Tag Archives: Monterey

sailing the california coast

Humpback off San Luis Obispo

Offshore a mariner fixes their attention on the task of sailing. Between the departure and arrival during a passage there is much to do. Steering and trimming sails as the wind dictates, motoring when becalmed, utilizing your navigational equipment, keeping your position marked on your chart, keeping skipper and crew fed and hydrated.

Depending upon the day the motion of the boat may keep the crew on their toes. Being thrown off your feet while moving about can be dangerous, keeping an eye out for crew unaware that they are getting motion sick, keeping a good lookout for vessels approaching.

Santa Cruz Island

Sailing off the coast ten miles or more the shoreline becomes gauzy, the contours become blue gray misty silhouettes. Sailors listen to the hull moving through the water. Often the sound is delicate and you may discern the cutting of the bow into the sea or the swirling wake off the stern.

Crew in Reverie

Clues of what is ahead can be read by the size, steepness and direction of the ocean swell. Off Big Sur in September of 2018 we greeted sunrise with 8-10’ swells coming from the north while from the south we were being overtaken by smaller 4-6’ swells generated by the far off remnants of a hurricane. The morning was moody. Fog lifted but above the sky remained overcast, dark, offering no cheerfulness.

To Monterey we had been 32 hours northbound from Morro Bay. In the darkness of the early morning before daybreak a pod of dolphins playing chase would swim out away from the bow of the boat then turn and race back to the tip. Again and again the pod maneuvered for most of an hour. What an eye could pick out in the pitch black night was the bioluminescence stirred up in the dolphins wake and the glimpse of white to their underbodies as the animals leaned to the side or corkscrewed through the sea.

Winged Wonder Albatross

A Laysan albatross soared on 7’ wings near our vessel as we made our course north approaching Carmel. The bird’s wingtips kissing the tips of the waves. In the time the sailboat took to make another hundred yards north the albatross had circled about the boat coming in closer then soaring out further perhaps a flying one mile to our three hundred feet. To be sure this animal is a swift master of flight.

In Monterey Harbor by noon we took a guest slip. Squaring fees with the harbormaster we returned to the boat and snacked, rested on our bunks reading, and got much needed sleep for the next twenty-four hours.

Monterey Harbor Entrance

Winds were calm but an approaching low pressure system dictated we motor north to San Francisco. At the fuel dock I spoke with the workman handling the pumps. He had been commuting from Salinas where he was born and had signed a lease on an apartment in Monterey. He had sold his car after the move and bought a bike. His lifestyle was on the upswing. The fuel dock in Monterey provides a good wage and chance to make small talk with fishermen, sailors and the like. Like everyone up and down the coast the conversations were much the same. Cost of housing, congested roads, tourists everywhere, big money types coming into town driving up prices and driving their friends and family out.

Some remain and make do against all odds. Born and raised types tend to try and stick it out. The smart ones if they can get rid of their cars and commutes. They’ll know which coffeehouse to frequent and saloon to drown their sorrows in. Some will have just found love, others have just lost love, there were no fuel dock workers I met that didn’t have one kind of love or another square in the middle of their lives.

Arrival 56 days along the coast

A good wage, someone to love and no commute. That’s being at the top of your game in California in the second decade of this new century.

Northbound to Home Port-Emery Cove

Ana Nuevo One

Of Misty Shores, Sea Elephants and Lone Gulls atop Buoy

Sailing is exhausting. I was in my bunk within an hour of our arrival in Monterey, immediately after squaring my registration with the harbormaster’s office early that afternoon. I woke up long enough to eat. I went back to my bunk. I was out until the next morning. Weather ahead was unsettled. We would remain in port Tuesday. Conditions turned to our advantage on Wednesday.

A short walk from our slip first thing before our departure we perched on stools and ate breakfast. LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle a waterfront favorite was  on Municipal Wharf #2.

