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southern california



San Diego - Jan. 18

Holy Toledo! We have been in San Diego for 2 months. The retinal doctor has congratulated himself on a magnificent job, and told us we are free to sail on. I have limited vision in my left eye, improving daily now, and can tell the surgery worked. We feel so lucky to have been in a place with excellent care, including my Aunt Marion who took me in for 2 weeks and cared for me while I had to maintain a continuous face-down position day and night. Everyone should have an Aunt Marion.

Dave used the time to complete dozens of boat projects. A rigger came and tuned the rig, and convinced us we needed to trim some inches from the head of our new genoa. Dave repaired a propane leak, cleaned and painted a rusty engine cooling pipe, rebed the Profurl screws all down the forestay, removed the old radar, finished the watermaker install, worked on the engine-driven refrigeration, added pulleys to the pole track, worked out a way to mount our external chart display, cleaned the bottom and replaced zincs, had the ebirb emergency beacon tested, and checked out a recall on our liferaft.

Every so often we wonder about the wisdom of buying a 17 year-old-boat. We have probably doubled her cost, now that we have replaced so many systems that we initially thought were adequate, but proved not to be, including sails, rigging, autopilot, anchor windlass, batteries, inverter (plus the cruising additions of watermaker, ham/ssb radio, liferaft, epirb, windvane, gps). The upside is that Dave, having installed each of these, knows how to troubleshoot and maintain them. I'm just glad he enjoys projects.

In any case, we are finally at the starting line! Monday we plan to slip away at 3 am, sailing 70 miles to Ensenada, arriving mid-afternoon in time to clear in to Mexico. We plan 2 nights there, to take on fuel and obtain the Mexican ham license, then we will sail a couple days south to Turtle Bay, then work our way along the outside of Baja. SD has been a great stop, but we are ready to go on.


San Diego - Dec. 12

We were set to sail Dec. 6 for Ensenada, Mexico but are now delayed a month or so. While driving a rental car around San Diego doing final provisioning, Jan noticed a vision problem. Doctor visits confirmed it is a macular hole, correctable by surgery. We are happy to have found it in the states. Surgery is slated for December 18, after which Jan will hole up in comfort at her Aunt Marion's for a couple weeks to recover.

We signed up for a month's moorage at Shelter Cove Marina on Shelter Island, and borrowed Jan's Aunt's car for the doctor visits. The marina has showers, laundry, a fitness center and wi-fi!

Dave finally completed the watermaker install, and Village Marine came by to check out the system and advise on use and maintenance. The project took much longer than anticipated. Dave managed to shoehorn the watermaker, pumps and filter system into a tight and otherwise unusable space under the floor. This required fabrication of mounting boards and brackets, in addition to the complex plumbing. Nice to have it done, and working very well. It can potentially deliver up to 200 gallons of fresh water a day, though we will likely only use it about an hour a day, still plenty for all our needs.

We found good sources for scuba and snorkeling gear, some used from Craigslist, and some new at good prices from unrealfind.com.

This week we drove up Point Loma to Cabrillo National Monument for spectacular bird's-eye views of the bay, including the airfield that my Dad landed on many times.

If you have to be stuck in a port for awhile, we can recommend San Diego!

This delay will likely put us going down Baja when the gray whales are in the lagoons calving, something we've always wanted to see.

Every so often we feel we are falling behind schedule. And then we remind ourselves we have no schedule! What a wonderful luxury.


San Diego - Nov. 22

We are tied up at the Shelter Island Police Dock for 10 days, allowing Jan to fly home for Thanksgiving, and positioning Dave close to marine supply stores of every description. The "to do before leaving the U.S. list is daunting, and again we will decide to leave some equipment in boxes for installation down the road. We hope to leave SD in early December. At least that's our story now.


San Diego - Nov. 21

After a day threading our way through hundreds of lobster pot buoys and the Point Loma kelp forest, we motored in to San Diego and tied up at Silver Gate Yacht Club for a night. Tomorrow we must move so Jan can fly home for Thanksgiving, leaving Dave and the boat in a secure place. This the the final U.S. stop, last chance to fill the boat with provisions, gear and spares. Will the cruising kitty survive San Diego?


