San Diego

The city of Oceanside in San Diego County is located close to one of the largest Marine Corps Bases in the United States according to my guide book. On our way to its marina late on the afternoon of 28th October we saw nothing of this but we did see and hear our old friends the sea lions – a familiar and welcome sight (to me anyway).

They have been allocated their own floating dock on which to ‘beach’ close to the marina berths. The day after we arrived, most of them had abandoned this little square dock and decamped to the floating platform at the end of our pontoon. I had heard them barking in the night and thought they sounded a lot closer than they should have from their dock. Below is the reason why.

Their empty berth…
…and this is where they prefer to be 🙂

Oceanside is a nice enough city, although not as pretty and compact as Redondo. It was a bit of a hike into town to get to the nearest shops and the beach and pier was an hour away on foot. We did a fair bit of walking in Oceanside for the short time we were there. Returning early on the evening before we left, Paul had another confrontation with stubborn sea lions. Two of them had laid themselves full length across the pontoon, blocking our path to the boat. Stamping his feet and clapping his hands merely caused them to stare disdainfully at him without moving an inch. Every time we made a move to walk towards them, though the bigger of the two raised its head and bared its teeth, emitting a warning growl for good measure. I couldn’t help laughing. Eventually we had to resort to the water hose treatment – much to their disgust – before we could get past. Images of Oceanside below.

To add insult to injury, they were more vocal than usual during the night, barking and splashing very close to our hull, yet from the moment we got up to prepare to depart from our berth, they went quiet. I think they are more intelligent than we’ve given them credit for! I still love them though. We were on our way by 9am bound for San Diego with the Santa Ana wind blowing sufficiently to allow us to put the sails up and have a bit of peace from the sound of the engine for an hour or so. As we motored towards our berth in San Diego just before 5pm we could see people on the pontoon ready to take our lines. Two of them were Brenda and Clay who we had met in Monterey. It’s always nice to see familiar faces when arriving in a new port.

Farewell, sea lions

During a chat with the Uber driver who took us to the DHL collection office the morning after we arrived, Paul asked him if he could recommend some places we should visit in the city. One of the areas he mentioned was one that I had read about and liked the sound of, so after collecting his parcel we headed to San Diego’s Gas Lamp Quarter.  Our guide book describes it as the epicentre of urban ultra-cool: quaint and romantic by day and rocking by night. We had no wish to go clubbing in its ‘hip’ clubs or trendy bars, so opted for the quaint daytime vibe instead. The district used to be San Diego’s main thoroughfare but descended into sleaziness in the late 1800s when legitimate businesses moved away from the wharves and warehouses. The gas lamps at that time illuminated streets populated with seedy saloons, brothels, opium dens and gambling halls (legend has it that Wyatt Earp operated at least three of them). The area only just escaped the wrecking ball in the 1960s but local preservationists were keen to protect the historic district and The Gas Lamp Quarter Association, formed in 1974, ensured that its oldest buildings remained untouched. Still, it was hard to imagine how it was in the 1800s when we strolled around it. The red-brick streets are dotted with trendy bars, and pavement dining is set up outside the modern bistros, while several fronts of historic buildings have recently been decorated with old fashioned facades. The street lights have been tastefully recreated in 19th-century style though, it was just a shame we didn’t get to see them in the dark.  

As it was Halloween there was no shortage of people dressed up, parading the streets in horror costumes sporting painted faces and brightly–coloured fright wigs. Passing one restaurant we were startled when a man bounded out in front of us and asked if we were ‘in need of a hug’! I assumed him to be one of the staff but he could just as easily have been another passer-by because the combination of Halloween and the district’s reputation for attracting eccentrics ensured that there was plenty of colourful characters around. We politely declined his kind offer – he wasn’t to know he couldn’t have picked two people less likely to eagerly accept an embrace from a complete stranger.

