Getting to Southern California from San Francisco
Oct 14 - 18, 2015
We've been enjoying the past two weeks of cruising, in slowed-down style. Urgent boat needs have been attended to and we have rounded Pt Conception, which has been referred to as “The Cape Horn of California, where it begins to blow the first of January, and blows all the year round." (Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Two Years Before The Mast [a very good read, btw]). While our own experiences passing this geographical point were not so trying, there has definitely been a change in weather for the better. It's warmer here, the breezes softer, and the water a swimmable 18 – 21 C.
Short Hop From San Francisco
We headed out from San Francisco Bay on the last of the morning's ebb tide, dodged an incoming freighter just past the Golden Gate Bridge, and turned south towards Half Moon Bay. Soon after, a fogbank skulked in from offshore and we started blowing our foghorn (the manual one). Because Half Moon Bay is close by (only a few hours) we proceeded slowly away from the shipping lanes and it wasn't very stressful. Other than sighting a few small runabouts out fishing, there was just us, the buoys and the sea lions.
We found the anchorage entrance using GPS, confirmed by periodic toots of the breakwater's foghorn, and dropped anchor in the still waters of Half Moon Bay.
Half Moon Bay
When the fog cleared we could see our neighbours - a dozen or so other sailboats and numerous pelicans. These birds hung out in large social gangs on the whitewashed rocks of the breakwater - a view that made one breathless with the stench. Possibly due to all the guano about, there were zillions of small flies buzzing about. This removed any desire we had to sit around in the cockpit, so we inflated the dinghy for a shore excursion.
Walkabout in the town led us from the surf-pounded sand beach and salt marsh, up steep roads to subdivisions of large homes with lovely sub-tropical gardens, and Hallowe'en decorations (what-it's mid October already?). We finished off the afternoon with an icecream from the B&G General Store.
From Half Moon Bay to the Channel Islands is about 3 days (and nights) of sailing, and the route passes Point Conception, which marks one's entry into Southern California. Due to the coastal mountains, upwelling of cold deep-ocean water, and the way the land turns sharply eastward once past the Point, the weather here is often variable.
A forecast predicting winds up to 30 knots led us to hoist one of our smaller jibs, though we were then under-canvassed at the start of our passage. A sunny day gave way to a rather dreary sunset as we sailed under a thick overcast layer. The clouds broke up slightly during the night and we had the pleasure of the moon, stars (and the occasional stowaway fly) for intermittent company. Bjarne didn't find this too relaxing though, because upon poking his head up sometime around 0300, he thought he spotted a flash in the distance towards the coast. Barb confirmed that, yes, there was indeed some lightning storms happening over the mountains. We kept a watchful eye until dawn, but they never appeared over the water and seemed to dissipate with the rising of the sun.
Off Point Conception the winds did indeed live up to the earlier forecast, and we turned southeast to run rapidly downwind with the waves chasing us. Occasional sideswipes by swell from other directions made it advisable to have a hand ready to turn the wheel and assist Hellena (our self-steering) in returning to the proper course.
We were ready for some rest, and Bechers Bay on Santa Rosa Island offered relief from the swell. Our anchorage was close in to the steep cliffs, but the strong winds blasted right over top and kept our rigging singing most of the night.
Welcome to Southern California, and the Channel Islands!