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Stories with Photos

This page is an overview of random stories some short and some long. They are usually filled with photos, shocking surprises, intrigue and ironic endings. Ok, well at least there are photos.

Currently showing the story "Sailing from San Francisco to San Diego". Click here if you want to see the full list of stories available.

Sailing from San Francisco to San Diego

Thursday Oct 14, 2004

Photos (23)

Words (2887)

We saw crazy houseboats, a ton of sea life, visited family, braved a giant waterspout that made the LA TIMES cover, celebrated a birthday, visited SARANA's birth place, we save KORN's bassist from drifting out to sea, and the weather warms up.

After spending a month in Sausalito, San Francisco, we were more than ready to get underway.  The long lay-over allowed us to finish some projects like redesigning our self-steering wind vane, adding more insulation to our ice-box, engine maintenance, etc.  Also it gave us some time to unwind and let the 160+ boats that were headed south with the Baja Ha-Ha to clear out.

We did a little more touring of the area around San Fran and found some interesting sites like this wacky house boat community where originality is in no short supply.

Cool House Boats in San Francisco

The bay is a very protected area so the seas never get very big and wind is almost guaranteed.   It's a great place for sailing and even the more traditional sailing vessels were out shooting off their cannons. 

These sailing ships sailed right by us

Before we set off on this web adventure, let's take a look at our ports of call.

Map of our route between San Fran and San Diego

Half Moon Bay is a nice day sail from San Francisco, and since we weren't in a hurry, we attempted to sail there.  The winds however had other plans.  Always the fog was just up ahead, but as we got closer and closer to Half Moon Bay it moved on further to the South, leaving us a clear plath.

As we motored into the break water of the anchorage, the wind started to howl as if someone turned on switch.  We tried to set our anchor in the wind but the force pushing us backwards on the chain refused to give our anchor time to set.  We made five attempts to get the anchor to set.  On the fifth try, we motored forward to keep the strain off the anchor as it set.  Using over 100 feet of chain in 12 feet of water, with an anchor that is two sizes bigger than recommended for our boat, we usually never have problems setting it.  Oh well, I got a workout and gave everyone else in the anchorage something to watch.

The marina at Half Moon Bay was a mecca for pelicans.  Hundreds of them hung out there and sometimes you could see flocks of them diving for fish.

Birds of Half Moon Bay

More Birds

The beaches there were crowded with sea gulls, but the Ecoli warnings about the water kept most of the people off the beaches.

Tons of gulls

Most people stayed out of the water, but there were two young kids who tried to take their dinghy out sailing in the harbor.  The wind was too much for them and as they sailed by our boat, they asked if we could tow them to shore because they couldn't sail upwind.  Well, we hadn't unloaded the dinghy or the motor and I could see they weren't trimming the sails right, so I shouted out instructions that they seemed to ignore while shouting back "OK, Thanks!"

We started to unload the dinghy while watching them struggle in the wind.  I tried to repeat my instructions to them, but they just kept shouting back, "Ok! Thanks!"

After seeing they were headed for Mexico, rather than the shore.  We unloaded the motor and went out after them.  When we approached, I repeated my instructions and pointed to the lines.  They tried to follow my suggestions, but there was a large knot that prevented them from making any changes to their sail trim.  Seeing this mess and their growing desperation we offered to tow them back.

I told them they had to drop their sails, because we would never be able to pull them with our tiny motor and dinghy.  As I took their bow line, I repeated for them to drop the sails.  Suddenly the wind caught them, and they immediately tacked over and took off, dragging our little dinghy backwards and scooping up gallons of water.  Great.  I let go of their line and chased them down again, while starting the process of bailing out the water.

Just as we approached, they accidentally tacked over again and ran into us.  I told them to lower their main sail, and I saw a flurry of activity as they pulled on their lines.  Ok, I thought, I took their bow line and started towing them again.

Just as we lined up behind them I saw they had untied their boom and their main was still as full as ever.  Great.  The wind caught their sail again and this time, sent the untied boom flying up into their rigging.  I pointed at the correct line on their boat and yelled, drop that line!  This time they responded quickly and were able to drop the main before it and the boom had a chance to tangle up in the rigging.

I began towing them again back to shore.  But it didn't end their, I felt our dinghy suddenly lurching from side to side.  I looked back to see they had pulled off their tiller and rudder.  I yelled back to them to put it back in because they have to steer while we pull them.  Their dinghy was heavy and it was dragging us all over as we tried to pull their boat.  Meanwhile, I was still trying to bail water out of our dinghy with one hand and stabilize our zig-zagging course with the other.

