San Diego – Shelter Island = Boater’s Paradise

San Diego view from our RV

San Diego view out our front door.

San Diego view from our RV

Boats anchored right off the shore

San Diego skyline view from our RV RVs lined up on Shelter Island Drive

RVs line up for the San Diego Shuffle

RVs line the shore at Shelter Island San Diego

RVs enjoy a multimillion dollar view of the city skyline

Walking paths at Bali Hai Restaurant Shelter Island

Walking paths wander the shoreline of Shelter Island

Wooden schooner in view from our RV at Shelter Island San Diego

Hammock in the rigging on a festive schooner.

Wooden schooner in view from our RV at Shelter Island San Diego

Boats of all kinds slip by in the bay

San Diego city skyline seen from Shelter Island

Wildlife is everywhere

Sportfisherman lands a shark at Shelter Island, San Diego

A local sport fisherman shows off the shark he caught

before returning it to the sea.

Harbor seal at Shelter Island San Diego

The seals rule the roost, lounging

around all day and barking as the

sun goes down.

Kona Kai Marina at Shelter Island

Shoreline overlooking the marinas

Shelter Island Marina and Kona Kai Marina

Shelter Island Marina is teaming with boats.

Shelter Island Marina and Kona Kai Marina

Peaceful Sunday morning at Shelter Island


Stephen Mann & Kathleen Torres show their round-

the-world route on a transparent globe.


"Tawodi" will take them across the Southern Ocean.

Kona Kai Marina and Shelter Island Marina

The gate to the Mega Yacht Dock at Kona Kai Marina

113' Wooden Schooner undergoes repairs at Shelter Island in San Diego

This gorgeous 113' wooden schooner on the

Mega Yacht Dock has been round the world 3 times.

Boats at the Transient Dock in San Diego harbor

The perfectly named "Cream Puff"

Salty sailors at the transient dock at San Diego

Jeff (Cap'n Hook), one of the many salty characters

on the docks

Cruise Ship leaves San Diego harbor

Cruise ship leaves for points south from San Diego Harbor

Sailing a Hunter 41DS Sailboat

Mark takes the helm

Boats on San Diego harbor

This little car zipped by us on the water.

Ferrari and Lamborghini car club on Shelter Island

Exotic sports car gathering

Art show on Shelter Island

Art shows every weekend

Sunset in the palm trees in San Diego

The sky turns to fire in the dreamy San Diego twilight.

Full moon rises between the masts of a wooden schooner in San Diego


Shelter Island, San Diego, CA

October 1-28, 2008 - Leaving cool, high elevation Pioche, NV in mid-September, we

attended Interbike, the annual bicycle industry tradeshow, in Las Vegas (a red-hot oven at

this time of year).  From there, we skipped west across the sizzling California deserts like

kids with bare feet leaping across hot sand.  Emerging at the coast in San Diego, we were

greeted with delightful cool breezes, sparkling blue waves, lush green grass and bright

sunny days.  September, 2008, had gone down in history as a stunning month for the

financial markets, but we will always remember it as an energy-charged, unscripted month

of exciting travels that was unusual only in its heartwarming normalcy in this full-time travel

lifestyle.  I felt moved enough to describe it in What's It Like?

We discovered that California

law allows vehicles to park in

one spot on public streets for

up to 72 hours, so we bellied up

to the shoreline with all the

other RVs on San Diego's

Shelter Island.  Parked just

steps from the harbor, we had

an everchanging view of sailboats, joggers, family parties, picnics, Navy

ships, cruise ships, war planes and gatherings of all kinds in the

shoreside city park, all laid out across the backdrop of the San Diego

skyline, right outside our front door.  As one neighbor in an RV near us

said, "This is Paradise."

