Coastal hopping south of San Francisco


The River Theatre in Guerneville is a funky time capsule with live music

It was sad to be leaving our friends in San Francisco Bay but we had a very sociable week catching up with them all to say cheerio. Nancy and Warwick invited us to a concert of their friend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Jack is a legend in the Bay area and has made over fifty albums of his brand of cowboy music. Between songs he meanders off into stories about life – he’s a fascinating character and it was a pleasure to meet him afterwards. He played at the historic River Theatre in Guerneville, about an hour and a half north of Sausalito. The theatre is decorated with an eclectic collection of giant papier-mache figures, old neon signs and soda fountains, and various other memorabilia – it is a destination in itself.


The quadrangle at Stanford University – peaceful on a Sunday with no students

We took San Francisco public transport by the horns to head down to Palo Alto, the pulsing heart of Silicon Valley, to spend the day with our friend Shannon. She took us for a tour around the Googleplex which surprisingly is not a complex of massive office blocks but a loose aggregate of about forty low-rise buildings. It must be challenging to manage such a large organisation in such a diverse office space but it seems to work. We also visited the Stanford University campus and were really impressed with the “Mission meets Romanesque” style of the architecture (my words not theirs) of the quadrangle.


Stepping the lower Main mast on the Matthew Turner

We stayed in Sausalito for the mast stepping of the Matthew Turner – the tall ship that we had volunteered a few day’s work on. We watched as the lower Main and Foremasts were raised by a barge-mounted crane then stepped and secured into place. The mast steps were lined with silver dollars and other talisman that traditionally bless seamen with good luck and safe passage.

Sylvia and Barry have been generous and hospitable hosts to us during our stay in Sausalito and we can’t thank them enough for their kindness. We enjoyed another wonderful evening together at their home in the San Geronimo hills. The house is surrounded by woods but the trees are sparse enough to allow the low rays of the late afternoon sun to dapple through – it’s a very serene spot.


Mavericks surf spot on a quiet dull day

So now we continue our passage south, the next major stop will be San Pedro (near Los Angeles). We left San Francisco in light winds for the short hop to Half Moon Bay. We had a lovely walk along the cliff top to Mavericks, the world famous big wave surf spot. There wasn’t much swell so no surfing action but it picked up the next day and we had a vigorous crossing to Santa Cruz. We dropped the anchor beside the pier but regretted it later as the constant stream of noisy barking and grunting from the sea lion colony under the pier kept us awake half the night. Santa Cruz is like Blackpool on steroids, the shops and restaurants and the amusement park on the boardwalk attracting tourists like fruit flies. It was shamelessly tacky and full of fairground kitsch – we loved it.


The king of Santa Cruz

The next day we had a beautiful sail down to Monterey. We strolled along Cannery Row but didn’t pay the breath-taking fee of $75 each to go into the Aquarium; we probably see most of the exhibits from the back deck. The density and diversity of sea mammals on the west coast of California is remarkable. We frequently see Humpback whales, dolphins and porpoises when we are sailing and in the harbours seals, sea lions and sea otters are a constant source of entertainment.


Warwick “Commodore” Tompkins and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott on a road trip

In Monterey we met up with Warwick and Ramblin’ Jack again who had come down from Sausalito to meet us. A friend of Warwick’s showed us around the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute which carries out scientific research and technology development for oceanographic studies. Monterey Bay lies at the head of a massive submarine canyon which funnels sediment deep on to the ocean floor. These deposits (known as turbidites) form some of the major hydrocarbon reservoirs around the world. Having studied these formations as a geologist it was fascinating to see the ocean buoys and underwater vehicles that are used to gather data. Thanks for the tour, Andy.


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – all the fun of the fair!

We had a rip-roaring overnight passage from Monterey to Morro Bay around the Big Sur. There was a 1.5-2m swell and the wind was gusting over 40kts from behind us. We rolled in the headsail and put two reefs in the main but still we were racing along at about 7-8kts, that’s fast for us! As dawn broke we saw that we had split a seam in the mainsail, close to the top so it was not debilitating but it will need to be hand sewn before we move on again. Towards noon we rounded Morro Rock, the sugarloaf mountain of Central California, and dropped anchor in the beautifully calm water behind the sand spit at Morro Bay.


A split in the main sail – not a happy sight

We dropped the sail and yesterday was a day of stitching and finger stabbing, I felt like Snow White dripping blood on our snowy white sail. The split was about 1.5m long so that’s 1,350 stitches, yes I counted them! Neil had a day of struggling with pumps, first the sump pump then the bilge pump – still a work in progress. The sea otters swimming around the boat are gorgeous to watch; their bodies are sleek and sinuous as they dive then they surface and swim on their backs clutching a clam and a rock. Their furry, whiskered faces seem to concentrate as they hit the clam with the rock to open it, then they eat it and do it all again.


A sea otter eating clams – they’re such laid back but playful creatures

Last night we dropped by the Morro Bay Yacht Club and enjoyed meeting some of the locals. It’s a nice little berg and the folk are friendly; not a bad place to hang out for Labor Day weekend.

Cheers for now



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