Shelter Island – The Heart of San Diego…on the Waterfront!

October 2023 – We recently made a quick weeklong RV trip to San Diego and had an absolute ball. As soon as we got there and set up camp at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park Campground, we made a beeline for Shelter Island, our all-time favorite place in this beautiful city.

It was a foggy morning, but seeing the sailboats bobbing at anchor and hearing the seagulls mournful cries warmed our hearts!

We had been fortunate to live on Shelter Island in our sailboat, Groovy, for two weeks before our sailing cruise of Mexico and for six months afterwards. For us, it is the heart of San Diego, offering truly elegant waterfront living right on the banks of San Diego Harbor.

Flagship passes by Shelter Island San Diego California

A tour boat makes its way through the fog past Shelter Island in San Diego Harbor.

Shelter Island is a manmade barrier island that was created by dredging some marshy flats and piling up the mud to make a long skinny “island” that parallels the shoreline of San Diego Harbor. It isn’t a true island, however, as a road lined with businesses attaches it to the mainland.

Behind the island — in the dredged area on either side of this access road — there are rows upon rows of boats moored at a series of lovely marinas.

Sea of boats on Shelter Island San Diego California

There are more boats in San Diego’s many marinas than we’ve ever seen anywhere else!

So, being on Shelter Island puts you right in the middle of all the waterfront action of a big city harbor. The “front” side of the island faces San Diego Harbor, with the city skyline in the distance, while the sheltered “back” side of the island is filled with marinas and resorts and is very peaceful and tranquil.

Ryobi drill set

As we drove down Shelter Island Drive onto the island, we had to stop at Marvelous Muffins. When we lived on Shelter Island in our sailboat, Groovy, for 6 months at the end of our Mexico cruise, Marvelous Muffins was a frequent morning stop for us, no matter what we had planned for our day!

Marvelous Muffins Shelter Island San Diego California

Marvelous Muffins was a favorite morning haunt for us!

Nothing about it had changed. Sophie, the charming muffin maker and shopkeeper, was still there to greet us, and her muffins were as delicious as we remembered them being. Naturally, we bought a few extras to take back to our trailer!

Marvelous Muffins owner Sophie Shelter Island San Diego California

Sophie has been making muffins here for over 20 years!

The air was still heavy with fog when we got to the waterfront. San Diego Harbor is a very busy harbor with boats heading to and fro all the time, no matter what the weather! As we watched the goings-on, the Flagship tour boat headed past us on an excursion, the deck filled with eager tourists.

Overhead, Navy helicopters buzzed around constantly. Across the harbor, the Navy runway was very busy with jets that were so loud we couldn’t head each other talk when they took off!

Navy Helicopter Shelter Island San Diego California

The whir of Navy helicopter blades fills the air all the time!

Far out at sea, a really unique looking tri-hulled Navy ship approached. What an unusual beast!

Tri-hull Navy Ship Shelter Island San Diego California

A unique Navy ship approaches through the fog.

Gradually, the fog lifted and streaks of blue filled the sky. We could see the San Diego skyline in the distance beyond a string of sailboats that were anchored along the edge of the harbor.

San Diego Skyline from Shelter Island

Ahhh…San Diego!

The side of Shelter Island that faces the harbor is a wonderful long grassy park. A walking path runs between the grass and the shore. It ducks under flower covered trellises and passes by children’s play areas, picnic tables and statuary along the way.

Bougainvillea Trellis Shelter Island San Diego California

Shelter Island has several trellises along the walking path that are covered with vibrant bougainvillea flowers.

Bougainvillia at Shelter Island San Diego CA

We love it here!

Down at our feet, we noticed that when the sidewalk pavement was poured, someone drew a stick figure of a sailboat. How fun!

Stick drawing of sailboat in the sidewalk Shelter Island San Diego California

Someone captured the spirit of this special place before the pavement dried.

Fabulous enormous trees provide shade throughout this grassy park, inviting all visitors to sit for a spell and enjoy the view.

Sitting in the grass on Shelter Island San Diego Harbor

The vast grassy lawns on Shelter Island are very inviting.

Happy dog in the grass Shelter Island San Diego California


Buddy thought this place was heavenly and promptly took a snooze!

Dog in the grass

“This is my kind of place!”

There are park benches along this walking path too. It is a very romantic waterfront!

Magma Stackable RV Cookware
Sailboats and park bench on Shelter Island in San Diego CA

If you don’t want to sit in the grass, try a park bench!

The romantic air isn’t just for people either. A pair of seagulls was enjoying a quiet moment of togetherness too.

Twin seagulls Shelter Island San Diego California


One of the more famous statues on Shelter Island is the tuna fishermen. These three guys are straining for all they’re worth, pulling up an enormous tuna together. Their fishing rods are anchored in belts around their waists, and the fish is fighting mightily.

Tuna fishermen Shelter Island San Diego California

Tuna fishermen strain to land their catch.

A few steps away we saw several fishermen casting their lines. They were after smaller prey and they said they were having pretty good luck!

Fishermen Shelter Island San Diego California

Waiting for the big one!

A seagull kept a close eye on them to see if they might start cleaning their catch and throwing out scraps!

Seagull at San Diego Harbor on Shelter Island

“You got anything for me?”

There’s a small beach on the harbor side of Shelter Island, and now that the sun was out, a few sun bathers settled into the sand to catch some rays.

Beach at Shelter Island San Diego California

“Lazing on a sunny afternoon!”

A man came running past with his dog bounding ahead. Leashes are required, of course, but this lucky pooch was given a few minutes of freedom on the beach. He took full advantage, and plunged into the water for a swim. He emerged looking a little bedraggled but very happy!

Happy dog after a swim

“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

RV Log Book Journal

Shelter Island is home to some truly exquisite resorts that are lined up along the back side of the island. Their fronts faced the grassy lawn park and the harbor. One of these resorts is Island Palms. It looked truly regal under the towering palm trees.

Island Palms Hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

Elegant Island Palms Resort.

With fancy resorts comes stunning landscaping, and there were glorious exotic flowers of all kinds in bloom everywhere.

The climate in San Diego is very temperate, never exceedingly hot or cold. While we were there in late October the daily highs were 75 degrees F and the nightly lows were 65 degrees.

Unlike the vast southwestern desert that stretches for hundreds of miles right up to the coastal mountains that separate San Diego from its arid inland neighbors, this city sees very minimal temperature swings from day to night.

Bird of Paradise flower Shelter Island San Diego California

A tropical Bird of Paradise flower.

Morning glories

Flowers were in bloom everywhere.

Unusual flower


On the backside of the island there are several marinas, and this is the area we called home for six months. It is incredible that you can live in the heart of San Diego, right on the water, wedged between top flight resort hotels, for the price of a boat and a slip.

When we were there, the country was in the throes of the financial crisis that began in 2008, and although it took several years to make its way into the boating community, when it did, it hit hard.

Before the crisis there was a waiting list for boat slips in the marinas, and the price per month was sky high. However, by the time we lived there, open slips were in abundance and the price was very reasonable. We were blessed with really fortunate timing!

Gate to Kona Kai Marina docks Shelter Island San Diego California

Behind this gate to the boat docks lies a vast field of dreams.

Lots of sailboats at Shelter Island San Diego California

Boats, boats and more boats.

Taking a walk down memory lane, we strolled along the shore and admired the hundreds of boats. We didn’t see any Hunter 44DS sailboats (Groovy’s model), but we did see a Hunter 41DS, the same layout but a little shorter. Then we strolled along the small beach that is opposite the boats. What a place to live!

Resort hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

The back side of the resorts have a view of the boats in the marinas,
and there’s a thin strip of very calm beach too.

Kona Kai Resort & Spa is a gorgeous property, and the fire pits just begged for groups of friends to gather around. Meanwhile, the swimming pool looked sooooo inviting!

Kona Kai Resort Hotel Shelter Island San Diego California

Grab some friends and enjoy a sundowner and a campfire on the beach!

Fire pits on the beach Shelter Island San Diego California

The Mega Yacht Dock is opposite the Kona Kai beach — Nice!

Resort swimming pool Shelter Island San Diego California

Where day-to-day stress melts away.

Down on the beach there were some shade ramadas with cushy seating for intimate gatherings. There was no shortage of places to relax around here!

Picnic ramada Kona Kai Resort Shelter Island San Diego

Buddy got a great taste of tropical resort life.

What a place to call home for a while. While we lived at Kona Kai Marina, we were allowed to use the gym facilities at the resort. Needless to say, the minutes passed a lot faster on the elliptical machine when you were staring out the enormous plate glass windows at all the activity in and around the marina and resort!

Beach chairs at the Mega Yacht Dock Shelter Island San Diego California

Shelter Island, San Diego.

RV vent insulator

If your RV travels take you to San Diego, be sure to swing by Shelter Island. There isn’t an RV park there, but even if you visit for just a few hours, you’ll find that it is a wonderful community unto itself. And for us, it is the true heart of San Diego!

Where to Stay in an RV in San Diego?

On this trip, we stayed at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, a pleasant park on the southeastern side of the city. The advantage is that it is fairly reasonably priced for San Diego. The disadvantage is that downtown San Diego is a 30 minute drive away via several freeways.

Some of the campground loops were under construction during our stay (October 2023), making it quite noisy during the day. The construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

Also, they have a very serious problem with minuscule sugar ants. The ants have been there for years, and they know all the tricks for how to get into your rig. Diatomaceous Earth and Amdro ant granules help, but when you shut down one spot they’ve been getting in, they promptly find another! We had the exact same issue with sugar ants at the KOA in Chula Vista in 2009, so it may be a common problem with many RV parks on the south side of San Diego.

There are lots of other RV park options in San Diego. We enjoyed staying at Campland on the Bay in our popup tent trailer in 2005. It’s family oriented and full of lively activity and kids. Next door, Mission Bay RV Resort is popular with full-timers and snowbirds.

A new RV park that is closer to downtown was very tempting for this trip — Sun Outdoors RV Park. If you look at the rates now, in November 2023, your eyes will pop out of your head. But last summer they were running a special for wintertime advance booking that was right in line with the other RV parks in the area, about 35% more than Sweetwater County Park. Many people seem to have been very happy staying there and we might try it next time if we can snag a good advance booking deal.

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San Diego Treats – Balboa and Sunset Cliffs

Balboa Park Palm and Flowers

Flowers abound at Balboa Park

Fall, 2013 – Living on San Diego’s beautiful shores is a true delight, not only becuase there is always so much going on, but because it is so close to all that San Diego has to offer.

One of the prettiest places in the city is Balboa Park, and we enjoyed several wonderful excusrions there.