Shelter Island is a manmade island created from dredged sand in the harbor.  Years ago the people of San Diego wanted this

island to become a recreation area for everyone, and today it is a bustling boat-oriented community framed by a glorious grassy

park.  There is a playground, fishing pier and boat launch on the waterfront.  Yacht brokers, chandleries, boat yards, swank

restaurants, an outdoor music venue and cute bistros line the streets.  The boats bob at anchor almost within arm's reach, and the

RVs line up along the shore.  Both the boats and RVs must keeping changing anchorages and parking spots if they wish to stay

more than three days.  As we moved around the island, swapping places with our neighbors, I took to calling this dance of the RV

fulltimers and boating liveaboards the "San Diego Shuffle."

The park is defined by the pretty walking paths that wander along the

shore.  From early morning till late evening these paths are filled with

locals and visitors alike: dog walkers; iPod-entranced joggers; hand-

holding lovers of all ages; young moms pushing baby strollers and old

folks pushing their rolling walkers.  Families come to the shoreside park

on weekends to host all day picnics, setting up tents and barbecues and

roasting marshmallows over their beach bonfires at night.  We witnessed

birthday parties, weddings and family reunions during our stay there.

The activity on the

water dominates

the scene.  Boats

of every description

ghost by.  In the

background there is

the constant hum of

helicopters hovering

at the Navy base

across the water.

Every so often the

world stops and the

air crackles with the

earsplitting roar of a

Navy jet taking off.



Seagull cries fill

the air during

the day, and

when the gulls

finally quiet

down to roost,

the seals take

up an



The harbor

seals' barks and coughs and wheezes sound almost human, and when

one pokes his head out of the water behind you during a morning swim, snorting and

gasping, you could swear it was a person in the water.  One afternoon there was a hubub

down at the fishing jetty.  A sport fisherman had landed a small shark.  A crowd formed as

he laid out his prize to measure it and take photos.  His dog was as eager as he was proud.

When he finally returned the shark to the sea, the dog paced and cried in total


There are several marinas in the

totally protected waters on the

back side of the island.  We

wandered down to the docks

many times to enjoy the pretty

views and watch the busy

activities of the boaters.  The

number of boats is staggering.

Looking across the acres and

acres of masts piercing the sky, I

was reminded of a giant pin


We stopped in at West Marine one

afternoon, and a couple was hosting

a barbecue in the parking lot to raise

money for their upcoming round-the-

world cruise.  We bought a hot dog to

support their cause, and listened to

their story.

With his own hands, Stephen Mann

had transformed a 39' sailboat with a

transoceanic racing pedigree into the

vessel of his dreams.  He had

lengthened the bow 3', installed

oodles of electronics for navigation,

and built a stainless steel arch to

support solar panels and wind


He and his girlfriend Kathleen Torres

were leaving in a week to sail around

the world via the Southern Ocean,

with hopes to complete the trip in 8-9

months.  To put their plans in

perspective, most circumnavigators

take 2-5 years to go around the

world, and most do it via the tropical

oceans.  These intrepid sailors were

going to tackle the world's worst

oceans below South America and

Africa, rounding Cape Horn.  They

planned to stop on land just 5 times during their trip.  They invited us to

an "open boat" the following evening, and we eagerly attended.

The boat was small, but rugged, and they were very excited to get

underway.  I love adventure, but I'm nowhere near as daring as they are.

After the party, they discovered a part in the engine drive-shaft was

faulty, which delayed their departure by a week.  But they finally sailed off

into the sunset.  Keep abreast of their travels at


The Kona Kai Marina is a very upscale place that caters to the world's

wealthiest on their Mega Yacht Dock.  One evening we noticed that the

very formidable gate to the dock had been propped open.  In we went!!

We heard loud voices and laughter coming from a beautiful wooden

schooner that had pulled in that afternoon, and when we came upon their

boatside barbecue party they welcomed us in.

The crew of five had just sailed the 113' boat down from Alaska, where

they had been surrounded by orcas, swimming bears, and glaciers.

