"The Birds" in San Luis Obispo Bay

A few notes about our passage - we are in San Luis Obispo Bay, anchored off Avila Beach after an overnight motor from Monterey on Thursday evening. It was pretty choppy, and for a period of about 5 hours as we went around Point Sur, winds were blowing 30-40kts and gusting to the mid 40s, but at least the winds were behind us, which makes it much more comfortable, even in those speeds. It was also foggy and wet the entire night - after about 9pm could no longer see any lights ashore. The moon, and one planet, attempted to make appearances overnight, but all you could see was a dim glow at best.

Night passages are always interesting. Unlike the cold and dampness, watching phosphorescence in the boat's wake never gets old.

At around 4AM, I (Scott) relieved Chris and Jacob on watch. By now the winds had calmed, but it was still extremely foggy and wet and my glasses were covered with water droplets so I couldn't see anything. I needed to make a minor course adjustment to bring us closer to San Luis Obispo Bay, but clear of all the rocks. Our chartplotter doesn't allow you to move an active waypoint - no problem, I'll just stop the active route and handsteer while I make the adjustment on the chartplotter. So I push STANDBY on the autopilot and am trying to read the little 7" chartplotter screen, dimmed for night vision, through wet glasses. Now this is something you probably have to experience to really understand, but when you are motoring at night with no sails up, in the fog, in choppy seas, with calm winds, you can't feel which direction you are headed - you absolutely have to use instruments - just like a pilot flying through clouds. It's worse at 4AM when tired after not having enough sleep. Yes, I should have pushed the AUTO button, but hey I know how to steer the boat, so no big deal, right? So no problem, I finally get the chartplotter all setup, but then notice things are upside down on the screen. A quick glance at the compass verifies that we are now heading north instead of south. With no sensation of turning, and no reference outside the boat, without realizing it I had completely turned the boat around within a period of less than one minute. In the choppy seas, I didn't even feel the boat turn. Annoyed with myself, but no problem, I just steered us back on course. Now that we were headed back in the right direction, I once again activated the route on the chartplotter, which controls the autopilot in TRACK mode. And what happens? Now the autopilot turns the boat 180 degrees, heading us back north again!! Dang it! It was then that I remembered an annoying feature of our chartplotter. When you activate a route, instead of taking you to the next logical waypoint in the general direction you want to go, it steers you to the start of the route - in our case, back to Monterey. After steering us once again on course, activating just the portion of the route needed, and then getting a towel to clear off my glasses so I could actually see, the rest of my watch went without any issue. I bet the chartplotter on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise never did that - and would you feel a turn like that under warp drive? (Sean, this bit is for you).

Right outside San Luis Obispo Bay we went through some kelp and got to see a ton of neat jellyfish. So far, jellyfish seem to figure prominently in our trip!

We found a good spot to anchor right off Avila Beach in 25' of water, and a nice wifi connection thanks to Cal Poly!

In the afternoon. it suddenly sounded like we were in the middle of a packed concert hall, with everyone applauding. We rushed outside to see the boat literally surrounded by birds! There were thousands and thousands of them - in the water all around the boat, and flying in circles around us. We've never seen anything like it before!

As far as we can tell, these are Shearwaters - a bird species none of us were familiar with by name though we've seen lots of these particular birds as we've come down the coast. There were a few Sea Gulls and Pelicans getting in on the action too, along with one Seal.

Here's an excerpt of the video - the whole 6 minute clip will have to wait... [UPDATE: full video clip is viewable here].

This evening we head off around Point Conception towards Ventura.


  1. Scott, I know that feeling of being disoriented like that in the fog. Years ago when I was skiing at Squaw Valley I got caught at the top of the mountain in a fog bank. I had just gotten off the lift and you couldn't tell the difference between the fog and the snow. It felt like I was floating in mid air. My eyes where wide open but everything was white. I finally got down the mountain enought to get under the fog bank.

    For a while it was like skiing blind but with ymy eyes wide open. I strange feeling to say the least. Godd luck. Ned

  2. Wow! It is so fun to keep track online...thanks Scott for all of the updates. Keep it up as long as you have wifi. Be SAFE!!!!

  3. You guys Are so Lucky Wish i could have came with you


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