Channel Islands Trip
Ed and Peggy
"Knot Kidding"
October 2001

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The preparations for the trip began with the idea of taking the boat up to the Channel Islands. They are located about 100 miles north of our Huntington Harbor, off the coast near Santa Barbara. There are 4 main islands there, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. We have been considering a long cruise on our CHB boat, and thought this would make a good test.

We prepared about right by taking a seminar in the late summer, and getting the equipment ready. We ended up having to install a new generator. However, we got a bit side tracked a few weeks before, and had to deal with family issues, which may have resulted in a cancellation. Worse, the events of Sept 11 also put a damper on the enthusiasm we had for the trip. Not to mention that the Navy had closed the harbor for a week, and we had no idea whether or not we could leave.


But finally, the week before, everything resolved, and the trip was on! It was a mad scramble to gather the food and other equipment we wanted to take. Our plan was for us to be completely independent for the entire two weeks of our vacation. So we got lots of food and drink! It all finally got loaded on Friday night, and we planned to leave the harbor Saturday morning, Sept 22. That's us right after we woke up and were just about to leave. Trip Start.JPG (452122 bytes)

The Navy had established two transit windows, 8-10am and 4-6 pm, so we opted for the early one just in case. Our plan was to hang out at the nearby Marina Pacifica, which has a nice, uncrowded dock, and a grocery store. We realized we had missed a few items in our haste, so we needed to get a few things. Also, Ed was getting a sore throat, so Peggy called a doctor to get an antibiotic to get Ed by. We didn’t want to miss any diving due to illness! I also wanted to get a hand help radio, so we walked over to West Marine and picked one up.

 The plan was to wait until about 6 or so, and then head over to the fuel dock in San Pedro. It’s about an hour away, and we figured on fueling up, and then beginning the journey. Peg and I worked on our course planning, and did our shopping, had a nice lunch, and then left at the designated time. We hit the fuel dock about 7pm, and it took about 45 minutes to fuel up. We left about 7:45 and it was already dark. It was a very nice evening, not foggy yet at all. We headed out of San Pedro to round Point Fermin.

 We decided to do 3 hour shifts, and Peggy decided that she wanted to go first. Turned out to be a bad decision as she got the rough water after rounding the point. (And as luck would have it, she always had the worst conditions on her shift!). It was basically an uneventful voyage as we past the Los Angeles area. It was somewhat rough, but no big deal. The boat was running perfectly. 

Not much happened until very late in the night. It got pretty foggy, and was pretty rough at times. I recall peg driving along, and then she sudden said that she was kind of scared. Well, it was scary, we could not see anything in front of the boat it was so dark and foggy. It was watch the radar, and then look ahead to see anything. We have autopilot, so you just let it drive. We don’t travel very fast, we were doing about 8.5 knots, and we didn’t see hardly any other boats. I reassured her, and thought that she was being just a touch paranoid. I told her she could slow down if she wanted, but she would have nothing of that!

 Finally, it was one of my shifts, and I really understood what she meant. It is amazing how your mind starts playing tricks on you. I swore that the boat kept turning to the left, but it wasn’t. I remember my pilot ground school (way back). The mantra is “Trust your instruments”. I did. But still, when you can’t see a thing, and it’s the middle of the night, and you are tired, well, you get the idea.

 But once, my mind wasn’t playing tricks. I saw something on the radar, about 1 mile in front of us. I became very alert and watched both the radar and the outside intently. That spot was coming closer and closer, and fast, and it was right on our path. I did the required piloting, and turned toward starboard, as you are supposed to do. But it remained directly in our path, and it was close!

 Suddenly, out of the dense fog, emerged about a 20 foot speedboat, heading right at us! He swerved to my port, and passed harmlessly by. But my heart was pounding, and I just couldn’t figure out why that idiot was going so fast in such a fog! And in such a small boat? Go figure. Takes all types I guess.

 Peg never really let me get the rest I needed. As we got closer to the dreaded shipping lanes, I took over. The shipping lanes are the designated areas where the big ships travel. And I mean big – there really big ones. And they travel fast – in excess of 20 knots (like 30 mph). That is very fast for a 200 foot long freighter – especially if it looks like its coming at you! So we were very alert. The good news was that the fog was not as bad, and you could see lights. We could see the lights of the oil derricks off in the distance. 

Then, we saw this extremely bright light in front of us. I tried all kinds of things to get it to register on the radar, but it never did. And it got closer, and closer, and closer… Eventually we got very close, and could see that it was a “squid boat” – a small 25-30 foot boat that has these giant lights that are used to draw up squid from the ocean depths. But even though we passed within a couple of hundred yards of it, it never showed up on radar. That was so strange since our radar is so very sensitive that it picks up birds and our wake. Another mystery!

