Awoke slowly and all alone to a beautiful sunny day shining on the small ranchero at the head of the little San Simeon bay. Just a short day sail of 19 miles today so we hugged the coast line and arrived in Morro Bay by lunch time.
The huge rock dome at the entrance to Morro Bay was visible from 10 miles away. As we entered the harbor it became apparent that 4th of July weekend was a very active time for this town. After hailing the harbor master on the radio, he directed us to call the local Morro Bay Yacht Club (MBYC) for a mooring.
As it turned out, everyone at MBYC was amazingly friendly and helpful. We met "Bill" on the dock and he told us to raft up to a 45 ft. cruiser that was laying over for repairs. Bill assured us the skipper was aware that anyone could raft up, but he introduced us just the same to "Bruce", the delivery skipper of the big cruiser - who said just to toot our horn when we got close and he'd be standing ready to take our lines "with a smile". During our time here at MBYC we met a dozen people - all of them just as friendly and willing to help cruisers on their way.
We joined the rest of the club for happy hour that evening and met the crew of Wiggle Room, another boat heading out to the islands. We talked about the brisk ride down the Big Sur coast over a couple of Pacificos and all agreed that we should sail together around Pt. Conception (a fortuitous decision as you will see a couple of postings later).
On this day, we learned the difference between "vacation" and "adventure" (sorry - no photos). We did not know where our next anchorage would be but had heard it was important to clear past Point Sur (about 25 miles down the coast) before the mid-day winds filled in. So we motor sailed out of Monterey just after sunrise as a fresh breeze quickly picked up.
By late morning we were sailing nearly dead downwind as the fresh breeze had changed to a steady 28 kts from the Northwest with gusts into the 30's. We did not even bother reefing the main and just dropped it early instead. The swell behind us had built up to about 10 feet with 3-5 ft. chop from the wind on top of that and we could see green water through the tops of the waves just beneath the breaking foam at their crest. It was very impressive!
I changed tack to set the waves off our stern quarter and had to hand steer to keep from broaching. But even with only the jib and mizzen we were still going too fast. Boat speed was consistently 8.5 kts or better; surfing down the waves we would accelerate even faster. After hitting almost 13 kts while surfing down one big one, I decided to reef the remaining sails. This would require that we turn the boat into the wind in order to reduce the load on the sails. I turned while cresting a big wave and as we came about, the noise and apparent wind increased violently. I'm sure the whites of my eyes showed as brightly as Joni's but Tradition naturally assumed a stable hove to position as we quickly reefed both sails and turned downwind on our way again.
Arrived in San Simeon Bay just after dark and dropped anchor in the small cove. The stars we absolutely amazing! We could see the milky way and all of the constellations... too bad we were so tired.
Day 4 - Road Trip to Big Sur
In the morning I discovered a set screw that holds the engine control casing in place had popped out. In all the excitement to pivot off the dock yesterday, I must have been pulling up on the gear lever much harder than I realized. A few minutes with a screw driver resolved our mechanical problem (but now I have one more point of failure to worry about).
Our plan was to spend an extra day in Monterey and take a short road trip to see the redwoods in Big Sur. We walked to a nearby car rental lot and were headed down Hwy 1 toward Big Sur by mid-afternoon.
The view of the rugged coastline was absolutely spectacular and would prove to be the highlight of our day trip. When we reached the Pfeiffer Grove State Park, it turned out that many of the trails were closed for repair and the remainder were crowded full of families on camping vacation. The place felt more like a theme park than a forest. We took a short walk to see a nice little waterfall, soaked our feet in the stream and were ready to head back to Monterey for a good Thai dinner in town.
Day 5 - Monterey & Ready for Sea
Our original plan was to leave in the morning for the long sail down the Big Sur coastline that would keep us at sea overnight for the first time. But the weather report called for high winds and it did not take too much convincing for us to decide that an extra day in port could be put to good use. So Joni worked on the computer to finish her Masters final while I checked out our anchor lines, put a reefing line into the mizzen and puttered around the boat. In the evening we walked down to the nearest Starbuck's to provision an extra couple pounds of French Roast and had a good Mexican dinner in Cannery Row.
A slow, foggy start in the morning had us ghosting along at 3 knots; dodging kelp beds and watching for sea otters. But as the sun burned off the fog, conditions would become much more like the ocean sailing we would soon encounter.
