california coastal cruising and sailing single handed

- California cruising 2005 -

 last updated: 10/14/2005
v0.9

boat yacht from san francisco to san diego, channel islands mexico via catalina.


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Islander Bahama with network wifi gps radar netstumbler autopilot

Contents

Chapters

Central California Stops

Southern California stops

  1. Introduction
  2. About the Captain
  3. Overview
  4. Full list of routes/stops
  5. Notes about cruising in central and southern California
  6. Notes about the 1981 Islander Bahama 30
  7. Trip preparation Notes
  8. Boat preparation notes
  9. Trip event notes
  10. Things that I would not do without
  11. Things I now know you don't need for coastal cruising
  12. Things I guessed wrong about cruising
  13. Things I would change if I was to do it again
  14. Notes about the weather
  15. Notes about single-handing
  16. Southbound trip notes
  17. Northbound trip notes
  18. Notes on buying a boat
  19. Notes on owning a boat
  20. Finally
  21. Scrapbook of my favorite photos
  22. Photos of S/V Nino
  23. Feedback from readers

 

  1. Redwood City, SF
  2. Bair Island Marina, SF
  3. Schoonmaker marina, SF
  4. Ayala Cove, Angel Island
  5. Halfmoon Bay
  6. Ano Nuevo
  7. Santa Cruz pier
  8. Santa Cruz harbor
  9. Capitola
  10. Monterey harbor
  11. Stillwater cove, Carmel
  12. Whalers Cove, Carmel
  13. San Simeon, Hurst castle
  14. Morro Bay yacht club
  15. Port San Luis
  16. Cojo Anchorage, Point Conception
  1. Santa Barbara
  2. Ventura harbor
  3. Channel Islands marina
  4. Smugglers cove, Santa Cruz island
  5. Yellow Banks, Santa Cruz island
  6. Paradise Cove, Santa Monica
  7. Santa Monica Pier
  8. Marina Del Ray
  9. Redondo Beach
  10. Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles
  11. Maritime museum, Los Angeles
  12. Long beach harbor village
  13. Long beach harbor
  14. Alamitos harbor
  15. Isthmus, Catalina Island
  16. Cat Harbor, Catalina Island
  17. Parsons landing, Catalina Island
  18. Goat harbor, Catalina Island
  19. Avalon harbor, Catalina Island
  20. Newport beach
  21. Dana point
  22. Ocean Side
  23. Mariners cove, San Diego
  24. Shelter Island, San Diego

owning a boat, buying a boat, fixing a boat

Introduction

If you want to discover the real California, its amazing coastal scenery, find out about its history and see its incredible sea life, take a boat trip down the coast. You see a completely different view than from the shore side and get a chance to get in touch with how the early Californians lived. The Big Sur coastline has to be seen to be believed especially at sunrise and sunset. Dolphins playing around the boat, whales the size of apartment blocks jumping clear of the water and birds hitching a ride on the boat are all included.


My family joined me on the boat for over 2 months in total. We never complain about the house being too small anymore.

About the Captain.
I'm a family man originally from England, who moved to Italy then Switzerland and finally settled in California in 1994. I have a small computer software security business and originally came to California for the windsurfing. Last year I needed to find a new hobby after destroying my leg racing motocross and took up sailing. Found a good boat, learnt all I could absorb, took the A.S.A. sailing courses and made a plan. Within 9 months of getting my first boat I had it setup and cast off for southern California. This is my story.

A Scrapbook of my favorite photos taken during the cruise can be found here.

S/V 'Nino' sailing north to Santa Barbara harbor. Captain 'Joe' aboard. Sailed this leg with another single-hander in his RoughWater 32 and we took pictures of each other with full sails up.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please email joe@inetd.com
or write your anonymous comments in the box below and press 'Submit'.


I would really appreciate your feedback.

The message will be send directly to my Treo600 PDA phone
which provided me with Internet access throughout my entire trip.


View other readers feedback on this story

Overview: Bought the 1981 Islander Bahama 30 in July 2004, learnt how to sail it, spent 6 months planning the trip, preparing the boat and cast off April 9th from Port of Redwood City marina in the San Francisco south bay. Reached San Diego in August after visiting every marina and anchorage in between, over 40 stops in total. Returned home to San Francisco bay August 15th after a 600nm, 9day continuous trip north.

Round trip cookie trail of the north and south passages. Green diamonds are places visited. This route is taken from the Garmin GPSmap 276C cookie trail and loaded into the Bluechart PC software that comes with the GPS. The outward trail is generally the return passage. Here is a google earth view. You can see any of the locations below in detail with the GoogleEarth tool. Its incredibly detailed and fantastic for route planning. You can measure multihop routes in nautical miles and see all the anchorages with rocks, kelp and shoaling, even ocean swells visible.

Full list of routes/stops (in approximate North / South order):

 Redwood City, San Francisco bay. (old home slip). The most southerly marina in the bay. Its takes about 4 hours to get to the city with the ebb tide working for you. Spinnaker sailing school is here and Bob Diamond will help you get started and out in a boat as fast as you want. Bob also set me up with the boat in the Virgin Islands thro the Moorings.

 Schoonmaker marina, Sausalito, San Francisco bay (side tie). My favorite spot in the SF bay for overnights and weekends with the family. Good beach and easy access to good restaurants nearby. Plenty of history and lots to do here. Fantastic breakfast at the lighthouse. Nights at the local pizza house with live music.

 Ayala Cove, Angel Island, San Francisco bay. (mooring ball). A fantastic view over the city and Golden gate bridge from the top of the island. The nicest day stop in the bay. Google Earth view. Walk to the top of the island for the best views of the city, Bay bridge, Alcatraz and the awesome Golden Gate bridge.
 

 Halfmoon Bay (slip & anchor). The first stop south after leaving Frisco bay. A huge protected anchorage and a real fishing village atmosphere make this a great place to visit and explore. Good restaurants ashore. Make sure you have a good dinghy flashlight to get back in the dark. I hung an small ACR strobe in the rigging to watch the boat from ashore. I tried other lights but I couldn't see them from shore.
 

 Ano Nuevo (anchor). Just a temporary anchorage for lunch behind the kelp beds. Part of the animal reserve and breeding grounds. A total wilderness. Outstanding beauty. Go downwind of the abandoned buildings on Ano Nuevo Island for a surprise!

 Santa Cruz pier (hove to). You can see the board walk and fun-fair behind the pier, Often boats are washed up on the beach when a southerly front goes thro, not a place to leave the boat unattended. Here is an aerial view of the Pier and the harbor.

 Santa Cruz harbor (slip). A great place for the family to visit and easy access to restaurants, great beaches and downtown with the boardwalk. I stayed here for over a week and hope to return soon. Visit the O'Neal surfing empire. Half price lunches at the beachfront restaurants during the week keep the crew happy.

 Capitola (mooring ball). Very exposed and windy at times, just a mooring ball and limited beach access via a ramp on the pier that's only open during the summer season. A beautiful location. Get ashore and visit this town, its very different and has an exclusive feel to it.

 Monterey harbor (slip & mooring ball). The #1 feature here is the clarity of the water. I never saw anything close on my trip. You can see down 20ft like its glass. Wildlife everywhere, especially in the bay and all around the boat. Its like berthing in a zoo. Great facilities for the family. Visit the aquarium while in town.

 Stillwater cove, Carmel bay (anchor). No beach access but a chance to see how the billionaires live at Pebble beach as you are anchored in their back yards. I had the entire place to myself and had the best view of any mansion ashore. There is an unbelievable sign on the nearby beach that requests you to 'only walk and not stop'.

 Whalers Cove, Carmel bay (hove to). I was going to stop here but it was full of kelp and infested with sand flies built like tanks. I swear they laughed at me when I tried to swat them. This could be a great safe harbor in a southerly blow and believe it was at one time, but its only suitable in an emergency as it is.

 San Simeon, Hurst castle (anchor). The nicest protected anchorage during the summer prevailing weather. Incredible natural beauty, I got rolled trying to beach my dinghy in the south swell, otherwise it was perfect. If you can get ashore dry, visit Hearst castle, my old summer cabin up on the hill.

 Morro Bay yacht club (side tie). The friendliest and most helpful town on the trip. I got so many offers of help here I was overwhelmed. A beautiful bay and sand dunes for the kids to play in. Lots of restaurants and a great Chinese 'all you can eat' lunch buffet opposite the yacht club for $7! Nice downtown a short walk up the hill.

 Port San Luis (anchor). Howling wind and very little facilities, very limited shore access, the mooring balls here are in open ocean, they are so exposed. I anchored off the pier and left at midnight to round Pt Conception. Huge swells racing across the horizon in the twilight are a sight to be believed. They are like giant sharks teeth. This was the toughest leg of the whole trip and took a lot of preparation.

 Cojo Anchorage, Point Conception (anchor). The most historic anchorage on the trip. Its so remote here. This is the gateway that divides north and south California and you can see it. Its freezing cold and stormy 100 yards north. You can now put on your shorts and tee shirt until you return here later.

 Santa Barbara (slip). This marina has the nicest docks and scrub them clean daily. Great beaches and downtown. Very livable and fantastic views. I spent over 2 weeks here it was so nice. You will consider living here or want to send your kids to college here so you can visit them. Allow lots of time to tour the maritime museum.

 Ventura harbor (slip). The most expensive slips of the trip at $30 a night. The harbor master finds you a spot in one of 3 yacht clubs. Nice facilities and design. Good shops and restaurants nearby. The best 'fish & chips' on the coast found here.

 Channel Islands marina (slip). A huge marina with a working feel to it. Reasonable rates and every facility imaginable. Its too big to explore by dinghy and the guest docks are way down one side. Restaurants and a general store close by. A donut shop! Great for working on the boat with all the yards close at hand.

