Sailing the Coast of California

Sweet Seas Avalon Three

Mooring in Avalon

In the summer of 2018 I sailed down the California coast from San Francisco to Catalina Island. For crew I enjoyed the company of my wife and two friends all jumping aboard along the way. Once in Southern California waters we hopped from harbor to harbor. Twice we sailed to Catalina Island and then after back up the coast on a course that took us out to the Channel Islands before making the final long uphill passage to home port.

Even in the midst of the very pinnacle of a late August summer a raucous Pacific Ocean can be frequented by Small Craft Warnings. Humbling gales, near gales and impenetrable fog’s can bedevil a recreationalist sailor. Dodging the adversity of such inclement conditions I planned to slip into and out of protected harbors hopscotching my way back up the coast. The professional meteorological consultants at Weather Routing Incorporated were enlisted as an insurance policy, to save this sailor from his own miscalculations, the bet being this helpful advice would reduce the chances of my being caught off the coast in an unmuted blow. For the week ahead Weather Routing Inc. provided me with a comprehensive weather report and then by telephone each day advised as I picked my way northward.


Panorama of Anacapa Island

The initial turn and the first forty miles from Avalon were undertaken in a steady hull speed inducing breeze. As I boasted on that leg, “The gods are great!” The seas were smooth, air was warm as dolphins came bounding toward us to play in our bow’s wake. Our first leg was auspicious. From Los Angeles’s Marina del Rey to Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor, a distance of fifty miles was pragmatic; we motorsailed and bucked against steep chop for the last two hours.

The next morning our sloop romped under full sail out to the Channel Islands. Morning overcast and haze yielded to a blue sky. Dark silhouettes on the horizon began peeking through the mists in time lapse revelatory boat speed. Materializing before our eyes were the surreal other-worldly cliffs of Anacapa Island. As we drew closer the khaki colored sheer vertical guano streaked bluffs invoked a sense of the epic. This is the mythological world of Venus and Aphrodite; nature as conundrum, stunning and temporally transformational. Winds dropped. Seas settled into a lull. Serenity took grip. Two silent sailors set motionless basking in the warm sun. While eating lunch my wife rendered our shared verdict. “This is the best day of sailing in my life.”

Anacapa Leaving

Approaching the Other World

Putting our boat and minds back in order we made ready to turn and beat north in a stout wind tipped with white capped seas. We bound close-hauled beneath a full mainsail across Anacapa Passage to Santa Cruz Island. The anchorages at Scorpion, Little Scorpion and Pelican Bay were full up. Exposed to a swell wrapping around the northeast headlands  we set one hook in Prisoners Harbor. Had I been on my best game a second hook on my stern would have been set to help fend off the incessant rocking but light was dimming and the day was at end. Here was as best as we could do with what time we had before darkness set in.

The next morning in a dead calm we motorsailed to Santa Barbara. Without having to tire from beating against wind or wave was under the circumstances fine. In the days and miles ahead a less benign Pacific Ocean would be certain to kick up and tax our resolve. We would for the first time in four days return from the sea and walk on land.

Edited Red Star


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