Sunday, December 13, 2009

A very merry Christmas to all our friends.

December 2009

Greetings from Frank and Cynthia Robben, on our sailboat Makani, presently at the Emeryville Marina in San Francisco Bay. We would love to hear from you, and our contact information is as follows:

Mailing: 14525 SW Millikan #63706

Beaverton, OR 97005


Telephone: 530-554-9479 (Internet number)

808-398-4004 (Cell)

We have the regular mail forwarded to us, wherever we may be, or can have it scanned and sent by email.

It has been more than two years since we have been living on, working on, and sailing, this sailboat. Our home in Honolulu is rented (unfortunately, our tenant is leaving, he has difficulties paying the rent) and we expect to sail more before parking Makani and spending some time on land. We have been enjoying ourselves, are reasonably happy and contented. In varying degrees with both of us.

At this moment I expected we would be on our way out of here and close to San Diego. But there has been poor weather predicted along the coast of California so we are waiting a few days for a more favorable weather forecast; hopefully we will leave by Sunday December 13. Just now it is cold here, frost on the docks and boats this morning – we are not used to this cold and want to be in a warmer place.

Our longer-term plans remain the same. We will return to Ensenada and do more maintenance and additions in preparation for crossing the Pacific to Tahiti, Tonga and wherever the wind and inclination takes us. My grandson Anders will join us in February and we plan on one other crewmember for the crossing to Tahiti, tentatively leaving early March.

We were in Ensenada at Cruiseport Marina until mid-May this year. I stepped the refurbished mast and installed all new rigging, new roller furling, and new staysail and running backstays. We did some varnishing with the help of our friend Andy and worked on many details, giving priority to those necessary for the trip north to San Francisco. A nice adventure was when we took Makani out overnight on a trial sail to the Todos Santos islands (about 10 miles offshore) and were joined by daughter Maria. It was beautiful to hike around the island with all the nesting seagulls, cormorants and pelicans. A taste of the cruising lifestyle that I have been waiting for. Makani behaved well and almost all the new equipment functioned satisfactorily. And I found out it is best to reef the sails in winds greater than 15 knots.

During our time in Ensenada I enjoyed regular hiking up the hills near the apartment we rented during 2008, and Cynthia did morning fast hikes with her friend Margaret, on sailboat “Tomorrow”. We enjoyed ourselves, entertained and visited friends, and explored interesting areas around Ensenada. A pleasant Mexican city with generally nice and friendly people.

May 14 Cynthia and I motored to San Diego; it was a bit choppy and upwind as usual but we had no problems. There I finished some of the rigging, Cynthia visited her daughter for a week and we met a number of friends. June 12 we sailed (mostly motored) to Dana Pt. harbor, near Los Angeles, and met the previous owner of Makani, Van, who had sailed there in the maiden voyage of his son’s refurbished boat. Next we went to Newport Beach harbor where my grandson Anders joined us. On June 21 we began the trek to San Francisco by taking a number of friends to Catalina Island. They took the ferry back while we stayed there and after a couple of days we continued north to the Channel Islands, offshore from Santa Barbara, where we spent a few days exploring the nature, both inshore and along the shore, of these somewhat isolated, and now protected, islands.

In Santa Barbara we were joined by Linnea, my granddaughter (who came by train from San Francisco), and one of my old friends Jim Naylor. After worrying about possible rough weather around notorious Pt. Conception, on July 2 we departed, motoring upwind in about 20 knots headwind around Pt. Conception. Rather choppy and a bit wet on deck but not really bad at all. Going north, the wind was directly against us, moderate at 10 to 20 knots and choppy seas, so we just motored continually to Monterey. There we stayed a few days and were entertained by our old sailing friends Val and Mildred, who live in Carmel Highlands. We had a very nice day sail in Monterey Bay with them, Jim and his wife Polly (who drove to Monterey and took Jim back home) and the entire family of my daughter Katie. July 7 we departed for San Francisco, joined by Katie (with Anders and Linnea). The next morning the wind finally became favorable as we approached the Golden Gate and we actually sailed under the bridge and in to San Francisco bay. There we had what could have been a serious mishap, a steering cable parted and we could not steer the boat. I used the autopilot to get a good place to anchor (very gusty winds) and called for a tow into Sausalito harbor.

