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The small harbor of Port San Luis is located adjacent to Avila Beach, a quintessential California beach town. It is also the closest harbor to our home port of Morro Bay, at a distance of just under 20 nm. Our schedule suddenly opened up on July 5th, since the 4th was on a Wednesday this year, and it broke up our usual weekly list of things to get done—we’re still preparing the boat for cruising and adding to our kitty. The biggest draw is the weather, Avila is much warmer than the summer fog of Morro Bay. 65 degrees in Morro Bay equals 90ish in Avila.
We had an uneventful downhill sail on a beautiful day, enjoying the rugged coast line of Montana de Oro, Point Buchon and being careful to stay off Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant by at least a mile. The dogs settled in nicely, as the seas were fairly calm for the area. It was about a 4 hour trip, arriving well before the sun set.
We decided to anchor instead of moor, to save the $17/day for the guest moorings, and also to enjoy the quiet solitude of being further out from port. After staying there a few days and shuttling the dogs in our dinghy, I think we’ll pay the mooring fee next time. The anchorage is between Avila Pier and the Cal Poly Pier–there are three piers total here, but only one is accessible. Vessels may anchor for seven days without charge between the Avila Pier and the Cal Poly Pier. After seven days the anchor fee is $9.00 per day for vessels less than 85 ft. Anchor fees are $19.00 per day from November 1 through March 31. The dinghy ride from the anchorage is about a 15 minutes to the Harford Pier and the only viable access to land. The water taxi does not come to the anchorage but if moored, The Port San Luis water taxi provides free rides to and from boats moored in the harbor 7 days a week (weather permitting), with scheduled runs at:
7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. (and 6:00 p.m. in the summer months.)
Port San Luis Water Taxi Operator at (805) 305-4796 or VHF Radio channel 12.
There really is no safe beach landing in the surf here, although I did see a couple getting to shore via their paddle boards.
Where we set the hook was just off the beach full of 4th of July revelers enjoying the sand and surf. The air temperature was a warm 98 degrees during the day, making the jump off the boat into 60 degree water bearable, at least for a few minutes. This was my favorite part of the trip; listening to the kids on shore and jumping off of the boat brought me back to my youth and sailing with my family in Southern California. Only the freezing temperature the water brought me back to reality and really made me want to embark on our trip south and to warmer waters.
There is a small floating (made of lego type blocks) dock at the Harford pier for loading and unloading, but you are not allowed to leave your dinghy here. The harbor department has an unusual set up of requiring you to tie your dinghy to some floating lines and climbing 20 ft up a vertical re-bar ladder to the pier. Out of the question with the pups. The city is even planning to charge you to leave your dinghy in this inconvenient location.
I asked a local, and he said that if I left the dinghy at the floating lego dock for 30 minutes or less, it would probably be ok, so every day when I took the dogs ashore I took that chance., making sure that I tied both bow and stern so that it was our of the way of other boats using the landing. Once on the landing there is a metal grate and stairs to take you up to the pier level. Our two bigger dogs, Zoey and Granger were able to navigate the large holes in the grate with difficulty but I had to carry Skeeter for fear of her falling straight through. Good thing she is only 5 lbs.
Ashore, the beaches here are dog friendly and we had a great time romping in the surf. We did have to be cognizant of the shore fisherman casting their lines so the dogs wouldn’t get tangled in them and the curious sea lions.
The pier is bustling place in the summer time, with fishing expedition boats taking folks out to catch rock cod, several restaurants, and an out fit that has 2 vessels, one sail and one power, to take people out to whale watch.
The town of Avila offers a plethora of activities; a championship golf course, regular concerts, paddle sports, hot springs, light house tours, just to name a few. Check out this link to find out more: http://www.visitavilabeach.com/
If you have a little more time and the weather is not inclement, renting a car to drive to Hearst Castle or to pick up supplies in San Luis Obispo, which has a Costco and a Home Depot might be well worth it. One thing to keep in mind is that during the winter months Port San Luis is vulnerable to a southerly swell that often wreaks havoc on the boats moored here, so I wouldn’t leave my vessel left unattended with this kind of weather event forecasted.
As per usual, we waited for four days for a weather window to travel back up the coast to Morro Bay on a gray day, with 10-12 knots of wind on our nose, and small for the area 4-5′ seas. We motored the entire way, but had a treat just before entering the harbor entrance with four or five humpback whales feeding just outside of the entry buoy, always a treat.
So next time we’ll take a mooring and save the hassle of the dinghy ride. Me and the dogs will be a lot happier! And one of these days (soon!) we’ll be able to continue out to the Channel Islands, and down the coast to Baja! We can’t wait!