Friday, November 18, 2005

I hate this bloody blog format.......

........... I try and set it up for normal size and Times font, but Oh no, it just goes and does it any old how. Bloody thing.........


Part Deux…the deep south

The Sunday night after the trip to the Farallons I stayed down in Montara, some 40 miles south of San Fran, in a place I had always wanted to stay at, but never had. Initially I was the only one there apart from a very nice lady, who was having problems with here two girls, so what started out as a pleasant chat soon ended as she retired to her room with the brats………

Earlier that day, well very early that morning to be exact I presented myself at the Marina, ready to head on out to the Farallon Islands with a load of other would-be naturalists, hoping to view some whales and maybe a Great White Shark or two

We spent a largely fruitless day looking for the bloody things, to be rewarded mid afternoon with more Humpback whales than you could shake a stick at. Unfortunately not many of them came that close, so if you’re expecting ‘Blue Planet’ style shots you are going to be sorely disappointed. The best I could manage was the odd tail fluke.

Neither were the GWS willing to put in an appearance, unlike on my previous trip where we had one swim right by us, and rolling to give us a long hard stare from it’s unblinking eye…. At that time I was glad to be in a 50’ steel hulled boat rather than sharing an 11’ dory with 3 shark biologists built like rugby forwards.

Coming back in under the Golden Gate Bridge, we found ourselves in the middle of Day 2 of the Fleet show, so had a grandstand view of everything… some people thought we were part of the show and clapped us ashore…….. strange.

Back at Montara, I sat out with a well hidden beer [it was a no-alchohol zone] and watched the sun go down in the west. In an attempt to get a night in a room to myself I told the guy on the desk that I was a snorrrrrer and it might be best if anyone else came in to put them in another room. Much later the idiot boy stuck someone in with me, and he insisted in taking the bunk above me, because that was what he had been issued. I moved to another bunk. The new person went out like a lamp and, yep you guessed it..snored all night. I moved to another room.

montara sunset

Next morning I took a look at the beach, where big swells were building to big surf in the Cove. I wondered what Big Sur would yield when I got there later in the week. But for today I had planned a leisurely drive down the coast to Monterey, calling in at Santa Cruz. Arriving there around lunchtime I managed to find my way through SC’s legendary impenetrable road system and non existent signage to reach Steamer Lane, the magna cum lauda of Surfing in Central California, the place where surfing arrived on the US mainland from Hawaii when George Freeth was employed one summer as a tourist attraction.

Just an aside….. if you want to find your way around SC then there are two methods… 1] buy a map or 2] when coming down from the north take the first SC junction you come across…head as far down to the seafront as is possible and then head along it. Eventually you will reach Steamer Lane, Lighthouse Point, Cowell beach and the boardwalk, which puts you adjacent to where it’s all happening. Coming from the south is another matter, and it’s waaaay to complicated to report here, but it involves groping around the hideous one way system until you have a eureka moment, and finding yourself on the sea front.

Anyways, I found myself at Steamer Lane car park, having my sarnie, drinking a by-now-cold Mocha from Starbucks [up in Half Moon Bay] and watching the action unfold in the line up. It was about 4 –6’ and it was a set up to die for…. Paddling time was in minutes to get to the line up, and mostly dry haired. If you smoked you could take your lighted ciggy with you and it would only go out if you fluffed the take off:

Santa Cruz set up....Steamer Lane.... a piece of piss this size

The wave was so regular, you just had to sit there and it came to you. Even the outside sets could be timed, so that the guys on longboards further over all had their share. It was quite wonderfull and honestly quite annoying.

I wandered over looking for a surfshop, I wanted to pick up a couple of t shirts. Things like t’s are so cheap over there I had’nt brought any, so I ended up over at the eastern side, past the harbour at Pleasure Point. I succumbed to retail therapy in Paradise Surf Shop where there was a very nice 6’2 fish with keel fins up as a special sale item. My credit card took a big hit but now I had a board to use. Ok I had the mat, but I had no fins, since I was picking up a set of udt’s and duckfeet in Big Sur. In hindsight I should have bought a set of neofins whilst I was there.


I spent an hour in the water at Shark Cove, getting to know the board, but not having much success, and I have’nt had a chance to use it since!!

I spent 3 nights in Monterey, doing touristy things, and apparently pissing off some guy in the Hostel one evening because I was snoring, allegedly…. He kept on shouting at me ‘ stop snoring!’….. which I argued I was’nt, because I was being kept awake by some idiot shouting ‘stop snoring’ It escalated into a serious argument, until I decided to move out to a handy settee… at which point we realised it was someone else not me. I moved back into my own bed and he buggered off muttering about it being 5am [it was actually 7]…….. so by the time I arrived at Big Sur I was well tired.