From there we walked to the waterfront, another ‘must see’ according to our Uber driver. The maritime museum located there incorporates three historic ships and would have taken hours to do it justice. We contented ourselves with gawping at the huge aircraft carrier, (USS Midway Museum) on the Navy Pier in San Diego Bay.  I had never seen a war ship before and marvelled at the fact that such a huge vessel – which frankly looked a bit higgledy piggledy with parts and platforms jutting out at angles all over its top decks – could move at all let alone with several aircraft on top of it. Apparently it was the largest ship in the world when it was built in 1945 and was too big to fit through the Panama Canal. We resolved to visit it before leaving San Diego. The other thing that caught our eye was the 25-foot ‘Unconditional Surrender’ statue on the promenade next to the warship.  This iconic image of a sailor embracing a nurse on VJ Day in 1945 was captured by a photographer during the celebrations and as we would say today ‘went viral’ when it was published. The sculpture seems to be very popular with tourists who flock to replicate the image. I was interested to read that the sailor who claimed to be the one in the photo, died in 2014 aged 86 and was purported to have spent the last years of his life charging women $10 to photograph themselves kissing him on the cheek!

We spent a couple of days anchored in the charge-free area of the marina a few 100 yards from the pontoons to make room for the boats booked on the annual Baja Haha Rally, so it wasn’t until Sunday 3rd November that a space became free and we moved back to the pontoons for a four day stay. We were now able to make use of the bikes again. San Diego is well set up for cyclists with designated lanes allocated on its main roads and it’s not too hilly a city. It makes shopping for provisions easier and we get to see more of the area.

Moving to the anchorage

On Monday we, along with others from the marina, gathered on the green expanse overlooking the bay to watch the start of the Baja Haha Rally. About 200 yachts were positioned on the water waiting for the starting gun that signalled the beginning of their journey to Mexico. The ceremony and humorous interactions coming from the participants and the organisers on VHF reminded me of the start of our adventure on the Atlantic Rally crossing back in 2006.

All off to Mexico

San Diego’s Old Town was our next sight to see. Another value for money Uber took us to The State Historic Park, the site of San Diego’s original settlement (America’s first on the West Coast), known as The Birthplace of California. Anything focusing on 19th century life is of interest to me and this attraction recreates the city’s beginnings and has historic dwellings, reconstructed and original buildings, museums, and a Mexican-style market place with old style shops and restaurants. Paul did some Christmas shopping of all things in some of the shops there. It was fascinating to see the reconstruction of early settlers’ homes and to look at a genuine Wells Fargo stagecoach. There was even a haunted house! Whaley House is southern California’s oldest two-storey brick building (1856) and people have apparently reported seeing members of the original family still ‘living’ there along with a boat thief who was hanged on the site before the house was built. Paul said it was all nonsense and it was too late to go in there anyway. Shame – I would have enjoyed seeing a genuine 19th century ghost. Pics below of the day.

California operates daylight saving time too, but the clocks went back a week later than in the UK. The period between Halloween and Bonfire Night in the UK always heralds the start of the Christmas build up for me. The shops in San Diego had been full of Halloween cards and decorations and now cards for Thanksgiving on November 28th lined the shelves, with a small area given over for Christmas stuff. The sunny warm days meant that it didn’t even feel like autumn to me, let alone a need to begin preparing for Yuletide festivities. This didn’t stop Paul heading off to the Post Office on November 6th to post the Christmas presents he had bought and wrapped for people back home. He wanted to make sure they went from the US and we were still uncertain about our departure date for Mexico. We needed to leave our berth on the 7th but still hadn’t secured a place in Ensenada. With only one free day left, it was time to visit the USS Midway, so after the parcels had been sent off we got on the bikes and cycled all the way to the waterfront – a distance of about five miles. This was mostly on flat roads thankfully, and we stopped a few times to look at things so it wasn’t too arduous despite the warm day.

San Diego in the distance

The warship itself was expensive but it was undeniably good value for the admission fee. Everything you could possibly want to know about life on board the gargantuan vessel and the fine details of aircraft carriers was covered. Audio guides narrated by Midway sailors were provided and it was possible to sit inside fighter planes and play with the controls. Kids and adults of all ages were lapping it all up on the day we were there. I must admit it was quite thrilling to sit in the cockpit of one of the actual World War 2 fighter jets, and to sit inside a helicopter. Some of the staff were men who had served on the ship and they welcomed the chance to answer questions and chat with visitors about their time in service or on statistics and engineering queries. We read about the character (Maverick) that Tom Cruise played in the film Top Gun – interestingly there are special Top Gun Movie Nights when the ship hosts a party for people who wish to watch the film under the stars. Home to 225,000 sailors, The Midway was finished just a week too late to serve in World War 2 but it was used in the Vietnam conflict and during The Gulf War where it was the flagship of Persian Gulf air operations in Operation Desert Storm.  

