In the morning there was a feeding a short distance away as hundreds of pelicans & dolphins thrashed the water all at once. It lasted about 5 minutes and then it was gone... a reminder that our position in the food chain is a matter of luck, and not always guaranteed to be at the top.
We had decided that the south shore of the island would be better shelter from NW winds. Coches Prietos was on the shouth shore almost directly opposite our current position and we had heard that it was arguably the finest anchorage on the island.
As we left Frys, fine weather and a following breeze in the low 20's made for a perfect downhill run. As we neared the Anacapa Passage, waves suddenly got much shorter apart and the wind picked up another 5 knots. So we dropped the main and sailed on Jib 'n Mizzen. Then, as we rounded the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island, the wind just completely stopped and we had to motor the rest of the way. Arrived in Coches late afternoon.
Joni returned last night after delivering her Masters Thesis - DONE! after two years of nights & weekends. Nice job Joni!
We left Santa Barbara at a leisurely hour this morning - bright & sunny with enough wind to sail by. Forecast calls for gusty winds the next few nights so we are heading for Fry's Harbor, a sheltered spot on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island.
Arrived at Frys late afternoon and it was full. One of the boats at anchor was a small runabout with a father & son who were fishing. We expected them to leave in a while so dropped anchor a bit farther out than we wanted and settled in for an early dinner.
The "harbor" is about 200 yards wide and open to the channel on the north, with tall cliffs east and west and a canyon onshore that runs north & south. We decided to set a stern anchor but had never done it before... so we looked up instructions in one of the cruising handbooks for instructions.
When we went to bed the wind was from the Northwest and we sat snug in the shadow behind one of the clifs. At night the wind shifted and came rushing down the canyon to our South. Being so close to rocks on either side made for a restless night's sleep but the stern anchor held us steady.
We have sailed from San Miguel Island into Santa Barbara where I will stay for 4 days while Joni returns to Sacramento and completes her Master program. Joni was putting the final formating touches on her thesis right up until she had to leave for the airport. It's a "cookbook" for a program on the American River Parkway that blends visual arts, science and history into a summer camp that I think she will submit later as a grant application.
While she is away, I plan to catch up on my reading, do some boat chores and just hang out for awhile.
The next morning I contacted Vessel Assist by radio but they could only assist with the dingy recovery if it was declared "salvage". I signed off by saying that I'd think of something else. Apparently, the crew of Destiny, a gorgeous trawler anchored nearby, had heard the radio call as well. As I stood out on deck viewing the beach in my binoculars, Bob came across from Destiny in his RIB and offered to help.
I pulled on my wet suit and grabbed a spare anchor line and float. Bob dropped me off near where I hd left the dingy and I swam ashore. The surf was still too big at that spot so I hauled the gear over the rocks that had been awash the previous day. Bob tossed the line to me and I swan the dingy out and clipped on - Thank You Destiny!!!
We decided to just stay put for the day, hang out on the boat and drink wine after Joni did a little bit more work on her Masters Thesis. She had been working on the thesis at each layover in preparation for the final due date of July 11 - which would require a mid-trip flight home and back.
The sun came out, I pulled my drawing pad out and we finally had our first real "vacation" day of the trip.
We left Cojo Anchorage as soon as we could in the morning. The short hop of 26 miles due south to San Miguel Island only took a few hours. By late afternoon, we had finally arrived in the Channel Islands!
We anchored in Cuyler Harbor - a beautiful little bay surrounded by high bluffs that blocked the wind almost completely. We quickly changed out of our 7 layers of ocean sailing cold weather gear and into tee shirt and wind breaker. I dropped the dingy, mounted the outboard, threw a few items into a backpack and we headed to the beach for some exploration.
I should mention here that I had never actually beached the dingy before - I had only gone from boat to pier and back... that was about to change abruptly. As we approached our designated landing spot, I recall mentioning to Joni how deceptive the distances looked - just then the stern of the raft rose abruptly and I yelled "Hang On!". A big wave caught us just before it broke and swept us up onto the beach at about 15 mph.
We landed wet but intact - the problem was that now we could not get off the beach. We tried a couple of times but the surf was at least 3 feet high and pushed us tumbling back each time. There was a much calmer section of beach about a mile away but surf was crashing over the jagged rocks and flooding into sea caves between us and the calm beach. I tried but could'nt pull the dingy and the outboard over the rocks. So in the end, we pulled the dingy high up the beach, tied it to a piece of driftwood and started hiking up to the ridge of the island - about 800 feet above us.
It was then that I realized my hiking boots did not make it into the backpack, so I had to climb in the shower slippers I had so thoughtfully put on in anticipation of stepping lightly off the dingy and onto the warm island sand.
I'll spare you the details of our 5 mile cross-country hike, except to say that the flora was gorgeous and that I kep t wondering how long we could survive on 4 cheese sticks and a bottle of Merlot.
When we finally looped back down to the beach, it was a huge relief to see the approaching dingy from Wiggle Room, a neigboring boat that had sailed down from Morro Bay at the same time as we did. They had become worried by our long absence and kept a lookout. Wow! I cannot thank them enough.
This area has an intimidating reputation for high winds, big swells and lots of fog. In the 19th century it was known as the "Cape Horn of the Pacific".
That may be a bit of an overstatement but Joni and I had avoided talking about this portion of our trip in detail to each other out of nervous anticipation.
We left Morro Bay just before dawn and fully expected that rounding Conception would be serious business. We had about 60 miles to cover and Pt. Conception was right at the tail end of the trip. Our plan was to motor sail as fast as possible to get close to Conception before the wind built up too much and then complete the rounding during daylight. (after our wild ride down the Big Sur coast, we REALLY did not want to be caught out after dark at Pt. Conception)
The day started out foggy and chill with a bit of a breeze. But as the morning continued and the fog lifted a bit, the wind dropped to less than 10 kts and seas were flat calm. I had no problem at all with motoring the whole way around ;-)
We reached the shelter of Cojo Anchorage just before sunset. It was an eerie place. After such an unexpected calm passage around Pt. Conception, it felt as if the storms were just waiting for us to fall asleep. Cojo is what is known as a refuge anchorage - there are absolutely no facilities and it is only used to escape the rough conditions at Conception. By the time we arrived, the winds had clocked around to the southwest and the normally sheltered anchorage was left exposed to big rolling swell. To ease the violent motion, we anchored in the shallow water inside the kelp line - only a few hundred yards off the breaking surf. The wreck of a beached sailboat was washed up on shore nearby to remind us that shelter from the storm was not always possible.
I could not sleep well that night and got up several times to check that our anchor was holding. I had to hold on with both hands to keep from being pitched about in the dark. When I opened the hatch to look outside, the moonless night was pitch black and I saw the most amazing night sky - more full of stars than I have ever seen. In the water around us, every movement left a phosphorescent trail of pale green light. Predators moving beneath the surface created dim pools of light that were interrupted with shimmering flashes of green whenever something came to the surface.