Stolen Kiss

Stolen Kiss

September 18, 2010

Go West Young Man

With Apologies to Horace Greely and of course The Village People….

In order to escape from the heat in Guaymas, we decided to explore the west coast of the US of A! Maybe we should have done more extensive research about the journey; however our ‘suck it and see’ approach worked for us!

Expect the unexpected!

Being jet lagged….0400 in LA…….. (Arriving back from a very short trip to Perth) TV just happened to have the history of the formation of Yosemite National Park glacial formations. You just have to love good timing!

One thing is for sure…. The west coast would be such an inhospitable coast to sail, which is no different to any west coast in the world! However, as far as driving goes…it does have a certain ‘wow’ factor. You can’t go past Australia for ideal beaches!

Oregon definitely had the best beaches north of LA; these were enjoyed out of the water; not only because it was cold but also because of the coastal kelp beds that ran nearly all the way up the coast.

We briefly experienced the infamous fog bank heading south from San Francisco to Monterey. As timing is everything, we had a perfect weather window whilst driving up the coast.

What did we see most of along the way????? …. trees of course!!!!!!!!!! The extensive logging industry in Oregon and Washington is made apparent along the coast and on every beach by the huge amounts of driftwood washed up! Sailors beware!

Departing LA, San Luis Obispo was a real find; a funky upbeat, trendy town in the centre of a wine growing region. We managed to score market night; music and entertainment. Local organic produce was to die for, with the only disappointment being that we did not have the boat to load! It makes Perth look even worse with lower quality produce for much higher prices.

The longest queue....

was for the meat....

and some of the entertainment ....well, what could we say????

A little further north, Pismo Beach and San Simeon would be worthy of a longer stay. Hearst Castle, an elaborate, outlandish, and lusciously lavish Italian Villa built in the 1920’s by WR Hearst unveiled some worthy stories. Hearst’s father made his money mining silver in the late 1800’s and wisely transferring his wealth into 300 sq miles of land along the coast. WR Hearst, inspired by his travels to Europe built his dream home villa, high on a hill overlooking the Pacific. Julia Morgan, a visionary architect, as well as a civil engineer, made his dream become a reality. Hearst filled the villa with original art pieces from Europe, ranging from 5000 Year old Egyptian Statues to 500 year old Spanish and Italian tapestries.

The outdoor pool had been re-built three times; to increase its size to this. Greek statues gracing the pool are original!

The manicured gardens are delightful..

Hearst was a colourful character who had a wife (in New York, 22 years his junior) and a girlfriend (actress, 36 years his junior) who lived in ‘the castle’. The girlfriend had lent him 2 million USD during the Great Depression when he lost his wealth. Although Hearst was quick to recover his lost wealth by the end of WWII, the debt was not repaid until his death in 1954 (same year as granddaughter Patty was born) when his will disclosed that he had left 51% of all his wealth to his mistress. She promptly sold it back to the family for 1 USD, dispelling long held views that she was a gold digger/silver miner.

Dining Hall..

The indoor pool just as amazing...the dive platform can be seen just to the right of the light..

During the lead up to WWII such people as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and other who’s who of Hollywood were invited guests at ‘the castle’.

The Californian Government has a significant tax relief policy for landowners who do not develop their land beyond pastoral use or who do not clear virgin land. Makes for a lot of open space!

A quick run east (through the plains claiming to be the largest area given to produce growing in THE world) up to Yosemite National Park was well worth the awesome vista.

Apart from the gargantuan Sequoia Trees, (largest trees in the world by girth)

the main attraction is the massive gorge carved by an ancient glacier.

I was really hoping to see a bear or two...from a safe vantage point of course! I suggested putting out some honey and waiting….Peter thought I could smother myself in honey and run through the forest….. ho hum!!

The awesome Glacier Point Half Dome afforded an even more awesome view down to the Valley. It stretches the imagination thinking about the forces at work to carve out such a landscape. We found many flat bottomed valleys (indicative of glacial erosion) all along the coast up to the Washington State border.

Base jumping has been forbidden...

The valley floor has some awesome hikes and bicycle hire around the river..

Photos just don't quite capture the height and depth.....

Yosemite back to the coast took us through the hills north of San Francisco (there be gold in them hills!) and up to Pacific City, back on to Highway 1 and the 101. A rather challenging road at times with switchbacks and vertical cliffs either into the water or the forest! Simply stunning coastline; only inhospitable for those who sail it! At least heading north we had the other side of the road as a buffer between us and the vertical cliffs….next stop the ocean!!

The Redwood forest around Crescent City was yet another awesome experience with the trees which are 2000-3000 years old. Their bark, over a foot thick, protects them from extreme weather and fire. Apparently they are only killed by chainsaws! So being the tallest trees in the world, volumetrically, they are also the largest.

Whilst we are on the tree path, we enjoyed seeing (and smelling!!!) the extensive acreage of eucalypts around LA and San Francisco. We felt right at home!! During the LA fires last year, apparently the oil from the trees exacerbated the whole situation. The trees were brought to America during the gold rush days of the mid 1800’s. After seeing the excellent wood from the eucalypts in Australia, they were planted en masse throughout California. However, the trees being cut down in Australia were from old growth forests; when the eucalypts were cut down for wood in America, they were young trees which buckled when shaped. The eucalypt timber industry died almost as quickly as it began.