 We did have some challenges crossing the shipping lanes. But nothing that bad. We could see the Anacapa island light, and although we were a few miles from it, the feeling that it was close, and that the freighters were squeezing us towards it persisted. Those freighters really move fast. We took no chances, and gave them every benefit of the doubt. Finally, we cleared the lanes, and were on track to our Santa Cruz Island destination. I had planned to go into Prisoner’s Harbor, which appeared to be an easy, protected anchorage. I figured we’d be very tired and not up for another challenge for at least a day or two!

 But we got there a little too early. I wasn’t going to try and come in when it was dark, so we had some time to kill. It was really the Navy’s fault because we could not get fuel the week before! No big, I just slowed down to 3 knots, and putted towards the harbor. I was praying for light, and so badly wanted to be able to see. Plus, we had decided to drop the plastic windows so we could see better, so it was pretty darned cold! 

PrisonersHarbor.JPG (469479 bytes) As it became lighter, I could see the island. As we got closer, I saw Prisoner’s Harbor! It was as I had hoped, a large, easy anchorage. There were a few boats. We picked a spot, dropped the hook, and took a nap. Because it was Sunday, most of the boats left for home later in the morning. After they cleared out, we moved closer to the pier into shallower water. We watched as a boat picked up some hikers using a dinghy. It looked challenging to get to shore! Being so tired, we just decided to watch and wait until the next day. Indeed, the next day we attempted a landing. It wasn’t too bad, we were able to get ashore without incident. We took a small hike. That area was very unique in that there were eucalyptus trees there. It was lush, and very nice. There was a little creek, and an old building used by ranchers in the old days. It was now park service building. It was a bit of an adventure getting the dinghy back into the water and then underway back to our boat, but we managed.

That's a view of the harbor as we were hiking. The little dot beyond the pier is Knot Kidding!

 One of the things we learned from the seminar we took was to be mindful of the weather conditions. One could get into serious trouble there because of the severity and quickness of weather changes in that area. Needless to say, we religiously listened to the radio. The weather channel got our attention when they mentioned strong NW winds. We consulted our charts, and decided to move to a more protected location. The best looked to be Pelican Bay. We picked up, and began our move.

As we approached Pelican, we saw several boats on the same course, heading right towards it. We hoped to get there first, not for ego reasons, but because we were still quite unsure of our anchoring skills. We wanted to be in a spot we knew we could handle and not be crowded out by the others. As it turned out, we did indeed arrive before the others, and found a very nice spot to drop the hook. The others came in a little while later, and they all got settled nicely. Clearly they were more experienced than we were!

Just after, an older gentleman in a very large dinghy approached us, and gave us a few pointers on anchoring. We have 300’ of 5/16 chain, and a nice delta hook, and it worked great. He told us to let out 200’ of chain, and we had already about 150’ out. We let it alone for the moment. We took out the dinghy and talked to a couple of other boats, and we seemed to be settled very well. That was enough excitement for the day. The others told us to do our exploring early in the morning, and let someone know when you were expected back. That feeling of camaraderie was welcomed in this “wilderness”.

That's Peggy on top of a hill overlooking Pelican Bay.

PelicanBay.JPG (613954 bytes)


The next morning had a spectacular sunrise, and we awoke early to go ashore. Right around the corner of the bay was a small landing beach. We rowed through the kelp and managed to land, though it was exciting! We hiked around the area. There was a neat small creek, and we came across the old hotel that used to be there. All that was left was the foundation, and we imagined how nice it must have been. Atop a nearby hill was a collection of century plants, standing guard over the harbor. SantaCruzSunrise.JPG (622026 bytes)


 After making our way back to the dinghy, we discovered that it had become very windy. It was hard to tell back in the canyons. While not dangerous (yet), we were concerned over how to get the dingy past the kelp boundary. It was a few tense moments, but we made it, and got under power on the other side. Back at the boat we realized how windy it was getting. We decided to follow the “harbor master’s” advice, and let out another 50’ of chain. The weather channel told of very high winds in the Santa Barbara Channel, for which it is notorious. We had to stay put! It became no fun stuck on the boat in such high winds. We rode it out, and the evening was very pleasant – almost.

