Batteries are charged, tanks are full, icebox is stocked, pantry is overflowing, Grandma Jean is healing and we’re off!
Here’s where we’re going first:
That’s Santa Cruz Island, fifteen miles west of Oxnard, our current location and home for the last 17 days. Santa Cruz Island is roughly twice the size of Catalina and with more than 20 anchorages, people have spent months circumnavigating just this island. Along with Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands further west and Anacapa to the east, these islands make up the Channel Islands National Park; they are uninhabited (except for a few rangers) and a treasure for any cruiser. Twice in the last six or seven years Molly and I were able to make it the east end of Santa Cruz Island, where we enjoyed beautiful cliffs, fantastic hikes and spectacular views of the islands scattered across the Pacific. This time, however, we’re hoping to go further west, hopefully towards Santa Rosa and San Miguel Island where the swells are bigger, the winds stronger and the anchorages more remote.
San Miguel is really the goal. As you can see above, it’s exposure to the open seas and it’s distance from inhabitable land makes it the most remote of cruising grounds in Southern California. Decimated by sheep and goats dropped there in the 19th century, the island is barren; it’s most popular landing spot, Cuyler Harbor, is a white sandy beach and scattered with grassy dunes. Visitors have to locate a ranger who lives out there most of the year in order to hike the island, adhering strictly to the trails, as the navy dropped bombs out here in the 1950’s and they’re concerned some may not have detonated . . . yet. Also, along with tiny Santa Barbara Island to the south, it’s the only place where hantavirus has been found in North America in the last 15 years.
None the less, despite the deadly viruses and the scattered minefields, for the Southern California sailor San Miguel Island offers an extreme cruising experience just 25 miles off shore and as you can see above, on clear days, it looks like paradise. The problem is the weather must be suitable to make a trip worthwhile and it seldom is. Tonight, while we are feeling a calm breeze here, the reported wind speeds at San Miguel are 45 mph or more (as a reference: the normal San Diego bay wind is 12 – 15 mph, a gale is 40 mph and a tropical storm is 79 mph.)
Most sailors head for the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island where the weather is more continually suitable ( a steady 10 mph of wind tonight) and then wait, hoping for a window of calmer weather to head out to San Miguel. This is exactly our plan and such a window of weather appears to be opening up late this week (four days of 5 – 15 mph winds are forecasted). If all goes well, we’ll sit at Santa Cruz Island till Thursday morning and be pulling into Cuyler Harbor early Thursday evening.
In the meantime the phone will be out of range, the computers will be off and this website will be dark. We’ll be heading back to Catalina next week to resume our trip and (re)make Cat Harbor our home until Thanksgiving. Please check in the middle of next week and hopefully we’ll have pictures of San Miguel to show you.
P.S. Thank you Kevin and Kuni (and daughters!) for hosting a lovely dinner the other night and sending Molly home with steak…which she ate for breakfast the next morning.