Log Books






Cruising Life

Press Clippings


Cruising Tech


Cruising Plans











The Raven Express

to San Diego

October 1, 2000

We made it to sunny San Diego!!! The Raven Express covered 450 miles from Sausalito, with stops in Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Island, and Santa Catalina Island. The electronic log says we’re 1,500 nautical miles from home. Last summer, we anchored in Glacier Bay at 58 degrees north latitude, and now we’re docked at 32 degrees latitude. That ‘s a lot of water to cover in a little over a year, but we liked trading glaciers for palm trees.

Leaving Sausalito — Our departure through the Golden Gate was mercifully fog- and wind-free, although clouds covered the sky as soon as we were in the open Pacific. Departing through the Golden Gate (29K) We left at slack tide to avoid the possibility of big waves, which can get really steep in those constricted waters, very much like the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Crew (moi) was still pretty nervous about the whole thing. We only had a thirty-mile passage down to Half Moon Bay, and dinner with good friends as the carrot. The only excitement came when we tried to put up the jib, which gently collapsed onto the deck with its broken halyard swivel. Jan quickly got on the phone to order a new “industrial strength” swivel from the East Coast to meet us in San Diego; we’ll be under staysail or reacher until then.

Half Moon Bay — The entrance to Half Moon Bay was swarming with sea lions, pelicans, and seagulls all intent on catching lunch. The smell of bird guano (a nice euphemism) was memorable! Apparently in some years whole schools of sardines have been known to enter the harbor, suck up all the oxygen in the water and proceed to die, not a pleasant thought! We tied up at the dock and were greeted by a couple from Jerrald’s Cove, near Tacoma. It is a very small cruising world with everyone headed south for the winter.

Monterey — The next day, on the 65-mile, eight-hour trip to Monterey, we hardly saw another boat. But we did see our first pod of dolphins, about fifty of them, who proceeded to play around us, but they were just too quick to photograph. The weather alternated between full sun and fog banks. Of course, the weather for deciphering the complicated harbor entrance was Full Fog. We didn’t see the entrance buoy until we were right on top of it. Then we had the full confusion of Monterey – novice kayakers, lots of derelict boats on moorings, sea lions barking at full roar, people sailing in and out of the harbor, long trails of kelp and seals draping every float. We finally decided to get out our walkie-talkies and I would guide Jan from the bow. There were so many pots, moorings, and half sunken boats in the harbor that it was really hard to figure out where to go. After being told there were no slips available that were long enough for us, we anchored off of the beach just outside the harbor, on a lee shore in about 15 knots of wind. The Captain was not happy. We rocked and rolled for a while, then negotiated to raft-up with (tie up alongside) a Major League, three-story, 85-foot motorboat called ‘Beach Condo’ (yes, she’s been added to our world-famous catalog of tacky boat names). She was being delivered south, and the crew didn’t want to leave the harbor because she rolled so badly in any kind of a sea. They said they would gladly trade boats with us. No dice!

Now the only snag with rafting up to the motorboat was that the dock was ruled by a half-dozen very beefy sea lions, who partied all night. If one started barking, they all had to compete to see who would get in the last word. In the morning after a restless night spent caught between Jan’s snoring and the bellowing sea lions, I was thrilled to see Beach Condo headed south, so we could move onto another dock. I demanded hazard pay for having to handle the dock lines next to Sea Lion Territory. In fact, the Harbormaster sent over a volunteer, a tiny woman weighing no Sea lions shooed of the dock (1,342K) more than a hundred pounds who chased 4,000 pounds of sea lion off the dock in seconds! Be careful with your volume control! This video includes LOUD sea lion barking!! Video of Sea lions shooed of the dock (1,342K)  She said that they have been known to charge after people and can jump eight feet out of the water, knock a person over, or just bite you. Welcome to Monterey!

