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Old 25-10-2011, 12:18   #1
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First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

My daughter wants me to sail my Columbia 34 MKII down to San Diego for a visit this summer. Though I've done a lot of day sailing on Monterey Bay and a 9 day cruise from Pensacola around Florida up to Charleston, this will be the first cruise I've planned and I need some help. My only definite stops will be Santa Barbara to see family and then San Diego. I'm open to other stops as well, including the Channel Islands.

Is June or July better for going down the coast? Assuming a good weather window, how long would it likely take to go South? and then up North? Along the coast or off shore? Particular issues to be aware of on that route? Anything else useful? I've seen some posts on this route, but none that seem to address those questions.

Thanks!
Rich
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Old 25-10-2011, 13:03   #2
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Re: First Time Cruise -- Monterey to San Diego

I've made that trip close to a dozen times in a variety of boats, but never in a boat smaller/slower than an Express 37.

One of the big questions is whether you'll be harbor-hopping or trying to run between Monterey/Santa Barbara in one swoop. The biggest stretch, and it will be an overnighter in your boat in the best of conditions, will be from Monterey to Morro Bay. Even if you plan on stopping at Morro Bay, you must be prepared to continue sailing in case the entrance to the MB harbor is breaking. The one time this happened to me I was able to put in Port of San Luis, but that made for a long run.

The one time I made the run without radar, I vowed never to do so again. I've been stuck out there in fog so thick I couldn't see the bow pulpit, and there's nowhere to park the boat until things clear.

Once you clear Point Conception, wind can tend to get really light. You'll want a spinnaker at that point, and should be prepared for long slogs motoring.

Forgive me, but I'm not inclined to answer the question of how long a given voyage will take in a given boat. If your navigation skills are not strong enough to figure that out for yourself, you're probably not ready to make the trip. Suffice it to say that in your boat you won't be able to make it down and back in a week. There is a longshore current moving south that will help you down and hurt you going home.

As to the question of how far to go offshore, that really depends on where the fog is sitting. I generally feel a bit safer in fog staying inbound of the shipping traffic, but I won't hesitate to go further out if that's where I'll find wind.

Most people motorsail the return trip. I've developed a few strategies to beat the wind at its own game. For example, I'll put in at San Simeon around noonish, but only if the seas are running from the northwest. I'll cat-nap until the wind dies, which in June/July will be sometime around 2200-2300. Then I'll get up and blast for Monterey, or maybe Stillwater Cove. In my boat I can usually arrive before the wind fills in mid-day the following day. You won't have quite that luck in your boat.

Study the charts. Understand such things as calling "Plead Control" when you're going by Vandenberg AFB, because I've been there during a launch, and they get pretty snippy about having sailboats downrange. Don't ask me how I know this, but they've been known to send out Apache helicopters to escort you off the range.

As to the June/July question, either month can present nice or bad conditions, especially considering El Nino years. The big question is how you feel about dealing with fog.
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Old 25-10-2011, 13:05   #3
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Re: First Time Cruise -- Monterey to San Diego

Going South will be much faster due to current and wind in your favor. Watch out for Pt. Conception. It can be a hand full. Its best to radio out around San Luis Obisbo for a report on the Pt. Past that it is clear sailing. non-stop on a C-34, I'd say 5 days. Coming back you can add a couple of days to that.
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Old 25-10-2011, 16:23   #4
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

Thanks you two! That's about what I expected to hear, but never having done that trip, only read about it I'm real wary. My probable crew down and back have both done the trip numerous times, I just want to avoid the most obvious stupid plans. I haven't gotten to sitting down with the charts yet to plan it out. Still waiting for the Admiral to give the OK before I get too invested in it.
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Old 25-10-2011, 18:43   #5
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Re: First Time Cruise -- Monterey to San Diego

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Originally Posted by Celestialsailor View Post
Watch out for Pt. Conception.
Pt Conception can be a nightmare for north-bound boats. But I've rounded Conception when it was in pussy-cat mode only to be slammed by Pt Arguello or Pt Sur. Once, when returning to SF Bay from MDR, I made it around all three of those notorious points with no trouble, only to be stopped by Pt Ano Nuevo, at which point we had to turn around and duck into Santa Cruz.

You never know, but you really don't want to be on a fixed schedule traveling north. It sometimes takes weeks to get the right weather window.
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Old 25-10-2011, 18:50   #6
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

I have done the trip a few times and it can be a bitch or not to bad. North bound it is a good idea to hole up in Cojo till you get the right weather and then go for it. Southbound it is great fun. Here is the best book I know of for the coast http://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Guide.../dp/0071374647
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Old 25-10-2011, 19:55   #7
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Re: First Time Cruise -- Monterey to San Diego

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Pt Conception can be a nightmare for north-bound boats. But I've rounded Conception when it was in pussy-cat mode only to be slammed by Pt Arguello or Pt Sur. Once, when returning to SF Bay from MDR, I made it around all three of those notorious points with no trouble, only to be stopped by Pt Ano Nuevo, at which point we had to turn around and duck into Santa Cruz.

You never know, but you really don't want to be on a fixed schedule traveling north. It sometimes takes weeks to get the right weather window.

Yup!!!...Same experience. I call Ano Nuevo, Mini Conception.
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Old 27-10-2011, 08:26   #8
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

I've been told that by staying offshore at least 15 miles Pt. Conception is no problem. Is that true? or did they people I spoke to just get lucky?
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Old 27-10-2011, 08:32   #9
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

The toughest way to round Conception is from Cojo. I've had luck departing from Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island and staying offshore. Yes. But Cuyler can be a nasty place to anchor when the wind gods are feisty. Williwaws like you wouldn't believe.