 Smugglers cove, Santa Cruz island (anchor). Just an semi protected anchorage with no facilities or easy beach access. I had a very rolly night here from a south swell. Incredible views and lots of fish. No donut stores here, you can have complete isolation and imagine you have just discovered California. Aerial view.

 Yellow Banks, Santa Cruz island (anchor). Right next to Smugglers cove, same sort of anchorage as above. I just stopped here for lunch. Bring in everything you need to survive here. If its calm or if you have crew you can get ashore during the day without a permit. Its the best way to see the islands. See aerial view above.

 Paradise Cove, Santa Monica (anchor). A very pretty coastal town with exclusive beach homes. No shore access if the swell is up, but I stayed the night here before heading south. Flat water but very windy in the afternoon. Unfortunately there is not many places like this down south.

 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica (anchor). Watched the surfers while I had lunch and tinkered with the engine. No shore access due to a reasonable swell. I anchored just south of the pier, see photo.

 Marina Del Ray (slip). The biggest marina in the world. Every facility imaginable. Easy access to Venice beach which is typical California. Huge schools of jelly fish at one end of the harbor. Saw racing s/v PyeWacket hauled out in a yard. 2 Westmarine stores. Great guest docks. Regular harbor taxi service is handy and only $2 each way. This place is massive, expect highway 101 congestion only with boats!
 

 Redondo Beach (anchor). The yacht club was full and I anchored bow/stern behind the sea wall. Very calm. Unusual pier atmosphere and odd mix of shops/bars etc. Long walk to get groceries, not very cruiser friendly. I had foggy weather the whole time I was here, so maybe that tainted my memory.

 Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles harbor (anchor). The biggest man-made harbor in the world, but nothing for cruisers! I found a temporary anchorage at the north end at Cabrillo beach while they filmed 'The O.C.' in the background. Had to get a police permit to anchor. The police boat checked my background and boat ownership!

 Maritime museum, Los Angeles harbor (side tie). If you go here you must do a tour of the docks, they even raised the 2 huge bridges for me and stopped all the LA traffic and a train. The museum here is very good. The LA docks are very, very big. Check out the size of this fender. Incredible view of the LA harbor.

 Long beach harbor village, Los Angeles (side tie). This is the only tie up for cruisers in all of LA harbor, you can stay for a few hours and get lunch in the newly rebuilt village. The 'YardHouse' restaurant is very good. I heard the city went bankrupt rebuilding the dock area. I would return here.

 Long beach harbor, Los Angeles (slip) I met up with a friend who let me borrow his slip here for a few days. Its opposite the ship 'Queen Mary' and a good aquarium. Also a permanent fair which the kids liked. Nice downtown. Just 5 minutes round the corner from the village above.

 Alamitos harbor, Los Angeles (slip). The dirtiest harbor on the whole trip. Piles of trash at the leeward end of each marina. A definite lack of pride here. Also one of the few docks without a gate. Average restaurants at the marina, but a large shopping center across a busy highway where Mimi's cafe has a  great breakfast.


 Isthmus, Catalina Island (mooring ball). My favorite harbor with the most cruiser friendly layout. A true pacific island in our own backyard. I cant believe how quiet it was there even thro July 4th weekend. Its only 25nm from LA! Our kids had the best time. Very friendly and helpful staff. Everything you need to just drop out and relax.


 Cat Harbor, Catalina Island (anchor). The most dramatic entrance of all the harbors, you need to sail round the back (west) of the island to get there. Plenty of free anchorage space and very protected. Easy half mile walk to the Isthmus facilities. I stopped here on the way home.


 Parsons landing, Catalina Island (anchor). An undeveloped anchorage. We beached the dinghy and found a freshwater stream running down the mountain. Our first private beach. Catalina has so much to offer outside the tourist areas. You can choose your flavor at Catalina, from one extreme to the other.


 Goat harbor, Catalina Island (anchor). Stopped here on the way down to Avalon, amazing scenery and all to ourselves, the day after July 4th! Found another freshwater stream running down the mountain to the sea. This is pure cruising heaven, everything I imagined it would be.

 Avalon harbor, Catalina Island (mooring ball). The only town on the Channel islands. A great tourist destination with all you expect. South of France (San Tropez?) style harbor. So many old people in boats. A floating geriatric asylum! Get out and do this while you still don't need a catheter. Its a free comedy show watching grannies try to tie up and dinghy ashore.

 Newport beach (mooring ball and slip). A huge harbor with amazing beach homes you can only dream of. Plentiful $5 mooring balls are great, but with zero facilities. Guest slips at Sheriff's dock with clean facilities and small beach. Lots to do and see. Easy access to the beaches. Boat races in the harbor. Lots of sea life. A must see destination. Short trip to Disney Land.

 Dana point (slip). An historic port. Read '2 years before the mast' by Henry Dana and see a replica of his ship. Great beach for kids and lots of good shops/restaurants. Natural history museum. Clear warm water. Lots of pride in this marina, they do it right here. One of the few marinas you can reserve slips ahead of time.

 Ocean Side (slip). Busy tourist town with an old working town feel to it. Great Wharf area next to the small guest slips with lots of tourist style shops and easy access to a fun beach. Great surf and sand. Big historical pier with Diner at the end.

 Mariners cove, Mission Bay, San Diego (anchor). Free (3 day) anchorage in pretty setting near a big fair with rollercoaster's etc. Huge popular beach with the most tourists I ever saw. Homeless people in the park. No facilities. Beach dinghy to get ashore. Short walk to Sea world.


 Shelter Island, San Diego (slip). Nice facilities at the police/immigration docks for $10 a night, in a very pretty setting. Long walk to shops. Lots of other places to visit by boat in San Diego bay, plus a couple of free anchorages in other parts of the Bay at the weekend. I intend to explore this area more on my next trip.


 Bair Island Marina, San Francisco bay. (new home slip). They just built this new facility and its my new home for 'Nino'. Now to prepare for my next trip. I'm thinking North to Seattle or down to Catalina again and maybe Mexico. It could happen in summer 2007 but I will let you know. Its about choices after all.

 
More full size photos taken during the cruise can be found here.
 
Notes about cruising in central and southern California
 
From the information I read when I started out it appeared California was not a great place to go cruising and I needed to go to the West Indies or the east coast to find something suitable. It turns out that California is great if you follow some basic rules and know what to expect. Just between San Francisco bay and the Mexican border I stopped at over 40 marinas and anchorages and I didn't do all of them. Everything between quaint fishing villages to fancy marinas to Pacific islands. There is plenty to see and do here. At 40 ports of call, I made more stops and visited more harbors than some people do when they circumnavigate the world. If you cant enjoy sailing California you wont enjoy it anywhere else. A huge advantage is you are so close to home and for me, that made it very attractive as my first cruise.
 
Sailing California today with all the technology and weather information available makes it infinitely more practical and safe, even single handing. You are standing on the shoulders of giants as you undertake a voyage that would have been considered a major challenge to a seasoned veteran not long ago. You have a virtual crew with you at all times that never complains, needs sleep or feeding. I'm talking about the GPS, chart plotter, autopilot, RADAR, EPIRB and the fantastic VHF coverage by the coastguard. You're also in US waters which means there are good 'aids to navigation' and emergency coverage that is 'frothing at the bit' to come and rescue you if a real problem occurred on your boat. After listening to the coast guard for many months on the VHF channel 16 I get the impression they cant wait to try out all their amazing rescue toys on a real emergency instead of saving yet another drunken power boater returning from Avalon who has run out of fuel.
 
The downwind sail to southern California in the spring is the best sailing I have ever done. Surfing down endless pacific swells with the sun on your back and all the sails taught from a fresh, consistent and predictable wind is priceless. The pure and untouched scenery is all around you complemented by the raw behavior of the sea life living in its natural surroundings. Unknown adventures lay ahead and my enthusiasm was boundless at times. You arrive in each new port grinning from ear to ear and full of stories of your day. You leave each port with the sincere best wishes of all you have met. Each day was a new adventure and often involved making key decisions that had an immediate and possibly catastrophic impact on your life. It was very exciting and refreshing, just what I needed.
 
A positive aspect of sailing instead of driving, is finding the harbor/marina is the most interesting part of the town. Often the port was the origin of the location. The west wasn't won on horseback, but on the deck of a sailboat. The ports were the first towns on the coast. Santa Barbara is a prime example. You are hard pressed to find a hotel room with a view half as nice as you get from the cockpit of your boat in most places you sail to. Every port is steeped in history and I got quite intrigued by it all. Read '2 years before the mast' by Henry Dana and hear about San Diego when it was 10 houses, LA harbor was 1 house, San Francisco was a forest full of animals (like today!) and Monterey was the biggest city on the entire coast.
 
All locations varied in price for slips, from $10 a night to $30 a night. The average being around $18. Newport mooring balls at $5 a night were great and there was an occasional free anchorage we could use. It was nice to move between the 3 types, each has its own advantages/disadvantages. A key deposit of around $40 (refundable) was usually required for the showers. At Santa Barbara you buy a shower and dock key for life, I don't understand that, seems like a major security problem. I already had someone offer to sell me their old card and you can get access to any dock with it. Whoever came up with that idea needs a whack on the noggin with the clue bat.
 
Make sure you have your boat registration with you, every port south of Conception wanted to see it. Sometimes they requested proof of insurance. Also I had occasional trouble with my dinghy not having CF numbers on it when I used it with the outboard motor.
 
Two places (Santa Barbara and Avalon) put dye tablets in my holding tank to stop you discharging into the water. Other places said they were going to start to do the same in the future also. Alamitos Bay saved you the trouble and threw the dye tablet directly in the marina, including the wrapper (only kidding).
 
