Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New islands

We finally left Santa Barbara after 11 days in a slip, our longest period of inactivity since we started the trip. Part of this layover was due to the start of fall term at OSU and Mark's need to be online communicating with 70 new students; then Chica's death; and finally a 2-day blow that saw peak winds of over 70 knots at nearby Anacapa Island.

Monday we had a nice sail back out to the islands. It was so calm we decided to anchor at Anacapa, even though "East Fish Camp" wasn't much more than a dent in the rugged coastline. When we awoke during the night, we saw why the anchorage was so named; we were surrounded by the lights from over 2 dozen fishing boats! Some were still there in the morning.

Tuesday, after visiting the lighthouse on Anacapa, we had to motor nearly the entire 35 miles to Santa Barbara, the smallest and most remote of the Channel Islands that are accessible to the public (two are used by the Navy and are generally off-limits). On our way across this large, empty expanse of water we actually had to change course to avoid a freighter for the first time on the trip. Santa Barbara is beautiful in the spring, when the giant coreopsis and other plants are in bloom. At this time of year it is just desolate. We took turns ferrying each other to shore for a hike on the island's trails; it was too rough to land the dinghy!

Below the water's surface it is surprisingly beautiful here. The water is crystal clear (athough the photos don't show it well), with visibility up to 100 feet at this time of year. We could see our anchor on the bottom and all 100 feet of the chain leading to it. Sea lions would periodically streak by and check me out underwater.

Today we had a beautiful sail to the place it all began for us, Catalina Island. The 24 mile passage was marked by repeated encounters with dolphins, at least 3 different species of them. The white ones are called Risso's dolphins, they have blunt heads, orca-like fins, and mottled skin patterns, and are about 12 feet long; the dark ones we haven't identified yet, but they were also about 12 feet long and made us a bit nervous as they played near the bow. We didn't get any pictures of the more common bottlenose dolphins.

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