Balboa Park Lilly Pond

The Lilly Pond at Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a big city park filled with all kinds of flora and fauna along with several miles of hiking trails.

Balboa Pond Koi Fish

A koi fish swims past

Perhaps the most lovely area is around the koi fish pond where there are some beautiful old buildings and some very colorful koi fish swimming just below the surface.

This is a great place to take a stroll and soak in a little sunshine and relaxation.

Balboa Park Pond Reflections

Reflected beauty at Balboa Park

Balboa Park Flower

Of course, it is a city park and, on the day we were there, a fellow was spouting bible verses and personal philosophies at very high volume, echoing his thoughts about life off the walls of the stone building at the top of his lungs, pontificating to anyone that would stop and listen.

I listened for a few minutes but couldn’t make heads or tails out of what he was saying!

Lilies in lily pond

However, the water was utterly still, and as clear as could be, creating lovely reflections.

The pretty lilies floating between the pads seemed to smile up at the world.

A hummingbird flitting between the many flowers added his own buzz to the air.

A beautiful indoor botanical garden fills one of the buildings near the koi fish pond, and a meander through there took us past all kinds of exotic flowers.



A hummingbird checks out the flowers too

This reminded us so much of our extraordinary visit to the orchards and gardens of Hagia Sofia near Huatulco, Mexico last winter.

We both contented ourselves for quite a while taking photos of the colorful display.

Heart shaped leaves

Bullseye hearts…

There is a kind of romance to the area, and we both had to laugh when we saw several plants that had leaves shaped like swirling hearts.


Em and M in flowers

Amid the orchids

We were happy when someone offered to take a picture of us amid the orchids!!

Other people hired professional photographers to take their portraits around the beautiful grounds of Balboa Park.

Portraits in Balboa Park

Professional photographers were taking portraits everywhere!

We admired more than a few professional camera setups, with big flashes, lighting umbrellas, enormous lenses and teams of assistants helping out.


A young girl at her Quincenera

And more than once we turned a corner to see a portrait shot that would soon be framed.

We even saw a young Mexican girl in the midst of a Quinceañera photo shoot, all dressed up for her special 15th birthday party.  This was like so many others we had seen in Mexico, especially in Ensenada and Morelia.

12 Balboa Park Organ Concert 481

One of the most unusual attractions in Balboa Park is the enormous outdoor organ.

When the organ was donated to the park by John and Adolph Spreckels in 1914, the one stipulation was that it be played for outdoor concerts, and since 1917 San Diego has had a civic organist who performs free weekly concerts on Sundays.

While we were there a small audience gathered in front of the organ, taking shade under colorful umbrellas.  Before long, the enormous rolling door opened to reveal the huge organ pipes.  The 4500+ pipes range in size from as small as a pencil to as big as 32 feet high!

A woman walked out on stage and began an hour-long concert.

13 Ocean Beach Hippie Hostel 531

The hostel at Ocean Beach – Peace Baby!!

Wow.  That is quite a musical instrument!

Unfortunately, she chose some really chaotic sounding modern music to play, and as we walked away we could hear the cacophany of clashing chords far into the corners of the park.

Oh well.  We’ll have to return on another day when the performer chooses something a little more melodic and soothing!!

Balboa Park is situated right downtown.  To the north of the city there are several big beach communities, and one of the most notable is Ocean Beach, a hippie seaside town that has decided to remain firmly planted in the 1960’s.

The prominent hostel is painted a kaleidescope of groovy colors and sports a big peace sign on its rooftop.

14 Ocean Beach Tumblebug 431

A tumble bug!

Walking down the street, the smell of patchouli incense wafted out of the doorways of several head shops.

Oddly, this wasn’t a town of pony-tailed grey-hairs who used to be hippies in their youth, but instead was loaded with younger folks who are embracing the hippie way today.

Even though Starbucks has come to town, we noticed that the only identifying feature on the outside of the building was the circular green logo.

Down an allyway, Mark spotted a tumble bug.  Far out!


15 Woodie 451

You never know what you’ll see rolling down the street…

California has such a great car culture.  Something exotic always seems to be cruising past, and I just barely caught this low-riding woody as it sped by.

Mark on Stand-up paddleboard

Mark tries out a standup paddle board
at the Hobie open house

One day we had a chance to try out cruising of another kind.  The local Hobie dealership hosted an open house, and all their water toys were lined up at the docks. We could try out anything that seemed appealing!

We’d never tried standup paddle boarding before, and we both got a big kick out of it.

A few days later at nearby Torrey Pines we watched a really skilled stand-up paddle-boarder carve through the surf. So that’s how you do it!

Torrey Pines Surfing

A pro shows us how it’s done

Sunset Cliffs is a series of craggy cliffs nearby, and we scampered over these rugged rocks to check out the tidepools one afternoon.

This is a photogenic area, and there were photographers everywhere trying to capture the beauty.

Sunset Cliffs Staircase

The staircase down to the sea at Sunset Cliffs

As we climbed down the endless stairs at one viewpoint, a pair of young photographers with mammoth cameras and lighting gear were coming up the stairs towards us.

Tucked between the two of them was a young barefoot woman with a bare torso and bare legs. She was clutching a woolly sheepskin to her chest.

Sunset Cliffs Tidepools

Sunset Cliffs has some exquisite tidepools

As we got closer, it didn’t look like she had much clothing on besides this piece of sheepskin.  Sure enough, after she passed us we noticed there was nothing covering her backside!

I guess they were doing modeling shots at the water’s edge “au natural!”

Sunset Cliffs Rock Island

Surf at Sunset Cliffs

Pelicans in formation

Pelicans fly in formation

We stuck to photographing Nature itself and looked up to see a group of pelicans flying in formation overhead.

Well, not everything around here was pure nature. As the pelicans disappeared over the horizon, three Navy helicopters flew in formation in the opposite direction.

Helicopters in formation

Helicopters fly in formation

Sunset Cliffs is beautiful in broad daylight, but the place really comes to life as the sun begins to drop out of the sky.

The cliffs face west, and just before the sky begins to turn colors, cars begin to arrive and people begin to mill around the edges of the cliffs to take in the sunset.

Sunset at Sunset Cliffs

People gather to watch the sun disappear at Sunset Cliffs

Some couples bring chairs or stand close to each other and stare off at the horizon.  Some folks take out their cameras and wait for the magic moment.  And a few others do yoga and tai-chi moves.

However it is that they all say goodbye to the day, there is a shared awe and respect among everyone at the cliffs’ edge as they look out over the ocean to watch the sun’s light show and welcomes the arrival of night.

Sunset at Sunset Cliffs

We are rewarded with a humdinger of a sunset!

As fall slipped towards winter, we had been living in San Diego aboard our sailboat Groovy for four months. Much as this beautiful city and lifestyle enchanted us, our eyes were now turning towards our new land-based life that would soon begin 350 miles inland in Arizona.


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Our beloved sailboat Groovy is For Sale

On San Diego’s Shores – Dolphins and more!

Fishing on Shelter Island

Not a bad spot to go fishing!

Fall, 2013 – I was standing on Shelter Island one morning, gazing out at the water and the San Diego skyline and watching the fishermen casting their lines while boats breezed by.

Suddenly, a fellow standing next to me said, “You know, I’ve lived in San Diego for 56 years, and I watched that skyline develop.”

He went on: “There used to be just one tall building there, and now you can’t even see it because there are so many others all around it. But I have to say, I think San Diego has the pretties skyline of any city.”


Shelter Island Tree

San Diego Bay

I had to agree. There is something about the shapes and colors of the buildings and the way they catch the light in the afternoons that is so apealing.

And the great thing about this city is that you can play outdoors in fairly warm temps all year long.

Kid in a sailboat sculpture

Lots of kids get an early start learning
to sail in San Diego

As summer melted into fall, we did have to wear an extra layer of clothing, but the fishermen continued to fish at the water’s edge and the sailors continued to play with the wind in the bay.

Lots of sailors get an early start at a young age here, and down at the San Diego Yacht Club there is a wonderful statue of a little kid in a sailboat.

Out on the water in Mission Bay, we saw a sailing class, or maybe a race, cruising past us one morning.

Optimas at Mission Bay

Learning to sail on Mission Bay

Some lucky little kids get to take their first steps on a boat, and so it was with our very young neighbor.

His parents Eric and Christi had done a two year cruise around the world on a Nordhavn 43 power yacht a few years back.

After returning to San Diego to restock their cruising kitty, they had a baby, and they now have plans to cruise to the South Pacific in a few years, once their baby’s sea legs have grown a little sturdier.

born to cruise

Born to cruise!

They had never sailed overnight or offshore before that journey, and their first offshore voyage took them straight from San Diego to the Marquesas, a 3000 mile, three week long trip!

One of the advantages of cruising in a power boat is that you don’t have to worry about which way the wind blows.

So, unlike sailboats that cross the Pacific by dropping down south into Mexico first before they leave the North American coast, these guys just motored out of San Diego Bay and kept right on going!


Rocket Science leaves San Diego 601

s/v Rocket Science heads south

We loved meeting all the sailors on the docks that had cruised to distant shores.

Our next door neighbor Brian had cruised to New Zealand ten years ago, and friends of ours, TJ and Jenny, had cruised the Caribbean extensively.

They had done that cruise on a solid, older boat, but after a while grew frustrated at its slow pace.

Why plod when you can soar, they wondered. So they upgraded to a true racer-cruiser — s/v Rocket Science — that can sail at blistering speeds, and they plan to take her on new adventures in Europe.

Sailboat and carrier

Friends on both boats!

During their maiden voyage aboard Rocket Science, first mate Jenny had watched in astonishment as the knot meter climbed from 10 knots to the high 12’s in a matter of minutes while she was alone in the cockpit.

When the boat hit the mid-13’s knots, she yelled down into the cabin at her husband, the captain, “TJ, you’d better get up here!”.

He came running up, totally thrilled at the speed, and they continued their sleigh ride into the mid-17’s.

That’s like going 150 mph in a car!


USS Ronald Reagan

USS Ronald Reagan is greeted by helicopters

We watched them slip out of San Diego harbor en route to Norway via Central America. What a voyage!

As they disappeared into the distance at the mouth of San Diego bay, an aircraft carrier appeared on the horizon returning from exercises at sea.

We watched the two boats approaching each other, and suddenly realized we had friends on both boats, because a young friend of ours in the Navy is stationed on that carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.

Of course, our cruising friends left the bay without too much fanfare, other than us standing on the shore snapping photos and waving.

But the aircraft carrier was greeted by a trio of Navy helicopters flying in formation!

