Monday, September 29, 2014

Morro Bay

Rapture, Abby Normal, and Andante happily left San Simeon first thing the next morning. Good bye to yet another violent anchorage! Next stop, Morro Bay.

Morro Bay is a nice little tourist town in central California. It is called a bay, but it is more like a river than a bay. It doesn't flow like a river (the only current is the tidal current) but it is a long narrow waterway like a river. The thing about Morro Bay is the bar you have to cross to get into the tiny opening of the harbor. It is so hazardous that the harbor patrol will come out and walk you through the entrance standing by in case you need to be rescued from your crushed vessel on the rocks (gives a real warm and fuzzy feeling doesn't it).

When we arrived Abby Normal was in the lead so he made the call to the harbor patrol. They asked if we would like them to come out and help us get in. Brad said he didn't think we would need help and was just calling for a bar condition report. The harbor patrol responded "captain, please be aware that you are solely responsible for the safety of your vessel and everyone on board" (I think he is trying to tell you something). So we all got to talking on the radio and decided to put our manly pride aside and take them up on their offer. Glad we did!

We cruised all day in 8' to 10' swell. It was not breaking on the bar, but it was intimidating none the less. The harbor master came out in a little speed boat and came up to each of our boats to give us the skinny on how to safely get across the bar. It is a bit unnerving to have ocean swell crashing on the rocks on both sides of your boat as you try to navigate a narrow, shallow channel, but obviously we made it in okay..

As you approach Morro Bay the first thing you see are 3 tall smoke stacks and a HUGE rock (Morro rock oddly enough).

Morro Rock
The moment you cross behind the breakwater everything goes flat calm. Finally the constant motion has stopped. We have been dealing with large swell for 3 days and 2 nights - we were exhausted and just wanted the boat to stop rocking. The bay is a long narrow passage. On one side is the town and on the other side is the mooring field and the breakwater keeping the ocean out. The vast majority of the bay is mooring balls with boats tied to them. On one end there is open anchorage.

Abby Normal was heading for the yacht club dock hoping to get reciprocal moorage. They were lucky enough to find an open spot and tied up. We had talked with Kat the night before and decided that she would get off the boat in Morro Bay. Unfortunately the arrangement was not working out for either of us. So Brad offered to let us raft up on Abby Normal so Kat could go ashore. After we got tied up Brad went up to the office and found out that we could stay rafted up at the yacht club dock for $25. We figured it would make it easy for us to explore the town and do some grocery shopping, then move out to the anchorage the next day, so we took the offer!

Morro Bay was a fun little tourist town. It is basically one street that follows the bay with housing up on the hill. It was nice to go to a supermarket for the first time in quite a long time! We couldn't resist a shot of this tour boat as it came by.

We planned to spend a few days in Morro Bay relaxing. But later that night I got a text from Brad on Abby Normal saying they were leaving in the morning and anyone that wanted to come along was welcome. Not good news since I had promised Jan that we would take a few days off in Morro Bay. But I started looking at the weather that Brad had been seeing and realized that if we left in the morning we would be getting out one day in front of the weather. And if we delayed we would likely be stuck in Morro Bay for a week. So much for hanging out.. but we were able to get in a day of seeing the town (which is about all we needed - it is a very small town).

Our plan was to leave at slack water in the afternoon when the bar would be the calmest and head for San Luis Obispo. It would only be a 4 hour trip so we would still be able to make it before dark. But mother nature doesn't understand schedules.. about an hour before we were planning to leave the fog rolled in. Not just any fog, thick fog! So we got the boat ready to go and waited. 30 minutes past our preferred departure time the fog thinned a bit so we all got together and took a vote. As usual, I was the cautious one and voted to stay put while Jan, Brad, and Gay said "let's go". Even though I voted to stay, I knew it was not black and white and it was a manageable risk. So off we went.. We headed around the corner of the breakwater where we could see the entrance and the bar and the fog was even thinner. So we went for it! To my surprise the bar conditions were very light and the fog cleared as soon as we got out. So it was off to San Luis!