Main deck, USS Midway

We were amused by the robotic character placed behind a desk who acted out a scenario to inform visitors about the stresses involved in the busy day to day running of life on board. His narration could only ever come across as corny.  A gift shop and a café has taken up part of the enormous main entrance deck – the goods on sale were very highly priced but I guess if anyone wants a bomber jacket like the one Tom Cruise wore, it’s worth every cent to buy it on the Midway and in the city where it was filmed.

It was dark by the time we emerged from the bowels of the ship so it was a ride home in the dark and as always when the sun sets it was a cold evening. The effort of cycling this time warmed us up rather than made us sweat. When we got back to the boat it was time to plan our departure the following morning for Ensenada. We would be in the Mexican part of the Pacific Ocean sometime on the 7th November. Another new country for me.

Leaving San Diego


Southern California (it never rains)

So the song by Albert Hammond goes. Well it hasn’t – rained that is. I actually can’t remember the last time it rained. The song does go on to say that it pours; ‘man it pours’. However, since we will be leaving this part of America in a few days’ time I think it’s safe to assume we’ll see no rain. The days have been delightfully clear, bright and sunny, with chilly mornings and evenings but bearably hot during the day. I think I’ve discovered my ideal climate here. We can now congratulate ourselves on completing a voyage down the whole of the west coast of America. Mexico beckons shortly, but we made the most of our Southern Californian sojourn. It began with a little bit of drama during the night of October 16th.  We’d left Morro Bay that morning with an early fog that cleared after a couple of hours. No engine, the sails were up and moving us along at a good 5 knots of speed so it began peaceful and economical, if a little bit rolly. We’d bought ready-made burritos for dinner in case conditions were bumpy. I’d never had one before, not being a fan of Mexican food and the burrito didn’t really convert me. Furthermore, it burned the roof of Paul’s mouth after being in the oven for an hour as directed. It made me laugh when he remarked that nothing vegan should need that long to cook. Maybe they’ll be better in Mexico…

Leaving Morro Bay

The autohelm had been repeatedly steering us off course and had clearly developed a fault, but the wind vane had been doing a great job all afternoon. The wind began to drop while I was on the first night watch and without the wind it struggled to keep the course. Paul’s watch, therefore, had to begin earlier than it should because I had to call him to sort it out. I was dubious about going below to sleep considering that the autohelm was having a problem steering. I figured we might need to take turns hand steering on shorter watches for the duration of the trip. Paul said we’d see how things went and without expecting to, I did fall asleep. It was a fitful sleep – the combination of the bouncy motion and the noise of the engine filtered through my dreams so that I felt I was being thrown around in a tumble drier. I woke to hear the wind blowing hard and rattling the sails and sheets around up above but I couldn’t see or hear Paul. I lay there trying not to panic and was just about to go up when he appeared in the cockpit, calling my name and telling me he needed me on deck. I knew it must be urgent but had no idea what was happening. The boat was listing to starboard at a sharp angle so I struggled to keep my balance getting my outdoor gear on. Paul was battling with the headsail sheets and I could feel that we were speeding along too fast. I couldn’t stop myself asking if we were in danger which didn’t go down too well, but I was half asleep and he did look anxious. I asked what I needed to do and received the answer that I could either sort out the furling line on the bow or take the helm to steer us away from an oil rig! I stepped into the cockpit, and a wave hit me side on as I stood to look ahead (that woke me up). I was confronted with the surreal sight of a huge and extremely brightly-lit oil rig seemingly a few feet away from us. It was like something from a science fiction film – think giant robot – and I had to take the wheel while struggling not to fall onto the starboard guard rails which were almost in the water from the angle we were at. The noise of the whistling wind and the flapping sails was frightening but not as scary as the oil rig getting ever closer. While Paul was on the bow I lost sight of him and had to keep screaming out for him to let me know he was still there. After what seemed like ages he returned and managed to get reefs in the main sail while I steered but I soon became disorientated by the oil rig’s bright lights and the sharp listing and before I could correct it the course had gone awry which culminated in the boom shooting over to the other side – a crash jibe!  This minor disaster necessitated more steering and instructions shouted above the noise of the wind before things finally settled down. We still had the faulty autohelm to deal with, but Paul effected a temporary repair and the rest of the journey passed relatively smoothly. There were no other vessels around and no more oil rigs. The gale abated and I was never as pleased to see the sun rise that morning 😉