 A rather large boat had come in. Quickly it became clear that these people had no idea of how to anchor. They must have read somewhere that you back down after dropping the anchor, but they missed the fine print that you have to wait until it hits bottom! So these clods were dropping the hook and then quickly backing up. Long story short, they ended up losing the whole rode! Clearly not good boating – most of us have the bitter end tied off! They sonnet down a couple of divers and finally got anchored. We were grateful that they were not close to us.


CruisingSantaCruz.JPG (596038 bytes) The next morning seemed to be very nice as well. We were thinking of moving to the next anchorage, called Fry’s. It was only a few miles away, and we decided to dinghy up the island as far as we could, and maybe even get a look at the harbor. The journey up was beautiful – arches, beaches, cliffs and caves were all along the island’s coast. However, as we got further up, the waves kept increasing in size. They were just rolling (not breaking) waves, but eventually they got taller than us, so we turned back. We did explore a few coves on the way back. We even ran across the “harbor master” in his large dinghy.

 The wind did not pick up too badly, and so we went kayaking in the bay. It was very nice. We spent more time talking to the other boaters and found that they were from a yacht club in Marina Del Rey. They had lots of advice. One other sailboat spoke of how bad the waves were even further up. They were so bad that they prevented them from entering the Painted Cave, which was one of our main goals. They said that they had been to the caves 50 times, but never prevented form entering like they were today. It made us realize that we were really in some unusual weather. We choose late September early October because most people said that was the most calm time. Oh well….

 The next day seemed pretty nice. Another gorgeous sunrise. We decided to do a dive. The dive was pretty boring as we traversed the bay, only sandy bottom. But, where we go to the wall on the other side, it all changed. We found scallops everywhere! And I shot two nice bass. It was going to be a feast that night!

 In the afternoon, I noticed that the boat that lost the anchor had picked up and was leaving. Or so we thought. He was coming over by us! Oh NO! We had to yell quite a few times at them as they kept trying to drop right over our chain! Turns out they were some young guys, must have been daddy’s boat. Finally they set the hook away from us. Always amazing that people go “advanced boating” with no skills what so ever. And we were so concerned about ourselves, the preparation, etc. Oh well.

 Anyway, the “harbor master” was having a little get together that evening. One of the yacht club members swung by and invited us. That was super nice! We chatted about all kinds of things, and they were a very nice group of people. We learned a lot about the islands from them. We decided to head towards the back side of the island since it was pretty clear from the weather that we wouldn’t be able to get to the Painted Cave. We thought maybe if it settled down we go circumnavigate our way there.

 Just before we left, I fired up the genset. At some point during the party, I got a weird feeling about it. I’m always in tune to my engines! Anyway, as we headed back to the boat, it was a great big uh oh. It had stopped. New generator! Oh no! Power is a big issue on our boat, a generator is a necessity for more than a day or two. As we all know, running a diesel without a load (like just idling for power) is not good for it.

 The next morning we decided to go for and not worry about the genset. We were able to get it running again. It was a very nice journey around the back. We past several of the popular anchorages and mode note that they looked very nice. Our destination was Albert’s cove, next to Coches Prietos. We were told that it was calm and very nice. As we arrived, there was a sailboat that was leaving, and it was at the ideal spot. After waiting for them, we settled in. It was very nice.

There was a nice looking beach in the cove, so we motored the dinghy in. Unfortunately, we misjudged the waves, and nearly capsized! We survived and took a short hike. More tribulations leaving, but we got out without incident. Then I discovered “the mess”. The beach had lots of tar all over it! We wore our dive booties, and they had lots of tar on them. It got all over the dinghy. What a mess! Mine were worse, I considered them ruined. CochesPrietos.JPG (510916 bytes)

  Later that day a sailboat came in and anchored. We watched a couple of guys take surfboards on their dinghy. The remaining guy on the boat started running a dive compressor. We thought maybe he might fill our tanks for us, so we decided to visit the Coches Preitos cove. There were a few boats there, so we decided to be happy where we were. Besides, that fellow had agreed to fill our tanks in exchange for margaritas on our boat later! We learned from those fellows that the weather continued to be terrible away from the island. They could not make their goal of the next island due to the winds, and they were experienced sailors! Later that evening fog rolled in, it was fascinating how fast it came in.

 During all of this, the genset continued to be troublesome. We decided not to worry too much about it yet. We could not get a cell phone signal to call the installer. We went to bed very exhausted. But, in the middle of the night, it got very, very rough. It was nearly impossible to sleep with all the rolling.

