Captain's Inn

 

It was one of the first sunny days we'd had in a long, long time. That morning, we'd packed our bags, crossed the sun-kissed Golden Gate into the city, and were winding south on the 1, atop curving cliffs with jade waters crashing below.

It was a beautiful drive. The dunes on our right were splashed with thick patches of color—bright orange, red, electric green, and a vibrant rust color blended between it all. The brilliant tapestry was composed of a million blades of succulents, indiscernible from a distance, yet extraordinary close-up, like a painting done in pointillism.

Our destination was Moss Landing—named for the little inlet of water on which it was planted, parallel to the sea. The little town stood twenty minutes north of Monterey and had two restaurants, both with "Enchilada" in their names—one of them serving Peruvian cuisine—and a burger place, called Burgers. There were no houses or neighborhoods. It was truly tiny.

The Captain’s Inn seemed to be one of the only lodgings in the town. It was constructed in a colonial style, but painted a blue that fell somewhere between cobalt and turquoise. Neighboring the Inn were fields of yellow flowers, with tall, hardy stalks that bent with the breeze—it suited the house to be bordered by such wild neighbors, and gave me the impression that the inn too, could only thrive in soil by the sea.

As we walked through the front door, I expected beach-house decor but was instead welcomed by vintage leather pieces, which gave the room a posh, luxurious vibe. In the far corner was an antique rowboat tipped on its end and secured by its anchor to the wall. The bricks in the fireplace hearth were salvaged from the great San Francisco earthquake, and one of the oldest safes I’d ever seen (empty, I presumed) was built into the bottom of the staircase. It was a house of history, filled with all manner of instruments once used at sea.

Besides the bedrooms upstairs, there were two separate guesthouses, and we were staying in the Boathouse. Entering our room felt like stepping into a glass spyglass—the wall opposite the door was a glass window facing west. It overlooked the body of calm water with a long ridge just behind, covered with the same succulents we’d seen from the road. The ridge buffered Moss Landing from the ocean and tempered the sounds of the surf to a steady cadence, like the breathing of a child.

I dropped my bags and walked to the glass to see seals playing in the calm waters, and flocks of birds stalking through the shallows and skimming along the surface, with their numbers doubled in the water's mirror. The masting of a sail peaked above the dune and glided the length of the ridge into the marina to behind the bridge, and distant purple-blue mountains shrugged behind. It was one of the most peaceful prospects I'd ever seen.

The frame of the bed sat in the hull of a boat—called the San Pedro in another life—and above the bed was the glass frame of the Captain’s lookout. Across was a fireplace, and beneath the far-side of the window was a deep, soaking tub, perfect for running with the window thrown open to let in the ocean breeze.

We had planned to go into Monterey that night, but after arriving, we were reluctant to leave, so we instead explored the little town and the marina. There was a trail we'd seen from our window, just across the water that traveled the length of the ridge and over to the sea. The ridge itself was protected and bursting with wildlife and coral-colored succulents that were surreal against the blue sky. Cotton-tailed rabbits bounced through the underbrush, and birds of all sizes dove and rose on the updrafts. Just over the hill, a secluded beach stretched further in both directions than I could see, scattered with orange-striped shells and sand dollars.

We flipped a coin and went to the Haute Enchilada that night for appetizers and very potent cocktails, and then tripped along, eight minutes to the other end of town for Thai food. The sun began its surrender to the moon, as we meandered through the thick golden light past a marine science building, an empty field, and a large cemetery—to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, called the Lemon Grass, with exemplary cuisine and friendly waiters who knew the names and orders of all the locals who came through.

It was cold and dark on the way back to the Inn, but the stars were bright, so we didn't mind. We took our time as we walked back through the cemetery, admiring the gravestones and plots lit by colored solar-lights that cast cheerful sheens on the mosaics and epithets. It reminded me of Coco, and gave me some good ideas for after my own demise, which I shared when we were back in the room, warming by the fire.

The next morning, I woke an hour before the sunrise and watched from my warm bed as the waters turned from a pale amethyst to a lavender-blue, patterned with dark winged ripples pulled by ducks and bobbing seals. Wine-bottle birds looked on, unmoving from the water’s edge, facing north towards the marina.

I dressed and pulled open the door. The light was soft; the world was still. Silky clouds wisped over the fields, like curtains, and my breath made clouds as I hurried over the sidewalk to the kitchen to find coffee. The innkeeper, a graceful African-American woman with stunning headwraps and a warm smile, greeted me. Her name was Meldalinna. We made small-talk as she prepared the breakfast, and I stirred cream into my coffee. I went into the living room and sat at the window, writing and journaling in the quiet, while the sun crept above the blue ridge and made the wildflowers dance with light.

There were few times that I felt as present with the world around me as I did those mornings. 

Our days fell into pleasant rhythms—daybreak coffee, delicious breakfasts with the other guests, then explorations of the coastal cities close by, like Carmel by the Sea—a seaside town every bit as charming as its name. Often, we drove to Monterey Bay to try new pubs and restaurants. We got coffee at Tidal, and margaritas at El Torito, and watched kayaks dot the clear green water of the harbor, and sinewy black birds dive for fish.

Our last night, we wandered the shoreline of Monterey Harbor and watched otters swim on their backs through the cresting waves. A mesmerizing purple light painted the wet trail of the tide and spread with the waves that swept up the shore. A man on the corner pulled out a banjo and began to play, and we danced to his music on the cold sand.

When the song finished, we thanked the musician and followed the moon back to the Captain's inn, where it rested brightly over the fields. The fire was warm, and the sounds of the ocean were drifting like music through our open window—the gentle insistence of crickets, the push-and-pull of the waves, and the distant gong of bells, as ships returned from the sea.

 

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 The field across

The field across

 The Captain's Inn

The Captain's Inn

 The view

The view

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 The dock by the Boathouse

The dock by the Boathouse

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 Breakfast at the Inn

Breakfast at the Inn

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 The neighboring field

The neighboring field

 The trail across the water

The trail across the water

 Hills of succulents

Hills of succulents

 Carmel by the Sea

Carmel by the Sea

 Exploring Monterey

Exploring Monterey

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 The Harbor

The Harbor

 Downtown Monterey

Downtown Monterey

 Moonlight over the harbor

Moonlight over the harbor

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