Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Channel Islands Harbour Oxnard

We feel like we are in Mexico already!   The weather is magnificent – 80 degrees of dry heat each day, cooling down in the evening making it very comfortable for sleeping.  No rain.  Blue skies.  The sea is 21 degrees.  The beaches in southern California go on forever – mile after mile of curling surf and golden sands, buffeted by palm trees and framed by mountains.  Bougainvillia, Bird of Paradise and so many varieties of succulents- all in enormous proportions - enhance the landscape.  We’ve been wearing our bathing suits, eating our meals in the cockpit and enjoying every bit of it.

We left Morro Bay as planned for our overnight passage after breakfast on October 21.  We motored for the first couple hours, then a very good wind came up and we sailed on a beam reach at 6 knots until sunset.  It was a rather misty day and we were far enough off shore that all we could see were the headlands in the haze.  The wildlife continued to be abundant and I even saw what I later identified as a 6 foot Mako shark, making its way just under the surface of the water.  

A lovely half moon rose and the wind and waves died.  We passed the Cape Horn of the Pacific (Cape Conception) under starry skies and little wind progressing along with the help of the Yanmar.  We arrived in Santa Barbara, unscathed, just after sunrise.

We were hosted by the Santa Barbara Yacht Club for our first night and enjoyed watching the comings and goings of commercial fisherman bringing home a variety of catch from sea urchins and rock crab to spiny lobsters and white fish.  

The Santa Barbara harbour is huge with hundreds of pleasure boats both power and sail, as well as a busy fishing fleet. 

Stearns Wharf across the top - Yacht Club at the bottom - we were on the docks to the right

The marina is immaculate.  The beaches surrounding it are gorgeous – we watched a machine combing them one morning!  

Doug looking down the beach in front of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club
The city itself is picture perfect with no high rises and surrounded by the east/west Santa Ynez mountains that contribute to the area’s Mediterranean climate.

Ka'sala on the SBYC guest dock surrounded by hundreds of yachts

Not a great shot, but looking down the beach toward the yacht club and marina.  We massaged our toes in this gorgeous sand several times during our stay
We spent our three days there walking the beaches and riding our bicycles just enjoying the balmy air and the views.

 We also took in a bit of culture, visiting the lovely Courthouse and Mission.

Built in the late 1920's after the great earthquake of 1925, this beautiful structureis  filled with historical murals, artifacts and lovely galleries, hallways and rooms.

Fascinating clock tower room with surrounding time piece mural 

Lovely light filtered through this spiral staircase in the Courthouse
In the clock tower of the  Courthouse looking south over Santa Barbara to the marina and ocean beyond

Mission at Santa Barbara - The  Franciscans  estabished it in the late 1700's - one of their many missions stretching from San Diego to San Francisco

We couldn’t resist the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company on Stearn’s Wharf where we tucked in to a feed of local crab and shrimp.

Rock Crab with the trimmings - YUM!
A satisfied customer!
Wandering down boutique and cafe lined State Street, the main shopping area of Santa Barbara, was an architectural treat.  Though we didn’t buy anything, we enjoyed window shopping and people watching.

A typical scene on State Street 

A secret doorway inside the theatre.  Almost all of Santa Barbara was destroyed by an earthquake in 1925 and rebuilt in Spanish Revival Style prevalent throughout the city.  This particular entranceway put me in mind of Intramuros in Manila.

Unfortunately, Santa Barbara is also very expensive, so after three days it was time for us to move on.  On Sunday, October 25, we left after breakfast in hopes of having an enjoyable sail to the Channel Islands Harbour in Oxnard – a distance of about 30 nautical miles.   It was not to be, however, as the wind stayed below five knots, and we “African Queened” it along on flat seas at 2200 rpm.

