South of Conception, SoCal, and Strange Noises

The trip down the California coast has a couple of defining points which are well respected by mariners. Point Conception is one of them. This is an area where the prevailing cool coastal Northwesterly winds meet with the warm arid easterly Santa Ana winds of the central valley. With an almost 90 degree bend in the land, this can make for some formidable seas. Several Navy ships had sank off this point in the 1920s. We looked forward to this part of the voyage with much anticipation. Fortunately, we rounded in beautiful sunshine and a nice 15 to 20 knot Northwesterly breeze. The biggest challenge for us was the distance between suitable anchorages. We decided to anchor just around the lee of the point in what is known as Cojo Anchorage. As soon as we turned past the point, the air felt warmer, the water was warmer, and we knew we were in SoCal. That night was breezy and the swell made for less than optimal sleeping conditions. There was some odd noise, which we attributed to the wind in the rigging, but eventually we drifted off to sleep.

We left early the next morning for the palm tree lined harbor in Ventura. We were greeted at the Ventura Yacht Club by a great group of sailors and an invitation to a pot luck dinner. As we settled in for the evening, we heard a strange crackling, crunching noise. We thought perhaps there was a rodent on the deck, remembering the one that crept aboard in Berkeley. I went out on deck and there were no critters around. Then we thought maybe there were otters floating around the boat eating snacks. We drifted off to sleep.

On the way to King Harbor Yacht Club the next day, I noticed that the rudder appeared very clean. We had been advised to put Tropikote bottom paint on our hull, and in Alaska and BC there seemed to be some slime that was growing on the boat. I thought, now that we are in warmer water, the anti-fouling paint was working as it was formulated. Again that night we heard the noises. Our minds began to wonder, fearing the worst. Was it some sort of electrolysis happening from being plugged in to shore power? Was our gazillion dollar bottom job blistering? Was the keel going to fall off? We drifted off to sleep.

Next stop was Long Beach Yacht Club. Lots of activities in Alamitos Bay kept us entertained. Paddle boarding, rowing teams, racing canoes, a sailing regatta, kayakers, etc. Again that night the noise returned. We kept saying that we needed to snorkel below the boat to check it out. The next morning a lady harvested a bucket of mussels off the side of the dock. Ah ha! That had to be it! The mussels!

We heard it again the next night in Dana Point West Yacht Club. Again, tied to a dock with shore power hooked up. Michele was feeling curious about it and sent a text question to our buddy Chris Tutmark, who generally knows a lot about all subjects regarding boats. He replied with a video of Pistol Shrimps. Apparently there are tiny shrimps cleaning our hull as we sleep. OK, we thought, that could be plausible, I guess... We drifted off to sleep.

We continued on to San Diego. We heard the noises again, this time at anchor, without shore power. The next morning our friend Chuck Skewes, from Ullman Sails, came paddling up to Ardea at anchor in La Playa Cove on his surf board. We were chatting, and Michele told him about the noises. “Oh yeah, it's the shrimps!” he said. He told a story about when he first moved here and heard the noises. He had done all sorts of electrolysis tests as well, until he learned about the Pistol Shrimp. So we had further confirmation of the culprit. Those little creatures are quite loud, but they do keep the bottom looking clean! Now we drift off to sleep, comforted by the sound of tiny shrimps chomping away.


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