Monday, October 24, 2016

Morro Bay Area

[Kyle]From San Simeon, we spent the day making the short hop to Morro Bay. We left at first light, put up the sails, and went rocketing down the coast, propelled by a warm tailwind coming off of the hills.

That lasted for just about a mile before we sailed into light headwinds. As soon as we changed all of the sails around, the wind died completely, then came from it's original direction. We'd put the sails back again and the wind would come from some third direction. This repeated itself about every thirty seconds for hours as the current pushed us down the coast while we rolled and slatted our way along. When we finally couldn't take it any more, we yanked everything down and started an engine.

About ten miles from the Morro Bay entrance, the wind came back and seemed to stay put. We put the sails back up and shut down the noisy motor. The wind speed increased and increased. We reefed and reefed again in an attempt to keep our speed out of the scary range. By the time we turned into the entrance, it was howling and we were glad it was time to pull all of the sail down.

An early departure
and before long Morro Bay greeted us with its famous rock
.. and yet more Sea lions and Sea Otters

Since the current is very strong in the estuary and reverses four times a day, we opted to pay the nominal fee for a sturdy mooring ball rather than have to go to the trouble of setting two anchors and being worried they would hold.

Ten bucks a day got us a spot right in the middle of the waterfront right next to a dock that had been set aside as a raft for the sea lions.

We deployed the dinghy and went ashore to meet the harbor master and pay our fees. Afterward, one thing led to another and we found ourselves pretty much exploring the whole town before returning to Begonia. We had planned a day for it later on, but Morro Bay is charming, but it's also not a very big town, so we crossed that one off the list early.

Morro Bay waterfront, full of fishing boats and tourist opportunities
the beginnings of a Maritime Museum, and Begonia at sunset

While Begonia stayed moored in Morro Bay, we spent our second day taking busses out of town.

Morro Bay has the coolest bus stop ever!

Our first stop was the slightly larger town of San Luis Obispo. I had been there once for the day many years ago as a freight pilot and remembered it as being nice. It still is.

We started at the mission, which served as one in a chain of missions running up and down the coast. The associated museum had some interesting displays, particularly about the indigenous population before the mission's intervention.

We then left to wander the streets, navigation by going in the direction that seemed most interesting at the time. After a while, we found a tourist office and popped in to see what we may have missed. It turned out to be not much. The guy laid out a walking tour of the sights that took in pretty much everywhere we had already been, and then suggested we went shopping.

St Luis Obispo - famed for the Spanish Mission,
it also has a picturesque creek walk
and (for some reason) Bubblegum Alley!

Since it was still early, we decided to go back to the main bus stop and get a ride further afield to Pismo Beach, with a goal of getting a late lunch there.

We walked along the crowded streets and along the beach. We browsed several menus, but nothing really jumped out at us. We took a long walk along a boardwalk through a state park connecting Pismo Beach with the next town, Grover Beach. By then, it was getting hot and we were getting pretty hungry. A quick search on the internet turned up a highly reviewed Mexican restaurant just up the street. It turned out to be not so much a restaurant as an order-at-the-window kind of place with a couple of plastic tables out front. We ordered and were given so much food that even I had a hard time finishing it all. I liked mine better than Maryanne did, so I finished hers as well. Not bad for food out of a window.

Pismo Beach and the boardwalk on to Grover Beach

We checked the bus times for the trip back to Morro Bay and discovered we would either have to get stuck for an hour at an outlet mall on the way or we could just skip the first bus and part walk/part run all of the way to the mall and just make it. Oh, yes, running on a full stomach on a hot day! We just made it, giving us our extra hour in Morro Bay instead.

That gave us enough time for a tour of the harbor in the dinghy. We passed by the sea lions (which are best viewed from upwind) and went in search of some sea otters doing cute things, which is pretty much every thing they do.

On the way back, we stopped by a Gemini that we had seen when we paid our fees the day before. Sitting on the dock enjoying the sunset were the owners, Kevin and Karen. We introduced ourselves and mentioned that we used to have a Gemini. They invited us to join them. We swapped stories for a bit. When they asked us what the name of our boat was, a flash of recognition came across their faces, "You're THE Kyle and Maryanne, from Footprint! We're have your checklist!"

How funny. That's the third time we've been recognized by people who were previously strangers. We may be bordering on micro famous. Kevin invited me aboard to get my opinion of his latest drive leg repair. It seemed good as new to me.

