Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Tale of Three Cities

Although we've been to quite a few towns and cities along our way down the coast, I've chosen to focus on only three: San Francisco (and surrounding area), Newport Beach, and San Diego. I'm not trying to disparage other state's population centers by omission, but hey, these are my favorites so far, so sorry everyplace else!

San Francisco

When you sail down the Pacific coast, this is the first really big city you come to. This area has a lot to offer: plenty of stores that sell everything you could possibly desire (provided you have access to a car), the big city venue and bazillions of tourist traps and tours, sporting events, cultural activities, and museums and parks, and a terrific transit system.

The sailing here is fantastic! The only time the wind ISN'T blowing is usually in the early morning. Otherwise, it is cranking! And there is plenty of wide-open spaces to sail in. The sailors here really know how to sail too. As a matter of fact, they usually sail directly from their slips and return to the docks via sail too! Motors don't get much of a workout here. I'm telling you, these guys are crazy! They come in so fast under sail, I don't see how their boats aren't covered in dings! Suffice it to say, it's impressive.

Downtown San Francisco as seen from Berkeley
If you like crowds, the downtown San Fran area is for you. I considered getting off the bus at the downtown pier but it was truly a mob scene, so I thought better of it. You could probably spend a month staying downtown and still not see and do everything. And if you ate at all the restaurants, you would surely be a couple of sizes bigger by the time you left.

I was also impressed by all of the parks scattered throughout the area, some big, some small. And there are plenty of biking/walking trails that go for miles and miles along the waterfront. Just about everywhere you look around the waterfront, you have a great view of people zipping back and forth kite-surfing or windsurfing or sailing in the sparkling water of the bay.

One thing I wasn't too crazy about was the fog. The area is plagued by it, especially the entrance to the bay. Often the downtown and the Golden Gate Bridge are engulfed in it, many times all day long! This keeps the temperatures cooler than in the rest of California. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your preferences. To me, it smacked a bit too much of Seattle weather.

Berkeley, a suburb on the east end of the bay, was where we spent most of our time while we were there, partly because we were waiting for mail but mostly because moorage was less expensive here than anywhere else in the bay area. (Yeah, we're tightwads.) Although we did get access to a car one day (thank you, John and Cindy from Namaste!), we didn't see any other areas so I can't report on any other suburbs. All I can say is Berkeley is NOT a pretty town. It served our needs for provisioning and exercise while on land, but okay, I'll be frank: the town is just plain ugly and on the dirty side. (Note to Berkeley city council: You guys really need to step up your game!)

The beach and dock at Angel Island

Angel Island State Park north of downtown San Fran and Alcatraz Island is a fun place to visit. It has a beach, a restaurant, and numerous historical buildings that make a walk around the island both interesting and informative. For sailors, it is a great place to spend a few days walking or biking around after being cooped up for days. The current is very strong there so using the mooring buoys bow and stern is imperative (and pricey!).  It's NOT a good place to swim around your boat as you might not make it back aboard! This is a crowded place on weekends, so be sure to visit during a weekday.

Newport Beach

Hands down, this is my favorite place so far. No question about it. (I don't know how any other place could beat it, but I'm willing to consider alternative sites should they present themselves.) This place has it all: beaches for surfing, beaches for those who prefer no crashing waves (on the harbor side), beautiful neighborhoods, palm trees, warm temps, tourist shops and activities, and all the usual city stuff! I heartily recommend this to all of you as a getaway destination for your next vacation. They have weekly and monthly vacation rentals that are RIGHT ON THE BEACH! An absolutely unbeatable location!
Ocean-side beach at Newport Beach

The ambiance here is fantastic. There's a boardwalk for bicycling or walking or rollerblading that runs the length of the peninsula which makes the protected waters for the large harbor possible. At least in September, the boardwalk was easy to enjoy since it wasn't too crowded. Everyone we saw along it was happy and enjoying life. The city has one long beach on the ocean side which provides the surfers and the paddle boarders and body boarders with lots of fun waves to ride and fall off of. The sand is clean and well-maintained and there's plenty of parking for those who aren't living right there or in the harbor across the street.
Activities abound here! You can standup paddleboard, kayak, surf, sail, and parasail. Pretty much any watersport is available to you. There are also several fishing piers on the beach for the anglers who don't want to hire a boat-fishing expedition. There is a ferry service that runs from the mainland to the peninsula which seems to be quite popular and is quite reasonably priced. (I timed it and it only took 6 minutes to catch a ride on it so perhaps driving around takes longer and that is maybe why everyone does it.) The end of the ferry ride on the peninsula side terminates at Balboa Island, a tourist trap with a small ferris wheel and assorted cool rides for the kiddies and some tourist shops and restaurants. (We ate at Azar's which I can highly recommend. The toasted veggie sandwich was to die for!)

