Sunshine and crowds go together like Sex Wax and surf boards on the California Coast. (Go ahead. Click on the link.) But sometimes the locals get lucky.
We fully anticipated a mob scene at Princeton-by-the-Sea’s restaurant row when we decided to enjoy a sunny Friday evening slacking among the fishing boats and party trawlers at Pillar Point Harbor. That’s OK, we figured. We usually eat late anyway.
The lack of traffic on Highway 1 didn’t quite register, so upon arrival we were geared up to furtively cruise for a parking space. And then we … uh … parked. Plenty of spaces available.
Not convinced, we decided to check out the dinner crowd before heading to the piers for a stroll. Certainly random wedding parties from the Oceano and the contents of multiple tour buses had spilled onto the decks and into the bars and dining rooms. Nope. We saw plenty of patio seats and bar stools sans backsides.
We were in luck. Someone had ordered up a weekend evening of sunshine and clear skies and nobody came. Sort of like “locals night” at Sam’s, but without the discount. We headed to check out the local fleet with the early evening sunshine warm on our faces.
The slips were full but the piers were virtually devoid of people aside from the Coastside Slackers and our favorite local wildlife photographer, Clive Beavis. (Check out his amazing Instagram feed at @clives_wildlife.) Clive was out for an evening photo session with a tiny colony of sea lions that had taken up temporary residence in the harbor. One pair lolled on the pier behind a locked gate, barking occasional complaints.
Sea lion grunts aside, the stillness actually amplified the squawks of random sea gulls, the creak of aging hulls and the squeak of taut mooring ropes and foam bumpers pressed tightly against the pier. Even our sneakered footfalls resounded as we walked gingerly among the boats. Why so cautious? The water here is simply too cold for strolling with nose in phone.
The Geek was thrilled with the photo opps and clicked away. M-Man jotted down the fanciful and farcical boat names: Lay-z Lyn-z, Sunshine, Coho. Ready or Knot, Profish’nt, Wake me Up. Oh Betty, Stacy Joanne, New Captain Pete. No telling what happened to the original Captain Pete, though several scuttle-worthy vessels seemingly held together by marine epoxy and sea gull guano provided a possible clue.
We headed back to the restaurants on Capistrano Road as the inevitable low clouds and evening breeze finally rolled in. As the cool and damp that Coastsiders alternately love and loathe descended, we took a seat facing the harbor among a hearty group of Half Moon Bay Brewing Company deck denizens. They were unable to retreat to the warmth of the bar because they had canine companions in tow. We had no excuse.
Shoulders hunched against the sudden chill, M-Man sipped a frosty pint of Daily Ritual Coffee Blonde and gobbled down a rapidly cooling basket of shrimp and chips. The Geek stuck to the house pinot grigio and nibbled a soft pretzel with cheese. We probably both should have ordered up a steamy mug of actual coffee or a hot toddy.
We didn’t linger, but it didn’t matter. The evening was a nearly perfect Coastside pause between the hustle of Memorial Day weekend and the bustle of the summer season. We even caught the last seconds of a sweet sunset as we pulled onto Main Street in Montara.
So break out the Sex Wax and polish up those boards. Summer is almost here. But not quite yet. Sometimes it actually pays to be a Coastside local on a Friday evening.