When we finally got them back to land, I don't think they ever planned to leave it again.  I tried to give them some friendly suggestions, but they were quite shaken by the whole experience.  At least they lived through it.

Other than the harbor rescue and anchor dragging, we enjoyed our stay in Half Moon Bay while waiting out some stormy weather.  Once the weather cleared, we were eager to see what else this coast had to offer.  From Half Moon Bay we headed to Monterey Bay. The coast from San Francisco down to Port San Luis is a protected marine sanctuary with amazing sea-life.  Sea lions, seals, sea otters, whales, birds, everything!

Monterey Seal Lions


Sea lions can get on top of anything


Sea lions on the rocks

  Sea lions on boats


Monterey was nice, but EXPENSIVE.  We went to the aquarium and saw lots of animals from this part of the coast swimming in their tanks.  Normally we don't patronize this type of place, but the tickets were given to us.  They did do a nice job of explaining the plight of Blue Fin Tuna and had displays explaining why we need to buy tuna that is marked as "CLEAN CAUGHT".  If you remember from our Alaska trip, Clean Caught fish are caught by trollers, not with nets or long lines.  Most of the tuna is still caught with unclean practices which kill many mammals and other "bycatch" which can't be sold (they only stopped the slaughter of dolphins but not of other animals such as turtles & sharks).

Anyway, they were ecstatic to hear we didn't eat tuna, and shook our hands.  At least these places are educating people about how to help preserve the creatures they are admiring in the tanks.

From Monterey we continued down this protected coast line to Morro Bay.  It was an all night slog in the fog.  We navigated from below deck, as there was nothing that could be seen through the fog.  In the morning hours, the fog started to lift some, and we were greeted by a new species of dolphin--the Pacific White Sided Dolphins!

White sided dolphins

They danced and played on our bow for almost 30 minutes before they were chased off by another group of dolphins which we still have not been able to identify.  They had a long pointed snout, all black on top with white on the belly, and no dorsal fin!

Northern Right-Whale Dolphin

We have no idea what this dolphin is!  We're still looking for the answers!  (UPDATE 6/6/6:  We received a message that this is a Northern Right-Whale Dolphin!!)

The wildlife is always more abundant in marine sanctuary areas.  And all the animals we saw along this stretch really made the trip thrilling. 

Getting into Morro Bay over the bar was also exciting, as the current ran at 3 knots against us.  The bay also offered very poor anchoring due to the shifting currents.  Luckily we were able to tie to the floating city dock which made us feel secure.

Scoring the floating dock at Morro Bay!

If you anchor in the bay, you have to be very careful of the shallow spots.  The bottom shifts around and isn't charted well.  If you try to cut any of the corners you'll find yourself in good company with the sea birds.

Boat on the Morro Bay Sand bar

While in Morro Bay we took advantage of the only nice day we had, and had a "dock" party on our little floating pier with the other boaters anchored in the anchorage.

Dock Party!

The day after the dock party, the weather turned nasty!  We had howling winds and gusts above 50 knots!  Everything the wind could tear apart, it did.  One sailboat had their roller furling foresail come loose, snapping in the wind, slowly shredding itself.  Other boats drug anchor, and still others came unattached from the docks.  We even saw someone's radar floating away out to sea.   We got a photo of our friends on Batwing when the Harbor Patrol came out to help them off their anchor an onto a secure mooring buoy.

Rescue of Batwing

Unfortunately, their dinghy which had filled with rainwater ended up getting dragged partially underwater, and in the process of moving to the mooring buoy, they got the towline wrapped around their shaft.  The only way to get these Gordian Knots off is to dive on the boat, and cut them loose.  Since I had a wet suit, I spent about an hour the next day cutting line off their shaft and replacing their zinc.

It was hard to capture the force of the storm with our camera, but we took some short videos, which sort of show how fierce it was.  The file is pretty big (2 Meg).  But you can watch it try to tear apart the sail of a nearby boat by clicking here.  As you watch it, remember we are TIED to a dock, we're not sailing!

Morro Bay has a large sand dune as a natural breakwater from the sea.  The beach is remote and rugged, filled with looming sand dunes and waving grass.

Great beaches at Morro Bay

Leaving Morro Bay after riding out the storm, diving on Batwing and hiking all over town, was sort of a relief.  The next leg promised some downwind sailing to Point Conception, then another eastward leg to Oxnard.  The Californians call Point Conception the "Cape Horn of the Pacific".  Often the wind and seas increase here and create rough weather.

Our trip down this part of the coast was very pleasant.  We had good wind and the seas were only 5-7 feet.  The best part was all the wildlife!