Oceanside CA - Nov. 20

From Morro Bay we sailed overnight to Catalina Harbor on the SW side of Santa Catalina Island where we caught up with cruising friends on Emily B. Cat Harbor is very protected although you wouldn't think so, being on the "ocean" side (next stop Japan) of the island. We walked across the isthmus for ice cream and hiked to the next set of coves. Each cove contains hundreds of mooring buoys, empty this time of year. In the summer Catalina must be a zoo. Off season rates for a mooring buoy, tied bow and stern, are a bargain $66 a week.

After 2 nights, we motored out in calm and fog around the west end, and crossed the busy shipping lanes to Newport Beach. All around we could hear the deep mooing of fog horns.

We entered the busy Newport Beach breakwater on Sunday afternoon, dodging boats of every side and description, from fishing skiffs and kayaks, sailing dinghies, ferries and party boats with weddings in progress. The friendly harbormaster assigned a pair of mooring buoys to us, and gave us helpful maps and information. We tied up, and then hopped in the dinghy to explore in thickening fog, motoring around Balboa and Lido islands, and gawking at the fabulous homes and yachts.

Next morning we dinghied ashore and walked a couple miles to Minney's, the poor cruiser's paradise, specializing in used gear for boats. We spent a happy hour finding parts we needed plus 110 feet of anchor rode to extend our primary anchor, adding to the 210 feet of chain, needed for deep anchorages.

On the way home, we stopped in a sports bar/brewery so Dave could get a small dose of football. The Seahawks were playing on a TV screen. We remembered our first offshore passage on the Vera Dare, coming down this coast. The skipper pulled into Ventura to watch a game.

Today we again slipped the mooring and motored south in calm seas to Oceanside. Now we are a mere 30 miles from San Diego, our last US stop on the west coast, where Dave will finish a few of the key installation projects. In many ways this segment of the trip is still "preparation", though we've enjoyed each of our dozen stops along the way. The real cruising begins when we leave the familiar behind and head into foreign waters.


Morro Bay - Nov. 14

We have enjoyed our stay in Morro Bay, spectacular setting, lotsa otters, great eateries, and quiet nights at the Yacht Club dock. The morros (7 of 'em in a row, this is just one) were formed by lava going up the central throat of a volcano and cooling before reaching the top. Over the millenia, the rest of the dome eroded away, leaving the top of the column exposed.

We walked to the rock to watch the surfers, and found a man with a telescope trained on the peregrines that nest high on the south side.

Tomorrow morning at 4am we will cast off, and head south 186 miles to Santa Catalina Island, another overnight passage around Points Arguello and Conception. Fair weather is forecast, yippee, and this is the last of the west coast "weather capes".

Pretty Morro Bay

Jan at San Simeon

San Simeon Pool

Yesterday we caught the local bus to ride north to San Simeon and visit William Randolf Hearst's magnificent hilltop castle. The building is an collection of historic paintings, etchings, carvings, mosaics, ceiling panels, marble statues, tapestries, and choir cloister panelling. Everywhere you turn is a panoply of art and artifacts brought from the old world or ancient worlds to California, beautifully displayed and incorporated into the architecture. Virtually all of it is museum quality. Reminds us of the Elgin marbles, and the time not too far past when money and power were enough to strip countries of their heritage. This could not be built today, or ever again.

The estate was handed over to Calfornia Parks to manage, and we are curious about the cost to maintain it. It's wonderful that is is accessible now to the public, giving us a glimpse of bygone wealth and privilege. Most of Hearst's zoo aminals are gone, except for the remaining herds of cattle and zebras.

Makes us also curious to learn more about Hearst. He didn't start building until his late 50s, after he had made his publishing fortune, though he inherited the vast land holdings from his parents.


Morro Bay - Nov. 11

We are tied up to the hospitable Morro Bay Yacht Club after an easy overnight sail from Monterey in following winds and seas. Dave timed the entrance for slack water to miss the breaking surf that make this the most dangerous entrance on the U.S. coast. We hailed the Coast Guard just offshore for bar conditions. Although they will tell us the sea state, they are very careful not to say anything that sounds like advice.

Dave dousing the main outside of Morro Rock.

