Friday, May 10, 2013

Three Spring Days on Lake O.!

Written for the Chico Yacht Club 'ANCHORLINE' ...

When I arrived at Spillway Launch, all the preparation that Lee Ann and I had done for (only) three days on Lake Oroville with the Chico Yacht Club suddenly seemed worth it. It was gorgeous, the water was flat (good for power boats!) and reflected  the green shores, random floral carpets and the blue sky.

I got Kokomo prep’d and launched  (a sight equivalent to an ant moving a large piece of bread; usually draws a small crowd ... thank goodness for roller trailers!) in about an hour and, after raising the radar tower, affixing the main VHF antenna, releasing the anchor’s safety line and hoisting Old Glory on the stern flag pole and the CYC burgie on the forward pole (and the obligatory late offer of help from a guy who stood nearby for an hour and watched me get the boat launched!), I was ready for the sea ... or, in this case, the lake.

Spike sets a course for the Bidwell Bridge
Almost ‘on a lark’ (Herb Clark NEVER has his radio on!) I turned my VHF ‘on’ and tuned to channel 16 (I was ‘counseled’ later by past-Commodore Clark that VHF’s are seldom used on Lake Oroville; his is kept ‘off’ because of a circuit issue that sends a pulse to his VHF from his depth sounder; I’m looking in my stereo store storage unit for a circuit isolator than I can give him and I’ll keep my stories of 30-years of VHF usage on the lake to myself). I settled in for a leisurely cruise to the spot off Bidwell Marina where I’d drift and read for 3+ hours while I waited for the boat(s) that I was looking for around noon. Sure enough, around 3 p.m., three sailboats came out and headed for a tack that would line them up for the Bidwell Bridge.

The first boat was evidently crewed by Rick Stuelpnagel and Dennis Kaiser who sailed out with the boats crewed by Herb and Carolyn (Hotel Charlie) and the one single-handed by Spike (Varuna), but returned to the marina instead of making their way under the bridge to Sycamore Cove. They’d apparently been most helpful to Herb in installing his outboard back on his boat after a shop found a twisted water intake hose that nearly stranded him in his slip during our McCabe Cove trip a few weeks earlier. Spike had a worn pulley in the rigging of Varuna that an enterprising marina employee was able to inspect from the second-story bar at Bidwell Marina (with crew standing on the dock side gunnels of the boat to ‘tip’ her towards the inspector!), and the two projects apparently took three to four hours to complete. No problem, I was busy enjoying Stuart Woods’ “Blue Waters, Green Sailor”.

Lee Ann, Spike & Carolyn in Kokomo!
I greeted Herb and Carolyn as they sailed by, exchanged a wave with Spike a few minutes later, and as Hotel Charlie hoisted her signature spinnaker as she was clearing the bridge, I started up Kokomo and set course back to the Spillway ramp, where I’d be happy to pick up my “better half’ and then join them at their destination. Hotel Charlie had nice anchor and stern-tie arrangement when Lee Ann and I got to the cove just before dark (I waited another two hours for Lee Ann, taking in the ready entertainment of the ‘boat retrieval antics’ at the ramp) and we rafted up on the opposite side that Spike was tied to. The crew of the three boats talked for awhile, and Herb announced he was turning in, so we made sure the only fenders we used had “kozies’ (squeak control) and we called it a night early.

Morning was glorious on Saturday. The cove we were in was still covered in green grass and Lupine, the ducks and birds were abundant, and it was an ideal start to the weekend. We’d heard Herb say to Spike the night before that they’d “start to Feather Falls at 6 or 6:30 AM”, so, though that seemed awful early, we were up and ready at 6. Turns out I had forgotten that approximately half of everything Herb says is a joke, and it was hours later that Herb and Carolyn emerged. In the meantime, Lee Ann made a yummy breakfast of fruit parfaits, and we enjoyed the time talking and sighting birds.