My favorite locations were: Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Newport, Morro Bay and Dana Point. Isthmus Cove on Catalina Island was best of all. It represented everything I expected in a cruising location, it was the closest to an anchorage in the Virgin Islands I could find; Mooring ball, clear water, lots of fish, dinghy dock, a good restaurant, shop and bar; and a fuel dock. We stayed there for 2 weeks and the kids loved the beach. Santa Barbara is a great mainland harbor to visit, lots of good restaurants, a cheap breakfast cafe at the marina, a small grocery store, lots of clean beaches and a historic pier. A maritime museum and the whole downtown are a short walk away including a big Westmarine store. A huge bonus about Santa Barbara is the coastal Amtrak train that runs up to San Jose for only $40 one way. Perfect if you need to take a break or get home to the bay area. Its a vacation in itself riding the train as it has the best views along the Big Sur coast where there are no roads.
 
I found internet access with my wireless setup at every marina, mostly free thro un-configured wireless routers. Sometimes I had to try many networks to find ones that were unprotected, but I always got thro, even on Catalina island. The only blind spots for my Sprint Treo600 PDA phone was way out at sea, 5nm plus and along the Big Sur coast. I have since read the RIM Blackberry has much better coverage, might be worth looking in to.
 
Every place we visited was distinctly different and had it own style and procedures. If you have a boat in California and not cruised the coast, you are missing out on one of the best vacations you could have. After 2 months on the boat my kids didn't want to leave. Nino became their home. They didn't have the same opinion after just a week in Hawaii or the Bahamas when we stayed in a hotel, then they kept asking when we were going home or could they watch TV!
 
I was amazed by the wildlife, Monterey bay is quite spectacular in the spring time with all the migrating whales and packs of dolphins, seals, otters etc etc. Seeing how many birds there are 20 miles out from the Big Sur coast surprised me, there is a whole new world out there I didn't know about. There was so many animals going about their business with no land in sight and no other boats around that I felt like a guest in another world. For the first time I felt like I was intruding on their space and not being in mine. Quite unexpected. That day 2 huge whales, I mean massive, jumped clear of the water and caused a nuclear explosion on landing. I had to rub my eyes to believe it. I have never seen an animal so big, an elephant seemed like a mouse in comparison.
 
Watching the dolphins you first think they are very playful, but don't be fooled by their puppy faced looks, they are on the hunt for food. I'm sure the boat sound like an animal in distress and that's why they always seem to be around the boat. When you see a huge pack of dolphins all jumping out of the water and making a lot of turbulence, you begin to see the main group have encircled an unfortunate school of fish while the assigned killers go thro the entrapped fish and make an easy kill. You can always spot this happening by the flock of sea birds that follow the dolphins on their hunt and clearing up the carnage left behind.
 
I encountered plenty of red tide in southern California this summer, you would get huge square mile patches of it out at sea. It hit a few marinas and quite a few fish floated to the surface. It looks like pollution, but its dead plankton and has a strange effect at night. If you stamped your feet on the dock the fish would scatter in all directions but they would be all illuminated, even though it was completely dark. Also the prop wash from the dinghy outboard was illuminated at night. Totally weird.
 
One surprise I did have was the fog, I thought the morning/evening fog that affected my local seaside town of Santa Cruz in the summer was a local phenomenon. It turns out it goes all the way to Mexico. Before the middle of May I had perfect clear weather, and then the 'May grey', 'June Gloom' started and went on to 'July Why' and even 'August Mist'. It was the same everywhere. It settled in late afternoon and burnt off around midday (most of the time). At times it was gloomy all day. You only had to go inland about 1 mile to find blue skies and this was consistent down the whole coast.
 
Some towns were worse than others. North of Point Conception was very foggy; and yet San Diego also was a problem. Long Beach to Dana Point seemed better, while the least effected location was Catalina Island at the Isthmus. There was a hole in the fog there, like it was a sacred location that was always sunny. I'm sure the wind that blows thro there has a big effect.
 
Maybe if I was to do the cruise again I would try to avoid the summer months and do the majority of the travel in spring and fall when it's the clearest. Actually, the fog is not that bad, I did get plenty of sunshine and the worst of it was the beginning of June. It just surprised me to find the California 'Bay Watch' beaches all cold and gloomy during the summer, it's not what it's made out to be on TV, that's for sure.
 
I was considering going to Mexico, the sea of Cortez and doing the BajaHaHa in October. I finally decided that California has so much to offer and I can keep cell phone coverage most of the time, that if I couldn't enjoy cruising here, I couldn't enjoy it anywhere else. It turns out that the Channel Islands have a very similar feel to Baja and its close to home. You can go for days around the northern Channel islands and not see any signs of civilization. Even Catalina has its remote spots that no-one goes to. Maybe I will do Mexico on another trip, its meant to be much easier now the single check in procedure is in place (See Latitude38).
 
S/V 'Nino' tied up at LA harbor maritime museum. I got a guided tour for free and shown round a WW2 tugboat being restored by volunteers at the museum. I never would have got this going in the front entrance!

Notes about the 1981 Islander Bahama 30
 
The Islander brand was recommended to me as it's a popular San Francisco bay boat that can take the windy weather here and is generally well built. I found one locally that had been well looked after and only had 700hrs on the Volvo engine. Just like most boats, it had been outfitted for cruising but had rarely left the harbor. I was the fourth owner and was intent on using it for what it was built for cruising!
 
Here is the original brochure for the Islander Bahama 30. It was a high-end boat in its day and very little has changed in boat technology since. You cant compare buying boats with cars, a good quality older boat is invariably preferable to a new low quality mass production boat.
 
We named it 'Nino' after a cool cat we had in Italy. He was built like a bulldog and would chase dogs. He moved with us to Switzerland and even flew to California but was unfortunately killed in a freak accident. It seemed a fitting name for the boat. Choose a short name for your boat, the coast guard and harbor master will be nicer to you if he doesn't have to repeat a moronic name 3 times every time you call up on the radio.
 
Overall its been a fantastic boat, I'm sure I could have done the trip on many other brands and/or different length of boat and had fun, but the key was to actually go and do it, I could easily have spent over $100,000 or more on a newer boat and had exactly the same vacation, but I spent a fraction of that. My view is that this 30ft boat is the smallest size boat with all the features of a big boat, i.e. binnacle, inboard diesel, head and holding tank, gas oven, 3 berths and a full electrical system that can support all the necessary gadgets. The advantage is that a small boat is way easier to handle and easier to maintain and you can get places you can't in a bigger boat. Additionally, you get treated differently in a smaller, older boat than you do in a big new boat. People go out of their way to assist you, but frown upon the big new boat owner like he was driving a new gas guzzling Hummer SUV or even a (gasp) power boater.
 
All control lines on Nino are led aft to the cockpit (pictures), with the exception of the reefing lines, I intend to follow the diagram in the Westmarine catalogue to do this. I can raise the main by hand from the cockpit easily and just do the last few inches with the winch. I have triple clutches and a small winch under the dodger on the starboard side to control the sheets. My only complaint with the rigging layout on the IB30 is the position of the traveler and mainsheet; it had very little leverage on the boom as it's on the coachroof. Also the mainsheet winch is under the dodger on the port side and you can't do full turns with a winch handle. I wouldn't swap the layout though as the number of jibes you need to do is very limited compared with the advantages the layout gives. If I'm running in moderate to strong weather and need to jibe, but can't bring in the mainsheet easily, I will just do a 270 deg tack, it might look lame, but there is only me and the wildlife to see it out in the pacific.
 
My 2 small kids (girls 6 & 8) shared the v-berth and we closed the door on them at night, this worked great as we could stay up late and still use the head without disturbing them. The kids slept so well on the boat, better than I have ever known, they never complained about the motion of the boat. Small kids seem to adapt to boat life so easily, it's almost a second nature to them, far easier than adults do. They were mesmerized by the wildlife we encountered on the trip and I'm sure it will have a lasting memory on them.
 
I had a 20lb CQR main anchor on the bow roller with 200ft of rode and a secondary Danforth anchor I kept in the stern lazarette. I used bow & stern anchoring quite a few times and got good at reducing the boat movement by facing the bow into the weather. I also got good at scraping off goopy mud with a stick, this is where the bucket on a rope became really useful! The anchor dragged occasionally after setting it for the first time, but always held when we let out more scope. I have been told the Delta is a killer anchor for all-round use and a 20lb Delta is equivalent to a 30lb CQR, maybe I'll get one later.
 
I fitted a 75W solar panel to the top of the dodger frame and found it worked better than I ever expected. I hardly ever had to plug into shore power or run the engine. The new units have come a long way in the past few years. Don't buy a wind generator unless you want a permanent helicopter flying over your head with full sound effects.
 
I go my Volvo MD7a hand starter working by having an 8 extension welded to it to clear the companionway steps. It works like a charm. It's very reassuring to know I can start the engine with no electrical power whatsoever, I don't even need the ignition key!
 
The 4.5 cubic foot cool box works great, even without the refrigeration unit. The key to using ice was the sacrificial bag of ice at the beginning. What I mean by this is, once you load up all your water, beer, food etc, get a big bag of ice blocks and dump it all over the cool box contents, it melts fast but drops the temperature in the cool box quickly. The next day put in two new sealed blocks (not cubes) of ice as high up as you can. Using this method my 2nd batch of ice lasted 5 days. I also put 6 gallons of water (6 x 1gl Safeway square bottles) in the bottom that seemed to help maintain the cool temperature.
 
 
Sunset at Monterey harbor. Taken from s/v Nino at a city mooring ball. The wildlife here is as good as it gets. The sunsets rival anything I saw in Maui.
 
