Walking Monterey to Point Pinos

Tuesday’s foggy morning was a thing of the past on Wednesday – we woke to bright sunshine that continued all day. A thick fog bank was visible at the mouth of the bay but here inside, at Monterey, it was sunny all day.

It was a day to get tasks done. First, emptying the sanitary holding tank. We’ve been living on board at the dock; the harbor restrooms are a moderate walk away, below the harbor master’s office. Not too inconvenient during the day, but a long walk in the wee hours of the morning. Thus, the holding tank has been holding … Continue reading

Eco-Tourists

Moss Landing, CA

On our fifth day in Moss Landing, Sunday October 11, we took a tour of the lower Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve on Whisper Charters with Captain Brian Ackerman. Continuing our exploration of the environment and wildlife of this area the charter tour allowed us to go up about 3.5 miles into the Elkhorn Slough. Continue reading

An Odd Juxtaposition

Moss Landing, California

Wednesday I rigged the boat for a sail from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing. Anticipating light winds I rigged the light air drifter – our sea star sail. We even invited Steve and Nikki to take a drive on East Cliff Drive and see Velic under sail with the sea star sail flying. As soon as we cleared the jetties it was obvious that we had a lot more wind than the drifter was designed for. So the genoa (a head sail larger than the fore triangle) went up with a reefed mainsail. It was a fast, romping sail from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing; 14.7 nm (nautical miles) in 3 ½ hours, including departure and docking.

Entrance jetty at Moss Landing

Entrance jetty at Moss Landing

Moss Landing is an interesting and odd juxtaposition of sights, smells, sounds, and experiences.

 

 

 

 

ML Power Plant

Power plant dominates the small town and harbor

Twin towers of a power plant dominate the scene. These are so large as to be visible from Santa Cruz when it’s not too hazy. Beneath the towers, the power plant hulks over the small town and harbor like the Borg.

The beach in Moss Landing North Harbor

The beach in Moss Landing North Harbor. Many species of birds share the beach and water with seals and otters.

And yet Moss Landing is in the middle of the Monterey Bay shore, about half way from Santa Cruz at the north end and Monterey at the south end. It’s also at the shoreward terminus of the magnificent Monterey Canyon. All underwater, the canyon is only visible on the nautical chart depth contour lines. We must imagine its seascape as it dives from less than 300 feet deep to over 3,600 in a few miles.

Local Resident

A local resident keeps an eye on me

On shore, the landscape is flat and filled with small rivers and streams feeding estuaries and wetlands. The place is teeming with wildlife and much of the land and water is state parks, public beaches, and the Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve. Highway 1 cuts right through it all, providing background noise of traffic offset by constant bird calls, seal snorts, and sea lion barks.

Otters and Kayaks

Otters float as kayakers gawk

We took a great walk yesterday, Thursday October 8, around the North Harbor where Velic lies at the Elkhorn Yacht Club guest dock. Then out the Jetty Road to the state beach and had a picnic lunch overlooking the harbor entrance. The harbor is home to a colony of southern Sea Otters, who patiently tolerate hordes of human kayakers paddling around and taking pictures. Literally dozens of kayaks are launched here daily to paddle the small harbor and up into the Elkhorn estuary. Some kayakers are very competent and comfortable, but most are total newbies having a grand time on the water.

Otters

Mother and pup otter feed near the dike road

While every harbor has both its showboats and derelicts, Moss Landing seems to have its fair share. The south harbor is quite a bit larger than it appears from sea or even on the charts, and is tattooed by two aging and decrepit square riggers, along with many other seemingly abandoned recreational and commercial boats. The majority of boats appear well cared for and some quite highly varnished and polished. Here in the north harbor there are a dozen, I counted 12, true derelict boat of about 70 in the moorage: a 17% DBR (derelict boat rate). A much higher rate than Sausalito, with “gold platers” in the marinas and a few derelicts in mooring field. For this performance metric I am not counting those boats relatively clean in appearance, but with so much sea growth on the bottom, rudders, and propellers that they probably can’t move.

