Gone Floatabout

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What a difference a day makes: Contrasting stops in Southern California (December 2017)


We said goodbye to Morro Bay, and the great time we’d had there seeing the elephant seals, on December 9, 2017. Since San Francisco, we’d gotten into a habit of leaving at sunset, and we did so again as we motored across the Morro Bay bar and set sail in the wake of the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain.

Leaving Morro Bay

Leaving Morro Bay in the wake of the tall ships

The light breeze we encountered at the harbor mouth soon died off to nothing, so that we started the engine again to motor through a flat calm. We had an uneventful rounding of Point Conception, a notorious bit of the California coast, in the middle of the night, and we were close enough to see the hazy red glow of the wild-fires that were engulfing that area at the time. In fact, the air was so thick with smoke that my chest felt very constricted by the end of my watch, so much so at one point that I had trouble breathing. I obviously shouldn’t have waited until then to root around for my respirator, but one’s motivation to dig around with a flashlight in the recesses of the tool lockers isn’t great by 3:30 AM after fighting sleepiness since midnight.

Ash on the ocean

Ash on the ocean during the Southern California wild-fires

When dawn came, I could see how thick the smoke really was – we even saw large patches of ash lying on the calm water.

On a happier note, we were approaching the lovely Channel Islands, home to a whole lot of marine fauna and not much else. We’d seen dolphins all down the coast, but were greeted by a big pod of them here.

Dolphins at Dawn

Dolphins playing in the calm

Upon anchoring at San Miguel Island, we found that, despite the dead calm and consequent lack of wind-waves, there was a big swell piling surf onto the beach, so we decided to stay on board and look at the deserted island from the deck of Celeste instead of launching the dinghy and going ashore. This decision was compounded by the fact that I was feeling the beginnings of the flu. As the sun set for our night at anchor there, the only sounds were the surf and a few elephant seals barking on the beach. Amazing to think we were only about 100 miles from Los Angeles!

Sunset in the Channel Islands

Sunset in the Channel Islands

We had a relaxed morning the next day, hoping that sleeping in would make my flu go away (unfortunately it didn’t), and then we started across to Marina del Rey, about 80 miles away. We did it as a leisurely overnight, puttering through the continued calm. We reached the man-made harbor in the morning with plenty of time to find our slip and get settled there.

Marina del Rey is one of the largest marinas in the world, and is the largest man-made small craft harbor with over 5,000 slips. It was dug out of the marshy Playa del Rey estuary in the 1950s. Today it’s surrounded by posh hotels like the Ritz and on-going construction everywhere. The marina slips are home to many normal-sized sail- and power boats as well as a hefty dosh of flashy, enormous yachts:

Huge yacht in Marina del Rey

Why didn’t you get the big one??

Quite the contrast from the empty dunes and rocks of San Miguel Island!

Marina del Rey had the huge advantage, however, of having a slip we could use for the next six weeks. We were planning to leave Celeste yet again for an extended period over the holidays, and nowhere in Southern California would let us rent a slip for more than 15 days. Very generously, a friend of a friend got us a slip at the California Yacht Club where we could stay for the whole six weeks we needed. A big thank-you to the Hathaways!


Installed at the California Yacht Club. Photo thanks to Stephanie Hathaway.



11 thoughts on “What a difference a day makes: Contrasting stops in Southern California (December 2017)

  1. Pingback: Work and Play in Marina del Rey (January 2018) | Gone Floatabout

  2. I enjoyed your article on orcas in Cruising World’s April magazine. It was nice that you didn’t have any wind so that it enabled you to see the orcas. Thanks for writing.

  3. It is amazing how far ash carries and penetrates every nook and cranny on board! Nice images Ellen. Happy travels.

    • So true! We were glad not to be any closer and definitely felt for the victims of the fires! Thanks for reading, Chris! Happy sailing to you too!

  4. Nice to hear of your continued travel log. Sorry to hear you had the flu. We did too. Its a bummer. Happy Easter!

  5. Great photos Ellen. Hope all is well keep the stories coming.

    • Thanks so much, Doug! Will do – our time in LA is next 🙂

      • Are you guys coming to L.A? If you are let us know dates and if dates work out we’ll take you guys to dinner.


        • Thanks very much for thinking of us! I’m sorry for my confusing comment – I meant that my next blog post is on our time in Marina del Rey and our enjoyable time meeting you and other new friends in that area! We ended up making a direct passage from Marina del Rey to Ensenada – got the weather for it and couldn’t pass it up! Since then we’ve been enjoying Baja! It was great to meet you and Andrea – we’ll certainly look you up if we’re ever back in the LA area!
          All the best,