We’ve spent the last three weeks harbor-hopping. First we stopped in Newport Beach, then Dana Point, Mission Bay and now San Diego. Each place has its own character and way of doing things, so it’s kind of like starting over each time we move. We’re learning a lot about what to expect, and eventually it should start to feel more familiar – right? 🙂
Newport Beach was a wonderful harbor, and “extremely well-utilized”, as Dan put it. There were marinas packed cheek-to-jowl, a few places where one could rent a mooring ball, and one teeny, tiny (free) anchorage. We chose the anchorage, where we were able to be near our friends on Stone Age. There is a series of public dinghy docks scattered around the harbor, so it was very convenient to take our dinghy to shore to run errands. We arrived at the busiest time of the day/week, and it was challenging to thread our way down the channel through all of the traffic (which included 3 or 4 sailboat races, scullers, crewers, ferries and copius other recreational traffic) to the anchorage. We saw quite a few other races and group lessons, but this day had more than any other. A local vendor, Duffy, had designed an electric boat that really hit a chord in this town. We saw dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of them! They’re cute little vessels, somewhat reminiscent of a golf cart on the water. Lots of people are using paddleboards for exercise (and transport?). This looks like a surfboard, and they use a long oar from a standing position to move themselves around. We continue to see these throughout California, along with kayaks. The most unusual thing we saw here was a guy wearing a turbo thruster pack on his back that sucked up water and blasted it down, causing him to be propeled 10-15 feet up in the air. It was really cool! The downside was that he had to drag a floating unit behind him, probably the power source, which limited his range and height. Newport Beach also had an amazing chandlery, Minney’s, which had two floors of great boat stuff at fantastic prices, and some really friendly staff. We spent probably twice what we should have, and purchased probably 4 times what we thought we were looking for! (And they told us that because we bought so little, it was clear that we’d done a good job of planning ahead!) The anchorage has a limit of 5 days per month, so once we picked up our sails and starter from the repair shop we moved on.
The next harbor down the coast was Dana Point. We only stayed there two nights. We anchored near a marine museum which had a tall ship and a research vessel, both of which attracted hordes of schoolchildren daily. The tall ship took groups of 8 out in a long-boat tender, with 4 oars on each side. The skipper, dressed in a long maroon coat and triangle hat, yelled out the cadence for the kids to row. Sometimes they even matched his calls. 🙂 The first night we were there, we heard a strange noise that concerned us all night. It was sort of a crackling, sounded a lot like heavy rain or even hail, perhaps even like an electrical sizzle? Dan had visions of the cement flaking off the hull or the new bottom paint being blasted off the hull. We talked with the workers on the research vessel in the morning, and they told us that we were hearing snapping shrimp. These guys snap their claws so quickly that a cavitation bubble is formed and burst, and reportedly even makes a burst of light. This makes a very loud noise that stuns their prey or attracts their mate, depending on which web site you believe. Apparently this is the fastest animal movement known to science. Go figure! The marina is on the outskirts of town, so we weren’t able to get much work done, but the small harbor is pleasant and we enjoyed our stay.
Mission Bay was our next stop. On the way, we crossed the path of a huge school of dolphins, perhaps 100 animals. They were not interested in playing with our bow wave, but some were leaping fully out of the water – incredible! It only took them 10 minutes to pass our track at a 45 degree angle. Late for a 9am convention? Mission Bay is actually within the city limits of San Diego, but we were trying to delay our entry into San Diego to overlap as little as possible with the crowds of the Baja Ha-ha. This annual event attracts upwards of 170 boats into San Diego for a late-October departure to head down the coast en masse. It sounds like a lot of fun, and we considered joining them until we realized that their schedule was more structured (and MUCH faster) than we’re looking for. They get all the way down to Los Cabos in about two weeks, and we’re now hoping to take 6-8! We heard more of the snapping shrimp in Mission Bay, by now familiar friends. The anchorage here is surrounded by a sand beach, so we beached our dinghy when we went into town for a stroll. The town (as we saw it) largely consisted of an arcade/amusement park, including a roller coaster. There’s a beautiful beach with breaking waves, the classic California scene. They also have a very nice series of nightly sunsets, which seems to run continuously year-round, although the time varies slightly so be sure to check local listings so you don’t miss it.
