new feature, our old boat became younger, faster, and more responsive. The improvements I made to the boat also helped improve my
boating skills as I’ve become reacquainted with an old friend.
CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK consists of five islands and the surrounding ocean out to one mile offshore. These unique islands stand guard to the sunny Californian coastline only 25 miles away. Located at a confluence of the Oregonian
and the Californian ocean currents, constant nutrient-rich upwell-ing from the deep waters surrounding these islands means sea
life abounds with diverse species, some traveling from thousands
of miles away. Although most people visit the park from June
through August, many boaters consider fall the best time of
year, when sightings of blue and humpback whales are common.
November and December are also a great time to see elephant
seals returning to their rookeries.
For those visitors who enjoy diving and snorkeling, ocean
temperatures are still tolerable; mean sea temperatures for
November are 59 degrees compared with 64 degrees for the
warmest months of July and August — and visibility this time of
year can reach 100 feet. November air temperatures average in
the low 70s.
Being prepared for an offshore trip to this unique marine sanctuary goes beyond daysailing and racing. Even with the updated
digital technology and communications that make offshore boating safer nowadays, thorough planning is essential.
BOATERS’ ADVICE FOR
THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
MAMACITA IN WINDY LANE
This day, when we entered the sometimes-infamous Windy Lane,
we expected the wind and swell to build the closer we sailed to the
islands, as they had on earlier trips. However, on this trip, the wind
stayed with us for about an hour, then eventually diminished, and we
motor-sailed the last five miles. The clouds overhead appeared almost
tropical, and the jagged outline of Santa Cruz was backlit in the fall
sunlight, which also cast diamond-like reflections from the rippled
water as we sailed closer, surrounded by life. We were escorted by sea
lions and pilot whales, as well as the occasional shark.
Even though summer was over and we were sailing in unsettled
conditions with rain a possibility, I was surprised at how few week-
end sailors had made the crossing. As we approached our anchorage,
on the north side of Santa Cruz, most of the other anchorages were
deserted, leaving us with the island to ourselves. We set our two
anchors, bow and stern, about 25 yards from the west wall of the
cliffs of Fry’s Harbor. With the boat secure in this quiet bay, I looked
out over the ocean, back toward Santa Barbara. I could see the
mountains enshrouded with ominous, black clouds, but the ocean
between the mainland and our Mamacita was flat.
23. 4 miles one way
San Miguel Fry’s Harbor
For detailed safety and
planning information for
boaters wanting to make
the trip to this archipelago,
see this story online at
SWEET INTERRUPTIONS TO THE SILENCE
Shadows extended over the bay as the sun set behind the island’s
2,000-foot mountains, and as afternoon transitioned to nightfall it
was the sounds that I noticed: Sea lions baying in the distance in
their noisy search for a meal, seagulls crying out in the descending
darkness; the quiet, comforting sound of the ocean as it rose and fell
against the cliff walls, and the sound of waves as they gently lapped
on the shore. The island chain is home to a variety of species including 140 bird, 11 mammal, three amphibian, and five reptile species.
Large colonies of nesting seabirds, breeding seals and sea lions, and
other animals and plants call this archipelago home. Because of its