The Zoo

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.








The Rock

If you are Canadian and you mention The Rock, most would associate that to the province of Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada.

If you are American, living on the west coast of California and you mention The Rock, then Morro Bay would come to mind. The entrance way has a gigantic rock and one that can be seen from a long distance.

We had sailed from Santa Cruz to San Simeon Bay and had arrived at three in the morning, we were tired.  The next day we set out from San Simeon Bay and headed towards Santa Barbara, another overnight trip. We had no intention of stopping at Morro Bay and as it all unfolded, we are very happy we were forced to!

We had been motoring and had a sail up (motor sailing). I was tired and had laid down in the V berth for a while when suddenly it felt as though the boat hit something as I heard a quick bang and what felt like something grinding, then it stopped.  Well I was out of bed in a flash and on deck yelling – what is happening, what is happening!  Captain did not know at first and then said, “this is the problem!”  He was holding a severed rope.  He then voiced (along with many other words) concern that the line (rope) may still be around the prop.

How did the line become severed?

While I was getting a few minutes shut eye, Captain had been setting up another sail with lines.  He had the Genoa set up on the starboard side and decided he would rig up another sail on the port side.  With two sails, one up on either side it looks like bird’s wings and is referred to as wing on wing.  The engine was still going while he was putting up the second sail.

A funny thing about lines on a boat, they are sneaky.  Wrapping themselves around a foot, getting caught on things, tying themselves into knots where a knot should not be and the worst of the worst, slipping ever so quickly and quietly into the water.   A line without fail will work its way to the propeller and wrap around the propeller shaft.

Since the engine sounded fine and still had forward speed (we thought, remember we still had a sail up) we assumed that luck was with us and that the propeller did not have a line wrapped around it. We continued with the one sail up and the engine still running. Merrily we went along.

We were a couple of hours from Morro Bay at this point and Captain looked at the V drive to see if there was some sort of damage due to the loud bang I had heard.  Damage there was!  The V drive on the boat is supported with fiberglass footings to hold the V drive in place, these footings were ripped off the floor PLUS the propeller shaft had disconnected. Since we had the sail up we were actually sailing, the engine was going but that was it, no forward speed, just making a lot of sound.

Now we knew why there was a bang and the sound of grinding but how did the line cause such damage, what was the mechanism?  Eventually Captain worked out how it all occurred once he could dive under the boat at Morro Bay.  He contacted Morro Bay Harbor and the Harbor patrol said they would be waiting to tow us in once we reached the entrance.

So, there we were, an engine that could run but no speed to be had, propeller not propelling and a V drive with no support.  Captain begins to work on supporting the V drive.  There are pieces of board duck taped together, ropes slashing things together and all sorts of other components rigged up here and there.  Then he started to re-connect the propeller shaft.  He finally had it to the point where there was just a sliver more to go but it would not connect.

Meanwhile I am at the helm.  There is one sail up, the wind is decreasing, waves are crashing against Morro Rock in the distance, Captain is speaking very strongly to the propeller shaft and he yells up to me “head for the Rock”.

HEAD FOR THE ROCK??  Are you crazy?  Your head has been down in the bilge too long!  (using my inside voice).  I ignored what he said, kept way right of the Rock and steered as much as possible to the wind to keep the sail full.  It never was full and it was minute by minute before the wind died completely.

Captain finally had to give in, the propeller shaft would not re-connect, something was holding it, most likely some of the severed line.

Harbor patrol was contacted and they met us within minutes of calling.  We were so very fortunate to have them tow us safely in.  They took us to the Morro Bay yacht club as there was an open space for us.  There is an agreement between the Harbor Patrol and the yacht club that they supply transient moorage.  A big thank you to Dana (hope that is spelled correctly) and Matt of the Harbor Patrol who towed us in.  We attempted to pay them but they said they were not allowed to accept any payment.

The next day Captain went over the side and returned with about a foot of rope twisted to about 6 inches in length.  What he surmised was that this small piece of rope ended up wrapping so tight around the shaft and it then pushed against the haul opening where the shaft goes through the boat; the force of that disconnected the shaft.  What could possibly go wrong, did.

Morro Bay is beautiful to enter by boat or be towed into.  A long inlet once inside the breakwater and gorgeous sand beach and dunes to enjoy.  The tourist street is along the harbor with the main town a few blocks away.  We had our bikes and enjoyed cycling for our morning coffee and sweet.