Despite the alarming events of the night, I agreed to steer us across the choppy bar at the entrance to Oxnard Marina, but it was such a small one we were across it and in calm waters before I even had a chance to worry. The day was sunny, clear and calm and the marina, complete with resident sea lions was a welcome sight: it was hard to believe we’d experienced such rough conditions the previous night. It’s a huge marina so the passage to our berth took us along a long stretch of water with pontoons on either side of us. I was amused to see a group of sea lions basking on the stern platform of a posh super yacht (the ‘For Sale’ sign it sported didn’t specify that it came complete with sea lions).   

Part of Oxnard Marina
Sea Lions again!
Waterside houses just across the road from the marina

Once berthed, we left further exploration until we’d caught up on sleep. There was also a fair bit of sorting out and a few faulty things to fix, so apart from our customary provisioning trip it wasn’t until Saturday 19th October that we set out on a full day of sightseeing. The sight I particularly wanted to see was Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth, about an hour’s drive from Oxnard. No longer a ranch (it burned down in the 1970) it used to be a movie set where Westerns such as Bonanza were filmed in the 50s and 60s. The site is notorious for being where the Manson family lived for two years from 1967-69. Given this, it’s hardly surprising that it isn’t advertised or indeed signposted. It took a combination of research and (my) existing knowledge to locate it on a map. Paul had hired a car for a few days so our trip began once the location had been programmed in to the satnav. We drove off later that morning with the air conditioning on, sun visors down and the car radio tuned in to…I would have loved to say a station playing suitable music for a road trip in the LA vicinity but unfortunately the ones we found didn’t really meet that description – too many irritating adverts. 

Paul visited a ‘boat jumble sale’ before we set off on our trip

Despite our careful planning, it proved very difficult to find Spahn Ranch, even with the aid of other crime boffins online who had visited the spot and uploaded pictures and videos to YouTube. Looking at the landscape surrounding us, it was easy to see why it was ideal for Western productions. Rolling hills and valleys in a remote spot with creeks, caves rugged terrain and lush wooded areas – it also provided the ideal out of the way place for Manson’s hippie commune. The almost blind owner was unaware of their more malign intentions and activities. Eventually we parked the car in the car park of a church as near as we could possibly be sure that the ranch had been situated, and followed a path through the woods across the road. Paul studied pictures and videos on his phone of a group’s previous visit and we actually matched some of the images with those we were seeing. We found foundation stones and other clues that we were in the right area and spent an hour exploring and taking pictures, seeing no one else the entire time we were there. It felt a bit eerie to be in such an empty and abandoned spot which had once been full of action with people and horses and old wooden buildings. Now it is more like a woodland trail in the countryside but not unpleasant for that. As we left the site and emerged onto the road a man in a car parked there stopped us and asked if we knew the way to Spahn Ranch as he and his daughter were having trouble finding it. His daughter, who looked about 15 was the one who was keen to find it and listened intently as I described what we’d seen. It seems the fascination with Manson is ongoing.

