In keeping with our slow down and explore mentality (and to be able to keep up with work), we stopped pretty much everywhere possible between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. No overnight passages – just day sails. This stretch of coastline, Central California, can be sailed in 10 easy legs.
Once we arrived in Santa Barbara we were often asked: “So, how long does it take to get here?” Our answer has become convoluted… “Well, we set off from Vancouver last August, and then we left San Francisco a few weeks ago… BUT you actually could sail straight all the way in about one week if you really wanted to…”
The next question: “How long have you been doing this for” – and we realize to our own astonishment that the answer is over 6 years! We did have a boat hiatus for 9 months, and two years preparing/cruising/living aboard Kaiquest in our home Pacific Northwest waters, but still – this life aquatic has been our lifestyle since January 2012. Crazy.
Slowing down is perhaps the best new tactic we’re practicing. It feels so good to not be rushed, and MAN we would have missed so much good stuff otherwise. What a special part of the West Coast…
This blog post has turned into more of a personal log… so we can look back and remember these special weeks, and perhaps of interest to those sailing south.
Leg 1: San Francisco to Pillar point (AKA Half Moon Bay)
28 nm / 4.5 hrs / FRIDAY May 4, 2018
- Yes, we left the Golden Gate Yacht Club and headed south on a FRIDAY (nautical folklore warns against leaving port for a long passage on a Friday)… but no worries, considering it’s just a short jaunt down to Pillar Point.
- Our conditions heading under the gate were little wind and a slight ebb tide… almost slack. Despite this, the potato patch (horseshoe shaped shallow bar off entrance to the Bay) was rockin’ and rollin’! It was a very lumpy ride which made it easy to envision how treacherous the bar would be if caught out in any current against strong wind and swell. Eeep!
- New friends snapped our ‘Goodbye San Francisco’ photo from shore in Ocean Beach.
- The wind piped up to a perfect 15 knots and we sailed on a beam reach, broad reach as the wind came around, and then wing on wing as we turned toward shore.
- Excellent anchorage inside the break wall… good holding and room for many boats.
- Highlights: hiking the bluff to try to catch a peak of famous surf break ‘Mavericks’… nothing to see at this time of year, fresh fish from the fishing boats, breakfast at The Press, walking to the town of Half Moon Bay along the beautiful beach.
Leg 2: Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz
50 nm / 7.5 hrs / may 8, 2018
- The NOAA weather forecast was changing frequently, so it wasn’t until 9:00pm (after the forecast update) on the Monday night that we made our decision to leave the following morning. The forecast showed a brief period with wind under 25 knots.
- The 10 – 20 knot forecast proved fairly true… it was lovely sailing, including blasting along at 8.5 knots through acceleration zones near Point Pescadero and Ana Neuvo as the wind strengthened into the 30’s. This is why we wait for less than 25 knots in a forecast – coastal sailing guarantees much more around headlands!
- Hours later we sailed into Santa Cruz bay and we were becalmed. For the first time it was lovely and warm… finally!
- We’d read / heard rumors that the Santa Cruz Harbour entrance had filled up with sand – true, after a series of winter storms, it had. But the Harbour now has its own dredger and we saw no less than 5ft under the keel. That being said, we wouldn’t attempt this entrance in a big swell – you can see how waves could break right across.
- Although there is no moorage for a boat our size at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, they kindly provide vouchers for $10 off the marina dairly rate.
- Ran into friends at the Club! Such a special part of the cruising life.
Leg 3: Santa Cruz to Moss Landing
15 nm / 2.5 hrs / may 11, 2018
- The uniqueness of Moss Landing makes it a very worthwhile stop.
- Huge Humpbacks were dancing just off the channel entrance as we approached. We soon found out that the deep underwater Monterey Canyon (deepest submarine canyon on the West Coast – would be more spectacular than the Grand Canyon if above ground) comes to a tip right here at Moss Landing. Thanks to all the nutrients the canyon stirs up, the water is absolutely teeming with wildlife.
- Very social Elkhorn Yacht Club and welcoming people. Free reciprocal moorage.
- We loved exploring the Elkhorn Slough by dinghy… to watch otters, sealions, fish and birds. It was a windy day so the kayakers were envious of our outboard engine I’m sure; it would have been a long slog back down the slough for them, hee hee.
- Fun fact: Sea otter fur is the densest of any animal on Earth—an estimated 1 million hairs per square inch. No wonder they’re obsessed with personal grooming.
Leg 4: Moss Landing to Monterey
13.5 nm / 2 hrs / May 15, 2018
- Minke whales and sealions abound on this short morning hop!
- We kept our eyes peeled for the migrating pod of 50+ Orca whales currently in the area, but unfortunately did not see them.
- Monterey Yacht Club was wonderfully hospitable and their dock is in a great location in town. Again, free reciprocal moorage – which we graciously accepted, as we do 😉
- Fun fact picked up at the Monterey Aquarium: little is known about great white shark’s mating habits… mating has actually NEVER been witnessed by scientists. Thanks to tracking initiatives, researchers can now see that coastal California great whites migrate way offshore in the winter/spring – to an area dubbed the ‘White Shark Cafe’, about halfway between the Baja and Hawaii. They can only assume that this is where the sharks are ‘socializing’. I have to admit some relief in knowing that the ‘big guys’ may be preoccupied right now, rather than hanging around near where I want to swim!