Our summer in San Francisco passed very quickly. We entertained, and visited, many friends – but unfortunately did not get to visit others we would have liked to see. We sailed up into the Delta area (the 50 or so diked islands in the central Sacramento Valley, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers combine and flow into the San Francisco Bay), a lovely pastoral area with many dredged waterways with excellent anchorages, and after visiting one of my favorite areas from 35 years ago, peat moss beach on Frank’s Tract, we went on up the river to the capitol of California, Sacramento. We stayed at the Sacramento Yacht Club for almost a month; from there we visited my hometown Dixon, entertained friends, and visited and explored various places. Many changes in California from the 1950’s – and from my now curmudgeon perspective, most not for the better.

We spent another couple of weeks enjoying the Delta area, swimming and exploring - actually vacationing on Makani, and had a lovely time. Then back to San Francisco Bay, to the Berkeley Marina where we could easily see friends from Berkeley – which is where I went to University and spent most of my professional life. And finally I started to take care of some of the improvements necessary on Makani and getting some of the additional equipment and features helpful (some necessary) for crossing the Pacific to Tahiti, Fiji and beyond. After Thanksgiving with our families we were ready to return to San Diego and Ensenada.

An interesting and somewhat special visit was a Japanese couple who stayed on Makani with us, at the Berkeley Marina, for 10 days. From the time I worked at Nissan in Japan, some 20 years ago, Teruku Itoh had remained in touch. He retired last year and wrote that he and his wife Kozuko would like to visit us and sail on our boat. He remembered my previous boat Kialoa II that I had sailed to Japan (“your big boat” he wrote in somewhat broken English), and we finally invited them to come. I remembered his wife as a very pleasant and quite beautiful lady. We quite enjoyed them, took them to a few special local places, and spent an overnight anchored at Angel Island.

On reflection on what we are doing (I am the driving force, Cynthia would prefer to live in our home in Honolulu and travel to various interesting places), it is a bit murky. I do greatly enjoy the activity, planning, building, and anticipating the adventures that await, but it is mixed. I will be 76 next February and can feel it, I worry more, and my mind tends to be filled with thoughts of previous experiences – people, places, adventures, failures. Living in the past, I suppose, and that has been accentuated this summer where much time has been spent visiting places, and people, from my past. It is quite wonderful to be able to see the people and places, but we have all changed (some friends are no longer here), and the places have also changed. I have a more overarching perspective, and while satisfying it does not have the excitement and anticipation of the unknown, which I still look forward to but not as strongly and single-mindedly as when younger. However, we both are looking forward to being back in Mexico, and then on to the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti.

I also find the details of arranging this trip - the boat, the logistics and our affairs here - more difficult and worrying than previously. In some ways I am amazed that I sailed Kialoa II for so long, and so far, without a major disaster. Lucky I think, the luck of the enthusiastic beginner.

I will close with a bit of news of our families. My daughter Katie and husband Tom are very busy and involved with their three teenagers. Eldest, Bjorn, is now going to High School in Sweden where he is training as part of the national bicycling team. Anders will take leave from High School and join us in the spring and summer on our planned voyage to the islands of the South Pacific. Linnea, now 13, is of course beautiful, and just now in performances of the Nutcracker in Reno. They have moved to, and bought a home, in Incline Village, Nevada on Lake Tahoe. Tom loves the snow and winter sports, and has, I think, a well paying but stressful job. It will be interesting to see how their lives evolve.

Our daughter Maria has moved to Honolulu (where our home is) and is working at a dive shop. She has been working both at managing the business and doing quite a bit of diving, which she enjoys. When she was small and we were all on Kialoa II we had done our share of diving and snorkeling, and it is nice that she still enjoys strenuous and demanding activities. She wants to go back to school, and, like all of us once did, is working out how her life will unfold. Cynthia’s eldest, Anthony, has now three small children, the joy of grandmother Cynthia. They are in Sacramento and we have had the opportunity to spend time with them while here. Her daughter Dalreen is in the Long Beach area, with a precocious daughter Meleana - another of Cynthia’s delights. My daughter Pippi is still snowboarding and having an adventurous lifestyle, she bought a small place in Whitefish, Montana for skiing, and also has a place in San Diego. She is, I think, a great help to her sister Katie with the teenagers, and also has a new boyfriend in Montana whom I have not met. Ah me. My eldest son Michael I do not hear from.

We wish everyone an excellent 2010 and hope to hear from you.

Frank and Cynthia Robben

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