We spoke with a couple who were down at the dock and lived locally.  They said it use to be mostly a fishing town when they were kids, now it is tourist driven.  That is ok, the town is thriving.  Whether by land or by sea, Morro Bay is a good place to stop and enjoy. We would have stayed longer but thought it best to continue on to Santa Barbara.





Santa Barbara

We absolutely enjoyed this community.  Incredible bike lanes, beautiful beaches with cycling/walking/jogging paths, warm weather and an excellent marina and not expensive.

Santa Barbara marina is the cleanest I have seen yet and that includes the marina water also and this is why.  When you arrive there an officer with harbor patrol comes down to your boat and places a red tablet into the toilet.  Should you be foolish enough to flush your toilet overboard and not into the boat’s holding tank, the dye in the red tablet will surround your boat.  I cannot imagine the penalty involved as the Harbor Patrol Officer was very serious about his duties.  Must say, would like to see all marinas do this.

It was so relaxing there. We ate well, cycled all over, found a place for morning coffee and a sweet. Went to a movie – American Made, a must to see, found the library for wifi, although there are plenty of places all around town.

Would loved to have stayed a few more days but we had dock space reserved in San Diego and time became our master.

Duck Vader

While we were staying at San Rafael I enjoyed watching the local gaggle of ducks that hung around dock “D”.  One of the local’s that lived on their boat also enjoyed them by providing a daily helping of dried cat food, said they loved it.

It was fascinating to watch how the male ducks watched and shadowed the female.  If she strayed too far off he would go, following at a discreet distance, ever watchful.  It reminded me of a husband dutifully following along as his wife goes shopping.  Then there were their evening chats.  Quacking to each other in a quiet way. At least that is the way it sounded to me.

The Captain did not perceive them in the same rosy way.  He said they were messy (which was true, they did mess up the docks) and they were loud during the night (I never heard them).  The Captain has supersonic hearing and the quiet quacking was a loud roar to him.  I would never have guessed that those ducks would nearly be the death of him, literally.

On several nights, he got up and chased them off the docks as they were conversing too much. Most of the time I was not even aware he had left the boat.

On the night before we left San Francisco, I woke up to find the Captain not in bed.  I looked and the hatch was open so I knew he was outside somewhere.  Then I heard the ducks quacking loudly.  He was on a mission.  I pulled myself up and looked out the port window and there he was.

Obi Wan Kenobi!

That is exactly what I thought as I looked at him in his long dark bath robe, standing on the dock.

Then I laid back down and fell immediately to sleep until I heard the Captain making his entrance back into the cabin.  I looked up, he and his house coat were dripping wet!

What happened??!!  “I fell off the dock”.

If I had continued to look out the window I would have witnessed the following:  The Captain had with him the long-handled deck mop (and a good one) which he at that very moment raised into the air and swished it at the ducks (very much like a light sabre) and promptly stepped off the dock!

The Captain recovered himself from the water well enough and that is surprising considering he had injured his ribs from a previous fall.  A lesser person would have been in serious difficulty.

The next day we went to West Marine and Captain purchased a new deck mop; then attached a long thick foam tube to the handle.  Just in case he said it happens to “fall in the water”.

We did look for the mop in the hope it had floated. As we walked up and down the dock I could visualize where the mop went last night.

Duck Vader was breathing heavily, grasping the light sabre between his beak with Star Wars music playing in the background.



When I have travelled whether it be by car, train, plane, bike and now boat, the thing I have enjoyed the most is the history of where I am. The buildings, the people, the landscape, what does it tell me, what information can I find?  Who to ask?  You just never know what will be revealed.


China Camp, California

China Camp, located in San Pablo Bay was a gem. It is a state park and has been since 1977. What made it such a gem was my good fortune to speak with Georgette Quan.  She is a volunteer at the state park and cousin to Frank Quan.  Frank died last year prior to his 91st birthday and had been born and lived most of his life at China Camp.  When the camp had been taken over as a state park he was granted residency for his life time.

By the mid 1880’s China Camp was one of many Chinese coastal fishing villages and rose to a population of 500.  They caught mostly shrimp, sold some locally but most were dried and shipped to China.  Approximately 3 million pounds per year.

Franks mother’s name was Grace and she was white.  It was forbidden for a white person to marry a Chinese person in California so Frank’s father and soon to be bride went to Reno to be married.  Georgette told me that Grace although white could speak Cantonese fluently and liked to smoke big cigars! Georgette said she grew up with American kids and knew no other language but English.  She said they all had to work hard but looking back she said she had a good childhood.

