Channel Islands to San Diego

OK I’m a little behind, so I will try to get caught up. I don’t want to spoil the ending of this entry, but I’m writing from the comfort of our new slip in Chula Vista…

I last left you at Santa Cruz Island, no? We got up at 3:30am and prepared the boat for a long day trip to Catalina Island. The wind had calmed down and it was, well, dark. We headed off and I got to see the dark mass of Anacapa Island as we approached. I had really wanted to see it in the daylight, but, you can’t have everything. I wasn’t feeling the greatest (not seasick, thankfully – more misery of feminine persuasion) so I had a lie down after we’d gotten on track and were on our way. It was pretty rough and when I finally got up and looked up into the cockpit, it looked kind of scary out there. REALLY big waves following and passing us. I had a split second of “I’m not going out there! Can I just go back and lie down until we get there??” But I put on my shoes (it was pretty wet in the cockpit) and came out. We had a nice strong tailwind pushing us along, but nothing overpowering. I took the helm as we decided whether to reef or not. It took me a little while to get used to the giant waves picking us up – and I had a little reminder that I’m vaguely afraid of heights. We decided not to reef and ended up just rolling up the jib and sailing with the main. We were making 6+ knots (sometimes 9 going down the face of a wave!) and were able to stay on course better without the jib noisily begging for more wind. Unfortunately we were not quite downwind enough to use our new whisker pole. Someday!

There was not much to see on most of this trip, just a lot of waves, a weather buoy and a dead bird. This would be a good time to fill you in on all the stuff we kept hearing on the VHF. Ever since passing Point Conception, and the farther south we’ve gone, there have been more and more radio transmissions such as this:

“Attention white hulled power vessel to our starboard side. This is the US warship 3715. You are in an area of live fire. You must turn to starboard immediately and go 13 knots away”


General Securité announcement from a warship giving coordinates of an area to be avoided as there would be “live fire”. Kind of unsettling. Never heard anything like that up in our little bubble world of Monterey Bay!

The day got nicer and nicer and the waves got less and less scary. We ended up using Betty (the Monitor Windvane – aka “Steady Betty”) for a good part of the journey. Up until then we’ve been so enamoured with Moses – our CPT Autopilot -that we hadn’t hooked up Betty. It’s a bit of a process to get her hooked up (getting a quick connect set up is on the list for San Diego projects) – but in big seas and wind, her tracking and movement is very nice and gentle. Moses is all about keeping us on course and getting us to the Promised Anchorage – and SO easy to use – turn him on, pop the wheel in and flip the ‘hold course’ switch. Go about your business doing something other than steering. He requires almost no power. LOVE him. But Betty uses no power and actually does an excellent job keeping us on course as well. LOVE her! I guess we are lucky to have 2 such great crew members. They never complain, either. We do have to remember to look up now and then to make sure we aren’t going to hit another boat or something. Not sure how we’d do without autopilots though – I got about 2 hours in me and I start to get distracted and wander off course. Jonny’s got about 5 minutes in him before he turns on Moses to go do something else (as you might guess, I’m usually the one at the helm).

Cherry Cove

It was just beautiful as we approached Catalina Island. It is a beautiful island. It is also populated and there were a lot more boats than we’d seen in a while. And cell phone signals and such. Yes, we were getting back to civilization. Kind of exciting, and a little sad, too. My iphone got so over-excited after a few weeks of no signals- that I thought it was going to catch fire. I finally just stuck it in the fridge and ignored it.

Summerat Catalina

As we approached the anchorages at Two Harbors, Jonny said “Was that someone calling us on the radio?”. Of course not, I thought! But sure enough, Ken and Michelle – who we’d met at Johnsons Lee on Santa Rosa Island were hailing us. They were anchored at Cherry Cove and saw us sailing by. They said we should call the harbor and request a mooring at Cherry Cove near them. It looked nice enough so we did just that. The harbor assured us that we would get some assistance with the mooring. After doing loops in the wrong mooring field wondering where our help was, we discovered we were not in fact in Cherry Cove. We zipped over to the next cove and saw our guy in a little powerboat waiting for us. We following him through what is basically a parking lot for boats. Catalina MooringlotWe found our mooring ball, C8 labeled “Destiny”. The kid in the boat who was supposed to be helping us was clearly already clocked out. I got us up to the mooring ball and he told Jonny to grab this buoy with a tall stake coming out of the top. It had all kinds of lines attached to it. Jonny tried to affix one of them to our bow cleat. The guy said nothing, until finally: “Drop everything and circle around while I fix all these lines”. Apparently something wasn’t done right –and we missed the tutorial on “How to Get a Mooring At Catalina Island”. We did a loop around and tried again, Jonny felt sure he knew what to do this time. He fumbled with it again, and secured the bow line. But then we discovered there is another line that you are supposed to walk aft and secure to the back of the boat. By the time unhelpful punk told us this, we were in danger of hitting the giant power boat next to us – so he bumped us with his boat and secured a line to our aft to pull us out of danger. We finally got all secured and the kid zipped off without another word. I went up to the bow to look at what-all was going on up there. I heard someone yelling “Don’t worry! I got the whole thing on video!”. It was Ken, we were just a row behind and a few boats back from them.

Ken swam over with a ziplock bag containing a booklet about Catalina Island. There were the missing instructions on how to pick up a mooring… Who knew?!? He invited us to come over for a drink after we’d settled in. They were going to make a big trip to San Diego leaving at 4:00am the next morning.

The water was so clear we could easily see the bottom 10 ft below us. And it was SO warm. We had to jump in. We snorkeled around the boat and looked at this mooring situation and tried to go to the bottom. I cannot go to the bottom EVER. Apparently MY bottom is a PFD. Just call me Titanic Butt. It is unsinkable. No matter how hard I try to dive, my butt pulls me straight to the surface. I demonstrated this for Jonny, who was watching underwater. He started laughing so hard I thought he was going to drown.

