We arrived a few miles outside of San Diego in the early morning and it was still dark. We shut the engine off and drifted until daylight as we unfamiliar with the area and entrance. Good thing we did. We were west of the Point Loma Lighthouse and smack in the middle of a Ka gillion floats indicating that some sort of fish traps was below. With careful navigation we zig zagged until we reached the main channel entrance. We made our way on the port side of the channel markers, basically to keep out of everyone’s path as this is a major channel for the military. Our speed was not what it should have been and Captain felt it was likely kelp around the prop.
The kelp down this way is very tenacious, and tough to break, much like the American people themselves. Kelp up around British Columbia is soft and easy, much like us Canadians (excuse me, pardon me, sorry for getting near your prop).
Our destination was the San Diego Police dock, Shelter Island. Sounds like the right place to be, right? Well not so much. What I did not realize when I booked our slip was the fact that we were located against the ramp, that it was a public dock, no locked gate and the ever flow of non-paying assortment of people with boats, to put it mildly, a concern.
Most of us have visited a zoo, lived in a zoo like environment, worked in one (when I worked at McMaster University Hospital as a new nurse, I remember nurses floating to our unit from another unit that was known as 3Z or The Zoo, poor nurses looked shell shocked the work load was so intense) or driven highways that resembled one (L.A. comes to mind in rush hour on a motor bike) but the zoo at this dock was quite the education.
The informal definition of a Zoo is: circus, madhouse, maelstrom, hullabaloo, a situation characterized by confusion and disorder “it’s a Zoo free-for-all”.
It was a circus, no doubt about it.
The Harbor Police were responsible for monitoring who had paid, boat name and how long they were staying. I must give them all the credit possible for it really is an impossible situation for them. They could only do what their mandate dictated: to make sure that the boat slips were only occupied by those who had paid and to evict those who were there illegally.
Now this is where it not only gets interesting but becomes a tremendous pain for those close to the main ramp (which is all aluminum) and dock area. This was expressed by other boaters close by as well. I believe those further away did not have the same experience. As luck would have it we had front row seats!
The Zoo of boats and dinghy’s have been at this game a long time. San Diego harbor has literally thousands of boats and many, many marinas and yacht clubs and expensive if docking for a few days or a week. The Police dock is an excellent price (but there is a price to pay) at only $1.00 per foot per day this is a bargain. The average transient cost is $16.00 per foot per day. There is only one free anchorage that I have found and that is located at Glorietta Bay and is limited to 3 days only and monitored by the Harbor Police.
The Zoo here operates under the watchful eye of Gee Gee and her suitcase dog. The suitcase dog is my name for her small dog which has one of those little life vests on and it also has a handle on the top. Gee Gee frequently carry’s the dog just like a suitcase, it’s little legs hanging loosely. She explained one day that the dog has fallen in the water a few times, therefore she will carry him. Now I have watched that dog and I firmly believe he knows exactly where he is going. Most times it runs the opposite to where she is going and if he has “fallen” into the water, well maybe it was no accident.
We had arrived a day late and Gee Gee informed us she had been in our spot and was “kicked out”. Another boater told us their spot had a boat in it when they arrived and still there the next day, they finally told the person to leave. The pirate (as we eventually called him) wears a pirate scarf around his head and if you squint just right I swear you will see a patch over his eye and a parrot on his shoulder. He argued he had a permit to be there (which he did not) but eventually he did leave their spot but was back again in another empty slip. Until we became more established over the next week it was made very clear that this was the “Zoo’s” patch and we were on their territory. Other boaters expressed the same feelings.
Gee Gee can be seen on most days walking up and down the docks, inspecting what boats come in and where. Finding out how long they are staying and then reporting this to the other Zoo members. Sometimes you would hear her asking the zoo members what they needed. Sort of like a Zoolander middle man.
That went on during the day. During the night the Zoo was active, usually starting at two in the morning, sometimes at four. Up and down that aluminum ramp with carts, bringing supplies to their dinghies which they tied to the dock either in front or back of our boat. This was the ebb and flow of activity.
Harbor Police would make their rounds early on Monday morning and apparently if a boat was in a spot illegally, they were told to be gone by noon hour, other than that, nothing else happened. So out they would go for three days to Glorietta Bay, park there, Gee Gee would report what spots were coming up empty and then they would all head back to the Police Dock, usually from Friday to Monday as no patrol over the weekend.
On the positive side: the price was cheap to dock there, electricity was free and so were the showers. We were in a beautiful area, we had our bikes and could bike almost anywhere, all of the seminars that we wanted to go to were nearby and all marine services were a few minutes away. We had our Genoa sail repaired, had stainless steel plates fabricated to replace the steel ones supporting the V drive and visited West Marine a few times. We also found two coffee shops that we would cycle to for our morning coffee and sweet. One place in particular was called the Living Room on Rosecrans St., it was situated in a 1910 house, the atmosphere was so relaxing, with sofas and tables inside and plenty of wifi.
All in all it worked out but we would not wish to dock there again and if we did we would make sure we were in a slip far away from the main ramp and dock.
Don’t book slip 27, 28 or 29.