Posted by John
Although we were comfortable in Half Moon Bay and our routines had become, well—routine, all things must eventually end. It was time to move on if we wanted to make it to San Diego on schedule.
It felt a little as if we’d overstayed our welcome. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I sensed we were starting to get in people’s way; taking up space and using resources, but paying little for the privilege. Or maybe we were okay to stay anchored there forever for free and it was us who were getting tired of the place. The smell from the bird rocks, the flies, the incessant blasting of the horn signal that marks the entrance to the harbor, and the same old weather pattern of cool and cloudy mornings followed by gusty winds all afternoon, day after day. Every time we brought up the anchor it seemed to also pull up fifty pounds of sticky, glue-like mud that obviously stuck better to the anchor than to the bottom of the bay. Since it only rained once, so lightly that nothing really got wet, the boat was covered in dust and dirt. We were chastised for using the water hose at the pumpout dock for rinsing the deck. Perhaps it was considered a non-essential use during a drought?
Whatever the reason, we were ready to leave. But first, our buddy boat, Slainte, was having some electrical issues with their solar charging system and had replacement parts on order. As soon as the parts came in, we planned to leave. On October 6th, we were off, but with a late start. The last time we raised the anchor was the worst. It not only came up with the most mud ever, but embedded in the mud were shellfish and other sea life.
Once back out in the ocean, it didn’t take long to re-learn what we had somehow forgotten: what happens to things left unsecured in a rolling boat. We had wanted to go to Monterey for the night, but with the late start, only made it to Santa Cruz, at the north end of Monterey Bay.
Once around the corner of the bay and sheltered somewhat from the northerly swells, we anchored off the beach at Santa Cruz. We didn’t attempt to go into shore because the sun was setting and the dinghy was packed away, but it looked interesting. The rides were not operating. It was nice being underway again, but being able to stop and sleep a full night was a real bonus. At least that was the idea. It turned out to be quite a rolly night. The continuous rolling made it almost impossible to sleep, and I kept getting up to make sure we were still anchored where we thought and not washing up on the beach.
Joe tried to spend the evening fixing the electrical problems but couldn’t do it with so much boat motion. We decided to go on to Monterey in the morning, get into the marina there, and do the repairs while tied to a dock.
We ended up staying in the marina in Monterey for three nights. It was the first marina we had been in since we left Seattle. We were able to get a reservation over the phone without any problem, but finding the correct slip once we arrived was a big problem. No numbers or signs are visible from the water. We ended up taking the wrong slip. We would’ve gone up to the office to verify and check in if it didn’t require a dock key to get out through the gate. Someone came down onto the dock about an hour later, told us we had to move, helped us tie up in the correct slip, showed us where the tiny little dock numbers were located—only visible to people already on the dock, and then gave us our dock key.
To go from wide open space to a crowded marina with boats tied and moored everywhere, and flotillas of kayaks and stand up paddle boards apparently thinking that they can do whatever they want without getting run over by a 46,000 pound boat that does not stop or turn quickly, was more stressful than we were ready for. The 70-foot slip they gave us had only 50 Amp power available. Our shore power cord only fits a 30 Amp socket. We wanted to use the sewing machine and so needed power. We searched our box of adapters, but only had 20 to 30 Amp adapters, not 30 to 50. Fortunately, the boat yard had adapters to loan out for a $195.00 deposit. It all worked out eventually, the stress and frustration went away, Joe fixed his electrical problem, and we had a good time in Monterey.
If Half Moon Bay has the birds, Monterey has the sea lions. If Half Moon Bay has an incessantly blaring horn, Monterey has incessantly barking sea lions. If the bird poop all over the rocks in Half Moon Bay stinks, well…
The Cannery Row area of Monterey is pretty much all John Steinbeck, all the time, except for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Well, now that I think about it, there’s a lot of Steinbeck in there as well, including a whole section on Baja and the Sea of Cortez. The aquarium is very nice, but expensive and crowded.
At the other end of the waterfront from Cannery Row is Fisherman’s Warf. It seems less of John Steinbeck, but no less touristy.
