A Bonus Trip to Close the Season
By Gary Friesen
Summer was ending and the days were shortening. I was still overwhelmed
with all the beauty and adventure I had experienced on this yearís trips
to Santa Cruz Island. I did not like the thought of not having any
more cat trips to the off shore national park so I decided to do one more
trip while the days were still long enough.
Alan Thompson, a well known Inter 20 sailor from the San Diego area, volunteered to crew when it became evident that Bill Mattson would not going to be able to attend this unscheduled trip. Alan is a very experienced trans-channel sailor and has a web page that includes much useful information about safety and preparedness for this sort of trip. (Alan's web site can be found at a href="http://whitecaps.net">http://whitecaps.net). We had been wanted to get together for some cat sailing so this was a good time to do it.
Track Data from Handheld GPS
Alan drove to Los Angeles after dinner, to avoid rush hour traffic. He arrived quite late at my place and we both were too keyed up about the trip to go to sleep. We talked and enjoyed some beverages. Then we finally got sleepy, at 3 a.m.!
Six oíclock came quickly and we were on the highway without delay. We hit some heavy traffic on our way, stopped for breakfast, got the boat rigged, and had some sandwiches made for lunch. We were underway by noon. The weather was dull and we barely had enough breeze to move the boat. A mile later, as we entered the ocean, we had about 4 knots of wind.
|The wind remained very light for several hours and our 13.5 nautical mile hop across the channel was turning into the beginning of a very long day. The first 10 miles took 2.5 hours to cover as we close reached on a starboard tack. We were headed right for the arches at the east end of the island, some 2.5 miles east of our destination, Fryís Harbor.|
Knowing that I was approaching the wind shadow of the distant, but huge Santa Cruz Island, and an area with a strong current opposing our windward progress, I decided to tack before reaching the full influence of those two forces that opposed us.
|I also decided to sail farther than the lay line to Fryís, anticipating a possible wind shift and some sideslip on the currents. I wanted to know that I would not have to try for additional northward progress later while in the wind shadow and on the currents. So we sailed about 3 miles when we might have been fine with 1.8 miles on this port tack. At this time the wind picked up and we began to enjoy some double trapezing. Alan took the helm.|
Now we were going fast enough for our dolphin friends to come play!
When we tacked back to starboard, and we found ourselves double trapped
on a beam reach, right on target. We were making 12 Ė16 knots the
rest of the 5.5 miles we traveled. Alan and I both took a turn at
driving during this fast and exciting final leg of the trip to the island.
Alan commented on how difficult the steering was to deal with in comparison
to his cat, an Inter 20. He also noted that in the light to
medium air, my hulls seemed to cut through the water a little better than
his would have done.
The island seemed to be growing as we viewed it on approach.
The boring part of the day was behind us. The final leg of the first crossing of the day was delightful as the wind and sun had come out to play with us. We were in great spirits and ready for the challenge of a beach landing or dropping an anchor to allow us to swim ashore for lunch. Some tough and difficult times were ahead. It was getting late as the challenges began to expand.
I turned into irons near the beach and Alan jumped off the boat to keep
her from going aground. We surveyed the available beach. Tide
was at its peak so we knew that if we beached the cat, we would not have
to worry much about her if we walk away. However, the shore was too
The available beach was a very steep cascade of bowling ball size boulders. This was not going to work. We discussed it and talked about anchoring. I stood up and looked down through the beautiful blue green water to see what sort of bottom we had for anchorage.
I was shocked to see that on the windward side of the boat, out of Alanís view, we had a very huge and nasty looking rock just about a foot below us. When I exclaimed "Thereís a huge rock, right here!" Alan immediately responded by gently pushing the boat downwind along the shore to get us away from the rock. I was glad that we did not make contact with it. I then looked down behind the boat and right there, almost hitting the rudders was a barnacle-infested thing that looked a lot like the scraper blade on the front of a skip loader bulldozer.
This was certainly not a friendly place to anchor. Further off shore there was a large rock in the way; call it a small island. So, Alan hopped back on the boat and we moved away from shore. Alan is practiced at anchoring. He had brought with us the best anchor available for this situation.
We went in the lee of the big rock and set the anchor. While testing it, we drug anchor and had to ditch because we were drifting toward the cliffs on the island. The wind was picking up quite seriously and we had no shelter from it, so the water was getting pretty lumpy.
When we sailed back around to retrieve the anchor by the floating cushion
Alan had fastened to the end of the line, we had a terrible time trying
to get close enough to grasp it while not landing on the cliffs.
It took several attempts and the time was really ticking away. It
was already about 4 p.m. and sunset was due at 7 p.m.
|After a brief rest, we went for a walk. High tide required us to wade through a tide pool, between waves, to reach the sandy isthmus. We stopped for some pictures.||
Seeing the other side of the Island was a great treat. The waves were curling over into tunnels and the tide pools were getting a great thundering pounding of surf.
|This place is beautiful and we had a cool view of the anchored cat from the other side of the island.||
|To illustrate the distance between beaches, we took a picture of one another taking a picture of one another.|
When we returned to the landing beach, we sat down for lunch and began to plot our return plan. The sun was getting rather low and this, the north side of the island, was now in complete shade. We watched the sun's light diminish from illuminating the boat. There were plenty of birds nesting on this island and the smell of guano was influencing my enjoyment of lunch. So I decided to take a walk up around the cove we were in and go to a place that would have me upwind and up current of the boat.
Alan was going to stay and then hike part way around the cove and take a shot at the return swim from about half way between my chosen spot and the place where we came ashore. I took the ice chest this time.
On my way, I went through a small tunnel or arch and found a very beautiful
grotto full of tidal pool life. From there, I could see the big rock
that the boat sat next to and could just barely see the boat. It
was going to be a long swim.
This was the most beautiful time of the day for me as I entered an underwater
realm of beautiful sea life. I saw many fish including Calico Bass,
California Sheep Head, Opal Eyed Perch, Smelt, Minnows, and the state fish,
Garibaldi. Garibaldi are a brilliant orange color just as the California
Poppy, the state flower. I had a nice casual swim down the current
to the boat while dragging an ice chest by my ankle. I was slightly
nervous about sharks since I was so tired and bound with so much gear on
my person. That was only because of the numerous recent reports of
shark attacks in Florida. So I just ignored my slight fear.