Now Big Sur is a state of mind, rather than a particular place [well that’s what people say]. Actually it is a place, and rather a big place at that, but like LA you can’t honestly stop at any particular place and say ‘this is it’. Anyway I have to say that to a landscape starved person coming up from LaLa land or somewhere like Bakersfield, Big Sur must be pretty spectacular, and I suppose it is, but compared to Scotlands west coast, Irelands west coast or even my own bit of coast on the Llyn, it’s fairly ordinary. True there are landslips aplenty, and the coast sweeps majestically out of the sea, but I saw better north of the Golden Gate.

One thing that is true of Big Sur, and was recited to me by everyone I spoke to in Monterey was that everything along that stretch of coast would be very expensive, if you could get it at all, so stock up with everything and anything you think you might want whilst you’re there. As a consequence I had 2 polystyrene coolers full of frozen water and food for a week, even though I would only be there for a few days….. I had planned on checking out some more wild areas beyond Morro Bay in the following week, so a surfeit of food would’nt go amiss.

After an uneventful if slow cruise down Hwy 1 I arrived at at the camp site at sand dollar beach, or rather I drove right past it without realising that it was there. I found a pitch with some rather manky Monterey cypress and put my hammock up.

the eventual pitch, Plaskett Creek, Big Sur

As I settled in I was approached by a total acid casualty of a park attendant who demanded $20 dollars from me for the evening. When I told him I was with the ‘Swaylocks’ crew he sent me round to the group site… so I packed everything away, went round to the other site and eventually found a place to hang my hammock. A little later and I was dozing away when I had this strange feeling of a presence. Opening one eye I was shocked to see the acid casualty park keeper [hereafter known as the ACPK] standing there peering at me. He demanded $20 ‘right now, or get out of here’. I protested that I had already paid which put him off a bit but he rallied and said I had to pay full whack since I was on the group site .

The fact that he’d already sent me round here, because I said I was part of the crew, which I reminded him about seemed to faze him for a second, then he returned to the $20 mantra. This was getting absurd, I was paying more for parking my car for one night and slinging a hammock between two trees than I had been in a nice warm hostel with bed, shower and free breakfast. All I got back was “$20”. Then, a brainwave. I told him my car was actually on another pitch [where there was room for 8 people for $20] but no trees, and I was’nt going to sleep in the open. At this he suddenly went “$5”, which I gave him quickly and off he went. However this was not the end of ACPK demands for money as we will see.

The new pitch was a little close to the compost toilets, but not too bad. In fact it was just about the only place I could have slung it on this site, and it was out of the way in the corner, with no poisonous oak in evidence. I took a photo of my hammock, and then one of my new fish. Then I wandered down to where some surfer types had gathered, wondering if they were part of the crew. I recognised a board and so knew I’d found them. And so I was introduced to Jeff and Paige Chamberlin, Lee V and eventually John Mellor who had bought fins for me. They also fed me and we swapped tales. I don’t think they’d ever met anyone welsh before so I had so say a few phrases in Welsh to convince them we spoke a different language here.

By 9pm I was knackered and I stumbled off to my hammock, which performed pretty damned well, apart from some cold spots that my sleeping bag could’nt handle. I’ll need to do a bit of work on insulating the bottom for the future. I woke up the following morning feeling quite comfy, not the usual hideous awakening that features stiff joints, sore shoulders or whatever. Ok I think hammocks do have their limitations, a bit of a bugger where there are no trees [although there is a way round that] and you need to sort out an insulating system for yourself but for comfort, they can’t be beat. And they take up no room at all.

Later that morning peeps started arriving, and the fog had rolled in. The sound of the Pacific surf had been loud all night and John Mellor and I walked down to the lookout in the hope of gauging the size. It took seconds for me to realise I was’nt going to get in this w/e. It was monstrous… well overhead. None of the guys who attempted it made it outside. It was going to be a beer and laughs weekend after all.

As the weekend progressed, various peeps came and went. The surf was too big for me, in fact it was too big for just about everyone. A couple of the San Diego guys tried to sneak out along a line of rocks during a lull and made it ouside, only to find that the waves had 20’ faces, with a drop of up to 10’ at the back! Both guys made the drop and rode the wave, but then got caught by the next set, so it was back to shore, cold and a little battered.

The rest of the day involved sitting around talking surfboards. Some went off sightseeing, I’d done a lot of driving over the preceding week so I was quite happy just to hang out and get some chill time in my hammock. The peace was not to last though as ACPK came round muttering about how he was turning peeps away because the camp was full, but since we had booked two extra sites he wanted the money. After a lot of argument in which he stood there talking to himself whilst everyone ignored him, one of the San Diego lads paid him off just to get rid of him, so it could be sorted out later. [they had already been paid for, it transpired] .

