Emily and I made the trip down to Makara with the intention of going out sailing for a few days. This is a normal and expected desire of every sailboat owner, yet it never fails a clever set of factors will conspire to persuade you not to go. This time was no different.
We arrived in good time to our marina in Channel Islands Harbor. The day before leaving we received from Renogy a replacement battery for the 200 amp hour lithium battery which developed a bad cell (another time for the story, but the cell was defective from the beginning) and I needed to get it installed before we could leave. I also had found the prop shaft was loose after fixing the prop shaft break which broke the last time out. Yes, I know there is always something breaking and needing repaired on a boat. I would complain, but in some self-destructive way I find joy in fixing the broke items on Makara.
I was working on the shaft last time we were down and left the set bolts well soaked in penetrating oil before leaving. The bolts might as well have been welded to the coupler. The oil had done little to break them free, but I was able to work them back and forth eventually tightening them up. I would say the work done was not “Pro,” yet the shaft seemed tight…. At least I convinced myself of it and would stick by the thought unless proven wrong by the shaft choosing to rapidly exit the back end of the vessel.
On day two we had no further obligations holding us back, so began the wandering thoughts and trepidations which proceed the decision to leave or not. Maybe you know this thing which happens when you think about leaving the safety of the dock. The thing where you try to see if the stars have aligned, the wind is fair, and Neptune has sent you a personal invitation to the most perfect day of sailing. That thing! So, I go look at the weather. Maybe I have left out a detail. The night before the dreaded Santa Ana winds picked up to an unpleasant gale in the harbor as a warning to those who might think they were brave enough to slip the safety lines from the dock. The weather report confirmed my fears. Yes, yes, there would be wind each day and some might just be Santa Ana winds.
I kept checking the weather over the next day. Each time a similar model of winds out of the north (pretty good) during the day to late night-early morning Santa Ana winds (not so good). Our destination would be Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. The one problem with these Islands is they have virtually no protection from the east winds which are the Santa Ana winds. Usually this just answers the question of whether to go, but this time there was a bit of wiggle room. The wind models were showing a pattern in which these winds were being driven by the temperature difference between the land and the ocean. During the day the dominant high pressure driven winds would take over, but night would come, and they would shift to an offshore flow until about 10am the next day. The other thing was the winds were staying relatively calm by only topping out around 17 knots. This was doable.
I had declared the night prior we would go, but now in the morning doubt had set in as the Santa Ana winds had begun to blow again. I didn’t say anything to Emily at first as my rule of thumb is to keep it to myself until I really feel the decision needs to be made. I broke my silence asking, “Well, should we go?” The usual questions ensued.
“What are the winds doing?” Emily asked.
“Seems like Santa Ana’s each morning.”
“Is that bad?”
“Could be, but the winds aren’t that strong.”
“Doesn’t sound too bad.”
“I know, but the anchorages aren’t good in east winds.”
Silence set over us for a few minutes then Emily stated, “Well I want to go… I think we should try.”
I think this was all I needed as I eagerly agreed. It was like having her say the words made the decision final. We quickly wrapped up everything which was loose below. I went up and began getting the sails ready. Emily set to her morning routine of medication and supplements. It didn’t take long before we were ready to pull the lines and ease Makara out of the slip.
The Santa Ana winds assisted us as we cleared the slip by gently swinging the bow in the correct direction. This usually is done by a series of pivoting turns caused by thrusting forward with the engine then setting it in reverse until the bow swings, but today none of that, it was a gentle smooth drift till we engage the engine in forward and made our way out of the harbor.
For early February the day was warm, and the skies were crystal clear. We set Makara on a beam reach with the main, staysail and Jib. The Santa Ana winds had flattened out the normally bumpy Santa Barbara Channel and we found ourselves having one of those beautiful almost flat sail, making 6 knots dead on to our destination. It didn’t take long for us to be in Smuggler’s Cove anchor dropped and firmly set off the east cliffs in an unusually calm bay.
We aired up the paddle board to go ashore. This is often a tuff question, that of going ashore, in Smuggler’s Cove as it can have a nasty break. Today the break barely existed. As we neared the shore a small 1-foot beach break rushed us onto the wide sand beach and with a quick storing of the board above the high water mark we were off on a hike to take in the views.
It is hard to put into words just how special the hike was. This was not a new hike for us as we have been here many times, but things were different this day. First, we were greeted by one of the island foxes. Maybe “greeted” is a bit of any exaggeration, as the fox was not interested in us in the slightest. Still what treasure it is to see these beautiful animals. The hills of the island were so green we felt we had been transported to some other spot like Ireland or Scotland. It is rare to see so much green in Southern California. We climbed the hill following the road as it passes through the old olive tree grove and exits onto a plateau with views of Anacapa Island. Excited finding ourselves suddenly crossing paths with two more foxes who decided to lay down a mere five feet from us as though we didn’t exist.
The evening was getting on and so we made for the paddle board on the beach. An easy launch through the small break and we were off to wander along the cliffs to the east of the bay. The water was so clear we could easily see 30-40 feet down. Taking advantage of the clear, calm water we choose to wander around the rocks which are normally too dangerous to paddle around, soon founding ourselves back in Makara having dinner and talking about just how amazing the day had been.
As I think back on this now a few days later one thing comes to mind. The question of whether to go, leave the dock and take a risk comes up often. Sometimes we choose not to go for good reasons, but at other times we need to take the risk that we have the skills and shoud see what could be. It just might turn out to be the green rolling hills of a magical island with cute foxes waiting for us to experience, but we will never know if we do not make the decision to go.
Brent has been exploring the mountains and oceans since he was young. From rock climbing, and big walls, to ultra-marathons, sailing, diving and long trail adventures, he has been challenging himself to become a better person and grow through experience. He looks forward to many decades more of adventure and challenge.