Archive for the ‘Sailing’ Category

Condesa Sails Under the Golden Gate

Clark June 17th, 2008

For the first time in ten years Condesa has entered a port with no plans of leaving. She’s in her new berth in San Francisco, which looks up at Coit Tower, and straight across the Bay to Alcatraz.

One of my most frequently asked questions is, “Which was your favorite country?” Lately my answer has been, “California.” I’ve said before that I always thought of Californians as angry people stuck in traffic. Maybe I was the angry person stuck in traffic. I was also expecting unspecified run-ins with the authorities. I guess my only experiences with Homeland Security and the like in recent years have been in airports, where they are less than kind. I figured that after being away for so long I’d be coming back to some hassles, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I already mentioned how nice, easy, and cheap it was to put into San Diego, but this same treatment continued on up the coast, and the California coast competes with anywhere for natural beauty.

In Newport Beach, my home port, of course I got good treatment. With a free dock in front of the Beek house and wholesale fuel at the family fuel dock, what more could I ask for? But even if I didn’t have connections, Newport is a friendly port with free anchoring and free moorings.

Condesa set sail from Newport with Panama and Peru veteran Tony Burger. We made an overnight sail to Santa Barbara to visit my brother Jim (aka Rufus) and a host of friends. We’d planned to anchor out, but it was rough as guts when we got there. We radioed the Harbor Patrol, who were sweet as pie and had us tie up to their dock while they pulled all the stops to accommodate us. We ended up in a great berth for $23 per day.

Tony left and Beloved Cousin Rocky took the train down from Santa Cruz:

Rocky and I motored out of Santa Barbara and out to the Channel Islands for a little cruising. We visited the Painted Cave, on Santa Cruz Island, which was very deep and dark, and had some very angry sea lions hidden in the back. We traded standing off on Condesa while the other went into the cave in the dinghy, as it’s too deep to anchor. After the Painted Cave we cruised around Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, both of which have very scenic and snug bays. We never saw another recreational boat in the Channel Islands (it was a Monday), just a few fishing boats.

Condesa from inside the Painted Cave:

Then it was around dreaded Point Conception, the second windiest place to Point Reyes on the California coast, but we had an easy time of it. We charged through the night to the protected anchorage at San Simeon, where we looked up at Hearst Castle. Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo are two other snug harbors, but we passed them in the night. The next morning the sky was brown and the sun a blood red orb. It’s California’s wildfire season again, and we could see the Big Sur and Bonnie Doon fires burning from well offshore:

From San Simeon it’s a long haul along the cliffs to Carmel, Monterrey, or Santa Cruz. We chose Santa Cruz, as it’s where Rocky lives. We could see the headlights on the cars winding along Highway 1 all night long. Once again the Harbor Patrol in Santa Cruz was eager to please and we got a snug berth in the harbor, this time for $27 per night, where we saw this guy, a California Sea Otter, snoozing in the marina:

Case in point: One can cruise the California coast at a leisurely pace in total comfort. Where there aren’t beautiful natural anchorages there are bustling ports with reasonably-priced berths for transient yachts. All of these ports jack the price up if you stay more than a few days, which makes good sense to me. With the exception of the stretch between Monterrey and San Simeon, it’s all daysails. The next time I go cruising it might be a month’s sail from San Francisco down to Newport and back, combining haut cuisine in California’s ports with remote beauty on her offshore islands.

From Santa Cruz to San Francisco was an historic voyage with cousins Rocky, Joe, and Joe’s daughter Abigail. Rocky is half responsible for this whole cruising odyssey mess, and Joe is responsible for the other half. I went cruising the first time with them on Starwake when they were returning from a trans-Pacific voyage to New Zealand and back. In the ‘About Me’ entry on this website I talk about being green with seasickness while watching a hammock full of vegetables rot and drip in the tropical heat above my bunk, while figuring out how to get myself out of this horrible, horrible error in judgment. Going with them was the horrible error in judgment, and look what it ended up doing to me. How fitting that it would all begin and end on a sailboat with Rocky and Joe, but I guess I’m looking for landmarks and significance in every little thing at this uncertain juncture in my life.

