Out the Gate to the Giant Dipper Page 2

Sailors and non-sailors alike respectfully refer to the ocean beyond my home waters of San Francisco Bay as “Outside the Gate.” Along the northern California coast there are miles of rocky coastline separating the few harbors of refuge, which often have challenging entrances. Along the way you had best be prepared for strong winds, fog, and sizable seas. Of course, it may also
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After breakfast, I commended August to his fate and sailed the short hop to Capitola, California’s oldest seaside resort, founded in 1869. The unique Pacific Coast evergreens and old trestle railroad bridge on the bluffs above this town of 10,500 have an undeniable charm.

The trip, wharf to wharf, is less than five miles. On the way, I was thrilled to see families of sea otters sunning themselves atop the kelp beds. Soon I was riding to a mooring operated by Capitola Boat and Bait waiting for the call announcing my family’s arrival by car.

Capitola has set itself up fairly well for visits like this. Moorings are $20 per night, with a convenient, ramp-accessed dinghy dock. Alternatively, Ed and Anna at Boat and Bait will ferry passengers by launch for $1 per person per trip. “You’re welcome at our barbecue on Sunday,” said Ed. “Everyone’s bringin’ loads of fresh fish, there’ll be corn on the cob, and lots of other food. It’s free—a Memorial Day thank you—so come by.”

capitola_beach

For those arriving by car, the Pacific Cove Parking Lot behind City Hall costs only $6 for 12 hours and you can stay as long as you like. To drop off passengers and gear by car, you can drive (slowly) out the wharf.

There is a lot to see in Monterey Bay. A dozen miles beyond Capitola is the quirky town of Moss Landing, with its 500-foot power-plant steam stacks. Less than a dozen miles farther south is Monterey itself—named in honor of the Spanish viceroy Count de Monte Rey.

Monterey Harbor is easy to enter, with the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium set in John Steinbeck’s once-hardscrabble Cannery Row. There’s also today’s luxe 17-Mile Drive, golf-happy Pebble Beach, and the resort town of Carmel, which once had Clint Eastwood for a mayor.

This trip, alas, was only a long weekend highlighted by Ed’s barbecue and a jam-packed day of kids’ rides and junk food. All too soon I was seeing my family off, slipping the mooring line, and picking up Martin, Karen, and yet another Steve as crew. We were ready for what would likely be an uphill sail home against the prevailing wind and current.

DESTINATIONS:Santa Cruz Wharf; 831-420-5270. Santa Cruz Harbor; 831-475-6161. Capitola Boat and Bait; 831-462-2208. Pillar Point Harbor; 650-726-5727. Monterey Harbor; 831-646-3950.


WEATHER:
Afternoon winds are typically 5–30 knots from March through October, lighter in winter except during storms. Coastal fog is typical in the summer but usually burns off before noon. Advection fog often occurs inside San Francisco Bay in the mid-afternoon. Water and air temperatures generally stay in the 50s to 60s; wind and humidity create a significant windchill, especially at night, even in summer.


WHEN TO GO:
May through mid-October are the cruising months, with autumn offering the best chance of sunny days and mild winds.


MARINE REFUGES:
From the Cordell Bank through the Gulf of the Farallones to Monterey Bay, three National Marine Sanctuaries protect 7,103 square miles of ocean.


CHARTERING:
Several ASA- and US Sailing-affiliated clubs offer skippered and bareboat charters on San Francisco Bay, but they do not allow boats past the Golden Gate. Pacific Yachting and Sailing in Santa Cruz offer a range of boat rentals and information on cruising Monterey Bay; 831-423-7245 or 800-374-2626. All clubs carefully check for experience in heavy winds and currents; certifications alone are not sufficient.

RESOURCES: Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy’s Cruising Guide to San Francisco Bay (Paradise Cay Publications) and Charles and Margo Wood’s Charlie’s Charts of the U.S. Pacific Coast (Charlie’s Charts) are good references. This cruise spans several different charts, so a Northern California chartbook is recommended, along with Volume 7 of the United States Coast Pilot (available online at www.noaa.gov).

Paul Oliva runs a public relations consultancy and is an American Sailing Association certified instructor teaching at Spinnaker Sailing San Francisco.

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