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A Beautiful but Tempestuous Coast

Since we are well into October we thought it best to boogie down the California coast as quick as we can since frankly, we are tired of wool socks and mildew was still sprouting everywhere on the boat. And we are only weeks away from crossing the border into Mexico. Oh my!

We waited out some southerly weather in Half Moon Bay for a few days, then as soon as it abated started down the coast again towards Monterey Bay. We stopped into Santa Cruz for the night, making the dire mistake of taking the girls for an evening walk to the famous boardwalk. There were copious amounts of tears as we looked through the gates of the darkened amusement park and the charming carousel horses. A couple of scoops of ice-cream though and spirits were soon lifted.

Oh glorious non-moving land!

The next day, after a good romp around the beach, we had a perfect sail across the bay to Monterey: sunny, clear blue skies, steady 12 knots of wind on the beam for 20 miles. Marvelous. We anchored out off the harbor for several nights and enjoyed a day-long visit to the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium. Heavy swells were predicted to come rolling down from the northwest again (making the anchorage very uncomfortable) so we took to the dock our last two nights in Monterey. We also once again waited out a southerly weather system which brought lots of wind and amazing amounts of rain for the area.

The weather finally shifted in our favor again and we set off for our first overnight sail as a family to Morro Bay. I’m happy to say the night went flawlessly; we left Monterey right at noon and picked up 15-20 knots from the northwest as soon as we cleared the bay and started south. It was a beautiful night: a clear sky full of stars, a nearly-full moon ahead of us, a path of moonlight lighting our course south. The wind stayed with us until after midnight, then it was glassy until our arrival at Morro Bay at 0900 the next morning. Michael and I took our usual watches of 3 hours each and the girls slept through the whole night like it was any other.

We only spent one night in Morro Bay as our weather window to round Point Conception (the “Cape Horn of the Pacific” according to our Charlie’s Charts guidebook) was already upon us with nearly gale-force winds forecast later in the week. So off we were again. The forecast was for 15-20 with gusts of 25 around the Cape so we stayed well off the coast fearing a Blanco-like situation. I was so nervous I got seasick – incapacitatingly seasick — for the very first time ever and Michael had to manage the boat for nearly the entire 100-mile trip. He is truly amazing!

The world's best aquarium (dolphins playing with Wondertime, enroute to Ventura)

The passage turned out to be perfect and my anxiety was all for nothing of course. We rolled out the genoa once outside the Morro Bay bar and sailed the entire way into San Miguel Island. We even got to put our spinnaker up for a few hours just north of Point Conception. Indeed, our highest winds were about 25 knots but Wondertime was just delighted and rolled and boogied down the waves with ease. Michael had to slow the boat down so we could enter the harbor at daybreak and it was such a relief to set the Rocna in the still-windy but non-moving waters of stunning Cuyler Harbor.

Our first day at San Miguel was spent napping and watching movies but on the second day we were fit to launch the dinghy, head ashore with our friends on Convivia, play on the huge sugary sand dunes and watch the white waves roll into shore from the turquoise sea. It was a delightful afternoon.

Until the wind. It was already quite breezy when we took the dinghy into shore but we were all aware that the number of whitecaps on the water were steadily increasing, sand was starting to blow around us and our boats looked like they were rolling a lot more than when we’d left them. It was time to head back. Swell had started to roll into the bay so we had our first dinghy launching into the surf which went flawlessly thankfully.

Hot hot hot!

The next 12 hours were spent clinging to Wondertime as steady 30-knot winds came blasting down the hillsides with sharp williwaws easily twice that speed being thrown at us like daggers. We actually had spindrift flying past us and two foot chop coming from the shore just a few hundred feet in front of us. It was enough wind to pick our new RIB dinghy up and fly it into the air like a kite as we were trying to heave it back onboard between gusts. We slept none too soundly that night.

But our mighty anchor held and the wind had eased by morning. With a huge swell rolling into the bay we were rolling gunnel to gunnel  and were happy to hoist our chain and set off for Ventura. Along the way we shed our fleece, wool socks and hats as the temperature got warmer and warmer with each mile we traveled east. We have finally reached our perpetual summer. And a calm harbor for a long, long, nap.


  1. Garth says:

    Fantastic description… Wish I was on the overnight! Like the picture of Leah looking down at the dolphins…

  2. Don Feld says:

    I just dropped into your website after reading about you folks signing up for the Puddle Jump in Latitude 38. I was curious to find out about your boat, so I “Googled” it, and found your website! You have a wonderful family. I am retired, but my wife is still an elementary school teacher. So, I went back to work as a school bus driver! I have been sailing on and off most of my life, but have not made any off-shore trips(yet). We live near Sacramento, about 65 miles north-east in the foothills not far from where The 49’ers discovered gold. We have a Santana 2023 water ballast sailboat. We sail around here in lakes, but my favorite sailing is in the San Fransisco Bay. We have trailered our boat to Los Angeles and have made a few trips to Catalina Island. I’ll do my best to follow you adventures vicariously on the internet. By the way, I am an Amateur Radio operator. Do you have SSB on board? Do you check into the Ham Radio Maritime Mobile Net on 14.313mHz or Marine Nets? What nets do you check into? Best regards to you the the family. Don