Spahn Ranch site
‘Western’ territory
A house ready for trick or treating

The next day’s road trip was to a place associated with the more positive aspects of the hippie era. Venice Beach is where Jim Morrison of The Doors used to hang out, along with several other notable musicians, poets and performers. It had been the centre for The Beat generation from the 50s and has gained a reputation as a place for the creative and artistic, which naturally includes delightful eccentrics. I had actually been there in 1983 but at that time, to my shame, I was unaware of its cultural relevance to so many of the things that I came to admire and revere later in life. To get there we drove some of the way along the Pacific Coast Highway which overlooks the Pacific Ocean from great heights with stunning views. We also went through the scenic beauty of Malibu with its affluent neighbourhoods, magnificent houses and picturesque boulevards, a mere stone’s throw away from golden beaches. Again, it was a perfect day weather-wise to see all these things; sunny, clear, and warm.

We headed straight for the famous boardwalk, arriving there around 2pm when it was thronging with people. I found it captivating from the outset. There was so much going on and so much to look at it was hard to know what to do first. Stalls, shacks and shops lined either side of the boardwalk – the beach side was interspersed with street artists and performers and vendors selling handmade crafts and jewellery, while the park hosted skaters, dancers and skateboarders. The air was filled with the aromas of traditional culinary beach fare along with a wide variety of fast food to satisfy every taste. There was an almost celebratory atmosphere all along the two mile boardwalk and in the park. Upbeat music drew us to an area where some roller skaters were performing so we sat on the grass and watched them for an hour but I could easily have stayed there all the rest of the day. The music was great and there were some spectacular dance moves from some of the characters. Paul took some video footage of them which he edited for a great piece that captures just how entertaining it was (link is included in his blog).

Paul buying a unique piece of art, Venice Beach

Venice has other delights to marvel at which I had missed on my last visit. We walked to the inland part of town and found ourselves in the canal district. Pretty little bridges spanned the waterways and almost all of the elegant houses in the streets alongside the water were tastefully decorated for Halloween. We took lots of pictures as we meandered through this Venice – named for the more famous Italian city but which has totally different charms to admire. We stayed long enough to enjoy the sunset, which as can be seen below was pretty amazing.  

One of the many zany houses near Venice Beach

Ventura is only a short drive from Oxnard so while we had the car I couldn’t resist suggesting we go for a drive on ‘Ventura Highway’. This is the title of a song I used to play a lot in the 70s by the band America, who also had a hit with ‘Horse with No Name’. The beach at Ventura is a much more sedate and understated affair than Venice. Fewer people and miles of quiet, largely empty sandy beaches.  We saw a few strollers and some children enjoying the late afternoon sun.  

Ventura Beach

From Oxnard we motored to Redondo. The journey took most of the day (23rd October). There was no chance of sailing  on this windless day and we hadn’t gone very far before a police boat motored up to us to advise us to change course as we were heading for a region used as a firing range. We didn’t need telling twice! We were joined by dolphins leaping either side of the bow for part of the journey which Paul managed to capture on film (again, on his blog). Around 5pm we could see the breakwater where the mooring buoys were located and once again the unmistakeable sound of sea lions honking reached our ears and made me smile. The mooring buoy we grabbed was different to those we usually tied to. These had poles with ropes attached so the pole had to be hooked first in order to tie the ropes to the boat. I steered us to it and Paul made quick work of securing us – close enough to the sea lions’ pontoon to smell their fishy aroma.

Leaving Oxnard
Mooring buoys and poles, with the sea lion pontoon – view from the boat, Redondo Beach
Pelicans and Seagulls perched on the breakwater

As we make our way further south we are nearing the Tropic of Cancer and it’s definitely feeling warmer in general; well the butter is getting too soft to keep out of the fridge anyway. Considering such Mediterranean-like warmth it was a case of another day, another beach on Thursday 24th. Redondo Beach didn’t get much of a write up in my Lonely Planet guide. It’s described as an ethnically diverse, working class beach town notable for its pier before going on to recommend its two wonderful adjacent ‘sister’ South Bay beaches. We liked Redondo Beach. The dinghy park is near the ‘notable’ pier and the wharf was a typical fisherman’s wharf with fishing boats and people working on them, except that the surrounding boardwalk was lined with cafes and bars that appeared to be aimed at locals as opposed to tourists. The pubs had character – one we passed was full of men who could only be workers and fishermen. Similarly, the beach itself was lined with residential buildings on its promenade with the main hub of bars and restaurants in a spot near the town centre. I guess this is what the guide meant by a ‘working class beach town’ but for us this was a positive factor. We had lunch in one of the town bars overlooking the beach before our usual supermarket trip.