Up until Frank died he would on weekends make chowder in the small store at China Camp.  That would have been a great treat!


Benicia, California

What a lovely, bike friendly, full of history and Victorian architecture town. There is a great information and walking map of the town at the tourist info centre.

Benicia was originally the Capitol of California. It has an impressive State Capitol building that has been beautifully maintained.

There is a Pony Express Stop and down by the shore is a plaque that talks about the Pony Express Ferry that carried mail. Originally 13 pieces of mail were transported on the first ferry.

Jack London lived and worked on the waterfront in his early years and gathered his inspiration for two of his well-known works – “Tales of the Fish Patrol” and “John Barleycorn”.

This is only a taste of this historic town.  It has a wonderful feel to it.  You will not be disappointed.


Salt Water Sheets

We left Loch Lomond Marina, San Rafeal on September 2nd and sailed a short distance away to anchor off China Camp.  We swam, we tanned, we ate, what could possibly go wrong?  Well nothing did until the night of the 4th.

We were in bed and I said to the Captain that the boat sure seemed to be rocking and rolling quite a bit compared to before.  He agreed and decided to get up and check the chart plotter to make sure we were still anchored in the same place.  We were not!  He checked and rechecked but there were no doubts, we were drifting away.  0.5 knots, 0.7 knots and quickly climbing.

Now while this was happening the wind really began to howl and the waves were getting rougher.  We turned on the instruments and found the winds were now blowing at 30 knots. Really???  This is a bay (although large) and had been lovely, sunny and calm only a few hours ago.  We turned on the VHF radio and heard that a boat (not ours) had broken free in our very same area and was drifting quickly away plus in Sausolito one boat had drifted away, ran into another and their anchors were now tangled together.  Chaos everywhere!

The wind and current were so strong that we were being dragged with a plow style anchor, 100 feet of chain, in 10 feet of water backwards at 1.5 knots!  Things were happening quickly.  Windows were being latched down, motor started, anchor was coming up as I was steering us into the wind.  Captain realized that the anchor was not going to hold (he had tried several times to get the anchor to hold over the course of a couple of hours but no success) and now he had to change to another one.

That is where I come in, steering the boat into the wind as he changed anchors.  Thought he was a goner several times as the bow of the boat went down and a wave came up and over. It is now three in the morning.  Captain has switched to a different anchor and returns to take over the helm.

Down I go into the cabin to double check the windows are latched.  We have drifted quite some ways out into the bay.  The wind, opposing current and waves are not letting up.

Much earlier I had noted the forward windows were latched in the V berth but had not checked that the hatch above our bed was closed.   As I went to do this I could feel that the bed was soaked and just as I reached up to pull the hatch down a bucket of water tumbles into and onto me and the bed!  Really??? Grrrrr!

We motor back to our original anchorage, put the anchor down and without difficulty it digs into the mud.  Captain said that in all his years sailing he has never had an anchor drag like this.  Different conditions, different sea bed. Lesson learned for both of us.

Once we were stabilized again I gathered all the wet bedding into a pile to hang outside in the morning.  Then I proceeded to put clean sheets on a bed shaped like a V that are made for a bed shaped like a rectangle.  There is an art to this. Video will be available in stores soon!

The next morning comes along. What could go wrong?

Captain hangs up the bottom sheet for me,  ties it onto the back boom.  Looks good and secure.  The day is windy, excellent drying day.  I look at my email and find that another boat anchored in the same location has looked up our boat name on the internet, found my blog and then sent an email to us!  The name of their boat is the Wunderlust and there she was, off our port side.  Captain hops into the kayak and paddles over to say hello.  It is far too windy and the current is racing, think I will read my book instead.

Captain returns and is settled nicely in the cabin when I yell out – “oh, no!”  That bottom bed sheet had become a sail and with it gained enough strength to pull free and away she went!  I watch as it hits the water.  Captain hits the water also.  Into the kayak he leaps and retrieves the bed sail.

What went through my mind?  Salt water sheets!  A friend of ours named Doug, laughed at me very early in our journey stating I had better get used to “salt water sheets”, I laughed back and said, “no way man!”.

He was right.

This blog is for you Doug.




The Bride of Frankenstein

When we had visited Benicia, California there was an old theatre called the Majestic located on the main street. The marquee on the Majestic announced that the movie – The Bride of Frankenstein, would be showing on October 27th.  Each time we went by that theatre I thought to myself – oh, how I would love to see that movie.