After our swim, Jonny decided he was too beat to get back in the water and swim over to Ken and Michelle’s boat (our dinghy was not inflated) and didn’t want to swim back in the dark. I did want to at least bring them some muffins for their trip. I had baked some chocolate chip cherry muffins the day before and they came out darn tasty, if I do say so myself.muffins I put them in the ziplock and in a dry bag, which I strapped to my bathing suit top. I had a nice swim/snorkel over to Ken and Michelle’s boat. And what a gorgeous boat it is – Hylas 49. The back is all steps and as I climbed up, Ken offered me the shower handle with a nice warm water rinse off. He said to use as much as I wanted – they had just made 150 gallons of water that day! I just wanted to wish them a safe journey and offer up the muffins, but Ken was so hospitable (boatbitable?) that I was lured in with a towel and seat in the cockpit and offers of beverages. Michelle came up and we all chatted for a while and then they invited me down for a boat tour. This is their 4th boat over the years and clearly they put their hearts into the design and subsequent care. It was simply gorgeous – like what you’d see at a boat show. They showed me some pictures of their early days of sailing back on their Ranger 33 – they’ve had some wild adventures down in the Channel Islands over the years. They insisted on giving me a lovely bottle of pinot grigio to take back. It just fit in the dry bag. It was starting to get dark as I donned my snorkel and dry bag and jumped off the back of their boat.   I heard the folks who’d just moored next to them asking “What IS she doing?!”.

It was a little on the chilly side when Jonny was helping drag me back up into the boat (boarding ladder solution – on the list!). I rinsed off and put some warm comfy clothes on and made our lasagna and salad. It was nice and stable being moored, something we very much appreciated after 4 nights of being anchored in gale force winds. We slept well and woke up ready for our next big adventure – right into the mouth of the second busiest seaport in the United States – Long Beach. We had to cross shipping lanes and an area marked “Caution Zone” on the chart. It was a beautiful day and the seas were peaceful. But we did have to motorsail. I took advantage of civilization’s luxuries and had a nice long talk with my sister on the way over.

Jonny homecoming

As we started getting close, we noticed we were on a collision course with a giant container ship. Altering our course seemed like a good idea. We zig-zagged back and forth to avoid this container ship and a giant oil tanker after that. We finally fell in behind both of them to enter into the harbor. It was hard to get my head around the fact that every little box on that container ship was actually going to be a truck on the highway. Tanker and ContainerWe passed a huge Princess cruise ship and the Queen Mary on the way in to Shoreline Marina. We docked at the office and went in to get a slip. They wanted all kinds of information and paperwork, blood samples, fingerprints (ok, not really). And it was expensive! Close to $40/night. We got stuck in the back with a bunch of derelict boats. We were right near a huge beach and the bathrooms/showers were really nice there (realized it had been 9 days since a real shower). But we were excited to be at a dock again and get to visit with Jonny’s family.   Unfortunately, I had a bit of a migraine (too much sun? too much container-tanker excitement? Not enough water?) and 2 days on the water had worn me out a bit. I was in no shape for visiting – wanted to shower, do laundry and sleep. So that’s what I did. Jonny went out with his sister-in-law Renee and the kids –and visited with his brother –and spent the night at their house. I was doing laundry until almost 11pm, so I didn’t get that early sleep I’d hoped for – but we had 4 loads of clean clothes. It was my first time staying on the boat alone. I became acutely aware of the fact there was no way to lock myself in (yes, it’s on the list for San Diego!).

Summer in the City

The next morning Jonny got my car, which had been darkening the driveway at Zac and Renee’s house for several weeks now. He picked me and then his Mom up and headed over to Ma n’ Pa’s Grocery – Zac and Renee’s awesome store. Zac made us all whatever we wanted for breakfast. I thing migraines make me hungry – I ate an entire 4 egg omelet. We then caravanned over to the park to watch 5 year old Paulyne score the only goal in her first-ever soccer game! Paulyne Post GameWe had several hours before Cole was to have a soccer game – so we convinced everyone to come hang out on Summer. It had been a couple weeks since we bought groceries, but I scrounged up some snack and we hung out on Summer. I forget which one of us had the brilliant idea to keep the kids from getting bored…but we hoisted Cole up to the top of the mast and let him hang out there for a while.Cole Up Mast Paulyne got hoisted just above the boom and that was far enough for her! Back to the park we watched the 10 year old boys pounding the field in a victorious game for Cole’s team. Renee had to work all day and missed out on the fun, but that didn’t stop her from whipping up an amazing short rib and pasta feast for us for dinner. Jonny had some ‘quality time’ rough-housing with Cole and Paulyne until I finally dragged him away, half asleep.


Sunday was work day – get the boat ready for the last 2 legs of this shakedown cruise. I don’t know why, but boat time seems to go by faster than normal time. Somehow it took us all day to get done what we needed to. But we got to have one last evening with Zac, Renee, Cole and Paulyne out for dinner.  When we returned to the boat, I almost stepped on something on the deck.  It turned out to be 2 Snickers bars rolled up in plastic wrap – with 2 napkins.  One said “Have a Snicker’s trip. Curtiss”  Curtiss is a guy who lives at the end of the dock we were on.  Jonny talked with him for quite a while, I guess he’s been living there for 45 years.  He wears a face mask as he’s very sensitive to scents – but I’m pretty sure he smiled at me a couple times…  It was a very sweet gesture, or, possibly a little creepy – I mean, what exactly IS a “snicker’s trip”.  We checked the wrappings carefully before ingesting and I’m pretty sure Jonny didn’t hallucinate (I didn’t eat any – not because I was afraid!).