Slowing Down

Santa Cruz, California

We left Sausalito on Monday around noon, motoring out under the Golden Gate Bridge on the tail end of a flood tide. Clearing Point Lobos we sailed on light westerlies down the coast. After crossing the Columbia River Bar, it struck me that leaving the Golden Gate was the last time I will need to deal with strong currents and big tides for a long time.

An unfortunate incident occurred nearby: a small sailboat ran aground on the beach at Ocean Shores, at the western end of Golden Gate Park. We heard later via marine radio that no one was hurt. We had a nice sail on light southwest winds and a flat sea, sailing close hauled most of the day heading south. By late afternoon we arrived in Half Moon Bay. The harbor is protected by two sets of jetties, the inner jetties surrounding the marina. We chose to anchor in the calm outer harbor, within the first set of jetties, for the night. It was an easy anchorage in about 20 feet of water.

Light at Half Moon Bay with hundreds of pelicans holding court. And yes, all the white on the rocks comes from the Pelicans. The light emits a fog signal every 30 seconds all day and night.

Light at Half Moon Bay with hundreds of pelicans holding court. And yes, all the white on the rocks comes from the Pelicans. The light emits a fog signal every 30 seconds all day and night.

One of the things that makes an anchorage secure is a bottom that holds onto the anchor really well. In Half Moon Bay, the bottom is sticky mud. Good holding, but raising the anchor brought up plenty of that good, sticky mud: We had it on the anchor, on the chain, and all over the foredeck. But it’s easy to clean off later. As we were leaving, just outside the outer jetty, in waters protected by the point of land that creates Half Moon Bay, we saw a few whales that were feeding on the bottom. Surfacing occasionally, then rolling back under for quite few minutes, maybe three or four circled in the same area of the bay as we motored past.

Tuesday we raised anchor and left early, heading for Santa Cruz in Monterey Bay. The trip to Santa Cruz was a calm motor-sail. We began with a very light south wind and set the main sail to steady the boat roll. That died to nothing mid-day and a light north wind filled in behind us. It got strong enough to sail just as we reached Santa Cruz, so we decided to keep motoring for the last 40 minutes. The harbormaster very kindly gave us a berth at the end of the same dock as our friends Steve and Nikki on their 44’ powerboat “Mission.”

View out the harbor entrance. The Moore 24's and Santa Cruz 27's sail out and in without motors daily.

View out the harbor entrance. The Moore 24’s and Santa Cruz 27’s sail out and in without motors daily.

The harbor is small and dedicated to sailboats and smaller commercial fishing boats. No freighters here. Santa Cruz harbor is narrow and long, with an opening protected by a pair of short jetties but opening directly onto Monterey Bay. On the end of the starboard jetty stands a white lighthouse tower that seems to be popular with tourists walking out on the jetty.

Wednesday night we watched the local sailors take their boats out for the weekly evening yacht races. Monterey Bay would be a pretty nice place for sailboat racing. While we’ve been here we’ve observed light winds strengthening in the late afternoon but never so strong as to kick up much wave action on the Bay, so small boats, kayaks and even standup paddle boarders feel safe going out into the open water. Our friends who grew up here tell us that this end of the Bay is almost always clear and sunny, while the south end, where the city of Monterey and the famous aquarium are located, gets all the fog.

Our first few days in Santa Cruz were pretty full of social activities, all very enjoyable. We’ve met up with and shared fun times and meals with friends and family. Thursday, we had a good “stretch of the legs” walk on Año Nuevo State Park with Randy’s cousins Rod and Rena, to view an elephant seal rookery.

Cousin Rod and Ruth at Anu Nuevo

Cousin Rod and Ruth at Anu Nuevo

This is not the time of year when the seals are crowding the beach to molt and calve, so most of them had gone back to sea but there were few dozen young males hanging around. Even the young males, not yet their full weight and size, are impressive to watch as they play fight and tussle in the surf.

Ano Nuevo State Park

Ano Nuevo State Park

Friday (today) is a quiet day. We’ll get a few things done, but mostly we’ll relax and begin to really slow down.