Be careful what you wish for.

We had stopped by Benicia as we were making our way into the Delta system, which contains large tracts of grassland with sloughs through them off the main Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.  We had the impression that sailing in these areas would be relaxing, laid back, easy anchoring, sort of like a slow boat ride down the muddy Mississippi. What we came to realize afterward was, there would be little difficulty navigating shallow grassy waters in a power boat, not so much in our sail boat.  Possibly if we had continued further along it would have all worked out.

(the movie begins to set the stage)

Our intention had been to travel along the Sacramento River and tuck into one of the sloughs, somehow though we took the San Joaquin and could find no suitable place.  The rivers are wide with large industrial, military and oil storage sites along the shoreline. The river is also deceivingly shallow.  It may look inviting to travel toward the shore but it will only be a few feet deep with no protection from wind, wave or current. We noted many old abandoned pilings or pieces of metal along the shore. We could not believe the wind, once again blowing up at 20 knots, current against us and the waves!

We did pass marinas but they were private ones and one that we could have gone into but we still had plenty of day light. We looked at a slough on the chart plotter and saw that depths were adequate for anchoring but once we were into it noted that we would still be in the wind.  Onward we went out of the slough and into an open area, almost like a small bay, called Sherman Lake.  Very shallow depths and Captain had to navigate very carefully. Then our speed started to slow then no speed at all.  Captain could see long grass trailing and said the prop is clogged.  Down goes the anchor, wind is blowing us into shallower areas, no more than 2 feet and Captain puts on his wetsuit, fins, mask and snorkel and takes a knife.  He cuts great swaths of grass from the prop and drive shaft.  He said it was in a long huge thick ball.  Up comes the anchor and away we go but not very far, within 5 minutes the engine has no speed.  Down goes the anchor and the same process is repeated.

Again, we continue, this time we travel much further along but the engine again stops forward speed.  Captain puts on the scuba gear and tank; day light is running out and he does not have time to keep coming to the surface for air as with the last two attempts. This time he must hold onto a rope while under the boat, the current is running so fast.  We make it out this time into the main river, the Sacramento.

I find a marina on the map and we headed towards it when we realize that there would be a bridge to go under and at this late hour no one to open it.  Ok, there is a slough not far away with good depth and we go for that.  We turn into the slough and make our way down it.

(the horror movie begins)

It is pitch dark.  Captain uses the spot light to check for other possible objects and the shoreline.  None could be seen, so we drift down further.  We are probably about half way into the slough by now and the Captain is at the bow putting the anchor down.  Wind is blowing hard at 25 knots but not a concern, we have anchored now numerous times in winds this high or higher since arriving at San Francisco.

Captain taught me to always look and see what is behind us while sailing, other vessels have a way of coming up from behind and could catch you off guard.  I took that lesson and always applied it to when we were anchoring.  Could be the calmest little bay but I always looked behind us as the anchor would go down to make sure we were not drifting too close to shore, always a quick check.

(the audience begins to scream in horror)

I begin to scream and scream and scream for the Captain.  He is not responding, he is busy with the anchor and the wind is blocking my frantic screaming.

As the anchor was going down I looked over my shoulder and there not a few yards away was a massive barge.

I was face to face with Frankenstein.

Due to the high winds and current pushing us backward, it looked as though the barge was under power and coming towards us.  Captain finally heard me and in a split second he saw that we were heading towards the barge and yelled to put the boat in full throttle, which I did.

Have you ever heard a train attempt to come to an emergency stop? Wheels screeching, the sound of metal on metal.  The boat hit the barge as I put it into full throttle.  I felt at that moment we were going to break apart or be pulled beneath it. Captain within seconds took over the helm and we pulled away.

I must admit that I was coming completely apart.  Captain yelled that I must take over the helm, he could not be in two places at once.  He still had to deal with the anchor and get it up.  When we drifted towards the barge he said, I must throttle away from it. Over and over I saw the barge getting closer and I would throttle away.

The anchor went down for the last time that night but it was not a night of rest.  Once daylight broke we pulled anchor, found another area out of the wind and waves and rested for a few hours before heading back to China Camp.

The boat was unscathed.  The two of us, not so much. The stainless-steel piping on the back of the boat (which stuck out about two to three feet) to hold the single side band antenna was bent in an odd shape and the man overboard pole was snapped in two.

The Captain has criticized himself several times, I have not.

Theatre lights come on.

All is well.