Jonny snickers

We were up before dawn on Monday ready to head out on a long day to Oceanside. Got to see a nice sunrise over the beach before we left.  LongBeach sunrise Leaving Long Beach was decidedly more calm and peaceful than the tanker and containership filled entrance. We did see a few big ships at anchor as we passed out the jaws. We passed closely by a couple oil platforms and there was lots more warships on the VHF and weird helicopters around. Oil platformJonny had fun naming all the places we were passing – all the surf spots he went to when he was younger. It was a pretty uneventful passage – we even got to sail a little! It was the calm and sunny sailing I imagined So. Cal to be all along.

Jenn leaving LB


As complicated as it was to rent a slip in Long Beach, our stay in Oceanside was the exact opposite. I made a call down to the Port Captain and we had a very nice chat. He gave me instructions on what dock we could tie up to and where we could find a clipboard to sign in and a key we could borrow for showers and bathrooms. No charge. He even invited us to a pot luck for Monday night football at the yacht club. We got in after 5pm and just had a relaxing evening – chatting with others on the dock and enjoying our dinner on board (not football fans…). Oceanside (the harbor anyway) had a sweet, smalltown feel to it – if you could ignore the distant thunderous booms coming from over the hill at Camp Pendleton (war games?).

We got a later start than we wanted on Tuesday – no real excuse for that – except that it was kind of fogged in and I guess it made us lazy. It was clearing by the time we left and we had a nice motor – sail. We saw a number of pods of dolphins – smaller and pudgier than the ones we’re used to. And the jumped REALLY high out of the water. These must have been show dolphins trying to get scouted for the movies or Sea World…

Biggest fish caught so far - we let it go. Probably a Bonito?
Biggest fish caught so far – we let it go. Probably a Bonito?

As we passed Point Loma and were about to enter San Diego Bay, we decided to stray from our charted course and cut the corner a little. I guess we were anxious to get in there. Unfortunately our path took us through a minefield of kelp. I ended up on the bow pointing frantically in one direction or the other as we wove our way through it all. We managed not to get our prop tangled up.

It was exciting to be entering the bay and seeing things we recognized from our past visits.San Diego Skyline I called over to Chula Vista Marina and got explicit instructions for getting there. We even had our slip number so we could go straight ‘home’, since it would be after-hours.   The bay was an overwhelming circus of sailboats, power boats, ferry boats, military boats, SO many helicopters buzzing around. We sailed as much as we could until the bay took a turn and the wind was too behind us. We pulled in the jib and kept the main tight as we motored. We tried to stay in the fairway, going from buoy to buoy. At one point, while trying to get lined up right to go under the Coronado Bridge, we looked behind us – something we apparently had been forgetting to do… There was a huge tour boat right off my aft quarter. I’m pretty sure I’d just cut them off. Oops.Cut off boat

I knew we were going to fit under the Coronado Bridge, but still, there was that moment as we approached when it just didn’t LOOK like we’d make it. It’s not the prettiest bridge out there- super tall and way too skinny. Somebody give that bridge a burger!

Made it under the Coronado Bridge
Made it under the Coronado Bridge

Once on the other side things got a little less busy and a whole lot more military. There was a huge tour boat coming straight at me and I had to veer off to the left to avoid a head on – I think that was the same boat I probably cut off – trying to get back at me. As we counted our buoys to make sure we turned at the right spot so as not to run aground, we passed by a huge row of warships. Gigantic, grey hulks looming ominously to our left. It just felt creepy going by them. I could almost feel death wafting off of them. Warships

We later learned the huge number of helicopters was due to this being the largest Naval base in the US. This is where all the Navy Seals come to train. Interesting way to learn about what’s going on in the world…I guess we’re gearing up for more war! The helicopters went on loudly, in great numbers into the evening.

We arrived in Chula Vista and I squeezed Summer into her new slip without incident. It was too late to take care of any business, but the dockmaster had left us keys and info (and wifi passwords!) to get us through the night. We went on a walkabout, seeing what our keys could open. We have access to everything in the RV park right next to the marina. There’s a pool, hot tub, gym, little store, propane refills and super clean and nice bathrooms and showers everywhere. hot tubEverything is manicured and well kept and very secure. It was too late to get our propane filled and we were pretty sure it wouldn’t last through another dinner. We had no choice but to eat out at The Galley at the Marina restaurant. We celebrated “making it”. To be honest, I think we were both a little surprised to actually be at this destination we’d talked about for so long. It kind of didn’t seem real. We had a soak in the hot tub and the best night sleep ever.

Summer new home

We’ve been here almost a week now. Monday and Tuesday must be helicopter training nights – after our first night it’s been quiet until tonight. We’ve just been trying to get oriented to our new surroundings and get our project lists together and get to work. We have a huge list of things to accomplish to be ready for our REAL cruising life outside the US. We plan to leave here after the hurricane season subsides – which seems like it might be later than usual this year ? We shall see. For now, the adventures will be few and far between. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about our exciting trip to pump out our holding tank this morning or how I am now scarred for life thanks to a heat gun…so posts may be a little less frequent.CV sunset


Santa Barbara to Channel Islands

We fueled up and pumped out and were ready to (reluctantly) leave Santa Barbara. It was a really nice harbor – well kept and very easy to maneuver in. But we resisted the urge to spend a bunch more money and stay longer. The islands called to us!