Trip preparation Notes
 
Boat preparation notes
 
Items added / installed on the boat before the trip included:
Autopilot. Raymarine ST400 mk2 with tiller sensor. NMEA connected to GPS. Remote control option. $1500 if you fit it yourself.
Chartplotter. Garmin GPSmap 276C. You will need more than just a lat/long value on a simple outline map, you want color charts, tide info and history information. $800 with charts.
Haulout and bottom job at KKMI in San Francisco bay, great price and fantastic service. $1500 if nothing major rears its ugly head.
Jack lines. 2 x 40ft orange with Witchard clips. Don't skimp on these items. I can guarantee you will have paid more when your in the water watching your boat sail into the sunset. $100.
Autoinflate lifevest with built in harness. Dual line harness with 3ft and 6 lengths. A real lifesaver. See the above comment. $300.
New head. This item can cause you more misery in the long term than you can imagine, get it done right first time if you have any sense of smell. $200 if you fit it yourself.
Fixed all the window, porthole leaks with silicon. $10 for a tube of silicon, then wait for a rainy day and make a list.
Extra long shower hose. $20.
New 200' nylon primary anchor rode. $200.
Mirror that fits in winch tops. Allows me to check ahead while behind the dodger going to weather. Kragen auto parts  $15.
Shake to charge flashlights. Never need batteries! They float! Perfect for the dinghy when going ashore at night. $30.
Cantenna aerial for laptop. Connect to WIFI nets up to a mile away! $50.
 
Items added during the trip included:
Waeco Coolmatic series 50 refrigeration. Built around the Danfoss compressor and an oval evaporator in the existing Islander coolbox. $700 if you fit it yourself.
75W solar panel on dodger with charge controller. $600 if you do the work.
New taps in galley. $40
Anchor rode depth markers. I want to know how much scope I have out at any time. Why don't all boats use them? $20
Slats for double bunk in main cabin. This made it a family boat. I slept as good as at home. $100 for the parts and 1/2 a days work.
WIFI 360deg aerial on RADAR dome. Not as effective as the Cantenna aerial but better than a WiFi card alone. $100.
BBQ on stern pulpit. This really improved the quality of food aboard. Sausages seem to keep a reasonable amount of time and are great on the BBQ. $200.
2 new GP27 90ah house batteries replacing single battery that died at Catalina. $200.
New Bosch starter motor, Original fried when reefing main at Cape San Martin. I got a rebuilt unit from StemToStern , it was half the price of a new one ($800).
Hand starter for Volvo MD7a. Had handle extension welded up while at Morro Bay. $100 of welding.
Emergency step on swim ladder for MOB. To climb aboard when I fall over the side. $40.
2 new cabin lights. 20W and 10W. $60 and fit yourself.
 
Trip event notes
 
Even though I'm 40, I was the youngest person in a boat out there by far. At Avalon most people were twice my age. Its a shame most people don't have time or money for a boat until they get too old to enjoy it. Most people think sailing is out of their budget. It is if you buy a big, brand new yacht.  Buy a 20 year old boat and go while you still don't need a diaper and you can remember where you went yesterday.
 
Even though California is one of the most populous states, you only have to go out to sea and have the entire place to yourself. At times I didn't see anyone or any signs of civilization for days, particularly around the northern Channel islands. You see so few boats along the Big Sur coast, you wonder how Westmarine makes any money, let alone becoming the next monopoly under government investigation. I'm sure out of every 1000 cruising guides, radars and charts sold less than one are ever used fully. Exactly like all the 4x4 SUV's everyone drives that never leave the paved road.
 
Latitude38 is a fantastic free magazine that comes out every month on the west coast. It's where you buy your boat and find a yard to haul it out. It has the best stories from real sailors that have been cruising. Its also available online. Just as you finish reading one, the next one appears just in time. Latitude38 was very instrumental in my whole adventure.
 
Westmarine stores are at every major port. Carry the catalogue with you and get to know it well. You need at least a dozen $15 rebate vouchers before you graduate from the sailing academy. Buy a boat and you will know what I mean. They are the next Microsoft!
 
Things that broke / went wrong:
The starter motor fried because of salt in the ignition switch caused the key to stick in the crank position. I was starting the engine to reef the mainsail and didn't hear it was still engaged. I revved up the motor and fried the starter. A major problem! I left the engine running till I was anchored at San Simeon. I ended up using the 2hp Yamaha outboard on the swim step to get me out the harbor and into Morro Bay. I then had the hand crank modified to clear the companionway steps. It then worked ok. I will always want a hand crank from this point onwards. I got a new starter motor from StemToStern and installed it while at Santa Barbara.
 
The house battery died. It started to loose its charge faster and faster and held less and less charge. I thought it was my refrigeration causing the problem at first. I replaced the single battery with 2 gp27 units on sale at Westmarine . I now have 300ah total (inc. starter motor).
 
The motor overheated. This was a major headache. It took ages to find the exact cause. I flushed every part multiple times. Took apart the exhaust manifold and cleaned out all the carbon deposits with a coat hanger wire. Turns out to be an air leak in the connection thro the transmission causing low water pressure. This in turn clogged up everything else as back pressure from the exhaust allowed gases to enter the cooling passages.
 
The refrigeration unit I installed lost its refrigerant charge. Waeco wanted me to return it to them to fix it at a huge cost or have an engineer come to my boat. This seemed ridiculous. I found some manuals on the internet and found I could use R132 from car AC units. R132 is only $10 a bottle at Walmart! I needed to get a legacy R12 adaptor to make it fit and put in 25psi of refrigerant into the Danfos compressor, this seems a little high, but it only runs about 20% of the time to keep my icebox cool. I guess I could lower the charge to under 10psi as I think I need. I will experiment with different levels later. As told by Tristan Jones in his book One hand for yourself, one for the boat, I am now an expert in refrigeration because I installed a stupid cooling system! In the end I could have got by with just ice every few days, but it is nice to have fresh milk and cold beer!
 
The packing gland/stuffing box leaked too much and filled up the bilge quickly, it then sloshed around a lot when the boat heeled over. I must get this fixed.
 
The roller furling unit broke, some bolts worked loose and fell out and the unit jammed. I had to get a tap/die and bring the slots up to the next size to fix it.
 
The head smelled bad at times. My new Groco head pump didn't work right and caused more boat smell than I would have liked. I will get this fixed later. I had the main pipe from the head to the tank block solid with salt crystals and had to take the whole thing apart. What a lovely day that was!
 
Under power the transom sunk into the water a few inches and placed all the exhaust and thro hulls underwater. This created a siphon effect on the bilge pumps and meant the bilge filled itself after the bilge pump ran as the bilge is lower that the outside water level. To work around this I had to drop the engine to idle to raise the transom level and then run the bilges by hand. This problem effected both the electric and manual bilge pumps.
 
I had a weird incident at the Orange County Sheriff guest docks at Newport beach. I was tied up 'stern-in' so I could watch the kids on the beach. I woke at at 5am the next day to the bilge pump cycling on and off. The stern of the boat was way up in the air. The tide had gone out and the rudder was firmly aground. With some help from a coast guard on duty I jumped in the water and tried to dig out the rudder. The keel was not aground and the depth sounder was reporting sufficient depth, but the shoaling sand at the beach end of the slip had hit the rudder and lifted the stern up. Picture. I had to wait for the tide to come in to re-float the boat. Some damage to the rudder occurred and it chipped off some antifouling paint on the hull. The Coastguard filled in an accident report and I hope to get Orange County to pay for the repairs. They had not dredged the area in some time and they should have maintained a guest dock facility that you have to pay for. Please contact me using the message box at the bottom of this page if you have any ideas.

Main cabin of 'Nino' looking forward. Laptop connected to Treo600 via USB/PDAnet to surf the web.

More pictures of 'Nino' are available here.
Things that I would not do without
 
Know your boat. Being familiar with and knowing how to fix everything on the boat by your self. Having all the tools and equipment necessary to fix the engine and electronics if needed. Having a backup plan for everything you can think of. Boats are a full time job, if you just use the boat for a while, most things will go wrong at some point and you can learn how to fix it.
 
Radar. This was critical in the fog, and also allowed me to take short naps on the trip home. A radar reflector lets you get seen by other boats. Its interesting to see the signature different boats get on your own radar. skinny sailboats don't show up well unless they have a good reflector up high. When your trying to get rest in the dark and fog, its the only thing that's keeping you safe.
 
GPS chartplotter. The Garmin GPSmap 276C was perfect, detailed color charts, anchor watch, 18hr battery life, tide info, PC chart software for route planning and great cookie trail data. When anchoring at a new location especially when I was alone overnight, I would leave the anchor watch running to alert me to dragging. At times your spinning around the anchor all night (detail), this is when its worth anchoring bow and stern. The trip would have been  nerve racking without the GPS chart plotter.
 
Autopilot. Raymarine ST4000Mk2. I took the helm less than 10% of the time. On the long passages I would have died from sun stroke alone. I can't fathom how people cruise using a tiller! I connected the optional remote control and can be anywhere on the boat and control the helm. You can change the firmware settings on the ST400Mk2 and tune it until its perfect. Its the same control head as the high-end Raymarine hydraulic systems used on big boats. When connected to a GPS you can track to an exact lat/long location. The GPS cookie trail when using the track feature was straight as a laser. It used very little power and was easily supported by the 75W solar panel.
 
EPIRB with built-in GPS. I never had to use my ACR AquaFix 406 or even think about having to. But listening to the coast guard respond to EPIRB signals was very confidence inspiring. You want the built-in GPS as it transmits your exact location to the satellite in one pass instead of three and this means the rescue services can locate you in 20 minutes and not 3 hours. Especially important in the cold pacific waters. The handheld size of this unit means I can have it with me at all times when the weather gets rough.
 