San Simeon

Rapture, Abby Normal, and Andante arrived in San Simeon in the early evening. A nice little place tucked in just off the side of the Pacific Ocean. San Simeon happens to be this very small line of rocks that hooks out a short distance into the ocean (google it and you can see what it looks like from an aerial view). It is also where the Hearst castle (for those of you in our age group - for the younger readers - google it, it's famous) is located. You can see the castle on the hill behind the anchorage (and I use the term "anchorage" lightly). We all wanted to go ashore and check it out, but that was not going to happen! You really get a sense of the power of the ocean when you come in close to the shore. The swell was 6' to 8' so when it broke on the shore is was pretty spectacular. There was no way I was going to try to land my dingy on that beach.

We had yet another violent night in San Simeon. There was just really no protection from the swell.. and it pounded us all night. Here is a shot of it breaking on the rocks in front of where we were anchored.

The pier at San Simeon - not for docking a boat.

Hearst Castle

This was yet another uncomfortable night and we were glad to get the heck out of dodge!


We left Half Moon Bay early in the morning so we could get to Monterey before dark. Monterey is a very unique place - it is teaming with sea mammals. We saw a lot of whales and dolphins there, but mostly sea lions. I have never seen so many sea lions in all my life.. combined! There are hundreds if not thousands of them. And they never sleep - who knew? They love to come up on the pier next to your boat and bark all night long. There was no sleeping in Monterey.

Jan and Kat took it on themselves to try and find a solution after the first sleepless night (not in Seattle). They figured out that they don't like to be sprayed with the hose. So about every hour or so one of them would go out and spray them down to shoo them off the dock. Jan came upon one particularly big one that tried to stand his ground, but he didn't know who he was messin' with and eventually left. The next night Kat came up with a better solution - there were plywood barricades on some of the piers so she took some from piers that didn't have boats in them and put them next to our boat. Aaahhh, finally a good night's sleep! If it wasn't for all of the barking, they would be kind of cute.

Alright already, we hear you!

Monterey is a nice town to walk around. They have a wonderful seaside walk that extends from the marina all the way out to the point. Of course there are a lot of tourist attractions and shops. We found a Thomas Kinkade gallery that was just amazing. If you don't know who Thomas Kinkade is, you should check it out. He does painting that celebrates light. You could spend hours looking at one of his works and still not see every little detail.

Jan discovered this bird standing on the end of the pier where Rapture was tied up. It appears he has a fishing fly stuck in his chest. Unfortunately I cannot remember the type of bird, but we have seen a lot of them even back in Washington. They like to stand on rocks, buoys, etc... with their wings spread and the wind blowing over them. Not sure what the deal is, but they seem to do it a lot. Anyway, this poor guy was just standing there and let Jan walk right up to him. She didn't try to touch him but wanted to see what was hanging on him. I called the office and they sent someone down to try to catch him but were unsuccessful. We felt really bad for the little guy.

We have been buddy boating with Abby Normal since we left San Francisco. We first met them in Brookings, OR after the storm. They came in the day after we did and tied up right behind us. Then we happened to be leaving San Francisco heading for Half Moon Bay right behind them. The more we get to know Brad and Gay, the more we like them.

Abby Normal flying her spinnaker
We have joined up with several boats that were in the rally from Seattle to San Diego called the Coho ho-ho  (where do they come up with these names!?). We traveled to Monterey with Abby Normal but then waited a couple of days for Andante, Mabrooka, and Friday to show up. After a couple of days we were ready to leave but then a check of the weather changed our minds. I noticed yet another Pacific hurricane in Mexico. The models all showed it turning north and dying a slow death in Arizona. But if it didn't turn north, California would be right in its path. So I walked over and talked it over with Brad. He said "it is kind of like reefing (making the sails smaller when the wind pipes up) - if you think it might be a good idea, it usually is". My thinking was - would I like to be tied up to a secure dock behind a huge concrete breakwater in Monterey or anchored out in Morro Bay when a hurricane came by... uuuummmm... let me think about this for a minute - duh, Monterey! So we stayed another day..

The next afternoon the hurricane did indeed turn north so we decided to leave the dock and anchor outside the breakwater for an early morning departure. My initial plan was to leave late in the afternoon and travel all night in order to reach Morro Bay the next evening. But another discussion with Brad changed our plans. Jan and I are not real big on sailing at night if we can help it. Believe it or not, it is dark out there at night! You truly cannot see anything. So there is this little bite that sticks out of the side of the ocean about half way between Monterey and Morro Bay called San Simeon. So the plan is to leave just before first light and head for San Simeon. Then spend the night there and leave first thing in the morning for Morro Bay. That way we will only have about an hour of night sailing. I like this plan!

