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The Wildlife, Nature and Hospitality are Fantastic in Central California

August 8th, after the rolly anchorage at Monterey we were looking for a calm nights sleep.  We sailed around the peninsula to Stillwater Cove just outside Carmel by the Sea.  One would not think that a kelp filled cove that is opened to the Pacific could be so calm and so stunningly beautiful.  But it was.

A little tricky making the entrance,  but we met some sailors from the Monterey Yacht Club who kindly drew us a chart on the back of a napkin.  Armed with their local knowledge,  we confidently sailed in the hidden entrance between thick bands of kelp.  The cove lived up to its name.


From Stillwater we sailed passed Big Sur on August 9th.  The marine area off Big Sur is a wild life refuge.  Marine life everywhere.  Whales,  Sea Otters,  Porpoises and Seals. 

The cutest thing was the cheeky sea otters.  We would often see them sleeping in the water on a bed of kelp.  Do they do it for protection from predators or just for flotation?  Whatever,  they would sleep so soundly I had to yell at them to wake up and get out of the way.  Like high school students in a cross walk,  they figured they owned the place.  They slept sounder than my kids when they were teenagers.  After a few such incidents,  we found it easier to just steer around them.  I guess you could say they were training us!

The Morro Bay Yacht Club showed it is hard to find a more generous and hospitable group than boaters.  Upon tying up to their guest dock on August 10th, we were invited to a BBQ where the friendly people made us feel welcome and at home. 

We exchanged IYC burgees and enjoyed the fun adventuresome people.  Click here for a few photos.


Down in Monterey

In 1840, Richard Henry Dana published his classic work - Two Years Before the Mast.  The book describes Dana's experiences as a common seaman working a merchant ship in Mexican California.  The book is a fascinating read.   But for us, it takes on new meaning as it describes the area we are now sailing.  On California Dana wrote:

"The breeze freshened as we stood out to sea, and the wild waves rolled over the red sun, on the broad horizon of the Pacific:  but it is summer,  and in summer there can be no bad weather in California.  Every day is pleasant.  Nature forbids a drop of rain to fall by day or night, or a wind to excite itself beyond a fresh summer breeze."

So true even today.  Monterey was Dana's favorite place in all of California.  So far, Monterey is ours as well and we spent 4 days there starting August 4th. 

Monterey is a charming community with a sense of history and fun.  Beautiful beaches,  a lovely city set in a large bay.  Reminds us of White Rock!  Monterey maintains the old Mexican customs house where Dana would have worked. 19th century buildings from the Spanish Presidio are also maintained.  Monterey was the center of power and the first capital of Mexican and American California in the eighteen hundreds.  Click here for some pictures.

The locals like to celebrate.  When we arrived a large Mexican clipper ship was visiting, with all flags flying and  blasting Mexican music.  People by the thousands came out and stood in line for a chance to get onboard.

On shore, just a hundred yards or so behind us,  festivities with bands singing and dancing have been going on every night.  Today,  two new festivals began - A Turkish one in the central plaza and a Scottish highland games in a park just out of town.

The variety of languages is impressive.  It feels a little like we are already in Mexico as there is probably more Spanish than English spoken here.  We also hear French, Turkish and others.

Did you know that Monterey is credited with initiating rock music festivals and beginning the tradition of a large outdoor concert where peace, love and music were the primary theme.  Eric Burden and the Animals sang about that festival in the sixties in their hit song,  "Down in Monterey." 

With Carmel by the Sea just a short hop away,  we spent a day viewing their galleries - 50 of them - in a town not much bigger than White Rock.  We found many lovely galleries there, some with exquisite glass work, but Sharon did not find a painter with that 'something extra special' to pass on to Jenkins Showler Gallery.

We are hitting some really interesting places in California.

Monterey - highly recommended.



Santa Cruz

Play town in the Pacific. 

It was fun to spend a few days playing, listening and watching the activities at Santa Cruz.  The city sports a large midway/carnival and casino right behind a beautiful sandy beach.  We anchored 100 yards off that beach.

