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.


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.


7 thoughts on “An Odd Juxtaposition

  1. R&R, elk horn slough is were Rena and I kayaked with cousins david and lynn when they were driving up the California coast. We were some of those rookie type paddlers you alluded to, and you’re right , we had a great time. some nice hiking up the slough but need some wheels to get there. For eats give the whole enchilada a look see. Some different things on the menu but a bit dear for Mexican food. Where to next ? Monterey I suspect.


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