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Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay

This is our first trip for a couple of weeks as we have been inundated with storms. Tomorrow the storms will return but today there is no rain and, in fact, the sun is shining. We had not made any plans to go anywhere because we were not sure exactly what the weather would be like. First thing this morning it was foggy and we were resigned to another day inside but at 9 the sun came out so we immediately got our gear together and set off.

We decided to head towards the coast. Our last visit to the ocean was in January when we visited Año Nuevo. Today we are heading further north to Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. We could see snow on the tops of the range of mountains to the east and a mere dusting on the peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It is nice to see the sun again after so much rain and we are going to make the most of it today. Of course the rain is much appreciated both for watering our gardens and to fill our reservoirs for the coming year. Skiers are ecstatic due to the heavy snow falls in the Sierra Nevadas. One amazing change we noticed since our last drive along 280; the brown hills are now a luscious green.

I never tire of the drive from 280 along 92 to Half Moon Bay. There is always a lot of interesting things to look at. Today we had little more time to study the sights as the traffic was slightly heavier than we are used to due to our late start. So what is so interesting I hear you ask? Well, there are nurseries selling a variety of plants and one place where they specialize in roses. Huge metal prehistoric sculptures are displayed for sale at several places and one where they have wooden carvings of animals. We also passed grape vines and the La Nebbia Winery. One thing that caught my eye today was a full sized, brightly painted, yellow, wooden pony covered in different colored hearts. A sign nearby advertised pony rides. There are also tree farms and fruit stands along the way, though some of the latter were not open as it is too early in the year.

We bypassed Half Moon Bay and turned right onto Highway 1. As we left home before we’d eaten breakfast,  we were both hungry. Our first attempt to find something to eat was thwarted. The Miramar Beach Restaurant was closed. It doesn’t open until 11 am on Sundays. The tide, we noticed, was very high and came right up to the sea wall.

One of the older boats in Pillar Point Harbor

One of the older boats in Pillar Point Harbor

Plan B for breakfast was the 3-Zero Cafe adjacent to Half Moon Bay Airport. There were a lot of cars in the car park and we knew we would be in
for a wait. Sure enough it took 25 minutes before we were led to a table but we spent the waiting period people watching so time seemed to pass pretty quickly. The servers were bustling around trying to negotiate through the mass of people inside the door to get to the cashier but they were very cheerful. Our table was right at the end, so it was isolated and we were sitting in the sun. It was a good place to be. There were people sitting and eating on the patio. If we had chosen to eat out there we would have been seated sooner but we decided it could possibly be a little chilly. Our order was taken quickly but it took nearly half an hour to serve it but it didn’t surprise us. Tom had Crab Cake Benedict (13.95) and I had Crab Benedict (11.95). Both dishes were OK but we were disappointed with the potatoes.

Just some rope in a half submerged dingy at Pillar Point Harbor

Just some rope in a half submerged dingy at Pillar Point Harbor

After breakfast we headed for Pillar Point Harbor and took a wander down the pier. This is a good place to buy fresh fish straight off the fishing boasts and we were on the lookout for whole fish – Tom has a recipe he wants to try – but we were out of luck. There were boats selling their fresh caught wares but Dungeness Crab was the seafood being sold. It has been a good year for Dungeness Crab but we were not in the market for it. We took a stroll down one of the floating wharves to take a closer look at the ships. Flashy modern boats for pleasure fishing were tied up alongside the rusting commercial fishing boats. The sleek and shiny ‘Tuna Tales’ next to the ‘Kiwi’ was a case in point. The three fishing boats selling crab on this particular wharf were the ‘Cricket’, the ‘Ani-K’ and the ‘Maggie’. I stood and watched the ‘Tern’ moor on an adjacent wharf and admired how skillfully it was done.

As we were unsuccessful in our quest for a fresh whole fish, we visited the Princeton Fish Market nearby. They did have whole fish but not what we were looking for. We ended up buying some sea scallops and a couple of calamari steaks. To round off our meal for tonight we stopped at a fruit stand on HW 92 and bought some asparagus from Mexico and a pound of brussels sprouts. Then it was home to San Jose, where the weather was cooler than at the coast. Another wonderful day.

San Mateo Coast

One of the fishing boats at Pillar Point Harbor

One of the fishing boats at Pillar Point Harbor

Another beautiful spring day in sunny California. Our main destination today is Franklin Point on the San Mateo Coast. As we drove towards the coast on Highway 92, the sun was rising. The slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were bathed in a reddish tint and everything looked glorious.

(Click the photos for larger versions)

After breakfast at the 3-Zero Cafe next to Half Moon Bay Airport, we stopped off at Pillar Point Harbor. We were looking to buy some fresh fish straight from the boats. At first I was surprised at the number of people around but then realized it was a group gathering for a whale watching boat trip. Now is a great time of the year for such a trip as the female gray whales are close to shore escorting their young calves north.

We wandered down the wharf looking to see if any boats were selling fresh fish. There was only one boat open for business but they only had Dungeness Crabs on offer.

It was very pleasant walking down the ramps and floating wharves, strolling around looking at all the fishing boats. These are definitely working boats with their decks littered with ropes, pontoons, crab cages and rusty equipment. Boats gently nudged the edge of the wharves as they rose and fell with the swell and we swayed slightly with the motion.

