Friday, November 11, 2011

Morro Bay: A Hidden Gem

White Pelican

We are holed up in Morro Bay, waiting for the next storm system to pass through. Prediction for today:  lightening and thunder along the coast and possible water spouts! (If we see one, we are to travel 90 degrees away from it.) 

On the way out of San Francisco, we made a side trip to the Farallones. There was still too much swell from the last storm system to get in close enough for wildlife viewing, and the big surf crashing against the islands made the landscape look even more menacing. The rocky outpost is surely the Devil's hellpot! We could hear the seals and sea lions but we couldn't see them. We did see another whale and our first shark though! Great whites inhabit the waters off the Farallones, but all we saw was the snarky dorsal fin come up off the stern of the boat, so we couldn't identify the shark for certain. There were two tears in the trailing edge of the dorsal that looked like slits. It was a chilling sight.

Farallone Islands

Then it was off down the coast. By morning, we were cruising along the magnificient stretch of coastline from Carmel to Morro Bay which includes Big Sur. This stretch of coastline is only lightly developed and is underpopulated. We could see Morro Rock a couple of hours before we entered the narrow entrance in the breakwater. Once in the harbor, we tied up to an anchor buoy. The dock was full, and we needed an excuse to try out our new dinghy, purchased in Alameda.  It was my first time tying up to an anchor buoy, and I missed getting the bow line through the shackle on the buoy on the first pass, but I got it the second time around. Coming into unfamiliar harbors at night has been one of the more nerve-wracking experiences of our journey, and we try to avoid it:  but sometimes it can't be avoided. 

Godwits Feeding in Morro Bay
Yesterday, we set off in the dinghy to check out some of the sights in Morro Bay. Rowing the dinghy is hard work, and I was envious of those overtaking us in their more streamlined kayaks; but at least we can use the dinghy to get out and explore the area. Morro Bay is a beautiful natural area and one of the most picturesque places I have seen in some time. There is a spit protecting the bay with the shifting topography of sand dunes left in their natural state. The bay is a fecund estuary, with about a dozen clam holes per square foot of mud, a stop for frequent flyers on the Pacific flyway. 
California Quail
I'm sure the waterfowl vary with time of year, but we saw brown pelicans, white pelicans, godwits, at least three species of cormorant, and several other species. Patrick got some excellent pictures of these from the dinghy. We beached the dinghy and took a short walk on the trail around the estuary. I guess we will see more of this type of landscape in Mexico, but here, desert and chaparral plants come right down to the sea or wetland. On one side of the trail you have pelicans, on the other, California quail! Truly an interesting contrast.

Brown pelicans were in abundance.

Beyond the estuary is a forest preserve which we did not get to. The preserve reportedly has a boardwalk trail and is another popular spot for birders. 

Morro Rock
Later, we left the dinghy at the dock and took a walk to Morro Rock. Morro Rock is a volcanic plug, one of a chain of "morros" left in the region when their original volcanoes eroded away. The dacite rock (similar to granite) beckons to the climbing instinct; however, it is illegal to climb Morro Rock. Peregrine falcons nest there. From the base of the rock, you can see wildlife doing its thing in a spectacular natural setting:   sea lions and sea otters jug-handling out in the bay, heron stalking their prey in the thriving eelgrass beds, and sea gulls feeding on seafood for a change, instead of trash scavenged from urban cans. On the other side of the rock is a long, sandy beach, where we watched some of the local surfers. 

We still don't have a good picture of our vessel at anchor, but our blog is finally official!



  1. What fantaastic photos and commentary. Ben is breathing down my neck as we read the blog together. Bob has been to Morro Rock, and, as you say, found it an incredible setting; a volcanic plug! never heard of such a thing. Patrick, your photos are fabulous!

  2. Incredible photos - what camera are you using?

  3. Thank you. Nikon D700 with, unfortunately, only a DX format zoom lens - 18-200 MM.

  4. This blog is great, Kirsten and Patrick.

    Too bad it was so turbulent when you went by the Farallones. But sounds like, even at a distance, you were able to glisten what a bustling and cacophonous metropolis of wildlife that place is. And what a creepy thrill to see that shark. I seem to recall hearing that great whites especially like to go out there in January (?) to snap up fat lil' elephant seal pups....


  5. I was getting ready to start badgering you about setting up a blog. You beat me to it!

    K, you should share the links to new posts on your Facebook Wall as well. Commenting there is more sociable.

  6. Great Blog, am so glad you guy's had such a nice trip down. Enjoy yourselves, Gary

  7. So glad you got your blog going. We'll be tracking you down the coast. You are missing NOTHING here in Seattle, same old, rainy cold ho-hum...

  8. Awesome pics! I look forward to reading your blog and hearing about your adventure. Enjoy!

  9. It is January 12, 2012 and no blog so far this year. Who is the skipper and 2nd mate, I wish to lodge a complaint.