The Log of Moira
These are mostly Susan’s remarks. Larry’s notes are indicated thus <Larry: blah blah blah.>.
We started out from San Francisco on April 2nd, 2004, sailing through the Golden Gate Bridge, on our boat and home, Moira, a 42-foot long Valiant sailboat. We left the sun of Sausalito on our stern, and sailed into heavy fog and mist. The seas were cooperative and not nearly as intense as they might have been.
We anchored that night in Pillar Point Harbor (Half Moon Bay), and were able to spend a day exploring Half Moon Bay in our dinghy, on foot, and by taxi. There are fishmongers located around the harbor, and we took advantage of the opportunity to stock up on the freshest. Of course, that enabled the first fresh fish dinner of our trip, a dinner which we hoped would be repeated frequently. One of the great pleasures of our trip is the al fresco dinners on our “veranda” (cockpit). As the sun sets beside us while we sip a very dry chardonnay and smell the grilled fish on the barbecue, cruising is the paradise it often can be.
Our general plan was to sail to Southern California and spend the summer restoring our collective souls while exploring Catalina, the Channel Islands, and our old haunts around Southern California. And, of course, to warm up after four and a half years of very cold Northern California weather and Northern California politics.
We set off from Half Moon Bay on April 6th. We stopped at Monterey that afternoon, bypassing Santa Cruz because the winds were favorable toward the south east, where Monterey is located. <Larry: and because the harbor at Santa Cruz has a moderately tricky entrance. But see below.> There is a sentiment in cruising that “Gentlemen don’t sail up wind” which we try to follow as religiously as possible. To the extent we can coordinate this philosophy with our desired direction, life on the boat is vastly more comfortable. In Monterey we settled into the marina. <Larry: We were surprised to find that the entrance to the marina proper is very narrow and somewhat of a “blind driveway.” The entrance isn’t visible until one is right on top of it, and if another boat happens to be coming out as you’re coming in, delicate but decisive maneuvering is called for!> Anchoring is difficult outside of the marina because of the considerable swell, and most of the logical places to anchor are taken up by moorings. <Larry: Monterey is on the SW corner of Monterey Bay, and somewhat exposed to the prevailing NW swell.> Our stay gave us time to explore, shop, see friends, and enjoy some delicious fresh salmon, which was a gift of a fisherman/liveaboard cruiser in the slip next to us.
Leaving Monterey was a big step for us because the next harbor, San Simeon, is far enough away that an overnight passage is required. <Larry: It’s about 80-odd Nautical Miles (a Nautical Mile is about 15% longer than a Statute Mile), so the passage takes something like 15 hours at our typical sailing speed of 5 knots (5 Nautical Miles per hour, which is about 6 Statute Miles per hour). If one doesn’t want to enter an unfamiliar anchorage in the dark (we don’t) then either one gets up at oh-dark-thirty and pushes hard in order to arrive before sunset, or one departs in the afternoon and sails through the night in order to arrive after dawn, which is the choice we made.> Other than an overnight passage to Catalina from Long Beach this was our first overnighter. We do have a great deal of equipment on the boat such a radar, GPS (Global Positioning System, a magnificent invention brought to you by the Military-Industrial Complex and your tax dollars), radios, and other electronic navigation stuff. But still, the night is dark and cold in April this far up the coast. The night of April 9th was foggy <Larry: It was disquieting to have another vessel hail us on the radio from out of the dark and mist: they had seen us on their radar, but we hadn’t seen them on ours. Oops.>, misty, with a big swell (which fortunately is hard to see in the dark), but we ended up safely anchored at San Simeon by the middle of the following morning.
<Larry: Susan spotted a whale on our way out of San Simeon. We were the only boat in San Simeon Bay, in early April. Many times over the 25 or so years we’d lived in California, we’d driven California Route 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back. Many times we’d seen some sailboat working her lonely way down that coast. And now we are one!>
On April 11th we went on to Morro Bay, where we anchored. Morro Bay was my favorite anchorage along the coast, both because it is so remote, and because the working fishing town of Morro Bay retains an authenticity that is rare along the tourist-infested California coast. <Larry: One example. We wanted to get a few boat parts, and got to the town’s chandlery (marine hardware store) using public transportation. When we got done at the store, the store’s owner drove us back to our boat in his truck.>
On April 13th, we went on to Port San Luis, which is the bay in front of the town of Avila Beach. Avila Beach has undergone a large petroleum-contamination clean up and is now being rebuilt. Unfortunately, the agreements for cleanup did not specify that rebuilding must be accomplished within a certain time, so the town is struggling. We took the dinghy ashore <Larry: The dinghy (tender) is the cruiser’s family car, taxi, and towtruck.>, had breakfast, were able to locate the one winery in town, and made a number of purchases to restock the boat’s wine cellar. We also found out that we have one tough dinghy. While we were leaving the town wharf via the steel ladder leading down from the wharf to the water, the dinghy got trapped under the ladder for a second too long, and the bottom of the ladder punched a two-inch hole in the dinghy’s hull. Thanks to the rowing power of Larry and the bailing power of Susan <Larry: bailing with her little cupped hand. It would have been humorous if the situation hadn’t been touch-and-go. Now we can laugh.>, not to mention the inherent strength of the hard dinghy, we were able to make it back to Moira. Had we had an inflatable dinghy we would have had a long swim back to Moira with our bottles of wine.
The next big challenge of getting to Southern California, after the night passage, is to get safely around Point Conception. Once around, you are technically in SoCal, though we did not really notice that until half way to from Point Conception to Santa Barbara. The issue with Point Conception is that big winds gust around the point <Larry: Where a point of land sticks out into sea, and the winds blow parallel to the coast, one is likely to see higher winds around the point than elsewhere.> making sailing difficult and requiring strict attention to steering, because the sudden rise in wind strength near the point can find one with too much sail up for the conditions, a potentially dangerous situation. However, the passage is downwind. <Larry: Which means that the waves/swells are likely to be going wit’ you, rather than agin’ you.> So, we reefed the sails (reduced the size of the sails), took 43 knots of wind <Larry: about 50 mph> on our stern, and breathed a big sigh of relief when we rounded the Point on April 15th and anchored in the Cojo Anchorage, which is somewhat sheltered from the wind by the height of the Point. <Larry: There were three other boats in Cojo, which is a common spot for boats to await favorable conditions for rounding the Point when going North, or to rest after having come around the Point going South.>
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