Dolphin leaping in San Diego bay

A dolphin suddenly leaps by our boat

We got out on the bay in our own boat Groovy early one morning, and were astonished by the greeting we received when a dolphin leapt high out of the water nearby.

Dolphin jumping out of the water

The dolphin paused for treats between leaps!

We discovered that this dolphin was an enlisted Navy sailor too.

Working with civilian trainers in an inflatable dinghy, he was leaping on command and getting yummy fish treats in return for his efforts.

What a beautiful creature.

I hope he gets a nice pension for his years of service.


San Diego dolphin jumping

Dolphin leaps in the air


Dolphin leaps clear out of the water

Such a thrill to see!

Fort Rosecrans Cemetery

Fort Rosecrans Cemetery

San Diego’s close relationship with the Navy goes way back, and high up on Point Loma there is a Navy cemetery with hundreds of tombstones lined up on rolling, green, grassy lawns.

The cemetery has views of both the bay and the ocean, and the endless rows of white stones seem to reach right out to the horizon.

This would be a wonderful place to watch a beautiful sunset, and Mark traipsed up there, camera in hand, on quite a few occasions, hoping for glorious red skies.



This cemetery overlooks the sea and the bay

This cemetery overlooks the sea and the bay

But Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and each time he made the trek, he came home disappointed with just a handful of shots that, while lovely, didn’t have the magic he’d hoped for.

The “out of this world” sunsets seemed to be reserved for the days when we weren’t paying attention and weren’t ready.

We’d be busy on the boat, deeply engrossed in some project, when we’d peak out the windows and our jaws would suddenly drop when we caught sight of the colors in the sky.


Sunset at Harbor Island

A beautiful sunset catches us by surprise

To add to the drama, our sunset views from inside the boat are fantastically enhanced because the windows in the hull are tinted pink!

We’d leap up out of our seats, throw everything aside, and dive for the cameras — which were never where they should be, always had the wrong lenses attached, and had been left in some weird mode that produced blown out or black images for the first few photos.

Oh well! We’d still click away, happy as clams, hunting for ways to get a unique perspective on whatever was happening in the sky.

Sculptures on Shelter Island at dusk

Shelter Island sculpture structures at dusk…

Mark enjoyed getting out for night shots too, and Shelter Island’s unusual sculptures offered lots of interesting opportunities.

There is a big grassy lawn with two large structures on it that represent the undulations and curves of waves on the sea.

During the daytime these are a little bit funny looking, but at night, when spotlights shine on them, they come to life.

Sculptures on Shelter Island at night

…and at night.

The magic hour is just after sunset when the sky makes a brilliant blue backdrop, but I also really liked the silky, inky black of night.

This is a fun time to play with lighting, and he got a wonderful photo of a trio of bird of paradise flowers too.

Trio of bird of paradise flowers

A lovely bird of paradise trio

These were happy days for us on the shores of San Diego Bay.

After a while, though, we finally tore ourselves away from the action nearby to go looking for adventure a little further afield.

We didn’t have to go too far — Sunset Clilffs and Balboa Park were just a stone’s throw away.


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Our beloved sailboat Groovy is For Sale

San Diego’s Shelter Island – A Lively Waterfront!

Shelter Island San Diego

Shelter Island is a great place to sit for a spell!

Summer-Fall, 2013 – While we were in San Diego, living in one of the marinas in Shelter Island’s “backyard,” we discovered a summer-long party was going on out on the island’s “front yard” that faces the bay.

Statue of kid with balloons

A bronze statue is dressed up with balloons

Shelter Island’s unique waterfront park invites visitors to spread out a picnic, or kick back with a book under a tree, or host a birthday party, or gather the whole clan for a huge family reunion, and these kinds of festive happenings go on whenever the sun is shining, which is pretty much every afternoon!

Sunbathing on Shelter Island

Shelter Island’s little beach is great for sunbathing.

Whenever we took a stroll across the street from the marina, the bay side of Shelter Island was hopping with activity.

Joggers, walkers and people with dogs filled the paths, while sunbathers and fishermen hung out by the water’s edge.

Shelter Island Drive, the road that runs the length of this spit of land, is a about a mile long, and it is a favorite place for people to show off their sports cars.

We spotted high-end cars of every variety driving by. After a while we got used to looking up and seeing something exotic rolling past, like a Ferarri or Lotus or Bentley or Rolls Royce.

Roadster on Shelter Island

California Dreaming…

This is California, after all, where cruising in a sporty roadster is an iconic pastime.

One day we found a Porsche car show was in full swing at one end of the island. Porsches of every color and from every era filled the grassy lawn by the water. Proud owners stood back and smiled while their cars were ogled and photographed.

Porsche car show Shelter Island

Porsches are lined up at a car show

Many of the cars had cute license plates. I liked the one that said “It’s qwik.”

Porsche - it's quik!

This is a fast one!

The Porsche car show was set up for just a few hours that Saturday, but the local RVs were there every day.

Porche car show on Shelter Island

What a place to show off these beautiful cars

RVs up to 30′ long are given designated parking spaces that they can stay in 22/7 — all but the wee hours of the morning. A group of “regulars” showed up early every morning to take their favorite spots along the waterfront.

Decorated RV on Shelter Island

There’s a little of everything here

Just as unique and eye-popping as any sporty Porsche was one fellow’s Class C motorhome. He had decorated if from stem to stern in crazy, colorful doo-dads and stickers. The exterior of his rig was an evolving work of art, and we watched him carefully adding goodies to it every so often.

Prevost at Humphreys

The RV culture on Shelter Island includes million dollar rigs!

At the opposite end of the spectrum, famous rock and rollers pulled into Shelter Island every few days to perform in outdoor concerts at Humphreys.

Their posh RVs were given designated parking too, right in the Humphreys parking lot!!

Seeing these million dollar rigs lined up always prompted chatter among the passersby, “Who’s playing tonight?”

Their lineup was impressive, and bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Moody Blues were on the roster during our stay.

Fishing Pier cShelter Island

This little pier is Shelter Island’s fishing hub

We hoped to catch a glimpse of a famous face, or at least get a peak inside a rig, or just talk to a roadie, but we never got quite that lucky.

There were times, though, when there were four or five of these million dollar motorhomes parked in front of Humphreys, their generators humming.

Big tree on Shelter Island

Shelter Island has lots of huge and elegant trees

Several hundred yards away, the fishermen were lined up on the fishing pier, poles reaching out over the water, their ice buckets and coolers at their feet.

Jungle gym slide on Shelter Island

Little kids have their own place
on Shelter Island too.

Shelter Island’s captivating view looks straight across the bay at downtown San Diego, but it is the enormous trees towering over the shore that will always remain etched in my memory. These mammoth trees seem to reach for the sky, and they have shaded decades of parties and gatherings under their branches.

Bougainvillea trellis Shelter Island

Trellises covered with bougainvillea dot the walking paths


The little jungle gym in the middle of the island was always full of kids playing on the swings and slide.


Bell of Friendship from Yokohama to San Diego

Yokohama’s “Bell of Friendship” was given to San Diego in 1960.


At the far end of Shelter Island there is a Japanese monument, complete with a little red roofed structure that houses a very special “Bell of Friendship” along with a huge hanging mallet to strike it. This bell was presented to San Diego in 1960 by her “sister city,” Yokohama, Japan.

Morning mist on Shelter Island

Morning mist on Shelter Island

The whole monument faces right out to the open Pacific ocean beyond San Diego’s protected bay, and there is a longing and almost haunting quality to it.

Marvelous Muffins on Shelter Island Drive

Marvelous Muffins are MARVELOUS!

Although the afternoons were usually bright and sunny, the mornings were often very misty and foggy, and we often woke to the sound of water dripping from our boat’s rigging onto the deck. That’s when we would to head to Marvelous Muffins, a sweet little muffin shop that was warm and cozy and smelled yummy inside. The shop’s owner Sophie would greet us with a huge smile, and despite having hundreds of customers, many of whom have been coming daily for years, she soon knew our names and our favorite order: a cranberry bran muffin and a blueberry bran muffin.

Yoga on standup paddle boards

Morning yoga exercises in the bay

We liked to think that starting the day with a bran muffin was fairly healthy, but one morning as we nibbled our treats, we were quite taken aback when we saw three people doing yoga on their stand-up paddle boards out in the bay.

San Diego's Festival of Sail

San Diego’s Festival of Sail

Wow! Where else would you see something like that? Another day we wandered across from the marina to see the Festival of Sail, a fabulous tall ship parade.

New and old ships in San Diego

The NEW and the OLD!

People set up their chairs on the lawn and pulled out their binoculars and cameras to watch the ships sailing past. What a fun show. Historic ships of all kinds ghosted past, all sails flying. I loved seeing the ultra modern design of a race boat next to the salty lines of an old wooden schooner. What a contrast. Each boat harnesses the wind for propulsion, but in such totally different ways.

Tall ships of every kind sailed past

Tall ships of every kind sailed past

Tall ship in San Diego

These beautiful ships sailed towards downtown.

Tall ships in San Diegp

Tall ships and sailboats on San Diego Bay

Wanna race?

Local boaters got close to the action, sailing between the tall ships, and many of the local charter boats took their customers out for a view from the front row.

Tall ship cannon blast

Cannon blast!







This was a beautiful parade that moved past in silence and slow motion.

Tall ship at sunset

A tall ship catches the light at sunset

Some of the tall ships had been war ships in a bygone era and had been armed to the teeth in their day.

Several of them broke the silence with cannon blasts as they went by. These explosions evoked a shout of excitement from us onlookers standing in the grass.

But how frightening it must have been to be caught in a skirmish — a true dance macabre — between ships like these back when the coasts were untamed.

Fishermen statue

San Diego celebrates all the ways people enjoy the sea

San Diego has one of the most accessible waterfronts of any big city, and the statues all along the waterfront pay homage to the many ways that people enjoy the sea.

We loved this statue of three fishermen reeling in their catch, and after we both tried many different angles on it, Mark captured this beautiful shot at dusk.

The wonderful thing about Shelter Island is that even when there isn’t a formal tall ship parade going by, there is always something happening on the water.

Big cruise ships come into San Diego on a regular basis too. What a sight it is when one passes by, all lit up like a Christmas tree from stem to stern.

A cruise ship lights up the bay as it sails towards downtown

A cruise ship lights up the bay as it sails towards downtown



It was a gift to be able to live on Shelter Island where everything from car shows to boat parades to little kids playing on swings to folks casting for fish to people walking and jogging along the waterfront all happened right in our own front yard.

We relished all the action, but were always glad to be able to retreat at the end of the day to Shelter Island’s back yard of marinas where the the sunsets became ever more spectacular as the summer slipped into fall and then early winter!

