Scream spent about three months cruising the pacific coast of the US this fall. Here are some of our thoughts from that time:
For someone accustomed to sailing in BC or Puget sound the first thing to notice is that the anchorages here suck. There are very few anchorages on the pacific coast of the US, and most of them are poor. BC has a place where you can anchor every couple miles and a good anchorage every five. On the US pacific coast there is a place you can anchor every hundred miles and a good one every three hundred. Luckily outside of SF and LA marina fees are less than half of what they are in BC.
If we were to do the trip again we would spend time in San Francisco and Catalina Harbor. Other than these locations we would stop in Santa Cruz (city), Morro Bay, and Santa Barbara (city). Our other stops would only be as necessary to make the trip comfortable. We would try to fully supply the boat in Canada as San Diego was a big disappointment in that regard. We would not stop in the northern channel islands unless the winds were light.
We harbor hopped our way down. I heard many times that the reasons for going offshore were to avoid the traffic and the crab traps. Our experience contradicts this. We saw very few crab traps. We saw more crab traps between Ganges and Tsehum harbour on our last trip that we saw on the entire US pacific coast. Average trap density must be far less than one per square mile. And we went entire days without seeing another vessel. We saw the deep-sea vessels go offshore, presumably to avoid the small boats. The downside to harbour hopping is that I believe we got less wind because of it, and we did motor a significant portion of the trip.
One final comment is that our experience so far throws into question the entire idea of cruising the coast. If your objective is to visit the sea of Cortez/Mexico and not to continue elsewhere, then I think that it is a poor decision to buy and outfit an ocean-going boat in BC for the difficult and surprisingly uninteresting trip down the coast. I think that people should give serious consideration to the merits of a much cheaper, trailerable sail boat. It doesn't need to be outfitted for open-ocean travel. You can cruise BC in the summer, then pull it down the highway to the sea of Cortez and arrive there in a couple of days. Then when hurricane season comes to Mexico (and your tourist visa expires), you can just pull your boat back to Canada for cheap, reliable repairs and another summer of BC cruising. Think about it.