May 2009 - Alameda - Projects & Neighbours

The trip from Napa back to Alameda took exactly 8 hours. We left the dock at 0600, motoring against the tide. The first bridgekeeper had been notified of our wish to have the bridge opened at 0730 (they don’t officially start until 0900), and he was there waiting, bright and cheerful.

            We went aground once, just before we reached the bridge. A little judicious running back and forth on the afterdeck while running the engine in reverse, and we were underway again. Running aground is to be expected on this river, as the charts cannot be totally accurate with the constantly shifting sands. (the bridgekeeper quickly and kindly offered to send help, and although we did not need it, it was good to know that assistance was readily available.)

            We saw very little traffic during the whole trip, and were delighted that we encountered no cargo vessels in San Francisco Bay or in the Canal (usually the home base for many gigantic commercial vessels).

            Entering the Alameda Canal, there are three opening bridges- Park Street, Fruitvale and High Street. You toot your horn for the first one, and then the other two are notified by the bridgekeeper. We had a slight adrenalin rush at the Park Street Bridge. They were slow to open and we could see a truck on the bridge-probably doing maintenance. So from now on, we will call ahead on the cell phone-even though they tell us it is not necessary.

            We arrived back at our Alameda dock at 1400. It was great to be back and ready to continue our own projects. We have a number of high-priority projects to complete in the next couple of months. The decks have to be sanded and prepped for painting. Also, the two deckhouses. And while we are doing that, it makes sense to install the 2 deck prisms we have been carrying all this time. We also have to install a chain locker, self-steering gear, work on the computer, and we really should learn some Spanish too, as well as researching the next leg of the trip, where to go and when and how. Then there is all the cleaning and stowing and paperwork.

            Our Cruising permit is good until Labour Day, so we are hoping to leave Alameda by the beginning of August. Looks like we will head for San Diego area, and then cross into Ensanada. We will stay there (or back to San Diego) until it is time to head further south and maybe end up in Mazatlan in December.


May 15

            Lots of maintenance in progress. The forward hatch has been removed. The hatch and it’s combing have been stripped, scraped and sanded, and Tony is happily doing some repairs he has wanted to do for ages. The decks are in the process of being sanded and prepped for paint and non-skid.

In the meantime, Pat has been refinishing a “new” door for the food stowage area-a teak door off Aike. This will be a good Aike Talisman for our voyage. It has been stripped and scraped and sanded, and is now being sanded with teak oil and 400 wet/dry sandpaper.

Another ongoing project involves finishing the lids for the cooler. We have been carrying these large, foam insulated inserts since we left Victoria, and it will be great to have them finally installed. At the moment, we are using 6 blocks of ice about every 10 days, and we hope to make it last longer than that. We keep the ice in plastic containers inside the cooler to retain the water for several reasons: to keep it separate from the food, and to use it for dishwashing and other uses when we are short of water (hopefully we will get a watermaker installed and that will be less of an issue). The containers are the ones sold for holding hanging files. In some places in the US you can buy them for about $5.00 each and they are the perfect size for 2 blocks of ice. Ice prices vary greatly. Right now, we are paying $1.99 per block (in Napa it was $1.79). Keep in mind, this is all US funds, so it’s really a bit more.


Community interaction this week has been especially rewarding. One of our land-based neighbours came by to see if we wanted to go to the Alameda Farmers’ Market. It’s at the other end of the Island and we hadn’t managed to get there yet. Too bad! We were missing a good thing! The fruit and vegetables there are fresh, attractively displayed and all organic. The prices are right and the people are all extremely upbeat. There was a local musician playing quiet guitar and singing Jimmy Buffet-type songs. Our neighbour spoke Spanish to the people at the stalls and greeted them all like family. They were obviously delighted to see her. Every stall had tasty samples, and we finally found a source for Lime Pickle, which we had been having trouble finding in Alameda. There is an egg-seller who has eggs that have not been refrigerated, which means they will be good to take with us when we go. There is an East Indian food stall and a vegetarian stall called Tofu-U. It was well worth taste-testing the delicious non-meat prepared foods.


            Lunch back at the boat that day involved a yummy assortment of foods – a salad of tiny mushrooms, raw, fresh English peas and fresh basil, thick tomatoes slices with basil and brie on fresh bread, with strawberries for dessert. Yum!

The next day, Pat was privileged to assist the same neighbour in her deliveries for “Meals on Wheels”. What a great way to see a community! There was much temptation to stay and engage each of the clients in conversation, as all were feisty characters who looked like they had a story to tell.

Another new grocery source is the India Cash & Carry. Finally, we have found a place to get large quantities of East Indian spices and condiments at a reasonable price. Catering to the food industry, but open to the public, this store has everything you could want to buy and more choices than you can handle. Best of all, they had 10 mangoes for $5.50—and they were juicy, delicious, and because they were beautifully ripe, we had to eat mangoes every meal for several days!

             We have finally discovered a nearby old-fashioned hardware store within walking distance. We take a walk every day, and try to combine it with some hunting and gathering for the projects. One day, we decided to try the Frozen Yoghurt stand attached to a car-wash near Home Depot in Oakland, just across the bridge from our dock. What a treat! Inside a non-descript building, surrounded by cars and young folks hand-washing and detailing them, we found the best low-fat dessert in town. Delicious, icy cold frozen non-fat yoghurt with a choice of fresh and frozen fruits to go on top. The staff all had smiles a mile wide. As we savoured our treats, we looked over to see Sushi being made at a side counter. This is very fancy Sushi and it is made to order as you wait. It wasn’t advertised outside at all, so it was a surprise. We were offered tastes, but declined because we were just finishing our frozen yoghurt. But we will be back!

                        Another discovery this week was the chiropractor near the grocery store. He fixed up Tony’s aching back. And his assistant told Pat about a place she could do Pilates for $3 a session.

            It is so heart-warming to meet so many folks who light up our days. 

            Nature-wise, we have a pair of Black Phoebes nesting under the patio here, just at eye level. We looked them up in the bird book and online, and these two are textbook examples in both appearance and behaviour. We have actually seen at least 3 babies (well, their huge open mouths and a bit of wing action). The parents share the feeding duties and this keeps them extremely busy at the moment. They zip around catching insects above and just under the surface of the water, and then take turns doing a little vibratory dance as they regurgitate the meal into the huge bright orange beaks of their young.

            We have also had a pelican visiting this week. And there are hummingbirds too.

            Alameda in spring is brilliantly-coloured. We have bottle brush bushes everywhere, with their crimson “brushes”. Hollyhocks and Foxglove are in bloom. The Bird of Paradise flowers are stunning, and the multi-coloured ground cover is a sampler of textures and patterns. Nicotine plants, potato vines (one in the area is years old and looks like a tree, with brilliant red flowers cascading all over an archway into a garden).

            One weekend there was a weather warning for extreme high temperatures. It hit 90 F for a couple of days, and then we returned to BC-like weather of 60-70 with intermittent cloud.  We hear that BC is having a heat-wave! Not fair! The good news is—in California, the sun shines almost every day, even if it starts out foggy and grey.

The month closed with most of the projects advanced but not completed. It took more than an hour on the phone to order a part for the inverter. The decks are about 1/3 done, but on hold due to thunderstorms forecast. The electrical system is undergoing a thorough overhaul. 

We watched the baby Phoebes grow up and finally fly away. They come back to visit occasionally, which helps relieve our “empty nest syndrome”.

            We continue to enjoy meeting California folks on the street-they continue to entertain us with their stories. We’re hoping to get in a few more music sessions before leaving the Bay area. The busy life promises to become increasingly busier as August 1st approaches too quickly.


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