US West Coast,  Voyage

Making it all on our own

Our arrival to San Francisco Bay marked a transition – our dedicated crew, Drew and Steve, were leaving us and we were about to continue the journey on our own.

Picking up and sailing with a crew is an interesting two-way partnership. We put a lot of trust in each other and we are going through sometimes stressful times and staying together in really closed spaces. We get to know each other quite well. I think we were extremely fortunate with our crew. Both Steve and Drew stuck with us through thick and thin and helped us get through the most challenging part of our voyage. We are grateful to keep them both as friends and hope to see each other in the future. This is in contrast to so many other stories we have heard from fellow cruisers – captains frustrated with the crew, crew not happy with captains or with the boats, and so on. It turns out it is rare to have this good experience we had.

We celebrated our arrival with a nice dinner in one of the waterfront restaurants at Sausalito and said goodbyes to each other. The next day we had the boat to ourselves and we had to remind ourselves how we are going to run it with just the two of us.

But first, we got to enjoy a bit of the Bay Area. Sausalito was the first surprise. Despite being in San Franciso and vicinity by car and by plane many times in the past years, we have never managed to get to that little gem. It reminded us of some little Mediterranean towns – the houses covering the hills over the bay all lit up at night, the little coffee places, and many small restaurants, most people walking or biking the many trails, the sunny and warm climate in the late September. It was just such a nice mix. We took many walks along the waterfront. We also rented bikes and rode to the base of Golden Gate Bridge and through the parks surrounding it. We also run into our friends from s/v Sacagawea and got to tour the fantastic Bay Area Model together. That was an interesting experience – a physical large-scale model of the whole bay with the simulation of the coming and going tides.

After that treat, we moved to Alameda and used it as a base for more exploration. Alameda itself turned out to be a somewhat boring location, mostly residential with not many places to go and no good transportation. Nothing was close to the marina and lacking a car or a bike, we had to walk everywhere. But we took a ferry to downtown SF and toured its many museums and sights. Our attempt to navigate the city by bus and train turned out to be a bit of a challenge at first – we ended up on a train in the wrong direction and then took a bus to the wrong museum location. But eventually, we figured it out, just needed some time.

The highlight of SF tour was the Legion of Honor museum with its great collection of European paintings. On the way back from the museum we found a Polish grocery store and treated ourselves to a good selection of our favorite cheeses and cold meats.

  • Inside the Legion of Honor gallery
  • William Bouguereau - The Broken Pitcher
  • Claude Monet - Water Lilies
  • Auguste Rodin
  • The Thinker by Auguste Rodin
  • View of San Francisco from the museum

We were anxious to get going and since we have been in SF area many times before we decided to not stay there longer. The right window to exit the Bay opened up on Saturday, 9/25, and we went. We got pushed out by a nice current and entered the Pacific with its swells and winds again. The first leg was on purpose a gentle one – just a 20-mile sail to Half Moon Bay. We sailed all the way there in gentle winds. The swell was big and required some getting used to again.

Half Moon Bay is the first possible stop south of San Francisco. After rounding Pillar Point with its prominent white radar dome and military installations boats can stop in Pillar Point Harbor. The harbor offers a large anchorage protected by a breakwater – a really nice place to stop and rest. Within it, there is a second breakwater protecting the marina. The marina holds a large fishing fleet and offers slips to transient boaters. Marina has showers and laundry, not the best ones, but usable. On the shore, there is a little town, quiet and charming, with many nice restaurants and pubs, and a small grocery store. On weekends the local fishermen sell their catch for really good prices. There are miles of hikes along the shore and one can walk the entirety of the beach facing the bay. Halfway through the bay, there is a town of Half Moon Bay. It can also be reached by bus #17 from the marina that also stops at the larger shopping center.

View of the Pillar Point Harbor with outer and inner breakwaters and the marina

Half Moon Bay turned out to be an important stop. Only here did we really catch our breath and had time to relax, explore and rest. We realized we have time and we can actually do cruising, it does not need to wait until later. We can savor the places we are in, enjoy the company of fellow boaters, explore, rest, do what we like. We still need to watch the weather and decide when to go to the next place but in between, we can have time to ourselves. Somehow that decompression did not fully happen in San Francisco and had to wait till now.

We caught up with the fellow boaters from Coho Ho Ho. s/v Priya and s/v Maya, and s/v Pasargada stopped there at the same time and we enjoyed swapping stories over beers.

We finally are enjoying California

September end came and October brought good weather to jump to the next stop. We left with the first light and covered the roughly 50 miles to Santa Cruz by the late afternoon. Santa Cruz welcomed us with warm winds, busy beaches, and many boats on the water for a Friday evening sail. We anchored out next to the famous wharf and stayed on the boat.

This was the first really rolly anchorage for us and we definitely did not enjoy it. It was hard to sleep. In the morning we decided to leave for Monterey, but first, we went ashore for a coffee. It seemed like a simple task, but there are no simple tasks when you are cruising. Especially when you are on anchor. Santa Cruz is not really facilitating that. There is a big wharf but it only has one small landing dock at the water level. And that dock happened to be occupied by a family of sea lions. Those may seem like funny animals when you are looking at them high from the wharf and laughing at the noises they make and the pushing and shoving going on between them. It’s quite a different view when you are at eye level with them. They are big animals and not very scared of people. We splashed them with water, a trick we have heard supposed to get them to move. It worked for the smaller females, but the big male has only shifted by a few feet. We would have to have a firehose to scare him. Well, we had no choice and had to climb the ladder up to the wharf while watching the big sea lion watching us from a few feet away. The nature up close and personal.

We walked the main waterfront street, between the amusement rides and souvenir shops, but could not find a decent coffee. Eventually, we found some semi-decent one. And that was so much for exploring Santa Cruz. We got back, prepared for a departure, and sailed away.

The sailing to Monterey was very enjoyable, on a beam reach with moderate winds and a very settled swell. It got foggy 1 mile away from Santa Cruz and remained foggy until a mile away from Monterey. But we still liked it, saw whales and dolphins, and arrived in beautiful Monterey in mid-afternoon. We knew we were going to meet more friends here and we felt like we were finally settling into a nice rhythm of cruising life.

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