Santa Rosa Island, where we took refuge from weakening Santa Ana winds, is the middle child of the Northern Channels islands in both size and remoteness. Being neither as small and far from shore as San Miguel nor as big and accessible as Santa Cruz, it can be an ideal place for those seeking isolated adventure. Planes out of Camarillo and Santa Barbara will take backpackers to the island, landing on a narrow strip just on the cliffs overlooking Bechers Bay, the islands largest anchorage. Campsites and trails are quite extensive, considering how few people utilize the island, and the terrain, from torrey pines, to sandy beaches to steep cliffs is worth seeing.
The island’s history is one of back and forth deals, ideas and decisions. After removing the natives who used the island as fishing grounds in 1700s the Mexican government, gave, then took away the island to four different people. Under U.S. control, the government allowed Mobil to make plans to use the island for oil drilling, just before banning any such operations when it was included in the Channel Islands National Park. And more recently, George W. Bush signed a Republican controlled Congressional Omnibus bill in 2006 allowing injured U.S. veterans to hunt elk on the island as recreation, before then signing a Democratic Omninbus bill the following year that repealed such activites. The island has been considered for use as a debtors prison, a bombing range, training grounds for island assaults during World War II, and in the last few years, it’s been suggested by several state assemblyman as a place to permanently send California’s sexual offenders.
Bechers Bay and Johnson’s Lee are the two main anchorages, providing protection from several varieties of weather. The one type of weather they don’t offer protection from is Southern storms and with a large southern swell entering the bay in the middle of our first night and the looming storm to follow, we decided to head for Santa Barbara. We picked up anchor and set our course, this time in what now seemed a calm southern 25 knot wind. In three days, we saw strong winds from three different directions, and big swells from everywhere possible – it was time to get behind a breakwater and get some rest and sleep.
Here’s a 360 degree view of Bechers Bay:
Like, Santa Cruz Island, the weather prevented us from hopping in the dinghy and going to shore, but we’re anxious to get back here at some point to do just that: hike to the other side of the island, see the varied white sand beaches and see the torrey pines along the beach.