Diesel inboard engine. The Volvo MD7a used on average 1/3 gallon per hour and I only used about 60gl (3 tanks) for the whole 1400nm trip. It's amazing how much you depend on an engine while cruising. Besides getting in/out harbors, setting the anchor and charging the battery, there are many times down south when there is no wind, like most nights, mornings and evenings. It may sound like an excuse, but I would still be out there trying to get home if I didn't use the engine at times. I saved pure sailing for the times it was fun to do so, and there are lots of opportunities. With many long passages, you needed to be in port before night fall and occasionally that was not possible without the engines help. I probably did pure sailing for about 50% of the trip, mostly on the trip south. I rarely used the engine alone but motor-sailed the remaining time. If I had one long nonstop downwind trip like San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas you could probably sail 99% of the time. If like my trip you made over 100 short trips to over 40 different harbors you end up using the motor a lot. It is then apparent how much you depend on it and therefore needs to be reliable. Being familiar with the workings of the engine, having lots of spares and all the necessary tools is taken for granted.
 
Heavy duty dodger. On the long rough passages you will go insane without a dodger. It keeps the sun off you when its clear and the water of you when going to weather. At times it can be like buckets of water being thrown in your face every 10 seconds. A dodger will save you from that. Also it keeps the wind of you and lets you get some rest at night. In fact I have canvas all around the cockpit and it makes it safe and cozy, especially for the kids. I put Kragen stainless steel truck mirrors ($15) in the jib winch handle sockets so I could sit under the dodger and still see traffic and crab pots ahead. The Kragen mirrors fit right in without any changes.
 
Jack lines. On a small boat it doesn't make sense to run them on the deck like they do on big boats. I ran my lines up to the mast from the bow and to both sides of the cockpit. This way I can stay clipped on and not worry about falling over the sides and being dragged thro the water until I drown. When single-handing, going over the side is *not* an option. The jack lines also helped my kids a lot, especially the bow line, they loved to sit on the foredeck and dangle their feet thro the bow pulpit and getting forward was tricky without the jack line to hold on to. You can see my setup in this photo here.
 
A really good preventer. With the huge down wind run to So Cal with the fresh NW Pacific weather that howls every afternoon, it became apparent a preventer is absolutely necessary, I met 1 sailor in Santa Cruz who had his boom torn off like a candy wrapper when he did an accidental jibe in just 20 knots of wind. For my first preventer I used a nylon mooring line, big mistake! When the boom got caught in a veering wind it simply stretched the line all the way round and still jibed. From that point on I used a jackline as a preventer. It has a Whitchard clip at one end and makes it easy to setup. It does not stretch.
 
Inflatable mattress. I built some slats to join the 2 single bunks in the main cabin and put a double mattress with a built in inflator on it. Plugged it into the 12v to inflate/deflate. This was very comfortable and lying across the beam ends was much more stable. I must thank my wife for this great idea! The way I built it, it rolls up so you can stow it easily during the day. I used Douglass fir strips from Home Depot as its strong and light. I stapled about 16 strips together with tie-down webbing to make it one piece. It gave me and the wife a full double bed in the main cabin and made it so much more civilized! Some pictures are here.
 
Power inverter. I only ended up needing a 140W unit for everything I needed. I bought a 700W unit that connected directly to the batteries, but never used it. I charged AA batteries, ran the laptop, LCD TV and inflated the air bed no problem with my small LinkSys unit that fit in the lighter socket. A unit to run my Kettle, toaster and microwave would have to be rated over 1200W and would be huge, cost a fortune and killed my batteries in short order. I never needed these convenience items underway anyway. I only used them when on shore power at a marina.
 
Inflatable dinghy. I have a SeaEagle 6 man unit with a detachable transom and floor boards that fits in a bag. My 2hp Yamaha engine clips on the back. It's slow, but you can't go fast in marina anyway. When I'm not using it, it goes behind the head. I must have had the cheapest setup possible, but it still got me to shore when I needed it and never gave me any trouble. It folded up to nothing and I could put it together on deck in about 10 minutes. Anything bigger or rigid would have caused so many problems it could have ruined the trip.
 
15gl holding tank. Anything smaller would have been a big problem. With 4 of us on the boat, it filled up fast and your options are limited in most marinas.
 
Strong bucket with a rope tied to the handle. I can throw this overboard, even when sailing and scoop up a few gallons of water to clean dirt off the deck, anchor or the cockpit. This was also used when we fished. A good deck brush is also required.
 
Good set of 7x50 binoculars: Small/compact binoculars do not work at sea. It's too dark and jerky to make anything out. The $80 pair from Westmarine (blue rubber coated) is as good as anything I found and was the cheapest. The optics are fantastic and still amaze me with how clear they are. I see they are only $40 on sale at the moment (Aug 05)!
 
Foul weather gear. Including trousers, boots and gloves. I found Gill equipment to be just right for me.
 
A good digital camera. One that starts up fast. Anything more than 3 mega pixels isn't required. A good optical zoom 3x + is useful. Small and compact. I use the Sony 5MP T1 and it's great. We took over 1600 photos, so make sure you have a charger and can download the snaps to a laptop when it fills up. The trick to taking good photos is to take 4 pictures of everything instead of one, then throw out the crap ones. This is especially true with kid pictures. Every picture in this article was taken by me using the default settings on a mid priced digital camera.
 
A fishing net: Stuff will fall over the side, if it floats you can grab it quick with the net. It saved many hats and gloves.
 
A good book of knots: You need to be able to tie a clove hitch, truckers hitch, bowline and many others from every angle with your eyes shut. I have now started using lots of boating knots around the house and garden, this stuff should be taught at school.
 
Laptop Computer: I used an IBM thinkpad A21p all the time on the boat. Its an older unit but has a 1600x1200 display which is perfect for charts. I didn't play games or be a nerd, but used it to get on the Internet to get weather reports, find out about the next marina and its facilities, take a look at where I was going with GoogleEarth which is incredible, zoom in on Cojo at Pt Conception and see Mr.Clean! use SKYPE.com to make phone calls, read email from home, do business and research / order parts for the boat. I did use it to watch some DVD movies occasionally.
I bought a WIFI aerial from cantenna.com ($50) and use the Orinoco gold PCMCIA wireless card with the external aerial socket. This allowed me to be up to a mile away from wireless hotspots and still connect. I used NetStumbler software (free) to view the networks. I placed the Cantenna on the solar panel on the dodger. It's highly directional and took some time to get the signal right at times. I also have a 360 deg aerial that is on the top of the radar, but that is way less effective than the Cantenna. It's still better than a standard wireless card though. I was away for 5 months, but with this setup I had everything like at home. When I could not find a wireless network I used my Sprint Treo600 cell phone with PDAnet to get on the network at 128kbs.
 
Cell phone with internet access. I have the Sprint Treo 600 and use PDAnet to connect my laptop to the internet anywhere I have service. Invaluable for email, researching/ordering engine parts and getting weather reports. I use http://buoyweather.com for weather reports. Here is an example.
 
12v power cables. 12v lighter sockets connected to all your radios, flashlights, GPS units, computer etc. I bought a bunch of adaptors and made up every cable I could use. Then get a 110v wall socket to 12v lighter socket adaptor so you can use it when on shore power. Also a 12v lighter socket to USB so I could charge the phone easily. This in conjunction with the LinkSys 150W power inverter allowed me to charge and run electrical equipment under any situation. We never ran out of power.
 
Tandy digital optical thermometer. You point it at anything and it shows you the surface temperature. Invaluable for debugging the engine when it was overheating and finding the blockage. Also for checking the refrigeration unit performance.
 
The islander owners group at sailnet.net. Having access to so much information about the boat you own is invaluable. Virtually every problem you have has been experienced by someone else, why learn it all over again? If SailNet does die (they are under receivership), SailBoatOwners.com looks to be gaining momentum and offers the same sort of information.
 
Sunrise on the Big Sur coast. I hauled anchor from Stillwater cove at Carmel at 5am to make San Simeon by nightfall. This is the single biggest stretch of coast you have to cover in one day, about 90nm. There is nowhere to stop in between. The view is incredible.
 
Things I now know you don't need for coastal cruising
 
Water maker: A waste of money on anything less than a week long 1000nm+ offshore passage or if you have a shower fetish.
 
Huge power inverters:  Buy the smallest unit you can get by with. Investigate the latest units available, they have improved tremendously in the last few years.
 
Chart plotter on the binnacle: Get a hand held unit and move it about the boat and take it with you in hire cars and other boats. Garmin GPSmap 276c is my choice. I hardly ever stood behind the binnacle as the autopilot took the helm. You need a chart plotter than can be moved easily about the boat. At times you want it next to you while you sleep below so you can react to the anchor watch alarms.
 
Wind speed anemometer: If you can't tell how much wind there is or where it's coming from, your in the wrong sport.
 
Yacht club membership: I never needed reciprocal membership to find a slip. If I was to join a club, I would first check all the clubs on the coast that it has reciprocal privileges with. Clubs vary tremendously. The main reason I didn't join a club though, was to avoid endless 'meetings and socials' that really have little to do with sailing. I'm not a weekend or 'beer can' racer either, I just want to have the freedom of getting away on the boat whenever I feel like it.
 
An expensive RIB tender with a big outboard: Everyone goes the same slow speed in marinas and harbors, so get the lightest, smallest unit that stows away in the boat. Here is my SeaEagle tender. My 2hp outboard even propelled my 4 ton boat when I needed it and it only weighs 25lbs at most.
 
SSB radio: unless you're going to Hawaii or further it's not needed. Today the coast guard can pick up and send signals at great distances. I continued to get San Diego broadcasts over 100nm North of San Diego. If you want weather reports offshore, get the new Garmin 376 that receives satellite weather. Carry an EPIRB for emergencies. Get on the internet when you get near the shore for email.
 
A huge Nav Station table: Although it would be nice if you have space, you can use your salon table for looking at large charts. With a GPS chart plotter and PC based charts you rarely use old paper charts anyways. You should always have paper charts with you, but generally they are not used.
 
