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 Rita. 

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 moments.  

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 official log.  

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 light. 

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 Bay.  

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.  

Mary 

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 personal notes— 

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 believe possible.  

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 test.

 

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Passage from Morro Bay to San Diego continues the stories in sequence.

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