Sunset on Harbor Island

The sunsets became ever more dramatic as Fall progressed.

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Our beloved sailboat Groovy is For Sale

San Diego’s Shelter Island – Safe Haven!

Kona Kai sunset

Our sailboat “Groovy” enjoys the sunset at Kona Kai Marina on Shelter Island

Summer-Fall, 2013 – San Diego’s Shelter Island is an oasis of tranquility in the middle of a very busy city harbor, and when we sailed up from Mexico it became our beautiful home for a few months.

What a place!

San Diego is a cool bayside city that ranks as the eighth largest in the US.

It is home to both a major naval air station and a huge international airport that crowd the waterfront alongside the skyscrapers of downtown.


Walking path on Shelter Island

The walking paths along Shelter Island’s back side are lush and lovely.

All that stuff could make for a very industrial waterfront, but Shelter Island offers a wonderful, scenic getaway, a little island of calm, right in the middle of it all.

With grassy lawns and palm trees running along its length and making up much of both its “front yard” on the bay and its “back yard” of marinas, Shelter Island is a unique spot.


Elegant yacht and house

Shelter Island’s back yard is very pretty and peaceful

The island, which is actually connected and not a true island, is the result of brilliant city planning back in the 1930’s.

The land used to be natural mud flats that were dredged to create a deep water mooring area for boats and a solid turf “island.”

This green and lush strip of land at the water’s edge is part of what makes San Diego so worthy of its claim to be “America’s Finest City.”

Kona kai rower

A rowboat passes behind the boats in the marina

Stand up paddle boards Shelter Island

One of the best ways to get around
is by paddle board

On the front (bay) side of the island, visitors picnic, walk their dogs, jog, fish, sunbathe, and launch their kayaks and powerboats for rides in the bay.


The more serene back side of the island is home to a dozen or so marinas and a thousand or so boats that sit quietly, side by side, with narrow waterways running in labyrinthine patterns between them.


Kona Kai Marina gate

The metal gate at Kona Kai marina is heavy and ornate

Our boat slip was at Kona Kai marina, which is part of a resort hotel, and our dock was tucked behind an elaborately sculpted, heavy metal gate that swung shut on springs with a resounding clang. Once inside the gate, it was as if the world on the other side of the island disappeared.

All that was around us were graceful boats that moved ever so gently in their slips and birds that fished in the mirrored waters by the shore.

This back yard of Shelter Island is an ideal place to explore by paddle board or rowboat, and we saw lots of those during our stay.


Shelter Island walking path

We just love these walking paths

Along the shore, a paved walking path ducks under rich green foliage that is dotted with brilliant orange bird of paradise flowers and vivid magenta bouganvillea.

Ironically, when we first arrived at Shelter Island after sailing up from Mexico, we didn’t appreciate or even recognize the tranquility of the place.

The hum and thrum of the Mexican and American cultures are so different, and they dance to such divergent tempos and cadences, that after our many months of immersion in Mexico, we were out of sync with our own home culture. It took us a while to find our rhythm.


Deborah Lynn Herreshoff

Our neighbor’s Herreshoff 12.5 Doughdish
“Deborah Lynn” looked so pretty in the morning light

On our very first morning on Shelter Island, Mark emerged from the companionway of our boat and went out for a walk at dawn. I was too lazy to join him and just rolled over.

What a shock it was when he jumped back into bed an hour later and pulled the covers over his head.

“Where’s the fire?” He asked, his voice muffled by pillows and blankets as he hugged them tight around his head.

“Everyone is moving so fast! What is wrong with the world out there? Why is everyone in such a rush?”

I laughed as he curled up in a little ball, his fists clenching the blankets right down over his face.

Messing about in boats

“There is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”

Shelter Island at dawn is downright mellow by American urban standards!

But we weren’t used to American life any more, and this was our first stage of “re-entry.” During the weeks and months that followed, there were many times when we both wanted to pull the covers over our heads as we readjusted.

Travelers who spend a long time away from their home culture often talk about “re-entry” when they finally come home.

Shelter Island is a sea of masts

The backside of Shelter Island is a sea of masts

All it takes for most Americans to get catapulted back into the reality of our own culture is a trip to a supermarket.

The displays of richly colored and beautifully shaped produce seem to go on for acres, and each specimen sitting on its perfect pyramid of sister fruits and veggies appears to be the very essence of ripeness and loveliness.

The miles-wide and miles-long aisles in the supermarket offer at least two or three choices for everything.

It is overwhelming. Such bounty and wealth. Such lavish abundance.

Red sailboat at Shelter Island

There are boats of every kind here.

We’ve been through the supermarket re-entry phase before, but it didn’t make it any less dramatic this time around.

We walked into the supermarket and instantly felt that same urge we had on the streets of Mexico to grab our cameras and take photos.

The supermarket was just so exotic and so colorful and so wonderful!

On the boat, life was more familiar and not too different than it had been in Mexico, except we were now wearing sweatshirts and running our heater at night.

Living at Shelter Island also gave us a wonderful window onto the world of the very rich.

Cushy chairs at Kona Kai Resort

Relaxing at Kona Kai in front of the mega yacht dock

The cushy chairs at the resort had a view of the mega yacht dock, and one day a new yacht pulled in that was five stories tall and dwarfed the recreational boats nearby.

What a life!

We felt so privileged to be able to see all this…and even to be able to feel all these mixed up emotions too.

A generous friend took us to lunch at the posh San Diego Yacht Club where there are trophy cases lined with silver goblets engraved with the names of the best racing sailors.

Mega yacht Invectus at Kona Kai

The five story yacht “Invectus” towers over all the other boats

Wooden ship's wheel San Diego Yacht Club

View from San Diego Yacht Club

A thickly varnished and very shiniy wooden ship’s wheel on the yacht club deck gave the luncheon patio a distinctly nautical flavor.

This was life lived at another level, and boating of a different kind that barely resembled the grubby, salty cruising lifestyle we had come from. What a delight!

Kona Kai Marina

Kona Kai Marina








We felt like shape shifters sliding in and out of all these special cultures.

Herron fishing

In many ways, too, we felt a lot like Dorothy upon her return from Oz.

We had woken up, with bumps on our heads, to find our home was rather strange and unfamiliar, and all we could do was talk excitedly about where we had just been.

Heron and reflected masts

A heron fishes among the mast reflections

Dorothy’s friends and neighbors listened politely as she told of the scarecrow and the lion and the tin-man and the wizard. But her friends and family were much more concerned about the bump on her head.

Pelican landing

Landing gear down…

We gave a few slideshow talks about our adventures and talked til we were hoarse about all that we had seen and done.

We made videos to inspire future cruisers and give them shortcuts to reach the best stuff we discovered down south.

Fortunately, I think our stories and photos captured the imaginations of the folks that listened to us.

But the bumps on our heads from re-entry were still there, especially when we watched TV and listened to the radio.

That sure jolted us back to the reality of life in the US!


Back side of Island Palms Resort

It’s pretty darn nice here!

We hadn’t heard or seen advertising in English for 10 months, and we were in awe as we were assaulted by the plethora of advertisers.

It sure seemed as though our lives would be hopelessly incomplete if we didn’t start buying all this great stuff right away!

Technology had also snuck ahead of us while our heads were turned, and we watched our friends talk to their phones and their cars with a chummy familiarity that was startling.

Their phones and navigation systems happily talked back too!


Puffy cloud Sunset at Kona Kai

Puffy clouds above the boats and reflections below

Witnessing these human/computer interactions made us feel like we had walked right off the edge of the planet and were just now crawling back on our hands and knees.

We have been without a cell phone since 2007, and our friends were sure we needed to get one now to survive.

Several trips to the Verizon store and a few sales pitches later, and we realized we still didn’t need a phone, not even a smart one, but gosh, those smartphones sure are seductive.

One day while Mark was chatting with a new friend on the docks, he suddenly said, “You were in Mexico!? That explains why you’re so laid back and talk so slow!”

Sunset on Shelter Island

Sunset on Shelter Island

We are?? We do?? We just thought the world was moving a little too fast and everyone was talking in hyperspeed around us!

Fortunately, the rhythm of the sunrises and sunsets in Shelter Island’s backyard was the same as it has ever had been. We reveled in the purity of each one.

The sky was different every morning and every evening, and it conjured up all kinds of colors and shapes and patterns to fill the sky.

And oftentimes the water was glass beneath it, reflecting those same pretty images back up from the depths below.

Sunset at Shelter Island Marina

Every sunrise and sunset is different

Shelter Island’s protected backyard offered us wonderful shelter as we gradually eased our way back into the mainstream.

Lighted docks at Kona Kai Marina

The docks at night

But it was Shelter Island’s front yard — the grassy green picnic areas, the majestic trees, the funky old RVs and the front row seats to the action on the bay — that got us excited about being back home in the US and living in this very special corner of it for a while…

Bonfire at Kona Kai Resort

A beach bonfire on the back side of Shelter Island

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Our beloved sailboat Groovy is For Sale

Taylor Guitars – Where Passion Fuels Success

Taylor Guitars Entrance

At Taylor Guitars!

Mid-November, 2013 – After watching the 2013 Baja Ha-ha fleet of boats sail south for winter cruising in Mexico, we turned our attention away from the sea and back towards the fun things there are to do on land in southern California.

Mark has been an avid guitar player since his teenage years, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the unique Taylor Guitars factory in El Cajon.

Many moons ago, Mark had taken an impromptu tour of the old Taylor factory, back when it was in Santee, California.



Kids walking with guitar necks

How cool to see factory workers walking around with guitar parts in their hands!

Today the plant is in El Cajon, and the daily tours are not only extraordinarily professional and informative but reflect the high quality standard that is the very essence of Taylor Guitars.

What fun it is to pull into an industrial area full of factory buildings and see plant workers walking around carrying guitar necks and bodies!

The visitors center was like a museum that hums a melodious ode to the beauty of Taylor guitars.

Signs on the walls next to expensive guitars say, “Play Me!” and the receptionist encouraged us to take any guitar we wanted off the rack and give it a strum.  Mark happily obliged!


Taylor Guitars factory tour

Visitors are encourage to try any guitar they want

Turning a corner into the stylish gift shop, we heard snippets of classic rock favorites coming from the guitars of other tour takers as we milled around and waited for our tour to begin.

There were some really great guitar players with us on tour that day!

Emerson Lake and Palmer’s “From the Beginning” and Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” wafted through the room, while the players grinned with delight at the way these graceful guitars sounded.

We were given headphones and receivers so we could hear the tour guide over the noise of the factory, and we all assembled at the appointed hour.

