Monterey Trip – Part 3
By Saturday, it was time to head farther south to the town of Monterey, a 20 mile sail across the mouth of Monterey Bay, basically from one tip to the other. It would take us about 4 hours if we kept up an average boat speed of 5 knots, which turned out to be NO problem. The challenge on that day was the swell – the same kind that had harassed us coming into Santa Cruz days earlier. They weren’t so large (about 6 feet), but there wasn’t much space between them and they were coming at us right on the beam (the side). If we wanted to sail straight to Monterey from Capitola, we would basically be rocked from side-to-side over and over again for 4 hours straight – not good! We’d all be feeding the fish in no time!
So, to smooth out the ride, we were forced to head a bit into the swells, off our desired straight course to Monterey, then correct away from the swells, off our course on the other side, then back again, essentially zig-zagging our way across the Bay. ‘Otter’ (did I mention we fixed it in Santa Cruz?? We rooted around until we found a wire that had been split in two at the connection point deep down below our helm. We connected that and Viola! “Otter” was alive again!) so ‘Otter’ was a bit slow in handling the swells, so it was back to hand steering anyway. Christian took this on and eventually was like a cowboy riding a bronco – tackling each swell as it tred to buck us even more off course. He did good!
Then, Monterey grew closer until we were able to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium from just off shore. We continued to just east of the aquarium to the entrance to the harbors of Monterey. Our choice for berthing was Breakwater Cove Marine, the relatively tiny marina closest to the aquarium. They provided us with a side-tie berth on their ‘ADA Accessible’ dock – basically next to the fuel dock and with a ramp for access. Entering the Harbor, we were greeted again by a sea otter, this time a mommy with the cutest baby sea otter you can ever imagine – in fact possibly the cutest thing we have ever seen! Just a fuzz ball being dragged around by his mom – oh! The jetty we rounded to get into the harbor was also covered by sea lions of all shapes and sizes, barking up a chorus to each other. As we docked, we noticed that the area was particularly teeming with young sea lions, and we soon realized that this was the season for sea lion weening, so they were newly on their own and sort of just hangin’ around the docks waiting for inspiration. During our stay, one even climbed onto our transom platform (the back platform of our boat) and looked at us little cute brown eyes. Eventually it left, probably bothered that the boat was so crowded with ‘two-legs’.
As it turned out, we had a great spot for walking along the Cannery Row waterfront to the Aquarium the next day. If you like studying ruin of buildings from days of old, this is the place to be – the buildings of Cannery Row are there in remnant form, showing hints of the very different history of this place. It was about a mile of very easy walking, so we were there in no time. In true ‘let’s take this trip easy’ style, we planned on taking two days at the aquarium, rather than rushing through the whole thing in one day. That place is getting big, and we didn’t want to loose interest before we got to the sea horses! So Day One was dedicated to the ‘Rocky Shore’ section – sea otters, tide pools, penguins, and Lydi’s beloved ‘Splash Zone’! On our way out we signed Anna up for the aquarium’s ‘Underwater Explorers’ experience for the next day, which would offer Anna a chance to actually SCUBA dive! Day Two started with that – Anna packing herself into a high-tech dry suit, learning how to breath off a SCUBA tank, then diving in the aquarium’s huge artificial outdoor tide pool. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!
But then it was time to head home. From Capitola, we had an 80 mile trip to get back to our marina in the Bay. Again, we wanted to make the trip in one leg (sorry Half Moon Bay – it’s not you, promise!) so it was up at 4 am, slipping the line off the mooring ball at 430 am, and leaving the anchorage in fog enshrouded pre-dawn dark. Christian stayed on the bow and communicated with me at the helm via our head sets, telling me where to head to avoid other mooring balls and boats as we cleared the field. Then came the passage through the kelp forest via a narrow channel of clear water. Straying off the path would certainly mean tangling kelp around our rudder and propellor and dragging down or even stopping the boat. Christian didn’t really feel like going for a swim to clear that mess so early in the AM. After the kelp, it was a matter of following our chart plotter to our turning point in deeper water, then just staying on course. Navigation at night is very much an act of faith – in your chartplotter, in your belief that there isn’t anything floating in your way that you might clunk into, and in other boaters holding up their end of the safety bargain too. But faith can be helped a bit by prudence – we moved much slower, we watched every hint of light or shadow on the water, and made sure other boats weren’t on a collision course with us. One particular set of lights was persistent – they seemed to be going left, then right, then head straight for us, allbeit very slowly. Eventually, the lights were moving fasting, and were on their way to us. Doing the prudent thing, we hailed them on our VHF “Vessel off our port bow, this is the vessel to your starboard, over.” A voice came back “Go ahead”. Us: “Just wanted to check your course – we intend to slow down a bit and let you pass our bow.” The voice: “Roger, thanks.” Us: “Dragonfly out.” We slowed, the fishing boat passed well off our bow, blinking his decks lights at us in thanks, then we resumed our previous speed and were off again. So official!
Then, the light began to appear around us. There was no sunrise, per se, just a slowly brightening dome of fog around and over us. It was beautiful and almost surreal. All this time, the girls slept on, eventually waking up at 7 am, coming into the cockpit in their jammies and life jackets, rubbing the sleep from their eyes. We had left Soquel Cove almost 3 hours previous and were on our way up the coast, but with the fog blocking our view of the coast, we could literally have been 500 miles out to sea. Nothing around except us and a few sea birds appearing out of the shroud once in a while. Anna and Lydi had to just trust us that we were taking them to Hawaii instead of back to the Bay!
We relaxed as ‘Otter’ did his work, listening to music, reading, marking entries in the log book, making balloon creations, watching DVD’s, and watching harbor porpoises swim by. We raised a slab of our jib (forward sail) to add stability to the motion, but there was never enough wind to sail by, so the engine hummed the entire way. It was, in sheer hours, a long time, but it really didn’t seem so long. The time again passed smoothly and steadily until, before we had expected it, we were on our approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. This, we knew, was going to require all of our attention – San Francisco Bay is a major shipping port, so traffic passes in and out of it all day long. They are big, fast, and WILL NOT get out of the way of a little sailboat. But, all was fine, not a single ship appeared out of the fog as we sailed (finally, some wind!) under the bridge.
After having motored the entire way up the coast because of the lack of wind, we discovered once we entered the Bay where all the wind had gone – it was there in force! Blowing from behind us at up to 30 knots, the wind rocketed us across the Bay in record time – FUN! What a way to arrive. We quickly approached Emery Cove Yacht Harbor and, deciding we hadn’t had enough of the actual sailing yet, we sailed down the channel and into the harbor under with the main up and flying. Once inside, we doused it, turned into our slip, tied off, and then… sighed. We did it! It’s the ‘There and Back and Again’ story for us, just regular people with a passion for sailing, cruising, and exploring with our girls. The things we saw, the experiences we had, the challenges we faced and overcame were like nothing else – incredible. We – all of us – felt so good about the whole trip. We were, yes, happy to be getting home, seeing our doggy and kitty again, doing laundry! But we all agreed – that had just been one amazing trip.