Our first impression of Monterey was not good. All we saw the first evening were the very tacky tourist areas of Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. The second day, after we moved into the marina proper, we explored to find the fabulous aquarium and beautiful old adobe houses. There is so much history there. Monterey was the capital of Alta California (as opposed to Baja California where we are headed) in the early 1800’s. After California became a state and in the excitement of the Gold Rush, Monterey became a backwater, which probably saved some of the adobes from being destroyed in the name of progress.

The Monterey Aquarium is really incredible, and this from a person who is not a big fish fan. Each display was more ingenious than the last. We especially liked the jellyfish displays, the anchovy parade, the kelp forest, the endless school of mackerel, and the Splash Zone for young children. No wonder it’s so popular that there are usually long lines to get in.

We stayed in Monterey for three days, then left at zero dark thirty to motor the 105 miles to Morro Bay. A hundred miles make a looong day when you’re going nine miles an hour, and we’re a fast sailboat! Most of the other cruisers have to do an overnight on that leg. The fog lasted all day, making it quite boring, but nicely uneventful. Sounds carry much farther in fog, so the sound of waves crashing on rocks as we departed was not encouraging, even though we could see on the radar that we were perfectly safe. The scenery south was supposed to be magnificent — Point Sur, San Simeon, etc. Sunrise over Carmel from seaward (39K) It may well have been, but we saw none of it except the sunrise over Carmel.  Sometimes the visibility was down to one boat length. Luckily there were very few boats out there and we are getting quite good at tracking targets on the radar screen.

Morro Bay — In Monterey we had run across some British Columbia cruisers we met last summer on our cruise up north. They were also headed for Morro Bay, another port where there aren’t many dock spaces, and were kind enough to save us a spot at the yacht club and greet us royally when we arrived. The entrance was another ‘white cane’ adventure. I was on the bow with the binoculars and walkie-talkie trying to spot the entrance buoys, while Jan sweated it out in the pilothouse with the radar and computer chart plotter. Morro Rock in the fog (24K) Then I tried to lead us into the twisty channel when the visibility was down to thirty yards. There is the huge cone of Morro Rock at the harbor entrance, known to all the early explorers. We went right by it and only saw the bottom few feet!  

Happily, the sun shone through the clouds on Morro Bay the next day and it was quite a lovely spot with a huge sand spit, plenty of otters, sea lions and pelicans diving to entertain us. The richness of the sea in this region amazes us. A local told us that the bays are just full of baitfish at the moment, thus all the sea lions and birds. But when the baitfish leave in a few weeks, all the wildlife go with them. The people at the Morro Bay Yacht Club were nice to us too, and wanted us to stay for their weekly cocktail party, but it was time to move on. Besides, there was another opportunity coming to sail south in the fog!

We were to leave at 5 a.m., but an hour before that we heard a knocking on our hull. It was a guy who was on his way home to San Diego from the Trans-Pacific singlehanded race. He was almost out of fuel and needed to tie up . . . fast! All I could think was, “Here’s a guy who’s sailed 2,000 miles from Hawaii and he arrives in port to meet Jan, who is on deck in his finest sleeping garb.” What a shock for the poor guy! Anyway, we jumped into our passage gear — in this case, The Full Alaska, which is the exact opposite of The Full Monty. It was a cold, drizzly, foggy, and pitch-black night. Imagine doing the exit, the same tortuous spotting of buoys, this time with no light at all, plus the obligatory fog. At the harbor mouth, Jan put up the mainsail because the wind was due to come up and we had another hundred miles ahead of us. The Crew was definitely unhappy to be steering the boat when there was zero visibility, and only the sound of waves crashing off to port. There was also the squid fishing fleet with a Christmas display of lights to contend with. I felt better when there was a little light three hours later, but claustrophobia was a major issue.