Taylor Guitar tour guide and group

We gather around our tour guide, wearing headphones, receivers and safety glasses.

We were a group of about 20, with just four women present. What a surprise it was to find out from our guide that our group was only “medium” sized. This tour is given every weekday!!

I’m sure that being a Guitar God was something all these guys around me had dreamed of at one point or another in their lives, but on this tour we were introduced to the life works of a REAL Guitar God. Not Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen, but the one and only Bob Taylor, the co-founder and visionary behind Taylor Guitars.

We soon discovered that Bob’s unique talents and can-do approach to life were apparent when he was just a junior in high school in the early 1970’s. When he saw the $175 price tag of a coveted guitar, rather than go mow a few lawns to raise the capital to buy it, he decided to make one himself in shop class instead!

Taylor Guitar woodpile

One of many woodpiles out back

While his shop teacher was teaching the other kids the names of the tools in the shop and explaining what goes into a design plan, he drew up a plan for a 12-string dreadnought guitar and asked his teacher if he could skip the beginner stuff and get right into building his guitar.
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The Baja Ha-Ha 2013 Sails South!

Sunny days and pretty flowers on Shelter Island

Sunny days and pretty flowers on Shelter Island

Every fall, veteran sailing snowbirds and first-time voyagers flock to the many marinas and anchorages around San Diego Bay. Then, at the end of October, they point their bows south and take flight in the Baja Ha-Ha Cruiser’s Rally.

This year we had front row seats to all the action.

This voyage is a long one — some 800 miles or so between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula — and the rally lasts two weeks.

The boats make just two stops along the way, and at a blazing boat speed of 6 to 8 mph, they cover three legs of approximately 350 miles, 250 miles and 200 miles each.

Baja Ha-Ha kick-off party

Ron from West Marine was a great pirate-host
for the Ha-Ha kick-off costume party

These are overnight passages, and the boats sail non-stop for days at a time, with the crew taking turns at the helm.

In the weeks leading up to the rally, boats arrive from points north, and the excitement builds around the docks.

Boats come down from Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and northern California, and everyone arrives with adventure and tropical sunshine on their minds.

We were first introduced to the Baja Ha-Ha in 2008 when we were living in our fifth wheel trailer on Shelter Island. Laws for parking an RV along the waterfront were more lax in those days, and we spent a wonderful month enjoying San Diego from this fantastic spot.

Mariachi band

A mariachi band performed at the Ha-Ha kick-off party.


We got a glimpse of the west coast boating life that whetted our appetites and changed our lives.

While we were there, adventurers Stephen Mann and Kathleen Torres were getting ready to depart on their daring 9 month round-the-world voyage via the Southern Ocean.

And the Ha-Ha crowd was spilling in and out of every chandlery and boating related store on Shelter Island.


Wicked wenches

Wild wenches line up for their costume contest

We went to the Ha-Ha kick-off costume party and got totally caught up in the excitement and festivities.  We bought Ha-Ha t-shirts and suddenly had our hearts set on buying a boat and going cruising too!

Two years later, we joined the merriment again — for real! We partied with the Ha-Ha crowd at the kick-off party and then sailed south on our own boat, following in the wake of the fleet.

Pirate and cowgirl

A pirate and … a cowgirl!

This year’s party and send-off were just as much fun (if not more-so) as the other two we’d attended.

It was a little nostalgic for us as we remembered our wide-eyed impressions of the first party and our fluttery butterfly nerves during the second party when our own departure was just days away.

This year’s party was full of wonderful flashbacks for us. We listened to the excited conversations between the cruisers as they talked about boat projects and last minute repairs, and memories of our own last minute preparations welled up from what now seems like the far distant past.

Pirate duel

A pirate’s life for me? Watch out!

The Ha-Ha kick-off costume party is a chance for all the cruisers to let off a little steam the day before the big departure. After weeks of boat upgrade projects, massive bank account draining expenditures on equipment, and laborious installations, troubleshooting and repairs, everyone at the party is radiantly happy to let loose for a few hours.

Stealing a sword

Watch your back at all times!

The kick-off party takes place in the West Marine parking lot, and their employee Ron, who usually wears a normal clothes to work, came to West Marine dressed as a pirate just for the occasion. He transformed into a fantastic, swashbuckling host for the event.

As he invited all the other pirates up on the stage for the costume contest, one of them boldly reached out and grabbed Ron’s pistol off his belt. Ron raised his sword in protest, but luckily no limbs were severed.

Teenage old man

A teenager did an awesome impersonation of an old man

Another pirate kept losing his sword out of its sheath on his back. You gotta watch your back at these cruiser gatherings!

All the costumes were really creative.




Pirate in glasses

There were some crazy getups!

One teenage boy did a spot-on impersonation of a cranky old man and had the crowd clapping and cheering.

And a pussy cat, a couple abandoning ship in a hurricane, a group of cervezas with limes and a Swedish family (who actually sailed here from Sweden — complete with Pippi Longstocking!) all had a moment in front of the crowd.

One of the most popular groups was the Pan Am flight attendants.

The Pan Am gals (cough cough) paraded in.

The Pan Am gals (cough cough) paraded in.

Lemme fix my hair

“I can’t do a THING
with my hair!”

These lovely ladies — uh — guys — brought a little brawn and muscle to their tight skirts… along with furry beards and hairy legs!


No one noticed the prisoners
when these cops showed up!

But when a pair of cops from East Germany showed up, the tight skirt game rose to a new level! They were chasing a group of prisoners that had balls chained to their ankles and were trying to make a quick prison break.  The crowd barely noticed the prisoners, as all eyes were on the two cops!

A special Ha-Ha cruiser for us was our friend Jenny who was dressed in a white lab coat. She is the First Mate of the flying vessel called “Rocket Science.” Her gorgeous 55 foot custom sailboat averages 12 knots with its eyes closed, and has been known to top 17 knots when the skipper and first mate were actually paying attention.

As the boat was being built, the original owner kept telling his naval architects, “It’s not rocket science,” as they worked to create a blindingly fast sailing machine. Well, although to him it wasn’t Rocket Science, to any boat sailing nearby, this boat is actually a sailing Rocket Ship!

They will be starting two days after the fleet, but they will likely overtake everyone in no time!

Rocket Science is a Rocket Ship!

Jenny’s Rocket Science is a Rocket Ship!

The Grand Poobah, Richard Spindler, was busy taking pics

Richard Spindler — the “Grand Poohbah” — got lots of pics









Meanwhile the paparazzi had a remote controlled aircraft for overhead shots

The paparazzi used remote controlled aircraft for overhead shots!

Yours truly with the Grand Poohbah

Yours truly with the Grand Poohbah

Now, this is a Grand Event that is known far and wide in cruising circles. So it was no surprise to look up and see a flying craft above us with a camera pointed down into the crowd.

The paparazzi had obviously gathered outside the West Marine parking lot gates, and they were getting whatever shots they could of the wonderful party inside!

The Ha-Ha swag bags were a big hit -- very classy backpacks.

The Ha-Ha swag bags were a big hit — very classy backpacks.

Well, there weren’t any big celebrities present that day, but the buzz was on about the great swag that was being given out to the Ha-Ha participants this year.

Popeye made off with a two-four of beer to wash all that spinach down.

Popeye made off with a two-four of beer to wash down all that spinach!

The Ha-Ha logo backpacks were very classy, and they were loaded to the brim with t-shirts, sunglasses, beach balls and other goodies.

With swag bags full of great stuff, and bellies full of tacos and beer, the partiers finally began to disperse.

As we were leaving the parking lot, we noticed Popeye making off with a 24-pack of beer. He had been slurping a spinach drink all afternoon (although the liquid in his glass was suspiciously tan colored), so who could blame him if he wanted a little pick-me-up for later?

Baja Ha-ha 2013 fleet leaves San Diego

The Ha-ha fleet gathers in the bay




The next morning dawned gloomy and drizzly after a night of pouring rain. Our boat was drenched and our sheets were clammy as we climbed out of bed to see the Ha-Ha crowd off.

This was not the kind of start anyone would want, but maybe the promise of sunshine and fun times ahead got the sailors all revved up, even as they donned their foul weather gear for the start.

Baja Ha-ha fleet

Boats line up for the parade

Capricorn Cat

Capricorn Cat is beautifully dressed up for the occasion!

We wandered to the other side of Shelter Island at the appointed hour and watched the boats begin to gather.

We had been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts, and for us, this didn’t seem like a great day to leave. The frustrating part about any outdoor event is what do you do with inclement weather?

As a kid back in New England, I remember all our outdoor party invitations always went out with either a rain date or an alternative venue “in case of rain.” It was just part of life in a place where it rains a few days out of most weeks.

Baja Ha-ha 2013

The fireboat does donuts and blasts water spray arcs all around

But with a gathering of 130 sailboats headed south on a two week voyage, how do you coordinate an alternative departure date?

Fortunately, the excited crowd on the water didn’t seem put off one bit by the drizzle.

For us, however, the small craft advisory warnings and the forecast of 5 to 9 foot seas at 10-11 second intervals for the next few days (very steep and choppy!) did not seem very inviting.

In the end, all sailors have to make up their own minds about when the weather looks best for a passage, and fortunately the big comfy port of Ensenada lay just 70 miles to the south if things got too gnarly for the fleet!


Baja Ha-ha fleet with fireboat

Our friends Rob & Rose aboard R&R Kedger sail past

This is a big media event, and a fishing vessel named Dolphin bobbed near our shore with dignitaries from Mexico and San Diego and the media on board. They had fabulous front row seats to the spectacle.

But we were in prime position too, and suddenly we heard a starting gunshot blast from somewhere out on the water, and then the fleet was off. They motored past us, and our camera shutters flew — in between waves to friends, of course!

A fire boat spun in circles too, sending up a huge fountain of spray all around.  Here’s a quick video clip…

Now THAT's a lens!!!

Now THAT’s a lens!!!

We found ourselves standing next to a professional photographer from the San Diego Union-Tribune. What luck! Mark had a chance to talk cameras with a true pro, and we both gaped in awe at the lens he was using.

Our cameras were getting soaked in the drizzle, but his pro camera could easily handle that kind of misting. I had to throw my jacket over my camera between each shot, and I wondered if it would survive (it did!).

The mothership, Profligate, a fast 65-foot catamaran, zoomed through the fleet to the front of the pack, leading the way out of the bay. It was a thrill to see all of these intrepid cruisers off on their adventures.

Profligate roars to the head of the fleet

Profligate roars to the head of the fleet

After the row of boats slipped away into the mist, we dried off our cameras as best we could, packed them up, and began walking back to our truck.  The chatter between us was non-stop as we talked about all the excitement of the morning.