How strange it was to be on that boat. I haven't been on a Gemini for a while, but I found that my feet and hands automatically knew where to go without my having to think about it. I kept having to remind myself that it wasn't Footprint and to not get weirded out by the fact that the knives are in the wrong place or some such thing.

We stayed until is was good and dark and then made plans for Kevin and Karen to come to Begonia for dinner the next night. They sent us back with home made pumpkin cake (delicious).

A dinghy trip to the Sand Spit to see the birds

We were up reasonably early the next morning to take the dinghy to the beach opposite the town for a walk around to the harbor entrance. We then crossed over to the town via a tour of the mooring field (Maryanne had been keen to see the skateboard museum). We had a long walk on that side and then returned to Begonia to prepare for both dinner and our next sail.

On on for a tour of the southern end of Morro Bay town (and the skateboard Museum)

Kevin and Karen arrived and then the whole harbor promptly disappeared behind thick fog. We all ate in the cockpit while listening to the sounds of a waterfront we could all only occasionally see. Some of the noise was from a band they knew. They had promised to make an appearance, so they left us to prepare for our next day's departure, and to finish off the last of the carrot cake they had kindly brought along for desert.

San Simeon

[Kyle]After Monterey, we left for the overnight sail to San Simeon. We untied from the dock and were accompanied out of the harbor by sea lions and kayakers while curious sea otters watched from the water and curious tourists watched from Fisherman's Wharf.

As we headed north in the bay towards Point Pinos, we were surrounded by so many sea lions and sea otters that it was hard to know where to look. Joining them were harbor seals and a few small pods of dolphins. Several tour boats were milling about. It occurred to me that this was the perfect place for such enterprises as they hardly needed to leave the dock before being able to produce views of all of the animals people bought tickets to see.

As we rounded the point and entered the open Pacific, the sea lions and otters thinned out and we started to see humpback whales.. and the fish of which Monterey Bay has the second highest proportion of in the world: Great White sharks. They're around almost everywhere in pretty scarce numbers, but I had never seen one in the wild until now. Now I've seen about a dozen! They were mostly minding their own business. At first, we thought they were more dolphins until they got closer and we could see their tails. Falling in is always bad, especially in water this cold, but with these guys around, you may not make it that long.

We turned south along the coast and shut down the engines. About a minute after that, the wind decreased until it was just enough to push us. That would have been fine, but the storm we had ridden out in Monterey left a long swell behind. As our mast swayed back and forth as we rolled over them, the sails would fill, collapse and back, over and over again. We were still moving, so they were helping more often than not, but the banging and shaking did a real number on my nerves as I sequentially worried about every single piece of the boat until I got to the end of my list. Then I would start all over again...

As we crossed Carmel Bay, we came apron several large rafts of kelp that had broken free in the storm and drifted into deep water. We alternated between dodging patches that we could see and using a boat hook to free ourselves from those we didn't. Night came, which freed Maryanne from being able to see any kelp as she took the first watch.

Sailing South along this wild coast and enjoying the sunrise

By the time she woke me, the wind was up, the sails were quiet, and we were moving smartly. We arrived at San Simeon just after daybreak and set our anchor right in front of the winery in the middle of the little cove between the point and the pier. Hearst Castle could be seen atop the hill above. Only a little of the swell was making it around the point to Begonia. There was just enough for a gentle rocking on board, although, by the time it got to the beach, it would have been too much of the dinghy. We contented ourselves with a day in and simply enjoyed the views.

Views of Hearst Castle while we rested in the Bay

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


[Kyle]There wasn’t much wind forecast for our short trip across Monterey Bay, so we left early to allow plenty of time. After an hour or so of motoring, a light wind picked up and we were able to shut down the engines and actually sail again, albeit at a mediocre speed of 3-4kt.

Leaving Santa Cruz at sunrise

On arrival in Monterey (the harbor) we were greeted much as we had been in Santa Cruz – by otters and sea lions popping up to give us curious looks as we went by.

The harbor breakwater soon showed itself to house an active mass of sea lions atop giant boulders.

The forecast for the following few days made it nonsensical to continue south, and left us with no choice but to enjoy an enforced few days in Monterey. A large north-west swell coming into the bay from distant storms off-shore left us believing the anchorage would be too exposed/uncomfortable, and we splashed out on a dock at the marina for our stay.

When we called the harbormaster on the radio we were assigned a slip for our boat – an end-tie that was the closest possible to the entrance to Fisherman’s Wharf. In addition to have a very fair/reasonable rate for dockage, the staff at the harbor were also very helpful and friendly – probably the BEST marina experience we have ever had. Kudos guys!

