Monterey was the first stop on our voyage, already the furthest south we had ever sailed. For a significant part of my life, I’d been looking forward to seeing turquoise water, and believed that finding one is a rare exception. But lo and behold, on our very first stop, here it is. Monterey is a marine sanctuary, and also has a sandy bottom instead of mud like up in San Francisco, making for clear water. It is interesting to see the sea life growing on docks; it is slightly different everywhere you go. Up in the Bay Area, it is mussels (unfit for human consumption) and sponges. Here, it is gigantic starfishes and sea anemones.
Docking our dinghy one day, we spotted some women sitting in a sea kayak and reading a chart plotter. We asked them what they were doing, and found out about the ocean race from Monterey to Hawaii that they were doing (link). Surprisingly, they told us that for some of the competitors, it would be their first time rowing in the open ocean, and that they could expect an average speed of only 1 knot, depending on the weather and currents. Suddenly, slogging 3 knots in Monsoon doesn’t seem so bad.
On land, we walked by the Fisherman’s Wharf, bustling with tourists who had just gotten off a massive cruise ship bizarrely anchored in the same anchorage as Monsoon. We were warned not to get too close to it; just like all the other anchored boats, it would swing around according to the direction of the wind and wipe out anything in its radius.
Having a child with us gave us reason to visit the Dennis the Menace playground, which was designed by the author of the series. Certainly the most interesting playground I have ever seen. The adults in this family may or may not have had more fun than the child.
We also visited Cannery Row, which used to be the center of a thriving fish canning industry, employing migrant workers from Japan, Italy and Mexico. The area ‘ stank of success’ until the eventual collapse of fish populations. Now, it is a touristy strip filled with restaurants offering scenic ocean views. The famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is also located here, but we decided to give it a miss. The steep price of admission that we did not pay is going to go towards us having more time to see sea animals in their natural environment on our cruise.
It is a pleasant walk from the anchorage, all the way to Lovers’ Point, a rocky outcrop at the western end of Monterey. On the way, we passed by a seal rookery, visible from the sidewalk, but fenced off to provide minimal intrusion into their habitat. As the sun set over the grassy field next to Lovers’ Point, and the local weekenders fired up their barbecue pits, we lounged and watched Rowan chasing squirrels, thinking of what it feels like to be simultaneously traveling, and be right at home wherever we are.
- Just because it’s called an anchorage on a chart, doesn’t mean that it is protected or comfortable.
- When rowing a dinghy under a pier, stay clear of fishing lines cast into the water or risk getting cut
- “Reef before 20 leaves plenty” means if you wait too long in heavy winds, your sails will be too hard to put away