Varuna, Hotel Charlie & Kokomo at rest at Sycamore Cove
The morning was calm, and, after enjoying some photos of their trip to the PNW (do you know that Hotel Charlie was once named Freudian Sloop? Her dinghy was Jung Love!) the guys commented that sailing up the river wouldn’t be possible, and motoring at 5kts. didn’t thrill them either, so I invited them to go up to the falls on Kokomo, and a half-hour later we set out for “the quickest trip to Feather Falls ever”, according to Herb. The look on Spike’s face as I put the two 150hp outboards through their paces and took off at 25 kts (not full throttle) was priceless, according to Herb. We took lunch, and enjoyed it at the final navigable turn in the river, where we had a great view of Feather Falls and enjoyed hearing/telling stories about the Sausalito CYC outing, and the McCabe Cove event (you’d have liked this, Leo!).

We took a photo or two and, when Spike pointed out a large driftwood gathering (which I had been watching, as well) that had begun to shift with the changing wind and threatened to close off the river downstream, we pulled anchor and headed back for Sycamore Cove (none too soon; one boat width remained passable as the increasing wind dragged the considerable wood barge across the narrow river channel). I was both surprised and pleased to find out that this was Spike’s ‘fastest’ and first ever trip to where he could see Feather Falls from the water!

'Hotel Charlie' reflected in a mirror!
I got to sit back with everyone while Herb drove Kokomo for awhile, and enjoyed chatting with Spike about the trip to the Delta on the fourth of July. Kokomo is no stranger to the Delta! We were back at Sycamore Cove before you knew it (especially for the people that were used to sailing, which was everyone but us) and we settled into our cove for visiting, reading, bird watching and kayaking.

Sometime in the afternoon, Spike left and, as he put it, “headed for the barn”. The evening fell, and after BBQ’ing some hot dogs, we invited Herb and Carolyn over to play ‘Farkle’. Herb said warily that he didn’t play games, but he gave it a try (he was in the lead for awhile!) and we had fun and lots of laughter before he wanted to turn in. We pulled Kokomo about 100’ away and dropped the anchor so we could watch a movie without bothering our friends on Hotel Charlie.

'Kokomo' is leaving on Sunday
Sunday morning was another beautiful one, and this time I’d had a full night’s sleep (no phony 6AM departure call!). It was a special morning (Lee Ann’s birthday!) and I made espresso for her and we spent some time chatting. Then, from 100’ away, we saw Carolyn posting a paper plate in Hotel Charlie’s rigging. It was hard to read from where we were, so I asked if they wanted company and rafted up. It read, “Happy Birthday Lee Ann ... to the Farkle Fairy Queen!” (Lee Ann was far ahead in the game last night when we quit!). Nice!

We had Herb and Carolyn over for breakfast and Lee Ann made her double cinnamon french toast (Yum!), Carolyn contributed a yummy fruit cocktail, and we enjoyed ourselves. Not long after, we said our goodbyes and headed up the South Fork as Hotel Charlie sailed back to the marina. I had a great experience as we cruised away ... a radio call on the VHF from HERB, pointing out an Osprey nest on our route. Lee enjoyed the sighting, and I enjoyed the second radio call I had ever received from Herb!

Herb and Carolyn ... in Hotel Charlie
Later in the afternoon, as we were crossing the main lake, we were flagged down by a MacGregor 26 that was drifting in the sunshine. It was Donnie and Marilyn Howard, and we rafted up and enjoyed visiting for a while (and met their precious dogs Rosie and Lillie!) . We’d gotten to know and like Donnie on the McCabe Cove trip, and it was nice to meet Marilyn.

We ended the Earth Day protest cruise without anyone ever once speaking of Earth Day (to my knowledge). Like so many creative names, this one turned out to be just another wonderful opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of our diverse home lake and the comraderie of CYC mates!

Herb took this great photo of the Spring flowers!

San Quentin Prison

San Quentin Prison
One of the more 'captivating' sites along the Corte Madera channel . Rowers from Corte Madera are practicing in the foreground.