Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Leaving home is hard but sometimes you just have to go (written 11/30/2008)

We had made it to Cojo Anchorage and didn’t want to leave, so we didn’t. We stayed there for 4-nights and had wonderful sunsets, sunrises, surf and painting sessions, weathered a northwest gale, and had friendly conversation with other cruisers passing through. Then all of a sudden, there was a shift in weather. Day-9 of our adventure we awoke to a southeast wind blowing us toward shore. The winds and swell proceeded to pick up all day and Cojo was no longer providing us protection. Shawn’s weather data reported that the southeast winds were here to stay for the next few days and would likely increase. All of a sudden, it was time to go. We weighed anchor at around 1400 and began our unexpected beat toward Santa Barbara. It took hours just to get to the first oil rig that we’d been taking bearings on over the past several nights during our anchor watches. We were clawing our way up. What could have taken a mere 8-hours in the normal northwest winter winds ended up taking an entire day. We sailed through the night, making good use of our lee cloth while off watch- it’s quite different down below when beating to wind versus running with it.

Shawn got dawn patrol and watched the sun rise from a bank of fog still north of Santa Barbara. Chris awoke and together we made a decision to head out to Santa Cruz Island. We made a bee-line for the west end to seek shelter from the southeast winds and set the hook in Christie’s Anchorage on day-10. We spent two nights watching amazing storm clouded sunsets over Santa Rosa Island, getting a freshwater bath, and weathering the forecasted storm. On day-12 we decided to move with the wind. As the storm was passing, winds were shifting from SE to SW to W. So, we headed to the north side of the island.

Our calculations put us in a beautiful little anchorage just before sunset. Unfortunately, when we got close, there was already a sailboat anchored. No problem, we’ll just stay at the anchorage just before it. Called Hazards, our anchorage was a unique little indentation with cliff walls on 3-sides and a tiny beach. The name might have tipped us off- we couldn’t get the anchor to set. After two tries, we decided to join the other sailboat in what was likely a better anchorage, and the engine promptly died. So we dropped the anchor for the third time and hoped for the best.

Luckily we were in the lee of the island, so winds were very light and swell was manageable. We’d run into the same engine issue again (see a few entries ago). The bolt had gotten loose enough again to let air into the lines. After a couple hours and now in the dark, Chris got the engine working and we recharged our now depleted batteries. It was a sleepless night with the questionably set anchor, no moon, an army of trawlers fishing with their lights on high, and several inches of rain falling that made it easy to get our sail on at 0630 the next morning. The winds filled in as predicted from the west for an amazingly beautiful and crazy fast run down the north coast of Santa Cruz Island to the eastern tip. We ducked around the end of the island and found Smugglers Cove nestled into the south side of the island, calm and sheltered from the west winds. The solitary boat, we sailed onto our anchor and kicked back to relax in this amazing cove that holds such history. The native Chumash called it “Hole in the Sky” for its sunny and fair climate compared to other locales among the Channel Islands, and more recently, as its current name suggests, hidden from mainland, some shady deals went down here. For now though, it’s just an amazingly warm and sheltered safe harbor to recover from the recent storms.

We spent 3-nights anchored in Smugglers Cove, including Thanksgiving (for which we ate a fully decked out Thanksgiving meal minus the turkey). What a spectacular place to be thankful for! The following two days (day-14 and 15) we went ashore for two day hikes: one 8-mile trip to Scorpion Bay on the north side of the island where the main information center is for the NPS and the primary campground on the island, and another to Yellow Banks, a point overlooking the southern side of the island. Our first few dinghy landings through the surf were relatively dry and exhilarating experiences using both surfing and rowing skills. With negative tides we also took time to check out some beautiful tide pools, a hidden rock beach, and relax in the sunny harbor.

Although Smugglers Cove was comfortable and relaxing, with a view of Anacapa Island tempting us, on day-16 (November 30), we again weighed anchor to have a closer look. As we pulled out of the cove, Shawn heard a foghorn and being a “nervous nelly” mentioned it to Chris who would not agree. 5-minutes later, 2-miles away, Anacapa was engulfed in dense fog. We decided to sail on where it was sunny, up the north side of the island toward Chinese Harbor to look for possible surf. But before we got there, another fog bank engulfed us. This was a “high visibility” fog, so we turned around and ran back toward Smugglers Cove, which was still clear and blue and awaited a window to approach Anacapa. When the fog blew through we ran with a 15 knot breeze under a reefed main and 100 percent jib along the beautiful south coast of this rugged island to our current location, East Fish Camp anchorage. Anacapa is actually a group of 3 islands, very small ones, and we are anchored at the east end of the Middle Island, just before the break to the East Island. The East Island is the tourist destination with a museum and some hiking trails. We may not get there because the anchoring is not good anywhere close with protection from the winds we expect. We do get a close up view of these "rocks" that jut up from the water. Anacapa is steep, rough and tough. Not for the faint of heart. Now that Chris has retrieved the dinghy bowline that decided to wrap around Tao's prop while we were setting Rocky, our anchor, we'll decide the next steps tomorrow...

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