Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sitka to San Diego

Indigo has now carried us from Sitka to San Diego!

In 2004, the first year we sailed Indigo, we traveled as far north as Sitka, on beautiful Baranoff Island, in Southeast Alaska. The summer sun didn't fade until nearly eleven, we were fascinated with totem poles, the sea sparkled, the air was brisk, and hot springs were our greatest delight. We covered lots of miles, and explored dozens and dozens of anchorages, and determined that we would travel more slowly in the future.

This year, we have sailed Indigo as far south as San Diego. The days are short, but the warm air persists into the evening hours and the Southern California waters have their own sparkle. We are interested in cactus, and are more likely to soak in a hot tub.

If we had sailed directly from Sitka to San Diego, it would have been a trip of about 1800 miles. But our log tells us that we have covered nearly 15,000 miles since we set out on Indigo. This says alot about our favored mode of travel.

We do plan to continue south without going around in circles. If all goes as planned, we will leave San Diego after Election Day, and travel down the Pacific Coast of Baja California, hoping to reach La Paz, Baja California Sur, by December 1st.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anacapa and Catalina

As we've traveled south down the Pacific Coast, we've been reading the nineteenth century Coast Pilots, the book of sailing and navigational directions first published around 1880, and now in its 37th Edition. The first photos of coastal features appeared around 1900; before that mariners relied on hand drawn coastal views, like the one above, to confirm their locations. Last week we passed by this very spot at the east end of Anacapa Island, one of the northern Channel Islands, and had a chance to compare an old coastal view with the present day coastline.

We were interested in differences between the drawing and the same cliffs and rock arch one hundred and fifty years later. There may have been some imprecision in the original artist's sketch and its translation by the engraver (in this case, interestingly enough, a young James Whistler, then a recent graduate of West Point). But it is clear that the sea has eroded and changed the rock formations.

From the northern Channel Islands, we motored south sixty miles to Catalina Island. We spent a night at anchor in Catalina Harbour and explored the Twin Harbours area on foot, then sailed around the southwest side of the island, a wild and scenic coast with virtually no sign of habitation. Dramatic rock formations, like the one above known as Ribbon Rock, show layers of geological history.

We moored for several days and nights at Avalon on the eastern tip of Catalina Island. Avalon is unique; from the harbor, it looks for all the world as if you are in a Mediterranean Port, with its villas climbing up the steep hillsides, and a fine waterfront esplanade. There were relatively few boats tied up when we were there, and the shoreline was beautiful at night, with lights twinkling in the warm, still air. The tile fresco, found on the shore of the harbor, is of the Casino which dominates one end of the harbor, and still looks much like this. We think we could profitably spend months enjoying the Channel Islands, and hope to return.

A Perspective on Voting

We tied up at the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard for a few days, and made forays by rental car to Ventura and into Los Angeles. We experienced the hot, dry Santa Ana winds, a closeup view of a wildfire, and awe-inspiring traffic. We also managed to catch up with our mail ballots from Oregon (many thanks to the mate's cousin John Ridgway). Once we posted the ballots, we left Oxnard, and crossed back to Santa Cruz Island. Today we are making the fifty mile crossing to Catalina Island.
The photo above is of the oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel. Although it is just one of dozens of issues in this campaign, off-shore drilling for oil has become to be sort of an indicator issue for us. We are hoping for a change in leadership, a move away from the kind of short-sighted, easy fix that increased off shore drilling would represent. We are holding our breath and hoping this election brings a new kind of leadership.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Channel Islands Pilgrimage

We have just finished up six days exploring the four northernmost of the Channel Islands, twenty miles off the coast south of Santa Barbara. Although tonight we are sitting in a very civilized marina in Oxnard, we both feel as if we have been on a pilgrimage to a holy place, one that is wild, scenic, majestic, and challenging.
Almost all of these islands are now a National Park, although Santa Cruz Island is partly owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. For many years prior to park designation, they were ranch land. We anchored for several nights off of Smuggler’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island, where there was a beautiful grove of olive trees and an old ranch building.