After forming a weather barrier to the sea for several hundred miles, the coastal range of hills opens up a low gap on the eastern shore of the Monterey Bay that allows the hot air rising in the interior Salinas Valley to draw in the cool ocean air, creating what the Coast Pilot calls the Monterey Wind Gap.
By noon the sky was cloudless and the water took on the color of a deep cobalt blue. Wind had picked up to a steady 25 kts and the streaks of foam that blew down the face of the swells rolling in from the ocean to our west seemed to sparkle. Beautiful sailing conditions! We reefed and then finally dropped the main. Sailing for hours at 7.5 kts under jib and mizzen alone, we reached Monterey in the early afternoon.
We pulled into the marina and tied up on our port side to an empty dock while I hailed the harbor master to arranged for a slip. Even in the shelter of the marina, the wind was still strong enough to make a howling sound in our rigging - and it had us pinned against the dock, unable to cast off. Big, expensive cruising boats behind us, a rocky retaining wall about 50 yards ahead at the end of the slipway and a gallery of tourists watching from the rail on Fisherman's Wharf right alongside of us. It was a situation designed to reduce my meager supply of Style Points.
After some important marital discussions, we put out extra bumpers all around and Joni stood on the bow with a line to hold the bow tight. I cast off all other lines, turned the wheel hard to port and put Tradition in forward gear. As I revved up the engine, our stern began to pivot into the wind and away from the dock. When we were at nearly 90 degrees to the dock, I quickly changed to reverse as Joni let loose the bow line and we backed away from the dock smartly. As soon as we had a few yard clearance, I switched back to forward and gunned the engine to complete our 180 degree turn.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself as we turned down the next slipway towards our assigned slip... until I tried to slow the boat down. Something in our little docking drama had damaged the engine controls. I no longer had a reverse gear and when I pushed the gear controls into forward, the throttle accelerated in parallel - and so did the boat. I had no choice but to shut off the motor and look for another empty stretch of dock... so much for Style Points.
Luckily, our crash landing was fairly soft. After checking in with the harbor master, the harbor tug tied onto our side and towed us over to our slip. Not the most graceful way to end a great day of sailing. I was worried about the damage to our boat, but we decided to leave repairs until the morning and treat ourselves to a good dinner and the first hot shower in 3 days.
What a great day for sailing! A bit foggy in the morning but Joni was glued to the rail, watching clouds of jellies. When the sun came out, the wind filled in. We tacked offshore and picked up a fresh breeze that let us set the spinnaker & mizzen and sail on the same downwind tack at 6 kts for most of the day bound for Monterey.
Late afternoon we crossed paths with a pod of about half a dozen whales. They came within a couple of hundred yards. We could hear them squeak as they blew out air and took another breath. Joni was glued to the viewfinder on her camera but never could get a picture.
Around 5:00 pm we decided that arriving in Monterey at midnight did not seem like fun so decided to divert to Santa Cruz. After gybing toward the coast again, we were joined by dozens of dolphin. They followed us for 10 miles or so, swimming in formation and broaching right next to us.
Arrived Santa Cruz harbor just as the sun was setting. Rafted up to a derelict little boat in the crowded harbor - never much cared for this place and will be glad to sail out of here early in the morning... ahh, probably around 9:00 am after coffee and fresh-baked sweet rolls ;-)
Click here to see our location on Google Maps: Your text to link...
We were so busy last night with last minute provisioning that we over-slept & missed the tide in the morning. We had to wait for the next slack tide in the afternoon instead - which meant we would have to sail out the Gate against the prevailing westerly winds. As it turned out we did not cross under the Golden Gate until after 3:00 pm, by which time the wind had built to 28 kts right on our nose.
Once we left the Bay, it immediately got cold and foggy, the swell on the San Francisco Bar rolled us around and the wind dropped to less than 10 kts... which meant we had to turn on the iron lung (aka "engine" for ye lubers!) to dodge freighter traffic.
Arrived at Half Moon Bay just before dark; cold but glad to have finally launched our great adventure. A hot shower would have been the perfect ending to our day, but I discovered that the shower sump pump was not working, so a sink bath would have to do until I can repair the pump. (I once read a definition of crusing as "boat repair in exotic locations"... hope this little glitch is not a foreshadowing)