Sunday, October 14, 2012

Traveling the Southern California Coast by Boat

Sunrise in Coho.
Way back on the 29th of September (which feels like about 2 months ago instead of just two weeks ago!) we pulled out under the Golden Gate and said goodbye to San Francisco.  One thing we hadn’t really thought about was how long getting down to San Diego would take as we were so focused on just leaving and getting down to San Francisco.  Well San Diego is another 450 miles away and when you only go about 6 miles per hour, it takes a LONG TIME to go that far!  We’re hoping to be (and it’s looking like we will be) in San Diego by October 17th.

So in our travels thus far, one thing I can definitely tell you is that the days of wonderful, quiet anchorages where the boat barely moves all night are GONE, GONE, GONE!  Welcome to the new world of serious bobbing and rolling around at anchor!  I cannot believe (having never been in it) how much the boat rolls from side to side and forward and back in the frequent combination of ocean swell, wind and tide.  Think about a cork in a big bowl of water being shook by a 3 year old and you’ll have the picture.  But I’m pretty happy to report that it’s amazing what you can get used to.   While it was disconcerting at first, we quickly became used to it and thankfully most places get a little better at night – so at least you don’t feel like you are going to fall out of bed! 

While we’ve stayed at many spots as we’ve been making our way south to San Diego, one of our favorite spots was Santa Cruz.  We anchored right off the beach to the south of the big pier – so we had a great view of the big amusement park on the beach.  We ended up staying two nights so that we could walk into town and re-provision (have I mentioned what a good workout it is to schlep all your groceries 2 miles back to the boat?). 

One of MANY!
One of the craziest things about Santa Cruz is how many sea lions there are here.  I have never seen so many of these HUGE creatures in one place and man do they make a LOT of noise!  From where our boat was anchored we could easily see about 50 of them at any given time and the sound of their barking at each other is incredibly loud – and pretty much never ceased.  They definitely own all of the space around the pier – so landing or getting back to your dinghy can get a little interesting. 

Which brings me to…….THE GREAT SEA LION FACEOFF!  Yes, my handsome husband had to go to battle with one of those huge sea lions so that we could reach our dinghy and take our provisions back to our boat.  This guy must have weighed over 800 pounds and he was positioned directly below the ladder that you have to climb down to access the dinghy dock.  So we walked down to the spot right above the ladder and there are like 10 other people there looking at all the sea lions and taking pictures (because there were actually about 5 of them on the landing area – but only one between us and our dinghy) and we’re like uh oh…..he’s totally blocking us……this could get interesting!  So Brett tries talking the beast off the dock, which definitely doesn’t work and only seemed to be upsetting the big guy as now he’s starting to show us his rather large teeth.  Then Brett starts waving his arms and showing the beast HIS teeth.  This approach definitely is NOT effective and now the sea lion is really getting pissed (and did I mention how many folks are watching this whole exchange?).  So there is more barking/yelling and waving and nothing is getting any better until Brett realizes he must make bigger noise and appear more threatening or we will never get back to our boat.  So he pulls off his flip flop and starts banging it on the metal ladder above the sea lions head.  More teeth, but clearly the big guy is feeling a little threatened.  So Brett shows his teeth and bangs even louder until finally the beast dumps off into the water and the path is clear.  Have I mentioned how much I love my man?  My hero!  I’m pretty sure various versions of that story will be told by the tourists that watched for years to come… 

After Santa Cruz we had an absolutely fantastic sail over to Monterey – which is just across the bay about 4 hours away.  We stayed there for several days and I think we must have put on at least 15 miles walking all over the town.  What a great little place and it’s amazing how much they have put into the parks and historic information so that you could learn as you walked.  There is also a very large aquarium here, but at $70 for the two of us, we decided we’d be better off seeing the marine life in person through snorkeling down the road.

