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
Author:
Updated:
Original:
channel2

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.

channel4

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

Beneyteau-Excess12

Boat Review: Excess 12

Groupe Beneteau, builder of Lagoon catamarans, has introduced a new multihull line called Excess. The first of the boats to reach U.S. shores at the Annapolis boat show was the Excess 12, a 38ft 6in design based on the popular Lagoon 40. The thought process behind this new boat ...read more

Spindriftracing

Extreme Sailing: No Piece of Cake

It can be easy to take for granted the incredible performance of today’s most cutting-edge grand prix racing boats. The latest crop of full-foiling 75ft America’s Cup monohulls, for example, were all up on their foils and even successfully tacking within hours of their first ...read more

Solar-Dinghy-pump-photo

Gear: Solar Powered Dinghy Pump

Tired of forever finding your dinghy or open daysailer filled with water when you arrive to go sailing? For years, sailors and engineers have sought a solution to this seemingly eternal problem, and now it appears the folks at Sea Joule Marine may have finally found it in their ...read more

BestBoatPromo-03

Best Boats 2020

How’s this for a thought experiment: imagine setting a diminutive Tiwal 2 inflatable dinghy alongside a Catalina 545 cruiser? It would be hard to imagine two more different watercraft, and yet they are both still very much sailboats. They are also both winners in this year’s ...read more

Hanse-675

Video Tour: Hanse 675

This past fall at the Annapolis Sailboat show, we had a chance to catch up with Hanse’s  Maxim Neumann, who kindly provided us a tour of the company’s new flagship, the Hanse 675. An impressive, well-built production yacht that boldly ventures into maxi-yacht territory, the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Be thrifty with propane  If you like to cook on board, the propane tanks supplied as standard with many modern yachts won’t get you far. Whether we bake bread or not, the one thing we all do is boil ...read more

xBOM2019_Loris-von_Siiebenthal01588.jpg.pagespeed.ic.MhB0Vm5anP

Mirabau Photo Contest Winners

Swiss photographer Loris von Siebenthal has been named winner of the Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image photo competition for 2019. Von Siebenthal bested no less than 133 other photographers from 29 countries submitting shots of everything from regular weekend regattas to junior ...read more