These fishermen have been experiencing hard times recently with the closure of the salmon fishing season for the last two years. There will be limited commercial fishing this year (just eight days in May) so soon they will be able to catch at least a little of the local king salmon, which is the best salmon ever.

Pigeon Point Light House

Pigeon Point Light House

Onto our main destination today – Franklin Point. I know it is only a few weeks since our last visit but we were anxious to see whether the path to the beach had been restored. I want to sit on our favorite seat and gaze out across the ocean. With any luck we should spot a few whales today. Passing Pescadero State Beach we noticed, a group of people standing on the bluffs. Whale watching maybe? Then we noticed a tour bus in the parking lot. There is going to be a lot of people around today.

We did consider stopping at Pigeon Point Lighthouse but the parking lot is not very large and it was packed, plus cars were parked along the side of the road. We did stop a few hundred yards south of the lighthouse so Tom could take a picture of the lighthouse with the wild flowers in the foreground. I stayed near the car and kept my eyes peeled for water spouts. There were several boats some way offshore. They could have been fishing boats or whale watching tours. It was a beautiful spot. The view was spectacular and the sound of birds singing was background music.

Pigeon Point Light House from a different angle

Pigeon Point Light House from a different angle

Between the lighthouse and Ano Nuevo is the parking place for Franklin Point. There were no other cars there. I set off down the path, watching a hawk hunting to my right. On the path I spotted a fat orange and black furry caterpillar. Since our last visit there must have been some rain because the path was quite muddy in places.

Over the last dune and where the path abruptly ended on our last visit in February, there is now limited access to the beach. It is a steep slide down. I was grateful to arrive in one piece but how was I going to get back?

It was good to be there on the beach with the seat within walking distance. The tide was high and it didn’t look possible to get to the point along the beach where there is a path to the seat. When I reached the rocks at the end of the beach there was no way over the rocks so I went back up the beach looking for a way round. There was a tent pitched just above the high tide mark and by the amount of personal possessions scattered around it almost looks like somebody has taken up residence rather than an overnight stay.

Once on top of the bluff, I followed a beaten path. Several times I had to turn back and look for an easier path but eventually I made it. At last I was on the final boardwalk to our favorite seat. Glancing back towards the entrance to the beach, I saw Tom and we waved to each other. I settled down on the bench for a serious whale watching session. This is the perfect time and the weather is just right as well.

I didn’t have to wait long. Soon I was spotting small spouts and the occasional bigger spout. You can

Franklin Point poppies

Franklin Point poppies

guess how thrilled I was. Every so often I would say ‘yes’ out loud or even ‘wow’. A couple of times I saw a tail rise out of the water. I imagined there was a pod of killer whales out there hunting for the vulnerable calves. The water spouts could not be seen with the naked eye from where I sat but the binoculars brought everything into view. Pigeon Point lighthouse is further out, that may be the perfect spot for whale watching.

Tom joined me and for the next hour we stayed there – Tom taking photos, just relaxing and occasionally using the binoculars. Me – I was whale watching, writing and relaxing. It was the best of times.

Eventually we stirred ourselves and made our way back to the car. Tom had found an easier route to the seat so we followed that. There were quite a few people on the main path leading back to the highway, some people were sitting on the bluffs and looking out to sea. Everybody was enjoying this wonderful location.

On the way back to Highway 92, we stopped in Half Moon Bay to buy some fresh salmon. It was from Alaska so not quite as fresh as it would have been if we had been able to buy straight from the fishermen but until the real stuff arrives it will have to do. Along with some asparagus we bought from the shop next door, we have all the ingredients for a great BBQ.

Pillar Point Harbor

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon BayAfter our rather disappointing breakfast at Ketch Joanne, we took a walk along the pier. It is always interesting to look at the fishing boats.

The first thing we noticed as we reached the pier were small, dead fish floating on the surface. At first we assumed somebody had lost all their fishing bait but then we noticed more and more.

(Click on the image for a larger version)

It is a working pier with lots of small fishing boats moored. It is possible to buy fresh fish straight from some of the boats. To us, there is nothing more tasty than fresh fish so we checked to see what was available today – Dungeness Crab, Ling Cod, Rockfish and Halibut. We sauntered down the gangplank and started to walk between the boats. We came to the Alan, selling live crabs. The fisherman was more than willing to chat, so we asked him about the dead fish and he happily explained what happened.

On Tuesday a shoal of anchovies entered the harbor but a lot of them were unable to get out when the tide changed. They were trapped until the tide changed again. But it was a minus low tide and there was not enough oxygen in the water so many of them died. When they expired they dropped to the bottom but then after a few days they rise to float on the surface. He went on to say that the birds had a field day on Tuesday and were gorging themselves so much on the struggling fish that most of them weren’t able to fly for a while.

We were tempted to buy one of his crabs but I honestly didn’t want to share the car with a live crab. After all, I might become attached to it and then how could I plunge it into a pan of boiling water?

Our walk and visit to the pier was a short expedition. The wind was cold and the thought of a warm car was really inviting. So we retraced our steps and headed for home.

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