Channel Islands

It was an early morning on Friday the 21st, when we finally got to getting outta town.  It was clear and calm and there was the full moon waiting for our departure. If you have ever been to D-Dock at Ventura West Marina you would know that it smells like poop. really. And they aren’t doin’ nothin’ about it – never.  This morning was no different and we were happy to go. We poured some champagne to Neptune and Poseidon (and some to ourselves) and smashed the bottle over the bow and BAM! – we had good luck! We both breathed a huge sigh of relief to be at sea, where everything suddenly seemed at peace. For the record, Andrew left the gas tank for the outboard, full of gas, (about a $120 value) on the dock which we had to return for, but it had been stolen. We later found it on a neighbors boat who claimed to be holding it for whoever had “lost it”. There was no blood shed.

So! We just motored the whole damn way to Prisoners harbor and it was lovely. The plan at this point was to hang at the islands until Tuesday when we would return to Channel Islands Harbor for a re-stock. Here I am at Starbucks in Oxnard whooping up a story to tell you folks, so that part went as planned. We walked here from our $1/ft guest slip (smaller boats always coast less!). The adventure at the islands was rad. We had beautiful, calm, and warm conditions (most of the time) that consisted of an 8-mile hike to the ridge of Santa Cruz Island, A 4-mile hike through a mystical forest to Pelican Bay, fun head-high waves, swimming, basking, cooking, and being.

The waves weren’t too bad…

It was all fine and dandy-doodles until the inevitable forecast mono-toned over the weather channel. Warning: high wind advisory for the Ventura County coast and coastal waters, winds 25-35 mph with gusts to 40 mph. This is the forecast for what Southern California calls a Santa Ana wind. Developing from high pressure in the Great Basin where the dry, warm, desert air moves westward accelerating through the mountain valleys until they reach the Oxnard plain (and other points south) where they barf out as massive, nasty, dusty, gusty, offshore blows. This is probably the worst weather scenario possible for Santa Cruz Island because there is very little protection from the E NE where the winds are born. Although this is a gnarly condition, it is not uncommon and everyone knows them and what to do. If you’re at Chinese you do what is called the Chinese Fire Drill. You sleep with calm water and wet air and then BAM! – 3AM you wake up to the most scary sounding gust of wind you ever heard out-of-no-where with a dry mouth and a shakey leg.

At this point Andrew literally shot out the hatch from the v-berth and we prepared to head over to the moderately protected anchorage in the Eastern part of the bay. We dropped the hook in the dark at an anchorage we had never been to, which was no problemmo, but we imagined that would be crazy for some reason. The winds gusted to over 50 knots whistling down from the 500ft+ cliffs blocking us from the East. This was a good test of ground tackle. Only the day before the departure we had added an 8-plait 5/8 nylon rode to our 100 feet of 5/16 high-test galvanized chain and 35lb Rocna anchor (all connecting with 2-ton USA shackles, carefully seized with government approved wire). I made the eye-splice in the line where the rode attaches to the chain so I was basically freaking-out that this was how we were going to give it some load to test it’s strength. I did take my splice and the whole pile of rode over to the sail maker to make sure it wasn’t going to fail and he told me it was bitchin’, so I took his word for it. It was my first splice and when we pulled it up after 12 hours of sustained gusts it still looked bitchin.

So yeah, the Santa Ana… it blew and we tacked back and forth on the hook and watched one guy in power boat drag anchor pretty good (he was on all chain with a Bruce anchor and went to reset and then he was OK). We didn’t move an inch. It was scary as shit. Eventually we both got used it, I made banana pancakes and our wetsuits dried really fast and I even fell asleep. We both indulged in the sound-canceling headphones blasting a happy tune. The winds died at at about 4-pm so we could enjoy an insane sunset and a calm evening… weird. They say the Santa Anas make house-wives kill people and stuff… they are pretty cool I guess, not the killing, but the phenomenon.

Winds and Sunset

Above is the combo of being anchored during the blow and the calm and sunset that followed

That being the highlight I will also add that I saw two island foxes (very cool house-cat size unique creatures) hiking up to the ridge line and we saw a small pod of whales too. I made a collage of some photos for ya’ll to see what I was poking around in.

My collage!

The Channel Islands could very well be one of the coolest places ever. They are often referred to as the Galapagos of the north. We have spent a few years spending time out there so if you want to check out more pictures that are not on this blog check out my Channel Islands Flickr Set.

Looking East towards Chinese Harbor from the hike to Pelican Bay. We were anchored to the left during the blow.

We were up around 5am this morning and sailed ‘er back to town. We are planning to leave Thursday to go South. Santa Anas are forecasted to blast again starting Wednesday and we are still devising a plan.  Apologies for taking on some odd southern drawl. I’m re-reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I be talkin’ like I ain’t no nor-western girl. Way Huck says it, there ain’t no life better’n life on a raft where life ’tis open ‘n free (or somethin’ like that). Thanks for reading!

6 Responses to “Channel Islands”
  1. Jenny Shade says:

    Hey Jules, Thanks for the update. I was out at the islands last Monday. What a cool place. Happy Sailing! Yer bud, Jenny

  2. Fabienne Nitopi says:

    Hi Julie and Andrew! Wishing you smooth sailing and pleasant winds for the first and all legs of your adventure. Jules your pictures are amazing and your words made me laugh out loud. Can’t wait to continue to follow you through your blog. I miss you both and am so proud you are making your dreams come true. Much love and many thoughts and prayers! Your friend,

  3. vee says:

    Ya’ll be sound like ya having some durn good adventures! Cheers to you two for making it through the SA winds!

  4. A funny thing happened at the Providence St Peter Hospital in Olympia. We met your mother, Terry. I was there to undergo an appendectomy and your mother was my nurse. Your mother is great. While preparing for surgery I mentioned that Paula and I had done some sailing and of course that opened the door for her to tell us about you and your adventure. Good for you and Andrew. It sounds like you have a sound boat and sound heads on your shoulders. That should see you through the adventures ahead.

    It is the same combination that got Paula and I around the world on Suzanne 2, our 42 foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey. We left Percival Dock in Olympia on July 1, 2006 and returned on June 28, 2009. We spent from July 1 to March 07 sailing the US West Coast, Baja, Mexico and South America to Golfito, Costa Rico before heading offshore to the Galapagos Islands. Our travels our documented at

    Even though we have done it, we are envious of your future adventures. You probably have stateside assistance but if we can be of help let us know.

    • followthearc says:

      Hello Ken and Paula – Thank you for stopping in to share your blog and story with us! We checked it out and it is a beautiful inspiration. It seems we have only gone such a short distance compared to what you did so I’m sure we’ll be back to reference it for tips. Thank you for your offer to help us out, it is really great to know we have so much support out there. I’m glad you had a good experience with Mother Theresa (aka nurse Terry), she’s the best. Do you think you will ever get the itch to go out cruising again?? Hi to Melaina 🙂

  5. I forgot to mention that our daughter Melaina Rauen (class of 04) was a cheerleader a Capitol High. She thinks she remembers you

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