Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the hook in San Diego Bay

Once we started cruising around Southern California, we began hearing vessels identify themselves as warships on the VHF radio.  A voice on the radio would say “This is Warship 52,” for example, and announce the coordinates for a live fire range or ask a civilian vessel to alter course around one of these areas.  We were intrigued by this new vessel description, and we heard it on the radio more frequently as we got closer to San Diego.  During our passage from Dana Point to San Diego we actually began seeing warships.  We spotted a gun ship of some kind and later an aircraft carrier, both about four or five miles away.  Our third warship observation was a bit more intimate.  We had made our way three miles up the San Diego channel and were approaching the first set of docks.  Suddenly, there was a great deal of commotion in our path.  High speed inflatable boats with machine guns and flashing blue lights were zipping all around.  Three large yellow tug boats were taking up most of the channel ahead.  We then heard the announcement of a departing submarine on the VHF radio.  And there it was.  The sub was about thirty yards away and an armed security boat kept us at a distance as we passed it port-to-port.  This was a nerve racking arrival in a strange port.

Welcome party?
Well before dark, we were settled into an anchorage off a golf course just south of the Coronado Bridge.  On our second evening at anchor, Roy and Mary came to meet us for dinner.  Derrick worked with Roy in the late 90’s and he has been a great friend and mentor.  Roy and Mary were very kind to loan us a car while we were in San Diego.  This was extremely helpful in getting prepared for our trip to Cabo San Lucas.  The next night we had dinner with David and Jeanne.  David is the owner and skipper of Siren, the Cal 39 that Derrick crewed on in the Pacific Cup race to Hawaii back in 1998.  It was great catching up with David and Jeanne and revisiting our Pacific Cup experiences.

 After three days, it was time to move to our next anchorage, La Playa on Harbor Island, several miles back up the channel towards the harbor entrance.  The harbor police control the anchoring at La Playa and allow a limited number of boats to anchor there for a maximum of 72 hours over the weekend.  We reserved a space when we checked in with the harbor police upon our arrival (just after the sub incident).  La Playa is an anchorage off Shelter Island that is essentially a wide patch of water nestled between three yacht clubs and a residential beach.

Getting to Shelter Island was more complicated than usual as we had to move a boat and a car.  Our plan was for Trisha to drive the car to the police dock where I would pick her up with the boat and she could help anchor.  The execution of this plan was made a bit more challenging as a thick fog blanketed the police dock and surrounding area.  Fortunately, I had been to the police dock a few days earlier and that experience helped me find my way through the fog.  We were soon on the hook and ready to explore Shelter Island.

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