A big beamy boat: If you want to break some ribs, go to sea in a beamy RV style boat and see how much you get thrown about in heavy weather as you try to go forward down below. A nice glossy teak and holly sole is fun when it's wet also. Ice skating during an earthquake comes to mind.
 
A generator: for the same reason you don't need a big power inverter. If you cant live without all your power guzzling home comforts, buy a sailing video and play with your remote instead of going cruising.
 
A self steering wind vane: A good wheel mounted autopilot works perfectly and is far more capable for less money. Maybe I would fit one for long ocean passages as part of a redundant system.
 
An open transom: Besides using up lots of valuable storage space they often create lots of noisy wave slap and make the quarter berth too noisy to sleep in. A swim ladder is easy to use and keeps the cockpit closed to the elements, especially desirable in following seas.
 
A spinnaker: I wanted one at first, but in retrospect it would have been suicidal single-handing and flying a huge kite. Save it for bay sailing with friends.
 
Storm Sails: I looked into this for a while and ended up leaving without them. It turned out fine. If your coastal cruising with all your safety gear and have a good engine, can reef the main, drop the jib, run the jib alone or go bare poles, then your covered in all but the very worst situations. If the weather gets that bad, you will have called the coastguard already. You certainly wont be up on the bow hanking on a storm jib.
 
Finally, you don't need a lot of money to go cruising, even though I was out 5 months, it was less costly than nearly every typical fly/hotel/beach vacation we have ever done. It was also 10x more rewarding for the entire family, we all know each other so better after being in each others company 24x7 and in close quarters for so long. As a family, there is a definite sense of achievement and teamwork in safely crossing the open ocean and then tying up in a snug harbor in time for dinner.
 
Alongside at Morro Bay yacht club. One of my favorite stops. Note the Yamaha 2hp outboard connected to the swim-step. This saved me after I burnt out my starter motor and couldn't start the engine to leave a lee shore at San Simeon and finally get into Morro Bay harbor and tie up when the wind died. I had a few drinks after I landed here! Morro bay is a 'must see' destination for cruisers.

 
Things I guessed wrong about cruising
 
I was sure a 30ft boat would be a handful in open seas. I was completely wrong. For starters, if you're single handing, a small boat is way more manageable. The key item is to be able to reef the main on your own; you will now and again leave it too late (too windy) and need to get the main down fast. A big boat will only give you trouble at this point.
 
Same with setting/raising the anchor. With a small boat you don't need a windlass and in places like Cojo anchorage where its always windy, you will find yourself running to/from the cockpit/bow in order to get it set right for a nights stay. The smaller the better in this case.
 
I found my 30ft boat moves around just as much as a 40ft boat in big seas, just differently. Both boats have their advantages and disadvantages on big seas. Once you get your sea legs, you hardly notice the movement anyways.
 
I expected an islander 30 would be too small for a long trip for a family of 4, but with all of us aboard, we had our space. It was never a problem. And when I was on my own, it felt positively cavernous! There was a place for everything and everything had its place. I didn't need any more room. Having a small boat helps in crowded marinas. It was great the day when I got a slip and the guy with his new million dollar 48ft Island Packet had to anchor outside because he was too big. My boat costs less than some boats depreciate in value in 1 year, and it's just as capable.
 
I wasn't sure if a 30ft boat would have the right equipment for coastal cruising. It turned out there is enough space, and the ability to fit the latest navigation, safety gadgets and electronics on the boat. The new technology is available to you, not just new big yachts. Finding the right equipment and knowing how to use it is way more important than just being able to pay for it. I see so much expensive equipment just being unused or misused due to ignorance. RTFM!
 
I thought I would always be seasick when it was rolly and/or rough. When I first encountered heavy seas, I could only sit in the cockpit and stare out to sea to stop getting sick, but soon I was down below fixing the engine in huge swells and making food and reading books underway. It just took time. Spending a few nights at anchor at the beginning helps a lot and doesn't make you sick. It's the constant time at sea that gets your sea legs. Not short trips, but at least 2 back to back days with the boat moving around all the time. At first I found closing my eyes stopped the motion sickness (only if you have help to see where you're going of course!). If you do get sick, just get it out and continue, it's not that bad if you just get it out of your system, you feel better immediately. Just make sure you're facing downwind!
 
I never used half the clothes I took. I wore shorts and tee shirts nearly the whole time south of point Conception.
 
I thought my CNG run cooker system would be a problem. 2 gas bottles lasted me all summer! I found refills of CNG at Redondo Beach.
 
I hardly used any of the toys I took. I never had time. Maybe if I had crew with me, I would have had more time for the MP3 player, radio, LCD TV, books etc. I did spend a lot of time reading Latitude38's and I also read '2 years before the mast' by Henry Dana which is a great book from the 1830's. I just finished 'Sailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum' which was written in the 1890's, both books show how little some things have changed. Your day aboard is typically very busy. Much more than I imagined.
 
I thought my 25gl water tank would be too small. I never ran out, or even used more than 50%. Even taking showers and washing hair it lasted days and days. You have to be careful not to waste it, but conserving water becomes pretty easy with practice. You realize after your trip how wasteful you have been in the past. I usually had 8 gallons of bottled water with me for drinking. I found 'Crystal Geyser' square gallon bottles from Safeway fit in the bottom of the cool box great. You notice Safeway turns into Vons in the south, but your club card still works.
 
I thought I would only eat canned food. With the help of the BBQ, refrigerator and the gas oven we ate great! It takes a while to find food you like that works on a boat (i.e. lasts more than 2 days) but when you do it becomes much more civilized. Potatoes, onions, eggs, 1% milk, jam, white sliced bread, sauces, cereal, biscuits etc last forever.
 
Things I would change if I was to do it again
 
A hot water solution when at anchor. I only had hot water when I had shore power. My diesel is raw water cooled and has not heat exchanger option. It would have made showers and washing up easier. I did have a solar shower which I used a few times and used boiled water for washing up.
 
Fix all head smells. This is my current project. I will conquer it!
 
Take less stuff with me. The boat was so loaded up, the antifouling top line was under water and caused marine growth on the boot line.
 
Stop the stuffing box from dripping too much. I have heard good reports on the PSS drip less shaft seal. A dry bilge would have saved me a lot of hours drying equipment out and cut down the boat smells.
 
Spend less time procrastinating and just go. If you wait for everyone to approve your boat safe for coastal cruising you will never get out of your own harbor. With an EPIRB you have a huge safety margin to play with. With Westmarine stores everywhere, you can add equipment as you go.
 
Standing on top of Angel Island on the San Francisco bay while waiting for the ebb tide to flush us out the gate.
 
Notes about the weather
 
California summer weather is very predictable. In fact its one of the reasons I came to California. I have windsurfed most other places I have lived and the problem I had, was finding consistent wind. When I visited the San Francisco bay area on a business trip I couldn't believe how good the weather was. The wind would kick in every afternoon from the NW and blow 12-25knots until it started dying off in the evening. The ocean conditions are exactly the same. Afternoon winds quickly build a big wind chop with lots of white caps and the swells start to build.
 
There are days when the wind blows from other directions and during different times of the day, but that is not the norm. Since ideal cruising sailing conditions for me are 8-12 knots, I avoid being out on the water in the afternoons, i.e. between 1pm and 8pm. This is especially true between San Francisco and Pt Conception. This makes the passage along the Big Sur coast tricky as its the longest single leg and there is nowhere to stop or find shelter. You need to sail thro the night in these areas.
 
The afternoon winds are simply thermals caused by the land heating up. Super clear sunny days with unusually good visibility are always a good sign its going to blow like crazy. Don't head North on days like this. If you live in California you already know the weather pattern, its no different offshore.
 
If you're used to sailing in San Francisco bay and have been out the Golden Gate on a windy summer afternoon, you have seen as bad as it gets. Once you go round Pt Conception and head east the wind stops. Along most of the southern California coast, over 10knots of wind is a big day and you will often find yourself wanting more wind. Ever wondered why boats sold outside the Bay Area have such huge jib sails? If you head out Northwest of the Channel Islands, the swell and wind pick up a lot. The channel islands shelter the inner waters considerably.
 
The only consistently nasty conditions I encountered were between Pt Arguello and Pt Conception. You can count on conditions here (wind, swell) being double anywhere else on the same day. I passed thro both times at night after waiting for the sea to lie down. Be prepared to wait. On the way down I just flew the jib and stayed 30 deg off the wind to stabilize the boat, this worked out great and I made good time. Don't have the main up going south between Pt Arguello and Pt Conception unless its very calm, you do not want an accidental jibe in this part of the coast. Look in the maritime museum at Santa Barbara to find out how bad it can get, the worst Naval maritime disaster of all time occurred here. The fog gets very dense at times. and the collision of the north/south weather fronts makes for some very confused seas. As Henry Dana said in his book, "its windy at Pt Conception from January 1st till the end of December". On the way north, anchor at Cojo and wait for the wind to die down after dark, take a look round the point and if it's good, then motor sail thro the night to Morro Bay. I tried one time to go round at 7pm and got whipped so hard the prop was hardly in the water, I headed back to Cojo and waited till 2am to try again.
 
I got caught out in one small craft advisory while on my own heading from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz island. It was very calm until I got within 10 nm of Santa Cruz Island and all hell hit loose, my anchor came loose on the bow roller from being dunked under too many times and I had to go forward to lash it down. This is when the jack lines and safety harness are worth every penny. I had a lot of fun trying to get the main down as I could only hand start my engine at that time and I needed the engine to get the boat pointed into the wind. At one point a big swell broke over the cockpit coamings and filled up the cockpit like a kiddies swimming pool. Luckily I had put the companionway boards in and it didn't get any water below. I remember thinking how blue the water was on the white gel coat before it drained away. It took a few minutes to drain, I can only guess how many gallons there were.
 
