Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October: Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Monterey

Half Moon Bay, October 6 -10

The anchorage at Pillar Point, off Half Moon Bay, is amazing. It’s tucked behind the point and a series of reefs that break the big swells coming in off the ocean. It has two breakwaters with the anchorage and moorings behind the first and a marina with docks behind the second. We dropped our hook in 5 meters, sandy bottom, with excellent holding, seeing no need to pay the marina fees in such calm waters.

For the next three days we explored this beautiful area with Steve, John and Meredith from Silas Crosby. It was sunny and warm while we were there – perfect for hiking. One easy walk we enjoyed was up from the marina, through a wetland and toward the military station at Pillar Point. Once at the top of the hill there was a fabulous view to the famous Mavericks Cove and the huge rollers that break in the surf. No wonder this is considered surfer Mecca!

harbour to the right, Mavericks to the left of Pillar Point



From there, we turned right and followed the line of bluffs for a about a mile, enjoying the fantastic views out to sea, until we reached the tiny hamlet of Moss Beach to quench our thirst at The Distillery.

Bluffs between Pillar Point and Moss Beach

The Distillery is a restaurant which was once used as an access point for Canadian bootleggers during Prohibition. These hardy souls had found a cut in the surf and were able to land their contraband on a small beach at the foot of the bluff. They would store the alcohol under the restaurant for later distribution in the San Francisco area. Originally known as Frank’s Place, it became a notorious speakeasy and many parties with famous celebrities occurred there. It even has a ghost – The Blue Lady – a hapless woman who was murdered there in the 30’s. (Check out: if you want more information about this interesting place.) Even though Doug and I had lunch there, and read that the Blue Lady was one of the most frequently felt and seen ghosts in North America, we were happy not to have the pleasure of meeting her.

The Distillery

Distillery on the bluff, landing beach below

A more strenuous walk was to the Montara Peak in the San Pedro County Park. This hike involved taking the 294 bus to Pacifica – a 15 minute, harrowing journey along crumbling bluffs – then the #14 bus to the county park at the start of the trail. Our connection would have been perfect if the driver had known the entrance to the park was just a block off his route, but unfortunately, he did not. So, after consulting the bus supervisor- who also didn’t know - then Ricky, the local homeless person who lived in the park - we discovered we had to wait an hour for the same bus to come back before we could continue our journey. Doug, Steve, Meredith and I spent the time watching the surfers on the beach.

Pretty tame compared to Mavericks!

Meredith and Steve at Pacifica Beach

Ricky was waiting for us on our return to the bus stop and he literally escorted us to our destination. Once on the trail we climbed up a series of switchbacks and ridges until we came out on a larger trail that four wheelers could take to the summit.

Along the trail to Montara Mountain

Thick brush lined the trail

To say the views were phenomenal would be an understatement. We had unparalleled views all the way to San Francisco and the Bay area in the northern quadrant where we could see the twin peaks, the water of South Bay and the developments along its eastern shores.

San Francisco in the distance

Below us, and to the west, was Pacifica, then down the coast toward the airport.

Pacifica from Montara Trail

Looking south west to Montara village

Meredith & Lyneita heading down the mountain, Montara in the distance

The day was so clear the whole world sparkled. After lunch, we descended on the western side into the town of Montara and enjoyed a cold beer on the bluff while we watched men precariously fishing on rock outcropping. We continued on through the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, by The Distillery, and along the bluffs back to the marina. All in all, it must have been about 9 miles, but worth every step.

If you look closely, you can see the fishermen on the rocks in the centre of the picture

Road slip along the bluffs caused by earthquakes - not sure I'd like to live here!

More earthquake damage

While at the anchorage, we had become acquainted with the people at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club. Although there are no dock facilities for cruising yachts, the members are a highly active group, very friendly and welcoming. The club has several Cal 20s and a small fleet of dinghies kept on a floating dock which is accessed by a little rope ferry. While we were there we saw several school groups come to learn how to sail in the sheltered anchorage. What fun that was to watch! We met Clark, one of the instructors, who welcomed us and offered showers, which we duly accepted. He also invited us to TGIF at the club. We had a great evening with them and spent a lot of time talking to Terry and Charlie, learning about living and sailing in this part of the coast. What I really liked about this club was all the kids and families. The HMBYC has a great feel to it and we were very grateful for the kindnesses they offered to us.

Half Moon Bay Yacht Club
Santa Cruz – October 10/11

All good things have to come to an end. Doug and Steve were watching the weather looking for a steady wind that could take us to Santa Cruz. On Saturday, we hoisted anchor at first light, headed out the breakwater and into a flat sea and a rosy dawn. We were followed by numerous sports fisherman looking to take full advantage of the calm seas, though we weren’t too impressed with their wakes! By late morning a wind began to pick up and, by early afternoon, we were being pushed along by 15 to 20 knot winds. Because the ocean was relatively flat, we were able to experiment with a variety of sail configurations to see which would be the most efficient, yet give us maximum speed and comfort.

