Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Leg 7 (and 1/2)—San Diego to Morro Bay

We loved our time in the Channel Islands on our way down and were so excited to stop there on the way back, we made San Miguel Island the end of our 7th leg. 

But as we did a little pre-visit research, we found that the National Park Service has closed the island indefinitely due to some recently discovered unexploded ordnance from long ago when the island was used for bombing training runs. We were disappointed to miss out on another chance to spend time on that unique island, but made plans to take a hike on Santa Rosa Island instead. 
Bryan had spotted the 9-mile Lobo Canyon hike listed on the park brochure when we were in the area in October, but we didn't have time for him to hike it. After a smooth night Monday and a speedy Tuesday (we even managed to sail some of the way!), we pulled into the anchorage at Becher's Bay about 9:30 on Wednesday morning. 
Bryan convinced the girls and me to come along with the promise that we didn't need to hike all the way to the mouth of the canyon. 
We tied up to the pier, climbed the ladder to the deck level, and enjoyed the view before heading into shore. 

We walked the dusty Smith Highway in the heat from the Santa Ana winds, and rationed our water, hoping to refill our bottles in the canyon's “year-round stream.” 
Sunscreen time!

We found the canyon, and ate lunch in the shade of the trees at its head. 
But the southern California drought had impacted the Channel Islands too and the stream was just a dry creek-bed. Bryan and Meira wandered down the canyon a ways while Hannah and I caught our breath and cooled down.
I love the way Meira captured the scale of the rock formations in these 3 shots of her dad.

We hiked back, downhill (most of the way) this time. 

Our timing couldn't have been better. By 6:30 pm, we were back on the boat, pulling up our anchor. We rounded the notoriously nasty Point Conception in a lovely pre-dawn calm the next morning,

and made it into Morro Bay just before sunset Thursday night, still reeling from the easy run.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Intermission—San Diego