Our weekend in Monterey was a nice diversion, but Slainte’s electrical problem was fixed. We left on Monday to go in search of Southern California, rumored to begin on the south side of Point Conception, where the coastline turns sharply eastward, the ocean swells lessen, and the weather south of there is always delightful (or so we’ve heard).
Unfortunately, during the first night of cruising down the coast from Monterey, Slainte developed engine trouble. We stopped in the middle of the night for Joe to check things over. Slainte’s engine was consuming crankcase oil. This was a strange experience. After hours of following the little point of white light which was Slainte’s stern light, we were now two boats literally bobbing in a sea of blackness, the only outside visual reference being each other’s running lights. I found it easy to freak out a little by the odd spatial orientation, and was happy to start moving again.
By the end of the next day, after a few more stops to add more oil, we anchored for the night so Joe could do more troubleshooting. On the south side of Point Conception, behind Government Point, is small, protected Cojo Anchorage. It makes a good shelter to wait out the weather when going northbound around Point Conception, which is notorious for rough conditions. As we were setting the anchor uncomfortably close to the surf breaking on the beach, we were startled by the southbound “Coast Starlight” Amtrak train going by on top of a low bluff directly above the beach. A few minutes later, the northbound train went by as well. Once this trip is over we might have to try a trip on that.
The outlook for Slainte was not good. Joe, a diesel mechanic, needed time to remove the transmission, possibly order parts and make repairs. He decided to head for Santa Barbara and try to get a slip at the marina there until the issue could be brought under control.
When we arrived at Santa Barbara the marina was a zoo. Slainte made it through the narrow entrance channel, tied up to the Harbormaster dock, and made a case for an emergency need for a slip for a few days. There was one available that they could fit into. We entered the channel a few minutes later, only to be faced by boats sailing out for an evening race, and a string of launches ferrying passengers out to a cruise ship, not to mention the now expected flotilla of kayaks, stand up paddle boards and dinghies. These last take low priority behind right-of-way-demanding sailboats and cruise ship landing craft jammed to the max with uncomfortable-looking passengers, especially when we have to look into a low setting sun. The flotilla may or may not have actually been there, we couldn’t really see them anyway.
Joe texted us that no more slips were available, and even the fuel dock was jammed up. We didn’t want to get into a jam so we turned around to go back out, which was a lot like trying to do a U-turn on a narrow road, blocking traffic in both directions.
Once again, we went out to the anchoring area off the beach and looked at the shore from a distance.
So, with Slainte stuck in Santa Barbara for a while, and us planning to meet a family with another 18-year old in San Diego on Sunday, it was decided that we would go on ahead, meeting up with Slainte again when they got to San Diego. In the morning we raised the anchor and continued along the coast, past Ventura and Point Mugu, and then angled out, passing Los Angeles and Long Beach offshore, and aiming for San Diego. Winds were light and variable, so we droned on uneventfully for two days. Whale sightings and dolphins have become a common occurrence, but one thing not expected was the lack of other marine traffic. Although we paralleled the shipping lanes for most of the night, we were virtually alone.
As we approached San Diego we noticed two things happening with the VHF radio on channel 16. “Warships” (formerly known as Navy vessels?) were maneuvering and announcing their intentions to all other vessels; and many of the other radio conversations were entirely in Spanish. Even though when sailing in Puget Sound we frequently encounter transiting nuclear submarines and their escorts, I had never heard so much military use of the marine VHF radio, especially between other military ships and helicopters; and conversations seemingly directed at each other, rather than directly at a particular civilian boat. On the other hand, the Spanish conversations, when we thought about it, made perfect sense since we could literally see Mexico in the distance. It just hadn’t sunk in yet that we were so far south.
So, we made it. Pretty much the entire west coast of the continental United States, from Cape Flattery to Point Loma, has passed by on the port side of our little sailing ship.
Seattle to San Diego: 1,250 nautical miles at sea.
Running total of items broken, lost or in need of repair: 25.