Another very long day, but at least we could see the horizon — not the coast, mind you, but a horizon really helps stabilize the good old inner ear. We saw a few more dolphins and one lonely sparrow who kept trying to land on the boat; I don’t think he could figure out how to deal with a moving target. About mid-day we motorsailed around Pt. Conception and its oil rigs Pt Conception oil rig (22K), known as being the second wildest point on the coast, after Cape Flattery, Washington. We had six-foot swells from the north and three foot wind-waves from the south, which made for very Reefed down and driving hard around Pt Conception (67K) sloppy seas, but Raven’s length and speed sliced right through it all.  Smaller, slower boats we met later definitely didn’t fare as well. Jan and I are feeling quite proud of Raven and gave her extra rations and a loving cleanup that day.

After passing Pt. Conception, the cruising guidebooks advise southbound boaters to pack away their woolies and get out the “Hang Ten” T-shirts and cut-offs. For us, since it was still cloudy, this was a bit premature, but at least we could strip off our Full Alaska getup. We figured things were looking up when we saw the palm trees and the beach volleyball nets in Santa Barbara. Yes, it is finally warm.

Santa Barbara — We were now more than half way to San Diego, so we took three days of tourist time to explore the mission Santa Barbara Mission (60K) and old adobes of Santa Barbara. Richard Henry Dana, in Signe at Santa Barbara Mission (75K) his book Two Years Before the Mast, wrote about his voyage to this coast, including his visits to Santa Barbara. He even attended a wedding in the de la Guerra adobe home that we visited (see photo).De la Guerra adobe in Santa Barbara (93K)  We had a few dinners out with our Canadian friends, walked all over town and generally enjoyed shore life. We even had a rush delivery of forwarded mail, although it meant taking a bus way out of town to get the package. Since the buses run once an hour, it took most of the afternoon. So go out and give your car an appreciative pat. Life gets a little more complicated without wheels. It was a good way to meet lots of Santa Barbarans, who wanted to hear about our adventures and to tell us about their favorite places in town.

Santa Cruz Island — One of the Canadian boats went going out to Santa Cruz Island, about 23 miles away, so we followed along the next day to get away from civilization for a while. It’s hard to believe that such beautiful wilderness could be right off the coast of a populous area. We had a fantastic sail in the bright sunlight Signe departs Santa Barbara at 10 knots (68K) across to the island in ten to seventeen knots of wind on a close reach; with our big reacher set, we were doing nine to ten knots most of the time. Our first truly glorious sail of the trip. 

Our first anchorage in Prisoner’s Harbor was the rolling-est anchorage we’ve had so far. Of course, you only discover these things in the middle of the night, when it’s too late to do anything about it. The next night in Smuggler’s Cove, we had all the anti-roll gear out — bow and stern anchors and “flopper stopper”. It worked. Mostly. At least we’re getting more accustomed to anchoring in open roadsteads. The weather was so warm that we broke out the bathing suits and Jan took the first swim, not bad for the end of September!

Next we headed for Catalina, 65 miles away, hoping to bypass LaLa Land entirely and go straight from there to San Diego. That day’s adventures included being circled at very low altitude by a Navy turboprop plane — three times! Shades of the torpedo firing range Area Whisky Golf in Georgia Strait, where we were once chased by a helicopter! The plane contacted us by radio to say the Navy would start live fire exercises in an hour and a half and would we please turn left ninety degrees and put it in gear. Well, actually he didn’t put it exactly that way; he was pretty nice, but the only problem was that we were already at max speed. Then he called back a little later and told us that . . . uh . . . it was . . . uh . . . OK to go back to our original course and speed, as we’d be out of the danger zone in ten minutes. We found out later that the actual firing was forty miles away, but our boring morning suddenly turned into an exciting one! To add to all the pleasure, we also had several schools of dolphins fishing around the bow. They are so sleek and playful, a real joy to see. 

