Happy Holidays from the Hoff Family

It was the best of years it was the worst of years; but enough about that! Any way on the better side Jamie and I have been married ten years this year. Bonnie is in first grade and has just turned seven today (12/14/97) as I write this. Jessica is four and will start Kindergarten next fall.

The big news for this year was our sailing trip from San Francisco Bay to southern California and back on our Catalina 27 foot sailboat, Heathcliff. I had an eight week vacation. We left August 3rd and needed to get to Newport Harbor by August 14 for Jamie's parents anniversary party and family gathering.

On our first leg of the voyage we headed out a foggy Golden Gate and stopped at Princeton Harbor in Half Moon Bay. We headed out the next morning in the fog, which burned off by late morning. A strong NNW wind filled in and we started to sail. A few hours later with the wind up to 30 knots we took the head sail down and sailed with only the mainsail. We were on a wild ride aboard a 27 foot surf board as we rode the waves. After about an hour of this, I noticed on the horizon a large splash. I thought maybe it was from large waves crashing together but then it happened again and then again. It was two Humpback whales breaching. They breached about twenty times with the nearest time about 200 feet off our port side (left to you land lubbers). I will always remember those whales and the reaction of my family to the wondrous site we saw that day. The wind slowly died as we sailed off Cannery Row on our way to Monterey Harbor.

The next day we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The following day was a short sail around the Monterey Peninsula to Stillwater Cove off the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. The next morning in a thick fog we passed by Pt. Sur without seeing it for the second time (we had passed Pt. Sur in the fog on our voyage north in 1985). We had light head winds all day, which was the last thing I expected along the coast. We also saw 3 humpback whales south of Pfieffer Pt. Usually the winds are 20 to 30 knots from the northwest. The original plan had been to try to get to San Simeon Bay by nightfall, but with the headwinds, and a gas tank problem, and pea soup fog (less than 30 ft visibility) off San Simeon Bay I decided we should just continue on to a familiar and well-lit harbor at Morro Bay. Jamie and Jessica were asleep below and Bonnie slept under a blanket in the cockpit. I just kept wiping the condensing fog from my glasses and plotting our GPS (global positioning satellite; best piece of new boat electronics in the last ten years)! course every hour as the autopilot steered the boat. I had one heck of a scare when I looked up ahead and it appeared we were about to enter the surf line. It turned out to be the ocean glowing with photo phosphorescent plankton. Occasionally our boat would disturb the plankton and the ocean all around would start to glow. About 1 am I had another scare as a whale sized object appeared under the water on our starboard side on a collision course. As I prepared for the impact the object split into 2 shapes that curved off and around the boat jumping out of the water occasionally. My adrenaline level had not yet calmed down when I realized it was two dolphins come to play in the boat wake! A short while later the fog began to lift and I could make out lights on shore several miles away. We entered Morro Bay at 4 am and spent the next day at the Morro Bay Yacht Club.

The next port of call was Port San Luis which was just a short jaunt. The next morning we left at dawn. When I came on deck I saw a Sea Otter floating just a few feet off the side of our boat. They float so high in the water! We headed south to Point Conception, the Cape Horn of North America! We started with a light headwind from the south, not what I expected, but this El Nino year was full of unusual weather. We sailed by Pt Arguello with the light southerly wind and then it died. We motored by Pt. Conception; I have video tape to prove it! We had planned to stop at Cojo Anchorage, a mile past Pt. Conception, however with several hours of light left and the wind now coming from behind and the warm waters of the Santa Barbara Channel we decided to head for Santa Barbara just forty miles to the east and with a well-lit harbor entrance. This was one of our great sailing days as we sailed down the Santa Barbara Channel. The water and air were warm, and from here south we would not have the same worries about the weather. We watched a beautiful sunset and as the sky darkened we sailed under a crescent moon and the stars. An hour out of Santa Barbara the wind died and we motored into a favorite harbor at 11:30 pm.

We spent six weeks in southern California waters before we headed back north in late September. Here are some of the best events.

Best Beach: Albert's anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. The girls combed the beach for shells and caught sand crabs.