Our desired course (surprise surprise) took us right into the wind. We motored all the way through the shipping channels. It was foggy and there was no visibility. It was also kind of rough going.   I got hungry and started to make black bean tacos for us as we started to cross the shipping channel. We were hitting some steep angles so I also tried to get Jonny to take some pictures (I have this crazy idea I want to get a “Mystery Spot” type photo because it looks so funny when you’re trying to stand upright inside the boat, but the rest of the boat is at a wild angle…). It was all a little too much for the Captain, who was sure we were going to get run over by huge boats when crossing the lanes (I was really cutting into his panic time). The AIS on our chart plotter showed that we were in no danger of being run over by container ships and it was too foggy to see otherwise. In fact we saw pretty much nothing all the way across. It was kind of dull, but it WASN’T cold, which I duly noted and appreciated. We finally got to sail on the approach to Santa Cruz Island. Found our first anchorage – Fourney’s Cove. It was sort of pretty in a Moon meets Ireland meets drought sort of way. And still pretty foggy.Fourneys The best place to anchor happened to be kind of on top of a gathering of buoys set out by a urchin fisherman to store his catch for the night.Urchin Guy He came over and said Hi to us and in the morning we got front row seats watching him load everything onto his boat. He chatted with us a while and we learned a lot more about the islands and where to go and what to expect. He’d been working these waters since 1974. He’s also written a book we will look for to be published eventually – called Diving the Devil’s Teeth. Unfortunately we didn’t get his name, but he was a really nice guy.


In the morning we decided to head over to Santa Rosa Island. We’d read that Johnsons Lee anchorage was nice. The urchin man confirmed “It’ll be sunny there when it’s foggy everywhere else”. That clinched it for me!

We had a rousing sail across Santa Cruz channel – big wind, waves and speed and even caught a mackerel (first catch) on the way. JonnyFirstFishJohnson’s Lee was even better than expected. Warm and sunny and pretty. I finally had a chance to jump overboard for a swim and snorkel. I even decided to let Pierre come out of hiding for a dip.Jenn Pierre Jump

Another boat was anchored there – we met them the next day when they paddled their kayaks over to say Hi – Ken and Michelle from Santa Cruz (!) aboard KeMiRa, a gorgeous Hylas 49. They have been visiting Channel Islands every year for 30 years now. They had some good tips and info from all their experiences, too. Ken described the anchorage as ‘living in a 9.5 earthquake all the time.” Yeah, that is a good description of life on the hook…


We were just going to spend one night, but it was so nice there and we could see clouds settled over Santa Cruz island…why go back? Best to stay put where sunshine is guaranteed! Jonny dove down on the anchor to check it out. Funny thing, it was just lying there, on the bottom of the ocean, not dug into the sand or anything. The chain was buried, but the anchor? Nah. Of course he wished he hadn’t seen that. He didn’t sleep for 2 nights. But the boat never went anywhere. I think the kelp the chain wrapped around held us.

On the 3rd day we headed back across to Santa Cruz Island. The channel crossing got really windy! Around 25 knot winds and some rough waves – but all in the right direction for a change! We had a fun ride. The nice thing down here is when a wave smacks you over the boat, you don’t freeze to death! You just laugh and eventually dry off.   Did I mention I liked the climate down here?

We went to an anchorage that was supposedly one of the best – Coches Prietos (black pigs?). I guess everyone knew it was the best – there were about 8 other boats when we arrived and several more showed up (including a power boat that anchored directly behind us). It was also pretty rough and rolly, which meant the captain lost another night of sleep. Go figure – for months prior to leaving on this trip, I didn’t sleep a wink out of anxiety and stress and Jonny slept fine…now that we’re here, I sleep like a baby, rocked to sleep every night. Poor Jonny is a wreck, worrying that we’re going to drag anchor every night (we’ve never come close – our Manson Supreme anchor, 60 ft of chain and however many hundred ft of rode we need seems to do just fine, even in above-gale-force winds (that’s right, keep reading…).

We met a guy named Casey when we were swimming at Coches – he came over in his dinghy because he thought I was in trouble. I was trying to make rope loops off the back of the Monitor to climb up the back of the boat (I have a hard time using the so-called ladder we have). He spends several months out on his boat and he claimed to be sort of a recluse (not interested in attending the upcoming Buccaneer Days at Catalina, etc.). But he was always buzzing around in his dinghy talking to everyone. He seemed to know all the dirt of the anchorage. The Neighborhood Watch, if you will.   We had a sort of unpleasant night, swinging around, narrowly missing all the other boats around us. Even I got worried at one point! We decided to hit the road the next morning. It just wasn’t all that, there! We couldn’t even go ashore since it was in the restricted part of the island. We decided to put our dinghy together and tow it behind us, so we’d be ready to put out a stern anchor – which is required at Scorpion Bay.

We zipped around close to shore and enjoyed the view of the island and Jonny tried a little fishing (caught a little mackerel but threw it back). We were headed to Little Scorpion around the other side of the island. We passed by Yellow Banks and Smuggler’s Cove – just gorgeous and sunny little coves right next to each other. We rounded the corner and the cliffs got steep and tall and the water rough with white caps from the increased wind. We bashed through it for about 10 minutes and then thought “what are we doing?!”. It was going to be super windy there, and we just passed 2 gorgeous, peaceful coves. We turned around and hightailed it back to Smuggler’s Cove. Just for fun (!) we decided to put out our Danforth as a stern anchor. After we’d anchored, Jonny rowed out in the dinghy with the Danforth and dropped it. The boat no longer could swing around, and we stayed pointed into the swell. It was pretty comfortable. We were enjoying a very warm pleasant evening in the cockpit and discussing our anchor situation, etc. Jonny was worried about something and I said “Well, it’s not like we’re going to have a gale!”. His eyes got wide and he knocked on the teak. And, I swear I am not making this up, not 30 seconds later the wind picked up. A LOT. It blew and it blew HARD for a good 3+ hours! We were laughing so hard (and I have been forbidden to speak like that again). Luckily the wind was on our nose so it was quite pleasant behind the dodger. We just listened to music and looked at the stars until the wind decided to calm down and we could sleep.

