sailing homepage : trip reports : 1: sf to sd : sb to sci to oxnard
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Oct 17-18: Passage from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz Island, lots of exciting adventure, and the passage from there to Oxnard

We left the rolly anchorage off the Santa Barbara beachfront after a quick breakfast, and set sail for Santa Cruz Island, one of the four (five?) northern channel islands in SoCal. Yes, you read it right folks, we set sail. Mike, we're so sorry you left! You would have loved it!

The wind was perfect; we didn't turn the engine on until we were ready to anchor.

Sara steers by the jib telltales


The rare Steering Monkey at work

The seas built to 6-8ft, with some larger than 10ft, and the wind peaked at about 25-30 knots. We threw a reef in the main and ripped along at 7.5 knots. I think we hit 8 knots several times during gusty puffs. We were taking the waves on the beam, so it required slewing on and off the bigger waves to avoid the breakers, but it was awesome to sail again.

Pictures never capture wave height


They get spray though!

We all took turns at the helm; steering through some of the bigger waves was a lot of fun! The wave would push the stern around, so we would have to steer to compensate. Sometimes we would be going in just the right direction, at just the right speed, and we would 'surf' down the front of a wave picking up some awesome speed!

Sean at the helm


Sara watching for big waves

We got to the barren rock at about 3PM, then made our way around the back of the island to Smuggler's Cove, our anchorage for the evening. There were already a few boats there, so we carefully selected a protected spot, circled to check the depth, and went for it. The CQR didn't stick, our second experience with this, and we had to re-set the anchor.

Island off the starboard bow


Smuggler's Cove

It's not like resetting a computer - re-setting an anchor means you motor forward very slowly while someone at the windlass pumps it back and forth and hauls up the rope, chain, and anchor. The windlass is awesome, and makes it possible for anyone to bring the 250lbs of 'stuff' back onboard the boat, but it can be tiring to do it quickly. We communicate with hand signals, but sometimes stuff gets lost in translation.

We were drifting a little close to another boat, so when the anchor was up I put the transmission in gear and moved us away. Unfortunately Sean was still in the process of pulling our anchor marker line (tied to the anchor and to a floating bouy) onboard. It was still in the water. I drove over it while Sean was shouting something about a line in the water, and we heard a crunch. I quickly put the motor in neutral, but it was too late: we had wrapped the line around the propeller and driveshaft. We couldn't use the motor, we were adrift.

We were luckily between two boats and floating out to sea, so we waited until we were a good distance away, dropped the anchor again (without the marker line or bouy), and breathed a sigh of relief when we came to a stop. I was kicking myself: I had asked Sean to put down the marker bouy late in the anchoring process, and it had kinda messed up his timing. We were all rushing, then the anchor didn't set, then we needed to recover it quickly due to our proximity to other boats.

No problems though, with the boat secured, I stripped down, put on a lifejacket, and jumped in with a knife between my teeth. That line was coming off our prop!

Beautiful water colour


Line wrapped

It was actually pretty easy. The line wasn't cut, just wrapped, and I could use it to pull myself underwater to the propeller without exerting much energy. The water was cold, but tolerable. It took me seven or eight dives to cut away the obstruction, unwrap the rest, and free the prop. Everything was undamaged, thank goodness.

With the boat anchored, prop free, and everything else cool, we decided to stay where we were. Sean went for a swim and bathed. I didn't have to lather up due to my earlier swim. Woohoo!

"I'm going that way"


Nice dive! 10.0

It was a great anchorage, until about 6PM.

The wind picked up from the NW, right over the island. I guess it started blowing 15-20kts.

Then the sun went down.

Then it started blowing more. A lot more. Like 30-40kts.

I don't think we had ever been in anything like it before. The wind was just howling. The spreaders and halyards were singing a wild tune. I filmed a quick movie on the camera and you can't hear me shouting over the wind. Thankfully we were close enough to shore that there were no waves - the wind didn't have a chance to build any. We carefully watched our anchor after we saw another boat dragging, and let out another 25ft of rope. We increased to 5:1 scope: 45# CQR, 100' chain (170#), and 50ft of rope in ~25ft of water.

We kept checking the anchor as the wind built, and damn it, we dragged. We knew it was happening as soon as it started, and let out 50ft more rope. No effect, no change, still dragging. Shite!

Both anchors deployed


Full deployment, nice cleats

We dragged about half a mile before we said "enough!". We deployed our second bow anchor, the 45# Bruce, with 50' of chain (85#) and 150' of rope. We could feel the thing set as soon as it hit the ground. We increased our scope on the CQR to our max: 100' of chain, 300' of rope, and put chafe protection on both lines (thanks for the fire hose, Wyn!). The two anchors split the load, and we were solidly hooked. We spent the next two or three hours checking the anchors though!