What I am not so crazy about is anchoring outside the breakwater in Monterey! My gosh, what a nightmare. It was by far the worst night we have had on the boat. We pitched and rolled violently all night long. I guess I should have checked the swell before we came up with this brilliant plan. So at 4:30AM everyone was up and ready to get the heck out of there! San Simeon, here we come.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Leaving San Francisco

I have to tell you, we were all smiles when we sailed in under the Golden Gate and we were all smiles when we sailed out under the Golden Gate. Jan and I have no love lost for San Francisco. As far as we are concerned, it is not a great boating destination. The wind blows way too hard all the time, every day. And the water  is shallow. And they don't have very many good anchorages. And they police their anchorages (you have to to get permits to anchor places). And.... well, I think you are getting the picture. Anyway, we are really glad to be on our way south again.

We went to the crew list party for the Baja Haha in Alameda at the Encinal Yacht Club looking for some crew to help out with the boat on the trip down. We were looking to add a couple to the boat hoping to get some help while on passage and maybe make some new friends. We had signed up on the crew list web site earlier and had already found crew, but needed to go to the party to get our Haha packet and to rub some elbows. So we did.. We met a lot of really nice people there and a few that we feel we would be comfortable with on the boat.

We picked up Kat (our crew) at the party Wednesday night. She had flown in earlier in the day from Vancouver, BC (where she lives). It was a fun time, and being a boat captain wearing a name tag saying I was looking for crew made me a really popular guy. But in all honesty, it was a lot of fun meeting and chatting with people.

We all left the party and headed back to the boat. We wanted to get a good night's sleep because it was going to be an early departure in the morning. 6:00AM came and it was time to get the ball (boat) rolling. Everyone was up and excited to get the day underway. We left San Francisco early in the morning and in the fog, what a surprise (not!). I have to give San Francisco this - it is a beautiful city.

Downtown San Fancisco - is that fog? No way.
Golden Gate, yes, in the fog as well.

Alcatraz "the rock"

We left following Abby Normal - an Island Packet SP Cruiser that we met in Brookings, OR. It is owned by Brad and Gay - a wonderful couple that we really enjoy hanging out with. We were headed for Half Moon Bay. It is about 25 miles south of the Golden Gate. Disappointment would be a tame word for our feelings when we arrived. We really couldn't see much of any beauty in the place, and the smell from the bird sh@$@#$ was.... shall we say "out of this world". Seriously, there were a lot of birds there and the breakwater was totally white, and it wasn't from dried on salt, if you know what I mean. If the smell wasn't bad enough, there were enough flies there to haul you off the boat and drop you 10 miles inland. We bought our boat new in 2008 (she is a 2009 model year) and have never put the screens in the windows until now! To our surprise, this is one of the boating destinations for people who boat in San Francisco. It was really a dreadful place. If we lived in San Francisco and owned a boat, we would sell it and buy an RV (wait, did I just say "buy an RV"? Jan - what are you doing with that straightjacket!?). We did get one shot of a pelican that is worth sharing (we LOVE the pelicans!).

We fueled and then anchored in the harbor. We planned to leave for Monterey at 3:00AM so we would arrive by 2:00PM. I got up at 2:30 AM to have a look around and thought better of hauling the anchor. I could see the rotating beacon at the entrance to the harbor through the fog, but just barely. So I set the alarm for another hour and went back to bed. At 4:00 I got up and had another look - pretty much the same. So I made some coffee which woke the rest of the crew. We sat and drank coffee and chatted for a couple of hours waiting until we got a bit of twilight. Then as I was heading out to haul the anchor I saw Abby Normal motoring out past us - what timing!

Winds were light for the first 3/4 of the trip, then it started to pick up. We were getting between 10 and 15 on our stern. If we had 15 to 20 I would have put the sails up, but I knew the wind was just tempting me trying to get me up off my duff to do some work. I resisted the temptation and was glad that I had because very shortly thereafter it dropped to about 8 on our stern. Unfortunately for Brad on Abby Normal, he couldn't help himself. So he quickly dropped back and we beat them into the harbor by a half hour or so.