In the morning I attempted my 2nd go at making bread (with fresh yeast this time). Jonny decided he wanted to pull up the stern anchor and see what it would be like NOT having it out that night. We weren’t really sure how you pull up a stern anchor. Kind of wish we’d thought of that before we tossed it out there.   Jonny rowed the dinghy out there and could pull it out. He dove down on it and it was completely buried up to the chain and there was no way to dig it out. We should’ve watched more YouTube videos on “How to Retrieve a Stern Anchor”. Jonny tied the dinghy to the anchor line and swam back to the boat. We debated for a bit on what we should do and how. Finally decided to pull the bow anchor up and bring the boat over to the other anchor and pull it up with the windlass on the bow. We finally got it up and re-anchored with just the bow. That took up half of an entire day (and I managed to have my bread rise and get it baked in the midst of all this – it came out good! I really need a real bread pan tho.).

fresh breadbutter

I was itching to go ashore and walk around. There were some trails we could see and an olive orchard on a hillside. We thought maybe we could even hike to the top of the mountain and see over to Scorpion on the other side. There was really no place we could see to land a dinghy on shore. There was no beach, just lots and lots of softball sized rocks. And it was steep, like, straight up from the water. And a really strong shore break. But waaaay down at the other end seemed like there might be a spot. Jonny TOLD me it wasn’t a good idea, but I at least wanted to TRY, it looked like it got really shallow near shore (it didn’t) and it looked like there was a little flat sandy spot to land (there wasn’t)… so we rowed over there in the dinghy. The waves were not really breaking at the far end near the outer cliff of the cove. As we got closer and I saw how steep it really was, I was suddenly wanting to just go back to the boat… I didn’t want to do it. But I had whined about it so much that there was no way Jonny was turning us around…he said it would be fine. We did manage to land it OK and not get rolled (although it was waist deep when I jumped out near ‘shore’). The waves helped us get the dinghy straight up the rocks (they were all smooth and round, not jagged, but pretty big and hard to walk on). The dinghy was safe and I had managed (barely) not to pee myself in the landing. We had a long, hot walk just to get to the main spot with the sign and trail up the hill (and, as it turns out, a trail back into a campground). We walked up the hill and got some great views. It was blisteringly hot (so hot my phone even started whining about it’s temperature and stopped working – but I did manage to get some pix). Summer from SC IslandThe wind started to pick up a little. And so did the waves. The little spot we landed where the waves weren’t breaking? Yeah, it was gone. Waves were breaking everywhere now. The departure was even more terrifying than the landing. We had to hold the dinghy and run straight down the rocks to the water and wait for exactly the right moment to shove it in and jump on. Luckily, Jonny is expert at calling these moments. I would’ve just stood there sniveling and freaking out for hours. We made it in and were paddling past the point of danger. It was fine. Except. Jonny had lost his flip flop in the frey. I had to hold us in position while he swam back for it (do you know how much those flip flops cost?!?).   The wind tried to carry me off and I got a little flustered at the whole rowing thing, but I finally got it together and rowed back to pick up Jonny. The wind was getting stronger and stronger. We rowed along shore until we were a little past Summer and then headed out for her. The wind and waves were so strong we were very careful to not overshoot – as there was a chance we could blow past her and not be able to get back. We came barreling at her – aimed for the bow so we had a chance to grab on before we went too far. We got safely back on board and settled down a bit. The wind just got stronger and stronger and we had upwards of 35 knots blowing for almost the entire evening. Without a stern anchor we rolled around quite a bit more, but no dragging.

SC Island Smugglers View

The next day we decided to moved over to Yellow Banks and see if it was calmer there. We ended up staying 2 more nights over there. Two more nights of gale forces winds that started earlier each day. On the first night at Yellow Banks we were kind of getting used to the winds. The rigging was howling and the boat was rocking violently…and we were quietly down below – Jonny with his power drill installing a new LED light strip to give us better lighting in the v-berth area, and me cooking up beef and noodles to make a lasagna. I’m not sure how smart it was doing all that cooking when the “wind chill factor” was 90 degrees. But we gotta eat, right? After I put away the leftovers and filled the pan with soap and water, I realized a new benefit to the rocky boat situation. Our dishes wash themselves (I have video of the soapy water sloshing around in the pan. It was practically clean by morning!).

We took a dinghy ride around to get a closer look at some of the islands great volcanic rock structures (and have been practicing with the GoPro!).DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

There were several boats in Yellow Banks, including Casey, Neighborhood Watch from Coches. A guy in a little sailing dinghy was sailing and rowing around, he came over to say Hi. Alex was a young guy from Sausalito, taking his Cal 29 down to Marina Del Rey. It was his first time single-handing and he was very excited and enthusiastic about it. He was also anchored extremely close to shore, but it seemed OK.? He mentioned something about wanting to go hiking ashore (maybe we were interested? I didn’t say anything at the time as it wasn’t really an invitation, but I remember thinking “go ashore again? Yeah I don’t think so”. Yellow Banks shore was far more treacherous looking than Smuggler’s.