Our time in San Diego was rich, full of friends and fun, a perfect way to ease back into life in the United States. On our first full day in the States, Bryan and I walked to Helen and Glyn's house, friends we met on the way down. They'd just bought a new-to-them car, but hadn't sold their old one so they offered us the use of their extra vehicle for as long as we were in town. Even with our sketchy conception of San Diego geography, we managed to run more errands in one afternoon than we could have tackled in a week or more in Mexico. At one point, a flustered cashier apologized for a momentary delay. “We've just spent 6 months in Mexico,” I reassured her. “Compared to that, this is the height of efficiency!” Everywhere we went, they had what we needed and we made it back to the anchorage just in time to greet Helen and Glyn (and their dear girlies) as they arrived in the bay on their boat, Anthem. 
Captain Bryan and a pile of mateys
We spent the evening together, eating Thai food (our first in months!) and celebrating Helen's birthday. We convinced the restaurant to deliver to the beach and Bryan and I grabbed the most convenient dinghy (Anthem's) and rowed in to pick up our dinner. While we waited for it to arrive, a woman approached us on the sand. She'd been trying to reach some friends on another boat in the bay, but they hadn't been responding. We understood her trouble; earlier, we needed Meira to row in and retrieve us and she wasn't near the VHF when we called, so we ended up just hollering over the water until she poked her head up and spotted us. Bryan gladly rowed her across the bay in the dusk. She whispered her thanks as she climbed aboard and he came back to get me, hoping her friends had actually been expecting her and weren't just trying to avoid her phone calls!
Back on the boat, we pulled out a bottle of wine to share. One of our friends in Bahia Tortugas had given us a bottle of Baja California wine with instructions to open it when we made it to Ensenada. Because I don't really drink alcohol, and Bryan can't drink a whole bottle of wine by himself, we saved it for the next time we were with friends. This was the perfect opportunity! 
We had big plans for the next day, but ended up just hanging out on the boat all morning. In the afternoon, the girls from Anthem came over and invited Hannah and Meira to go geo-caching in Point Loma. We sent them off and then rowed over to Anthem for a few minutes of adult conversation with Helen and Glyn. The girls kept in touch via a staticky walkie-talkie and once, even waved from the top of the hill until we spotted them through the binoculars. They rowed themselves back to the boat, exuding confident self-reliance and smiles.
In the evening, Bryan and I took the laundry bag up to a nearby laundromat. We alternated between laundromat and coffee shop until our clothes were clean and our devices had soaked up all the internet they could hold.
The next morning, we left the weekend-only anchorage and headed over to the long-term cruisers' anchorage where we'd stayed on the way down. 
We stopped at the police dock to get the required inspection (they just want to make sure you have decent ground tackle for anchoring and aren't leaking oil) and got ourselves settled in before noon. Bryan rowed to shore and walked the several miles to where we'd left our borrowed car, arriving back at the boat just in time to pick the rest of us up for our evening's adventures. 
We'd met the Rebel Heart family during our time in La Cruz and it didn't take very much time together to fall madly in love with the delightful girls (and their fabulous parents!) Our last day together, we said a hard good-bye. They were heading across the Pacific as we set out to return to Oregon and we didn't have any idea when we would see them again. Unfortunately (and very publicly—here's their story if you're interested) illness and a series of unfortunate events brought them back to San Diego, boatless, homeless, but alive. We'd followed their story on the media as we could but were overjoyed to spend an evening together, reassuring ourselves with the healing trifecta of food, hugs, and laughter that, yes, our friends were alright. They were staying with a generous friend, who opened her studio apartment, not just to the 4 of them for a few days, but to the 4 of us for the evening as well. We joyfully bumped buns in the kitchen together and, after homemade pizza and a big green salad, sat down to catch up on US pop culture—the movie Frozen
The space was small, but boat people get used to very small spaces. We draped ourselves on the couch, the floor, (maybe even a little bit on each other) and thoroughly enjoyed the show.
The next morning felt like La Cruz deja vu, San Diego style. Several times in Mexico, Charlotte and I had combined errands, caring for kids and finding our way around together. This morning, Lyra, the youngest, had a Dr.'s appointment and we jumped at the chance to go along and hang out with Cora, the 3-year-old. 
We got up early and rowed/drove/walked/rendezvoused/walked to the downtown office. Business done, the girls and I took Cora to lunch and the library while Charlotte ran an errand with Lyra. All the domestic regularity had me feeling right at home. In the evening, some friends from Oregon met us for dinner and long conversation. We stopped a a donut shop afterward for dessert. 
By the time we rowed back out to the boat for the night, I'd almost forgotten I lived aboard.
The next day did nothing to dissuade me from my delusion. Because of limited parking hours, we had to be away from the boat all day. We spent the morning at a coffee shop (the cheapest way to rent a living room!), 
ran some errands in the afternoon, and ended up at yet another library, this one with a built-in ship and a periscope in the kids' section. 
We stopped at a grocery store on the way back and picked up fresh food for a delicious home-cooked meal. Fresh produce was available in Mexico, but variety was hard to come by. 
The next day, Bryan took me to shore where we met Helen. She's a world-renown glaciologist and  needed to check out a retreat venue for a glaciology gathering she will be hosting this fall. I got to go along for the ride, up into the mountains outside of San Diego, around the beautiful campground, and back to the lovely little town of Julian for a delicious lunch/girl-time. 

We picked up a couple of the apple pies the town is famous for and drove back to her house for an evening of typical school-night craziness—dinner and pie slipped between kid pick-ups and drop-offs (theirs) and laundry-switching (ours).

Helen invited us to come visit her where she works at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, so Friday, we drove up to the beautiful campus and sat in on an ice science class. 

We kept Helen and her TA for quite a while afterward, bombarding them with questions about their work and the latest research. 
Meira took over the TA's visual aid and figured out new ways to use it to illustrate the concepts she'd just learned. 
Over the weekend, we spent quite a bit more time with Charlotte and Eric, Cora and Lyra. 

They'd moved out of the studio apartment and, thanks to a friend's generosity, were staying in a beautiful beach house a little north of San Diego. 
We relished the chance to spend more time together, but by Sunday night, it was time to turn our minds toward moving on.

We piled the dinghy full of groceries 
and spent Monday morning putting them away and getting ready to take off. 
An odd sight...two boats towing a dock while a man walked up and down the dock, working.
The best timing for our run up the coast had us leaving in the afternoon or early evening. We weren't sure if the afternoon winds would be high enough to keep us in port, but we decided to stick our nose out of the bay to see. 
If the weather was too bad to sail, we could always anchor behind the jetty at the entrance and wait until night to take off. We stopped for fuel on the way out, had one last surprise visit with Glyn, who just happened to be there (as lovely as it is...when you start to run into friends at the gas station, it might just be time to pull up anchor and move on:-) and let the perfect afternoon breeze blow us out of the bay and north toward home.