There were many rivers with bars opening to the north along with towns like Gualala, Eureka, Crescent City and many more that deserve further exploration.

Such rivers along the Oregon coast offer some anchorages and berthing for yachts, if one was brave enough to cross the bars! Since 9/11, all the he rivers are manned by the coastguard. The upside is that there is always someone there to give advice on crossing the bar. The extensive bars are evidence of the mountains moving back to the ocean!

Coos Bay has shipping coming in and out; not easy given the entrance! There are, of course fog horns all along the coast, which send an eerie, but welcome sound.

The bars must present some problems as in Florence as there is a fully built marina with water and electricity that looks like it was never used. Grass is now growing on the docks! What a waste.

A brief stop in Pacific City; in actual fact a hamlet on the coast, to catch up with Bill and Elena aka ex Time Out (we had cruised in company with Time Out, for over 10,000 miles). As Peter had recently visited the PIMA aircraft museum in Tucson and Bill, in a previous life was a pilot and an engineer with Boeing, they decided a visit to the McMinville Air Museum, home of the Spruce Goose; an enormous plane built by Howard Hughes. Also at the museum is a Blackbird SR2, the spy plane commissioned by the CIA. The 747 on the roof is about ot be turned into a waterslide. How cool is that!!!

It was then on to Anacortes, just north of Seattle to see the kiwis; Meridian Passage, Merve and Jeannie.

We last cruised with them in SE Asia from where they then went to parts cold and white…Alaska via Japan and the Aleutians. What an absolute treat it was to meet up with them, not to mention being reaquainted with that good kiwi humour! We have their boat secrets stowed away!!!!!! After spending a few nights out at the San Juan Islands, we then anchored out in Anacortes…. I had to help them out with the eating of some fresh red (sockeye?) salmon….the things you have to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Divine!

A little exploration of the San Juan Islands near Anacortes gave us a taste of cruising in this stunning area. Although there was a change in the weather when we got there, it was cool, with the wind dying out at night. Our kind of cruising! On anchoring back in Anacortes, it appeared we were near the start line of a yacht race. Nothing like a bit of entertainment whilst having a sundowner!

Mars was closest to earth on August 27 at 0030; giving the appearance that Earth has two moons. Some of us saw it more than others! Anacortes and the Juan de Fuca Straights is now on our bucket list….a crappy sail to get there!!! So many places, such little time!!!

On leaving Seattle, we had wind and current with us (???) allowing us to make great haste down the I-5, almost to San Francisco. This made for a short day the following day to get to Sausalito, just 4 miles short of THE Bridge. Although there were magic hotels in Sausalito with views out across the bay, the price tag was not for us. Peter’s observation was that he did not want to pay half the cost of a life raft for one night’s accommodation. Sounded good to me!!

A tourist destination it may be, but now a wonderful place to just hang out; Sausalito (established for shipbuilding during WWII) was well worth the time, and from there a short drive afforded an amazing vista of THE Bridge.

The public marina in Sausalito revealed some different house boats:

The Taj Mahal …built by a woman with more money than sense. She apparently uses it for (Tea??) parties 3 times a year.

Then there was San Francisco!

What did we like about San Francisco….its quirkiness! We passed one guy on the street; fag hanging out of his mouth and a chook (alive!) on his shoulder…a beautifully groomed hen at that! People seemed to live a very relaxed lifestyle; no rush, no hassles. A variety of places to hang out in…

As Mark Twian once said ….The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco….How observant of him!! We decided to jump on a harbour cruise and make the most of the sunshine. We had waited until late morning so the fog could burn off. However, just as we left the dock more fog rolled in; this was our view!

We circled the nearby Islands that had not so happy memories for those who were kept there albeit different reasons.

Alcatraz eerily emerged out of the fog. Its lighthouse was the first in the area. Spanish explorer, Juan Manuel de Ayala named The Rock for the pelicans nesting there. Since the closing of the prison (1964) and the Native American Protesters that have moved on (1971), pelicans are now returning.

Angel Island has a varied history; more recently as an immigration centre. Many Chinese during the gold rush in the 1800’s spent years waiting for entry into the US. During this time of anxiety and terrible conditions, many Chinese wrote their stories on the walls which held them captive. From 1910 to 1940, the immigration station processed over 1 million Asian immigrants entering the US.

For various reasons, we ended up crossing the bridge 6 times! It is painted International Orange, looking like gold (????????????) and can swing 27 feet (would rather not be there!) without causing damage to its structure and has only been closed 3 times in its history due to strong winds.

At Pier 39 we came across Rodney Lough’s Wilderness Photographic Gallery. Simply amazing photography and more enjoyable than most of the art in the galleries uptown (or does that show our lack of taste???).

Our fitness must have improved strolling up and down the hills. Walking up the very steep, most crooked street in the world, (?) Lombard St afforded yet another stunning view over another part of the Bay. To get there from our hotel, we had 3 blocks of steep gradient – the last being 33 degrees. (A kind chap sitting on his doorstep shared that with us!)

