Monterey to Avila Beach (aka Port San Luis)

Last night and through this afternoon we endeavored our first overnight passage, a cool milestone for us!  Admittedly I wasn’t thrilled when hubby told me at 430 p.m. that he calculated a 19 hr 36 m passage and that we should plan to leave in 1.5 hours (although I knew we had planned to do this passage overnight). And even less thrilled when he followed that up with “oh, remind me to pay the credit card bill, it’s gonna be late…and another zinger – news of family drama. So, what would normally have been a pretty hectic evening went into full-on chaos mode topped with heaps of unhelpful stress.

The big hurry?  The weather window of course. All this hot, gorgeous late summer weather we have been having out West means perfectly light conditions, relatively speaking, to make our way down what can be a treacherous coast.  The “Big Daddy” passage, Point Conception still looms and yesterday afternoon we met a salty and savvy sailing couple at the dock who encouraged us to press on past Morro Bay on this passage and just get to Coho and anchor, a little beyond it. We’d be “home free!” they said.   Weellll, easier done when your crew consists of two able-bodied adults unencumbered by little ones who rely on you and need you for constant care, supervision, feeding and most importantly,  refereeing.  So, while grateful for their sage advice, no doubt hard-earned as most is, we decided to stick to our plan – a passage to Morro Bay with a backup plan to stop short and anchor at San Simeon if needed.

Faced with a potentially 20-hour overnight passage, we went into high gear.  Prepping for a voyage like this, for us newbies, requires a lot of prep.  On my list: prepping dinner for the night, then breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks for the next day – so as to avoid any unnecessary time down below deck if conditions make it uncomfortable (or dangerous) for me to be cooking down there.  Plus, not knowing exactly where I am on the seasickness scale, I prefer to plan to be out of the galley as much as possible during these early passages.  So–meal prep was a must.  And everything had to be made with what I had on hand.  Not terribly difficult, just time-consuming.  Then my list grew: waste disposal (dirty diesel, old propane tanks, regular trash), securing the cabin, getting appropriate clothing ready and at-hand (again, not wanting to have to spend too much time down below if conditions suck), making sure all necessary (and not-so-necessary) devices were charged and our backup batteries were ready to go, making sure we had enough water on board (in case things go sideways)… etc, etc.

Of course, hubby has his own list of sh*%t to do, which consisted primarily of securing everything above deck (dinghy/dinghy cover, all our lines, and gear on deck, checking out with the harbor master, etc.) and starting the departure checklist. And of course dealing with the aforementioned financial and family issues.

Last, but not least, we needed to take advantage of the lovely Monterey Marina’s shore power to get our hot shower/baths done for the kids (hot water is tougher to come by under passage and limited to 5 gallons at a time–what the engine heats if/when it is running). Side note: I loved this Marina! So set up for live aboards: 24 hour harbor staff, wifi, dinghy docks, on-site laundry machines for boaters and walkability to everything in Monterey, including the bay trail!

After alllll of that, we were finally ready to depart, about 2 hours later than we wanted to, and about 4.5 hours after we first plotted our course.  The good news is that once we were underway, our on-board navigation system told us we’d be getting there a few hours earlier than we planned for. Woot! Even better, the boys quickly fell asleep snugged up on the cockpit cushions under the stars and light breeze while we motored out of Monterey Bay.

Hubby and I took shifts – he volunteered for the first shift (12a-4) and I took the second shift (4a- whenever he woke up, which was early with morning twilight).  And things have gone relatively smooth! Hubby tells me that a pod of dolphins rode our bow waves for almost an hour on his watch. He had tons of fun watching them play in the moonlight and criss-cross the front of our bow.  At shift change, we discovered that we had made our way through what appeared to be a massive kelp forest and became immediately concerned that it would gum-up the prop.   Reading our minds, the engine preemptively stopped itself and we had to run around assessing the severity of the sitch and de-funkifying the prop. Thank goodness for our Shaft Shark! (prop chopper)  We bought it earlier this year at the Strictly Sail boat show (one of the few purchases we made, the other big one being our Fisher inflatable SUP, which we love!)… and I could not be happier that we did! That bad boy chopped the sh*&t outta that kelp and all I saw were pieces of that kelp shooting out the stern.  Woo hoo! Success!


(Hubby getting in a few precious zzz’s on deck during my shift)

My shift was quiet and actually quite lovely, despite the wee hour.  I had time and mental space to actually think about what we’re doing and where we are– and I gotta say, I’m pretty stoked.  On a lovely cool September morning, I’m sailing down the Pacific Coast with my most precious cargo, watching the moon rise and the stars fade while the shape of the California coast starts to take hold.  As day breaks, morning reveals that the gorgeous clouds I saw a few minutes earlier–

were actually smoke entrails – an unfortunate reminder of the late-season fires that continue to burn in California
— like the large Santa Cruz fire we saw departing Monterey that looked like a volcano erupting from the hillside from our vantage point.

This pause in my day was the first chance I took (although not had, I suspect there were many others that I missed) to really soak it all in. This is pretty freaking cool.  And we are pretty freaking lucky to be doing this. Now. Together.


(Early breakfast in the cockpit–E & F; F loving the sun rising and watching whales spout off the port side of the boat)

So… I’m going to try to remind myself of those early morning reflections as we continue on this journey. Most likely in a short while when the littles decide that it’s time to jump off the back of the boat and swim because it’s so damn hot here!

One thing is for certain, hot 40 mph winds or not, Dakota’s crew is gonna sleep well tonight.

Update:  We made such good time (thank you California current and glassy overnight conditions!) that we decided to press onto the last safe harbor prior to Point Conception– Port San Luis.  And despite the heat, we find ourselves anchored just a few hundred metres from the gorgeous Avila Beach for free!(The mooring balls they offered us, at 42′ and guest moorings were, to put it kindly, sloppy seconds.  So we opted out and are loving our first free anchorage snugged in between Avila and Cal Poly Pier, sweet spot!)

3 thoughts on “Monterey to Avila Beach (aka Port San Luis)

  1. Im so happy you are underway – and loving the adventure. Sounds amazing; but not for me (too much to think about all the time). Blessings to you 4.


  2. Absolutely awesome! I think there is a future in journalism and/or a reality show!

    Wishing you ALL the best! Your VA extended family is thinking of you all!


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