Another Halloween-ready house
Lunch with a view
Redondo Beach

Redondo Pier took on an enchanting aspect once it began to get dark. There are over 50 dining, shopping and entertainment venues on it and the subtle, pretty lighting and vibe emanating from them act like a magnet. We dinghied over to watch the sunset and have an evening walk along it. (Pics below).

Dockside, Redondo
Paul couldn’t be persuaded to get a reading 😉
Two dogs being ferried across the water on a SUP (stand up paddle board)
Redondo Pier

Our next stop proved to be something of a disappointment. Santa Catalina is an island approximately 30 miles southwest of California and is only 22 miles long and 8 miles across at its greatest width. It’s a nature reserve and a popular getaway for Los Angeles residents and is purported to have great hikes, cycle routes and wildlife. The journey there had been one of the smoothest and trouble-free yet, despite some concern about the Santa Ana wind hampering our progress. In fact, there was no wind at all so we motored for the six hour passage and picked up a mooring buoy at 2 o’clock on Friday 25th. No sea lions here. In fact there wasn’t much of anything! Looking at it from our buoy, positioned on the remote west end of the island at Two Harbors, I could see a tiny cluster of buildings in the middle of the isthmus, and parched low hills on either side of it. There were no signs of life on the boats moored around us and we were directly opposite some lorries and trucks in a small industrial quarrying site. Two Harbours is admittedly the ‘second’ centre of population with only a few hundred people, while Avalon, the main town is the more ‘happening’ resort with a larger population. We planned to check that out the following day.

Departing Redondo
Two Harbours, Santa Catalina

Meanwhile we got in the dinghy for the short distance to the shore and had a look around. With very few cars on the island, it was very quiet ashore. We walked along the path to the centre of the isthmus, passing closed up and empty buildings and the usual signs forbidding you to do lots of things. First, Paul went to check us in at the tiny harbour office and came out visibly shocked at the coast of an overnight stay on the mooring. At $60 it was more than some marinas, and we were told we’d need to ‘check out’ of the buoy area by 9am. Walking around didn’t take long. We looked at a house that had been used for a film starring Joan Crawford in 1932 (pictured below), and read about the bison that inhabit the island. Fourteen of the creatures were brought over for the filming of an American Western in 1924 and had remained there afterwards. Apparently the scenes with the bison never made it into the film and it was deemed too costly to transport them back. There are about 150 on the island now but we didn’t see any. We didn’t see any other animals either. A sign told us there are island foxes, Californian ground squirrels (ah, so that’s what the squirrels are here), and four types of mice. We might also spot a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake; I’m pleased to say we didn’t see that! Apart from some resort facilities, a few late-in-the-season holidaymakers and a small shop, we didn’t see much else and I felt the place lacked atmosphere. We went back to the boat, hoping that Avalon would be better.   

Holiday Resort, Two Harbours

The next day was spent a few feet away from the mooring buoys in the free anchorage area. Paul explored the shorelines in the kayak while I had a relaxing day on board. The VHF kept broadcasting alarming ‘pan pan’ updates about people getting into trouble at sea. There were reports of boats drifting uncontrollable towards rocks, life jackets seen floating in the water and yachts that had gone aground and been abandoned. I found myself captivated by the updates and thankful that no one died. Part of those dramas had been down to the infamous Santa Ana wind, which Paul had been keeping up to date with on the weather forecasts. His feeling was that it would be fine for us to move around the corner to Avalon the following day since it was only a short distance and we could always return to the anchorage if conditions got rough.

