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Old 06-05-2013, 00:48   #1
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Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

Hi folks,

I'm new to cruising the California coast and could use some advice. I've been sailing in the San Francisco Bay for a few years now and am planning to take a trip under sail to Half Moon Bay and then Monterey Bay. This fall I upgraded from a 25' daysailor to an Ericson 34.

I've been out past the golden gate off the coast and back before, but haven't made the turn south yet.

Can anyone provide local knowledge of what to expect weather-wise? I was told that Monterey can get foggy and I should try to get there "early." How early should I be? (Aim for noon? 4pm? sunset?)

I estimate 65 nm from Half Moon Bay to Monterey Harbor, which is somewhere between 10--12 hours depending on wind/boat speed.

Any tips or gotchas regarding anchoring at either location, or anything else to take into account would be appreciated

Thanks!
- Aaron
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Old 06-05-2013, 10:50   #2
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

I've only done the trip a couple of times (racing), but here are a few pointers:

Don't take the "south channel" off of Pt. Lobos unless the seas are really calm. This can be a dangerous area, and it's not really a channel, just a slightly less shallow part of the shoal. I usually sail out to the last channel-marker buoy (R "2") before turning south.

Avoid the "Montara wind hole". In the afternoon and evening there is typically a dead zone offshore from Montara. You want to be at least a few miles out for better wind.

Don't cut the corner at Pillar Pt. when heading into (or out of) Half Moon Bay. The waves can be huge (Mavericks surfing spot).

Santa Cruz is also a nice harbor to visit.

The wind can really shut down after midnight in Monterey Bay.

What the wind actually does will depend on the inland temperatures, and if there are any low-pressure systems moving down the coast.
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:23   #3
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

good advice above. Capitola just east of Santa Cruz usually has moorings. Moss Landing further east is worth stooping at. Rent or take a Kayak and do Elk Horn Slough.
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Old 06-05-2013, 21:29   #4
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

Thanks for the good advice! Paul, do you know what the daily fog pattern tends to be like? Another cruiser suggested that it gets foggy "later" in the day, but I'd like to know if I should rise at 4am or sail through the night to get there before the fog..
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Old 24-05-2013, 02:37   #5
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

Well the trip went half as planned. We made it to Monterey beautifully, but sailing north in the daytime to return, we could not round ano Nuevo. The forecasted 5-15 was really more like 25-30, and the wind waves really stalled our momentum and made continuing pointless. We beat a safe retreat to Santa Cruz, where we are now docked.

It's blowing pretty hard this week, but I'm hoping Saturday night we can make it back to sf. I'm debating between that or Sunday night. I don't know how to interpret the nws marine forecasts, since they seem to underestimate daytime wind speed, but everyone swears night is generally fine. Does it overestimate them?

Any advice for this sail? We were advised to leave Santa Cruz at sunset and to hit pigeon point around 2-3am. Do you have a recommended depth or standoff distance from the coast to follow? The swell and wind waves 6nm offshore were difficult to motor or motor sail against. Someone else said we should hug closer to 1-2 nm offshore in about 15 fathoms for upwind.

Also if I want to bypass pillar point and go straight to the gate overnight, should I sneak up the inside of half moon or cut straight past it?

Thanks...
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Old 24-05-2013, 03:25   #6
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The rule from Cabo to Oregon is to have "one foot on the beach". 20nm S of every cape stay inside as far as reasonable. Try to round the capes in the wee hours. 30kts is typical at the capes but often eases just after they are rounded. I've rounded Pt. Sur and others just a hundred yards off. Depends on conditions of course.

Turning back happens plenty. But always give it a try. Forecasts are almost worthless.
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Old 24-05-2013, 05:23   #7
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

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Originally Posted by daddle View Post
The rule from Cabo to Oregon is to have "one foot on the beach". 20nm S of every cape stay inside as far as reasonable. Try to round the capes in the wee hours. 30kts is typical at the capes but often eases just after they are rounded. I've rounded Pt. Sur and others just a hundred yards off. Depends on conditions of course.

Turning back happens plenty. But always give it a try. Forecasts are almost worthless.
That sounds dangerous -- hugging a rocky lee shore in 30 knots.
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Old 24-05-2013, 05:26   #8
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Quote:
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That sounds dangerous -- hugging a rocky lee shore in 30 knots.
That's what the rudder is for. But not really a lee shore. The lee shore is many miles to the SSE. The wind blows down the coast. Any crappy boat can tack offshore.
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Old 24-05-2013, 07:04   #9
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

No, it is not a lee shore. The wind blows down along the coast. Consequently you are going directly into the wind to head up the coast.
Yes, NOAA always seems to under estimate. Take their prediction and add 10 knots and that is probably what will happen.
Today will be windy and sloppy again with 25-30 knots of wind and 3-6 foot wind waves on top of the swell.
I would stay put at Santa Cruz for a few more days until it lays down.
I have made this trip often. I usually leave Santa Cruz Harbor at 2am. That will get you to Half Moon Bay around noon. At that point depending on conditions you can either duck in at Pillar Point or keep rolling on to the Golden Gate which is about 4 hours beyond Half Moon Bay.
The old fishermen say they always follow the 10 fathom curve which is roughly 1 mile off shore. I prefer to be more like 3-5 miles off which still keeps you safely inside the shipping lanes.
The big hazard of running up the coast close at night is that there are thousands of crab traps out there. The floats are very hard to see in choppy water and can foul your prop if it is turning.
Try and watch for them. They are usually set in clusters so if you see one there will be more close by. I have never fouled one by know people who have.
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Old 24-05-2013, 07:22   #10
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