Our nav software allows us to overlay google earth satelite images on our electronic charts. Amazing stuff. Click here to see our waypoints, boat position at the dock, and satelite picture of the tricky entrance.

The MB yacht club is famous among cruising boats for their kind welcome, offering showers, laundry, wi-fi, power, and friendly company for a very reasonable moorage.

As soon as we were securely rafted to another cruising boat at their dock, we headed into town for a gigantic breakfast at the Coffee Pot Cafe, our reward for the night passage. Dave brought the "to do" notebook along to list all those little things we noticed underway that must be fixed before we untie again - nothing major, but there's always a list.

We'll be here a few days to explore the town and ride the bus to visit Hearst castle. And again wait for weather as northwest depressions are sending big seas - 15 feet - and gusty winds to 35 knots, our way.


Monterey - Nov. 8

Monterey is a rowdy port - lots of activity, full of whale watching boats, kayaks, and other cruisers also heading south to Mexico. The sea lions arf and grunt all night in a tremendous cacaphonious din. We feel the boat rock as they surge around us at the dock.

Monterey Sea Lion

We unfolded the bikes and rode the 17 mile coastal scenic route to Carmel on a gorgeous sunny tank-top day. Spent the night at the charming and hospitable 100-year-old Stonehouse B&B with their reasonable mid-week "Internet Special Rate", and enjoyed a great seafood dinner at the Flying Fish. This was our second visit to the Stonehouse Inn. Last time we came, cruising friends Raleigh and Beret were managing it.

Point Lobos Scenery

Yesterday was another perfect day, so we rode a little further south to Point Lobos and hiked the trail to the cypress grove on the point, then biked UP a looong steep hill in granny gear, so we could coast the final miles downhill back into Monterey.

Jellies exhibit at Monterey Aquarium.

Today we visited the Monterey Aquarium. We spent a full day watching otters being fed, as well as sharks, turtles, lingcod, tuna, dorado, wolf eels and a huge ugly sunfish. Highlight was a marvelous jellyfish exhibit. They do an amazing job mounting displays that allow you to come face to face with sealife in natural settings. The entry has a Chilhuiy glass exhibit that echoes the colorful sealife.

At the aquarium we learned that our noisy fiberglass greebles are really small clawed shrimp that use a percussive snap to stun prey.

Back at the boat, Jan heard splashing and went out to the cockpit in time to see a sea otter climb out onto the dock with his dinner, which he carefully washed and ate. He then groomed his fur and took a nap, ignoring people almost stepping over him. We remember how badly son Joel wanted one for a pet.


Monterey - Nov. 5

We are happy to be moving again. Our first trip in a full month was across the bay to SF Marina, just inside the bridge. We rode cable cars, ate sourdough at Boudin's, visited the SF Museum of Modern Art, ate some great Italian food, and filled the tank with cheap diesel from the Hyde Park Pier.

After 3 nights we felt itchy to be at sea again, so on a slightly foggy morning, we untied and drifted out the Golden Gate on the last of the ebb current. Our first ocean trip in a month was an easy 5 hour sail to Half Moon Bay where we anchored in the sunny and protected bay. Hard to believe we were only 28 miles from chilly San Francisco.

This morning we rose at 4am. Second time the alarm clock has woken us in 3 months. Yow, how did we stand that for so many years? We pulled the anchor and slipped out under a full moon to run down to Monterey. Dave threaded our way out of the breakwater and past south reef, got to watch the moon set and sun rise, while Jan zzzzzzz'd.

We motored all day in very light winds. As we approached Monterey the water boiled with sea life - seals and dolphins leaping out of the water, pelicans and seabirds crashing around us feeding, and even whales spouting. By 3:30 we pulled into Monterey and into a protected slip, where we will spend a few days biking and playing. As I write, the sea lions are holding a noisy serenade all around us, coming up next to the boat in the harbor. The docks have special boards positioned to discourage the sea lions from coming aboard. If enough of them climb on a boat, they can sink it. When we were last here 18 years ago sea otters cavorted around us too, but we haven't seen them yet. Now we hear the mysterious "fiberglass greebles" gnawing at our boat. It sounds like someone is popping corn in the bilges. We love Monterey.


