I overheard Scott talking on his cell as we motored out from the harbor on Friday. “Lisa’s giving me what I wanted for Father’s Day: a trip to the islands.” He invited Zoe Burns, our niece from San Francisco, but being Covid cautious, I inquired about her health, and she allowed me to take her temperature. We kept social distance & wore masks in enclosed spaces like house & car, but in a cockpit with the wind & sea, we were free.
This was Zoe’s first trip to the Channel Islands, which I describe as California’s Galapagos. Leaving at 8AM, about a mile from the marina, four dolphins heading north performed synchronized leaps on our port side. A thick marine layer & glassy sea made for a smooth trip. The wind picked up mid-channel and we were able to cut the motor and sail for about 2 hours, averaging 5 knots. Another large pod of dolphins heading down the island’s coastline greeted us as we arrived at Pelican’s in time for lunch.
While we didn’t see any other SBSPS boats, Pelican’s had seven anchored as Scott threaded S/V Benchmark into the line up between a Pearson yawl from Ventura and the Ottersea from Santa Barbara. This number would ultimately swell to ten. Having a third person during anchoring chores is helpful, especially when putting out two anchors. I manned the helm, listening for instructions from the captain at the bow, and Zoe was at the stern anchor.
As we hoped, the skies above the island were clear and sunny. Scott prepared our new dingy. The previous shakedown cruise chronicled in last month’s Signal Hoist paid off with a seamless experience this time. Zoe took off in the kayak, exploring both sides of the anchorage and landing at the cove to the east with its rocky beach. Scott & I took the dingy to my favorite scenic spot “Hole in the Wall.” With the beautiful weather, we didn’t want to waste a moment.
Upon both groups returning to S/V Benchmark, I took the dingy to explore the near shore sea life, seeing about a dozen Garibaldi, divided into two per rocky clump, defending their territories. The water was clear, like looking through a green glass soda pop bottle spotting moving sparks of bright orange amid the seagrass.
We’ve been to Santa Cruz many times, but taking a guest allowed us to see it with fresh eyes as we pointed out dolphins, sea lions, seabird varieties, fish, native plants, and historic features of past development, like the steps leading to a hotel used by movie studios when the island served as exotic scenery for motion pictures. While taking a hike on overcast Saturday afternoon, we were happily surprised by a wild Island Fox scurrying up a cliff after checking out the rocky
beach next to Pelican’s for any treats left untended by kayakers. During the hike we saw numbered signposts keyed to interpretative trail guides with points of interest like the rare silver lotus plant. We woke up to a foggy Sunday, pulled anchor about 8AM, and had asmooth motor sail home. We enjoyed a passing pod of dolphins as we approached Santa Barbara harbor. “Beginner’s luck” I told Zoe; “You’re welcome,” she replied.