The shorelines of all the islands are steep and rocky, the cliffs and peaks colored with rock that is yellow ochre, deep brown, reddish, and even blue. Some swell and surf surges along the shore in virtually all the anchorages, and we never did manage to land in a place where we could hike. This only whetted our appetites for a return trip.

Even if we didn't get to shore, we had days of wonderful sailing amongst the islands. We are still amazed that we can be sailing in a brisk breeze, and not be cold. As you can see from this photo of the mate, the sunshine and warmth are a delight. Our southerly travels along the California coast have been full of rewarding surprises. A few weeks ago, we knew nothing of the Channel Islands, and now we wonder if stumbling into a holy place can constitute a pilgrimage.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting More Interesting?

Looking around, we notice that the scenery is different, that the weather is changing, and that we are encountering new critters. Things seem to be getting more interesting, if only because we constantly moving into new territory.
So we are trying to ramp up the quality and frequency of updates. We are trying to keep up to post more often to the map that shows our current location (which you can access by clicking on the words "Indigo's Recent Locations" on the right of this page). We are also posting photos to our Flicker Page (click on the Flickr badge, also on the right hand bar). You can also see larger versions of most of the photos recently posted to the blog and those on the Flickr page by clicking on the photo itself.

Point Conception

Monday we came around Point Conception, the place where the California coast turns from a north-south direction to an east-west direction. Although this point is notoriously rough, we encountered it on a calm, sunny day, and we continued on to Santa Barbara under sunny skies.
Talk to anyone who has traveled south along the Pacific Coast, and you will hear that everything gets better after you have rounded Point Conception. Everyone agrees that the weather gets warmer and sunnier and the sea calmer once you are south of Point Conception. After three perfect days in Santa Barbara, we are believers.

Point Conception is also the "place of beginning", the point where the US government survey of the west coast began. The first group of surveyors camped on Point Conception in 1850 to determine exact latitude and longitude with sightings of the sun, stars and moon. Because of the frequency of fog, it took them 50 days and nights to get the exact location fixed, and all future surveys and sightings refered back to the baseline shown on this map, running from the top of Cape Conception down to what is now known as the Coho Anchorage. How different for us today, with the GPS updating the latitude and longitude every few seconds.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Morro Bay

We made the overnight passage south from Santa Cruz Monday and Tuesday, under sail for twenty hours. Now we are moored at Morro Bay a unpretentious small town with its own personality. I think the sign in the pawn shop window said it all: "funky yet unrefined".
The bay here is lovely, its entrance marked by the dramatic Morro Rock, and by a large, largely mothballed, power plant. It is sheltered from the open ocean by beautiful sand dunes, is quite large and shallow, and teems with birds. With fine weather, we have enjoyed kayaking, especially at the beginning and end of the day when the light is good and the wind dies down. This Great White Egret occupied an especially nice spot, where grasses and shrubs gave way to bare sandy dunes.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Santa Cruz

A few days in Santa Cruz have convinced us that the locals take their recreational activities very seriously. The Small Boat Harbor where Indigo is tied up teems with every type and size of
watercraft. The streets are crowded with bicycles, and there are a unusually high percentage of slim, fit, tan citizens.

The wonderful old amusement park on the waterfront reinforces the image of a fun-loving place. We have been trying to fit in, but can't help but gawk at the tall palm trees against the blue, blue sky. We are still newcomers here - it seems miraculous to us that the sun shines all day every day. Ah, California!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Feeding Frenzy

We left San Francisco Bay three days ago, and made two day trips to arrive in Santa Cruz. The weather has been nearly perfect, and conditions mild. We were able to sail for half a day as we approached Santa Cruz, so we were a quiet presence as we approached this feeding frenzy. Three or four Humpback Whales, a herd of California Sea Lions, dozens of Brown Pelicans, and the odd gull were all circling and diving and leaping from the water, apparently feasting on some dense concentration of fish. There was no sign that any of these creatures were aware of our boat, so we steered clear, awed by the intensity of noise, churning water, and bird calls.