Joe and Abigail:

We had rare south winds most of the day and sailed past the Pigeon Point lighthouse and Point Pilar, home of the famous big wave surf spot Mavericks. (It wasn’t going off.) As we neared San Francisco the wind veered to the west and strengthened, and a flood tide screamed under the Golden Gate at three knots. My friends Elias and Jim were going to take pictures of Condesa going under the Golden Gate, but couldn’t get there in time. “Can’t you stall a bit?” I looked at the GPS, marking our speed at nearly ten knots, with the current accounting for three of it. “Um, no.”

We sailed right up to Condesa’s new marina, with various Beeks scrambling around to drop sails, and made our entrance…into the wrong place. But the wrong place was much more photogenic than the right place, so it’s good that Elias and Jim were there to photograph it. Once we’d entered the right place, we tied her up, had a celebratory shot of tequila, and Rocky, Joe, and Abigail set out for Santa Cruz by land. Condesa hasn’t moved a muscle since.

Shown the Door

Clark June 19th, 2007

June 19, 2007
17 degrees, 54′ South, 70 degrees, 55′ West

I’ve had to leave Chile hastily and now I’m about 200 miles offshore. The Port Captain called me in for a ’special meeting’ on Sunday to inform that I would probably have some serious problems in trying to extend my permit on Monday, and that it was probably best for all of us if I just left. We started the process of preparing my exit papers, which always takes them an hour or so. While I was sitting around the commanding officer’s office chatting, the subject of my voyage came up. As they always do, he asked me how I supported myself. I issued my pat answer, saying I was pretty much broke, but that I made a little extra money as a writer. He answered, “I know.”

Could it be that the Chilean Armada has honored us with its presence at Could it be that the Commander of the First Naval Region didn’t like reading that he had been promoted to the level of his own incompetence? I’ll never know for sure, but they seemed to want to be rid of me and with my expiring permit they had their means. It’s sort of like Hugo Chavez closing that TV station in Caracas: It’s not censorship; he’s just not renewing their license.

Oh well, I’d had two good nights sleep, filled the water tanks, got more food, and there wasn’t so much to do in Iquique anyway. Arica was the only remaining port in Chile, and once you’ve seen one port in the middle of the Atacama Desert you’ve seen them all.

The wind has been pretty light, and I’ve been slatting along at 3-4 knots with five sails up…can’t do that with a sloop. With a 650 mile passage to Lima, not enough fuel to motor the whole way anyway, and diesel at a buck a liter, I’m just living with going slow.

I tried to bake a strawberry cobbler out of these canned strawberries I’ve got, but it ended up looking like a pan full of head wound.


Clark June 13th, 2007

24º14′ South, 71º14′ West

Still charging north under every available bit of canvas, but I made an unpleasant discovery this afternoon. Condesa’s temporary import permit to Chile expires on the 16th, in three days. Most countries are pretty unforgiving on these matters, and the fine for exceeding the date is usually the price of the boat, or some some ridiculous amount. If they won’t extend it, and I get to Iquique on the 15th or 16th, and my new passport is there waiting for me, I could check in and check out of Chile on the same day, but that will make for a lot of solo sailing without a break. If they won’t extend it and my passport isn’t ready yet, I’ll be in a fine kettle of fish. I’m figuring I better play it safe and charge straight to Iquique no matter what, because any stop along the way would push me past the 16th for sure. They could give me an extension and I can relax, but the Armada de Chile hasn’t been exactly easy-going thus far. Soo, at least two more nights at sea, maybe three to Iquique.

I know I’ve said it before, but I think it might actually be getting warmer. It is certainly getting clearer: I’m forty miles offshore and the mountains look like I could touch them. I can see observatories on the mountaintops. There is legendary atmospheric clarity in this part of Chile and several countries have observatories. Last night was the first night without running the heater.

June 12, 2007

Clark June 13th, 2007

27º03′ South, 70º55′ West

I’m flying everything short of the bed sheets, trying to capture what little wind there is.