As we motored along, I couldn't help but think about the original inhabitnts of this beautiful place.  The Chumash people lived along the coast of Southern California for thousands of years before first contact with the Spaniards beginning with Cabrillo in 1542.  When settlement began in earnest in the late 18th century it didn't take too long for this entire nation dwindled from over 20,000 to less than 1500. Their homelands had stretched from modern day Morro Bay to Los Angeles and by the end of the 18th century what remained of the Chumash people were living on a 127 acre reserve.  Today their language and most of their culture is lost.

We are the guests of the Channel Islands Yacht Club here in Oxnard.  This small club is generous with reciprocity and we are very comfortable in their clean marina.

Channel Islands Yacht Club

It is funny how the little things make you so happy on a sailboat.  There are washers and dryers!  I was able to catch up on all our laundry just a few paces from the boat!  We also have shore power – so that means I can use my little dust buster vacuum cleaner instead of crawling on my hands and knees with a hand held whisk and dustpan (which never works well).  Who would have thunk?

Channel Islands Harbour is an unusual place.  Geographically, it looks like it was once an enormous estuary.  There is a bar with a protecting breakwater that leads into the marina area and inside there are thousands of boats down channels in several marinas.

This arial picture shows the entire expanse of the Channel Islands Harbour.  At the top are the marinas we are in docked in the upper right quadrant-  part way down is a bridge and in the foreground is the many waterways lined with houses and docks 

This photo shows the upper region of the Channel Islands harbour with the bar and breakwater.

At the far end are tracts of houses with two car garages in the front, and docks in the channel in the back to park boats.
These channels have "street" names on every corner

A typical house on one of the canals - these curious little electrical boats, like Todaloo are prevalent.  The local grocery store has a dock for provisioning!
Along the beach side is a phalanx of houses, on either sides of two streets with spectacular ocean views.   Everything is clean and well ordered, though architecturally diverse in appearance and size.   The area is serviced by a series of outdoor strip malls.  There doesn’t appear to be any “downtown” or any cultural centre – perhaps that is farther inland. We did not see a lot of adults or children about – it seems like the average age in this community might be quite high.  Even the yacht club where we are staying has recently installed an elevator!  Yesterday we explored by bicycle and today we investigated the many channels  by kayak. The wildlife still proliferates!

Leave it to sea lions to find a comfortable place to sleep!
An elegant heron close by  Ka'sala

We have met other cruisers on the dock here.  One couple, down from Portland last year on their way to Mexico, love it so much they have stayed.  Another couple, Brian and Mary Alice, who have circumnavigated the world (and then some) aboard Shibui, a 44 foot Norseman, are on their way to Hawaii and Alaska.  Most of the other boats in this marina are powerboats with a smattering of liveaboards.

Squeezed in by powerboats, but on the dock at the Channel Islands Yacht Club

Tomorrow we head out to sea again heading for Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles - about 40 nautical miles south.  We are looking forward to staying at the Pacific Mariner’s Club – where we spent a week on our way down south five years ago.

Still time for boatwork!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Morro Bay

We left Half Moon Bay at 7am, as planned, and arrived at Santa Cruz late afternoon on October 13.  Unfortunately, there was very little wind and we ended up motoring the entire way.  On the fortunate side, it was sunny and warm and the coastline we followed was lovely to watch as we rolled by in the swells.  We anchored to the east of the pier overlooking the permanent 1930’s style carnival spread out along the beach.  There were a few other cruising sailboats anchored around, but the whole place was very quiet.  The carnival was closed.  What a difference from five years before when it was packed with Columbus Day crowds!  Just the same, the sea lions were still as noisy as ever!

At anchor at Santa Cruz
Next day, after a leisurely breakfast, we headed across the big bay to Monterey.  It was another benign, sunny day, but halfway across the onshore winds started and we had a pleasant 4 knot sail all the way in to the harbour.  The water around this place is a translucent colour of blue which reminded us of sailing north of Hawaii.  We also noted the sea was getting steadily warmer – 18.5 degrees!

While in Monterey we were hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club.  They have a lovely facility right inside the protected harbour with a long dock in front of their clubhouse. 

