Saturday, 20 October 2012

All Kinds Of Excitement in Southern California

“So what’s your bridge deck clearance?” the guy at the Pacific Mariner’s Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, LA, asks Tony.  He looks over at me and raises his eyebrows.  Nobody’s ever asked us that before.  “Cause if it’s high enough we could get you to straddle one of the docks,” he continues, “that should work.  Any ways, come on down, we’ll fit you in some how.”

Did he really say that we could straddle a dock?  Well, they’re offering 3 free days of reciprocal moorage, so what the heck…

We arrive at Marina del Rey and are flabbergasted by the number of boats moored in this harbour, just north of the LA airport.  Apparently 6600 vessels call this area home and it’s a madhouse!  When we get to our destination we are a little perplexed to find that it consists of a long, narrow channel with occupied boat slips down each side.  It ends with what looks to be about 45 feet of connecting dock and this is the only vacant space to be seen.  Our friends, Anja and Bram, have been at the marina for a few days and I can see Bram pointing at this space and shrugging his shoulders.  I can tell that’s he saying something like….right here if you’re stupid enough!

Despite this, my fearless captain heads into the tight channel just as the afternoon breeze starts to pick up.  I can hear him mumbling to himself….”this is not a good idea, this is not a good idea….”  I’m at the bow, ready to toss Bram a line, when I realize that the boat is skewing sideways because of the wind and someone on the balcony of the yacht club building is hollering…fend off, fend off!  I look up to see that the balcony is lined with people with drinks in their hands, thoroughly enjoying the unexpected Friday night entertainment of some crazy Canadians trying to fit their 42 ft catamaran into a space meant for a couple of kayaks.

I heave the bowline in the direction of the dock, hoping that someone is there to catch it and run to the side of Vakasa to fend off the bow (and very pointy anchor) of Bram and Anja’s boat, Tarpan.  Well, at least if we’re going to bash into someone and produce irreparable damage to both of our boats, it’s better that their friends.  That way they can continue to make us feel guilty every time we see them.  Funnily enough, when I reach the side of the boat I find that Tony is already there… who’s at the helm?

By now, all those beer drinkers are down at the dock and heavily involved in manhandling Vakasa into her tiny spot and I can’t believe that we’ve managed it without damage to anything.  We have totally blocked in the boats around us, but their owners just laugh while patting us on the back and say “no problem, we didn’t want to go anywhere for a few days anyways!”  These people are really, really nice!  Everyone is having a great time and I hear a couple people from the balcony shout…”Good save, Skipper!  Well done Captain!”   (Why does no one ever congratulate the first mate?)   I look over and see that Tony already has a half empty glass of wine in his hand and though he is smiling, he looks a little shaky and is still sweating profusely.  Welcome to LA! 
Other highlights on our way to San Diego:

 1. The gorgeous, palm lined sea walk along the beach in Santa Barbara, that welcomed dogs of all colours, shapes and sizes….oh, and their owners too…on rollerblades, bikes, skate boards, shank’s pony…..

2. The beautiful houses and gardens along the canals in Venice Beach, right beside our marina in LA.

3. The outrageously tacky Venice Beach proper, including all the tattoo parlours and medicinal marijuana sellers (they called themselves “Green Doctors).

4. The week of warm weather and waters of Catalina Harbour on Santa Catalina Island, where we hiked, kayaked, swam, snorkelled and got charged by a cranky buffalo.

5. The very nice Harbour Patrol people in Dana Point, who woke us up twice in the middle of the night to let us know that where we were anchored was “just fine”.  Which does beg the question….then why wake us up?!

6. The three hours that military amphibious vehicles did high speed manoeuvres around us while helicopters buzzed directly overhead and the Pendleton military base did artillery practise just a few miles away…..boom, boom, boom…

7. The amazing dolphins that on two occasions swam in Vakasa’s bow wake for almost an hour.  Not just a highlight, but something to tick off our Bucket List. 

Gotta love those audio books on a long passage!

Sunlight and Santa Barbara

Sunset and Santa Barbara sailboats

This little weed on the prop can cost us 1 kt of speed, so our fearless captain jumps in to get rid of it

Convincing Anja and Bram that Thanksgiving really is all about getting stuffed

Vakasa squeezed into her mooring in Marina Del Rey....thanks to everyone for their help!

Free lobster from a very nice fisherman in Cat Harbour

The "town" of Two Harbours on Santa Catalina Island (think 1 restaurant, general store and dive shop)

Santa Catalina......where the deer and the buffalo roam....the one on the left was the cranky one

Vakasa at anchor in Cat Harbour, Santa Catalina Island

Pretty thick fog on our way to Dana Point...thank goodness for RADAR and AIS

Dodging crazy military amphibious vessels 

A bucket list moment.....dolphins off Vakasa's bow

Hundreds of them for almost an hour....we have at least 50 pics but won't subject you to all of them!

And now we are sitting in the marina in San Diego.  Ready to do a bunch of chores and sit in the hotel hot tub until Oct 29th when we head off with the Baja Ha Ha rally (about 175 boats this year) to Cabo San Lucas.  Stay tuned.

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