We saw 4 humpback whales feeding, several large schools of sea lions frolicking around our boat and our second wind vane prototype that we built in San Francisco was working great steering the boat downwind.

School of sea lions

After navigating around all the oil platforms and small boat traffic, we found ourselves about 9 hours away from Oxnard at sunrise.  We reflected on the fact that this point marks our entry into Southern California, where the water was calmer, warmer, without fog, and we could find plenty of sunshine.

SoCal Sunrise

Oxnard was nice, and the Channel Islands Yacht Club was more than accommodating to us.  They gave us free moorage, showers and ice.  I'm not sure how we could ever repay the nice people at all the yacht clubs we've met, other than by helping them keep their dream of cruising alive.

We came down with some sort of cold while in Oxnard.  It didn't stop us from visiting my sister, though.  She is going to med. school at UCLA and drove an hour or so to meet with us.  I hadn't seen her for almost 2 years, so it was fun to get caught up on current events with her.

Visit with Kate

Because of our colds, we held off leaving the next day, as we would have had to leave very early to beat the storm moving in.  After listening to a promising weather forecast the following morning, we headed out on a 65 mile leg to Redondo Beach.  While out there, another pretty powerful thunderstorm sprang up, unforecasted, and we saw our first water spout.  A water spout is a tornado on the water.  It was only 10 miles away from us and it was ripping, spinning and pumping tons of seawater into the sky.  It looked identical to the one in this photo taken in an area near here several years ago (we were too busy trying to prepare the boat in the event the waterspout hit us to think of taking a photo).

Massive Water Spout

All these storms are very unseasonal.  In fact, Los Angeles broke a 115 year old record for the month's total rainfall.  It seemed like we'd never escape this strange weather that's been plaguing us all the way down the coast.  Chasing summer has been a lot more difficult than we expected.   We were hoping the next stop might find us lounging in the sun on the same beaches Sherrell used to frequent as a small child.

Arriving in Redondo, while keeping the water spout to starboard and the thunderstorm to port, we spotted the massive Robert Wyland mural above the harbor.

Wyland Painting

Unfortunately, the weather and water were cold!  Can you believe it?!  The beach on West Vancouver Island was warmer, and I even swam in the water there.  I guess it is October, but still, It was a little disappointing.

From Redondo, we traveled further down the coast to Newport, the birth place of our boat!  The place has changed dramatically since 1977 when our boat was built there.  All the yards were gone, and for the most part replaced with plastic surgeons or divorce attorneys.  I've never seen so many ads for plastic surgery, botox, and collagen in my life.  You can even pay by the CC for injections.

We met some nice people at the yacht club.  We also helped a boater who was in distress after getting a massive wad of reeds wrapped around the prop on his crappy baby blue rental boat.  They didn't have a clue about what to do, so we managed to get them over to the side of our boat and tied up while I worked on fixing their problem.  The guy was all tatooed and looked really familiar.  They kept thanking us for helping them and were anxious to get their "stupid rental boat" back to the dock.

The guy made some comment like, "Thanks for helping us.  It's not every day you get to help someone like this..."  and he handed a large business card to Sherrell.  I was busy trying to fix his prop and I heard Sherrell mention, "Oh, we know your band."

After they left, Sherrell said, "Did you recognize him?"  He looked familiar, but I couldn't place it.  She said, "He's the base player from KORN!"  Holy crap!  I couldn't believe it.  As soon as she said it, I realized where I had seen him before!  It's probably fortunate I didn't recognize him, or saw his card before they left, because I would have certainly said something really stupid.

Anyway, it made my day, so I thought I'd post his card here as memento and perhaps to make a few people jealous.

Saving the bass player from KORN

Well, after saving a member of KORN from being lost at sea, we decided we better keep moving before things got even stranger.  So we set off for San Diego at 2:30am.  As we left the marina, we encountered a large tree floating in the dark.  Luckily I was on the bow with the spot light and saw it before we were ensnared in it.  It was the only traffic we saw most of the morning.

The wind was still not working to our benefit.  There was hardly any breeze, and it was blowing exactly from San Diego, making sailing a near impossible task.  About 15 miles outside of San Diego, it finally started to shift and build, to where we were sailing nicely for about 3 hours.

We arrived in San Diego on October 31st (Halloween), and we're staying at a nice yacht club while we sort out our mail, vote with our absentee ballots and restock.

Since leaving the Gulf Islands in Canada to circumnavigate Vancouver Island, then sail the length of the West Cost of the U.S., we covered 2188 miles!

The warm weather down here feels like summer in Seattle, and it's now November!  Cruising through Mexico is sounding better and better all the time!  Let's hope for good winds so we can do some serious sailing!