Leaving Steadfast in the hands of the broker, I beat it back to Santa Cruz for some cold water work and recreation. Over the years I've developed an appetite for teaching sailing and marine science....and I was hungry. Setting up a weekly schedule with the O'Neill Sea Odyssey aboard the O'Neill catamaran along with a few ASA lessons thrown in here and there via Pacific Yachting, I was a happy camper or more appropriately..... a happy marine science/sailing instructor.
My February hegira west seemed a bit premature this year. Leaving the snow covered Rocky Mts. for drought stricken California seemed somewhat malapropros. I mean I barely had a chance to use my season snowboarding pass . But as usual, the siren song of the sea had to be quelled. To help matters, my nephew Ethan, a recent college grad, booked an early date with "Uncle Keith's Discount Sailing School". So, once again, I traded in my powder pants for board shorts and headed out to sunny Santa Cruz. By March 1st, Ethan and I were reaching across the Monterey Bay with a double reef main in a cool 20 knot breeze. (Top Photo)
Three weeks later, it was time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. The March 25th forecast for the Santa Barbara Channel; 10-20 NW winds settling to 10-15 knots in the afternoon, seas 3-5 feet, chance of rain...0%. Anacapa Island, at closest approach, is about 10 nautical miles from Channel Islands Marina. Our destination for the day was 13 nm southwest, Frenchy's Cove. By 1300 hrs Steadfast passed the "1" green marker off her starboard side. With light winds and full sails we approached the shipping channel at a leisurely pace. But whitecaps appeared mid-channel ordering Erika and I to tuck in a reef for a more comfortable ride to windward. Near the island the wind all but disappeared. After setting the hook, the boys and I dawned our birthday suits and ceremoniously dove in the cool offshore waters.
Day One: By 2pm Saturday afternoon, our favorite family from Boulder, Colorado pulled into Chula Vista ready to start their holiday break. We roused all the boys into the marina swimming pool before the drive down to Ensenada. While the ninos were wrestling in the water (right - Leif and Elliot), Erika and Kathy slapdashed to the supermarket for a weeks worth of supplies. Before the clock struck four, seven boys, four adults and two dogs were truck'n across the border into manana-land and another Mexican adventure. Upon arrival the adults immediately seized the beach house (above) and relinquished the "back" house to the teens!
Day Two: Sunday morning found everyone, eventually, migrating the few steps down to the beach to soak up some southern Ensenada sun. It didn't take long to notice the consistent beach breakers before us. I swiftly suited up, grabbed my long-board and hit the small but pleasant surf along the beach. After a long day beach-combing, surfing, body-boarding, digging, and dog-walking, it was time to relax in our vacation villa whilst savoring a few cervazas (see picture below).
Day 3: On Monday the parents deserted all the kids for a day in downtown Ensenada. Since there was zero cell-service, we were trying not to use our imagination while thinking about what the kids were up to for six hours. We were very pleased upon our return that everyone was accounted for, especially Loren and Elliot. After a fun day at the beach the nino's were muy contendo when we pulled up to the beach house bearing 50 tacos from a hip outdoor taco bar in southern Ensenda. (far right) While in town we also stopped at the local grocers to re-supplied the pantry and pick up a Christmas tree...
Day 4: The fourth day we added horse and ultralight aircraft riding to our beach adventures. Erika invited River, Loren and Elliot for a horse ride along the six mile beach (left) while Mason and Leif earned some air-time flying over the Punta Banda area aboard a local ultralight piloted by Mexican pilot, Zune! (lower left and below) Later Kathy and Erika scored 50 tamales from Punta Banda's local "cocineros". (lower right)
Day 5: Dia de Navidad! Waking up to four giant bay windows overlooking sunny Bahia Todos los Santos was a real Christmas gift (see top picture). And eating Dave's traditional homemade crepe's (and Kathy's assortment of fillings) for Christmas brunch was a huge treat. (left) Relaxing in the morning, eating and playing board games the rest of the day made for an incredible Bajaliday!
Day 6: La Bufadora - Erika heard about this very popular tourist attraction just a few minutes drive from where we were staying. Basically, its a marine geyser or blowhole, and when the swell and tide are right just- boom, water shoots straight up. The picture to the left shows the region where our beach house (red star) and La Bufadora (green star) are located. Below, the gang taking a break from window shopping along the street market that runs into the staging area for the geyser. On a good day the geyser can shoot hundreds of feet high. Overall, it was a worthwhile field-trip. But it was nice to get back to the beach, throw the boards in the water and catch a few more waves before heading home the next day. Happy New Year!
