Friday, May 23, 2008

Cape Horn of the Pacific

A friend of mine in Silicon Valley has a cousin who has a boat. ("It's better to have a friend who has a boat than to have a boat.")

The cousin wants to drive the boat (a 34' Boston Whaler) from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I guess he wants to do it for the adventure of it, because he's going to have somebody drive it back. And he certainly doesn't need to deliver anything.

Anyway, since I have sea experience in that part of the Pacific Ocean, my buddy asked what I thought about him going on the trip. (He has no sea experience other than a few boat trips out of Half Moon Bay to go salmon fishing, and a trip to Anacapa Island from Ventura Harbor.)

I pointed out that they will have to cross two long and wild stretches where, even close to the coast, the ocean is likely to be rough and there will be no place to land if they get in trouble. In fact, one of those stretches, the trip from about Morro Bay south around Point Concepcion to Santa Barbara is a particularly rough and nasty piece of ocean, with no place to come ashore.

In fact the
region around and offshore of Pt. ConcepcĂ­on is known by sailors as Cape Horn of the Pacific. (See the story here from 2006 about a sail from Avila Beach around the Point. Or see Richard Henry Dana's 1840 book Two Years Before the Mast.) You can see that sailors have recognized this as a wild and formidable crossing for centuries.

This afternoon I was checking the local surf report for a possible surfing go-out in the morning. I checked the CDIP (SEE-dip) to see the surf and swell report and discovered that the prediction (based on measurements from offshore buoys and oil platforms) showed about 1'-2' swells along the Southern California until Pt. ConcepĂ­on, where the surf suddenly jumps to 15'-18'.

Yeesh! Even when I was working on that ocean, spending countless hours driving back and forth across the Channel, if the surf or the groundswell got that big we simply wouldn't go out. And we were running in bigger boats than 34' Whalers. (Well, most of us were anyway.) I wish him well, and hope that he doesn't easily get seasick.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Surf reports - today and yesterday

The weather has turned warm, unseasonably warm even, and the water has warmed up. The air temps yesterday and today here, 600 meters from the water’s edge, are in the low-mid 80s (Fahrenheit), sunny and balmy. There is barely an onshore breeze - the palm fronds are just moving a tiny bit and the trees themselves are not moving. There is not a trace of the June gloom which would be more normal this time of year. The water is up to the low 60s (Fahrenheit) and basically the conditions are perfect. (!)

There is not much swell though, but the surf is still there (a bit) and a lot of fun. It’s actually perfect for me since I haven’t been in the water for at least two months due to my surgical wounds. But I got in the water in the morning, around high tide, both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday I took the funboard out and got a few waves in about :25 minutes. Today (Sunday) I decided I wanted more waves so I took the bodyboard out and did get many more waves. I also got a much better workout. Curiously, there were at least three sets that came through with one or two 5’ waves in each of these sets. These weren’t frequent enough of the lineup to move out to meet these waves, and in fact nobody got them. But they were beautiful to see from 20 yards away as they were rising and coming in.

I still haven’t prepped my camera to take it out in the water. (Truth be told I’d forgotten about the housing over these past few weeks.) So I don’t have pictures of these two good days. But I got the images from Scripps’ CDIP (Coastal Data Information Project), and here they are.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adventures - Then and Now

Bruce Sterling has a post at his blog on Wired about an upcoming Long Now event "Mechanicrawl" celebrating “steampunk”. Now, I’m not too into steampunk - it’s fun to examine for its ingenuity and mechanical complexity, but I’ve worked around enough old machinery that I’m not infatuated or fascinated by such things* - but I am into Long Now events. I may go up for this for another reason too.

This event is going to be centered on and around the rebuilding of the torpedo targeting computer on the WW2-era diesel-electric submarine USS Pampanito. The computer is in the sail, also known as the conning tower, which is where the Combat Information Center (CIC) is located. Apparently the event is going to allow people into the conn to see the computer and the other things in the CIC. This is rare because normally access to the conn and the CIC is extremely limited.


One day at least 25 years ago, not long after I’d graduated from college and was living with a friend in South San Francisco and was still into doing wild and crazy things, we went down to the Pampanito late one weekday when it was late dusk. We bought our tickets and went onto the boat, down into the crew spaces on the main deck. We looked around there and then came up. We looked at the person in the booth, and took a chance and shot up onto the sail and down into the CIC. It was much more interesting in there, and not only because it was forbidden and we had beaten the rules. It’s also the most interesting part of the boat, because that is where all the important business took place. After all, this was a weapon in a shooting war, and that space was where the shooting was planned and took place. (It would have been cool to get into the torpedo room too, but we didn’t get there.) We spent a few minutes there, and I can still remember a big red (lit) plotting board. We also looked through the telescope, but I don’t remember if we were in the main compartment or in the CIC on the conn when we did that. I’m pretty certain we looked through the scope while in the CIC, because I was concerned that turning the periscope would be seen by the ticket-taker/authority and thought we better escape soon. One more thing - the view of San Francisco from the periscope was really great - it was bright and clear with great optics!

Anyway, Long Now is having an event and maybe I’ll go up for that.

*Okay, I’m into machinery just like any guy and this stuff will be cool!

En Guarde!

A long-time friend invited me to go to the Pasadena Convention Center for the Pacific Coast Fencing Championships. This was a "super-regional" competition, meaning anybody inside or outside the Pacific Coast region could attend and compete. He went with his son, and they both competed, singly and with the club (team) they're in.

The picture isn't very good, but still pictures don't do justice to the speed and dynamics of fencing. I also shot a lot of video, but haven't edited that down yet. Will post an update to links when the video is done.