Ka'sala in front of the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club

We arrived at their docks just in time to tidy up and join their members for their weekly Wednesday night cocktails and dinner.  This low-key club was exceptionally welcoming and friendly.  Members approached us and introduced themselves, curious to know about us, our boat and our travels. We are indebted to Jan Loomis who gave us a copy of her excellent book “Healthy Cruiser’s Handbook” and her offer to help us provision.  

We met her parents – they were feting her Mom who was celebrating her birthday and even shared some cake!  We also met some other cruisers heading down the coast who had been invited for dinner.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves that evening – the people, the food, the drink, the facility.  Wow!

Sunset at MPYC
Because we were on the dock it was convenient to unpack our bicycles and go for a couple of very long rides.  The bicycle paths in the area are widespread, paved and go on forever.  The first trip we went east toward Moss Landing.  Although the path was paved two lanes it ran beside busy the busy Highway One freeway.  It wasn’t until we had gone about 10 miles that we were able to turn back into the decommissioned Fort Ord sand dunes that we got away from the thundering noise of traffic and were able to appreciate the wildness of the place.  Fog was starting to roll in, the remains of old military buildings and graffiti covered firing ranges emerged in the greying, chilly light.  Most of the area is cordoned off as a “protected” environment for blue butterflies, but I also wondered if there were unspent munitions as well.  What we could clearly see was that nature was taking its course.  This army base, which was still operational in the early ‘90’s, had all but disappeared under dune grasses and flora.

Dunes at Fort Ord - looking to Monterey in the far distance
The next day we pointed our bicycles in the other direction and what a contrast!  We followed an excellent cycling route through Cannery Row and into Pacific Grove, all along the waterfront and in front of cosy waterfront homes reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s times.  Further along these modest homes turned into more substantial dwellings.  After we went through the gates to Pebble Beach, and the score of golf courses on the other side, we were flying past mansions hidden in golden dunes, or emerald green golf pitches, with surf pounding into rocks and beaches along the foreshore.  

Golf course in the dunes at Pebble Beach 
Pebble Beach shoreline
We followed this route for about 12 miles before turning back.  The views and the area were absolutely stunning.

At Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach
While in Monterey it was also convenient to re-provision and do our laundry.  Oh, how I love those bicycles for making these necessary logistics so much more bearable!

We met Randy and Ruth, cruising aboard their Jason 35 “Velic” at the Wednesday evening dinner at the yacht club.  From Portland, Oregon, they have owned their tidy vessel for more than 20 years, incrementally making her ready for this open ended voyage.

Jason 35 - a double ender designed by Ted Brewer with some similarilties to Ka'sala
 In 2010 they had cruised Velic to Hawaii and back and were eager to make cruising a way of life.  They invited us over for a lovely dinner and we found we had much in common – including Langavulin!  Although we have different agendas over the next few weeks, we are looking forward to catching up with them further down the coast.

On Saturday, October 17, it was time to say goodbye.  We left this happy harbour and headed out to sea on a weather forecast that called for 15 – 25 knot winds and 6 foot seas.  We were heading for Morro Bay, 110 nautical miles south which meant it would be an overnight passage.  I was a little nervous as it had been a while since we had been out at night, but it all worked out.  Our biggest challenge was we had to slow down.  Morro Bay is a calm harbour inside a bar that must be taken seriously as, when the seas are up, breaking waves can be encountered at the entrance. 

Morro Bay Bar - anchorage just in front of the town, estuary in the background

Looking at the bar from the other direction - most of the sailboats in the harbour are on moorings
 We sailed through the predicted winds but were making such good time we had to reef down to slow down so we would enter the bar after first light – a rather frustrating experience.  But it is a sailor’s predicament – too much, too little, etc....  As it turned out, the wind died after Point Piedro Blanco and we motored easily through the bar at about 8am and dropped our hook in the shallow bay in sunny, warm conditions.  The huge rock formation – apparently an extinct volcano cone in the shape of a moor’s hat (thus Morro Bay) – towered over the entrance, golden eagles circled its steep sides in the early morning light.

