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OCC Roving Rear Commodore report from California

by Sue & Andy Warman 29 Oct 16:13 UTC
Andy & Sue near Point Reyes, California © Sue & AndyWarman

Our cruise down the west coast of Vancouver Island continued until mid-August. We then continued cruising through to Southern California.

Anchorages at Rugged Point and Resolution Cove (of Cook and Bligh fame) were stimulating for wildlife, hikes and beach vistas. Ahousaht gave an insight into settlements that are fast dwindling as people move to cities. Tofino was our last stop before setting out for the USA, here we met Mike Duff of s/y Anestina. Mike is an OCC member who cruised the Haida Gwai islands earlier this year and will also be sailing south to Mexico this autumn. Tofino was a vacation town with ready communications to larger cities such as Victoria and Vancouver. Floatplanes, tourist boat trips road traffic jams, honking horns: we soon remembered how much noise emanates from a modern conurbation.

The offshore passage to Astoria took only 40 hours. Entry across the bar of the mighty Columbia River can be untenable in a strong ebb with onshore winds, particularly when meltwater flows from the interior mountains. Our timing was good, the weather suitable, we took an evening flood tide 15-miles upstream. Strong currents flowed, and huge bulk carriers went upstream towards Portland. This river is a major loading point for export grain from the plains of the USA. Although recent tariffs with China have reduced the number of ships.

Expected northwesterly winds continued to be punctuated by atypical periods of strong southerlies. Harbours in Oregon are entered across river bars, ocean swell an issue. Bar reports are included in weather bulletins. Newport, 90 miles south of Astoria reverberated with noisy Sea Lions. A 10-mile dinghy ride up the river to Toledo gave an interesting journey through a pastoral landscape, the town has a busy paper mill. This was our last port in Oregon before a brisk sail 320-miles to Fort Bragg, Northern California, another shallow entrance.

The change in flora and fauna as one sails along the coastline of a large continent is fascinating. Changes come gradually, yet sometimes abruptly at key headlands. The mixture of pine and arid grassland of northern California became drier by Point Reyes near San Francisco. Drakes Bay (named after Captain of the Golden Hind, a late 1500s visit to this coastline which claimed New Albion for Queen Elizabeth I) brought our first colony of snorting Elephant Seals and a host of other birdlife, plus coyotes and Mule deer ashore.

Passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge was a highlight. Iconic photos of the bridge were taken to add to other major milestones in our travels. In Sausalito, we met Rick Whiting, OCC Port Officer, and enjoyed sundowners and a snack ashore with him. We were surprised that we are the first members to contact him in 4-years. Mike Duff dropped in on him as well.

The California coast has few ideal anchorages, many stops are in marinas or mooring fields. Quickly we moved south via Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz to Morro Bay. Some great hikes along the state park sand dunes there. Next came the Channel Islands. A couple of days at San Miguel before our first Santa Ana Wind forecast cut short a pause at Santa Rosa. We moved south to Santa Catalina Island. In general, we find the best regions to cruise are islands, not places easily reached by car. Much of the California coastline and towns can be driven.

A few cruisers going on to Mexico have been encountered, but not as many as we expected, perhaps a dozen so far. We know 150 boats are joining a rally from San Diego in early November, so perhaps they are gathering there, or are still farther north in California.

Spruce is now poised to arrive in Mexico during the next few days. A new country for us, an exciting prospect.

s/y Spruce - Two Harbors, Santa Catalina Island, Southern California.

For more information visit Little Green Boat Blog.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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