Escaping the USA, finally, barely
The trip to San Diego from Catalina Island took us on yet another overnight voyage. This ensured we can arrive during daylight with no rush to get there by a certain o’clock, and to sail at what ever speed the wind allows. And, even though we really didn’t foresee a whole lot of sailing that night in the forecast we ended up sailing about half the distance, which was oh so nice. Arriving in San Diego is a test of avoiding military ships of all shapes and sizes. These ships require a wide berth from us pleasure boaters, but the channel entering the greater San Diego area doesn’t actually allow for said width. Instead, we opted to just wait for the last military boat to enter before we did. The sun had just risen, so we were in no rush.
After the obligatory boat inspection we were given a permit to anchor in the “cruisers anchorage”. Frustratingly, it is the one anchorage furthest from any resources we “cruisers” need; such as food, groceries, laundry, showers, parts, etc. Getting to shore involves a near half-mile dinghy ride, and then you are still a mile or more from anything helpful, with most places being much further than that. Not even trash cans exist within reason. Oh how we love government-run facilities. This anchorage also sits directly beside the International Airport, not really making for peaceful days at anchor.
We – well, I – actually thought we could be in and out of San Diego in three days. We had a plethora of final-packages being shipped in with nearly all ready and waiting for pickup (2.5 miles away from the anchorage) when we first arrived. That task was completed via a bus ride to, and a Lyft ride back, fully laden with new boxes. And just days before our planned departure – a week into our 3-day stay already – I set about doing a final oil change, anti-freeze change, and a minor repair on the motor. This resulted in finding a proper leak in our fuel pump system, resolvable by purchasing a new pump for over $2000, or a rebuild kit for $27… from the UK, which is the route we took. Then the weather hit the USA. For days the majority of the United States was under a blanket of snow. Our part hadn’t even made it out of Europe before it was delayed by the conditions here. We would be stuck in San Diego even longer without a running engine to go to a marina or charge our batteries. It was perfect timing really, with the Winter Solstice just having past, we were all but guaranteed extremely minimal solar each day. We had to truly buckle down our power use.
Finally, after five days waiting for the package and a week worth of winter storms coming at us in the forecast, I went ahead and called a local repair shop. Why I waited to do this last I do not know, but not 2.5 miles away was the exact part we needed; a simple rubber o-ring. It was do-or-die time – either I fixed the motor and we got moving that very next day, or we were stuck for *at least* another week as the weather wouldn’t have allowed us to sail to Ensenada. The moons aligned, the engine was repaired, and we got underway after sunset, for one last USA-based overnight sail. Finally, we were leaving the USA with just a single day left in the 2022 calendar year. Whew!
On the plus side of things, we got to spent Xmas with boating friend and our number one stalker, John – who just happened to be in town for a few days. So a few nights out with John (who stalks us via AIS and then flies over us to take photographs from time to time) and his co-pilot ensued, which at least helped make up for the extra time spent stationary. We also spent our fair share of time off the boat exploring the general San Diego area – at least the local bars and restaurants we did, mostly by rowing to shore each day to save the dinghy battery for poor-weather days that were always right around the corner. Kerri did most of the rowing – having finally learned how – as my back was in complete disarray after the initial part of the engine repairs. It has yet to fully recover.