us west coast
In August 2016, we sailed down the west coast of the United States. We left Canada with our friends Kim and Claudia from the sailboat Essencia, leaving in good, but grey weather. The coast was foggy. We stayed roughly 40 nm out, and kept our eyes on the radar because we could not trust our eyes. Most of the traffic was closer inland. Others had professed that being 100 nm away was better, but we did not think it necessary.
Newport, OR. We completed our first 3-day passage, making a first stop in Newport, Oregon to wait for some bad weather to pass in the Cape Mendocino area. When the wind picks up here, the weather along the coast can get very bad. Luckily, there were many spots that we could tuck into to wait it out. Newport has a really good brewery (Rogue's) near the marina, and it is an easy walk across the Yaquina bridge to the main town. We met our good friends Morgan and Douglas from SY Tumbleweed while in port, we learned that they too had plans to sail to Japan—let's just say that we became fast friends.
Fort Bragg, CA. We parted ways with both Tumbleweed and Essencia, but met again many more times in other ports. After leaving Newport, we suffered many calms and had to stop at Fort Bragg to refuel. On our way into the harbor, we saw many whales. The sea was so calm that we could see and hear them well. Our autopilot too was giving us problems, and we thought we could try and fix it while in port. Fort Bragg was a really fun fishing town, but the narrow, winding river leading to it was scary to motor through. We picked apples from a local orchard, and played badminton while waiting for the wind to return. The marina did not have a gas station, but locals drove us to one to fill our bins (so nice of them). The belt for out autopilot was damaged, but we couldn't find the part here and decided to wait till we arrived in San Francisco. On the sail there, the gennaker that came with our boat tore in half. We kept it up in too much wind, and it did not like that...
San Francisco, CA. We anchored in Drake's Bay to wait for slack tide at the Golden Gate Bridge. We'd read of horror stories of boats being overwhelmed by waves, so we thought it wise to wait. We used the iron wind to pass under the iconinc red bridge, to find a very busy harbor filled with expensive racing boats, and kite surfers. We anchored in multiple places while there, like in the Aquatic Park and Treasure Island. Getting to town was easy from both of these anchorages. But both are very public, and we had to lock our dinghy when ashore. Because we did not have an outboard, I think that doing this was not problematic. No one was interested in iggy enough to take it.
We woke up one morning, while anchored in the Aquatic Park, to a large crowd of spectators ashore. Then, we noted people swimming in the water. It was the day of a swimming race to Alcatraz. People swam around Pino to get to their target, while we watched, intrigued and impressed.
We spent our days walking around town, working from cafes, and meeting up with friends. It was easy to find boat parts here, we found a used outboard motor and replaced our torn gennaker when moored in Alameda. Our last moorage was Berkeley Marina, joining our friends Essencia and Tumbleweed. We explored the area by bicycle, as usual, and made some repairs for our sail south. We found that cycling in many American cities was challenging, due to traffic.
While in San Francisco, we serviced the water pump but coming out of the marina, we started to have engine issues. Our engine was overheating. Luckily, there was good wind to carry us out into the ocean. We stopped at San Simeon Bay, because the wind died yet again. The next day we sailed off anchor for the first time, to spare our engine of this task.
San Luis Obispo. Our engine issues forced us to stop at San Luis Obispo. Some mechanics onshore helped us diagnose our problem from afar, and we made the repair ourselves. As it turned out, the engine was overheating because the raw water pipes were full of salt, the thermostat too was seized. We cleared the pipes and removed the thermostat, with plans to replace it once we arrived in Los Angeles. Our engine did not give us more trouble after that. The sail to Los Angeles though was eventful...
Los Angeles. We had good wind most of the way, but when in transit south of Malibu we heard a Mayday call on the radio. We followed the events for a while, and were reassured when the coastguard found the boat. We saw them motor toward us, thinking we were the boat in distress, but we waved them off. They disappeared in the dark and that was that! We spent a few days in the biggest marina we'd ever seen: Marina Del Rey. We saw boats with helicopters as dinghies, a show of extreme opulence. While at this marina, we met the sailor who had issued the MayDay. His boat had suffered a bad storm further north. It wrecked his boat. He was adrift in the water and contacted authorities. They found him, but the coastguard damaged his boat trying to rescue him. Then, when he was successfully towed to shore, his wife left him. He was trying to light a cigarette with a battery when we met him, cursing the coastguard and saying he had plans to sue them. We offered him a lighter.
We went to a game conference while here, but did not attend the event because we had no tickets. We hung around anyway, staying with friends between events. We traveled around by bike still, and found a really great trail that could get us almost anywhere, safely. It is true that this city has many highways, and that it is a car city, but we still found ways to get around.
San Diego. Our last stop in the US was San Diego. As we sailed in, we saw a destroyer doing some drills outside of the harbor, going in circle and asking boats to stay away. Then, as we approached the entrance channel, we worked our way through a mine field of crab pots... only to get caught in some seaweed further in. The boat slowed to a crawl. We started to motor backwards and managed to get out of that trap. Prior to trying to motor back, we waved down a small fishing boat to ask for help. They didn't want to help, saying that if they did and suffered damage that their insurance wouldn't cover it. We understood this, as the threat of having to pay large sums of cash is very scary and very real... but thought it sad that people would, or could not risk helping others because of it. We anchored in Glorietta Bay, and spent 2 weeks there, waiting for good weather to sail to Ensenada in mexico.
We rowed iggy to shore everyday to Coronado Island to work from a cafe. This was another place full of rich homes and golf courses. The coffee in town was terrible, but we needed internet and power to work and the coffee shop provided both. There was an outdoor pool nearby, which we visited often, paying a small fee to use it and the showers. We liked taking long bike rides from the island to the main part of town, but bike theft is a serious issue here. We caught someone trying to cut our locks while we were inside a store for 5 minutes (literally) in Midway District.
We were anchored right near the San Diego aquatic military base, and could hear announcements and sirens every morning. One night, we saw soldiers doing drills in the water, diving with lights with small boats following them. The American military is no joke. Many large battle ships lined the shore.
Our spot in Glorietta Bay was interesting, but it was far from the main town, and we had nowhere to move to. All anchorages nearby were full because of the Baja Haha Regatta. The sailors taking part in the event move in large groups and take over every bay in passing. We realized then it was maybe best to know their schedule next time, to avoid them. When they left, we had more room to move and found a spot at Shelter island police dock to fill our water. This is where we bought turnip.
We loved our time here. Our favorite part of the trip was seeing the landscape change as we moved south, from lush green to orange and deserted. The United States occupies a large, and varied territory. Its people are kind, and generous. When we had problems, no one refused to help us. We had a great time, and wish we could have made many more stops.