Ka'sala at anchor in front of the moor's hat
We have been here for two days during which time we have had a couple of walks on shore.  Morro Bay is a delightful fishing “village” and tourist destination. 

Darlene is still here, but she is for sale now, though she still has her salmon license
The waterfront is lined with little shops, cafes and restaurants selling every kind of fish and nautical bric-a-brac.  We have noticed that the municipality has put a lot of money into upgrading their waterfront since the last time we were here five years ago.  They are also in the process of creating a maritime museum with some interesting water craft.

  The Morro Bay Yacht Club has graciously allowed us to use their facilities for secure dinghy tie up, showers and garbage for a nominal fee.

View from the deck of the Morro Bay Yacht Club
Guest entrance at MBYC
 We spent one quiet morning in the kayaks exploring the extensive natural estuary that runs behind the bay and is sheltered by miles of sand dunes.  We could not begin to cover the whole of this shallow area – it is vast and the winds and current pick up late morning – but we played for a few hours.  The whole area is livid with birds of a variety of species, cute sea otters, soaring pelicans and barking sea lions.

Tomorrow we will head out again.  The forecast is looking good for rounding Cape Conception - the “Cape Horn” of California - in, according to NOAA and Passage Weather, 10 – 20 knot winds and 6 foot seas.  It will be another 110 nautical mile passage – this time to Santa Barbara where we hope to explore for a couple days before continuing on to Oxnard and the Channel Islands Yacht Club. 
My faithful, crazy, Patagonia hat

Monday, October 12, 2015

Half Moon Bay

We have been anchored in Half Moon Bay for four days. 

Looking down from the bluffs - Ka'sala is in the middle distance

During that time we have been welcomed by the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club and have enjoyed meeting their members.

This growing, family-oriented sailing club has a lovely facility on the shores of the inner harbour.  They keep their Cal-20 fleet on a floating dock connected to the club by a “ferry”.  

Ferry is the bridge looking contraption halfway between the dock and shore
We were invited on our first night to join their regular Friday TGIF and were able to meet quite a number of their members – all of whom were welcoming and friendly.  One of their members, Glen, is married to Nancy, a fellow Canadian, and he enthusiastically invited us to their home for Thanksgiving dinner.  So far away from family and friends, we felt warmly received and enjoyed a terrific traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. 

Nancy admiring the feast
Being allowed to keep our dinghy on the HMBYC dock made it easy for us to explore the area.  We spent one afternoon walking the bluffs and watching surfers catching giant waves off Mavericks and the outer reefs. 

View out to the Pacific from the bluffs, fog in the distance

Reefs off Pillar Point
A large swell was coming in from a storm in the north pacific making the conditions excellent for this challenging sport.  We even saw famous Mavericks surfer Jeff Clark tackle huge waves off Flat Iron Rock on his stand up paddleboard.  Yes – stand up paddleboard!!!

Jeff Clark
Jeff Clark completing a surf on his stand up paddleboard

This shot from the internet shows the size of waves that can come into Pillar Point -  the one I took of the reef above is in the same place!
Around the corner, in the sheltered harbour, we have been able walk the beach and  launch the kayaks to explore. 

Beach along Pillar Point and Mavericks on a calm day
Because of large schools of anchovies, there are hundreds of pelicans hanging out for a bite, lining the breakwater.  They are enormous creatures fascinating to watch as they fly in formation around the harbour and dive bomb for their suppers.  In fact, Half Moon Bay is teaming with sea life.  We have seen multiple species of sea birds, as well as seals and sea lions, and we are told there are numerous types of fish as well.  

The weather hasn’t been as nice as it was on our last visit.  We’ve had fog every day to various thicknesses and a strong wind blowing through the anchorage, making it a little chilly.  However, when the sun does come out, it is warm and gorgeous.

Looking east toward public marina

We plan to leave early tomorrow morning for Santa Cruz – approximately 50 miles south – spend the night and continue on to Monterey for a few days.