I have to say, I have figured out how to get a whale sighting - just send Jan down for a nap! It seems that every time she leaves the cockpit we have a whale sighting. And today was the best of all!!! Unfortunately I don't have any pictures (but this again is one of those "had to be there" moments) because it only happened once. But I saw a whale leap completely out of the water (yes, tail completely out of the water!) and them come splashing back down. My gosh, it was the most amazing sight I have ever seen! It was beyond cool. It was HUGE! I have seen a lot of whales on the trip so far, but this was really amazing. Unlike Jan, I am not "totally" excited about seeing them. I know the damage they can do to the boat. So when I see them crossing in front of the boat I take evasive action immediately. This is one of the many things that make Jan and I such a good couple - she always sees the greatness in a situation and I always see the dangers. Now if we can just find a way for Jan to not feel like I am raining on her parade when I say "but Honey, we might want to move forward a bit slower...".

Monterey Bay is teaming with ocean mammal life. I saw numerous whales as we cruised across the bay. Then as we got close to the town of Monterey we came across a bunch of dolphins. They were playing all around the boat. One that was about 50 yards away was way too excited. He kept jumping out of the water over and over. Not sure why, but it was sure fun to watch.

We arrived in Monterey at 4:00PM and headed to our slip. We called ahead and got a slip for us and Abby Normal just a couple of doors down. When we came around the breakwater we were greeted with an all too familiar smell... only this time it was from seals! The breakwater is covered with seals and their droppings. Oh my gosh, they are loud and smelly! It was kind of nerve racking trying to find our way through the mooring field with all of the barking going on. As I type this, Jan is out in the cockpit playing her piano. Either the seals love her playing or they really want her to stop because they are really getting loud! And when she stops, they stop. And when she starts again, they start again. I am a little concerned they are going to be boarding the boat looking for an autograph any minute! There are 5 of them on the pier right next to the boat.

The rest of the Coho Hoho fleet is a day behind us so we are going to hang out here in Monterey and wait for them to catch up. Then head out for Moro Bay on Sunday, weather permitting of course. I will be back later with pictures from Monterey.

Clipper Cove and Alameda

We left Berkeley after a couple of days. We really wanted to find someplace to drop anchor for a week or so and get some much needed rest. We relax best when we are at anchor. So we headed out for Clipper Cove – a nice little cove nestled between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. The cove is right next to/under the Oakland Bay Bridge. We were concerned about the noise from traffic, but that turned out to be the least of the problems! Sure, you could hear the cars, but that noise was pretty much drowned out by the pile driver right outside the cove. Now there is some noise for you! And to top that off, the blessed wind is NEVER ENDING! It blows between 20 and 25 knots every day from about 11:00AM until at least 3:00AM. I just don't know how the locals do it – I cannot wait to leave San Francisco. Like most sailors, I like a little breeze, but enough is enough!

Aside from the wind and noise, Clipper Cove was not all bad. We met a very nice couple on our second day there. I noticed someone on a neighbor boat leaving on his way into shore. So I went outside to see if I could get his attention and chat him up a bit. Not only did I get his attention, but he came by and asked if I had any trash that he could take to shore for me – wow! What a nice thing to do. I chatted him up and found out he is a retired school principle. We traded contact information and then he was off. A couple of days later we had them (Chad and Caroline) over for a beer in the cockpit. A real nice couple. I do have to wonder about their sanity however... they are planning to go cruising up north. Not just “up north”, but WAY up north where the icebergs roam. Yikes! Can you say BBBBRRRRRRRR?

One day I was reading in the cockpit and noticed a small ski boat come into the harbor. The lone passenger went up to the bow and put out an anchor. I thought that was strange – it is not a place to fish and you don't generally see ski boat's anchor up like that. Then it got exciting. He got out a kite and a wake board. But not just any wake board – this one had a hydrofoil. He spent a couple of hours racing around the bay. It was a lot of fun to watch (especially when he biffed it right next to our boat), but definitely not my cup of tea.