Out of tens of thousands, not one of these fingerlings (below) could escape the voraciousness of a dozen mackerel. Within minutes of taking this picture these little fellas were no more. Chula Vista Marina
After evaluating the hazards and arrival times for the trip from Long Beach to San Diego Bay Erika and I agreed that an early departure would be imperative. The decision to set off at 12:30 a.m. wasn't our first choice but if all went according to plan we would be safely navigating the last of a very narrow channel near Chula Vista Marina by late afternoon. Erika and Mason gladly volunteered for the first watch. By 1:30 in the morning Steadfast settled into her motor-sailing groove and I into my warm and cozy bunk, leaving the "dim" witted duo at the helm. And by 3:30 a.m. I was back on deck sending my mariners to their mattresses. Through the ages sailors have venerated the coming of dawn. So, with a fresh collection of music filling my head, I weighed the last hours of darkness, all alone, sailing easterly into the coming sunrise (pictured above).
After navigating around Point Loma's extensive kelp hazards, Steadfast turned north towards San Diego Bay. By 2:30, the 18th of October, we were sharing the bay with a crowd of San Diegan sailors enjoying a sunny and breezy Friday afternoon. But we weren't done yet! It would be another two hours and twelve nautical miles before we would reach our destination, Chula Vista Marina. (Right) The blue dot located at the south-eastern side of San Diego Bay indicates our final position. Here we met up with our cruising friends aboard "Dawn Treader." In anticipation, and celebration, of seeing "old friends", especially Sophia, Loren and Elliot dressed up for the occasion (Below).
I always hope to learn a bit of cultural or scientific dirt during our brief sojourns landward. And Long Beach did not disappoint. Less than 3000 feet from our marina was the Aquarium of the Pacific. Lets just say our new, annual membership to the aquarium was well used during the six days we were docked in LB. After tearing me away from the aquarium, Ren and Elliot insisted we tour the cruise ship I've been looking at out of my porthole for the past week (Left: My porthole and the RMS Queen Mary, aka the "Grey Ghost"). All week the kids got a kick out of the timely, and loud, blast of Queen Mary's horn every morning, afternoon and evening.
Saturday, October 12th marked the end of Steadfast's week-long stay at Anacapa Isle Marina in Oxnard and the beginning of another adventure down the California coast. We cast off at 7:05 a.m., a reasonable hour considering our next stop was roughly 66 nautical miles away. Travelling at a rate of 6.5 knots we would make the Port of Long Beach in 10 hours. Plotting a course parallel to the shipping lane was the most direct route to the busiest port in the U.S...who would've guessed! After a day of container ship spotting, reading, eating and sight-seeing we pulled into Shoreline Marina by 5pm, just in time to check-in and get a gate key from the harbor office.
Steadfast's next stop was to be a sort of homecoming. It was at the marina pictured above, over three years ago, that I found and purchased Steadfast. Approx. a week later, my brother-in-law Todd and I sailed her up to Morro Bay in exactly twenty hours, almost to the second. From there I attempted to single-hand her to Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, off the coast of Big Sur Steadfast's transmission failed. After the breakdown sailing into the wind was slow, to say the least, and after 40 hours without a wink of sleep I hailed Vessel Assist for a hand the rest of the way. I happily digress. Back to the here and now.
Slipping from Santa Barbara on Sunday, Oct. 6th at 1130 a.m. was a leisurely time. Casting off the dock lines in the middle of the night has its advantages but sleep isn't one of them. So it was a nice departure from our normal departure. With a sufficient slumber the night before and only 28 nautical miles to our next port-o-call spirits were steep aboard Steadfast. A 1/2 mile into our trip we were met by a lone dolphin who performed a single porpoise off our bow. It's message was construed as a sendoff but was more likely an introduction to what was to come. For over the course of the next few hours we were greeted with 100's of pacific Common dolphins, dozens of Risso dolphins and a group of breaching Humpback whales. A light to moderate nor' westerly followed us out of Santa Barbara allowing us to sail past the numerous oil platforms that dotted the coastal waters nearby, represented by the small blue circles on the chart to the left. Within a couple of hours the winds dwindled necessitating the motor to bolster our plan to be in Oxnard before sunset. And from the looks of the picture above, we made it. Top picture taken moments after tying up the boat.
Located at the southern end of Santa Barbara Channel, the Channel Islands Harbor began as a wetland/estuary and dredged out in the 1960's to create (not unlike Santa Cruz Harbor) a man-made marina. About a mile southeast is the Navy controlled commercial deep water port of Hueneme (wy-nee-mee). The Channel Islands Harbor boasts over 2500 berths verses Santa Cruz's 1000 "coveted" spots. Oxnard's surplus of berthing wasn't brimming with boats. Our particular dock, Anacapa Isle Marina, had numerous vacancies - likely a by-product of the economy. The red arrow on the picture to the right indicates Steadfast's slip location for the week. The black arrow pinpoints the well-kept clubhouse and heated pool/spa. We put on some walking miles while grocery shopping, filling medications, ordering smoothies at Jamba Juice or buying a few boat parts at the local West Marine marked by the green arrow to the right. The blue arrow shows the spot where Elliot, Ren and I enjoyed a barren stretch of beach during the "off-season"
A UCSC graduate in Marine Biology, Keith holds a 100 ton USCG Capt. License and is an ASA certified sailing instructor.