Monday, September 28, 2009

Santa Barbara redux

We seem to be going in circles, but we don't want to rush away from this beautiful stretch of coast, particularly not when the next destination is LA! Santa Barbara is a truly delightful place to roam around, although the bike lanes are just barely adequate. We visited the Santa Barbara Mission today, 4 miles up the hill from the marina, and much as it was when Richard Henry Dana visited in 1835 (Vicki's reading Two Years Before the Mast).

The original 1786 altar, hand-built by the local Chumash Indians and decorated with abalone shells, was the most memorable part of the mission tour for me.

We have also enjoyed seeing some of the interesting homes gracing Santa Barbara's streets. This picture shows one of the Crocker Row houses built by a railroad magnate in the 1890s to rent out to wealthy Easterners.

We found a nice little Italian restaurant that had lunch specials for only $6.50.
And best of all, we found two tickets on Craigslist for the Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert Thursday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl!

Crosby's 60-foot Alden-designed schooner, the Mayan, is docked right across the fairway from us here at the marina, so we hope he will decide to go for a sail before or after the concert!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Santa Cruz redux

We just got back into Santa Barbara after another 5-day trip to Santa Cruz Island, to see some of the areas we missed on the first go-round. We tried again to see the Painted Cave, but again were turned back by high winds and steep chop.

So we went to the east end of the island and found a delightful anchorage in Little Scorpion, near the Park Service's headquarters, interpretive center, and campground. From there we traveled on several hiking trails, and snorkeled in caves and kelp beds near the boat.

We also went around to the south side of the island, which was less windy, but had strong surge in the anchorages, probably coming all the way up from Tropical Storm Marty. We spent the night in Coches Prietos, anchored next to a Kelly-Peterson 46 from Port San Luis. Snorkeling in the outer cove here revealed treasure - two Danforth anchors and rodes stuck in the rocks! We shared our booty with the divers aboard the KP46.

Today we had a wonderful sail back to Santa Barbara. It was sad to leave the islands, but Internet connections were spotty, and my OSU classes are starting up again on Monday. It was nice to find out that some of my pictures were published on the Latitude 38 website:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Santa Barbara

We spent the weekend at Santa Barbara, re-provisioning and doing a bit of sightseeing. Unfortunately, we happened to time our visit for the "West Beach" music show, which had 2 stages blasting reggae, hip-hop, and other music right at the marina all weekend. I usually like all kinds of music, but with 2 stages, this came across mostly as noise, and high dB noise at that! But SB is a nice place to visit, with a scenic old town, hundreds of restaurants to choose from, decent bike lanes, and one of our favorite activities, a farmers' market.

We also had a visit from my niece's husband's parents, who are the captain and nurse aboard a government missile tracking ship based out of Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific. Their ship is having its engines worked on at a nearby Navy port. Nice to know that even large ships have to deal with mechanical issues, not just cruisers!

The farmers' market was one of the largest we have come across on this trip, and was situated in a nice area with lots of shade trees. The aroma of kahili ginger and other exotic flowers wafted through the air, and the produce was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Now we're headed back out to the islands for more snorkeling and wildlife watching. We'll probably be out of Internet range for the next week or so.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hiking on Santa Cruz

Local boaters anchored nearby told us about a nice 4 mile roundtrip hike, and said that we would not need a permit, so we decided to try it. Santa Cruz has an interesting history -- for over a century it was farmed and ranched, then in 1987 it passed into the hands of The Nature Conservancy.

TNC has vowed to protect and restore it, by removing invasive species and limiting human impact on the island's many endemic species.

On our hike we were fortunate to see several of these, including the island fox, several species of endemic oak trees, and Santa Cruz Island pine (regarded by some botanists as a subspecies of Bishop pine).

We saw two foxes, one an adult, and another smaller one that may have been a juvenile. The juvenile appeared quite curious and let us get to within a few feet of it. These foxes are about 1/3 smaller than mainland foxes, and beautifully marked.

We also saw an ephemeral pond with a lot of succulent ferns and flowers around it, a visual surprise in this otherwise dry environment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Snorkeling on Santa Cruz

One thing I have particularly looked forward to on this trip is snorkeling in the kelp forests of Southern California. I grew up down here, and skindiving was one of my earliest outdoor pursuits. Since then I've been lucky to dive in a lot of tropical areas, but this area still holds special memories. The water here is cold enough to need a wetsuit, but the underwater colors and shapes are a rich reward for a little shivering!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Santa Cruz Island

The third island is the charm! Today, we continued east to the largest island in the northern Channel Islands, Santa Cruz. Although, like San Miguel and Santa Rosa, part of the Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz is mostly owned and controlled by the Nature Conservancy and operates under its rules. We hadn't obtained a landing permit in advance, so we are not supposed to land here. This is disappointing, since we haven't set foot on shore in 4 days and need to stretch our legs a bit.
We were also expecting to see the wind diminish as we headed east, but in fact it piped up to 20 knots again, with a large swell still running. Amazingly, the tiny cove at Fry's Harbor was still and calm, so we gladly laid out bow and stern anchors, saving room for our buddies on Albatross. They almost missed the cove, they were having so much fun with the downwind sail. After they were safely anchored beside us, Mark rowed Mick and Teagan to shore. Water here is warm enough for swimming, and the sun is out. Yay! We'll probably lay over here for a day or two.

Santa Rosa Island

Sunday morning, the wind rose again, so we were glad to move along to the next island in the chain, Santa Rosa. While raising the anchor, the chain fouled in the hawsepipe, and broke the chain guide off the windlass, adding another item to our "to do" list before continuing on to Mexico. We gave the north coast of Santa Rosa a wide berth, as we could see breakers arcing up 50 feet or more from the cliffs. The anchorage at Bechers Bay was much calmer than at San Miguel, but the surge from the large swells made it impossible to land the dinghy, so we just rested and enjoyed the first sunny afternoon since leaving Monterey.