I have been reading The Arabian Nights, and it almost makes me want to visit Baghdad…almost. What a contrast to read about the Middle East as capital of the world, when Europe was in the Dark Ages, and what a contrast between the Baghdad of then and now. What would we get if we were to combine the Baghdad of the Golden Age of Harun al-Rashid with the Baghdad of today?:

Saying, “Very well, O auspicious day, O lucky day, O happy day,” the porter lifted the basket and followed her until she stopped at the fruit vendor’s, where she bought yellow and red apples, Hebron peaches and Turkish quinces, and seacoast lemons and royal oranges, as well as baby cucumbers. She also bought Aleppo jasmine and Damascus lilies, myrtle berries and mignonettes, daisies and gillyflower, lilies of the valley and irises, narcissus and daffodils, violets and anemones, as well as pomegranate blossoms, but then Sunni suicide bombers triggered sequenced explosions in the marketplace and none survived but the hunchback.


Soon after sundown, she came with a girl, as we had agreed on. I received them with pleasure and delight and lighted the candles, and when the girl unveiled herself, she revealed a face that redounded to “the Glory of God, the Best of Creators.” Then we sat down to eat, and I kept feeding the new girl while she looked at me and smiled, and when we finished eating and I set the wine and fruits before them, I drank with her, while she smiled and winked at me as I gazed on her, all-consumed with love, but then seven American rednecks in full Kevlar with Armalites burst through the door. We offered them tea, but they spoke only of a cache of hidden explosives.

Quick update

Clark June 11th, 2007

27º14′ South, 70º57′ West

The Pacific high pressure system shut down and the wind died. I motored a violently rolling thirty miles today, in search of a calmer anchorage to get some sleep. The huge swell seems to find its way into every cove and snug harbors are few and far between. It continues to be cold, which is disheartening…cursed Humboldt current. I’m running the diesel heater all the time, and right now I’m drinking a mug of hot spiced wine, the recipe for which I learned in Coquimbo. Chile is a long skinny country, and only seems to be getting longer.

June 10, 2007

Clark June 10th, 2007

June 10, 2007
28º00′ South, 71º13′ West

I anchored last night at Isla Damas, the Isle of Dames, but there weren’t any dames and I had the place all to myself. Isla Damas is a pretty desolate rock, but it has one beach with blinding white sand and some dunes behind, and this made it extraordinary, especially at sunset.

Condesa sailed away from her anchor this morning, and was back out into it at 8AM. There’s been a solid 25 knot wind out of the south, and she’s been averaging seven knots on a downhill run. There are many bays and coves along the way, but I’m trying to pick out the ones that DO NOT have a Port Captain. A simple overnight stop to get some sleep could cost me hours of paperwork, or getting held prisoner again for being solo.

I’m going to hang up up tonight at about midnight, ducking into a nice looking, portcaptainless little cove, making for a 100 mile day and I can still get a good night’s sleep.

Bureaucracy Gone Wild!

Clark June 9th, 2007

Bureaucracy Gone Wild!
31º19′ South, 71º27′ West

The Chilean Armada has finally crossed from the bureaucratic to the ridiculous.

When I checked into Coquimbo, 48 hours ago, I had to take a taxi all the way across town to the Port Captain’s office. This took about two hours in total, and was a bit irritating since Coquimbo was just an intermediate stop and I already had clearance papers all the way through to Iquique. So that I wouldn’t have to do the same again upon departure, the office told me that Anita, the clerk at the yacht club, had a form we could fax to them instead.

Dutifully I went to see Anita on Friday afternoon to have her fax the form informing the Port Captain of my departure at 8AM Saturday. The computer was down and she lost the form, but eventually little Anita pulled it together and faxed in the form. I ran some errands and came back later. Anita informed me that they would not give me port clearance because the minimum safe number of crew was two, and I was only one. Anita is not a great thinker, so the ridiculousness of this was lost on her, but I persuaded her to call the office and plead my case, figuring I had a better chance with the yacht club acting as my intermediary. She got off the phone and told me I had to go in person. I took a taxi all the way across town and appeared at the Port Captain’s office…again.

