Five lessons after five weeks of cruising in Southern California

As of October 1, we’ve been cruising Southern California for five weeks. With a little help from King Neptune and Mother Nature, we should have Aegea should be back in Sausalito soon.

Here are five lessons I learned about cruising in Southern California:

  1. It’s hot and sunny. I’m not sure why, but I expected the weather to be more like the Bay Area. Instead, we’ve had temperatures in the 80s and lots of sun. Aegea is not exactly a hot-weather boat. True, we go to the Delta each summer, but the boat is optimized for San Francisco Bay and the Northern California coast. No bimini, no cockpit awning, no fans, and a dark blue hull that absorbs heat like crazy.
  2. Freshwater is not easy to come by. Sure, you can take on municipal water in every marina, but the best cruising is out at the islands. The Channel Islands offer no facilities of any kind, and even at Catalina water is not very accessible. At Two Harbors, there’s a coin-operated tap on the fuel dock, but we were told that it’s not safe to drink. At Avalon, we took on water from a rickety float that doubles as a pump-out facility. We didn’t get sick, but we were nervous to fill up on drinking water 10 feet from where others unload sewage.
  3. Many beautiful anchorages are rolly. Even well protected coves are open in one direction, allowing swells to roll through. When that happens, the boat starts to rock — sometimes violently — from side to side. Lots of cruisers had “flop stoppers,” which hang from the boat or rig and help dampen the motion. As SoCal newbies, we didn’t. Our solution, which is a lot of work and only partially effective, is to set a stern anchor and rotate the boat directly into the swells. At least then we would rock bow to stern instead of rolling side to side.
  4. There’s not much wind. This is another case of having a boat that’s optimized for San Francisco. Our working headsail is a 95% jib, which is perfect for the Bay. Down here, it’s too small. We had our 120% genoa on board, and we did use it, but changing headsails is a chore. Most days began with a light breeze (5-10 knots) that built into 15 knots, and ideally our sail plan would have adapted to the conditions.
  5. We should have brought the cats. Since we wouldn’t both be gone for more than two weeks at a stretch, and since we have a cat sitter we trust (Alicia Yanow of Pet’s Best Friend), we left Guinny and Chase at home. Our cat sitter sends photos of the cats every day — they are fun to get, but they remind us how much we miss our kitties. This would have been a perfect opportunity to see how the cats handle the boat. And it would have been so cute! (Photos courtesy of Pet’s Best Friend. More here:

— JZ

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Hi you two! Sounds like quite the adventure. Can’t wait for the Commodore’s cruise next year having never been to that part of the coast (on a boat)! Looking forward to seeing you both soon. Take care and happy sailing! Terri

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