That is our affectionate name for a new game we’re learning to play on the boat.
Points gained for correctly distinguishing slapping lazyjacks from halyards without leaving the echo-y cabin. Points lost for asking out loud if our refrigerator just kicked on, when the sound is actually someone starting their engine a hundred feet away. Water is a unique conductor of sound. We’re still working on the math of how it works, but my best guess is Colin is ahead by a few points as I keep thinking someone’s on deck walking over my face in the middle of the night.
The other morning’s new sound was more like a crunch-crunch-crunch. Mildly concerning as we sleepily woke up and poked our heads out of the hatch, but instead of the boat being slowly destroyed by concrete, it turned out to be a sea otter, pedaling by our stern, having her breakfast.
Man, those guys are big up close. I think of otters as being the size of cats, but that’s the river otters. Adult sea otters nearly outweigh me. We’re learning to distinguish them from seals by the way they float, and usually the pairs are the mama otters teaching their babies to eat, swim and nap like pros.
Unlike seals and sea lions, otters have no blubber. Their defense against the cold water is their fur. Apparently the average human has a few hundred thousand hairs on their head, (though my personal genetic soup seemed to give me half the average height and double the average hair density). But even I am nothing compared to the otters, who have a million hairs per square inch keeping them cozy. No wonder the pelts were valued so highly that sea otters were once thought to have been hunted to extinction.
There’s an amazing little museum here called the Pacific House. Even if you’re not the history geeks that we are, it’s worth a visit for the opportunity to pet an otter fur alone. You may even forgive the eighteenth century folk inside their cold palaces for wrapping themselves up in something so cozy it makes you wonder if you could get away with snuggling your cheek into the display. (I managed to refrain.)
We hung out in Monterey Harbor a bit longer than anticipated at the behest of Mother Nature who made the protected harbor, friendly people and delicious food far more inviting than the gales along the Big Sur coast.
Monterey is a mariner’s dream town. Squid boats and purseiners ply the waters daily, and the docks are filled with old and young salts in waders and hoodies. The sailboats see a lot of time on the deep blue, with the telltale external chainplates, jerry cans and dorades. Those without a vessel so large are out in anything that floats — outriggers, kayaks, paddle boards, dinghys, and those without a craft are swimming in the ocean, which is roughly the temperature of a walk-in freezer.
When someone from Monterey tells you “It’s a bit breezy out there,” you pay attention. I asked the especially polite harbor master if the weather was normal for this time of year. His response was that they hadn’t seen normal weather in at least two years, and they’d been getting calls from 90-ton fishing boats getting the ‘poopie’ beat out of them out there. So we stayed in port a while longer than anticipated.
My mother is fond of saying “Good news, bad news, who knows?” In this case, while we expected to be further down the coast sooner, being pinned in Monterey led us to meet some truly amazing people and we’re utterly grateful for the experience. Massive thanks and huge hugs to the crews of Helios, Ramona Ray, West Wind and Pure Magic who made us wish we could stay a couple decades or more. And a special thanks to five-year-old Damian for all the fabulous ‘fish’ he caught with those champagne cork lures.
For fans of California history, Monterey is a paradise, with layers upon layers of cultures that enriched, exploited and conquered each other in this one little spot. The original Rumsien people, Spanish military, Spanish missionaries, Spanish settlers, Russian fur traders, French spies, Mexican ranchers, Portuguese whalers, American soldiers, Chinese fishermen, Italian sardiners, a mix of cannery workers and now the marine biologists.
Fans of Two Years Before the Mast will be as jazzed as we were to walk into the customs house, feel two centuries disappear and expect to find Richard Henry Dana waiting to pay duties on his hides.
Fans of Treasure Island may be surprised to know that Robert Louis Stevenson waited out a highly scandalous divorce here.
Fans of Cannery Row, of course, have plenty of John Steinbeck-era structures, murals and artifacts to inspire their imaginations.
And fans of Moby Dick won’t find the white whale, but will find a great local tavern called Melville’s, with books along the bar, fabulous eats and outstanding service.
So Monterey was very, very good to us. Her last gift was a great weather window to make the 18-hour passage down to San Simeon, which turned into the 25-hour passage to San Luis Harbor — but more about that in our next tale from the high seas.
Fair winds and (equally important!) following seas.