That done we all settled down to some serious beer drinking and yarn spinning, each one trying to outdo the others in telling tall tales of surfing prowess/disasters. The party wound up around I don’t know when. I had already succumbed to the combined effects of tiredness and beer and was safely ensconced in my hammock and out of it.

Early the next morning there was quite a lot of departing, some people had a long way to go. I hung around for a while and made plans to meet up down the coast with John Mellor and Jeff Chamberlin at Los Osos. I made my goodbyes and cruised down the coast to the ‘capital’ of Big Sur at Cambria, where I was somewhat shocked and bemused by the touristy feel for the place and the prices to match. I was kinda glad that I had decided not to stop there. Further along I came to Capitola beach with it’s pier and had my first burger and fries of the trip. I sat and watched the surf, by now a far more manageable 6’. Strangely enough I did’nt really want to go in, I’d come all this way to travel, and do a bit of surfing , and now I was’nt bothered. It was as if all the motivation had dissipated into the Californian sun.


Monday, November 14, 2005

so what happened?

earlier this year I put up a set of 'New year resolutions' and wondered if I would hold to any of them. Well since we are but a few weeks short of putting another set up for your perusal here are the results:

get the boat sorted out and on the water by Easter [do-able]
and done! boat went into the water early june, but was'nt used a great deal. Still on the water where it will remain over the winter. I'll get more use out of it next summer.
get the catamaran sorted and usable by the summer [no probs]
Nothing done, apart from getting the rear beam re-welded. But it's only going to take a weekend to sort, so no biggie
start and finish the bathroom [top of the list by far and probably the last thing that gets done]
and true to form, nothing has been done, at all
shoulders sorted and working again [lap of the gods, I'm afraid]
pretty good I reckon, only need to get some practice in and sort out my fitness [see below]
go surfing a lot more [see above]
got a lot in, especially small stuff in august. getting too cold for my old bones now though
build that fish paipo [just give me the bits and a clear weekend]
total failure on this I'm afraid, but I brought a fish surfboard back from the US, and have got a great design to copy from there. not dead yet
order one of Dales surfmats [very likely to happen]
got it! used it! stoked with it! well sort of, still on the learning curve.
eat less, get fit [yeah, right]
I lost weight whilst I was in California, but lost a bit of fitness, not that I was very fit to start with.
go to California this autumn [also very likely]
See above, and sundry other posts over the next week or so
get intimate with Wenda [highly unlikely :( ]
yeah right! no change there then.

So as ever the case in my life, the non important, hedonistic type things get done, whilst the really important things like the bathroom and my job taken a seat that is not so much back, as not there at all.

But the bathroom will get done this winter. honest. Even I'm starting to get hacked off with it now.

At last, a quick reprise of my trip to the US. –

week one - San Francisco

I was last out in California in the fall of 2002, so this trip was something I had wanted to do for a couple of years. The plan was to spend more time in those places that appealed to me after the previous trips where I had only really touched on spots up and down Hwy 1. The main problem is that whilst there is a lot to see in coastal California, it’s all a long way apart. And in central and northern Ca with the exception of San Francisco it’s all kind of low key.

However, it allows me to do what I do best…….. wandering aimlessly around and finding things, or more usually not finding anything. Some sort of loose itinery was needed, mainly because my preferred lodging – hostels, could easily be full if I arrived there on spec, leaving me with nowhere to stay apart from my at-that-time untested camping hammock [more on that later]

So the first week was booked up where needed and off I went, taking a direct flight from Heathrow to SF. Unfortunately this involved a long train journey overnight down to Watford and then a bus around the houses through rush hour Monday morning, early.

However we made it to the airport in plenty of time and that was that.

Daniele had said ages ago that I could stay at her place but she backtracked on that citing artistic integrity and lack of time to get the place ready; ie it was a tip, and she’d been too busy to clean the place for months or throw out stuff that belonged in the trash. In other words the place was a manky slum and she was living in a health hazard [with fruit flies]. So I booked into a new hostel down town and pretty good it was too. Certainly will use it again if D still has’nt cleared up.

I had a private room for the first night, a must when you’re jetlagged……. Your brain has turned to puree’ and you keep getting double vision, from a combination of being out of sync with where you are [9hours behind UK time in this case], and a total lack of significant sleep from when you stepped out of your front door. In my case that was 2am Monday. I had’nt slept properly for nigh on 48 hours. A secure space for you and your stuff is a minimum requirement at least for the first night, and the next if at all possible. So that evening and most the next day I did’nt bother trying to contact Daniele, knowing she was busy, and all I wanted to do was chill and regain some sort of equilibrium. We eventually made contact and made a date to go eat the following evening.

