San Diego

Posted by John

When we sailed into San Diego Bay we needed a specific destination. That pre-decided destination was Glorietta Bay, which is a designated anchoring area for boats participating in the Baja Ha Ha, the annual cruising rally to Cabo San Lucas. The anchorage area, designated by the San Diego anchorage designation authorities (there must be such a group) as A-5, would allow Ha Ha boats to stay for the entire month of October, rather than the normal 72 hours. We had prearranged to meet another rally boat there that also had an 18-year old onboard, so we raised our Baja Ha Ha flag and headed for Glorietta Bay.

Just as when we noticed the birds in Half Moon Bay and the sea lions in Monterey, we immediately noticed the military helicopters in San Diego. Unlike the birds and sea lions, they did not have a strong odor, but they were loud, low and there were lots of them. So loud at times it was difficult to talk. We suspect they are from the Marine Corps Air Station at Camp Pendleton, doing routine training, but we could be wrong.

Glorietta Bay is a little appendage off the main part of San Diego Bay at Coronado. We found the other boat we were looking for, but being a Friday evening, we also found the anchoring area crowded with weekend boats all a little too close together for comfort. On Saturday the wind came up, and we watched one unattended boat drag anchor and drift through the middle of the pack, narrowly missing several others until the harbor police, and eventually the boat’s owner, showed up.

Other than a place to hang out for a while, Glorietta Bay offered practically nothing on shore for us, not even a place to leave the dinghy for the day or anywhere to replenish our fresh water supply. We didn’t really mind the playing of Reveille and Taps over loudspeakers at the nearby Naval Amphibious Base, but it was clear that staying there for two weeks anchored out wasn’t going to work for us.

It didn’t take long to find a marina with available guest slips, and on Monday morning we moved the boat farther south to a marina in Chula Vista. There we found everything we could possibly need, from friendly people and clean, bright docks and sidewalks with night-time floodlight-lit palm trees (always makes me feel like I’m on vacation), to a West Marine store a few blocks away, and a shopping mall a few more blocks beyond that. We even found a Mexican money exchange inside the Costco store.

Although Glorietta Bay was free, and a couple weeks in the marina is a bigger hit to the credit card than we planned, the marina was far more practical for everything we had left to do. We immediately had our mail sent there, and ordered everything we knew we’d need soon, rather than trying to find it all in Mexico.

Glorietta Bay.  The yellow buoy marks a corner of the special anchorage area.
Glorietta Bay. The yellow buoy marks a corner of the special anchorage area.
Hotel del Coronado in the distance.
Hotel del Coronado in the distance.

On Tuesday, Slainte arrived from a stop in Catalina after figuring out their engine problem in Santa Barbara. Joe and Cathy rented a car for the rest of the month, which we shared with them and split the cost. It was nice being able to make Costco runs and get everything loaded onto the boat directly from the dock rather than having to ferry it all in the dinghy like we did in Half Moon Bay.

We haven’t had any time for sightseeing because we have so much to do still. We’ve received our temporary import permit for the boat, got Mexican fishing licenses (a requirement for each person onboard), bought a Mexican liability insurance policy (also a requirement), bought a SIM card for our boat/house phone so it will work in Mexico, and then promptly dropped and broke the phone (that’s what, maybe item number 26 of the lost and broken?). We did manage to see a couple movies at a theater in the mall. We don’t get to do that as a family very often.

Our big purchase, and another big project to complete (a never-ending list), is a reverse osmosis water maker. It took us a long time to choose which one we wanted, and to figure out how to power it. It’s also going to take a while to get it installed, but it will be a certain necessity once we’re into the Sea of Cortez—and later if we do any long ocean crossings.

We bought the 30 GPH model from Cruise RO Water in Escondido. We had almost bought the one they had for demo at the Seattle Boat Show two years ago, so we’ve been looking at this model for some time. The water maker will (think positive) force filtered seawater at high pressure through membranes which block the salt in order to obtain pure water. Sounds simple, but the actual system has a lot of parts, pumps, valves, gauges and somewhat complex operating and maintenance procedures. That sustained “high pressure” is the hard part, and the membranes are delicate and expensive. It took the first day and a half of reading the manual and looking at the parts just to decide that we were missing the breather cap for the high pressure pump. We won’t have the system installed before we leave here, but we are scrambling to figure out how best to make it all fit and tie in with the existing electrical and plumbing systems. We think it might be easier to buy hardware here than try to shop for it in Mexico.

As for being here in San Diego, we’ve had some of the most summer-like weather we’ve seen all year. We’ve also seen the most rain since we left Puget Sound, but that isn’t saying much. I don’t think it’s rained enough to make the ground completely wet yet. It cools off at night, but otherwise it is shorts and T-shirts weather.

The strangest thing has been a weird crackling noise in the boat, especially at night. It sounded like it was coming from up in the bow, where the holding tank is and we store so many things, but we also heard it equally as loud in the stern. It sounded like electrical sparks, or maybe dripping water—but random, with no pattern. It was enough to nearly drive me nuts. I finally asked people who live on other boats in the marina if they heard it too. They laughed. One person said it was shrimp, and another said crabs; the sounds they make travel through the water and are easily heard through the boat hull. They told stories of people nearly ripping boats apart trying to find the source of the noise. I don’t care what kind of creature is making the sound, or why. I’m just good with being able to sleep at night.

And of course, one more thing failed this week. In the process of fixing the light inside the compass so we can see our heading at night, suddenly the transparent dome popped off and all the fluid gushed out. I have had that compass—the main binnacle compass on the steering pedestal—out of there many times in the past without a problem. It even spent last winter sitting on a shelf. I knew that one of the two very dim LED’s inside the rim was not working, which makes it difficult for our aging eyes to maintain the desired heading at night. I spent a big chunk of the day making up a replacement light from a strip of three red LED’s, including a whole new cable and connector assembly to replace the 22-year old corroded original, and was just reinstalling the compass when the dome fell off. Once my shock and frustration subsided, I decided that I probably had taken out too many screws. In the meantime, Julie located some “Ritchie Compass Oil” in stock at the downtown San Diego West Marine store. I found the fill plug you take out of the compass to pour the oil back in. You learn new stuff everyday.

Fixing the compass light removes one old item from the project list, but losing the compass fluid adds a new one (#27) to the lost and broken list.

California Yacht Marina at Chula Vista—a bright and sunny place.
California Yacht Marina at Chula Vista—a bright and sunny place.
There is no moss growing on these docks, nor, we trust, will any grow on our boat this winter.
There is no moss growing on these docks, nor, we trust, will any grow on our boat this winter.

The rally leaves on Monday, the 31st. The next post will be from somewhere in Mexico.

One thought on “San Diego”

  1. I had the same experience with the crackling sounds at night. I was afraid we had a rodent on board eating through bulkheads and was relieved to find out it was something underwater.

    It’s a good idea to get as many parts and spares as you can while in San Diego. It can be very difficult and expensive to get them once you’re in Mexico. La Paz Cruisers Supply sells Cruise RO watermakers so you will probably have some luck sourcing things there if you need something after rounding the cape.

    Have a great trip down!

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