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December 2007

Dear Friends:

With the hustle, bustle and amazing fun of a Kiwi style Thanksgiving behind us, we are grabbing the chance to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas season leading to a New Year that is full of pleasures before we get caught up in the summer vacation/holiday rush down here.

Two turkeys – With such a large crowd, we decided to have two turkeys, one for each end of the table.

As these photos taken by Michael Marris show, we celebrated a North American Thanksgiving with 28 friends. It seems to have become a tradition; one our southern friends say marks the start of the holiday parties here on this island. It all started 22 years ago when we first found this amazingly safe harbor. When Thanksgiving came around I realized no one was going to make a turkey for us, nor for some of the ex-pat Americans we’d met who lived nearby.  So I decided I couldn’t do without my turkey fix and invited anyone with connections to the US or Canada.  Of course I invited a few neighbors too.  That first year there were more North Americans than Kiwi’s. But now things have changed – only 8 North Americans this year but that didn’t change the pleasure of a day that went without a hitch, where rain showers swept through constantly – until an hour before dinner. By the time the turkey’s were ready it was clear, dry, warm and the sunset was wonderful – the candied sweet potatoes were perfect, even had the luck of finding maraschino cherries to make them bright.  Larry and I made three pumpkin pies the night before – in spite of slightly burned crusts – they were a hit.  By the next morning only six guests remained in the house. We shared a blue-berry pancake brunch as we watched the guests who had spent the night on board their own boats, set sail for their mainland homes on a warm 15 knot breeze. By evening Larry and I were able to sit quietly and slightly over-fed on the deck and contemplate our good fortune and good memories.

Opposite End – As we shared laughter and lots of food, a wonderful sunset added extra color to the evening.

The last of our northern hemisphere summers voyage on Taleisin was definitely one of those. What a nostalgic trip that was! After a challenging and fun beat out from the canals of Ventura, we eased sheets to run past Malibu where the hills had patches of amazing homes which seemed to hang off the sides of sand dunes and cliffs. (We were saddened to hear how, only a few months later, wildfires destroyed many of those same homes.) Just inside the point marking the beginning of Los Angeles proper, we reached in to anchor in a relatively calm spot at Paradise Cove. There we were joined by Bob Ramirez, his boys and friends on their 30 footer. This set the tone for much of the next month for all along this area where Larry and I met and romanced more than four decades ago, we have friends who had not seen Taleisin since 1984.  When Bob and crew sailed back to Marina del Rey that evening, we stayed on to enjoy being at anchor.  As long as the wind stayed in the northwest, the anchorage was comfortable, but 24 hours later the wind shifted a bit to the southwest and the roll set in. So we again ran southward past familiar landmarks and late in the afternoon shortened sail to beat into Los Angeles Harbor.  We had enough experience with this area to expect the strong gusts of wind that charge down over the cliffs of Palos Verde.

Inside Clean up crew – Two lovely neighbors took over control of the after dinner carnage – Christopher Miller, computer genius for Team New Zealand and Gael Archer, just retired editor of the island news magazine worked inside the kitchen, while a revolving team handed dishes in through the big windows. Took me about three days to find where everything was stored away.

We were a bit concerned that, after 23 years, our favorite anchorage at Cabrillo Beach would have become filled with marinas or “don’t anchor here” signs. Instead we found it clear, with signs warning power boaters to stay clear. On shore the local youth camp invited us to feel free to secure our dinghy to their docks. A short walk brought us to a local hotel were the food was only okay, but the welcome was warm.  A nice introduction to one of the most crowded waterfront cities on the west coast. As soon as we went ashore I put a phone call through to Doug Schmuck in New Zealand. We wanted to reminisce with him about the last time we’d anchored here 23 years before after a Lyle Hess Regatta.  We’d beat up from Long Beach in company, he and his wife in their BCC cutter Puffin, us in a brand new Taleisin. As they sailed past us to anchor Doug called out, “chickens on!”  Evening turned chilly so we gladly climbed out of our dinghy and into their warm inviting cabin to share the best roast chicken dinner I can remember eating.

Tom and Vicky Jackson have been voyaging and joining offshore races in many countries on their handsome 40 footer Sunstone for the past ten years, visiting many of the places we’ve cruised. But we never crossed paths until they sailed in to North Cove just in time for Halloween. It was sheer pleasure, sharing notes, dreams and schemes.

Running south to Newport Beach, I was ready when, only two miles from the breakwaters, the wind died to a zephyr and, had we not gotten the drifter out and dropped the Dacron sails, would have left us slatting and fraying our tempers for two or three hours until the evening offshore breeze filled in. As much as things on shore may have changed, the weather patterns have remained the same. Though we arrived on one of the busiest weekends of the year (Labor Day) we were pleased to find that this very crowded harbor gives visitors a warm welcome. Harbor department moorings cost only $5 per night and are available for up to 20 nights. You can also anchor at no charge for five nights at the southern tip of Lido Island. When we drifted in there were about 20 boats at anchor. We joined them to savor a still warm evening and the company of Mike Anderson and George Hylcema who had been on the look out for our arrival. Though we did visit with a lot of local “old friends” and walk along the waterfront areas we remembered from years before, what I especially enjoyed was lazing on deck, watching the young families who had launched small trailer sailors or trailer-able powerboats to come and anchor for the weekend. The shouts of youngsters diving from cabin tops into warm clean water, the smell of on board barbeques the knowledge that even with the increasing crowds, there was still a way for less affluent families to get afloat, all made our stay in Newport special.

Together they helped us celebrate Larry’s birthday. The silly hat is part of tradition here in this cove – it gets passed on to the next person who has a birthday past the age of 59.

A month slipped by as we close reached out to Catalina to anchor in bays that seemed little changed by the years, then we began our leisurely beat back northward, stopping to visit with ever casual and welcoming Bob and Jody Bitchen and the crew who put together the irreverent Latitudes and Attitudes magazine in Redondo Beach. Here we had another pleasant surprise. There is a safe and comfortable free anchorage inside the breakwaters – visitors have to sign in with the harbor department (run by the local fire department folks) and stays are limited to three nights at a time but holding is fine, the local restaurants are very good and the huge mural of whales and sea life almost hides the smoke stacks of the power plant that tower over this man made marina.

Thelma – Our sailing pet, Thelma, is getting new whisker stay fittings, new jib fairleads and a fancy topside paint job for her 113th birthday. We look forward to some day sailing on her next week – practice for the summer’s regattas. (stats on Thelma can be found on the Cold Hard Facts Page.)

Just 27 miles south of Ventura where we planned to settle Taleisin in for the winter, just as we were getting ready to lift anchor from our final stop at Paradise Cove, our cell phone rang.  We were aware that Craig and Kaye Compton who had taken care of Taleisin two winters past at their home in Bainbridge island were sailing southward on their BCC 28, Little Wing. Now they were calling to say they had just come past Cape Conception and hoped we could rendezvous somewhere.  Late that evening they reached into Ventura and a few hours later, when the evening offshore breeze filled in, we finished our beat back northward and sailed back into this quiet corner of California for a chance to celebrate their successful bid for time-off, a chance to try out a different future and the adventures of their first offshore passage. (See last months cruising tips for an email Craig sent while on that passage.)  Kaye made my day by telling me how much my book Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew helped her overcome her concerns while she prepared for the voyage. Craig inflated Larry’s ego with his praise of the windvane Larry helped him assemble.  All and all a great final day cap a satisfying voyage into our past.

Happy Holidays!

Lin and Larry
at Kawau Island, New Zealand






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