Arriving in Monterey!

Until this point, the main reason I had ever visited Monterey was to seek out the BEST clam chowder I know of on the west coast (from Old Fisherman’s Grotto on Fisherman’s Wharf). Since we were now residents for four days, it was about time to explore a little further afield!

Since we were told to be expecting wind and rain much of the weekend, and the weather was sunny and mild when we arrived, we set out immediately to explore. Naturally we started with Fisherman’s Wharf where we received the first half of our dinner in samples of clam chowder and were able to verify that Old Fisherman’s Grotto was still the best!).

The next day we headed further afield and took the trail to the North towards the Cannery district (from the short lived Sardine fishery) and the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Maryanne was still hoping for a chance to see Monarch butterflies and we ventured into the tourist information office to seek advice on their numbers (and if it was worth walking on to the Pacific Gove area). A rather rushed and curt assistant advised us that so far there were probably only 50 butterflies so far, and since it was so windy today we’d be lucky if we saw one – that saved on that walk!

Many of the historical cannery-era buildings are still present and have information boards along with a telephone number you can dial to get an explanation of how they were used. Eventually we’d had our fill and made our way back to the boat, via an excursion to the grocery store.

Returning with our groceries, we took a detour to the Old Fisherman’s Grotto for take out chowder which we enjoyed from the cockpit of Begonia in time for sunset.

We were up ‘early’ the next day to take a couple of walking tours of the area, one by a local historian (who specialized in the wharf and the town sardine fisheries), and one by the park service (covering one end of the Monterey Historic State Park). Each tour covered slightly different areas, but with a bit of overlap with some of the buildings. The state park consists primarily a number of original Adobe buildings scattered across old town Monterey and each with a significant historic connection. And Monterey has a LOT of historical significance. Originally a Spanish town, then Mexican (on it’s independence from Spain), Monterey was the capital of ‘Alto California’. As a result of the Mexican-American war, the state of California was formed and it was in Monterey where the first Californian Constitution was written (in both English and Spanish!)

History, food, and wildlife - what a great mix.
And that side-walk in the last picture is made from Whale Bone!

The Casa Del Oro held the only safe in town (to house the gold that returned from the north once the gold rush started), the original customs house still stands and acts as a museum, and so many other buildings from whaling, California first theatre, etc. Since it was also a special History weekend for the city, there were additional buildings open to the public, and folks dressed in costume to add to the feel of old California. Of course Maryanne could not limit herself to the few buildings visited in the tour and we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the remainder that made up the State Park. For some reason there was also civil war reenactments going on in town as part of history week, and we were regularly reminded of this with the odd cannon fire blasting the otherwise tranquil day.

The history of the town crosses paths with many famous names: John Steinbeck, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many more. While we didn’t find time to visit the Aquarium on this trip – we have been before and Maryanne says it remains her favorite.

The following day it really did rain, heavily, and we mostly stayed aboard preparing for our departure, and tending to boat jobs while enjoying the views, and once there was a break in the weather we took a walk about with no goal in particular. We were SO glad we had some time to finally explore Monterey, now we move on south.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Santa Cruz

[Kyle]Our departure from Pillar Point harbor at Half Moon Bay was much like it was on the trip down from San Francisco. We motored until about nine o’clock (am), when the wind gradually filled in, allowing us to switch to much quieter sails for propulsion.

By the time we rounded the corner at Santa Cruz, we needed a couple of reefs in the jib so the upwind turn wouldn't leave us over canvassed.

The anchorage at Santa Cruz is an open roadstead exposed to the open Monterey Bay to the south. Protection from the northwesterly swell is found by tucking as far in as possible behind the big public pier. As we approached what looked like a good spot, we had a look at the pier through the binoculars to try to locate the dinghy landing. We found them both, but they had each been completely taken over by sea lions. On to plan B.

The Wharf did not appear to be a sensible place to park the dinghy!
We later discovered instructions that suggested we just 'nudge' the sea lions aside.. Hmm, not happening!

We headed away from the protection of the pier over to near the harbor entrance, figuring we would just have to deal with the longer dinghy ride into the harbor. The anchorage was a little deeper than we liked and there were big patches of kelp everywhere. At the first spot we selected, the anchor held until we used a lot of reverse to test it was in. Then it started skipping backwards across the bottom.