Leg 5: Monterey to Stillwater Cove (Anchorage)
13 nm / 3 hrs / May 22, 2018
- We enjoyed a beam reach once we rounded Point Pinos… in a big beam swell – fun for a short period only.
- Best to call ahead to the tiny Stillwater Cove Yacht Club to find out about using one of their mooring balls. The cove’s kelp forests are thick and prolific so anchoring in the narrow gap amidst the mooring balls and kelp would be challenging for a boat of our size. The YC’s Port Captain even came out in a little tender to show us the best route to navigate through kelp and rocks.
- It’s a neat little bay – perfectly protected in a NW wind and swell (okay in light S swell as the rocks provide some protection).
- Short walk to the Pebble Beach Resort or into the picturesque town of Carmel.
Leg 6: Stillwater Cove to San Simeon Bay (Anchorage)
75 nm / 10 hrs / may 23, 2018
- It is on this leg that one passes infamous Point Sur. The mountainous coastline was delicately layered in morning mist. Our ’rounding’ was beautiful, but really a non-event. The choice had been for 10 knots of wind or 30+ knots in upcoming days. We picked the former, but it meant we had to motor this entire leg 😦
- Hours later we dropped the hook in San Simeon Bay – an anchorage that is only protected from NW wind and swell.
- Because there was a small southerly component to the swell, there was really no way to safely get ashore through the surf. Hearst Castle looked like too long of a hike up the hillside than we had time for anyway.
- So we settled down to our computers… San Simeon Bay Park Services was putting out a super fast, free, unprotected wifi signal. Unexpected!
Leg 7: San Simeon Bay to Morro Bay
24 nm / 3.5 hrs / may 24, 2018
- Uneventful leg… except for when we decided to reset our Raymarine instruments. We turned off the breaker and the boat suddenly lurched to port by 90 degrees! We’d also turned off the autopilot – duh! We did a fancy 360 pirouette and continued on our way. No one was around to see.
- Morro Bay is a delightful town and area: surfing, paddle boarding, beaches, cute restaurants and shops. We were surprised there was so much to offer. Loved it!
- Working off a tip from friends in SF, we made our way up to Cayucos to the Brown Butter Cookie Factory… oh yeah, worth the walk!
- The Morro Bay Yacht Club does not offer free reciprocal moorage, but anyone can come to their dock for a fee. Mooring balls are $20 a night and you have access to the showers and laundry.
Leg 8: Morro Bay to Port San Luis (anchorage)
23 nm / N/a / n/a
- I’ve put this one in here, but it’s actually the only stop we didn’t have a chance to make. Weather related: when there is a good window to round Point Conception, you take it!
- Port San Luis is an anchorage and mooring ball field (no Port, per say). Wish we could’ve checked it out.
Leg 9: Morro Bay to Cojo BAY (anchorage)
69 nm / 10.5 hrs / may 28, 2018
- This leg was a mixed bag… light wind sailing in dense fog, then motoring in a 8ft following sea, then 25+ knots around Cape Arguella and Point Conception with crystal blue skies. It was my first time rounding this infamous Point, Will’s forth.
- We saw our first oil rig – named ‘Irene’.
- We held our breathe to maybe see a Space X rocket launch as we sailed past Cape Arguello, site of the Vandenberg air force base and launch complex. Our timing was off.
- I swear I saw the water color change to a lighter blue… must’ve been the border between Central California and Southern California!
- The wind didn’t let up as we rounded Conception and then Government Points, but the swell flattened out completely. We made our way into Cojo anchorage for the night.. another story.
Leg 10 : Cojo Bay to Santa Barbara
40 nm / 8 hrs / may 29, 2018
- Light wind, spinnaker sailing and some motoring.
- We were shocked to see so much oil in the water… supposedly from natural upwellings, not the oil rigs.
- A massive basking shark was, well, basking, on the surface near Goleta. His fin was so big we thought it was a mooring buoy at first. For a moment it looked like he was going to follow us, but he didn’t. I guess he wasn’t invited out to the great white party.
- The Santa Barbara marina was full when we arrived (not possible to make reservations) because of the California Offshore Race. We anchored out for a couple of nights in ‘Fool’s anchorage’ which obviously gets the name from wintertime as it is fully exposed to S wind and swell. Quite pleasant for us – with a stern anchor deployed to keep our bow pointed into the swell.
- The Santa Barbara Yacht Club provides free reciprocal moorage for one night, and after that you are paying hefty marina rates ($1/foot for the first two weeks, $2/foot for the second two weeks – then you must leave for at least 5 consecutive days to re-set a stay). They have to stop the sailors from staying forever…
- Ah, Santa Barbara, the ‘Maui of California’. It is gorgeous and the activities are endless… from hiking the mountains, to paddle boarding or surfing, to exploring the downtown and funk zone, there is honestly way too much to do! Amazing people in this town too.