Emeryville, SF Bay - Oct 25

This month has flown by. We have been busy with boat projects and have gotten a lot done, though not as much as we hoped. The ham radio is in and working. Dave is hard at work on the watermaker install. Jan has been splicing lines, rebedding the staysail deck fitting, and sewing a foredeck awning. While I had my sewing machine out on the dock, I did small projects for several other boat friends, and a larger job restitching a boat cover for a man who will trade me for a fiberglass repair lesson. Meanwhile four more men came by asking my hourly rate!

The refrigeration man came today and told us we need a new or rebuilt compressor, a leak repaired in the AC system, and the belt system to the engine re-engineered. Feels like we go one step forward and two steps back a lot of days.

We able to locate some parts and manuals thanks to a good internet connection, downloaded ebooks for the night passages, completed a food inventory and most of the provisioning. All in all, a productive month, but now we are ready to play a bit. We are looking forward to a few days in Monterey to bike and explore. It is feeling like it's time to move along again.

To the south a late hurricane is approaching Baja, giving us a rare NE hot wind here in Emeryville.


Emeryville, SF Bay - Oct 7

Just when we thought we could not possibly move any slower, we signed up for a month's moorage here in Emery Cove Marina, Emeryville, just north of Oakland in SF Bay.

We planned to stop for 3 nights, but upon discovering the affordable, quiet moorage, and hearing that San Diego is packed with boats until Nov. 1, we decided to park here. Dave has a list of major installation projects, including ham/ssb radio, watermaker and new battery bank and inverter wiring. We had planned to do these tasks in San Diego, but decided it would be easier to do them now in Emeryville.

Today Dave finished the ham radio install. We can hear the Chubasco Net! Brings back a lot of memories.


Angel Island, SF Bay - Sept 30

This morning we putted out of Sausalito 2 miles to Ayala Bay on Angel Island, where we grabbed a mooring buoy and dropped a stern anchor to help us lie into the occasional ferry wakes.

We then loaded the bikes into the dinghy and rowed ashore to bike the 5 mile perimeter road around the island.

Angel Island has an interesting history. For 40 years it was the "Ellis Island of the West Coast". Asians came here to clear in to the United States, or to be turned back or held if country quotas were full. The island was used as a quarantine stop for ships, where holds were fumigated and crew held to make sure they were not bringing diseases. The island also acted as a Civil War defense, a training/staging camp for troops for the Spanish America War and both World Wars, and as late as 1962 as a Cold War Nike missle base. Today the Park Service runs the island, and hundreds of day visitors arrive by ferry from SF, Oakland and Tiberon to bike and hike.

Going around the perimeter road provided terrific views of the bay, its bridges, Alcatraz, and San Francisco. Although we've been to San Francisco many times, we feel this time we are seeing new facets.

Tomorrow morning 500 swimmers leave the beach here in Ayala Bay to swim to Tiberon, an annual event. The water is a cool 57 degrees. A park ranger just came by to ask us not to move the boat from 8:45 to 9:15 as they will swim through the anchorage.

Next stop is Emeryville on the east side of the bay for a few days to work on some boat projects.


Sausalito, California - Sept 29

We tied up at Schoonmaker Marina for 3 nights. Dave washed the salt off the boat and tested the rebedded foreward hatch (yippee! no leaks). Then we unfolded the bicycles and became tourists.

Sausalito is a two-faced town. It features some of the most upscale homes with spectacular city views, but is also home to a ramshackle collection of decrepit houseboats and anchored-out liveaboards. We like the contrasts.

Next door to the marina is the Bay Model, built by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1962 to model the currents, tides, rains and droughts that affect the bay. Today the model is used for education, it's original function now done with computer modelling. The model was used to demonstrate the effects of proposals to dam the north and south bays, successfully killing projects that would have damaged the estuary. The model is housed in a gigantic building, and covers an area equivalent to 2 football fields. The 24 hour tidal cycle is compressed to 15 minutes, allowing visitors to appreciate the massive tides that flow under the Golden Gate. Roughly a third of the bay, which is quite shallow, empties out in an ebb tide.

Back on the bikes, we wandered on paved trails and roads, threading through marshlands and along the coast, to Tiberon for a great seafood lunch.

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