Notes about single-handing
 
I single handed the boat on the majority of the cruise. I had the help of one crew member from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and had my family with me from Long Beach to San Diego. All the rest I was alone. I sailed the return trip on my own. The islander 30 is no problem to handle by myself, especially with all the electronic help I have available. It takes a lot of practice to single hand a boat and you have to work your way up to the typical windy afternoon conditions and open ocean swells you will encounter. The key is practice, practice and more practice. Just get out there and try it, bring a friend at first and just have them watch, make lot of mistakes and then work out how to get around any problems you have.
 
Every boat is different so there is no 'one way' to single hand a boat. Some moves such as tacks and jibes may not be as graceful as you would like single handed, but the main purpose is to do it effectively and safely. Often, the hardest part is handling the boat in close quarters, like coming in to a new down wind guest slip with very little clearance. This takes practice and requires a lot of confidence in your boat handling skills that can only come with time. You will need to do it wrong a number of times to find out what not to do. Practice somewhere you can make mistakes and have a shipmate ready to catch the boat for you if it goes wrong. Only then head out on your own.
 
Just from a practical standpoint, being able to single hand your boat is something every captain should be able to do from time to time. Maybe your crew is out of action for some reason, maybe you get left in port by yourself and need to get home. Even something simple like moving the boat from your slip to the pump out and back without help is so much more convenient if you can do it alone.
 
Setting the anchor can be a testing time for a single hander, especially in windy conditions with kelp and rocks. Its especially taxing when you have all those factors and the roar of breaking waves in the background, other obstacles nearby, its pitch black, foggy, the anchor drags and it takes many passes to get it set. It may sound extreme but this describes arriving and leaving Cojo anchorage at Pt Conception and there is no-one around to hear you scream! You have to be able to keep a cool head. You always need a backup plan. You must have confidence in both the abilities of your boats equipment and your skills to use them. This isn't meant to scare you off, its not that hard, it just takes practice. After you have done it a few times it becomes second nature. Other boating tasks that made you nervous before, become trivial by comparison. Your now a sailor.
 
If your already a seasoned single handed sailor from the San Francisco bay and can tie up at Ayala cove in the dark and anchor at Treasure island during a good afternoon blow, your are nearly there. A good local open ocean practice spot is Ano Nuevo. Its very typical of what you may find on the Big Sur coast and in the Channel Islands in terms of rocks, kelp, hard sand bottom and exposed water. You can easily day sail there to practice anchoring from the bay or on the way to Santa Cruz or Monterey.
 
As a single hander, you need to like your own company. Similarly you need to be able to get by without someone else's company. You either do or you don't. I cant give any advice here.
 
I have never met so many people or been given so much help as when I'm single handing a sail boat. It's a wonderful feature of human nature that you only see when you're on your own. I can't recommend it enough for that reason alone. A single person with a purpose is so much more approachable to strangers and they seem to go out of their way to assist you. Bring a friend with you and that feature disappears.
 
When you're on you own you can come and go as you please. You only have to discuss your plans with yourself. You will find you can always have as much company as you want due to the reason above.
 
You only have to worry about yourself when the going gets tricky. The point here is that the captain ends up doing most of the work when trouble rears its head, and having to worry about other people only adds to the load. If you have a small boat that you are familiar with, you can easily do every chore on the boat anyways.
 
Have family and friends meet you and sail with you when you're in a nice location. This way you don't have to drag people thro long & rough passages and put them off for life. Make sailing enjoyable for your friends and they will come back for more. I see so many Captains doing the opposite of that, it seems they have to impress upon their colleagues how tough it is to be a sailor and make their new crew suffer for it.
 
It's more peaceful / relaxing on your own on long passages. Unless you really know someone, you can only talk for a few hours before the conversation turns to rubbish and causes issues. I can't imagine having a week long passage with someone who I found annoying. That's when the boat will seem small!
 
I find I am much less lazy when I have no one to help me out. I guess there is no chance I can palm chores off to someone else. That makes it easier for me to get going on things. For the same reason I find I'm much more efficient and tidy on my own.
 
Your not really single-handing as you have your crew mate 'Otto' with you at all times. Otto the auto pilot will allow you to raise, set and reef the main, set the anchor, enjoy the scenery, have a rest on long passages, make dinner and take a leak underway. Its one of the most important gadgets you can have.
 
I was worried about all night passages and getting rest when I was alone at sea. This is where radar really helps, head way out to sea (20nm plus) and clear of any shipping lanes. The radar can tell you of any traffic up to 16nm away and you can catch 20 minute naps, which I found gave me enough rest. Make sure you have a good alarm with you that does not quit beeping and gets louder and louder. I found the Oster timer worked great. Its the round unit top left on my bulkhead. Find this timer at Amazon. If you can't sleep, your not tired enough, do something else.
 
If your reading this and thinking "Why on earth would anybody go sailing in the Pacific by themselves", you are in the majority. Single-handers are an odd breed of people. It probably explains a lot.
 
Southbound trip notes
 
The itinerary was to 'head south until I had enough'. There was no fixed plan or schedule. I did want to try to get to Santa Barbara for the kids summer vacation and also at least get as far as the Mexican border by the end of the trip. I had the advantage of running with the prevailing weather on the way down and also it being spring time, there was no fog or evening/morning haze. Spring is the nicest time to cruise the pacific coast and all the marinas are empty!
 
The advantage of cruising in my own state (California) was that my family could easily join me when I found a nice location. Before they stayed full time on the boat they drove down to see me 3 times. Spring break in Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay. A long weekend in Morro Bay. A long weekend at Santa Barbara. Once the kids summer vacation started they met me at Long Beach and we continued the journey south altogether. This plan made the whole trip possible, otherwise there would be too many excuses to not cast off. My kids still had school to finish, They didn't want to do the long blue water passages and I wanted to do it all, some on my own. The end result worked out great for everyone. Dad got to challenge himself with the single-handing, night passages, bad weather etc and we all got a big summer vacation and lots of weekend trips.
 
Leave early in the spring when the prevailing NW summer weather begins to kick in. Watch the weather for a window of consistent NW wind and go for it, allow yourself as much time as it takes to do the passage. Leave the boat in one of the many marinas on the way if you need to go home or if you have bad weather. You can leave your boat at Santa Barbara for up to 2 weeks at a time. Take the fantastic Amtrak coast train back to the SF Bay Area, its a vacation in itself.
 
Heading south in the spring was a lot of fun, big swells and wind are easy when your going with it. I liken the north/south passages to skiing uphill and downhill. I took 4 months going south and stopped at every harbor/anchorage on the way. This made going back north easier, as I knew all the locations and where best to anchor/tie up and get fuel.
 
Take a snorkel/wetsuit/flippers/goggles with you and jump in and clean the bottom every week. Some marinas are cleaner than others so take your pick, the bottom of the boat is like new at the end of my cruise.
 
Once we made it to San Diego and spent some time there, the family drove home to get ready to start school. The next day I started my passage home.
 
Northbound trip notes
 
The trip back from San Diego took 9 days, 2 of those were thro the night. I was single handing so it would be easier and shorter if you have crew as you could do it non-stop. The IB30 had no problems at all with big seas, it's a very capable boat that I'm sure could go to Hawaii and back if you wanted to.
 
The moment I turned to head home, I found myself on a mission and discovered deep reserves of enthusiasm and energy. I had achieved everything I wanted to do on this trip and was ready to go home.
 
I watched the weather closely, the weather was forecast to be mild and the swells had died down to under 10ft in central California. See buoyweather.com. Here is an example weather report. This is the key to a safe trip north. Everything is easy until you get to Pt Conception. Then the fun begins....
 
The only bad stories I have heard are when people are on a tight schedule and take unnecessary risks. That is they head out on a passage during unsafe weather conditions. Give your self as much time as you need. Have all your excuses ready for not being home on time. It could save your life.
 
I motor sailed most of the trip north to San Francisco to maintain a 5knot minimum. I used around 40gl of diesel. It was important to set the sails as flat as possible to allow a very close hauled point of sail. Jib sheet track way back, lots of downhaul and boomvang tension and use the traveler to set the main. This would add an extra knot or more to my speed and really stabilize the boat. North of Pt Conception I would point 30 deg off the weather to minimize the effect of the swell/chop and fill the sails. This turned out to be more effective than going straight into the weather. I had a fantastic 8+ knots run towards the foggy San Francisco bridge when I got a morning south wind. What a great way to end the trip!
 
Most people I met said they would never do the trip alone, but I found that if you have the time and your boat set up, its very doable, In San Diego I got quoted over $3000 to have the boat unstepped/hauled/trucked/refloated from San Diego to San Francisco. In the end the trip north was very enjoyable. As you can imagine, it felt fantastic as I entered the Golden Gate bridge back into San Francisco bay. I definitely got into the long passages and night work and actually found it easier than coastal trips as you have so much space to work with. After a while you can behave on the boat underway just as you do at the weekend at home. It just takes time to acclimatize.
 
You must have a tide book or use the ones built into a GPS unit (i.e. Garmin 276C) to calculate when you can leave and enter the Golden Gate. Also be ready to come in via the pilot area thro the shipping channel if the swells are high, I've seen breakers over the Potato Patch when it was running a 20ft swell in January and you don't want to go anywhere near that. Unfortunately when I was sailing home from Halfmoon bay that day, it took a few hours to get out to the pilot are and I missed the flood tide and made at best 2 knots coming in and it took forever. With a few other ports such as Morro Bay, it is worth synchronizing your arrival with the tide also.
 