The next day we were just chilling and preparing for a big sail down to Catalina the day after. We got the dinghy cleaned up and stowed and things looking pretty ‘ship shape’ by 2pm, which was good because the winds came up at 2:15 pm! (it was like someone turned on a switch).   Casey was visiting us in his dinghy, telling us about all the experiences he’s had. I kept being distracted by someone on the shore. I thought at first it might be a sweeper from the nearby powerboat (“sweepers” are what we call stand up paddle boarders – they look like they’re sweeping…). Then I realized it was someone with a dinghy. I interrupted Casey and said “It looks like someone is on the shore and they don’t look to be OK…”. We got the binos and sure enough, it was Alex and his sailing dinghy. The dinghy was upside down on the rocks and it looked like a yardsale trailing behind. Casey raced over in his dinghy, but couldn’t safely get close to shore. The wind was just getting stronger and stronger. He called the Coast Guard on his VHF that he had in his dinghy. Luckily there was a big USCG boat moored at Smuggler’s Cove. They sent out a big red dinghy with 4 guys. We tuned the radio to Channel 16 so we could hear what was going on. They couldn’t safely get to shore either, so they just hovered around and made sure Alex didn’t try to get into the water again. Alex was dragging his dinghy around, picking up the pieces and wandering around. We weren’t really sure what he was doing. The USCG ended up calling the National Park Service, since Alex was on NPS land. They couldn’t get to where he was, so they ended up sending a helicopter to retrieve him, which took a couple hours to arrive. We kept wondering if he was going to try to relaunch his dinghy? Or if the USCG guys could get close enough to call out to him, or if the helicopter was going to try to airlift him out or what?!? Casey kept chiming in on the radio, offering “helpful local knowledge”. Who needs TV?!?!?! The helicopter did arrive, and landed on the top of a hill. Two guys scrambled down to the shore and talked with Alex. Apparently he agreed to go on the helicopter to Scorpion Bay, where they had a pier. The USCG then would need to go there and get him and bring him back to his boat. They were hesitant due to the 40 knot winds and said he may need to stay there overnight.  We noticed later in the dark they did appear to return him to his boat. We never got the rest of the story, since we were planning to leave at 4:30 am the next morning (too bad we couldn’t TiVo it).

Check out these winds – and yes, we were at anchor, not underway!

GaleForce YellowBanks


Point Conception/Cojo to Santa Barbara

Time is beginning to turn into that blur that happens to people without a schedule or appointments or plans in the real world. What day is it? How long have we been here? Didn’t you just post a blog entry? No, that was 6 days ago…

Figured I’d do another one before we head out to Santa Cruz Island tomorrow. I think we are going to try to circumnavigate it and then visit Anacapa Island before finally making serious efforts to get to San Diego. There seems to be a lot of anchorages around Santa Cruz Island (although we can’t go ashore in most of it without a permit, which we don’t have), so we will check them out and see what all the fuss is about with these Channel Islands.

Cojo View
View from Cojo Anchorage

We spent 3 nights in Cojo, just past Point Conception. It felt pretty remote but there was a world class wave there (Perko’s) that is only visited by people who live in the ranch area there. It wasn’t very crowded and Jonny just had to jump over board and paddle out to it. The first couple days were overcast and I wasn’t all that excited to be there. The cliffs looked sparse and kind of boring. The lack of sea life and birds made it all feel even more remote and dull. I spent much-needed time figuring out the SSB radio, making contacts and finally being able to send email and get weather information through it. This will be critical when we are out of cell range (tomorrow??). I asked Don, one of the Net Controllers on the InterCon net I check into if there was anyone who could help me with the set up of WinLink2000 (the Ham program available to me since I got my General Amateur license). He sent out word and finally found someone in Florida- Ron -and connected us. Ron talked to me on the phone and walked me through everything. It was amazingly helpful and both Don and Ron were so generous with their time in assisting me.   Quite a big part of this life change –I’m asking other people for and receiving their help!!! So grateful it’s out there

Cojo SunriseCojo Sunrise

The sun finally came out at Cojo and I was getting antsy from being on the boat so long. Jonny stuffed me into my wetsuit and threw me overboard with a surfboard and made me paddle to shore with him. (OK, he may have let me hold onto his leash and towed me most of the way…). As we approached shore I could see how big the breaking waves were. I may have gotten a little scared… Very weird to approach a beach from the water, having no idea what you’re coming onto. As the waves got bigger and scarier, Jonny suggested I get off the board and swim for it. Fast. Because “It would be safer that way”. Implying there was danger, either way. I saw a huge wave about to break on me and at least I knew enough to just dive back through it. I made it to shore quite out of breath (hyperventilating with panic? No, certainly not). Also not used to a wetsuit and I’m sure it was trying to strangle me. After I caught my breath we had a nice walk on the beach. There were 2 wrecked sailboats. One of them, “Gingerbread”, was torn in half – it’s bow end being a good 25 ft from it’s stern. Farther down, an Ericson 30 was beached, missing part of it’s keel and stripped of most everything else. When we first saw that one from shore, we thought maybe there would be some parts or something to scavenge off it. Walking around it and touching the hull, I felt some weird creepiness and sadness, like I was seeing a dead body.   I didn’t feel quite so detached from a wrecked sailboat on a beach as I once might have.


We walked a ways down the windswept coast, my eyes glued to the sand and shells, Jonny’s eyes glued to the amazing waves. Looking out at Summer on anchor from shore, she looked very tiny, just bobbing around in the big sea. After a brief rest in the sun we hopped on the boards and paddled back to Summer. She was waiting patiently. Unfortunately we were not able to get a good swim ladder before we left, so we had this crappy rope/plastic thing. Not easy to get back home with that! And the wind had picked up quite a bit and it was rocking and rolling (not in a good way). We got all safe and washed off. I managed to wash my hair over the side of the boat and have a freshwater rinse down. And the wind was so strong by this time, I stood out on the stern and got a “blow dry” for my hair.