Ka'sala, powered by her drifter in Desolation Sound

We began with our drifter, a colourful green, red and black light sail that billows ahead and pulls the boat right along. As the wind rose, we exchanged it for our Yankee, which worked well for a while but, as the wind built, so did the sea, and our stability started to destabilize. We raised the mainsail, which slowed the effect of the waves on the boat, but needed to rig the preventer to keep it steady. There was enough wind to keep the headsail full, though if our passage had been longer, we would have also rigged the whisker pole. As it happened, we breezed into Santa Cruz at about 5pm, to anchor nearby Silas Crosby.

Silas Crosby at Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is quite a place. Although they offer a protected area - which includes a marina - the bay by the entrance provides good holding when the winds are coming from the north. We chose to anchor by the pier, overlooking the spectacular fairgrounds that look like they come right out of a Disney movie. In fact, this carnival of rides is the home of one of the last wooden roller coasters in the world. The clattering of the gears, wheels and pistons, combined with the screams and yells of people actually willing to pay to scare themselves silly (or sick) made for an interesting evening, to say the least. Even the sea lions loved it. They lay all along the pilings under the long pier and the echo of their snorts, barks and calls combined with the fair noises drove us out of the anchorage the next morning.

Lyneita at Santa Cruz

Watching Santa Cruz fade into the distance was not difficult to do. We left just as the wind was picking up and had one of our best sails to date across Monterey Bay. The winds remained steady 10 to 15 knots from the west which gave us a very pleasant beam reach all the way across. Ka’sala floated over the swells, her sails perfectly set. Although we encountered fog halfway across, there was little traffic to worry about, and we arrived at Monterey in the late afternoon. One of the highlights of this trip was to watch Silas Crosby as she sailed abeam us all the way across. Another was to log less than 15 minutes on the motor. Bliss!

Silas Crosby on the way to Monterey
Monterey - October 11 - 15

We decided to check into the marina in Monterey, and called the Harbour Master by cellphone. Once again, our 34 foot size worked in our favour and we were assigned a berth at 75 cents a foot. As we entered the breakwater, we were greeted by several sea otters floating on their backs and entertaining the locals and tourists who lined Fisherman’s Wharf.

One fellow, looking down from the pier, called out a welcome to us – what a wonderful way to first experience a new place! As we approached our dock, we noticed we had another welcoming party – two baby sea lions, who tittered and mewed at our approach, rolled over, and went back to dozing in the sun.

baby sea lion

It was the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and we felt we needed to mark the occasion. Meredith and I spent our first day exploring the town (finding a great wool and yarn store), and shopping at Trader Joes for a celebratory dinner. Doug and Steve hucked propane tanks on their backs to search for refills, and John explored the Aquarium. We gathered that evening aboard Ka’sala and enjoyed a feast beginning with smoked salmon and champagne, then barbequed turkey cutlets, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans, topped off with Meredith’s very special fruit crumble. We gave thanks for our full and healthy lives and drank a toast to all the friends and loved ones we could not be with.

My second quest in Monterey was to find a new camera. The opening mechanism on the lens of my wonderful Canon Powershot S80 broke while we were in Pillar Point and I was quite upset to not be able to take the pictures I regularly do for this blog. I'm grateful to Doug who came to the rescue and took the shots you find in this blog entry, but it’s not the same when you don’t have your own camera. Without getting in to all the philosophy of taking pictures, the old adage: “in the eyes of the beholder” really sums it up.

We had been in touch with the Canon people and had to send the camera away to be fixed. Luckily, Downwind Marine in San Diego offers a mail holding service, so I was able to use that address to have it forwarded on in about two weeks. I worked out that maybe having a regular camera on our journey was asking for trouble, so I decided to buy a waterproof, shock proof model. The Panasonic Lumix seems to fit the bill – it has a Leica lens, takes pictures in up to 33 feet of water, shockproof to 7 feet, and many more features.   Perfect! The photo blog will continue!

My new Panasonic Lumix Water Proof Camera

Internet access is next to impossible in this town. Everything seems to be security enabled and you really have to search to find a café that will give you an hour with a purchase. Not enough time to answer emails, research the area, the weather, where we will go to next and also post the blog. I've discovered that the municipal library offers free wifi, so I am posting from there today. Whatever did we do without the Internet?

Doug and I walked a mile or so to the Express West Marine shop – not really worth the effort as it has just basic stock. Apparently there is another chandlery nearer the marina which we will try to find today. I also want to check out the Aquarium before we leave.

Our plan is to leave Monterey tomorrow for Morro Bay, approximately 120 miles away. This is a 24 hour passage, so we plan to leave late morning and go all night. If we get too tired we can stop in at San Simeon which is about 85 miles from here. The weather looks good, though a north system with stronger winds is developing again over the weekend, but we should be tucked in to the harbor at Morro Bay by then.

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