Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

26 Miles Across the Sea

Twenty-six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me
Santa Catalina, the island of
romance, romance, romance, romance. Four Preps 1958

I have to confess that the tune and lyrics to that song were stuck in my head for way too long. Oliver Sachs calls these ditties that go round and round in the mind “brain worms”. Leaving Monterey on Thursday October 18 we expected to land on Santa Cruz Island, the Channel Island nearest to Santa Barbara, stay a night or two, then sail to Santa Catalina Island, 70 miles away.
As soon as “Santa Catalina” became fixed in my brain, so did the song. Do any of you experience the strange phenomenon of having a song pop up in your mind when hearing or reading a phrase associated with the song? And it doesn’t go away unless you supplant it with another song, which has to have a very catchy tune or it doesn’t work. And then, guess what? That tune stays fixed for way too long. So….off we went out of Monterey Bay, with sea lions doing water ballet, the water calm and friendly, and a ditty about romance stuck in my brain.


But all things change, and as soon as we rounded the cape containing Pebble Beach Golf Course, no more calm, instead winds of 20-25 knots right on the bow, and 2-3 foot choppy waves, causing the boat to bound up and down, and water to spray over the bow and right onto the windscreen. Even worse, we could only motor about 1-2 knots over water, and were seeing the same trees on the shore for over half an hour. At this point Nikk gave up, turned the boat around, and we had quite the fast sail up the coast we’d so slowly passed before, and back to Monterey. Our disappointment was eased somewhat by an evening stroll down the harbor to Cannery Row, a very filling dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and a waddle back along the harbor to the boat for what we hoped would be our last night in Monterey. We heard that 4 of the 5 boats that left in the morning to head south had to turn back. The only boat that didn’t was much larger than ours.

The next morning we left at 6am, in the muted light before dawn, with fishing boats all around us heading out for their workplace on the bay or ocean. Fog pressed in, with visibility of a quarter mile, and our eyes raptly peering at the fog and at the radar. Rounding the cape by Pebble Beach once more, there was no wind, just fog, and eerie light shining through the fog from the now sunny inland areas. In fact, there was almost no wind, contrary to predictions, and once again we motored and motored, on past Morro Bay about 1 am, and down to Point Conception, a much-feared area for sailors and boats in general, where the land turns inward to the east, and winds usually howl. Not so for us, the seas were only long, three-foot swells as we came around headed for Santa Barbara before sunset of the second day. We hoped we could get fuel and moor before the light failed. We didn’t get fuel, had to wait until the next day to take on about $130 worth, but the harbormaster checked us in, even though it was Saturday night, and came aboard to put a little fluorescent pellet in our toilet, which would show if we flushed anything from the head into the marina. We found that the marina is huge, the nearest marina toilet was about a quarter mile away, maybe farther, so there were many forced marches to the bathrooms in order not to use our holding tank.
The next morning we found out two huge yachts moored across from us had been burglarized overnight. Despite that, Santa Barbara looks like a wonderful town to visit or go to college, with scenic vistas of ocean and mountains and palm trees all around. The Breakfront Restaurant served brunch on Sunday morning out on a patio surrounded by Bird of Paradise plants. The whole marina area is filled with restaurants and shops, walkways and piers, and like Monterey, lots of boats whose business is tourism. We sailed out of Santa Barbara around noon, headed for Santa Cruz Island, and Smuggler’s Cove.


The Channel Islands are supposedly lovely, I wish I had some pictures to put up on this site, but we anchored in Smuggler’s Cove right at sunset, left at 5 am, sailed and motored across to the fabled Santa Catalina Island, sailed down almost the whole eastern side of the island, and arrived at Avalon at sunset, just in time to pay $28 to tie up to a mooring ball in the harbor. Here is a picture of Nikk handing his credit card to the Harbor Patrol.


Channel Island National Park is a link to go to see some beautiful pictures of the Channel Islands that I didn’t get to take.