Best Fishing: Bonnie caught 19 fish at Pelican Bay and Fry's Harbor. She decided to use Banana bait for her first fish; a top smelt. We could see the fish going crazy for the bait.

Best Snorkeling: At Pelican Bay I pushed the girls around on my windsurfer. Jessica swam with me for a while with her arm on my shoulder and my arm over her back. We also saw an octopus well camouflaged in a rock.

Best Cave Exploration: We explored all the caves we could enter in our dinghy from Fry's Harbor to Lady's Harbor. The deepest cave was over 400 feet at Lady's Harbor. Jessica does not like it when her daddy sings the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme song as we enter caves.

Best Marina: My old stomping grounds, C-16 at Anacapa Isle Marina, with a heated pool and jacuzzi.

Best ship to shore phone call: Calling Jamie's mom on the Palos Verdes Peninsula as we sailed by on our way to Newport Harbor. She looked out her window and saw our boat; we all waved!

Biggest wave to soak all of us: Less than a mile from entering Channel Islands Harbor I looked to windward and yelled 'OH NO' as a wall of water struck the port side of the boat. We were all soaked.

Best Lunch: For our last day in Santa Barbara, before heading north, we took the electric tram into downtown Santa Barbara. At noon we got a perfect sidewalk table and ate an excellent lunch under the shade of a street tree; ah life is good!

Most sea otters: On our way back north just a few miles out of Morro Bay we saw over fifty sea otters.

Furthest South Sea Otter: Cojo Anchorage

Best Sunset: On my birthday as we headed toward Santa Barbara Harbor. The sky looked as if it was on fire.

Most Dolphins: A few hours after we passed Pt. Conception going north, we kept running into groups of dolphins. We must have seen over a hundred over a few hours. They played around the boat bow wave.

The kids even saw one dolphin do some tail walking. Best whale siting: This was, of course, the whales breaching in Monterey Bay.

The first leg of the trip north was to Cojo anchorage. As we approached Cojo the weather radio said the wind was only 14 knots at the Pt. Conception buoy, so I decided we would try to continue on. It turned out the buoy was quite a way off Pt. Conception and the wind at Pt. Conception was well over 30 knots with steep 8 foot seas on the nose. After burying the bow of the boat into a few of those waves on each tack, I turned tail and headed back to Cojo anchorage. The seas were so turbulent that the outboard motor propeller came out of the water and nicked the dinghy. I spent the next day patching the dinghy as we waited for the wind to die down so we could round Pt. Conception. The wind blew all night and all day and then well into the next night. It finally calmed down and we left in the pitch black morning at 5 am. As we rounded Pt. Conception we could not even see the waves in the dark; we could only feel the increasing roughness of the ocean as we cleared the protection of Pt. Conception. As the sun rose red on the horizon we entered the offshore fog bank. The wind is calmer in the fog, however the visibility was only 50 feet at times. We passed near enough to two of the three oil platforms in the area to see them looming through the fog. The monotony of the fog was broken by occasional groups of dolphins playing around the boat. Jamie stood watch while I got some needed rest. In the early afternoon I came on deck and the sun was shining brightly; the fog bank was several miles behind us. We raced the sun to see if we could enter Morro Bay before the sun sank below the horizon; we lost by just a few minutes. However, it was a beautiful consolation prize to be on the water to watch the sunset. I looked for the green flash but did not see it this time.

The next four days we waited at the Morro Bay Yacht club side-tied to a boat headed to Mexico for an indefinite time. The forecast was bad for heading further north; too much wind and waves too large. On the day we finally arranged to leave the boat in Morro Bay the seas were forecast to be 14 to 16 feet with 20 to 30 knot winds! Large seas alone are not that much of a problem, however the wind would assure that the waves would be breaking on the tops!

Three weeks later we had good weather to move the boat north. On an overnight trip we moved the boat to Santa Cruz Harbor. I finally saw Pt. Sur; the Pt. Sur light was visible for most of the night. The next weekend I moved the boat from Santa Cruz to Princeton Harbor at Half Moon Bay and the following day we cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge with a turning tide that swept us home!

And so with that, Merry Christmas to all, from all of us, Ed, Jamie, Bonnie & Jessica, and to all a good night!

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Changes last made on: Apr 24, 2000