On Sunday 27th that was exactly what we did. We woke to a chilly and blustery morning and heard warnings for small craft thinking of journeying in the area. The advice was not to go anywhere. Paul said it would be fine as we would be within the shelter of the island for the short distance so we weighed anchor late in the morning and motored out onto waves heavy with swell and 18 knots of wind. I couldn’t help thinking of the yachts who had got into difficulties the previous day. Not long after we’d set off Paul said we would have to go back. The coastguard had broadcast a report stressing the dangers for vessels heading to Avalon due to the severity of the Santa Ana wind. Since it was cold, rocky and very windy, with yet more vessels calling in with distress calls to the coastguard I wasn’t sorry to return to the sanctuary of the anchorage. Unfortunately this meant we had missed our chance to see Avalon because we had a berth booked at a marina at Oceanside near San Diego (Santa Ana wind allowing).     

LA to San Diego and onto Mexico

From Moro Bay we headed off to Los Angeles. We had originally planned to stay in Marina del Rey, however the marina was expensive and when I called they where a bit snooty and required no end of documentation sending to them before they would take a booking, one thing they wanted was the purchase/sales invoice from when I bought the boat. I don’t know where I have put this, but in the end I decided I didn’t want all the hassle, so we booked a place in Oxnard, which is an hours drive north of LA and Venice beach, and with the money we saved, we hired a car for 3 days and did a bit of exploring. First off we visited Venice beach

Above you can see me buying a limited edition hand drawing of a theme around ‘Satoshi was here’ on the sidewalk at Venice beach. The guy selling them was a bitcoin nutter who had a plan to sell these limited edition sketches (100 off) and then for each one sold another ten would be made, but at double the price, which I could purchase at the same price as one of the first 100, which was $10. I lost his plot after ten minutes of him explaining how a building would be built with the proceeds, and the sketch would entitle me to a place on the first floor, but if I bought more of the next batch, I could move up a floor. All of this was recorded on a private blockchain. Basically it was like a pyramid scheme, and was unlikely to come to anything, but for $10 I thought I would support this guy’s enterprising vision, and you don’t get much for $10 in this part f the world. A few days earlier a guy pushing his life along the road in a shopping trolley asked me if I could spare him ‘a twenty’, I was some way along the road past him before I got over the shock of it! $20, Am I getting really mean in my old age, or is $20 the amount people give to homeless when asked these days?

Next we headed off to find the ranch where Charles Manson lived before it burnt down. Basically I was going to walk around a field for an hour while Kathy would be exclaiming ‘Amazing’ ‘ I can’t believe we are here’. She will explain in her blog I’m sure, but I think it’s connected with murders and the houses we visited in San Francisco.

Of course it’s halloween here and all over Venice Beach people had put on great shows in their gardens and windows.

Venice beach was lovely, I posted a video of some great public skating on our facebook page, you can see that here

From Oxnard we headed onto Redondo, en route we passed Magu point where there is a military firing range, I must have missed the warnings sent out on the VHF radio as we were steaming into the firing range but were intercepted by a fast patrol boat that instructed us to change course to 180 degrees (south) and to stay on that heading for 3 miles before turning east again. I think it’s actually quite hard to get into a live firing range.

Bow & Stern moorings are required in Redondo, I haven’t used this type of setup before, but it was actually very easy. Kathy brought the boat up alongside the pick up pole, something she can do much better than me. I grabbed the pole, and as usual wondered why I forgot the gloves. Poles and ropes that live in the sea are not usually nice things to hold, slime/barnacles etc

Redondo was a bit like Venice beach, but without anything happening on the beach. It had a great pier complex full of funky restaurants and shops.

Even the pontoons don’t escape halloween here

We headed of to Santa Catalina next. Santa Anna winds were forcast so we popped around to the west side of the island to get shelter there.
It was funny that I had just updated the operating system on my macbook a few days ago to the latest release, known as ‘Catalina’ Apple name their releases after famous places in California, such as Mojave and Yosemite. I took this picture below as we rounded the eastern end of Catalina Island and was reminded of the login screen on my laptop

This is the icon Apple use for Catalina which I’m pretty sure is the same bit of the island. They have a better angle, but I got a bluer sky.

We picked up a mooring in Catalina Harbour, the west side of ‘two harbours’ and went ashore to pay. They charged $50/night to tie to a mooring ball, so we payed for one night and the next night moved to the anchorage which was a bit further out. Below is the ‘anchor art’ from our chartplotter that shows how we swung between two locations as the tide turned.

