Santa Catalina Island

October 28, 2000. Santa Catalina Island, California. Sunny, wind variable and 75F/24C in the afternoon.


Looks like winter is catching up with us. The tail ends of the storm systems hitting the Pacific Northwest are affecting us now once or twice a week with brief heavy rain (just a hour or two) and a surge in wind and swells. We still get great sunshine and balmy weather in between and the island still look parched (except for the muddy dirt roads). We plan to sail to Oceanside Monday, after the next front passes through. Joan will not be coming with us due to scheduling problems. Anyway, it looks like a longer trip than we had initially though, 12 to 15 hours, meaning that we have to leave at 4 AM, something that Joan will not miss! We should be at her house on Halloween to help her eat the excess candy!

You may remember me mentioning old wrinkled vegetables. Well, last Wednesday a barge was supposed to arrive with fresh supplies. So we went back to the store, hoping to find new bell peppers replacing the old ones, which had been on display since we had arrived. We are very fond of peppers roasted on the barbecue. No such luck, maybe the barge operator does not like peppers. The old ones had disappeared but they were replaced by one grapefruit. However, there were some fresh mushrooms, carrots and iceberg lettuce, as well as rising crust frozen pizza, which is much better than the pizza produced by the local fast food restaurant (we know from experience). The last time we were in a fully supplied supermarket was in Monterey, 17 days ago. It certainly is not a hardship since the boat is still well supplied but I had not really expected to be without a supermarket for so long when we left Monterey. I finally had to start using the cabbage I had bought just in case.
However, the shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables is not stopping me from baking. I have used old recipes as well as tried new ones. For the new ones, about half are disappointment and half successes to be added to my repertoire. Baking warms the boat in the morning and the cake is nice to serve when we have friends coming in the evening to play games. We have also exchanged films on DVD with our neighbor and watched recent movies we had missed in the theaters.

We hiked up in the hills (another 1200 feet up or 400 m) on the south side of the island where the slopes are covered with dry grasses, cactus and shrubs and hiked down on the north side which is more lush. The north side has many nice coves (mostly filled with moorings) with turquoise water and many divers. The visibility in water is over 50 ft (16 m) which seems enormous for someone from Seattle.

Dscf0113Besides hiking, Clark has been devouring books at a rate unheard of (the absence of a marine store reduces the number of projects possible on the boat), and I have made a little more progress learning Spanish. We keep in touch with our Canadian cruiser friends through the radio, but it seems they will always get where we are when we are about to leave. Most of them opted to visit the south California coast including Santa Barbara, Oxnard and Ventura, which we bypassed entirely in search for wilder surroundings and cheaper anchorages. We hope to synchronize our travels a little better down the coast of Baja.

Hope all is well with you.

Santa Catalina Island

October 21, 2000. Santa Catalina Island. N 33 deg. 25′, W 118 deg. 30′.

The trip from Santa Cruz island to Santa Catalina island was mostly a boring motoring passage with very light winds. We did have the pleasure to see three bottlenose dolphins play on the bow of Temptress for a while. We also saw a lot of sea lions swimming on the way. Anchoring in Catalina Harbor was a bit of a challenge as most of the harbor was filled with moorings (which you have to rent). We ended up taking a mooring for one night and anchored the next day when a departing boat made some room. The tiny town does have a little store with bread and eggs and old vegetables, and a laundromat, which is all I need at the moment for my happiness!
We will stay here a week, hike on the island, clean the boat a bit, learn some spanish, etc. We met another boat from our old Seattle marina here and plan to play dominoes and card game with them in the evenings. Next week, our friend Joan Fleming will join us for the crossing back to the mainland to Oceanside where we will leave the boat. Joan has invited us to stay at her house in Dana Point. From there, we can visit Los Angeles and southern California. We look forward to it. After Oceanside, we may stop in Mission Bay or go directly to San Diego to obtain our Mexican fishing license and reciprocal ham license. After that, we will finally enter Mexico, probably around mid-November.

Santa Cruz Island

October 18, 2000. Santa Cruz Island, California. Location: N 34 deg. 0′, W 119 deg. 41′. Sunny afternoon. NW winds.

Yesterday morning we left San Miguel Island after a windy then rolly night. We were hoping to find a more restful anchorage on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. I was disappointed not to see the caliche forest on San Miguel (which we had planned to see on the second day of our visit)but on the other hand I was not exactly eager for another beach landing. The forecast also suggested higher winds and swells and we needed a good night sleep. Caliche are sand stone castings of ancient tree trunks.
So we motor-sailed to Santa Cruz, a 6 hour trip and found a small calm anchorage behind a cliff. We were protected from the wind by the entire island and had only a little bit of southeast swell during the night.

Dscf0104Dscf0095Dscf0093Today, we tried to dry the clothing which had been soaked in salt water and went hiking on Santa Cruz. We saw wild pigs, one of which has learned to wait on the beach for visitors who feed him, and the Santa Cruz Scrub Jay who lives nowhere else. We had “happy hour” with a California couple in the same anchorage who had cruised the south Pacific 18 years ago in a 29 foot plywood boat!
Tomorrow, at 3 AM, we are leaving for Santa Catalina Island.