Driving up and down the hills was enough of a roller coaster ride for us. Then there was the cable cars…their drivers have a wonderful sense of humour and offered suggestions as how to keep you on the car when going downhill!

A visit to China Town took us back to what we loved about SE Asia…..

The old hippie area of Height Ashbury is now an up market place to live with some interesting stores!

We utilised FSC’s reciprocal rights with Saint Francis Yacht Club ( home to John Kostecki and Paul Cayard), enjoying the stunning view of the bridge and the bay, with many memories of The America’s Cup races and Volvo Ocean Race visits to Fremantle via their yacht models and photos. Unfortunately we will not be here during their Big Boat Series.

A drive around the infamous Pebble Beach (US Open and Concours D’Elegance)

and a catch up with others at Blue Banana’s YC in Monterey, where dinghies, mooring buoys and swim platforms are for seals….

was followed by our last big drive down to San Diego, somehow avoiding all the traffic in LA…..being the last long weekend before winter, half of LA was on the move!!!

Newport Beach, Laguna through to Dana Beach….a short jump on the I-405 which goes straight past LAX, if you ever have a spare few hours in LA, is well worth a weekday jaunt.

Near San Diego, Mission Bay was a wonderful place to hang out, especially along the peninsula with cutesy narrow streets and sandy beaches, complete with restaurants and coffee bars. A place full of young travellers and surfers, rather than tourists.

San Diego is an absolute delight and very much centered around boating. Gone are the fresh afternoon sea breezes we found further north. The city centre has many residents; a huge amount of restaurants and night entertainment, especially around the Gaslamp district and Little Italy. Most of the shoreline appears to have given over to marinas or moorings, the former of which are quite expensive. For all the yachts out sailing, there were a thousand times as many in slips everywhere!!

Point Loma is the home of the major marine chandleries and associated companies. For us, it was like children in a lolly shop! However, as we had to haul any purchases back to the boat, in addition to what we already had purchased in Australia, we showed great restraint.

As the zoo is well known for its highly successful breeding program, we decided a visit was in order. As we found all over the west coast, there were little or no queues as tourist season was almost over. At least I got to see a grizzly and our favourites…..Borneo Sun Bear, Hippopotami, Pink Flamingos and the Giant Pandas. The big cats were also up there.

In a little over two weeks, we drove 6,500 km. With such efficient road network, traffic was never an issue; something we found surprising. Using Hotwire and booking hotels just one day in advance saved us something between $10 and $50 per day.

From San Diego, we caught the Greyhound bus from downtown which took us across the border to the bus terminal in Tijuana. We were very relieved that the terminal was well covered with not only non-smoking signs for busses, but also no guns allowed! An immigration officer came to check our passports and was surprised when a 200 peso note fell out behind Peter’s Mexican Visa. He thought the obvious, with Peter having no idea how it got there!!

As we had purchased Yanmar engine paint and a good deal of resin, flying, was out of the question (despite the fact that we were so over laden with boat bits!). We passed the first customs check with a sigh of relief, not realising that we had a second one at midnight as we came to the Sonoran Border. I scored a red light and although Peter was asked to follow me, a quick suggestion to keep going saved us revealing our contraband!

The bus trip (Mexican busses are second to none in comfort) was a good 16 hours through amazing mountains and across the vast old floodplain of the Colorado River where it used to flow into the Sea Of Cortez. We did not expect the journey down the mountains; a little disconcerting when we counted over 20 cars that had gone over the cliffs. At least we did not see any busses that did not make it!! The vista from the bus window was awesome, if not a little scary as you could see 1km down the slope to the bottom; vertical cliffs complete with switchbacks and overturned trucks. There were two one way roads built which separated the traffic by about 1km, saving the possibility of head on collisions. The mountains were all rock – boulders of all sizes littering the landscape. Where was Gorbar when we needed a geological perspective? The vista, coupled with an in ‘drive’ documentary on the worst hurricanes and earthquakes was a little too much stimulation!

Our suck it and see approach came a little undone when we realised on our bus ride to Guaymas, that we had not seen the key to the boat since Peter arrived in Perth. (I had put it somewhere safe!) Our spare key was with Allan in San Carlos. So by the time we arrived at the marina at 0400 (an hour late after sitting outside the police station whilst our driver sorted out his speeding infringement!) we had a few hours sleeping in the cockpit before we could catch a local bus to San Carlos to retrieve our spare key! At least it was not cold or wet, albeit a little dusty.

By the first week in September, the word is that La Nina is now establishing herself and the monsoon conditions are gone. (??) The hills are green, beautiful breezes grace the shores on some days and the temperature varies between 35 and 41 C. Sounds like summer in Perth??? We have the pool at the hardstand to ourselves and manage to go to the beach on most days. Swimming is a delight as the waters are warm; reminds us of Langkawi! 

Our current plan is to head south in Nov to Ecuador, some 2,500 miles south (across the ITCZ) and to leave the boat there while we return to Perth in 2011 for a while.

We want to go sailing RFN (NOW!)

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