San Diego

Slow Dancer and her crew began leaving Avalon at noon on Saturday, Oct. 7. First thing to do was cast off the heavy lines back into the water. This done, we began inching our way along the inner “roadway” between all of the boats on mooring balls. This space was quite narrow and filled up by dinghies zipping around, stand up paddle boarders, kayaks, and swimmers. To complicate things, almost every mooring buoy was full and not by small boats, these were pretty major yachts. In an effort to avoid a stray dinghy, Ken swerved and at the same time, a wave swept a mooring ball under our bow. Attached to this mooring buoy was a heavy line as well as a beautiful LARGE sailboat! The line ended up under our keel, which did not want to let it go. Ken maneuvered Slow Dancer back to pull off this line, but no luck. In the meantime, the waves pulled the other boat onto our side and railing. Bam, bam, bam….down their bowsprit came onto our railing. Dale pushed with all of her might to keep the impact as small as possible. Ken continued backing, while trying not to back into any other boats! By this time, the entire marina were out on their decks watching! Finally, the line came off of our keel and we slipped out and quickly out of the marina. Ugh….how embarrassing!


Shaking, we were happy to be out into the Pacific again. Yikes….there’s a cruise ship directly ahead of us. Turn to port! Quickly! Wow, that was a long 30 minutes! The day was beautiful and we pulled the sails. The wind was 10-12 knots, perfect for a leisurely sail. Our sail into San Diego was to take 17 hours. This would be another overnight. To not get in during the dark, we decided to take our time and sail even if the winds became light. About 4 hours into our delightful afternoon, we got a message on our chart plotter that our batteries were critically low! What??! We were not able to plug into shore power during our stay in Avalon, so we recharged our batteries by running the engine for a bit as well as while we were escaping the confines of the dangerous marina. Apparently this was not enough and we were now in danger of losing our instruments just as we were entering into night! This would not do! In went the head sail and part of the main. First priority in San Diego….solar panels! We were now motoring. This took us into twilight. Suddenly our engine started smelling hot. It was! Oh no! Out came the sails, but the wind was now down to 4-6 knots. Barely moving, Dale tried to keep Slow Dancer on course while Ken investigated the reason for the engine’s problems. The darkness came on quickly. This was OK, we were sailing slowly and giving the engine a cool down. We had also put some charge back into the batteries by motoring, so we had instruments for an hour or so. We saw several ships on our GPS….two cruise ships, one sailboat, one motorboat and one “military vessel”. In looking at the chart, Dale determined that the “military vessel” and the cruise ships were headed our way. Hmmmm….usually not a problem, we could take a different track and avoid them, but at a speed of 2 knots, this might not happen. The VHF crackled to life and the “military vessel” now became “War Ship 111”! They advised the “white sailboat” at coordinates that resembled ours to avoid them as they were “conducting flight operations”. Are you kidding?! The engine was now cool and Ken had checked everything but could find no reason for the heat. We started it back up and turned away from the scary “War Ship 111”. We motored for a few more hours and everything seemed fine. The full moon was beautiful on the almost flat water. At one point a pod of seals swam right off our stern. A few poked their heads up, snorted and continued. We could now see the lights of the coast. As we got within a couple of hours to the approach to the bay, we noticed that our water exhaust was slower….and there was smoke…no… steam coming out! At that moment the alarm went off! Off went the engine, out went the main sail. The swells had now increased to around 4-5 feet, keeping us bouncing. The wind, now picking up was coming from a different direction. Dale continued to try to keep us as still as possible so that Ken could investigate the problem. It was really dark now….where was that beautiful moon?


The area around San Diego has a huge military presence. There are ships at all hours of the day and night as well as planes and helicopters coming and going. One ship in particular suddenly appeared a half mile or so in front of us, but did not appear on our radar……weird! We didn’t want to enter the channel without an engine as there were many huge ships coming and going, so we tried to hold our position while troubleshooting. Suddenly lights came charging toward us on both sides…..what was this?!! As they got closer we saw that they were Navy ships…..LARGE Navy ships coming on both sides of us and fast! Were we in some kind of military no sail zone? The charts did not say this. They went right beside us and kept going….whew, that was scary! Ok…back to the engine. Ken was about to give up when he noticed a small piece of kelp near a water intake hose. Loosening the hose and looking in, he saw that it was clogged with Kelp……that was the problem! It took a while to get it all out, but he did and amazingly, Slow Dancer’s engine was back in business! We headed toward the harbor approach. The sun was coming up and we were feeling great about fixing the engine intake when we noticed a crab pot (found out later that they were lobster pots) up ahead….really? Thought that we left these in Northern CA. We dodged it, and another and another….this area was FULL of them! It was a really good thing that we did not enter this area in the dark. Not only would we have kelp to deal with, but we might have damaged our prop on a lobster pot. We dodged and weaved into the San Diego Bay. We had made it! What a busy place! We passed a huge submarine in dry dock, being held up by slings just above the water, a destroyer, some gun boats and every size and make of boat imaginable. We made our way through the “traffic” to our marina and straight into our reserved spot. We were now in our last US city 🙂


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