The next day we decided to head down to another anchorage called Sacate, about 8 miles away. It was supposedly ‘more protected’ there with the kind of wind and swell we were expecting (Note to self and others – never trust that Brian Fagan guy…why are we still using his book??).   It was a beautiful and sunny day and our spot actually looked pretty to me. I think living in Santa Cruz has kind of spoiled me. I think I can safely say that Santa Cruz and Capitola are far and away the most beautiful spots on the CA coastline. We sailed off in a warm(ish) breeze to find anchorages unknown.   We overshot our target a bit (2 miles?) but eventually found the “ideal” anchorage, according to this book. We got right into position and dropped the hook. Lovely little place with a huge, long beach and a wave that got Jonny interested. There were a few big houses up in the hills, supposedly belonging to famous people. Whatever.   We had a very relaxing afternoon. Until….(cue ominous music).

The wind came up. Big time. Wild and crazy wind storm, shaking Summer from the tip of her mast down through the sole. We got the full meaning of “shakedown cruise”. Wondered if our anchor would hold, wondered if anything would break apart. We didn’t sleep much and Jonny was up and out checking on the anchor many times. We survived very well, not even the slightest drag. And the sun came out and the beautiful spot said “oh that wasn’t so bad, you want to staaaaaaaay one more niiiight…right??” So we did. And it blew even harder that night. The next morning we said “ENOUGH” and decided to get ourselves down to Santa Barbara.

The wind was right on our nose almost the entire way of the 33 mile trip. Why does this keep happening? I attempted my first gluten free bread recipe while we were sailing. I think it would’ve been great, but my yeast was dead…it never rose. I insisted we will eat it all no matter what. It actually tastes pretty good, for the dense puck it is.

Also, silicon baking pans are NOT good for an unstable environment
Also, silicon baking pans are NOT good for an unstable environment

It was warm and sunny and relatively pleasant, but, motorsailing the whole way. We saw several Borg ships looming on the horizon. Luckily they didn’t try to assimilate us. I think our radio signals might have caused too much interference for their scans. Or, there’s an off chance they were actually oil platforms.

Borg on Horizon

Much of the time the sea smelled of oily tar. Again we noted the serious lack of sea creatures and birds. We saw some scary slicks on the water, too – like what we saw in that fracking movie, Gasland (1 and 2). Kind of eerie.

The plan was to get to Santa Barbara and just anchor for the night and then splurge on a slip the next night. It was warm and we were happy to arrive.   A little disappointed to notice that Santa Barbara isn’t as pretty from the water as it is from land.

Santa Barbara And again, the sea lions on the red-white buoy were small, sparse and not at all barking. Something strange about the sea life down here, and so little of it. We were really that spoiled in Monterey Bay (and Morro Bay)? We enjoyed a nice dinner (our last steaks from El Salchichero!) and watched the full moon rise.

Enjoying a gorgeous moon rise
Enjoying a gorgeous moon rise

We were exhausted and looking forward to a wind-less sleep. And, it was not that windy here. BUT, OMG…ROLLY AS ALL GET OUT. By far the rolliest, rocking-est night EVER. Awful! We slept not one wink. Where did this come from??? It was so bad that we were just laughing about it. And almost crying. I tried sleeping at different angles in our giant romper-room bed, but nothing was comfortable. But 5:30 am I wanted nothing more than to just LEAVE that spot. We got up and by 7am we were pulling up anchor and heading to the harbor dock to get a slip as soon as the office opened.

Heading for harbor at 7am
Heading for harbor at 7am

We docked and wandered around until 8:00am when the office opened and we secured a nice slip. It’s been 3 weeks since we were tied up to a dock! I opted for the slip closest to the main walkway and bathrooms. Turns out there’s a trash and recycle can right there, too. And we can get full water tanks (the water we got from Morro Bay was horribly stinky – will be glad to get rid of all that). What luxury! And it’s even hot and sunny here. As soon as we docked I hit the showers. Hot water pouring out all over you is the most amazing thing ever.

SB Harbor

We saw this $300 million boat today
We saw this $300 million boat today

After cooking some breakfast (the Corralitos smoked bacon Laura Laura brought us is being doled out in a miserly fashion) and messing about with our anchor line and chain we were ready for the day. Our mission was to get groceries. Sounds simple enough. I had located the Whole Foods and the shuttles and busses we would need to get there. All in all getting our groceries was nearly a 4 hour undertaking. But we got to have a driving tour of beautiful Santa Barbara (and it IS a beautiful city!) and the fridge is fully packed (and I got fresh yeast, I will make a successful bread!). We are ready for whatever the next couple weeks brings us.

Very excited to be sleeping at a dock tonight. Jonny can put earplugs in and not have to worry about the anchor (he tends to worry far more than me…I put ear plugs in and sleep well most of the time anyway ;-)). AND I’m going to take ANOTHER shower in the morning.

For now I’m going to make our black bean and leftover steak burritos. Hope to have some island adventure stories for you next time.



Morro Bay to Point Conception / Cojo Anchorage

While Morro Bay wasn’t even a thought on our initial trip South, it turned out to be a wonderful stopover… for TEN DAYS! Yeah, we kinda got stuck. Partly still unwinding from the craziness of preparing to go and the past few years of nonstop work. and partly waiting for swell and wind to turn a bit more in our favor, and partly due to the amazing comfort and easy life at anchor there. Protected and calm with unseasonably amazing weather. Jonny did some surfing on the other side of the rock, we explored the dunes, the bay and beaches as well and wandered about the town and I did a nice long bike ride. It was an easy dinghy ride to a number of public docks to tie up, and a fairly short walk to laundry and [REAL!] food shopping. And the skanky coin op showers were a welcome amenity, too.