Funny thing is, try as we could, neither of us could remember the details of our own leave-taking from San Diego Bay on our voyage south those years ago. We had sailed in and out of the bay so many times, and had been back and forth to Ensenada so much, that somehow the specifics of that particular day were lost to us for the moment.

Baja Ha-ha fleet leaves San Diego

And they’re off — to warmer climes and a great winter in Mexico.

But as we climbed into our truck and drove over to a coffee shop to warm up with a latte and a muffin, we both agreed that we were quite content not to be on the ocean right now.

We’d had our time and loved our cruise, just as these sailors are having their time and will love their cruise too. But as we listened to the fog horn wailing in the distance while we cozied up to steaming cups at our little bistro table in the coffee shop, there was something very comforting and civilized about being warm, dry, and on stable ground — with our own wheels parked out front!

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San Diego Anchorages – Glories of Glorietta Bay

Fog greeted us most mornings.

A megayacht crew forms a receiving line for the owners.

Leight Star - without its helicopter.

The Coronado Bridge.

Star of India's sails go up.

Brave crew members of the Star of India unfurl one

of the large square sails.

Downtown San Diego.

A harbor seal naps on a bouy.

A warship cruises down the channel.

A beach on Coronado Island.

Coronado Beach Company's "Tent City."

sv Groovy in San Diego - ready for the tropics.

This could almost be a tropical isle.

s/v Groovy with sistership Bella Marina

Friends on Hunter 44DS "Marina Bella" anchored nearby.

Party time.

Woo Hoo!

A raft up.

The Coronado Boat House.

The Hotel del Coronado.

An elegant chat outside an elegant villa.

Sand drawing on the pavement.

A perfect day for the beach.

Coronado Beach is a classic California beach.

McP's, Navy Seal hangout.

Navy Frogmen raise a pint at McP's.  Painted by our

friend and anchorage neighbor, Pete the Pirate.

Quaint buildings line the streets on Coronado Island.

One dog power.

Waterfront kaleidoscope.

Glorietta Bay is surrounded

by shallow water.

San Diego Anchorages - Glorietta Bay

September, 2010 - We continued to shuffle between the various free San

Diego Anchorages, gaining new perspectives on the city with every stop.

Most mornings began with a cold damp fog that occasionally broke into

sunshine for a few hours on rare, lucky afternoons.  By my reckoning,

summer began on August 16th, and after 10 stunning days of warm

sunshine and bright blue skies it promptly ended on August 26th.  We

discovered that 2010 was the coldest summer in San Diego since 1933.


However, we thoroughly enjoyed the activity on the waterfront, regardless.

One of the joys of staying at the public Police Dock marina on Shelter

Island that is open to all boaters on a first-come, first-serve basis, was its

amazing variety of visitors.  Long term cruisers heading north or south

would stop in, their boats laden with dinghies, liferafts, bicycles, solar

panels, wind generators and everything else necessary for a safe and comfortable nomadic life afloat.  Next door to them would be

local liveaboards who were taking a break from their usual swinging spot on a mooring, using the convenience of the marina to

wash the boat, walk to the car, and luxuriate in hot, stationary showers in a space larger than a phone booth.

Right next door to the Police Dock is San Diego's ritziest megayacht

dock.  So, while your transient Cop Dock neighbor tells you what a

steal he got on his ancient 25' sailboat (he just picked it up for $300,

and not only does it sleep four, making it a fine liveaboard home,

but it still floats), a few hundred feet behind him the seven person

uniformed crew of a megayacht stands in a formal receiving line to

greet the very old owner and his very young wife onto their palatial

yacht for the weekend.  I can't think of too many land based

neighborhoods where the scruffiest scrappers and the most

supremely ultra-rich can practically reach out of their windows and

shake hands.

The megayacht Leight Star (140') made the news during our

stay because its very seasoned helicopter pilot crashed under

the Coronado bridge.  Apparently he experienced a

mechanical failure shortly after taking off from the yacht, and

he didn't quite succeed in his attempted emergency landing on

the bridge.  Fortunately, a rescue team just happened to be

nearby.  They saved the 69-year-old pilot from the wreckage

and got him to the hospital right away.

Taking our dinghy across the bay to the Maritime Museum, we watched

the goings-on aboard the Star of India, a megayacht of sorts (205') from

another era.  This beautiful ship is docked permanently along the

downtown waterfront, and it often sports a few flying sails.  Way up in the

rigging we saw four daring crew members unfurling one of the square


Sadly, the Star of India had made the news just a month earlier as

well.  A 68-year-old retired Naval officer who volunteered on the

ship fell 50' to his death while moving from a rope ladder to the

rigging on the forward mast of the ship.  In a safety reminder to us

all, it turned out that his harness wasn't clipped in at the time.

As we wandered from anchorage to

anchorage we got to enjoy the stunning

skyline of San Diego's downtown district from

many angles.

The harbor seals didn't seem as impressed

by the view, and they lolled about, sleeping

soundly on the bay's bouys.

San Diego is a busy, active harbor, and more

often than not, while transiting the bay, a

warship will make an appearance.  You can

hear these guys on the radio first, warning all

mariners that they are coming.  When they finally slip by, their sheer size and intense

purposefulness makes them very intimidating.

Coronado Island is the bulb at the end of the peninsula that

essentially forms the outer arm of all of San Diego harbor.  This

"island" is not to be confused with the four Coronado Islands that

lie offshore of San Diego just over the Mexican border.  Ringed by

beaches -- both docile ones on the bay and surf-pounded ones on

the open ocean -- San Diego's Coronado Island is extremely


We learned that back in the early 1900's the entire peninsula was

loaded with little beachside shanties.  Initially the structures were

simple canvas tents clustered together to form "Tent City."  A few

years later these little bungalows sprouted thatched roofs and

$1.50 per couple per night price

tags.  You could get a deal if you

brought your family for four

months during the summer.  It

seems that all of San Diego's

party crowd came out to Coronado Island for beach, sun and surf.

The Community Center park has a heartwarming outdoor display of photos, showing long

deceased revelers enjoying

this wonderful area when the

only roads were dirt.  The

women wore long, lace

trimmed dresses at the turn

of the century and shifted to

flapper, tube-style dresses in

the 1920's.  Every cheek-

by-jowl bungalow door

was framed by two camp

chairs.  Today the area is

dominated by high-rises.

The Glorietta Bay anchorage is

tucked into a nook on the bay

side of the island.  The sandy

beach is lined with palm trees,

making it look almost tropical.

Our friends on "Bella Marina," a

beautiful dark green Hunter

44DS anchored nearby, and the

two sisterships swung in unison for an

overnight, undoubtedly swapping stories

about their owners.

The clothing may have changed between

1900 and 2010, but the spirit of partying in the sun is just the same as it

ever was.  San Diego erupted in warm sunshine and sparkling water for

the afternoons we were at Glorietta Bay, and the party boats just kept on


Lots of beer and lots of skin brought the bay to life.

Behind us a group gathered in a seven boat raft-up.  By tying the

boats to each other, with three boats dropping their anchors to

hold the group still, everyone could scamper from boat to boat,

enjoying a party aboard one boat on one night and on another

boat another night.

Coronado is soaked in history, and two old landmarks still

stand as reminders of the past.  The Coronado Boat

House, built in 1887, perches on the edge of the bay.

Today it is home to a fine restaurant and a boat rental


More dramatic, the Hotel del Coronado anchors a classic California beach.  With red

turrets and lots of dormers, the hotel is a charming historic landmark.  Walking along its

perimeter we came across two old ladies chatting in on a villa patio.  They added to the

Hotel's "last century" air.

Offering more of a youthful

spirit, someone had created

sand swept images on the

sidewalk.  Walking delicately

across a smiling sun face, it

seemed the artist was as happy

about this brief turn in the

weather as we were.

A little further on we found ourselves behind some beach-goers.  What a

perfect day to take a beach chair, towel and book to the beach.

For me, Coronado Beach is what I always imagined a

California beach must be like, and the throng of Asian tourists

taking photos of each other with the beach and ocean in the

background confirmed that others must feel that way too.

Coronado Island has a busy main street where the boutique

shops and outdoor eateries spill out onto the sidewalk all the

way down the road.  Everyone was out for a late Sunday

brunch as we strolled along, but we were ready for an early

pint at McP's.  This is a special bar where the Navy Seals

hang out, and with a parental connection to the Navy we had

to check it out.

Also, our neighbor in

the A9 Cruisers'

Anchorage, former

Navy Seal "Pete the

Pirate" on the motor

yacht "Patriot Seal,"

painted the beer

hoisting frogs on the

wall of the bar.

Although originally

nicknamed "Tent City," Coronado was created by the

Coronado Beach Company as a master planned resort

community in the late 1880's, and the area remains very

upper crust today.  Ornate business buildings and

carefully crafted shop buildings give the area a precious,

studied charm.  We wandered through the back

neighborhoods, all very quiet, where each home is an

exquisite display of architectural flair.

Back on the boardwalk, returning to the boat, an old man

in a wheelchair gave us a huge smile.  "One dog power,"

he said, pointing to his dog who was on his leash ahead

of him.  Nearby, a trio of little girls clambered all over a

huge, colorful kaleidoscope.

When our weekend on Coronado

Island drew to a close, we motored

back to our home base at the A9

Cruisers' Anchorage off of Harbor

Island in the bay.  Glorietta Bay is

flanked by shallows, and a hapless

ketch ran aground on the way in just

as we were leaving.  The tide was still

falling as we passed them, giving them

few options until the tide came in again.

Meanwhile, on the radio, we heard the

Coast Guard simultaneously dealing with

two emergencies, a sailboat that had lost

power near the rocks of Point Loma and a

power boat that suddenly sank out from

beneath three older men.  While the sailboat

dropped anchor and awaited a tow, the three

men in the water miraculously kept their

handheld radio dry and followed detailed

instructions from the calm Coast Guard lady on

the radio.  As we went about our business

setting our anchor, we marveled that such a

tranquil morning in such a beautiful place could

yield three crises in a matter of minutes.

There is always a lot of action on the water.

Unfortunately, during the next few weeks, bad

weather and boat outfitting projects prevented us from further forays around

southern California, but on November 2nd we left San Diego permanently to sail

down Baja California's Pacific Coast .








































































































San Diego Anchorages – Boondocking on the Water

Isla Coronado Sur

Fishing boats rafted at the Coronado Islands.

A ketch anchored at La Playa Cove.

Beautiful mansions cover the hillside at La Playa

Cove anchorage.

