Monterey is a pleasant place to stay if you live on a boat. We like our slip at the public marina, there are bike lanes for safe transit to and from shopping and sightseeing. The weather is lovely, lovely, lovely. It’s still not quite spring but the temperatures have been warming. After our overnight sail from Half Moon Bay, we were ready for a rest.
Then, suddenly, the weekend arrived and what originally seemed sleepy and a bit funky, became frantic and commercially driven. There was something going on no matter where you looked – sail racing, surfing, kayaking, bicycling, jogging, paddle boarding, chasing the waves at the beach, and cars going up and down and all around.
Tourists marched and wheeled on the paved Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail headed for the Aquarium, Cannery Row, the Fisherman’s Wharf and the beaches. This paved trail is actually 18 miles long, going between Castroville (north) to Pacific Grove (south). But, the heavily occupied section we observed was probably less than three miles. There was lots of noise too and not just because of St. Patrick’s’ Day. Music (the good and the not-so) poured out of every restaurant, cafe, bar, car window and the mouths of street musicians. And then, a lone stand-up piano, painted bright blue and decorated with fish illustrations by Monterey’s Youth Art Collective as a part of an effort called “Play Me I’m Yours” sat and was played (very well I might add!) by anyone who chose to do so.
There are so many kids – babies, toddlers, pre-adolescents – carried in backpacks, front packs, strollers, riding trikes and bikes, running, pointing, jumping. Monterey is a fantastic place for kids. We know that – our own children experienced the special excitement of Monterey with us and their grandparents. There’s so much for children to see and learn about. Monterey’s exceptionally clear water draws children to hang precipitously over guardrails, run into the surf and drag parents along to search for starfish, sea urchins, small fish and fascinating plant life.
The bay teams with sea lions. Their barks and comic antics are entertaining to us, although Monterey residents probably find the pinnipeds tiresome. Yesterday we saw a sea otter joyfully swimming near our slip on its back while eating urchins, piling the shells on its stomach.
Today was the beginning of the Shields-Class sailboat-racing season. A Shields-Class yacht is a racing sailboat and that’s about all I will volunteer with this log. I did gather that the Shields owners and crews are tremendously proud of their vessels and handle them with exceptional skill. I watched three-person crews efficiently rig their boats and head out of the marina under sail with incredible grace. Moving a sailboat through narrow passages under sail takes tremendous skill and patience. The boats were beautiful to watch as they headed out to do battle.
After finishing a last dryer-load of laundry, I headed out on foot to look for a wall painting I’d seen right after we’d arrived in Monterey, depicting characters from John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. Times were tough for Monterey folks when that story took place and Monterey didn’t have the gloss and glitter it does today. I wonder what Mr. Steinbeck would think of modern-day Monterey? Surely, he would be impressed – I can’t say positively or otherwise – by the seemingly endless flow of humanity back and forth across this city he wrote about with such eloquence.