After leaving San Pedro our last stop in the USA was San Diego which is only 20 miles from the Mexican border. We broke the passage with a night at the yacht club at Dana Point; an interesting little burg made famous by its description in the book “Two Years Before the Mast” by R.H. Dana. He left Boston in 1834 aboard the trading brig Pilgrim and spent sixteen months man-handling rawhides up and down the southern California coast. Statues of him abound around the town and a reproduction of the Pilgrim lies in the bay.
We spent our first night in San Diego in Mission Bay; a large shallow inlet which lies to the north of the city. Low bridges prevent sailboats from accessing most of the bay but Mariners Cove is a peaceful lagoon close to the entrance where we dropped anchor as the sun was setting. We didn’t actually go ashore but continued on to San Diego Bay the next day. Anchoring in San Diego is much easier than San Pedro. The first port of call is the Harbor Police dock where your boat is inspected and then a 30-day permit for anchorage area A-9 is issued . . . simple as that!
The A-9 anchorage is very conveniently located; it’s a short walk along the waterfront to get downtown to the grocery stores, the Maritime Museum and USS Midway, and a short walk uphill to the laundromat and Balboa Park. The downside is that the anchorage is located between the US Coastguard Station and the runway of the international airport. Aircraft are continuously coming and going and the noise pollution is off the scale! We stayed for a week or so and once we’d got our bikes ashore in the dinghy we had a good look around.
We both agreed that the San Diego Maritime Museum was one of the best maritime museums we’ve been to (and we’ve been to quite a few!) It is located aboard a collection of ships ranging from a reproduction of a 1542 Spanish galleon, British eighteenth century British warship, a US and a Soviet submarine, and the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship. We had a fine time poking around on the various vessels, its great fun to be able to touch stuff: to pull on the blocks and tackle, to sit at the Captain’s table and to climb into a bunk on a submarine! Several of the vessels are still undergoing renovation so we were fascinated to look into the bosun’s locker and the carpenter’s shop and see the tools, techniques and the work in progress.
Another day we went on board the aircraft carrier USS Midway. Years ago when I was a wee bairn I was taken aboard HMS Ark Royal in Plymouth for a visit and lunch – a great honour no doubt but I don’t have much memory of the visit apart from the lunch so it was interesting to have a another look around an aircraft carrier. The hanger on USS Midway is enormous, like four Warner Bros studios in one space (have I been in CA for too long?). There was a pretty comprehensive collection of aircraft on deck, they were raised from the hanger below two at a time on massive elevator platforms. The guides were old servicemen and women who loved to tell a story or two about their days on the carriers; we learnt why they have two runways and saw the arresting wires which catch the planes when they land.
Before we left the States we wanted to go to a gridiron football game so one Saturday afternoon we went to a match between the San Diego Toreros and the Drake University Bulldogs. I’ve seen American football on TV but it was still a bit of a surprise when around a hundred big, solid, athletic looking blokes with padded shoulders, helmets and legs like tree trunks ran out onto the pitch. Even when I figured out that they had two separate teams, an offence and a defence, it still seemed like a bit of a crowd.
It was a beautiful day, we ate hot dogs and burgers and enjoyed watching the game. The stops when they swapped out one team for another were frustrating and I found it difficult to follow the play, particularly because I had absolutely no idea of the rules! Still it was an all American experience with great people-watching – but next time I’d rather go to a rugby match or an Aussie Rules game.
We spent our last couple of days in San Diego Bay in Chula Vista, way down at the southern end. It was a more convenient location to stock up on provisions and clean water as further south on the west coast of Baja California opportunities to top up might be few and far between. Bus trips to Costco and bike rides to the supermarket turned us into dumb pack animals for a day but soon the freezer was full, the water was topped up and we were on our way to Mexico.
More from south of the border soon