Now that we have recovered from our week-end of debauchery (and my editor is not on strike anymore), we uphold our promise of a summary of our trip down the Western US coast. We also don’t want our memory to fade away, before some of our friends ask us for advice as they get closer to their departure. Here are the few advices from cruisers that we received which were true, so we will re-write them here and add ours.
- Before the departure pile everything on board then go and hide somewhere to regroup relax and sleep. Don’t live tired and stress out. (We didn’t necessarily follow that one but we should have!)
- Buy everything in your home port, it will be cheaper and less running around than further down the coast, plus, you know exactly where to go!
- Don’t buy too much food, just get those special treats. Do not stress about provisioning, all along the coast there are great stores.
- Prepare some meals ahead of time so you don’t have to do too much cooking while underway especially for those first few days.
- The weather will dictate your route: Winds and waves will tell you where to go sailing, not you and your planning, keep your options open.
- Get an ex-cruiser to hold your hand down the Oregon and Washington coast, it relieves you from a lot of pressure – you have enough on your mind.
- You don’t have to sail in one go, you can stop along the way.
- Remember that it is not hard or dangerous; you don’t have to follow the pack just because. No schedule is so much more relaxing.
- Listen to your own emotions and recent lectures. Some of the informations out there are too old and not valid anymore!
- Set a date, a budget and stick to it, Damn it!!!
- Last but not least : Follow your heart
And here is our recapitulative for going down the coast: The boat was ready, we were ready, and it was time to start our adventure! As we had planned on the beginning of the year we left on the day we had set our goal and untied the lines. Admittedly we were feeling nervous and excited all at the same and unsure of our own ability of course, but we were not scared. Two things helped us tremendously on that aspect: We had experienced an offshore passage down the coast to San Francisco the year before (Thank you Carol and Ken), and we knew we could get in touch with a well traveled/experienced cruiser via the Ham radio and it certainly put us at ease.
We were lucky and got a weather window right on cue, but it closed rather abruptly while we were turning the corner in Neah Bay. We know how to get the grib files, and how to interpret them though when the fatigue sets in (especially in the first few days) topped with a loss of adrenaline you may start second guessing yourself! This is; when it is extremely helpful to have somebody on shore, who knows what he is doing and preferably has done the trip before. You may have planned for everything, but your brain will not be as sharp as in your armchair in front of your computer, and you don’t have access to the entire fancy websites you are so used to anymore. Therefore a few e-mails exchange with “your router” back home, can give you a precise and realistic opinion; this is worth its weight in Gold. (Tom, before you ask for the gold, the weight I was refereeing was of the radio wave sorry…)
Do you need to go to San Francisco in one shot? No! It is not that hard to harbor hop all the way down. You don’t have to feel obligated to rough it, like the “real sailor” who braved the elements to prove you are worth it. For instance, as we were going down, it was nice and sunny outside but once we figured that the weather was deteriorating on our reports, we decided it was time to go hide in Newport Beach! Yes we are coward, we didn’t stay out to affront Mother Nature, we spent 4 days in the comfort of a harbor letting the weather pass by and enjoyed some rest.
Planning to arrive on a flood into San Francisco bay, sure on paper it’s a beauty. Reality is, whenever you do spot the bridge, you just have to get in, and it’s good enough. We anchored in Richardson Bay outside of Sausalito, just to realize that we had arrived, had survived all the Capes and the “graveyard of the pacific.
San Francisco was a real treat for us, a city that is easy to stay in with a boat and a great transportation system plus more activity you can see in a month. (Read our post Thank you San Fransisco)
Once we left San Francisco we stopped at :
- Santa-Cruz, a lovely little town with a different flair
- Monterey Bay
- Morro Bay, a great surprise
- Ventura, a warm welcome from cruisers and a great downtown.
- After that all the way down to Conception point our stops were not terribly spectacular or even the most hospitable…
It is true, the weather changes once you pass Conception point, you definitely feel like you are in South California and it is a great feeling to see the blue sky every day. From then on, it is day sail to your heart content down San Diego.
For immigration, you just call every time you change region and clear out in person in San Diego. It is easy not a big deal and they will welcome you back if you ever want to.
In the end it is your trip, your experience and most of all your way of looking at life, just do it, and enjoy it your way.