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Back at it

Clark June 6th, 2007

Back At It
31º29′ South, 71º39′ West

Condesa left Quinteros yesterday, and started plodding north again. I’ve got my friend Pablo with me. He’s currently green with seasickness, curled up in a ball in the aft cabin. He thought this sounded like a lot of fun when I invited him. Not so fun, is it Santiago Boy? He should snap out of it.

That was a welcome respite, to take almost three weeks off the boat for overland travel. Air fares were so cheap on LAN that I couldn’t afford not to do it. It had been almost six months of sleeping every single night on the boat, ever since Buenos Aires. Now I’m glad to be back.

Quinteros was a safe place to leave the boat, and cheap at only $42 for three weeks, but Condesa is filthy. There was some kind of plant nearby that left a coating of dust over everything, and it was a corrosive dust that rusted the stainless and stained the fiberglass. On top of that, some local seabirds were using the roof of Condesa’s wheelhouse as a fish dissection table. I’m taking it one section at a time to clean up the mess.

We’re at about the latitude of San Diego now, but it’s still cold. Supposedly up in Iquique, where I will rendezvous with my new passport, it’s summerish year round.

We stopped for the night at a cove called Pichidangui. This morning a man came alongside in a fishing boat and said he was the Port Captain. He was all upset and said we had to come ashore immediately to fill out paperwork, which would entail putting our dinghy in the water and all that. I did the obvious thing and started the engine, pulled up the anchor, and left in all do haste, knowing that the officials further north won’t care in the least whether I completed entry and exit papers in little Pichindangui. Just leave those little bumps in the road behind and never look back.

We caught a fish yesterday, species unknown, and et it.

Halfway to Valparaiso

Clark May 7th, 2007

Halfway to Valparaiso
35º59′ South, 73º11′ West

We’ll need to increase Mr. Beek’s dosage, and place him under round-the-clock observation.

It’s amazing how little time alone it takes for the voices to come back. It’s just my inner monologue, but I guess it breaks the monotony by taking on different personas. Most of my new friends in Valdivia were French speakers, so my inner monologue spoke with a French accent for the first day. Now it’s Mr. Rogers, from the children’s show ‘Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood.’ I loved it so much as a child, and it’s amazing how much I can remember having not watched it for thirty years, at least that I’ll admit.

It’s the shoes.

Mr. Rogers has his outdoor shoes and his indoor shoes, and he changes them in the foyer at the start and end of every episode, while singing. I too have my outdoor and indoor shoes and I’m constantly changing them: I wear sea boots on deck, and so I don’t track water into the boat, I change into my fuzzy slippers when I come in the companionway, but I don’t do much singing. With this repeated changing of shoes Mr. Rogers took his opportunity to possess my inner monologue: “Hello Neighbor.” At least he’s a nice guy. Don’t have to worry too much about his activities, or do we? Is he still alive? Can somebody tell me if he’s still alive? It’s OK as long as we stay in the living room and feed the fish, but we better not go to the Land of Make Believe. Must not go to the Land of Make Believe.

Still making great time, and should be in Valparaiso tomorrow evening, I hope squeaking in before sunset. I hope readers understand this is a one-way conversation until then.

Leaving Valdivia

Clark May 5th, 2007

Webmaster note: Clark is underway again and is updating via Sailmail. Here’s the latest…


Leaving Valdivia
37º30′ South, 73º49′ West

Nobody ever likes you as much as when you’re leaving. I was only there nine days, but in nine days you can get to know people pretty well with the dinner parties, movie nights, piano concerts, and boat talk with the locals. Lives intersecting, then parting.

Last night as I was leaving, time stopped for about twenty minutes. I needed fuel, which involved moving the boat to a different pier and driving up a tanker truck. The weather had made a marked change, and everyone was taking note. Valdivia is usually socked in overcast, but the evening brought clear skies and cold. The cold made a mist rise off the river at sunset, and it looked like a Monet painting. Rows of poplars faded into the mist, and the river steamed and meandered into obscurity. In the middle of refueling operations everyone just stopped what they were doing, gazed at the sunset over the river, and got all sentimental. I mean a toothless tank truck driver got all weepy and started reciting Pablo Neruda. The view really was striking.

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