Skip to main content

Cruising the Channel Islands Page 2

We got a late start departing Ventura Harbor that Memorial Day weekend. Arriving at their Swan 40, Blue Moon, on Thursday, my hosts Mark and Christine Mohler discovered there was a problem with the shore-power main breaker. The Mohlers hadn’t been cruising for a couple of months, and now found their dead house batteries needed replacing.We finally got underway late on the Friday

A short while later I dinghied ashore to hike up the hillside while Mark and Christine set out in their inflatable kayak to look at the colorful starfish and decide whether conditions were good for scuba diving. Santa Cruz’s hills are steep, and the vegetation on the ridges is mostly knee- or thigh-high. About 20 inches of rain a year falls on the island, nearly all of it in the winter, and the plants range from desert succulents like the prickly pear and cholla cactuses, to manzanita and sticky monkey.

From my vantage point a thousand feet up, Blue Moon looked like a tiny boat resting in a very small pocket of water. The Channel Islands are uniquely big, rugged and wild, making Washington’s San Juans, the islands of Maine and the Florida Keys seem tame by comparison. Three of the four main islands have been inhabited, first by the Chumash Indians and later by ranchers and the military, but that’s it.

From high on the hillside overlooking Little Lady’s, the only sign of human intrusion was a single brass cartridge shell from a small-caliber rifle, the kind a rancher might use for shooting “varmints.” The Nature Conservancy, which owns the western 76 percent of Santa Cruz, and the National Park Service, which controls the rest of the islands, once hired a New Zealand firm called Prohunt to eradicate the pigs that were introduced as farm animals in the mid-1800s and later went feral. Sheep were also once a problem and have repeatedly razed the natural pastures on the island. Fennel, one of California’s more insidious and tenacious weeds, was introduced by early farmers and remains a problem to this day. Nonetheless, the western portion of Santa Cruz, in particular, still looks as wild as can be. Powerboat squadrons on Memorial Day weekends aside, it makes for a close approximation of wilderness.

We’d been so isolated in our own little pocket that we’d almost forgotten about the outside world. Making our way back east, past Pelican Bay, we stayed in close to the shore so we could better appreciate the contours of the island’s cliffs and bays. Picnickers were anchored in some of the little nooks, and kayakers were clustered around the docks where the ferry from the mainland discharges passengers. Toward the eastern end of Santa Cruz there were buildings, road cuts, fences and some old sheep-shorn pastures, now uniformly covered with grass. It seemed quite bucolic compared to the wilderness of Little Lady’s. At the end of the day we joined a dozen boats in Little Scorpion anchorage.

On Monday it took only a few hours of easy sailing on a broad reach to return to the mainland, and shortly after tying up in Ventura Harbor we were airborne in the Mohlers’ little Piper Saratoga. We passed over the harbor and out above the Santa Barbara Channel. Through one window we could see the highways, parking lots and rooftops of Southern California. Through the other were the rugged hills of Santa Cruz. It’s remarkable to realize that these two completely distinct worlds are separated by only 20 miles of water.

Related

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Barcelona Venue Shaping Up

The decision to host the next America’s Cup in Barcelona ruffled the feathers of some fans, but the Defender is happy with how the venue is shaping up. The process of allocating team bases, spectator zones and the race village is underway. “I cannot speak highly enough of the ...read more

ELAN-GT6---273

Boat Review: Elan GT6

Elan’s first sporty “Grand Turismo” yacht, the 43ft GT5, launched in 2017, and was actually a bit of a mash-up. It combined an existing go-fast hull from Elan’s sexy E5 racer with a new deck and interior optimized for cruising comfort, and a somewhat detuned rig to create a ...read more