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The Most Amazing Aquarium

We enjoyed our stay in Emeryville, California. We did laundry and visited a couple of restaurants: one was Scates on the Bay, a fancy-to-us steak and seafood place right on San Francisco Bay with fifteen-foot-tall windows spanning the whole length of the building. And wouldn't you know it, the sun set when we were there, and it was spectacular - much better than the food. Our hired crew-captain insisted on a celebratory dinner for making it to San Francisco without loss of life or limb. Rochelle and I had more of an idea of a nice gastropub with delicious pub creations, something more authentic. Nancy wanted steak and so she got steak - and we had a beautiful sunset view.

The next day Nancy caught her flight home to the Northwest. She told us that she has done more teaching aboard Karma than any boat besides her own. We were sad to say farewell, and also excited to be on our own, which is just what she had been training us for the last couple of years. We are grateful for all that she has taught us.

With just the two of us aboard, we set about slowing down a bit and enjoying our surroundings. Emeryville is kind of a business town, with lots of office buildings, hotels and a few strip malls, stuck right between Berkeley and Oakland. Rochelle and I went for a walk down to the park at the end of the peninsula and we walked up to a mail stop to send a piece of boat equipment that we borrowed from Nancy for the trip. Originally, we had found this place, The Bureau 510, for our celebratory dinner which was quickly vetoed by the crew member. Rochelle and I decided to hike out to the Bureau 510 for lunch after visiting the local Trader Joes for some resupply.

People often ask us if we are afraid of pirates and believe it or not pirates are actually quite rare, mostly found in specific areas of the world, like in Malaysia, in the Red Sea, off the coast of Venezuela, and east of Honduras. The most dangerous of the pirates are in Malaysia because piracy is punishable by death and so the pirates don't leave victims alive to tell tales. But low and behold, San Francisco Bay has entered the fray of piracy too. So much so that the United States Coast Guard has taken notice and begun enforcement. Apparently, groups of pirates are sneaking into marinas in the Bay area and stealing boats, things that hang off boats, and things stored in boats. Sad that people stoop so low in a wealthy country as ours. While I don't understand why people victimize others, I guess I can understand the enticement if you are in survival mode, in a third world country... but in San Francisco Bay? I don't think so. Emeryville has one of the highest rates of violent and property crime in the country, another factoid to which we were oblivious while we were there. We didn't see any of this on our stay and felt quite safe, especially in the secured marina.

We spent a few nights in Emeryville, embraced the spa-like showers at the marina, and finished out our stay with a late afternoon dinner at Trader Vic's. This is my type of restaurant, Polynesian dishes and a tiki-bar that served fruitful delights served in mugs with butts. One of the dishes we had was assorted mushrooms in a stir-fry; although meat-less, it was full-on-flavor! We also had a very well-made Cubano sandwich, best we've ever had.

After a few days, was time to leave San Francisco Bay and head south to Monterey, California where Rochelle's brother Jason and his wife Lydia were going to spend the next couple days showing us around their favorite city. Generally, you don't want to enter a new unfamiliar port in the dark and Monterey was about ninety miles to the south, while it is a day trip, it could not be completed during daylight. To further complicate this, we had to leave the Emeryville marina at a high enough tide in order to avoid the risk of running aground, and to be at the Golden Gate Bridge just as the tide begins to ebb, while dodging 200' hydroplaning ferry boats doing 30 knots. This is quite a challenge. We figured that we needed to hit the bridge right about 8 AM, and it was about an hour from Emeryville to the bridge. The tides would be sufficient at 7 AM for us, so we inked in the plan. Obviously, the plan went off without a hitch, but those ferries and the occasional tanker crossing our path did keep us on our toes.

