been slow for me—the first
days on Dramamine every four hours and thereafter at least two a
day—but now all seems well.
The other environmental problem is the 9x7 cabin space—just
not quite enough room for the three of us to live in real freedom. It
requires that an unspoken but mutually cooperative arrangement allows
each of us to anticipate the other’s moves and to clear the way;
however, the surprising thing is that the cabin is getting bigger and
bigger! One’s perspective changes rapidly—more quickly than most
Mary spoke often of mechanical problems and we have been beset
by them—I thought when we left that most of the mechanical things had
also been left behind—after all, we got rid of cars, lawn mowers,
dishwashers, dryers, etc. —but I should have known better—I changed
those things for a very reliable engine (even if it leaks oil), a
very sick propeller shaft (that sheers pins as if they’re made of
butter), a salt water sink pump that clogs up in every
harbor—undoubtedly pollution), and a fresh water pump that leaks
water (a slow drip that’s doubly bothersome because of the sheer
slowness!). Most of these things are only annoying; however, the
drive shaft is fixed to the output of the transmission by a slotted
bar and a ½-inch steel bolt that goes clear through the
transmission coupling and brass drive shaft—the first time we
experienced a failure was just after entering Santa Cruz Harbor
(where we almost surf-boarded in). When we got it into reverse, a
grinding sound said something came loose—the steel bolt had sheared!
We worked the next day and replaced the bolt with the only one that
we had on hand—a mild steel bolt—this lasted us through the next 15
hours of engine drive—in fact—right up to (but, damn it, not through)
the breakwater at Morro Bay. The situation was "sticky" — no engine
and wind dead ahead so that we couldn’t enter the harbor. Mary
related how the Saint Rita towed us in. Again I replaced the
½-inch bolt—this time with brass which lasted only 15 hours or
so. It gave way off Vandenberg AFB near Pt. Arguello—the third time
it broke! Finally we ran back to San Luis Harbor—30 miles north of
Pt. Arguello; the bolt broke the fourth time. After getting a lot of
help from the harbor master, the boat was lifted out and the shaft
pulled. It was a mess! We now have a new shaft and coupling (which
was worn). We are $107. 53 poorer—but the bloody thing won’t fail us
during an "uptight" time. We’re ready to continue our trip as soon as
the seas die down enough to get us back in the water.
Personally, the trip goes well—events have not stacked up so
much that I can’t handle them; and, yet, I’ve had much time for
relaxing and enjoying life. It’s truly amazing how much simple
things, like a hot shower or fresh, red beef, mean so much more than
they did before.
It’s as if the values that I once knew were reestablished and
the truly important things that are life and living are again
important. The things that I substituted, like Saturday lawn mowing
and Sunday football and partying at any occasion, just pale—in fact
disappear—in the endless days of a continual real living—facing the
problems based on elemental decisions that affect your very
existence—like: "Should we turn east toward the shore and face the
danger of being driven ashore in order to get to shoal water so that
we can anchor?" This question is life itself: a wrong decision and
you could be dead. We should constantly face the delicate balance
that really important decisions cause us to face. In a safe and
serene existence where you never have to face the consequences of
your decisions—or if you do face them, they have no lasting
meaning—then make any decision—it’s not important because you don’t
get hurt by a wrong choice. But don’t take that attitude to sea; it
will test you and your resolve. Mary and Bret and I are up to that
TIMELINE Returns to index of all
the sailing stories.
Index Returns you to the start