Our short order cook put to rest any concern that a high fat diet was anything to fear. Not the seated customers, not the line of people waiting, indeed not one person appeared the least bit concerned. Life is short and eating at LouLou’s makes life shorter.

whale tale

Sighting a Mermaid

We topped off our fuel tank. The fuel dock clerk grew up in Salinas, moved to Pacific Grove  abandoned his car and walked to work now. He’d lucked into an affordable room. That’s a lot of good fortune in the land of sky high rent. This is life on the West Coast. Californian’s want to get rid of their lousy commute, live someplace we can afford so we may devote our free time to staring at our beguiling smartphones.

A pod of killer whales ,we counted six, congregated a hundred and fifty yards south of the harbor entrance buoy. We throttled up. Crossing Monterey Bay would take three hours. Sky was slate gray, the ocean darker, forbidden charcoal. Steaming at speed out of the haze appeared a fishing vessel, first one and then another, there was more boat traffic than we’d seen since Morro Bay. Fishermen were headed westbound.

Our spirits ran high. Two days sleep had restored our spirits. Seas were modest, not steep, the motion of the boat was comfortable. Soon we were off the northernmost headlands of Santa Cruz. Not long after we could see Davenport. Once Ana Nuevo was on our beam we had the temerity to imagine Half Moon Bay as being not much further north. Pigeon Point put the lie to that foolishness. Forging ahead at six knots asked for patience. Once in sight of Pillar Point we deluded ourselves that we would have her on our stern in short order. Four hours later we had only then passed the Pillar Point Safe Water Buoy. We had been underway for eleven hours.

Crewman

Strapped In for the Long Ride

Half Moon Bay’s fishing fleet was out in the overcast night running their powerful deck lights. Fishermen further out to sea over the horizon gave away their positions as lights bounced off low clouds gathered just above where they toiled. The night was  aglow, dotted here and there were islands of white-lighted radiance. Compared to the Big Sur coast the bustling fishing fleet was to our welcomed advantage. Anxious to arrive at home port, we would cling to anything to distract us. By now I was aiming four miles ahead to the Colorado Reef Lighted Buoy. On a northwest course we tracked the thirty fathom line. Fourteen miles further we would intersect with the Main Ship Channel Buoys that marked the entrance to the San Francisco Bay.

Ten miles off the coastline as we approached the mix of northern swell colliding with what would be a monster ebb kicked up, the sea state was in transition. I had been so fixated on weather I had not spent any time consulting the Tide and Current Tables. We would be passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge while the ebbing current was running against us. The precision of our running against the torrent was a classic ditzy-brained sailing blunder. Whatever the word is for the opposite of luck that’s what I have. When it comes to approaching San Francisco Bay’s entrance I am preternaturally disposed to nail my arrival at maximum ebb. This is a sure bet and mortal lock. I am fated to suffer going against the grain. It is coded into my monumental stubbornness.

North Tower

Inbound Beneath the Gated Wonder

We would crawl into the bay. We had been underway for sixteen hours. If conditions had been in our favor we would pull into our slip in just over an hour. A more languid processional arrival was ordered by the forces aligned in my cerebral cortex and synchronized with tide and current.

In voyaging down and back up the coast the prudent mariner has a great many rules to abide, much as the Dude abides, so too shall the dudes arriving in the early morning hours of the morning of September 6, 2018 give their full attention to living in harmony with all the astronomical forces unleashed by the tensions gripping earth and moon. The City’s skyline was a luminous eye quenching martini, a feast of spangled skyscrapers, an urbanized shadow puppet, a yarn, a plotted twist, a grand welcome home.

Home Port

Jeweled Home Port

Plunging ahead near Blossom Rock Buoy there were two promises within one hour of my grasp. There were a great more many rules, a vast number of skills, there was unsolicited advice, deeply disturbing testimonials, but mixed with all of those myriad of other matters buffeting my attention there were two more existential promises I had wanted more than anything else to make good on. First and most important was, don’t get killed.  And if I did survive the first promise would I please second of all, not sink the ship.

For the final three nautical miles I kept close eye out, vigilance is a sailor’s best defense. And just to be that much more sure I’d make good on the twin pillared promises I hustled below and turned the switch to my bilge pump to the on position. After fifty-two days outbound we put into Emery Cove. The time was zero-four-hundred hours. My summer of sailing off the coast of California was now a thousand glorious sea miles off my stern.

Edited Red Star