From Clipper Cove we had a bird's eye view of the east span of the Oakland Bay Bridge. It is a new bridge only built a few years ago. It is really a cool looking bridge. They are dismantling the old span just to the south of the new bridge. The bridge is really lit up at night. Unfortunately the picture doesn't do the actual sight justice – sorry.

Oakland Bay bridge east span at night

The two spans of the bay bridge meet on Yerba Buena Island. You can't see the west span from Clipper Cove. But we got a shot of it when we left heading for Alameda.

After 5 days we had pretty much had our fill of the constant wind. We really didn't want to go outside because it was so uncomfortable. So we left a day earlier than we had planned and headed for Alameda.

Alameda is an island that is separated from Oakland by a very narrow waterway. It feels like you are driving on a road in the middle of town but you are in your boat. It is really kind of strange. As we approached Marina Village Yacht harbor where we are going to stay for 2 days we came across some “boat” houses. There are similar structures on Lake Union, but these were colorful to say the least. It is really kind of a stretch to call them boats in my opinion.

We came across this boat along the way. Glad I don't have to take care of her bright work (wood for you non-boating readers)

We also went by Scott's Seafood Bar and Grill. We had no idea about Scott's little secret. We thought he was just the accountant for the Port of Kingston. Scott, you sly devil you. If you had told us we would have planned to stop in and say “hello”.

We came to Alameda for a “crew list” party put on by the Lattitude 38 people for the Baja Haha. It is the rally that leaves San Diego at the end of October heading for Cabo. We joined the rally at the behest of some of our friends. We thought it would be a good idea to see if we could find some crew to help out with watches while on passage and also thought it would be a great place to start getting to know people. The next day after the party we plan to leave San Francisco and head south again.

Alameda has turned out to be a really nice place! It doesn't have the best docks we have ever seen (that would be Anacortes) or the best shopping within walking distance (once again Anacortes), but the people here are incredibly friendly. We hadn't been tied up more than a few minutes before someone walked by and said "good afternoon and welcome!". Later in the day a couple was getting on their boat several boats down from us and made sure to get my attention to welcome us to the marina. That is what I call some friendly folks! If I was ever going to be tempted to put down roots and be a live aboard tied to a dock, Alameda would be  a great place for it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


When we arrived in San Francisco we went straight to Richmond, tied up, and took a couple of days off. We were both a little weary after being at sea for a week. To this day Jan and I both have been having fitful sleep dreaming about being at sea. For the first couple of days I would wake up a little freaked out wondering where we were and who was on watch. But finally last night I slept all the way through and didn't once think about watch. I think part of the problem was the dock in Richmond. We were tied to the end of a very old flimsy dock so the boat moved a lot - just like at sea. Well... maybe not "just" like being at sea.

We left the Brickyard marina in Richmond on Monday (Labor Day) and headed out to do a check out on the boat and some relaxing bay sailing. We wanted to get the sails up and check them for any damage or chafe from the passage. We also wanted to check over the rig very carefully to ensure all was secure. I looked it over at the dock, but I wanted to put a load on it as well. I am happy to report that the rig and sails look great!

As we were motoring out of the harbor from the Brickyard marina we saw a couple of boats that looked like  they had a man overboard. So we were immediately on the lookout. Then when we got close to one of the boats a guy did a swan dive off the deck. Okay, yes, man/woman overboard, but intentionally. So I checked the water temperature - 75 degrees! That will work!

I also wanted to do a sea trial calibration on the autopilot. All of the tossing about during the ride through the storm did not do the autopilot compass any favors. The compass heading was jumping around quite a bit and the boat symbol on the chart plotter was running a bit off kilter when we came in. We ran the calibration (pretty simple - turn a few slow circles, hold a few headings, etc...) and now it seems to be working perfectly.

The San Francisco bay is a sailor's paradise! The wind blows *every* day like clockwork. The sun heats up the valley and then convection takes over and sucks the cool air in from the Pacific during the afternoon. We left the dock around noon in light and variable conditions - perfect for checking sails and such. Then at about 2:00 in the afternoon the wind went from 4 knots to 25 knots in about 10 minutes. We went from looking for a puff to double reefed in 10 minutes. Holy cow! Fortunately I learned a long time ago to reef early, and reef aggressively, so we were always in control.

