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.