You’ve got to go to the islands! So many of our new neighbors would tell us over and over again with shared enthusiasm how we’ve got to go to the islands! Which islands you ask? The Channel Islands, of course. We made our first day trip to Santa Cruz, the biggest of the 5 islands comprised of the Channel Island National Park, more than a few weeks ago. For our second trip we decided to allow ourselves a little more time, so we planned our first overnight stay.
This time we headed to a more popular anchorage called Smugglers Cove. The forecast called for mixed NW and SW swell, 2 to 3 foot seas, and wind at 10 knots out of the NW. On the way over, the seas were a little lumpy. We both shared moments of mal de mer. Bringing attention to it only makes things worse, so we quietly allowed ourselves to fight our own battle and moved on. Taking turns driving the boat helped to settle things.
As we neared the shipping lanes, we spotted two large container ships in the Northbound lane. “Are they moving?” I asked. It was hard to tell from such a far distance. Of course, why wouldn’t they be moving? More importantly, would our sailboat make it across the shipping lane before they crossed in front of us? Something we weren’t willing to risk, so we just hung out and waited for them to pass. Shortly after, I noticed the seas acting all funny. Could I actually be seeing the SW swell meeting up with the NW as predicted? Grant quickly debunked my theory. Those crazy waves were actually part of the wake from the two container ships that passed before us in the distance.
As we approached the NW tip of Anacapa Island and entered the Anacapa Passage, a.k.a. Windy Lane, we decided to reef our main sail and put away our Jib. We tried the first reef for a bit, but then went for two. The wind had picked up, sporting a nice display of white caps. As soon as we approached the lee of the anchorage everything calmed down dramatically.
We put away the sails and found a spot to the anchor. When we upgraded our anchor rode, we had used colorful plastic ties to mark the chains length at specific intervals. It was a good plan, except we forgot to write down what intervals we had marked! After some deliberation we came to an agreement on how much scope we thought we deployed and then we added a little more just to play it safe.
Santa Cruz is a miniature look of what Southern California was like over 100 years ago. This island served as a base for hunters, fisherman and smugglers. Smugglers Cove was named appropriately for its history of smuggling and illicit activities. From people who had braved the trip through the surf on shore, to paddlers exploring the anchorage, Smugglers was currently buzzing with “legal” activities. I got out the binoculars to try to see if going ashore was something we wanted to brave but honestly we were both exhausted from the trip over that neither of us felt like moving.
We decided to relax on the boat and drink in the tranquility and splendor of this side of the island. A large group of olive trees encompassed the hillside. I watched as hikers made their way to the top. Then, another group of individuals were trying to get off the rocks with their dingy as the surf came pounding in. After a few attempts, they were able to get the timing just right to avoid a flip. Later that evening the fish started jumping like mad, this brought out the sea lions and fishing poles as many boats pulled up their dinner.
I don’t know if it was because it was our first overnight with our anchor in this boat, or if it was because I actually figured out a pattern to the the swell that was rocking our boat forward and backward, then side to side in sets of threes, but I couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was because our first overnight came with the introduction of new noises to the boat. The stove was rattling, halyards inside the mast echoing and books on bookshelves thumping. About once every couple hours I’d poke my head out and check our position in regards to the other boats and our GPS. Every time the result was the same, so what was my deal? We hadn’t budged an inch. We fixed the noises as best we could, and after some convincing I was able to trust that the boat, its 45lb anchor and chain were fine.
The next morning it was foggy and 62 degrees. Many boats around us had already left. The rest, about 15 boats, had formed a ring, fishing just at the edge of the anchorage. The fish must of been active because we saw an over abundance of birds, dolphins and possibly our first whale sighting!
As we made our way back to California it was apparent what makes the Channel Islands so special. There is something that beacons us to travel over the rhythmic motion of the water on an adventure to explore these deserted beaches and appreciate the overabundance of wildlife that lives there. The islands and the water that surrounds them are home to over 2,000 species of animals and plants of which, 145 are found no where else on earth.