I am sure the San Francisco bay seems big to the locals, but being a cruiser from the Puget Sound - it seems very small to me. So while San Francisco always has the wind, the Puget Sound has beauty, variety, and size to its advantage.

And oh my gosh! I have never seen so many sailboats packed into such a small space in my life. Sailing here in not for the faint of heart. I had to jibe twice to keep from hitting another boat that tacked right in front of me. And unfortunately I was forced to tack right in front of another boat that had to jibe to miss me. It was crazy for sure. We tried to get some pictures showing all of the boats but our lens wasn't wide enough to really get the whole picture.

Granted, this was the last "summer" holiday so you would expect everyone to be out on their boats, but my gosh. Anyway, we headed over to Ayala Cove to see if we could find a buoy. We really prefer to use our anchor instead of tying to buoys because of chafe to the line. But Ayala Cove is too small for a boat to anchor among the many buoys already set. Our plan was to get there later in the afternoon after all of the holiday vacationers left to head back home. Well that didn't pan out - it was a crazy zoo!!! Most of the buoys were taken. And as we were approaching the cove slowly (as any normal prudent sailor would) we had 2 boats (one sailboat and one power boat) go roaring in cutting us off and taking the buoys that we were heading toward. I guess maybe they knew we were "tourists" and figured they had local first rights. Anyway, after all of that nonsense there were only a couple of buoys left in close to shore. We poked our nose in but when I saw a depth of 10 feet (and it was a +4 tide at the time) I knew it was no place for our deep draft boat to be. So we backed out and went to plan B - Berkeley marina.

We really wanted to spend some time on Angel Island. It was an internment camp for Japanese citizens during wold war II. A really sad chapter in American history in my opinion. When I am looking at the island I can't help but see how similar it is to Alcatraz Island right next to it. I understand the need for security during a war, but do we need to sacrifice our morals and character by imprisoning innocent people to get it? And for those of you that disagree with me - yes, I would rather be killed by a terrorist with my integrity intact than imprison an innocent person. Okay, enough of that.

We are tied up in Berkeley now. The upside for this marina is that it is inexpensive - $20/night including power and Wifi. The downside is that it is directly east of the San Francisco bay entrance so it blows pretty good here every afternoon. Also, being inexpensive, it is home to some rather untidy boats in questionable seaworthy condition. That being said, everyone we have met here has been very friendly and kind. Also, there are several HoHo (the rally from Seattle to San Diego) boats here that we were talking to on the trip down. So it has been nice to have some "local" faces to hang out with.

The first thing you see when you approach Berkely is what is left of the old Berkeley pier. All but the last part of it is gone except for the pilings. But at one time it extended 2.5 miles out into the bay. It is really incredible! It must have been quite a walk out to the end and back. If you click on the top picture to open it in full screen and then look all the way to the right side you can get a sense of how long this pier was.

The remaining portion of the Berkeley pier

Outside the Everett jetty there is a fairly new sport of kite boarding. On a windy weekend day you can see 50 or more kites flying towing people on wake boards. On the way into Berkeley we saw someone with one of those kites as well, but he was sitting on a jet ski being towed.

We also saw someone on a sailboard. The wind was blowing 25 knots and he/she was cutting across on a reach. I estimate they were going close to 50 MPH. It was absolutely amazing how fast they were traveling.

The pelicans here are amazing! I just can't believe they can fly with that huge bill. The first pelicans I saw were as we were crossing the bar into Brookings, OR. They fly around and then nose dive into the water when they see something they want to eat. I am surprised that they are not injured. I am not sure what was going on, but one pelican we saw had a small bird that followed him everywhere he went, including diving into the sea.

Pelican with friend in tow

Remember those strange jelly fish that we saw floating on the water on the way down to San Francisco? Well I had wanted to scoop one out of the water to have a close look at it but never came up with a method for doing so. I didn't think my throw bucket would be accurate enough so I never tried. Well, it turns out I didn't need to scoop one up. I was doing my engine room checks the other day and found 2 of them in my raw water strainer - oh joy!

They look and feel like plastic. It is hard to believe they were once a living being.

We are planning to leave Berkeley today and anchor up off Treasure Island. It is right below a bridge so we are hoping that it is not too noisy. If it is, then we will come up with something else.