Dolphins approaching (596K) Video of Dolphins approaching (596K)

Dolphins at the bow (606K) Video of Dolphins at the bow (606K)

Santa Catalina Island — We moored in two different harbors on Catalina. In atmosphere, they were exact opposites. Isthmus Cove seemed to be a family camping area straight out of the 1940’s, with palms and groupings of semi-permanent tents surrounding a general store and restaurant/snack bar. There is no anchoring permitted in the harbors. Instead, boats are assigned a two-point mooring, and charged a hefty fee for using it. The moorings simplify packing a lot of boats into a very small, deep space. It made sense to us! We were even complimented on our seamanship in maneuvering all 64 feet of Raven into a small space between other boats. The harbor patrol said he had seen crews of five who hadn’t done it as well. Big grins from The Crew, since I was at the wheel!

Avalon Harbor is much more glamorous in a Mediterranean sort of way: lots of red tile roofed houses climbing up the hillsides, zillions of boats of all shapes and sizes, cafes and shops lining the beach, etc. It still has a bit of 40’s charm to it, but as the weekend wore on more people arrived by the fast ferries from Long Beach. We had avoided LaLa Land, so LaLa Land came to us! When we arrived Thursday, the 300+ moorings were mostly empty. By Friday, they were largely full and the horizon was full of large motorboats speeding across the twenty-six miles from the mainland to party in Avalon. It seems to be a big singles hangout, a serious marlin and tuna fishing spot, and a place for a quickie wedding. Interesting combination! The buzz and hum (and rolling wakes) of about 350 boats plus their circulating dinghies goes on until late at night. Then the sport fishermen start going out about 3 a.m. This is not a peaceful place, but it is great for people and boat watching. I tried to read on deck yesterday afternoon and got through about three pages. There is the same system of fore-and-aft mooring here, plus itinerant trash collectors, shore boat taxis, and holding tank pumpout boats. The harbormaster runs a tight ship and keeps the boat-crammed harbor amazingly clean, so people swim off their boats and the beach, and snorkel along the sea wall. There are so many fish, you can see them from the surface. Pretty nice!

One day we rented a golf cart, which is the main mode of transportation on land, and roamed the hillsides above the harbor. It is a spectacular place and was home to the Wrigleys of Avalon and the deep blue Pacific (73K) chewing gum and Chicago Cubs fame. They also brought the Cubs here for spring training. Raven and the Avalon Casino (64K) Those must have been hot days in the 20’s and 30’s, when this was the resort for movie stars. William Wrigley did a lot of very lovely construction here and worked to save the landscape for generations to enjoy. 

We always have the daily round of maintenance and repairs, resupply, and so on. Lately, Jan has been busyLunch on the pier at Avalon (45K) fixing the sea water intake strainer, the fresh water pump (yet again), rigging the flopper-stopper (keeps us from rolling too much), charging the batteries, running the reverse osmosis watermaker, ordering parts shipped into San Diego for us, and so on. There’s always something broken or about to break. Avalon Harbor beach (48K) Another part of our Cruising Life is looking for internet cafes ashore so we can get our emails and send these long website additions. Little old Avalon has three internet services. We usually meet other cruisers doing the same thing and see offbeat parts of town.

San Diego — No wind or sun on the all-day, seventy-mile passage under motor from Santa Catalina to San Diego, so it was a boring and hazy day. Then, as we approached famous Point Loma, the sun came out, a gentle breeze came up, and the waters were filled with sails. What a gorgeous setting for sailing.

We finally got the slip we wanted at Kona Kai Marina (Doesn’t that sound exotic?) on Shelter Island, right in the middle of the marine industries and shops; all the parts and specialists we might need are right here. We’ve already met six more boats headed south to Mexico. San Diego will soon be overrun with us all, 128 in the Baja Ha-Ha rally alone, plus hundreds of others going independently.

We had a surprisingly relaxing cruise south, with no really exciting parts; in our opinion, anything exciting on a boat is not good! Now . . . to start on that long to-do list . . .


Previous log    Next log


                                                                              Home | Log Books | Photos | Videos | Raven | Crew

                                                                          Cruising Life | Press Clippings | ChartsCruising Tech | FAQ