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

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