Our first stop was a place called Half Moon Bay, practically just a few miles from Emeryville as the crow flies, but it took us until about 3 PM to get there, almost 35 NM miles away. We stopped here so we could rest up and wait for dark as we wanted to arrive in Monterey in daylight. This is something that we have learned on this trip: in order to arrive in daylight, sometimes you have to leave in darkness. Half Moon Bay is delightful, a super safe and protected anchorage. If we would have known of this place earlier, we would have stayed longer. We made a snack and went to bed for a few hours of sleep. At 7 PM we awoke and got things ready to depart, the sun was getting ready to set and we were excited to have a nice clear night sail. Nothing could be farther from the truth: once the sun set, the fog rolled in, and we were stuck in Pea Soup until the very moment we dropped anchor in Monterey. Pea Soup fog is just as bad as arriving to port at night, if not worse. You are strictly relying on radar and foghorn, which other boaters seem to ignore. The wave state was still through the night, there was very little wind, so we ended up motor-sailing all the way. We had a slip ready for us in the marina, but of course it was fogged in, so we had to anchor outside of town until the fog cleared up. Interestingly, Monterey Bay is extremely deep. This would be the first time we have sailed over depths greater than 11,000 feet. Of course, when it comes to a boat, as long as it is greater than your draft, all is good. But just imagine water deep enough to cover eight Empire State Buildings.

Once the fog lifted, we made our way into the Monterey Municipal Marina. We had been assigned an end tie, which normally is a prime location for entry and exiting a marina, with a very small chance of colliding with other boats. When we arrived, we noticed a very large gathering of sea lions nearby and thought oh that's cute. Well, that cuteness wore off rather quickly as the sea lions never shut up, 24/7 of barking, hollering, and hooping. We started daydreaming about ways of introducing the Orca to Monterey Bay in order to manage the population. We had planned to spend seven nights here in Monterey for some much-needed R&R, but the sea lions never let us attain it. I actually resorted to sleeping with earplugs, something that we never do on the boat because we want to be alert to alarms and anything else that might go awry in the night.

Sea lions notwithstanding, we enjoyed Monterey. It is a very cool town, and we spent the first three days with Jason & Lydia driving down to Cannery Row, walking around, eating mostly wonderful meals, learning everything one needs to know about Cannery Row, John Steinbeck and Ed "Doc" Ricketts. Jason is a definite history-buff on Cannery Row and John Steinbeck's novels. We were able to visit Doc's marine laboratory that is only open one day a month. Our tour guide, also a fanatic of history, was very interesting to listen to about the life and times of Ed Ricketts, Cannery Row, and the Western Flyer. Ironically, the Western Flyer had just undergone complete restoration in Port Townsend, Washington where we also completed our refit around the same time. Currently, the Western Flyer is making its way back down to Monterey, California. Part of our time we spent with Jason & Lydia was spent driving down the famous 17-Mile Drive. It consists of golf courses surrounded by multi-million castles, err homes, of the rich & famous. Also notable along the way are the massive walls, security staff, and plethora of signs warning that if you leave the road or dare explore your surroundings, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Before arriving to the 17-Mile Drive (which you have to pay to drive down); we drove past one of Rochelle's dream locations, which she writes about in the following snippet.

After Jason & Lydia left to go back to their home in Stockton, California, Rochelle and I went to the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is a definite must-see if you ever visit. But be sure to bring your wallet, as they already know how awesome their aquarium is. They have several tanks that are 4-5 stories tall, the way they set up their areas is to group all the species that would typically be found in those environments. Days earlier, we had learned that the aquarium is set up this way based on the work of Ed Ricketts, "Doc" of Cannery Row fame. One of their cool tanks shows what it is like in a kelp field. They have a 40-foot-tall tank with kelp growing from bottom to top, completely filled with fish and other critters that would typically be found there. There is another massive tank that represents the deep blue; tuna, sharks, marlin are found in there, but also a sardine ball, literally a million sardines swimming in a circle. Another area I found extremely interesting was the jellyfish area. You get to see many types of jellyfish within their environment, lit up with blacklights so you can see their colors. I'll close out with some pictures from the aquarium. We will be doing one more blog post for the remainder of the trip in the United States and then on to Mexico we go.

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