Boat rental shop next to the ferry terminus at Balboa Island Park, Newport Beach, CA.

You can rent a boat and invite your friends and you get to be the captain. Kind of scary to those of us who own boats, but I am sure it would be a lot of fun. Or you can watch other crazy boat drivers if nothing else. We enjoyed watching the little kids learning to steer their prams. (I'm glad the front of those prams are blunt!) Anyway, it's a great place to people watch. You can also watch sea lions and see interesting-looking boats.

Sea lion sunbathing on a little-used boat at anchor in the harbor
We were lucky enough to get free moorage on a buoy at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. This was the nicest yacht club I have ever had the privilege to visit and everyone was very nice. The club had its own private beach on the harbor side. When we dinghied to their docks, this put us on the peninsula of Newport Beach, only two blocks from the beach. The houses on the peninsula were very eclectic and interesting so we did a fair bit of walking here to see what we could see.
The Google power cat to be used as a support boat to dive the deepest points of the ocean.


Sadly, we only spent two days and three nights, but I sure do wish we had stayed longer. We barely scratched the surface and I am so sorry I didn't get to go body boarding. I highly encourage you to give this place a visit! If you like water, I am SURE you will like it here!

San Diego

Our view of San Diego as we approach the bay.
We will be staying here in San Diego about one month. We've been here about a week so far and I am absolutely loving it. We are docked at Harbor Island West Marina on the far end of what is actually a peninsula in the middle of North San Diego Bay. Shoreline Park is just across the street from the marina. It's great for jogging and watching boats in the bay, helicopters hovering over the naval air station across the water, and the hustle and bustle of downtown San Diego in the distance. The only other businesses on this peninsula are the Hilton and the Sheraton hotels down the street and a few yacht brokers and restaurants.

Brad and our SUPs at Spanish Landing Park
Across the water to the north of our docks, there is a sandy beach at Spanish Landing Park. We used our SUPs yesterday to get over there for a brief frolic on the beach while we let our arms rest. (Didn't I mention that California has parks everywhere? Love it!) The wind was rather strong so it was a hell of an arm and core workout just tooling around the marina, let alone crossing a bigger body of water with more fetch. (Not to mention dodging the big boats and their wakes going by, which is always a challenge even in calm weather.)

We have been blessed with meeting some wonderful people on this trip and we are so very grateful. Debbie & Morris Adams on Impulsive have been a really big help. They have taken us to Von's (a Safeway clone), the locksmith, and Walmart on two separate occasions in their Ford Explorer, and tomorrow they are taking us shoe shopping. What a luxury it is to have friends with a car and who are willing and able to take us with them! (You people with cars are so very spoiled!) And Mike and Jan Powers on Rapture have buddy-boated with us from Monterrey to here. You can't imagine how comforting it is to have another couple of people to bounce ideas off of. They are from Seattle area as well and have a relative who might let us use his car. We also met Deborah and Peter Morrison on Limit Stalker who are from Oak Harbor but are now keeping their huge steel trawler down here now. They also offered use of their truck as well, so maybe we can sneak in a Costco trip with one of them one of these days. The generosity is greatly appreciated! We also found out that some people who used to moor their boat on B-dock at Elliott Bay are only a couple of slips away from us. Friendly faces abound!

It was Mike's idea to get a month on the dock at Harbor Island West and I am sure glad he encouraged us to join him. This marina is cheaper than Cabrillo Isle which is where many of the Baja Ha-Ha participants are staying. But it has all of the amenities so I feel like the proverbial pig in caca: hot tub, swimming pool, sauna, and showers. They even provide the pool towels so there's less laundry to do. Oh, and the laundry is nicer than the one at Cabrillo Isle, so that is nice too.

To get to the mainland and the nearest shopping, it's a short dinghy ride, past the Navy's anti-submarine warfare command center across the water to the west of our dock, and around the corner to get in the America's Cup Harbor and the public dinghy dock. The shopping here is limited but there are a few restaurants along the boardwalk and a few fishing supply stores and whatnot. (That's why for the "good stuff", having car access is "the bomb!")

The weather here is fantastic. No rain in sight. Just blue skies above and water below. And temps in the 80s. And surprisingly, the humidity is only around 40%. Not muggy like it is in Miami so I couldn't be happier.

We are trying to split our time up between doing some boat maintenance and re-provisioning chores and having fun. I'm hoping that the list of to-dos will go down so we can avail ourselves of some of the amenities San Diego has to offer. There are plenty of tourist things to do so we will have to be choosey.

1 comment:

  1. How funny.......I don't mean your writing because you are a treat but but but...I love San Fran and Bezerkley, I lived in Oakland for 10 years and it is my favourite place for climate, Fog (yes) and food!!! All that SUN in So. Calif would drive me to DRINK! Love the sunbathing sea lion though! So glad you are still surviving!! AND having FUN!!
    Love me