Monday, September 16, 2013

True North August 31 to September 6: Port San Luis

Here's our update for the next leg of the trip.

Saturday, August 31 – Overnighter, Monterey to Port San Luis

We left Monterey at noon with Monica waving farewell from the outer dock and to meet thick clouds in the bay just outside the marina. We tacked upwind with full sails to clear Point Pinos before turning south.  Late in the afternoon the wind increased to a steady 19-25 kts from the west, at last perfect, and stayed with us through midnight. Even though the wind was still steady when I began my 2000 watch, we took down the sails to avoid the possible hassles while out on watch alone.
Anne making position fixes on chart
Around 2030 the sky cleared to display a brilliant star-filled sky for the entire night. It was magical to pass along the dark outline of the Big Sur coastline with a few scattered lights visible 4-5 miles offshore. Earlier in the evening, a spectacular pod of Pacific Dolphins, as many as 100, joined us for nearly an hour. Such good company!
Dozens more returned at sunrise, jumping in unison on all sides of our boat again and again, making my morning watch pass by quickly.
Dolphins at Sunrise

September 1 to 6 – Port San Luis

We arrived reasonably early in the morning, and fueled up at the commercial pier - another one of those fuel docks without a floating dock, just a huge high pier with fuel hoses dropped down to boats.  We grabbed a mooring buoy at Port San Luis by 10:00, caught up on some missed sleep, and then took the water taxi to shore to get a closer look.

Moorings for large boats, Port San Luis
The water, the hills and the rocks surrounding Port San Luis are postcard-perfect scenes.
Lighthouse at Port San Luis
It is mainly a commercial wharf with a few watersport rentals nearby, two restaurants, showers, and a free trolley to the nearby Avila Beach, a quaint 2-street beach town 1.5 mi down the road. The wildlife in the bay had to be seen to be believed.  There were vast numbers of sea lions.  Large numbers of "sardine balls" meant unbelievable umbers of pelicans joined the sea lions.  It was truly incredible to take our dinghy to shore past the massing hunters, with pelicans dive bombing into the water twenty or thirty feet from us.

We set out to see the town of San Luis Obispo (SLO) and the historic Spanish Mission, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa on Labor Day, about 10 miles from the waterfront, but found that the public transit to town wasn't operating on the holiday. Our helpful water taxi guy Lance (different from our crew Lance) had told us earlier that his wife volunteered to drive us into  San Luis Obispo for some sightseeing so we took them up on her kind offer. After a quick tour of where to have lunch and what to see in the downtown, Sue dropped us off and returned a few hours later to pick us up and make a grocery stop so we could stock up on a few items. So very hospitable!
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
By late Monday, the weather forecast had us stymied...proceed or stay? Staying meant four more nights, as that's how long the rough weather was expected to last offshore and in the Channel Islands, our next stop and a very challenging area for wind and anchoring under normal conditions according to the guide books. We really wanted the winds to settle down a bit before we headed for the Channel Islands.  We decided to stay in Port San Luis longer and leave when the seas would be calmer for an easier passage by Point Arguella and for anchoring in the unfamiliar Cuyler Harbor at San Miguel Island.

Having a few more unplanned days in Port San Luis gave us an opportunity to get our faithful dinghy (aka, “True Dink”) out of its storage place below deck. We needed to get this routine down to quick, manageable steps anyway – inflating, launching, putting on the outboard – then deflating and stowing again. Much to explore and to do - the lighthouse at sunset,
Anne at the lighthouse
trips to/from the showers, and Avila Beach for margaritas and a few groceries. The landing at Avila Beach is challenging, with the only dinghy dock about 40' high! There's a string of buoys near the dock for a bow tie; the stern is tied to a ladder. A precarious move from dinghy to ladder is the potential first hazard, followed by the 40' vertical climb up the slippery ladder to the dock. Lots of people watching, too!
Anne climbing down to True Dink
Friends Gary and Lynn, our partners in outdoor exploits from Bend, called one evening to say they would be camping near Big Sur and driving south along Hwy 1 in a day or two. We had great fun rendezvous'ing for lunch in Avila Beach, with notes to compare and stories to exchange from the past two months' activities.
Gary and Lynn (and us), with pelicans in the background
We saw them last in July when we sailed together in the San Juans. And, as only serious Bend-ites would think to do: they brought a cold 6-pack of Deschutes Red Chair!
Red Chair imported from Bend!

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