We decided this was our favorite house.

The roses smelled so sweet too.

sv Groovy gets a new light bulb on the mast.

Mark changes the bulb for our

anchor light.

Folks of all kinds enjoyed La Playa Cove for

the weekend.

Hobie's slick trimaran sailing kayak.

Segways of the sea.

"Sure, I can squeeze through there."

A surfer gets a tow from a windsurfer.

Morning dawns at Southwestern Yacht Club.

Our kayak became our lifeline to shore.

A closed paddle-boat restaurant fills our view at the A9

cruisers' anchorage.

Those dirty towels sure pile up on a boat.

Sunsets from our cockpit were a little slice of heaven.

The full moon hovers over downtown, serenely

keeping an eye on the chaos of humanity below.

San Diego Anchorages

Late August, 2010 - We pulled out of Baja Naval marina in Ensenada,

Mexico after a flurry of paper chasing to get our exit documents together

in a form that was acceptable to the Port Captain.  The position of Port

Captain carries a lot of prestige, and he or she holds ultimate power over

all boating activity in the port.  Having checked into Mexico through Hotel

Coral & Marina, the Ensenada Port Captain told us we now needed our

exit crew list to be written on the letterhead of Baja Naval Marina, to show

our movement from one marina to the other during our stay.  Good grief.

The cruising guide had indicated we could write up our exit crew list

ourselves.  No such luck.  Lots of boats leave Mexico without getting exit

papers, but because we plan to return in a few months it seemed wise to

follow the prescribed protocol, so we put a few miles on our shoe soles

that morning as we ultimately made three trips to visit the Port Captain.

The morning was misty, and the sea created a smooth, undulating

blanket beneath us as we motored into the sunny haze.  We planned to

stop at Las Islas Coronados for an overnight rather than do the entire 70

mile trip to San Diego in one shot.  These islands are a few miles

offshore from Mexico, lying just below the US/Mexico border.  We had

heard to steer clear of the fishing activity at the south end of the

southernmost island before turning in to the anchorage that lies at its

midpoint on the eastern shore.  So we were very surprised to find that

fish pens and fishing boats occupied the entire eastern shoreline of the

island, effectively blocking us from turning towards our planned

anchorage until we got all the way to the northern tip.

Doubling back south and snaking our way along the shore, we eyed the

eight or so rows of three or four fish pens per row.  A lone sailboat was

anchored amid 30 or so fishing boats, and we took a spot nearby.  It is a

pretty little anchorage, and when morning came we didn't want to leave.

The gulls were calling each other, seals surfaced here and there around

the boat, and the rocks glowed orange in the sunrise.  Facing the hustle

and bustle of San Diego did not seem appealing at all.  Being anchored,

and free, after months of harnessing our boat in a slip, tying it down like a

horse penned in a stall, this brief whiff of pure freedom beckoned us.  After

all, opening our souls to this world of nature is why we chose to get a boat

and go cruising.

However, our

truck was parked

in 72-hour on-

street parking on Shelter Island and it was now 96 hours since we'd

parked it.  Duties and obligations reeled us in, and we sailed into the US

customs dock in San Diego and filled out more paperwork for more

uniformed officials to document our arrival back in the US.

Our arrival coincided with the arrival of summer in southern

California, despite it being August 17th.  The sun shone from first

light every day for ten straight days, and it seemed like it must be


We spent a few errand filled days tied up at the harbor's Police

Dock, taking advantage of having easy access to our truck and

stores from a slip in the heart of San Diego's sailing community.

We were in an intermediate phase now, without a permanent slip

for the boat, but not yet cruising full-time without wheels on land.

Our plan was to hop between anchorages until mid-October,

finishing our various outfitting projects on the boat and learning to

live on the hook, before setting sail for southern Mexico.

One delightful free anchorage is

available--weekends only--at La

Playa Cove behind Shelter Island.  Tucked between the

San Diego Yacht Club docks and the Southwestern Yacht

Club docks, this pretty spot is hugged by a hillside

studded with multi-million dollar waterfront homes.  As we

swung slowly from side to side at anchor, we admired

these beautiful glass-walled mansions, imagining what

that life must be like.

Shelter Island had unexpectedly become like a second

home to us after we spent October, 2008 and half of

January 2009 parked along the streets in our fifth wheel.

So we enjoyed getting to know its other side, soaking up

its unique warmth and familiarity from the water.

Our first anchoring experience at Isla Coronado Sur on the way to San Diego had revealed that

our anchor light bulb at the top of the mast needed changing.  It took two sailors to change this

light bulb, one manning the winch (me) and one scurrying up the mast to change the

bulb (Mark).  What crazy stuff this boating life gets you into.

Being the first truly

gorgeous, sunny, warm

weekend of the summer,

the cove was soon filled

with merry-makers of

every type.  If you had

something that could

float, this was the

weekend to take it out.

We saw rubber dinghies,

sleek little sailboats, a

Hobie sailing trimaran

kayak, traditional

kayaks and even folks

who could walk on water.

These standing paddlers

are like Segway riders of

the sea.

Lots of hot shot sailors

came through the

anchorage in impossibly

large boats, weaving

between everyone under

sail power alone,

showing the world just what amazing sailing skills they

have.  It was a little unnerving when a single guy showed up in a

ketch, a sailboat with two masts and three sails, all flying.  For a

moment the bowsprit on his boat threatened to hole Groovy right

through the middle, but he turned just in the nick of time and anchored

perfectly, running his engine for less than three minutes as he

dropped the hook.

Big kids, little kids, kids who ride on boats -- all love La Playa Cove.

During this time we gradually adapted to our new life at anchor.  No

longer able to simply step ashore and walk a few paces to our truck,

we now had to get ashore by boat.  We used the kayak at first, as it is

just so much fun to run around in.  Getting into the kayak from the

back of Groovy can be tricky, since both boats move, and not always

in a synchronized manner.

Ferrying family and friends

to the boat was a new

experience too.  Since the

kayak is built for two, and

two only, each visitor had to

be brought aboard one at a

time.  And a ride in the

kayak is never a dry affair.  Wet butts, wet feet, and salty hands were the name of the

game, but it was all such a blast.

When the weekend ended Monday morning, the boats

slowly drained out of the anchorage and we headed

over to our new home base, the A9 anchorage off the

end of Harbor Island.  This anchorage is free to all non-

San Diego County residents, and you can stay for up to

90 days, renewing your 30 day permit twice.  Not quite as picturesque as

La Playa Cove, it is still a very pretty spot.  Situated behind a now-closed

paddle boat restaurant and very upscale marina, it lies between the San

Diego airport and the Navy's airbase with a great view of downtown.

There is a constant stream of planes coming and going on either side,

and boats of all sizes ply the harbor's waters.  Tankers, cruise ships,

Navy ships and sunset cruise boats come and go all day long, and

between them the pleasure boaters fly about at full speed in power boats

and at half speed in sleek sailboats.

We loved our new spot and continued to adjust to this new life on the hook.  I did a load of laundry by hand, to alleviate the huge

pile-up of dirty clothes that would require a trip ashore by boat to get to a laundromat.  We found little things that were trivial in the

fifth wheel or living at a marina, like getting groceries or disposing of garbage, now became Major Expeditions.  Every trip on or off

the boat required a kayak ride and we got used to hugging our groceries and balancing bags of trash in our laps as our legs

pushed the pedals.

Mark continued working on the

various projects he'd tackled to get

ready for long term cruising in

Mexico.  Access to the truck was

both a boon and a bust, as it needed

to be moved from Shelter Island to

Harbor Island, a distance of several

miles.  Not a big deal for the truck,

but the kayak on the other hand...

Mark's legs were sore after soloing

the kayak against wind and current

while I drove the truck around to

meet him.

Late afternoons in the cockpit were

pure heaven.  We would kick back

and watch the scene around us.

Jets arrived in regular one minute

intervals to our left, the coast guard

choppers hovered over their base

just a little further on, and the Navy

jets exploded into the skies across

the harbor on our right.  It wasn't a

tranquil anchorage, but the hum of

human activity was intoxicating in

its own way.

What a surprise it was, as we sat

there one afternoon, to see the full

moon suddenly appear above the

city skyline right in front of us.

Mother Nature still sets the stage for

all human activities, even in our

biggest cities.  It hovered and winked

over the glowing buildings, welcoming

us to our new life of boondocking on

the water.  Happily, many more

enjoyable days in San Diego's

anchorages lay ahead of us.














































































Groovy – How We Came to Own a Sailboat

Sail blog post - When a very GROOVY sailboat came up for sail in San Diego, we flew back from the Caribbean in a hurry to make her ours.

A cool boat pops up for sale in San Diego

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising & sailing

It looks clean...

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

...and inviting

Leaving St. Vincent & The Grenadines and heading for St. Lucia

Leaving St. Vincent headed for St. Lucia

JKF Airport

New Year's Eve on the conveyor belt at JFK airport

s/v Groovy sea trial

Sea trial of the cool boat...

s/v Groovy haulout

...suspending it for a while...

s/v Groovy survey

...and having the surveyor tap the hull to check

out its integrity.

San Diego bird of paradise flower

San Diego gives us a warm


Sea Dragon urban tree in San Diego, CA

"Sea Dragon," one of San

Diego's Urban Trees, greets

us at Seaport Village.

Seaport Village, San Diego California

A mom captures herself and

kiddies in a self-portrait

s/v Groovy Seaport Village, San Diego, CA

This fellow was balancing rocks

in impossible positions.

Hot Licks has every hot sauce

known to man.

A retired Navy officer shares

tales of war on the high seas

The Bob Hope commemorative statue park.

Segway lessons.

sv Groovy ready for us to take delivery

Back on the boat it was time to take delivery.

s/v Groovy delivery

Offshore delivery involves proving that the boat

was signed over from seller to buyer "offshore"

sv Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

The seller's captain signs off.

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

Groovy is officially ours... What did we just do??

SV Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

Proud new owners

For two weeks we call Kona Kai marina home.

Surfin' community Ocean Beach

sports a lot of funk.

Surfin' hamburgers

A street musician entertains us

at Ocean Beach

Now that's a coffee kiosk!

s/v Groovy becomes our liveaboard home

Prepping for our sail to Mexico.

sv Groovy sails like a dream

Our test sails are a blast.

A schooner slips past in the distance

s/v Groovy - just a groovy boat

The sun feels good. Hard to believe we

were in short sleeves a few days ago.

sv Groovy - our wonderful Hunter sailboat

A happy family moment as the desert dwellers take to the sea.