3 stacks approach

Everyone we encountered was extremely friendly and helpful – especially the folks at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. We went there looking for a rigger or some one who could help us splice our anchor line (long story but something really weird happened to it – baffled everyone – started to come apart and fray near where it connected to the chain – brand new! Only used for 6 days…no one could figure out why). Anyway we got invited to burger night at the yacht club and they were sure someone would be able to help us get it to the rigging shop. Turns out a guy did it for us right there – and turns out that guy happened to be the captain on the Deep Water Horizon – the big disaster in 2000. We learned he wrote “Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster” – which I am looking forward to reading on my Kindle.

Did some good cooking and getting more used to the galley. We are eating pretty well.


The most exciting thing that happened in Morro Bay was that my dear friend Laura Laura took a spur of the moment road trip down to visit us! On what was supposed to be our last day there (more on that later) – as she astutely pointed out – “you aren’t getting any closer”. She drove 3 hours to help us do laundry, get groceries and she even took us to lunch! She left us with a bunch of great gifties and on surprise stow-away we didn’t find till after she left. Pierre is our newest crewmate. Apparently he is hoping to make it across the border undetected. He still refuses to talk. And I’m not sure who was more green on our last passage, me or him.




Jonny photobombing PierrePierre

LauraLaura visit

We planned to get water, propane, fuels, etc. before heading out for an overnight passage to our next destination. Unfortunately the propane tank at the docks was not working properly, and it being Labor Day, no other place was open. We were pretty low on propane (which we use for cooking) and the malfunctioning tank actually released even more of what was left. No choice but to wait till the next day and try to make our way to one of the other places (at least a mile away). We did all our other chores and even took Summer to the public dock to pump out and give her a bath (she was DIRTY!). Carrying a propane tank 2 miles did not sound like any fun…but strapping it on the back of my little folding bike with 10 inch wheels and peddling it a mile up hill?? Yeah!!! I took a bit of a ‘shortcut’ to the propane place, so Jonny managed to get there before me, walking… Got all filled up and safely made it back downhill on my 30 lb bike with my 20 lb propane tank (the brakes almost worked…luckily didn’t need to come to any full stops down the big hill).

Bike Propane

We had a final coin-op shower and settled up with the harbor office (only the first 5 days anchoring are free – we had 4 extra, but only $7/day, so not too bad…where else can you vacation in a charming town with 360 degree water view for 10 nights for less than $30??). Had a nice big dinner of spaghetti and sausage (freezing and vacuum sealing my homemade spaghetti sauce seemed like a great idea – getting thawed sauce out of a plastic bag, not so great… but still, much appreciated having it!). By 7pm we were making our way out of Morro Bay, saying goodbye to the 3 stacks and that giant rock. It had been overcast and gloomy all day. I was bundled up in my foulies and hat, prepared for the worst. We were to pass Points Buchon, Arguello and Conception. Point Conception is know as “The Cape Horn of California”. Even when everywhere else is fine, it can have some of the roughest, wildest weather. Our plan to go by at night when it is usually calmest seemed like a good one. It actually wasn’t a bad passage, all things considered. We did get to sail a bit, although still had to motor more than we wanted. It was exciting to see it getting darker as the stacks and giant rock disappeared from view, and millions of whale spouts faded away.

Morro Sunset

The *real* reason we stayed so long…Boga Sign

Just around Point Buchon it started getting really rough. I went below to try and get some rest. I didn’t sleep a wink, being tossed and thrown about. When I finally came up to relieve Jonny, I wasn’t sure I was feeling so great… I managed to pull off a couple hours watch, but I did lose my dinner. I think it will be awhile before we enjoy that last bag of sauce… We sailed on, pitching and rolling. When Jonny came back up, I lost it again. He took over and sent me below where I hid under a sleeping bag until morning. I managed to get out to see Point Conception in the gloom and fog, and a few of the oil rigs we passed. But had to go back down to hide until we were almost ready to anchor.

We got in to Cojo Anchorage around 9:30am and found a decent spot. Didn’t look like much to me. But at least it’s not freezing cold – even tho it’s gloomy. I made soup and we napped and recovered from our long night. Several other boats came in to anchor – one cruising boat from Cape Cod and some bigger more commercial ones. We were exhausted and in bed by 8pm. I read more in “Two Years Before the Mast” written by Richard Dana in 1835 – his account of sailing up and down the CA coast back then. I just so happened to be at the part where he was describing being caught in gale around Point Conception. Almost every sail they had got shredded and they were blown over 2 weeks off course (and ended up in San Francisco instead of Monterey!). We sure have it easy compared to those guys. It was a pretty rolly night and also a grey and gloomy day today. But it is not very cold, the one saving grace…

We are slowly getting more South! Jonny jumped overboard and paddled ashore with his surfboard a few hours ago. I saw through the binoculars that he is catching waves with a couple of other guys out there. I was a little worried, knowing how territorial So. Cal is for surfing – but after a couple hours I heard dinghy motor – the guys were giving him a ride back to the boat. They were clearly impressed with what a great surfer Jonny is. Being a friendly guy and a humble but impressive surfer goes a long way, I guess.

Our current dilemma has to do with some big swell that may be coming up from the South from tropical storm Norbert. We want to leave here tomorrow and maybe go down the coast a bit – Jonny wants to check out more surf spots. But we will likely head out to San Miguel Island and begin exploring the Channel Islands a bit from here. There’s a lot to see out there, but our supplies of water will only hold out so long (probably just over a week?) so we’ll see what happens.

I’ve really been having fun with the Ham nets and learning from and connecting with people. One guy is even helping me get technical support – I still haven’t got email or weather info working through the radio to that *&^%! PC we had to buy… but feel I am close!!

Until next time…I wish you 73!  (that’s hamspeak for ‘best regards’)