Note Hearst Castle on the hill.
Originally we had hoped to sail from Monterey directly to the Channel Islands, but after about 24 hours (which was a fairly rough go overnight with some higher winds than we like) we changed our mind and decided to just do day trips down the coast – so into San Simeon we pulled at dawn.  This is a beautiful spot and is also the location of the Hearst Castle – which looks pretty amazing perched high up on the hill above the bay.

Daybreak Ocean sailing out of Coho anchorage.
 After San Simeon we made our way to the bay at San Luis Obisbo and to our delight discovered our new friends on Daybreak Ocean.  Frank, Caroline, their daughter Lea and their Portuguese Water dog are great and we’ve enjoyed spending time with some fellow cruisers.  Since we were only staying overnight, we had them aboard for drinks and then made plans to “buddy boat” around Point Conception (often called the Cape Horn of southern California due to the high winds that often occur there) and then have dinner together.    We had a great sail the next day (it’s always a race when two sailboats are involved!) and as we pulled into the Coho anchorage we discovered the winds were not going to die down much at all as they were about 20-25 knots even when we were tucked in close to the beach.  But thankfully our trusty Rocna anchor was set in no time and we were good to go.  We had a great dinner on Daybreak and thoroughly enjoyed their company. 

I can touch him?  Seriously???
Next stop after Coho was Santa Barbara – which is actually where we bought Bella Vita (though she was Carpe Diem at the time).  How bizarre to pull into a place that we actually recognized!  I found myself wondering if Bella Vita could tell she was back at her old home?   After one night there it was on to Ventura, where we got to stay at the lovely Ventura Yacht Club.  We have been trying to make the most of our membership with the Seattle Yacht Club by enjoying the privileges of reciprocal clubs as often as we can as our dock access will be extremely limited (too expensive) after we leave California.  We are able to stay at the yacht clubs for FREE, so it’s a great way to travel and it’s fun to see and compare all of the clubs with SYC at home.  Plus there are showers (REAL showers where you don’t have to worry about how much water you use and the hot water is seemingly endless!), we can get rid of trash and we meet LOTS of friendly boaters as most of the guest docks are right in front of the club, so everyone stops by to chat on the way to their boat. 

So cute!
We have seen an amazing amount of wildlife, including a few whales, beautiful brown pelicans (one was so used to people I even touched him!), more dolphins than I can count and some really cute sea otters.  The sea otters are so fun to watch as they could do something completely boring and still be adorable doing it.  As long as they are in the water and not on your boat that is!  The fellow in this picture had a friend that followed him everywhere he went – I think hoping to get some of the castoffs as he was working on smashing up a crab he had caught.

Speaking of which – we had the weirdest thing happen when we arrived at Marina Del Ray.  That evening we are sitting below and we start to notice this really weird noise – kind of like a snap, crackle, pop sound.  What the heck?  So we start investigating, but we can’t figure it out.  Come to find out it’s crabs!  Apparently small shrimp like to dine on the algae that grows on the boats and then the crabs come along and eat them.  The clicking we were hearing was their claws on the hull as they grab the little shrimps. I can hear them right now as I'm typing - bizarre, huh?  

As I write this we are staying at the Del Ray Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey and I can honestly say it is the nicest club we’ve stayed at yet!  Beautiful wood interior (with LOTS of trophies), super nice people and they even have a pool!  This is our last night here and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay and have met a LOT of friendly club members and had lots of good conversations.  It’s amazing how interested people are in what we are doing.  We also hear many stories – like spending a few hours with Bruce Kessler, who bought us lunch and told us about his adventures in being one of the first people to circumnavigate the globe in a powerboat.  Bruce was also a Formula One race car driver and a director of TV and films – some of which you might recognize, including The MonkeesMission: Impossible, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Rockford Files and The A-Team.  And he bought US lunch!  What an interesting guy who has led an amazing life – and he couldn’t have been nicer.  Thanks Bruce!

Tomorrow we’ll be at Dana Point and then it’s off to San Diego for final prep before the jump into our first official new country!  Better start boning up on my Spanish, eh? 

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