A New Chapter:  Groovy

January, 2010 - I have mentioned John Lennon's insight that "life is what

happens to you while you are busy making other plans" elsewhere on

these pages, and once again, while in Carriacou, those words proved so

true for us.  I have long had a dream of going cruising in a sailboat and

have gradually lured Mark into this dream.  His response has ranged from

all smiles to the rare bout of kicking and screaming, but he finally agreed

to purchase a boat a year ago.

The boat buying process left us so stressed out last May that we got into a

fender bender with the trailer in California and ended up touring Michigan

by car and motel for seven weeks while the trailer was repaired and while

we decompressed.

We returned to the

trailer determined to let the boat idea slide for a while, but found ourselves

glued to Yachtworld, the online MLS for boats.  Every time we got online to

check for email, no matter where in the world we were, we did a quick check of

Yachtworld too.

When we went to the Caribbean for the winter we vowed not to look at

Yachtworld any more.  But one afternoon, while sitting out on our balcony,

Mark slipped up and took a quick peak.  "Wow!  Look at this!" He jumped out of

his patio chair.  A boat we had seen for sale almost a year earlier was back on

the market, but this time hugely discounted as a foreclosure.  I shrugged it off.

It would be gone by the time we got back to the States.  But over the next few

days, Mark wouldn't let it go. The bank had an online bid form, and one afternoon

Mark entered a bid. "Sweety, what do you think of this?" He asked as he went to take

a shower. Aw heck, that was much too high! I lowered his number by $10k and clicked Send. 30 minutes later we got an email

saying the bank had "respectfully" countered our offer by $1,500. Holy cow! Now what?? Dash away from paradise to the hurly

burly of buying our dream boat for an amazing price in the middle of winter, with the very real chance that things could go awry

and leave us empty-handed, or stay on swimming and walking and

mixing with the locals on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean?

While casting about for an answer, discussing our options, reasons,

hopes and fears endlessly, Mark woke up one day with Simon and

Garfunckle's song Feelin' Groovy running through his mind.  He had

been coming up with prospective names for boats on a sometimes

hourly basis for the past two years, to the point where it became a

comical game for both of us, but none of the names ever stuck.

However, when he rolled over that morning and said, "We should name

the boat 'Groovy'," we both knew we would be owners of a new boat.

New Year's Eve found us flying out of St. Vincent, staring down at the

turquoise sea dotted with little white sailboats, wondering if we would

truly be out there joining them soon or if we were totally out of our minds to be leaving.  The long holiday weekend was a crazy one

for international travel, and especially for last minute ticket purchases.  Starting with the hike from our Bequia apartment to the ferry

boat, then on to the St. Vincent bus ride across town to catch a small inter-island flight to St. Lucia, followed by an hour-and-a-half

taxi ride over that island's mountainous interior to its bigger airport, and finally hopping on three jet flights that bounced up the

Caribbean chain and across the US to San Diego, we were in transit for

a total of 33 hours.

Because a terrorist had tried to bomb a flight to Detroit on Christmas

day, security was extraordinary.  Apparently St. Lucia is a "country of

interest," so not only were we patted down and each of our carry-on

bags hand-searched when we entered the St. Lucia terminal, but all

passengers were patted down and every pocket of every piece of

luggage searched a second time as we all boarded the plane.  It took

two hours to get everyone aboard, and we, of course, were the last ones

on.  The gazillion TSA agents were high-fiving each other as we left their

clutches, the final plane of the day.  They were oh-so-ready to celebrate

New Year's Eve island style.  We rang in the new year at New York's JFK

airport a few hours later, while standing in line at Customs.  Back on

American soil, we snagged some blankets and pillows from the plane

and bedded down on a nice, comfy, secluded conveyor belt in the terminal to await our morning

flight to California.

Once we arrived in San Diego, we went

straight to the boat to check it out. It was

just as cool a boat as it looked in the

photos.  It is a 2008 Hunter 44DS (44'

long), the last unit of that model ever built.

After crawling through many many boats

over the past four years, we had decided a

year ago that this was the exact make and

model we wanted. 

What incredible good fortune.

Boat purchases involve a "sea trial" and "survey" which are something like a test

drive and home inspection, but you must reach a price agreement with the seller

before either can take place.  For the survey, a professional examines the boat

very carefully, checking all the systems and hauling it out of the water for a look at

the bottom.  Groggy from lack of sleep, jet lag, and still wondering if we were doing

the right thing, we were both ecstatic as we took turns at the helm on the way to the

boat yard.  Our surveyor

studied every inch of the boat

for a full day, tapping the hull

with his hammer to check for

problems and making endless

notes on his clipboard.  In the

end he declared it the cleanest

survey he had ever done.

Wow.  Gorgeous weather greeted us and

our spirits rose higher and higher -- even

as fear gripped our souls because this was

such a big move for us.  We were glad it

was shorts weather, as all we had with us

was tropical-wear and airport-wear.

Everything else was in Phoenix.  We

stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and took some time

out to explore Seaport Village with them and catch our breath.

This area was as charming as we remembered it being a year

ago.  Families were wandering through the boutique stores,

enjoying the last bit of the holiday break

together.  We spotted a mom with her two kids

getting a picture of themselves with their cell


A little further on a man was demonstrating

rock balancing, placing rocks in impossible

positions on top of each other and

miraculously willing them not to fall down.  He

claimed there were no tricks or gimmicks, but

how he could sense where the balance point

was of each rock was beyond me.

The boutiques were all well stocked with their

Christmas goods and the paths were

meticulously maintained.  There is something

ever-friendly and ever-accessible about the

San Diego waterfront.  We stopped at Hot

Licks, a store with a dizzying array of hot sauces lining every


Down at the Midway Aircraft Carrier museum a retired Naval

officer told stories of various ships and their adventures on the

high seas long ago.

A group of statues nearby commemorates Bob Hope's many

USO performances, and a little girl wandered among the

statues, carefully checking out each one.

You never know what you'll find on the San Diego waterfront,

and as we strolled a little further we came across a group

Segway lesson.  Those contraptions look like so much fun.

A few days later all the pieces were in place for us to close on the boat.

A mad dash to Phoenix had augmented our clothes collection so we

could handle the weather that was becoming increasingly cool and

damp.  At the same time we had had to stand in the trailer and decide whether to take the kitchen tools, favorite books, bedding,

etc. or buy new things for the boat.  Our plan was to split our time between RVing in the US/Canada and sailing in Mexico, hitting

the prime summer spots on land with the trailer during the southern Mexican hurricane season.  So we didn't want to raid too much

from the trailer.  But did this new move really mean stocking two homes?  What about tools?  Hoses?  Holding tank chemicals?

Personal papers?  We had planned to stay on the boat for the first twelve months before we started splitting our time between

RVing and sailing.  So were we really saying goodbye to the trailer for a year?  Yikes!  We loaded the truck and sped back to San

Diego in time to sign all the paperwork, sticking with the tasks at hand to keep all

these wild emotions in check.

Since our intent was to use the boat outside of California (in Mexico), we

qualified for the state exemption from paying "use tax" (similar to sales tax) on

the purchase.  However, California (like all other coastal states) has strict rules

that state precisely how a boat buyer demonstrates his/her intent to use the boat

predominantly outside of the state.  One of these is to take the boat out of

California waters for the closing.  This is just 3 miles offshore, but requires a

captain to sail the boat until the closing takes place, and then lots of photos

proving both the day's date and that the boat is at a GPS coordinate outside of

the state when the documents are signed.  We had especially memorable

headlines on the newspaper that day, as an earthquake had just devastated


This was an exciting moment and was our first extended period of time out in the boat on the

water.  It was great to be out there, but we both felt woefully inadequate to take charge of

this vessel all by ourselves.  Our next trip out there would be no guiding hand, and we

wondered how we would fare.

Once back at the dock, we hung out in the cabin in a state of disbelief.  We had done it.

Fourteen days from the time we left the islands, we were sitting on our own boat.

Were we out of our minds?

The seller was kind enough to pre-pay a two week stay at Kona

Marina in San Diego, one of the nicest marinas in the harbor.

We had spent many happy hours in the past sneaking onto this marina's docks and then wandering

around checking out all the boats and talking to the

owners.  It was a strange and wonderful feeling to

have a card key to the gate and to walk onto the

docks as bona-fide boat owners.

We had signed our names on the closing

documents, but there was still a lot more to do.

The second part of California's requirement for

demonstrating intent to use your new boat outside

of California is to leave the state as soon as

possible after the closing and to stay out for at

least six months.  We decided to sail to Ensenada,

Mexico, 65 miles south of San Diego.

Our to-do list to prepare for this international

voyage was several pages long.  From a

small sail repair to testing the radar

to remembering how to sail and

navigate, we had a lot to do to

make this easy 65 mile trip a safe


Taking a little time out, we explored

nearby Ocean Beach.  This is a

surfing community that has a hippy

kind of air to it, and it's a place

where it seems that anything goes.

A little dog in a froo-froo dress fit

right in.

Surfing, hamburgers in paradise and cheap

beers at outdoor bars overlooking the beach

invite all tourists to partake of the classic

California beach scene for a while.

A street musician sang his heart out as we

strolled by.

Pirate's Cove Coffee is the most elaborate

coffee kiosk I have ever seen.

Back on the boat we were slowly getting used

to the idea of being boat owners, living on a

sailboat, and starting a new chapter in our lives.

Out on the water the weather got steadily cooler.  Short sleeves gave way to hats and jackets

as we gradually remembered which lines on the boat do what, how sailboats work with the

wind, and what all those crazy markings on the charts are all about.

Then San Diego got one of the worst dousings of rain

in the last decade.  In one week they got almost as much

rain as they had in the entire previous year.  We

alternated between huddling inside and running endless

errands to the big box stores as the rain fell in torrents.

In a way, all that miserable weather was a blessing in

disguise, as it kept us ticking down our non-sailing to-do

lists.  I read 150 pages of Chapman's Piloting's

navigation chapters to refresh my skills, and Mark read

the chartplotter and radar manual, engine manual and

Hunter's user manual.  When the day finally arrived that

the sun came out, we were able to focus on sailing.

We had one brief family day aboard, taking our son Rory and his wife Colette out for a

day sail.  It was a moment that Mark had long been waiting for, wanting to introduce his

son to the world of sailing.  Rory caught on quickly, and we found it was so much easier

to sail with a strapping young

man on board who could handle

all the lines one-handed without a

winch.  After a pleasant few

hours on the water, we hugged

them goodbye at the dock.  Thirty

hours later we untied the lines at

Kona Marina for the last time,

and left San Diego in the morning

mist behind us as we headed for

Puerto La Salina, Mexico, our

first stop on the way to