The Monterey Days

We dropped anchor on September 24 in Monterey. Everyone we know told us we’d love Monterey, but to be honest, I listen to those things with only half an ear. That’s because tastes differ. For instance, many of those people also loved San Fransisco. But I’m not much of a city girl, especially on a boat, and while I was glad to have the opportunity to experience the city from the fairly protected (a term I use very loosely here) anchorage at Aquatic Park, I was more than ready to leave by the time we had our window of opportunity. But I was happy to stay in Monterey for awhile.

On the corner of the commercial pier.

The pace of life is more casual here, we’ve had ‘shorts and t shirts’ weather, and there is more visible sea life here than anyplace I’ve ever been. More than anything, for me this trip is about seeing wildlife. If you’re into seeing whales and sea lions, seals, otters, and sea birds, this is the place to be. Last night, dinghying back from shore, we floated over thousands of beautiful Sea Nettles. We watch otters from the deck of the boat. We watched whales feeding from the observation deck of the aquarium. We’ve seen so many whales this far south that we now refer to the ‘daily whale’. If I ever get complacent about these kinds of things, it will be time to just sell up and go home.

Sea Nettles by the boat.

While in Monterey we took in the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. At 50$ a head, it’s a pricey thing to do, but completely worth it. We spent the entire day there and were doubly glad we went when we realized they had a Baja Peninsula exhibit featuring the land and sea animals of Baja, Mexico. I’ve got to buy that wetsuit so I can do some snorkeling!

There are some difficulties to visiting Monterey by boat but overcoming them is worth it.  The anchorage is completely exposed. In settled weather, it’s terrific. If you get heavy wind and swell from the north, like we are getting ready for, then you will want better cover. We’ve tucked around the corner at Pebble Beach for now but if there is room, the marina would be a good choice, especially for smaller boats.

Feeding time at the kelp forest in the aquarium.

Monterey Harbor is extremely densely crowded with boats. Our friends on S/V Blue from Gig Harbor picked up an end tie slip in the municipal marina for their big Cal 2-46. An end tie slip would be the only slip I’d be comfortable with at this point. There is also Fisherman’s Wharf, which is controlled by the marina. There is not a lot of room on the wharf, but it is centrally located and if you can get on it, would be a good place to be. Unfortunately there was a cruise ship due when we were there, and they clear the wharf 24 hours in advance of a cruise ship. The marina was full, so anchoring was actually our only option, even though it’s also our preferred option. Be prepared for it to be your only option, too.

If you anchor out, you’ll want to find a place to put your dinghy and that’s also a bit of a problem. There is a very rough,small dinghy dock on Fisherman’s Wharf. When we went over to take a look at it, it was already well packed with dinghies. I’m not sure we could have found a place to tie on as the dock is fairly small for a place that sees that much usage. Other than that, there are no public dinghy docks we found. Our best bet was to ask permission to leave our dinghy on K dock the first day. It’s right by the marina office and has public access. Because they were full and could not accommodate us, the harbormaster gave us permission to leave our dinghy there for a couple of hours. I’m not sure they liked it, but they said, ‘OK’, with the understanding that K dock is not a secure location. We do lock both our dinghy and our engine when we leave it. 

Since S/V Blue was in the marina, what worked well was to leave our dinghy at their dock between their bow and the dock. We always found a way to get into the marina to retrieve it, even when they were not with us. There is a dinghy dock inside the marina if you have a friend on the other side of the gate.

As I write this we’ve scooted around the corner to Pebble Beach to avoid the winds and big swell that are going to be happening for the next three days. We’ll have to find a way to get into Monterey before Monday because we have some packages waiting in an Amazon Locker that have to be picked up before then. Meanwhile, Humpback whales are feeding in the shallows close to the rocks, within easy view of our boat. I think it’s time to get the kayak down.

The touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, seen from the lovely seaside trail.

S/V Galapagos out.



10 thoughts on “The Monterey Days

    • It was hard to part with the cash, but we would do it again. It’s certainly too bad it’s not cheaper, but it was filled with families so perhaps there’s a program for people who can’t afford that price. The displays are pristine and exceptional in quality in every way. Everything in California is expensive. Plus, we put up with rolling around in anchorages so we can afford to do things like that.

  1. I was surprised to read how much the price of admission to the aquarium has gone up over the last ten years. I’m sure we paid something closer to $30 when we went and, even then, felt like it hadn’t quite lived up to the cost but were glad we went nonetheless. I’m with Ellen, though. It’s hard to see how families can afford to do activities like this despite being the target group.

    • Nothing is cheap in California. That being said, we asked our Uber driver, who is a public school teacher with a second job, about how local families afford to go to the aquarium. She said that members of any public library can get free passes. There are also free days, a week of free entry in December, and discounted days throughout the year for local residents. In addition their website has a very long list of corporations and credit unions where employees can get discounts. We paid the largest amount, since we’re adults, not seniors or students, and we can afford it. Considering that we could easily spend 100$ going out for dinner and drinks, I’d rather spend my money this way.

  2. Pebble Beach is Still Water, right. Have been there. The Yacht Club put us on a mooring free of charge because the worried about our ability to anchor safely. How did you do with Stillwater?
    Regards, Don

    • We talked to the harbormaster and decided we’d rather trust our anchor with our heavy boat. We’re still at Stillwater, which is not at all still, but our anchor is well set and we’ve certainly been in rolly anchorages before. I think they refer to the other side of this cove as Pebble Beach, on the other side of the big pelican rocks. We probably would have had less wind there, where we anchored initially. But the holding is not as good. Yesterday the Catalina 30 anchored behind us began dragging. I’m not sure they set their anchor very well, and the anchor, I thought, was smallish even for a small boat. There is so much kelp here that the kelp kept them from being on the rocks before they could get to the boat. They had gone ashore for awhile. We drove the dinghy out to their boat but no name or number was anywhere on it and the boat was not in imminent danger, so we watched and waited. They had a mess to deal with when they came back, but the boat is safely on mooring. They close up shop here Oct 1 so no harbormaster to alert.

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