Our final California destination is San Diego. They have a huge harbor, with an intense military presence. On our way into the main entrance, we saw a number of war ships conducting exercises, including a submarine moving around on the surface – you don’t see one of those every day! The first stop is the Harbor Police dock, to get a permit for one of the anchorages – there are 3 for folks like us! We got a permit for an anchorage and temporarily joined the ranks of the San Diego Bouncers. These are folks who move from one anchorage to another, as the policies require. One anchorage is only available on the weekends, others allow only a 3-day or 30-day stay, sometimes you have to leave town and stay somewhere else, like Mission Bay.
Kathy’s sister Jean came to visit for a week, and we all really enjoyed the contact! We watched the Baja Ha-ha departure parade, which was a festive event, with lots of flags and a fire boat making a 50-foot fountain. We spent one night at the Harbor Police dock and stayed in 3 different anchorages while she was here, giving Jean a sense of what this life is like. We went back to Mission Bay for one night, and Kathy & Jean rode the roller coaster – woohoo! We sailed a little bit out on the ocean, looking for whales and dolphins, but didn’t have any mammalian sightings until we got back into the sheltered anchorage. Then a small pod of dolphins circled around our group of boats – and exonerated our claims! We ended up in an anchorage very near the airport, with a public dinghy dock fairly nearby. While she was with us, we enjoyed numerous conversations about life perspectives, family, dreams, etc. What a treat! We strolled through Little Italy, visited a bicycle shop, and removed our starter (twice), bowthruster motor and hydraulic pump to send off to repair shops. 🙁
We have been practising our (pathetically inadequate) Spanish and Kathy learned her first two guitar chords yesterday. We expect to spend today and tomorrow dealing with official paper work, preparing for our entry into Mexico. We need Mexican liability insurance and Temporary Import Papers and fishing licenses and Tourist Visas and an official crew list and Mexican Ham licenses and …
The hydraulic pump is being replaced with a new one, which should arrive tomorrow, but the starter and the bow thruster are happily back in place and functioning well. The solar panels we installed just before we left Portland are a God send. They are covering about 90% of our power requirements and the days will continue to lengthen and the sun light strengthen as we head further south. We are only running our generator about an hour a day. The water maker is also functioning perfectly in these waters. We are very self sufficient at this point and, assuming the fishing is good, could probably live for 6 months at anchor without need of external resources.
Today we rode aroung town on our bicycles, running errands, but also just enjoying life. The bicycles have been a wonderful component in our game-plan. They’re fun, can be tossed in the dinghy for transport to and from shore, have virtually no usage costs, and broaden our range four-fold, allowing us to both see more of the local town and access more of the services that we need. Although they will certainly succumb to rust (the salt water is impossibly corrosive!), we will certainly replace them when the time comes. The fall leaves are starting to turn here in San Diego, so it must be time to move on again. We are almost ready to cast off and continue heading further south. Our next port of call will be in Mexico!
(Looks like we don’t have any photos with us today, they’re back at the boat, still in the camera. If we track down internet access again before we leave this weekend, we’ll try to upload some.)
Once we leave San Diego, our internet access is going to get even scantier – and you didn’t think that was possible! Our U.S. cell-phones will probably not work, and even if they did, there probably aren’t too many cell towers on this rugged coast. There aren’t very many towns, so there will be even fewer internet cafe’s. We’re hoping to get some stuff done with our ham/SSB radio, but it’s new to us, so we may have limited success. That’s all a long way of saying that it may be a while until the next post – don’t worry: we’ll be back! We expect to be in Puerto Vallarta to meet Kathy’s family in mid-January, so that’s the worst case. In the meantime, enjoy life: we certainly plan on doing so!