We had a nice, but cold sail down from San Francisco to just short of Point Conception. We saw whales
a few times and a some dolphins and even flew a spinnaker a couple of times. Not a bad sail at all other
than being cold. So rather than high winds around the cape, we had to motor around and into Santa
Barbara. At least it was warm and entertaining on this short leg.
We had the most unexpected visitor while motoring along. For quite some time this crazy cormorant kept
landing by the boat and playing along the hull then by the swim steps, finally he got bold enough to jump
onto the swim ladder. Little did I realize that meant he had the run of the boat. He then hopped up the
steps, across the transom, over to the cockpit table, all around the dingy and decks. This was not a shy
bird at all. Heck he tried to peck at the camera while I am taking photos! It was a good bit of
entertainment and like all bird encounters he left us a nice smelly mess on the deck as he flew off.
We anchored in Santa Barbara for a few days to catch up with our fellow circumnavigators off the
catamaran "Laelia". They are great folks trying to transition back to land life and made us a great
It is a long dingy ride from the anchorage to the dingy dock, but then there is a west marine right there to
take your money. It is rather a tourist area by the marina and the town seems to be overrun by
homeless. The smell of urine and the chant of spare some change became old really quickly. The down
town area was amusing with plastic surgery seeming to be the number one feature. It was pretty
entertaining watching the folks in costume for Halloween.
Luckily we were planning to head out to the islands on Nov 1st, since the harbor police came by in the
morning and told us the anchorage was closed and we had to move. Who ever heard of an anchorage
closing? Apparently it is a seasonal anchorage. We should have gotten the hint when all the junk boats
moved the day before. Anyway we sailed out to Santa Rosa island to get in some hiking.
Santa Rosa Island:
This is a rugged island with some decent hiking. The only problem is the trails are far away and down
dirt roads. To go see the Torey pines (they only exist on this island and in san diego) you need to walk a
couple of miles on a dirt road then up a steep narrow trail through the trees. There are some good views
at the top so not a bad hike. There is also a great hike called Lobo Canyon that has interesting rock
formations and even a running stream. The bummer is that it is 4 miles one way to the start of the hike!
It was a long day, but a nice hike.
Santa Cruz Island:
We had zero wind so we had to motor over from Santa Rosa, but the wildlife was amazing. Often we had
dolphins on the bow, rafts of sea lions, birds, even a ray swam under us. We stopped one night at
Prisoners Harbor to go ashore in the evening and look for the rare island fox. It turns out they are not so
rare at this place and we saw several of them. Their favorite activity seems to be leaving stuff
everywhere for you to step in! They turned out to be slightly larger than a house cat and blend in very
well, so if they are not in the open they are just about impossible to see.
We stopped for a few bouncy nights to get in some diving finally! We had no awesome dives, but did see
some great things. Our first dive was pretty much a carpet of brittle stars and for sure was the most I
have ever seen. The second one was more a carpet of sea urchins so stay off the bottom! We had one
nice dive with a sea lion that kept trying to bite out dingy anchor rope. We were a bit concerned about
the dingy being there after the dive!
The real highlight of our stay there was when this loud power boat came up along side us at 5 AM in the
pitch dark with no warning given. I am outside half dressed with a spotlight trying to figure out what is
going on and not at all happy. Finally when they are 2 feet away they announce they are the Coast
Guard and doing inspections! I was not a happy camper as anyone who knows me I am not a morning
person! It turned out they decided not to board us and then wanted my boat papers and said thanks
then took off. Needless to say after that wake-up call we never got back to sleep.
Santa Cruz Island again:
We needed some place to hang out for a few days due to a series of storms so back to the tip of Santa
Cruz island. They claim Yellow Banks anchorage is calmer than Smugglers Cove, but we were getting
tossed around and moved over. For sure Smugglers is better in a NW winter storm. We managed to get
on the beach once in slightly smaller waves and still manage to get a bit wet. There was not much to see
anyway and no sign of foxes. The dives we did were few and very silty from all the waves so with light
offshore winds predicted we sailed for Santa Barbara island.
That lovely sail starting at 6 am turned out to be more of a double reefed bouncy ride for 20 miles in the
"light" offshore winds that were gusting to 30. I swear NOAA weather guys must be on drugs half the
time. Anyway we were flying along at up to 10 knots saying no way are we stopping at Santa Barbara in
these conditions so we made for Catalina Island instead.
I made the same mistake again and went to the back side of the island to Catalina Harbor at two
harbors. This is pretty much a dump of a place and we moved the next day over to the Isthmus side of
two harbors. They really frown on you anchoring and not paying them 42 bucks a night for a mooring.
They seem to go out of their way to put moorings out to 70 feet of depth leaving you nothing but deep
water to anchor in. They also say feel free to anchor only at the east end off the camp ground and at
least 100 feet away from the moorings, etc... So being stubborn and cheap we anchored in 75 feet for
almost a week.
It turns out the anchorage area is center stage for all the wildlife viewing so we had the best spot! Every
morning we would wake up to some sort of show. One day it was thousands of cormorants taking off and
landing all around us. Two mornings it was dolphins and another it was sea lions. One evening we had
at least 50 bat rays swim under the boat. We had lots of anchoring shows from folks without enough
anchor chain to handle deep water. We also had two nights of sea lions or something under the boat
making noises all night long keeping us awake.
We had some nice dives, but dang dry-suit diving in a dingy is really hard. We saw sea lions, harbor
seals, dolphins, Garibaldi, mating squid by the thousands, squid eggs, leopard sharks, horn sharks, thick
kelp, etc. The mating squid show only seems to happen once a year and we got lucky to see it! Squid
have an interesting sex life in that sometimes you see two squid, sometimes three and once 4 together!
Really I think it only takes two then they lay an egg and die. For sure the seals and dolphin were
enjoying the easy meals.
We really did not want to leave, but they were predicting high winds from an unprotected direction so we
did a lovely cold night sail to San Diego.
Lucky for us we have some friends here. Sands End managed to score us a special rate at the local
Almar marina so we have a dock for a few days and hot showers! My other friends on Swanya, who I met
in the south pacific literally met us in the marina entrance and escorted us to our slip! I felt like royalty:)
They even drove us to the local stores and loaned us their car for even more groceries. I am a bit
worried when we spend 300 bucks at the store and very little turned out to be for food!
San Diego is a weird place. Ok we saw some weird stuff in Santa Barbara with some guy having two
dogs on the back of his bicycle or girls in short dresses on skateboards, but this place is beyond weird!
Here is our Thanksgiving day. We are out rinsing dive gear and washing the boat (lots of little birds here
like to leave gifts for us), when a lady goes by on a stand up paddle board. I found it weird that she had
her little white dog on the board, but Claudie noticed it was really a rabbit! What the heck? Later after
more boat cleaning and internet we walked into town for more of the show. Again lots of homeless folks
and smells you don't really want to experience. Next a lady bicycles by with a turkey (doll) on the front of
her bike. Later we see some lady dressed in 1920s style fancy evening attire and slippers then... The
stories would fill a book. Even the tourists were entertaining in summer clothing on a cold day eating junk
food. It was quite entertaining and a bit scary to watch all this, but as usual it was cold. That is the
theme of this trip so far and we are getting a bit tired of it. At least unlike back in 2004 we have not
woken up to ice on the deck!
Soon we will jump to the Coronado islands then on to Ensenada to clear into Mexico then do some diving
along Baja. Eventually we will get tired of diving cold water and coming back to a cold boat then we will
do a jump to the Socorro islands for more diving then on to the mainland of Mexico for warm water!