Check out passageweather.com it is a lot more accurate than NOAA.
I just had a look and it doesn't appear the the current conditions will be changing anytime soon.
Pretty typical for this time of year on the central coast of California. Can blow 25-30 knots for a two week stretch.
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Old 24-05-2013, 12:39   #11
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

Hi Liam,

Thanks for the link! Passageweather seems to suggest Sunday during the daytime might be clear hours to get to Pillar Point. Unfortunately, you can't zoom in to the coast to see more detail, can you?

I'm a bit nervous about leaving my boat in Santa Cruz for an extended period of time.. it's tied to the fuel dock which is right in the midst of the harbor channel, swell, etc.

And given that I've got a job in SF, my options for actually moving the boat myself are more-or-less restricted to the weekends going forward
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Old 25-05-2013, 06:54   #12
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

Hello Kimballa,
I wouldn't worry about leaving the boat. This time of year there won't be too much surge at the fuel dock/guest slip. Also, you could ask the harbormaster about other temporary slip/end tie options. Capitola Village has moorings 3 miles east of Santa Cruz.
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Old 14-11-2013, 15:58   #13
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

There's good advice posted here, I don't mean to contradict any of it. I hope this will add some to what's already posted.

I've made the round-trip passage, Pillar Point -> Santa Cruz - Monterey -> Pillar Point, in a 26 foot Pearson Ariel several times. My most recent return from Monterey to Pillar Point can be seen here: Google Maps APRS

A few cautions:

1) Expect the winds to be twice the forecast around Pigeon Point. The prevailing winds there are out of the north to northwest, and if the swell is out of the west, the combined wind waves and swells can produce cross seas with no favorable point of sail to avoid a capsize. I spent several hours one evening hove to with a sea anchor under bare poles in 40 knot winds and 12 foot combined cross seas that I will never forget - because I sailed too close (3 miles) to shore when the thermals kicked in in the afternoon. I floated weightless in the cabin at times, and there wasn't a surface in the cabin that I wasn't slammed against at least once. Give Pigeon Point lots of sea room - stay 20 miles offshore if the winds are likely to kick up. If you see lots of spray kicked up to 500 feet as you approach Pigeon Point, beware!
2) The best time to depart Santa Cruz for Pillar Point is 2 to 4 AM. Trying to go around the bend northward toward Ano Nuevo in the afternoon is likely to get you caught in a washing machine of high winds and seas created as the northwest wind turns the bend north of Santa Cruz. Expect fog leaving Santa Cruz.
3) Marine weather forecasts generally suck. As a pilot, I'm spoiled by the much more accurate forecasts for pilots. I determine my own forecast by consulting the Pacific Briefing Package. For local weather at Pillar Point, I consult the Half Moon Bay AWOS at: 650-728-5649. It's continually updated. Listen closely for the temperature and dew point. If there's less than a 2 degree C spread, expect fog.

From the map linked above, you'll see my track from Monterey. My plan was to leave Monterey at sunrise (in fog) and try to beat the mid-day winds at the bend north of Santa Cruz. It didn't work. I got caught in 35 knot winds and 8 foot windwaves with no prospect of beating upwind while taking those waves abeam. After having a few windwaves board my cockpit over the side, I turned tail back into Santa Cruz. I left early the next morning and made the passage with easy sailing conditions.
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Old 14-11-2013, 17:27   #14
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

This track shows what I feel is the minimum seaway distance for a passage from Pillar Point to Santa Cruz in anything but calm conditions: Google Maps APRS

I passed Pigeon Point 8 miles offshore. As the old sailor's adage goes: "Don't be afraid of the sea -- be afraid of the land." There just happened to be a race following the same course (Windjammer) from St Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco) to Santa Cruz that passed Pigeon Point at the same time. The racers naturally took the shorter route closer ashore, and I monitored their comms as they lost gear (including sails) overboard and generally got thrashed in much bigger boats. Meanwhile, I was just kicking back, listening to music, and doing 4 knots downwind under bare poles in 25 knot winds while watching huge swells pass by.

I should mention that it helps to pass Pigeon Point at night - when you can't see the approaching swells.
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Old 14-11-2013, 18:20   #15
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Re: Sailing San Francisco - Half Moon Bay - Monterey

For current conditions, I use this chart: http://www.opc.ncep.noaa.gov/UA/West_coast.gif. It however does not include seastate data or future prognosis. You can also see real time buoy data here: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mtr/mesonet/

I do not trust any of the computer generated wind charts (GRIBs, Sailflow, Passageweather, etc.). As a soaring pilot, I've come to distrust these types of forecasts because they don't accurately factor in frontal, thermal, and instability effects. In my opinion, you're better off looking at the NOAA charts and deriving your own forecasts.

You do need to really study weather to interpret the NOAA charts. But it's worth the effort.
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