San Miguel Island

October 17, 2000. San Miguel Island. N 34 deg 04′, W 120 deg 21′. Wind: 20 to 30 knots at 9PM. The day was mostly foggy until late afternoon.

We sailed overnight from Port San Luis to San Miguel Island. We motored about two third of the way, sailing between Point Arguello and the Santa Barbara channel. It was foggy most of the way which is typical of days (or nights) with low winds on this coast. We had to choose between fog and winds below 20 knots at Point Conception or a clear sky and much higher winds and the associated higher waves. We chose the fog. This option was not really available to sailors a decade earlier but with radar, GPS and a chart plotter, we can sail by instruments very well. The hardest part of the trip was crossing the Santa Barbara channel with its intense commercial traffic. Clark had to pay close attention to the radar and had to alter course several times to avoid fast moving freighters and even an aircraft carrier. I had the luck of having 5 minutes of clearing sky so I could see one of the offshore oil drilling platform lit like a Christmas tree. I also saw dolphins but don’t ask which kind: they were black shadows jumping alongside the boat, in the fog.

Dscf0076We arrived at San Miguel Island still in a thick fog and entered the anchorage using instruments only. We anchored without seeing the shore which was just 50 yards(about 50 meters) away! Then we went to bed to catch up on our sleep. In the afternoon, the fog cleared very slowly and we discovered a beautiful anchorage with turquoise water, white sand beaches and rugged slopes. We had called the ranger station upon arrival to ask if we could join a hike. Since we were the only visitors, the ranger, Ian, said we could come anytime in the afternoon. Ian took us to Cardwell Point to see the relatively rare elephant seals. The male bulls were still in Alaska and the females in the Pacific foraging but the young (1 to 5 years old) were on the beach, throwing sand on their back to cool down, playing in the waves or play acting territorial fights. Their bizarre floppy nose appendage enables them to produce some interesting sounds. Also, unlike the California sea lion (seen in Seattle), these seals move like caterpillars on the beach. It is very funny. The island is covered with grass and brushes, some of it still flowering. Ian was very knowledgeable and told us about the island foxes recovery program (different specie from mainland), the habits of elephants seals and sea lions, the history of the island, etc. It was a very enjoyable hike.Dscf0086Dscf0078Unfortunately, the hike ended in a near disaster as we tried to take the dinghy through the surf to return to the boat at dusk. Clark was trying to keep me dry but in the process got tumbled in the surf by a large wave, along with the dinghy. The dinghy got filled with water, making it difficult to pull back on the beach. In the future, we will both push it in the water, past the breaking waves, before entering it, which means wading in cold water. It will be easier in Mexico when we will be wearing shorts and sandals and the water will be warm. So we were drenched, our camera and hiking boots were wet and the wind was picking up quickly in the anchorage making the row back particularly hard. And it does not even look like we will have a restful night with the high winds (20 to 30 knots) sweeping the anchorage. San Miguel is known for them but we were hoping to be sparred since the forecast was mild. We will remember this island!Dscf0089

San Luis Obispo

October 16, 2000.

Today we played cricket! Some of the Canadian cruisers we have been meeting along the way invited us to a game of beach cricket. Interesting game. Lends itself well to a mixed group of people looking for a pick up game. We played without teams where everyone was in the outfield except for the one who was hitting. Each person counted his own runs. (not that we really counted)
This should be our last day at Port San Luis. We will be leaving for San Miguel Island this evening. We will be leaving in the evening from here to round Point Conception at about 3 in the morning. Point Conception has a nasty reputation for wind and waves. Often referred to as the Cape Horn of the Pacific (a bit of an exaggeration), it is a place where central and southern California weather meet. It is known to be at it’s calmest at 3am so we will be trying to hit it at that time. After rounding Point Conception we plan to give most of southern california a miss and head instead for San Miguel Island.

San Miguel is a wind swept bit of an island where all of the species of SeaLions and Seals on the west coast breed. Even the 4 ton elephant seal. We are looking forward to a hike around this island. We aren’t really looking forward to it’s wind. We understand that sheep were put there many years ago. They overgrazed, as sheep will do if left to themselves on an island. The wind is so strong that trees are unable to get started before being blown over, so the island is mostly covered with scrubs and sand dunes.
After a couple of days at San Miguel we expect to travel over Santa Rosa island and then under Santa Cruz island and anchor for the night on it’s south shore. Then on to Santa Catalina island.

Today I made bread because our supply was getting a little low. Port San Luis is the local port managing the harbor and does not supply groceries. The only town right on the bay is Avila Beach and it is currently being rebuilt after a major oil cleanup required removal of half the houses and businesses (and excavation and replacement of the anchorage bottom!) . The businesses have not yet re-opened so no groceries or laundry facilities were available. San Simeon did not have bread and fresh produce either. So it has been about a week without grocery shopping. It is not a problem since the boat is well stocked but I had expected to buy fresh bread on the way and had not stocked on bread in Monterey. It is sometimes a little weird not to be able to depend on your neigborhood supermarket.