Getting offshore is one strategy, but no strategy is foolproof. You've got to be able to wait for the window to open up.
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Old 27-10-2011, 08:44   #10
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

i've only rounded Conception upwind twice but once left from Cojo at around 01:00 and the seas were big for a couple of hours but no wind. The other time we waited in SB and left around 23:00 w/o a problem. Last time going down it was a milk pond and sitting in Cojo looked like a dream anchorage and a great place to surf.
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Old 27-10-2011, 09:08   #11
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

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no wind. The other time we waited in SB and left around 23:00 w/o a problem.
Sneaking around Conception at night when the wind abates is a time-honored tradition. Once, while helping a friend bring his 100' powerboat north from San Diego, we left port at 1700 in order to time Conception in calm conditions. That's what you do when the owner doesn't want to have to empty the hot tub.

Again, no strategy is foolproof.
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Old 02-02-2012, 17:02   #12
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

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Originally Posted by Celtic_dog View Post
My daughter wants me to sail my Columbia 34 MKII down to San Diego for a visit this summer. Though I've done a lot of day sailing on Monterey Bay and a 9 day cruise from Pensacola around Florida up to Charleston, this will be the first cruise I've planned and I need some help. My only definite stops will be Santa Barbara to see family and then San Diego. I'm open to other stops as well, including the Channel Islands.

Is June or July better for going down the coast? Assuming a good weather window, how long would it likely take to go South? and then up North? Along the coast or off shore? Particular issues to be aware of on that route? Anything else useful? I've seen some posts on this route, but none that seem to address those questions.

Thanks!
Rich

In my younger, dumber days (age 25, a few weeks after law school graduation), I sailed my 1967 Cal 28 (which was also my home at the time) from San Francisco to San Diego. I shoved off on February 6, 1992 with two sails, a "sometimes working" Loran, no liferaft, a $20 "drugstore dingy,' no EPIRB, no radar, no tillerpilot or other self-steering mechanism, no generator or solar panels (or any other way of recharging batteries other than with the trusty old Atomic 4). The best way to describe the trip (north of Concepcion anyways) was days of fog and doldrums punctuated by ice-cold, gale-force winds and 15-foot seas. I heartily second the previous comments about fog. For three days straight, it was so thick that I could barely see the bow of the boat. The boat made exactly seven miles of headway during those three days. I ran out of gas and, shortly thereafter, electricity, about 75 nm north of Concepcion. I had to anchor off the surf and swim to shore, where I hitched a ride with a nice couple who took me 10 miles to the nearest gas station where I filled up a couple of gas cans and bought a battery. Ultimately, it took me 12 days to get from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. As you can imagine, I very much enjoyed Santa Barbara when I finally got there. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. . . long reach to Catalina and another to San Diego.

The moral of the story: You can definitely do it in your Columbia 34, and you do not need to have the very best of all equipment to make it. However, don't do it the way I did it! The only things I can say in my defense are that I had plenty of fresh water and food and I was not in a hurry. Just about everything else about the trip, however, sends shudders up my 45-year-old, married/father spine today.

Anyways, I just joined this forum and really have enjoyed reading everyone's $.02. My wife and I have bareboated several boats over the past 10 years, including a Lagoon 410 in the BVIs for a week and a Beneteau 473 in the Ionian Sea (Athens to Corfu repositioning) for 10 days. Our goal is to eventually buy a catamaran, probably in the 44-50 foot range. Until then, it's all about working hard, saving money, and dreaming!
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Old 02-02-2012, 17:41   #13
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

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I have done the trip a few times and it can be a bitch or not to bad. North bound it is a good idea to hole up in Cojo till you get the right weather and then go for it. Southbound it is great fun. Here is the best book I know of for the coast http://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Guide.../dp/0071374647
Don't take the chance, I did this last summer. This cruising guide said to stay in close to avoid the vortex effect. My experence was to stay well offshore, have rounded this nasty point serveral times. I have talked to many sailors that confirmed this fact, many said they had to motor around [no wind]. We started to round Point Aquello, went 1/8 mile and was in 45+ knot wind. Managed to beat offshore out past all the oil platforms and hove too till morning. First light continued w/Dbl. reef main and rounded the point. Next 40+ miles sailing at 9 Knots in 6 knot boat in 12' confused seas, wild ride. My next trip will again be 60 miles off. Good luck and don't let fear stop you, just be aware that this can happen. Michael..
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Old 02-02-2012, 19:58   #14
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

I just reread the cruising guide again. This is a very good reference for the area. Brian Fagan, the Cruising guide to Central & Southern Calif.. He recomends staying off 5-7 miles off these capes. Personly I would clear by much more. The wind and waves are somewhere between 50%- 150% lower well offshore. In the past I would sail about 50-60miles off the capes and make a left turn with a course heading into Smugglers Cove at Santa Cruz Island. I hope this will help you on your trip south. I don't mean to scare you, but this place can be scary for a new crew. Good luck and yell if I can help further. I'll give my cell # if you want to talk.
..Michael..
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Old 02-02-2012, 20:05   #15
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Re: First Time Cruise - Monterey to San Diego

I found this to be an easy trip, 2 day's tops to Santa Barbara. You can anchor at San Simeon, but we could'nt because of a nasty southery swell running. Morro Bay takes you way off course and adds more sailing miles.
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