We enjoyed watching and hearing all the activities and goings on.  The excited frentic screams of the people on the carnival rides,  the squeals of delight from the children playing in the surf, and the rowdy rock and roll music blasting away until the wee hours.

Did I mention the continuous barking of the sea lions.  Even with all that,  Santa Cruz is an exciting place to visit.



San Francisco,  Sausalito and Drake's Bay

San Francisco is a milestone for sailors headed south from Canada or the western, USA.  It is the turning point where the brisk north east Pacific weather begins to moderate.  From San Francisco one can turn south west and pick up the trade winds to Hawaii.  From San Francisco, many warm water destinations are within striking distance.  Click here for some pictures of the approach to San Francisco.

While it is a lovely metropolis with a beauty that ranks up there with Vancouver,  the Bay area is too similar to the home we left to feel like a destination.  It is an expensive place.  And we have visited many times before by air and car.

One still has to contend with cold water,  fog and more often than not, strong northwesterly winds.  But the sailing and navigational challenges are getting easier.


On July 26th we sailed into Drakes Bay named after the famous British privateer Sir Francis Drake.  Drake 'discovered' the bay in 1579 and claimed the area for the British Crown.  We are sure the area remains much the same today as he would have seen it - virgin,  undeveloped California.

Departing from Drake's Bay,  we arrived in San Francisco on July 27th.  The weather was foggy with gentle breezes to the Golden Gate Bridge.  We sailed on the east side of Potato Patch shoal, then ran up the north side of the bay entrance close to the shore.  In the entrance the wind kicked up to 15-20 and we had a great ride.  Sailing dead downwind through the entrance,  then jibing after clearing the bridge for a brisk reach over to the city.  

We could not find a suitable San Francisco anchorage,  so we tucked in a reef then roared across San Francisco Bay.  25 knots of wind powered Sally at 9-10 knots passing the eyesore called Alcatraz and into the harbor at Sausalito

San Francisco Bay is an awesome location for sailors.  Everyday we could see the winds kicking up in the afternoon to 20 plus knots,  north and east of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The surrounding areas had only modest winds and flat seas.  And surprise, surprise,  we couldn't even see the air we were breathing!  Good clean up job San Fran!!

But wow - the freaking fog! The US Coast Pilot says 10 days of the month are foggy in July and August.  We have had 15 of those days in July!  By the way,  did we say thanks to everyone who tried to tell us radar was a good idea? We are glad we have it.    

We had a good time in Frisco.  I was delighted to see the excitement on Sharon's face when we visited the SF Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).  Shar was very excited as we viewed paintings by Rivera, Picasso, Matisse, Frieda and many others.  See some Frisco pictures here.


Fort Bragg and Mendocino

Fort Bragg and Mendocino charmed us!   Remote small town California.  People like to stop and talk.  Everyone has time.  The women take a chance and flash a smile.  If you walk, people stop - and offer a ride.  Really nice. 

We love the crowded jumble jangle on the Noyo River.  The bold blues and greens everywhere.  The Redwood forests.  Mendocino with it's galleries and crafts and surfers.  The towns are fair and fine and far enough from the maddening crowd.  The pictures below may pique your curiosity.

Would you open this door?

Fort Bragg's Noyo River Jangle

Mendocino Charm


Intriguing?  Come on a virtual visual walk with me.  Click here to wander through Fort Bragg and Mendocino.


Off to Calgary for Bevin and Sean's Wedding

July 14 through 21st - air and land trip.  Left the boat in Fort Bragg and bussed and flew to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  I was honored to be the MC for the happy couple - Sean and my niece Bevin.  Bevin and Sean are so in love and so right for each other.  A few pictures of the wedding and reception can be viewed by clicking here.  Some of the clean and wholesome fun at Sean's stag can be viewed here.



Heavy Fog and Spooky Going

The last four hops have seen thick heavy fog.  Coastal fog makes navigating an intense experience. Getting into Shelter Cove really took our breath away.  We had just rounded the feared Cape Mendocino - second most notorious cape on the west coast.  The date was July 9th.  (The cape is not the same place as the town of Mendocino).  No problem with the wind and seas around the cape.  But the freaking fog!  Crikey!