We dug a steak out of the freezer for Nikk, and I polished off the last of the mac and cheese with green beans and tomatoes, supplemented with green salad and ginger snap cookies for dessert. Not our typical restaurant fare, but tasty all the same. Once again we went to bed at 9pm and got up at 5am, and I composed a song, sung to “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.
Sleeping Nine to Five
Jan has nightmares that aren’t pleasant.
Sleeping Nine to Five
Nikk’s dream gives him lots of presents.

In case you wonder what we do all day out there on the ocean when there’s not much sailing going on, sometimes it’s composing cheesy song lyrics! Wish I could report that there was a lot of romance on Santa Catalina Island, perhaps on shore in the hotels, mansions, and condos there was, but on our boat it was two tired sailors who ate dinner, drank wine, and fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillows of the v-berth. I did get one picture as we left the following morning for San Diego.


The wind was behind us all the way to San Diego, which meant motor sailing, in order to reach San Diego Bay (60 miles away) by sunset. Balance was flying the mainsail, yankee and staysail, really clipping right along, even went over 7 knots a few times, which is great for this boat. I am so glad we have the radar, because we could not tell Point Loma, the entrance to the Bay, from other landmarks until we were within a few miles. The radar kept us on course, letting us set the auto helm to steer until the last 10 miles before Point Loma, and then see the lighted buoys we needed to find to motor the 10 miles up the Bay in the dark to the marina. Strange end to the day, motoring past downtown San Diego, with its huge buildings lit up with megawatts of electricity, past milk jugs with glow sticks inside them, attached to lobster pots right next to the shipping channel, then suddenly lots of little speedy watercraft with Navy men wearing glow stick armbands, headed out to sea with a cutter and helicopter following along to do who knows what night exercises. More motoring past huge Navy ships docked at gigantic piers (we definitely saw where some of our tax dollars are going) and finally we found Pier 32 Marina up a little dredged channel near a wetland.

This is a wonderful marina, with pool, spa, boater’s lounge, restaurant, and very helpful staff. We’ve been here for a week exploring the area, doing boat projects, getting our paperwork in order for entering Mexico, shopping, and sometimes just relaxing. There are quite a few people here living aboard, and we were lucky enough to be here for the end-of-the-month potluck up in the boater’s lounge and out on the deck overlooking the marina. One day we borrowed bikes for free from the marina and biked down to the Living Coast Discovery Center, which sits right in the middle of an area with marshes, tide flats, and the mouth of Sweetwater Creek, a very important native hunting and fishing site before they were supplanted by ranchers and then development. In fact, this whole area of National City where the marina is located was once part of a 26,000 acre ranch with citrus and olive groves, and cattle. The Discovery Center was home to a huge art project which took over 7000 pounds of collected beach trash from southern Oregon and turned it into art with a marine theme. Here is Nikk in front of one of the sculptures.


Living Coast Discovery Center

It certainly has gotten me thinking about how much stuff I use that is made with plastic, and trying to use less. One time I tried to go a month without buying anything plastic, it was very difficult. But many birds and animals are suffering because of ingesting plastic, or getting tangled in it, and I would like that to lessen or cease.

Another long blog, and in two days we leave for Ensenada and the long trip down the Baja California coast (in Spanish, baja means lower than, or inferior, as well as “south”, so Mexico prefers using Baja California, but now that I’ve said this, I know I will type Baja because it takes so much less time!) I’ll try to blog from Ensenada, then we will be disconnected from phones and internet for a while, back to life as it was before the 90’s, while we stay in lagoons and sheltered coves.

Comments on: "26 Miles Across the Sea" (1)

  1. Roxanna Zalmanek said:

    We have spent the last few nights getting caught up in your wonderful tales of sailing the ocean blue. Oh how I have enjoyed laying on the couch and listening to your well-written stories as my captain read to me. Thank you for sharing your adventures! We look forward to hearing more once you’ve reached your first Mexican destiny. Take care now and we know you’ll be safe. Hugs and much love to you both. Roxanna

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