It was nice to see her. She looked well and had put a little weight on. She looked good. We had dinner in a Korean restaurant, one of Daniele’s latest favourites. She always manages to find strange cuisines [to me anyway], orders a mountain of food, proceeds to eat twice as much as me and still has stuff to take home with her.

The itinery more or less went out the window immediately. I had intended going up country for a couple of days, but Daniele suggested we went to the opening of the new de Young Museum, for which she’d been grafting for months, being part of the installation team, responsible for putting up all the Jackson Pollock’s or what have you. So I hastily re-arranged things, knowing that I would loose a bit of money on the way, but probably saving myself the same amount in fuel costs. I spent the next few days wandering around Marin County and the western Bay Area, revisiting quite a few spots. Pleasant rather than invigorating. Like I said I do well at wandering.

So we went to the new deYoung museum, where I ended up having a cracking time. The place is ….wow!

and yes, that tower is twisted around and skewed, and the exterior is clad in copper, several hundred tons of it apparently.

Now, I’m not normally a fan of modern architecture, since it usually takes no account of it’s surroundings; the existing buildings around the site and the quality of the landscape are so often overwhelmed and brutalised by the new edifice. Additionally the materials used often give the impression of impermanence, suggesting that the new building will be demolished in 60 years or so.

I don’t get that impression here. The building is monolithic in stature, and viewed from a distance gives the impression of a Central American temple complex, with a bit of sci-fi thrown in, rising as does above the many mature trees around it. When wisps of San Francisco’s famous fog drifts over and around the tower this feeling is certainly reinforced.

Which is quite good and fitting really considering that the inside contains some wonderful Mayan Stone carvings along with 60’s paintings, New Guinean and Oceanic war masks and Dogon ritual garb. I was well impressed.

The partaaay followed the well trodden route of such affairs. It was a thank you from the museum to all those who had worked on it: ie the staff, so as such was decidedly not a black tie affair. Which was just as well since a black tie and DJ was something I did not possess. D looked good in her skirt and top, she does’nt normally ‘do’ dressing up. In fact I’d never seen her out of about 5 layers of t shirt and woolly jumpers, until then……. So that was nice too ;) Pity we live a whole continent and an ocean apart.

Introductions to her workmates over I got talking to a couple of guys, one of whom was well into a band I was keen on in the ‘70’s - a welsh band called Man, which were obscure, even in Wales. It’s a small world. The global village certainly seems to have come to pass. D was humming, networking, bouncing off people and generally behaving like the Manhatanite she is.

The night ended with my dropping D off and driving a friend/workmate of hers back home, since she was a little mellow. Conversation flowed, mainly from Cynthia and in my direction. An invite for coffee ‘or something’ was made and as I mulled this significant offer over we arrived in her street, she said ‘pull in over here’ and then she was gone. I sat there somewhat bemused for a few seconds wondering if I’d had a lucky escape, or whether I’d missed something a little more wonderful…….

So that was that. I had a day to kill then off out to do some whale watching around the Farallon Islands. Saturday was ‘interesting’ The US Navy Fleet was in, something I had studiously ignored thinking it was of no consequence. How wrong I was. I turned up in the bay front area with the intention of heading up to Fort Mason Hostel, only to be confronted with bumper to bumper traffic, and an air show. It took me an hour to do the mile from the Marina Green to the Hostel entrance where the Ranger was having a heated argument with someone in a flash 4x4 [or SUV as they are wont to call them over there]. The SUV was turned away as was the car behind it. I wondered if I could get in at all. Diving down and retrieving my booking slip from the foot-well I smiled at the lady and presented the slip in the hope of being able to park up top cos I was staying there.

To my relief and some surprise there was no problem and soon I had parked the car [legally], checked in and was ensconced on the decking with a mocha in my hand watching the show unfold. Well all I can say is that the biplane aerobatics was worth seeing, the Blue angels [?] navy jet formation flying a little less so, even though they were throwing the big f18 eagles around like toys. Our Red Arrows could quite honestly beat this lot into a cocked hat.

I had the luxury that night of being in a dorm with only one other person, who was totally fazed with jetlag and therefore out for the count for a while.

Thus endeth part the first. Part the second will follow shortly, chronicling my journey to Santa Cruz, Monterey and the Deep South - Big Sur..............


Monday, November 07, 2005

blogspam part deux

see - two additional spam messages evn when I'm having a moan about it. That's taking the p$%%^!

gotta stop this somehow.