This boat, built in Italy in 1980, had circumnavigated the world three

times, providing its owners with a posh pad for fly-in visits to exotic

locales around the world.  Hailing from several different English speaking

countries, the fulltime crew was in great spirits as they stayed in San

Diego for a few weeks to touch up the already glistening woodwork.  The

owners visit their yacht for just a few weeks at a time, while the crew

keeps it in tip-top shape, sailing to the destinations of the owner's

dreams on demand.  When we asked the captain what his worst

passage was, he said it was a 26-day passage where they encountered

a storm with sustained 60+ knot winds and 60' seas that lashed the boat

for 6 straight days.  "It was a lot of work."  He said.  How would the

couple on Tawodi fare in a storm like that in their boat which was less

than half the size with less than half the crew?

The next dock down from the Mega Yacht Dock is the Transient Dock where arriving boats can tie up

for a few days while they get situated for their San Diego visit.  This is a great place to meet people

from all over the world:  a South African taking his newly acquired boat to New Zealand, a Canadian

family with small children heading to Mexico, a Washington couple heading to the Caribbean on

their catamaran, and the 80+ year old owner of "Cream Puff," a floating disaster of a boat that he

has called home for over 50 years.

There are plenty of salty characters on

this dock too, including Jeff, who has a

mean Right Hook.  He waved his hooked

right hand for a photo and told us some

of the history of the delicate relations

between the liveaboards and the harbor

authorities in San Diego.  Those boaters

call their boats home, but unlike the

transients who arrive in San Diego from

distant lands, the local

liveaboards never leave the

protected confines of the


Perhaps the easiest way to

see the world from the deck of a ship is to take a cruise.  Two cruise ships arrived and

left the harbor everyday.  At 5:15 one morning a cruise ship arrived in dense fog.  He

blared a long extended blast on his foghorn once every two minutes for the entire hour

it took him to get from the harbor entrance to his pier downtown.  It sure woke us up,

but what about all those weary cruisers on the ship who were back from a week's

vacation in paradise?

We were blessed with four

opportunities to get out sailing

ourselves.  The atmosphere on

Shelter Island is extremely friendly,

and as we met new friends we

suddenly found ourselves the lucky

recipients of some sailing invitations.

There are all kinds of boats out on the

harbor, and a little car whizzed by us

as we sailed.

Back on Shelter Island,

we came across an

exotic sports car club

having an outing one


Tiny Italian sports cars of all types lined up in the parking lot,

roared their engines for a moment, and took off on a driving tour.

One unfortunate Ferrari owner couldn't get his car started.  No

worries.  We overheard him tell a buddy he'd just have someone

take it away on a flatbed truck while he went home and got his

Lamborghini instead!

The beauty of Shelter Island is the great diversity of activities.  If

exotic sports cars don't grab your interest, perhaps an art show

in the park will.

In the midst of this

continuous excitement and

stimulation, Shelter Island

offers many tranquil places to

enjoy a quiet moment.  The

shore along the marina docks

is beautifully landscaped, with

lots of benches where we

would pause and reflect on all

we'd seen.

While we were on the island,

the Baja Ha-Ha began.  This is

an annual sailboat rally of 150 sailboats that

heads out of San Diego to Cabo San Lucas,

Mexico at the end of October.

It is a 10-day, 750 mile sail with two stops along

the way, and the party-filled atmosphere takes

some of the edge off of doing such a long open

ocean passage by boat.  Once in Cabo, the sailors disperse, some heading out to the South Pacific, some

transiting the Panama Canal to go to the Caribbean, and some staying in Mexican waters.  Throughout October

the transient docks and anchorages in San Diego begin to fill with boats arriving from all points north to take part

in this rally.

We attended their kick-off barbecue, a wild Halloween costume party with prizes, raffles and giveaways.  I felt like

I was at a pirate frat party.  Almost everyone came dressed as a pirate, and the pavement was sticky with spilled

beer.  Laughter filled the air, and a DJ kept us all dancing,  Next day we joined our new friends Gary and Karen

aboard their beautiful Hallberg-Rassey and sailed among the Ha-Ha crowd, listening to their roll call on the VHF

radio, until their colorful spinnakers disappeared to the south.

Every so often we crept away from the action on Shelter Island for a change of pace on Mission Bay.