The Big Left Turn

Would-be cruisers in San Francisco Bay often talk about they they will sail under the Golden Gate and take the “big left turn” and head south to warmer waters and begin their cruising lifestyle.

Sadly, too many people let the dream linger a bit too long and never actually embark on their adventure. On Saturday, September 19th Kristin and I made our second significant foray into the cruising lifestyle. The first was in 2017 when we left for a month-long cruise to Catalina Island and Southern California. That was a bit of a shakedown cruise, mostly for the crew, to confirm our interest in and capability of living and cruising full-time.

This time the plan is for a more extended cruise. Less of a time-limited vacation and more of a live-work-cruise ongoing lifestyle. We’ll slowly work our way down the coast mostly on weekends, stopping at ports along the way to set up shop and work remotely for the week before continuing.

There has been and will be much to learn with this new mode. Internet connectivity (cellular) is a commodity that now has to be managed along with the fuel, water fuel and spares. Weather windows and passages are negotiated against a work schedule and available ports and anchorages. It’s not quite the care-free vision of chucking the docklines and with it all of your worldly cares, but exciting nonetheless.

Our first weekend we planned make a quick hop out of the Golden Gate down to Half Moon Bay for an overnight stop, then on Sunday get an early start for a long day to Monterey.

In all of the California cruising guides the authors describe glorious southbound sailing with strong northwest winds making for fast easy passages to Southern California. We’re still waiting for such conditions. In 2017 we left on Labor Day weekend while San Francisco was beset by one of the most intense heat waves in history. This resulted in hot sunny conditions offshore, but absolutely no wind at all. We motored most of the way to Monterey in glassy seas.

This year our passage to Monterey there was also no wind, but instead of bright sun we found thick fog instead. This made the first half of the passage from Half Moon Bay to Monterey a cold tedious motor south with an intense focus on the radar and AIS while scanning the 1/2 mile around us for crab pots and other hazards that may not necessarily appear on radar. The second half of the passage the seas built to bit of a sloppy cross-swell and without any wind in our sails to steady the boat we slapped and rolled around under power for many more hours. Since visibility was so poor we didn’t see much wildlife save for a few pods of jumping sea lions.

When we finally arrived in Monterey we broke through the fog bank less than 1/2 mile from the breakwater. Looking back and the impenetrable grey wall we marveled that we spent the entire day in that stuff. Arriving under sunny skies at sunset felt like we had emerged from a timeless void back into a world that was strangely normal once again.

Still, we are excited to be in a new place. Once we checked in at the marina we put the sails away and Sonrisa is back into home mode, ready for a full week at work.

The next passage will be a bit longer, from Monterey to Morro Bay. We’re still holding out for better weather.

Sailing toward Golden Gate Bridge
Silhouette of Golden Gate Bridge with low clouds and sun
Greg at the helm looking serious
Looking back at Golden Gate Bridge