 That morning it was an easy decision to make our next move – to the Channel Islands harbor! We had enough rolling, and besides, the genset was not running at all anymore. We motored the 25 miles to the harbor. It was somewhat rough, but the seas were running in a direction favorable to our boat’s motion. It was a welcome site to motor into a nice calm harbor. We phoned ahead to a marina that had a Jacuzzi, pool and clubhouse. They told us that there was a food and wine festival going on that weekend. Now this was cruising at its best! We arrived Friday morning and looked forward to a great weekend in the harbor.

 One problem we had was that I never thought about the power cord. I left our cord back at the dock – and we had no generator either. Fortunately there was a West Marine a few blocks away, which we decided to forgo until the morning since we had a full charge after the trip. We had a nice dinner nearby.

 We got our cordage business taken care of and we enjoyed the harbor’s offerings – shops, restaurants, and the rest. We checked out the food festival, and that evening Dave Mason was the headline act. It was great! Though it was proclaimed a food and wine festival, there wasn’t much wine to be had. But we sure appreciated the folks up there, very nice and friendly. We had a very good time.

 We puttered around the harbor the next day. Missing the wine, we decided to rent a car and go wine tasting in the Santa Barbara wine country. We had a great time, and visited a few wineries. Fess Parker’s stood out as having some very nice wines. We purchased some wines there. Next, at the Curtis winery, we had a chance to get behind the scenes and stir up the raw grapes. It was more difficult that it looks to mix up a bin full of grapes!

 Right after we discovered that Peg had lost her custom sunglasses that fit over her regular glasses. We retraced our steps, and we even reviewed the videos, and it appeared that they were at Fess Parker’s. They weren’t, so goodbye $100. There was this really rude classless couple next to us as the tasting room. They insulted the wine pourer who happened to be Fess Parker’s (Davey Crockett) grandson with their first sentence. We figure they swiped ‘em. Lot of good it will do them, they only fit Peg’s glasses. Oh well, we’ve lost worse when wine tasting, that’s another story!

 During all of this, I was communicating with the generator guy, who was very helpful. I managed to get it running, and it seemed to run fine at the dock. We decided to get brave again, and make for Catalina Island, which we felt would get us closer to home in case the generator failed again. We also were enjoying the amenities, and found out that they charge only $8 foot and take live aboards. Hmmmm, maybe we’ll move! 

Off we went to Catalina. Again, the traffic lane crossing was an adventure. Though you could see much better in the day, the ships looked far more ominous! We gave each a large berth, and breathed a sigh of relief after passing through. We then settled in for a 5 hour cruise to the Isthmus at Catalina. Along the way we saw a blue whale, man, they are big! Couldn’t snap a photo, learned we need to keep the camera on hand! We also ran across a school of dolphins who followed us in the bow wake for quite some time. I got some great video of them.


BuckedUp.JPG (610329 bytes) Shortly after settling in upon the mooring, we started the genset. Or should I say tried to start it! The darn thing wouldn’t start! Go figure! Not much could be done at this point. We were thinking we would have to go back in a day or two, so we poured a cocktail and said the heck with it and enjoy! Later we called some friends who said that they might be going to the island for Buccaneer Days that weekend. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s basically an costume party where all party goers were pirate costumes. Later in the evening is the famous Buccaneer Ball, where grog flows freely, and a good time is had by all the swashbucklers on hand. It’s really quite fun, and something we try to do when we can.

 Anyway, our friends offered to side tie and run a power cord over to us! Yeah! We could stay! So all was going to work out. They came over on Thursday, and we got power as planned. We had a great time. Some other friends came over unexpectedly that day as well. And, we ran across a couple of our dock friends too! This was shaping up to be a great time. 

On Friday we went scuba diving. It was a tough dive, but it was clear and there were lots of fish, though only one I could have shot. No  lobsters, though. Our original plan was to dive the opening night (the Friday before) at the Channel Islands, but you can see that didn’t happen.

 Well, it was a great time. We partied and had a lot of fun at the ball. Fortunately we were tired and got a good nights sleep for our journey home on Sunday. We left hoping to time it so that we would come to the harbor for the late afternoon transit, and we did.

 All in all it was a great trip. We learned that if we are to do other long journeys, we need to equip the lower helm. You can see much better our the glass, and it’s much warmer and less rolling. Oh, and the generator – it was fine. What happened was that the fuel filter had clogged with stirred up sediment. What threw me was that the mains had no trouble. I later learned that the genset pulls a lot more fuel than the mains due to its using the fuel to help cool it. More tribute to the Ford Lehman diesels – they ran when the generator wouldn’t! On the final fuel up, we calculated that we burned about 5 gph – not bad! We also were very pleased overall with the boat’s performance. The anchoring system worked perfectly, and we never really worried about dragging it.

 The End!