Condesa Sails Under the Golden Gate

Clark June 17th, 2008

For the first time in ten years Condesa has entered a port with no plans of leaving. She’s in her new berth in San Francisco, which looks up at Coit Tower, and straight across the Bay to Alcatraz.

One of my most frequently asked questions is, “Which was your favorite country?” Lately my answer has been, “California.” I’ve said before that I always thought of Californians as angry people stuck in traffic. Maybe I was the angry person stuck in traffic. I was also expecting unspecified run-ins with the authorities. I guess my only experiences with Homeland Security and the like in recent years have been in airports, where they are less than kind. I figured that after being away for so long I’d be coming back to some hassles, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I already mentioned how nice, easy, and cheap it was to put into San Diego, but this same treatment continued on up the coast, and the California coast competes with anywhere for natural beauty.

In Newport Beach, my home port, of course I got good treatment. With a free dock in front of the Beek house and wholesale fuel at the family fuel dock, what more could I ask for? But even if I didn’t have connections, Newport is a friendly port with free anchoring and free moorings.

Condesa set sail from Newport with Panama and Peru veteran Tony Burger. We made an overnight sail to Santa Barbara to visit my brother Jim (aka Rufus) and a host of friends. We’d planned to anchor out, but it was rough as guts when we got there. We radioed the Harbor Patrol, who were sweet as pie and had us tie up to their dock while they pulled all the stops to accommodate us. We ended up in a great berth for $23 per day.

Tony left and Beloved Cousin Rocky took the train down from Santa Cruz:

Rocky and I motored out of Santa Barbara and out to the Channel Islands for a little cruising. We visited the Painted Cave, on Santa Cruz Island, which was very deep and dark, and had some very angry sea lions hidden in the back. We traded standing off on Condesa while the other went into the cave in the dinghy, as it’s too deep to anchor. After the Painted Cave we cruised around Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, both of which have very scenic and snug bays. We never saw another recreational boat in the Channel Islands (it was a Monday), just a few fishing boats.

Condesa from inside the Painted Cave:

Then it was around dreaded Point Conception, the second windiest place to Point Reyes on the California coast, but we had an easy time of it. We charged through the night to the protected anchorage at San Simeon, where we looked up at Hearst Castle. Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo are two other snug harbors, but we passed them in the night. The next morning the sky was brown and the sun a blood red orb. It’s California’s wildfire season again, and we could see the Big Sur and Bonnie Doon fires burning from well offshore:

From San Simeon it’s a long haul along the cliffs to Carmel, Monterrey, or Santa Cruz. We chose Santa Cruz, as it’s where Rocky lives. We could see the headlights on the cars winding along Highway 1 all night long. Once again the Harbor Patrol in Santa Cruz was eager to please and we got a snug berth in the harbor, this time for $27 per night, where we saw this guy, a California Sea Otter, snoozing in the marina:

Case in point: One can cruise the California coast at a leisurely pace in total comfort. Where there aren’t beautiful natural anchorages there are bustling ports with reasonably-priced berths for transient yachts. All of these ports jack the price up if you stay more than a few days, which makes good sense to me. With the exception of the stretch between Monterrey and San Simeon, it’s all daysails. The next time I go cruising it might be a month’s sail from San Francisco down to Newport and back, combining haut cuisine in California’s ports with remote beauty on her offshore islands.

From Santa Cruz to San Francisco was an historic voyage with cousins Rocky, Joe, and Joe’s daughter Abigail. Rocky is half responsible for this whole cruising odyssey mess, and Joe is responsible for the other half. I went cruising the first time with them on Starwake when they were returning from a trans-Pacific voyage to New Zealand and back. In the ‘About Me’ entry on this website I talk about being green with seasickness while watching a hammock full of vegetables rot and drip in the tropical heat above my bunk, while figuring out how to get myself out of this horrible, horrible error in judgment. Going with them was the horrible error in judgment, and look what it ended up doing to me. How fitting that it would all begin and end on a sailboat with Rocky and Joe, but I guess I’m looking for landmarks and significance in every little thing at this uncertain juncture in my life.

Joe and Abigail:

We had rare south winds most of the day and sailed past the Pigeon Point lighthouse and Point Pilar, home of the famous big wave surf spot Mavericks. (It wasn’t going off.) As we neared San Francisco the wind veered to the west and strengthened, and a flood tide screamed under the Golden Gate at three knots. My friends Elias and Jim were going to take pictures of Condesa going under the Golden Gate, but couldn’t get there in time. “Can’t you stall a bit?” I looked at the GPS, marking our speed at nearly ten knots, with the current accounting for three of it. “Um, no.”

We sailed right up to Condesa’s new marina, with various Beeks scrambling around to drop sails, and made our entrance…into the wrong place. But the wrong place was much more photogenic than the right place, so it’s good that Elias and Jim were there to photograph it. Once we’d entered the right place, we tied her up, had a celebratory shot of tequila, and Rocky, Joe, and Abigail set out for Santa Cruz by land. Condesa hasn’t moved a muscle since.

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Comment by Rich Cassano
2008-06-18 16:13:17


Sorry to see your voyage come to an end. I was thoroughly enjoying each and every episode that you wrote about – you are a fantastic writer. So, after ten years of circumnavigating what do you do next? San Francisco is not a bad place to start a land adventure.

Wish you the best,

Rich Cassano
S/V Gray Eagle, Tashiba 40
Northport, NY USA

Comment by Clark
2008-06-23 22:25:26

Thanks, Rich! That means a lot coming from another sailor. What to do next is the question of the hour…at the moment I’m still a cruiser who’s just arrived in a new destination, but very soon I will be a cruiser in a new destination with no money. Maybe something to do with writing, or sailing…

Comment by Tani
2008-06-18 20:36:24

can I go on the month sail from SF to Newport?!?!??!!!!

Comment by Fjorder
2008-06-19 13:15:30

Let’s get this man a book deal. Thanks for sharing Clark.

Comment by Clark
2008-06-23 22:22:15

Couldn’t agree more.

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