Chafe protection: old fire hose


Sean and Will: anchor madmen

In hindsight, the CQR never set. We didn't back down on it properly when we first anchored - stupid wrapped prop - and it was probably just lying on its side on the hardpack sand. I guess it never bit in. The Bruce set immediately, and ended up holding us solid on just a 4:1 scope (we were in 50ft of water by then!).

We're thinking about replacing the CQR with the Bruce when we get some time to modify the bowsprit. The Bruce was my first choice, but the CQR just fits so well up there. We'll see. We learned some important lessons: ensure the anchor sets, monitor the anchor in a blow, and deploy the 2nd anchor quickly.

The evening was uneventful after that: the winds died before midnight and we all got a full night's sleep. The next morning we woke up and were truly in awe of how far we had dragged! The boat was outside Smuggler's Cove!

After breakfast, we had an exciting morning to match our exciting adventures yesterday. The three of us were really looking forward to a long hike, so we put the dinghy in the water, attached the outboard, and prepared to go ashore. I shouldn't skip over the last sentance: a huge southerly swell had the boat rolling something like 20-30 degrees and bouncing up and down in the water, so doing all that was fairly heroic.

For example: after we had the dinghy in the water, no small feat, we pulled it near the back of the boat and Sean jumped in. I attached one of the halyards to the outboard motor and we transfered the 90lb motor from it's resting position on the stern rail down six feet onto the transom of the dinghy.

Sara worked the halyard, winching it up and lowering it as Sean and I wrestled the motor into position. I disconnected it from the mounting bracket on the rails, had Sara lift it, swung the thing over the side, and almost killed Sean with the heavy metallic pendulum. Sean and the dinghy were bouncing around, sometimes right next to me as we would roll towards him, sometimes 10ft away as we would roll away and climb the next wave. It was crazy.

We somehow managed. Even with the dinghy and motor in the water, just getting me and Sara aboard was nuts. We sat on the side of Wanderlust, Sean motored next to us, and we timed our departure with the waves. When the boat would roll to starboard, we would be staring down at the top of Sean's head. When it rolled back, we were looking him in the eyes. It was nuts.

Anyway, long story not much shorter, we got in the dinghy and left the rolly pitchy boat. Purpeat took us closer to shore, where we realized the rolling waves were creating big huge rolling breakers on the beach. We went back and forth looking for a protected spot we could make a landing, but the breakers were big and we weren't very brave. We gave up, went back to Wanderlust, and repeated the dinghy insanity as we got everything back onboard the boat.

By 11AM we were all spent. Muscles aching, adrenaline starved, we were exhausted. We set sail and recovered on the trip over to Oxnard. I have to say our first Island experience wasn't a great one: we had problems anchoring, wrapped the prop, dragged anchor, had a horrible dinghy-launching, and didn't even set foot on the island!

At the same time, we dealt with everything very well. We knew the CQR didn't set, and took the time and effort to reset it. We knew we wrapped the prop and corrected the problem immediately. We knew we were dragging right away, and took the steps to stop it. We managed the crazy conditions for the dinghy launching by going slowly and being careful. We worked together as a team, and overall it was a great learning experience.

Still, we all believe that island is cursed.

Splashes as we drive through waves


Tug and barge in the middle of nowhere

The trip back was great, we got to do a bunch of sailing and generally relaxed. The sea state was confused, the southerly swell was mixing with some NW'erly wind waves and we had to beat through some choppy stuff for about two hours. I'm not sure where the stuff from the South came from, it wasn't forecast and really messed up our dinghy efforts. Who signed up for this inconvenient weather anyway?

When we got close enough to shore to use a cellphone, we called Dolphin Insurance and confirmed that we were now covered. We signed up for full hull, liability, medical, and other coverage. Originally we weren't sure we could afford it, and I'm pretty sure we still can not, but our life savings are wrapped up in Wanderlust and it's probably best to be protected. It's kinda cool to be insured by Lloyds of London! Certainly a warm fuzzy safe feeling.

Sean and the tug


Sara deep in thought

We arrived in Oxnard about 2PM, and for the first time ever we were asked for our vessel registration. Crazy! I went back to the boat from the harbour master's office, dug out the paperwork, and watched as they filled out forms in triplicate. Crazy!

Oxnard Harbour Master


Sara the groundhog

We grabbed a slip for the evening and made arrangements to meet up with Steve and Della again. Sara and I wanted to see them again and buy them dinner for all their help. Our plan was going off without a hitch when, at the restaurant, we both realized that the other didn't have their wallet. Crap! Sara even asked me to go back and "get the card", but I assumed she meant the gate key for the marina! So we had both gate keys, no wallet, no money, and had to let Steve and Della buy us dinner again.

We felt pretty crappy, especially since we'd been talking up how we wanted to buy them dinner. Ugh. Of course they didn't come back to the boat for a nightcap, so we couldn't slip them some cash. These Rhodes' are a tricky bunch! As soon as we got home we got online and sent them some flowers.

Wanderlust looking awesome


Della, Sara, and Steve

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