We went a little further away into even deeper water and found another kelp-free patch where we tried again. This time the anchor pulled out and then reset. We tested it again with more reverse than we usually use and it held fast. Conditions were forecast to be calm during our stay, so it was probably unnecessary, but we wanted to not have to worry if we left the boat. {Maryanne: Especially since we could readily hear the surf breaking on the nearby beach!}

Even though it was a long dinghy ride into the harbor and there was a bit of left over swell, our anchorage amongst the kelp turned out to be very entertaining. Since kelp provides shelter for sea life, Begonia was pretty much surrounded by animals hunting and foraging for food. There were lots of sea lions poking their heads up to see what we were. Even cuter were the sea otters. They range all up and down the coast, but these were the first we have seen. What a life they seem to have. Since food is so abundant, they spend most of their time playing. Occasionally, when they get a little hungry, they will swim down and get something to eat to recharge for some more play time. There were always a few floating around, eating something off of their chests.

Sea Otters eating

And Sea Otters just cruising around (with snacks) - they are all around us at anchor

We arrived in time to see the sunset over the wharf

There were lots of people sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding by and more still enjoying the view from the beach - plenty of world so sit and watch go by.

The following day we deployed the dinghy and headed to the pier for a better look at the sea lions. There was definitely no way we would have been comfortable landing there. As we were pulling away from the pier, an otter surfaced right in front of us clutching a crab that was half as big as he was. He couldn't possibly eat the whole thing, so he munched away at the choice bits and left tidbits for a gull who showed up as soon as the otter started tossing away the rest.

Sea Lions at the Wharf - we didn't seriously think we could land on the public dinghy docks there

On the way to the harbor, we were also joined by three dolphins, who loped along, just out of reach. Cool.

We tied up to the dinghy dock, went to the harbor master's office to see if there was anything else we needed to know or do - there wasn't, and then called my brother Darren. He lives and works here and was just about to get off work, so we joined Darren for a nice meal at a local pub where we could organize our plans for the rest of our stay.

Saturday, Darren came out to spend the day on the boat with us at anchor. After a partial day at work, he drove to the harbor, where I picked him up for the long dinghy ride to Begonia. Before that, though, I took him for a repeat of the harbor tour Maryanne and had taken the day before. Our route took us so far away from Begonia that Darren was beginning to doubt his memory of what our boat looked like, since it seemed to him that was where I should be heading. When he realized he was just getting our version of what other people were shelling out good kayak rental money for, he calmed down. The wind started to pick up just as we arrived at the boat, making it a little choppy. Poor Darren. He almost survived with a settled stomach.

Into the Harbor with the dinghy, to fetch Darren

Once aboard the bigger boat, even though there was a bit of swell running, he was fine and we spent the rest of the day cooking and eating and catching up.

Sunday, Darren picked us up and took us back to his place (and to the grocery store) where he cooked for us, and we continued to hang out, catch up and relax.

Leaving Begonia and the Sea otters (this one with a baby) behind and Hanging out at Darren's cottage in the redwood forest

Monday during the day we set about a tour of Santa Cruz via the hardware stores(!), and in the evening we met up with fellow sailors from Jack London Square that happen to live in Santa Cruz. They have a boat and are in the planning stages to set off into a cruising life - it was fun to remember when we were in that very stage ourselves.

Santa Cruz - Walton Lighthouse and Seabright Beach

Santa Cruz - The 1906 Boardwalk is the oldest beachfront amusement park on the west coast, with a 1911 Looff carousel - both being historic landmarks.

Tuesday we dedicated to seeing more of the fun parts of Santa Cruz. We walked to Walton lighthouse (where we were doused by a wave), we visited the tiny natural history museum, and walked along the beach and the boardwalk (amusement park and arcades). We took our time along the pier/wharf (more sea lions) and finally out to see the surfers at Lighthouse point. Just beyond the surf museum we continued to see the sea arch - and were treated on the way to the entertainment of watching the local fire department doing sea rescue drills.

Surfers - Santa Cruz was the first place in the USA to see surfing! (brought there by Hawaiian princes)

Santa Cruz Surfing museum and coastline beyond

Unfortunately, it slipped our mind, we didn’t walk quite far enough and we missed reaching Natural Bridges State Park and the chance of seeing any early arriving monarchs on the butterfly trail.

Kyle and Darren at Darren's workplace

Tuesday evening we again met up with Darren (along with a tour of his work place; Darren builds and repairs guitars for a living and is pretty good at it, it was especially nice to see him so at home in his workshop). We ate out again, and said our farewells until next time.

But mostly - we just loved enjoying the otters at play