In fact San Diego is a most excellent place to be stuck. We spent an unexpected two lovely months in this city and while the circumstances that put us here were less than ideal we really enjoyed ourselves. What made it so great? Well this is a breakdown of our favorite aspects of our time in the sunny city.
1. Surely the weather couldn’t be any better.
I can’t say for sure if San Diego winters are always so summer-like since it appears that the entire state of California has generally set high temp records this year (the drought lives on). I can say, however, that I did not wear closed-toed shoes once while we were here.
2. Boating Mecca of the west coast
I’m pretty sure that everyone in San Diego has a boat or at the very least a very good friend with a boat. Because of that there are an endless number of businesses catering to boaters. This is the perfect place to be if you need parts and guidance and boy did we. We finally had other options than West Marine and Amazon. You can just walk right into a store to buy parts for our old motor and outboard that we would previously have had to specially order. Everyone you talk to about your broken motor, cares, knows what you’re talking about and gives (sometimes good) advice. The local marine parts store, Downwind Marine, even has a free mail service for out-of-town boaters and a dinghy dock in the back yard. It’s not quite on par with south Florida, but it is surely the boatiest place on the west coast. The only bummers about this fact are that it is too easy to spend money and it is difficult to leave… it can also be intense to sail around the bay with the masses on a windy Sunday.
We had the chance to reconnect with some special folks during our tenure here. There’s nothing that makes a new place feel like home as already having friends when you arrive.
Colleen and I worked together for Reef Check for the past 7+ years. We had the same position but covered different regions of the state so while we worked pretty closely together we only saw each other 2-3 times per year. So it was great to get some actual face time and explore the super fun part of town she lives in, Ocean Beach. She was also an amazing host, letting us use her address (and her boyfriend Scott’s) for packages and carting us around town to go food shopping (so much easier with a car!), sending Jonah to her dentist, etc. Colleen, you rock!
One evening we went to a very cool bar/restaurant down the street from Colleen’s called Raglan Public House. As we were being seated I heard “Megan?” from across the bar. To my surprise the caller was my old friend Mike from high school (in Florida!) who just so happened to be an owner of the restaurant. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 20 years and were stoked to reminisce over a killer flight of beers and an amazing burger (seriously, go to Raglan). For the rest of our stay he and his lovely girlfriend Jenn showed us a great time all over town- surfing, concerts, parties. Isn’t serendipity scrumptious?
My friend and old classmate Jenn who I hadn’t seen since graduate school lives in town too and paid us a visit with her two year old son. Sam quickly learned the ropes and became Orion’s new skipper.
4. Anchorage delight
Did I mention that we were anchored and living for free? This may sound unimpressive to those of you who cruise in other parts of the world but there are simply not many options for anchoring in California, and there are only a handful that you can settle into at any time of the year (without worrying about ending up on the rocks). Winter is particularly tough for anchoring along this coast with the increase in number and intensity of storm systems. A boat can only stay at San Diego’s cruisers anchorage (aka A9) for up to three months in one year, but its a great place to spend the winter, being protected in any weather and conveniently close to a wide array of dinghy docks all over the city (finding a safe place you’re allowed to land your dinghy is always a consideration as well).
The small cruisers’ anchorage attracted a diverse array of live-aboards from all over the world and the place had the feel of a friendly neighborhood. Neighbors waved and dinghied over for drinks/dinner, offered help when a boat project was in the works, and looked out for each other out in emergency situations such as dragging anchor in high winds. Sea stories from fellow cruisers were inspiring and educational. The yacht Sangvind was crewed by a Frans (Dutch) and Silvia (British), who have been cruising all over the world for 12 years, and their kids Dylan and Jaden (10 and 6 born in New Zealand) who’ve been cruising since birth. The catamaran Rainbow Gypsy was inhabited by a lovely couple in their seventies from South Africa who sailed halfway around the world for the past 7 years. Over a year ago they were dismasted (!) up in the Bearing Sea (!) while crossing the Pacific from Japan to Alaska and had to spend the year refitting the boat in a small Alaskan harbor… and now they are onto the next leg of their journey. We met some friends of friends, Eric and Patti, from Santa Cruz who just sold the vessel assist business to sail their boat Shearwater on much of the same route we’re planning. Thomas and Ivory were in the process of fixing up their trimaran Cerberus while they awaited the birth of their little girl, after which time they planned to head south behind the rest of us. And of course the reggae was booming daily from the boat of our neighborhood buccaneer, Travis, who told us that he painted his hull black last year because the rum punch that frequently ran off his deck was staining the white sides. We look forward to spying these smiling faces through our binoculars as we enter distant anchorages in Mexico and beyond.