Our next destination was to be San Diego, but to break the journey up into two 7 hour daytime passages, rather than a 14 hour overnighter we called into Oceanside for a night. Here the seals had taken over our end of the harbour and at one point I had to have very strong words with the biggest sea lion you have ever seen. He was blocking our path back off the boat and everytime I approached him, clapping and shouting, he lurched towards me with a wide open mouth full of very sharp teeth. He wasn’t going to move. Eventually he backed down, it turns out he was all front, no substance, but very scary all the same.

VIDEO: Somewhere in Southern California we had a school of dolphins joins us.

So on we pushed to San Diego. The plan had been to avoid the Baja Haha. The Baja Haha (pronounced bar hah, hah hah) is an annual rally for about 150 sailboats that sail down to the sea of cortez from San Diego. I wanted to miss them as I expected marinas to be full and noisy, so quite how we end up arriving in San Diego 4 days before the start is beyond me. Of course everywhere was full, we got two nights on the police/public dock before we had to move out and anchor in a designated spot for the weekend, then I managed to snap up the last berth on the the dock for another 4 days. The boat had to be inspected before we could use the anchorage.

Approaching San Diego
Our Berth on the public dock

San Diego is a great place, and like LA and San Francisco, is a mecca for watersports, especially sailboats. There are thousands of them here in scores of marinas. It’s also home to a huge military base, loads of warships, submarines and airplanes and helicopters. The choppers are constantly flying out to sea and returning, often 2 or three at a time in close formations that remind me of war films I have seen. Its also a cruise ship port.

One of the Disney cruise ships, Kathy said there were some famous ears stuck on the funnels.

Our first job was to pickup the new raw water pump I had shipped out from the UK. It cost more in the uber cab to get to the DHL collection point than the postage from Southampton! but once there I was relieved to find it was the right part, there are two similar but incompatible versions of the pump.

We had a good walk and cycle around town, I managed to buy a stack of gifts which I later posted home as Christmas presents to be distributed later. I’m not sure how reliable the parcel service from Mexico would be so played it safe with USPS.

We had just missed the Day of the dead festivities, but there was no shortage of deadish looking things around!

Here is the said pump, it’s now fitted nd doing sterling work.

Back at the police dock we had a visit from a local Perry boat owner, Harvey. He runs the Tayana group, which is very similar to our Baba group, of which I am a moderator. He has cruised the Pacific Northwest for many years and we had a great chat about sailing there.

Before we left San Diego, I had to visit the Maritime Museum, but we were running out of time, so we just visited the USS Midway, which is a massive aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1945, and was the lead ship in the desert storm war.

It’s always a conflict for me with military sites, as on the one hand, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of creativity and industry that went into these ships design and construction, but also accepting that they are giant killing machines that sometimes mistakes wedding parties for terrorists with horrific consequences.

Kathy preparing for a quick exit down the runway
now where do i plug my ipod in?
Now this is the kind of workshop I would love to have onboard. They also had steel fabrication and welding rooms
Helpful Vets are all around to explain how they worked things back in the day.
Kathy was caught trying to make a quick getaway in the F-14

Finally a bit of boaty stuff, I bought some Dyneema rope and a round thing. Apparently this is the future and all racing boats have gone this way. I will post a picture of the finished item when I have spliced a loop in the rope, but basically this will replace the damaged car/block for the yankee sheet.

We left San Diego around 16:00 on the 7th November, finally we had had a call from the marina in Ensenada that they had a berth for us, we had an uneventful motor down after the wind died three hours into our sail. Mexico is much closer to Malaysia than San Diego, in terms of wealth, infrastructure etc. But I got a great feel from the place as we approached our berth and the manager and his assistant were waiting for us and took our lines with a very smiley welcome. Victor, who runs the marina side of the facility, as it has a much bigger operation as a boatyard, took us downtown, helped us find an ATM, and took us to immigration, harbour master, customs and TIP offices. He very quickly got us signed into Mexico and now we are all legal and here for 2 weeks to chill, refresh our basic Spanish language skills and acclimatise to the hispanic way of life.

Paul Collister.