Northern California: Sausalito, Alameda, Richmond, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Redwood City, San Francisco
Southern California: San Diego, Oxnard, Marina del Rey, Redondo Beach, Long Beach, Newport Beach
Being There: Channel Islands
Every cruising area provides a basket of colorful images and sensations to help you refresh and reboot your mind. Over the years I’ve sampled an extraordinary number of these offerings, and I’m pleased to report that one of the most flavorsome samplings occurred on a cruise among the northern set of Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, California.
Santa Barbara’s celebrity status, exquisite climate, and proximity to the Santa Ynez Mountains have always been an attraction. And that’s why the five Islands that lie on the south side of the Santa Barbara Channel are so special. Set aside by Congress in 1980 and now managed by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, all the islands are uninhabited except for sea lions and land-bound animals, some 145 species of native plants, and any number of birds, including the elusive scrub jay. Many can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Throw in orcas and gray whales and you could call this Galapagos north.
I spent the better part of a week with some sailing friends exploring these islands aboard a shipshape 42-footer that’s part of the Santa Barbara Sailing Center fleet. Hiking the islands’ trails during the day and then, from a nearly deserted anchorage, looking across the Santa Barbara Channel and seeing the loom in the dark sky that’s been generated by millions of people is a sight that goes a long way toward getting one’s mind to refocus. It’s a moment where you are concurrently awed by what has come before and troubled by what might come very soon if we don’t become better stewards of our natural legacies. Charles Mason
Southern California: I like to sail year round, but especially in winter just before or after a cold front passes through; that’s when the winds are stronger and there are fewer boats out. Our typical year-round wind strength is 8 to 12—maybe 15 knots on a good day—and no wind is unusual. There’s plenty to see on a daysail; if you have a couple of days, you can sail out to Santa Catalina or to the Coronado Islands. Jon Riksford, Shelter Island Sailing, San Diego
Northern California: Here’s a place where the winds moderate in the winter (to around 5 to 15 knots) from San Francisco Bay’s average 20 to 30. September and October are the two prettiest months, but summer is the best time for many because of the longer days, more sunshine, and brisk breezes. Summer’s microclimates mean that you can sail out of the fog and into the sunshine. It’s easy to find two days’ worth of sailing destinations inside the bay, or you can head north to the delta or south to Redwood City. Rich Ferrari, Spinnaker Sailing, Redwood City