Here is a look at the fog shrouded Cape Mendocino on the right.    All you can see is the top of the cape.  And look at that fog bank. Click the pick to zoom. Right into the fog bank is where we went. Not to surprisingly it got really tough to see much. 

We used Mustang Sally's electronic eyes - her radar.  Below are some samples of what we saw inside the fog bank - not much!

To the left you can see the fog behind Mustang Sally.  The fog hangs on the water like a wet blanket. Or like the blue hand towel hanging on the life lines  ;-)

On the right,  it illustrates what it looks at the pointy end of the boat.  Boating in thick fog kinda sucks.  In these conditions we reduce speed,  crank up the radar, listen and use extra concentration.

The Shelter Cove story.  There is always some wind in fog but in this case it was minimal.  The twin diesels were  driving Mustang Sally toward the cove.  We were running behind our planned 8:00 PM arrival and are nervously watching night fall.  We used the radar to monitor and avoid other marine traffic.  But small sport fishing boats do not show up on radar.  A careful watch was essential and Sharon scanned the fog continuously while I monitored the radar and navigation.

Nerve racking work.  All your senses,  both physical and electronic are turned up and focused trying to detect any signs of movement,  other boats or the hard stuff (land).  Quiet, just the thrumming of the engines and gurgle of the water.

Sharon scares the hell out of me when she blasts the horn without warning.   She decided it was time to start blowing the signal for a boat underway.  Then laughed when I jumped a foot.  Somehow the horn continues to rattle me throughout the afternoon and evening as she blasts away every two or three minutes.

As we close with the coast,  we were both edgy.  Coming into a strange anchorage requires much attention to detail and visual position confirmations are preferred.  But we could see nothing.  As the day ends and the light fades,  even the tiny bit of visibility we had is snuffed out.  Zero visibility. 

The radar shows another boat on a collision course.  Who was that idiot on the water now?  We thought we were the only ones!  Altering course, we don't see or hear the boat,  but the radar shows it passing to starboard about 200 meters away.

There are two buoys to guide us into the anchorage.  By carefully following the path between the buoys we can avoid hitting the many rocks scattered to the north and south of the cove.  We heard the first buoy.  The  deep ooooo-aaa of the fog whistle.  The buoy appeared out of the mist 10 meters off our starboard bow.  "We found it" Sharon shouted gleefully.  Altering course to 71 degrees true, we search for the next buoy 1 mile away.  We listen.  We can hear the water breaking on the rocks to the left of us.  Clang, clang we hear it bell.  Then Sharon spotted the flashing light.  Her eyes are excellent!

Next we slowly and carefully continue eastward toward the shore monitoring the depth gauge closely.  We hear the surf echoing off the sand and cliffs ahead.  At a depth of 6 meters,  Sharon releases the anchor and I back the boat.  After letting out 40 meters of chain, we pull hard with the engines and the anchor bites first time.  Relief.

Cocktails to calm the nerves.  After a light dinner and some relaxation we sleep peacefully,  rocked gently to sleep by the rolling ocean swell and the sound of surf breaking on the shore.  All is good on Mustang Sally. 

Below are some pictures of what we saw in Shelter cove in the morning.

Shelter Cover - looking North Shelter Cover - 1st California Surfer Looking south to escape the fog
We seem to be on the west coast at the very worst time for fog.  The above scenario repeated at Bodega Bay and most hops since Shelter Cove have involved some fog. 
On the left is a photo of a sperm whale.  We watched this big guy blow and dive a half a dozen times.  Sharon spotted him first and had been watching him.  I was busy at the time but I kept glancing in the general direction and saw him blow a few times.

A few minutes later I began concentrating on the whale exclusively, using those fantastic binos that Denis and Jan gave us.  Both Sharon and I gasped in awe as we saw him leap clean out of the water.  Of course he wouldn't do it again and this is the best picture I have.