Notes on buying a boat
 
Firstly, you need to decide what you are going to do with your boat. The trouble is that its hard to know what you want on a boat until you have owned one. If your like me and the money is burning a whole in your pocket as you want to go cruising tomorrow, you take a chance on getting the right boat and its not until you turn up at your new home marina with your new prize that everyone starts telling you the awful truth about the model you purchased. I must admit I was lucky that I found a good boat first time round and I didn't have to spend ages finding it. It was also only 1 hour north by car to go and look at it. It also turned out my neighbor was a member of the Islander36 owners group and knew the boat very well and what problems to look for. He came out on the sea trial and put it thro its paces.
 
Don't waste your time buying a boat if you only want to go sailing. Most boat owners don't single hand and need crew to get out. Much like wake boarders and water skiers who have their own boat, they still need a spotter and a driver before they can get out. They spend most of their time finding people to go with them. If you want to just sail, turn up at any yacht club on a summer Wednesday night and volunteer as crew for "Beer Can Racing". Unless you're really scary you will have no trouble finding a boat captain needing crew, even if you're a complete novice. Crew are in demand because even after boat owners have spent all their money and time, they still can't go sailing until they find crew.
 
I wanted to have my own boat and not share it in any partnership. I wanted it to be my own floating island that I can use and change at will. That's me. You choose your own method that suits you. I also like to learn by jumping in at the deep end and seeing what I need to do to stay afloat. That's not everybody's idea of fun either. I do all the work on the boat, with the exception of the haul out, the boat is a floating workshop. If you have a garage full of tools and love to try and fix everything on your own, that really helps. Yachts need constant maintenance and someone has to do the work. Any decent boatyard wants at least $50 an hour and some a lot more.
 
A lot of people buy boats, put them in the marina and only use it as a weekend condo or as a trophy. They never go out sailing. That can be a great solution if it's what you want. Just don't take cruising advice from these people. They just want floating RV's. They know boat interiors, not coastal cruising.
 
Beware of wooden boats or boats with lots of wood on deck. Think "Fiberglass and Stainless steel". Say it over and over again to your self, "Fiberglass and Stainless steel". Teak toe rails, teak decks, teak bowsprits, teak cockpits equal varnish and/or much maintenance. Some people buy boats because they like fixing them up and maintaining them. They never go sailing either. You see them at every marina, paint brush in hand every weekend, varnish, varnish. They talk their friends into helping them and have varnishing parties. Remember, if you want to go cruising think "Fiberglass and Stainless steel". If you want to take on a lot of work, buy a Hans Christian yacht! To give you an idea, I can varnish all my exterior woodwork in 2 hours. That's quite enough for me. Also don't varnish wood below if you can help it. Oiled teak is the low maintenance solution. Your just rub it over with an oil soaked diaper once every 6 months.
 
A good way to browse boats before you buy one is to look at the photos and descriptions on YBW.com. There are thousands of boats for sale around the world, online, and you can get a feel for what they are like inside and how much they go for in their various states of neglect. Don't buy the boat online though, get it thro the local ads in Latitude38 and offer the seller 50% of what he's asking. You're in no rush and you will be surprised on what a buyers market it is. Most boats today are on the market for 6 months or more. Look at a dozen boats at least before you take the plunge. You might also be able charter a similar model to the one you want thro a sailing school. Take along a knowledgeable sailor when you do a sea-trial on any boat your considering purchasing. If you can find someone who has the same model boat, bribe them with beer and pizza to go with you.
 
Buy a boat that has been surveyed very recently or get one done before you buy it. The misery that can be hidden under a little gel coat or varnish is beyond your imagination. If you want to go cruising, don't buy a project boat, you will never finish it and you will never go cruising and you will loose all your money and drive your family nuts. A ready to go boat can be found thro the Latitude38 private ads in the back section that will fit your needs. So many boats are already setup for coastal cruising, get one that has proven itself already. You're really buying the previous owners experience more than the physical boat.
 
Don't get fooled into buying a bigger boat than you need. The overhead costs of a 40ft boat versus a 30ft boat are astronomical. A 40ft boat can weigh 4 times or greater than a 30ft boat due to the structural requirements. That's a lot more paint, varnish and cleaning let alone haul out costs, marina fees, insurance and maintenance. Get the smallest boat that does what you need to go cruising. I hear over and over again from long time sailors that the most fun they had was in their smaller boats. There is something very rewarding and satisfying about being efficient and practical and achieving your goals. Don't kill your cruising dreams at day one by getting a huge boat to impress your family and friends. Look around any marina at the majority of boat owners yachts who did just that. They just sit there depreciating and growing an underwater beard. Most marinas are really graveyards in disguise. Sad but true. Latitude38 suggest structuring marina costs around the usage of the boat. i.e. you pay extra fees if you don't use your boat once a month or more. I would love to see that happen.
 
Its human nature to want a bigger boat, it says you are so successful and attractive that  you have to beat the women off with a shitty stick! Get over that and get what you need, not what you want. This single action will improve your chances of actually going cruising as much as anything else. Anywhere else in the world, a 30ft boat is considered large. Only the US marketing machine makes you think of it as small. Like the girls say, "Its not how big it is, its what you can do with it that counts".
 
Remember that a boat in bad condition is worth less than nothing, you would need to be paid to take ownership of some neglected yachts, just to cover the repair costs and get it moving at all. I would make a sweeping rule that If you're looking at a boat to buy, but couldn't sail it out the Golden Gate bridge and back as it stands, you should walk away right there and then.
 
Here is my survey document done on Nino, I was very happy with the survey quality and highly recommend Wedlock & Stone if your in the San Francisco area. Its vitally important to get a survey, without it you can't get insurance, without insurance you can't get a slip in a marina. If you want to see what happens to boats that are sold without a survey, go and look at some of the fine yachts anchored in Richardson's bay off Sausalito, it's one of the few free anchorages in the bay area. This could be your new home for your bargain "It will be ready this time next year" boat.
 
Notes on owning a boat
 
Every yacht owner knows that B.O.A.T stands for "Break Out Another Thousand". If you think your going to get a boat as an investment, please call me immediately, I have millions of dollars I need to send you from a consulate in Nigeria, I just need help with the wire transfer costs.
 
What does it cost to own a boat? Here is what I found out. Say your spend $20k on a 20 year old 30ft boat and it's basically ready to go and only need some modern electronics to go cruising (This is typical as technology in that area has changed dramatically in the last 5 years) First you need insurance. Call BoatUS (AKA Westmarine) and get insurance to cover you to the Mexican border and 50nm out to sea. It should be less than $400 per year unless you have been naughty. If you just get just the SF bay area coverage and your marina only wants $300k of coverage it may be less than $300 per year. Your marina will want to be named on the policy. A south bay marina slip for a $30ft boat costs around $200 per month, $300 a month or more for the city and Sausalito areas. In the city area there may be multi year waiting lists and transfer fees that could be 10's of thousands of dollars depending on the view. The economic depression has eased the waiting lists considerably and reduced boat values. It's a good time to be an owner. Then factor about 10% of the boats initial cost in yearly maintenance fees, broken parts, supplies etc, this is after you have spent money getting it ready for your cruise. You will have yearly city property taxes to pay based on its valuation. Finally, don't forget DMV registration costs at 8% of your purchase price. Look into registering your boat thro the Coast Guard if you are an American citizen, it could save you the DMV fees.
 
To get a typical boat cruise ready, look at my list of items I needed to purchase for my boat elsewhere on this page. The cost of a new autopilot, chart plotter, radar, refrigeration and solar panel will probably need to be factored in depending on how your new boat was setup. Learn how to install these items yourself. This means you can fix them when they go wrong. It also halves the initial cost with some equipment. All items on my boat got put to use during my trip. I didn't need any additional equipment or feel my adventure would have been safer or more exciting with more toys.
 
I have spent a lot of time at my marina in the last year preparing my boat for the cruise and never saw 90% of the owners of the boats around me. I have thought at length about why that is. Everyone must have had the same dream and passion as I have at some point. How come all these yachts, some very expensive and well equipped, are basically left for dead? Maybe they have had their fun in the boat and moved on to something else? Maybe they are so rich they don't care about the marina fees and let it sit like a discarded kids toy? Maybe they are so busy they never find the time? Maybe they can't find anyone to go sailing with them? Maybe they get the value out the boat by just owning a boat and never actually sailing it. I think that last comment is probably the most accurate. More money is made with boats in selling the 'dream of cruising' than actually supporting people who actually go cruising. Be honest with yourself and look at past hobbies you have undertaken, did you actually complete any of them to any satisfactory level? I have met people who bought a boat, went out the Golden Gate and threw up so bad they never went out again. Don't wait to find out that after you have spent all your money. Statistically, your chances of actually casting off on your dream cruise are very low, so take this opportunity to think long and hard about how you plan to do it.
 
Finally
 
All in all, the journey was easier than I expected and I had no major problems, but you must be prepared to wait out the weather if needed. Avoid being out between 2pm and 9pm when the wind and chop is heaviest. You'll need a radar for the night/fog passages and an autopilot that can run 7x24 in big seas on all points of sail, a chart plotter, EPIRB and 2 good alarm clocks/timers for naps. Really though, the biggest hurdle to going cruising is getting yourself out there. All the above information is a simple list that anybody could follow. Breaking the rules and escaping the rat race is the hard part. How you do that is another story in itself and one only you know the answer to. The odds of going are stacked against you, and that's why I hardly saw anyone out there. If I can inspire just one person to go from my story, I will be happy. Maybe that's you?
 
"This is sailing vessel Nino, sector San Francisco, Standing by on Channel 16. Out".
 
A Scrapbook of my favorite photos taken during the cruise can be found here.
 
On a close reach for Cat harbor visible 2 points off the starboard bow. Windward side of Catalina island after an all day sail from Oceanside, CA

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step", cast off this week!

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