First Trip of the Season

First Trip of the Season

Sarah Tokos, our deckhand extraordinaire, will be chronicling our voyages this spring. Here are her reflections on our first trip, sailing from San Diego to Ensenada via the Channel Islands in a last minute itinerary change!

We got our feet wet at 1000 last Thursday morning with a new crew: Bill, Emily, Christine, and Peter joined Eric, Shanley, and me, Sarah. Quickly settling into a 4 hours on/6 hours off watch schedule, we cruised our way north along the California shoreline towards the Channel Islands. We managed a few hours of sailing, but the wind was stubborn and eventually we had to furl the yankee. 

Even with a cloudy sky we saw pods of dolphins jumping through the waves and sea lions lazing about—they stick all four feet (flippers? hands? fins?) up out of the water to sun them! It’s pretty cute. 

Just past midnight a few stars poked through the clouds, and sparkling bioluminescence showed up in our wake! Lightning bugs of the sea. 

Around 1000 the next morning (Friday? The days tend to run together when you’re surrounded by the wind and the sun and endless blue waves) we stopped in at Santa Cruz Island to venture into the Painted Caves! We loaded up the dinghy with headlamps, spotlights, and people, and slowly made our way into the dark opening in the cliff face. Way in the back, in the pitch dark, you could hear the echoing barks of the sea lions. Rather ominous. With the spotlight (and Bill’s super crazy powerful head lamp) you could just make out a pile of about thirty or so sea lions clambering all over each other!

Painted Cave, Santa Cruz Island

It was too deep to anchor off Santa Cruz (80 meters of water under the keel!) so we headed to Santa Rosa for the night. On the way over we saw a whale! With the help of our Whale Book, Emily determined it was some type of beaked variety, although full identification was difficult with the slight glance we had. Elusive creatures, whales. 

The park rangers on Santa Rosa pointed us towards Cherry Canyon and the blooming wildflowers—a beautiful selection of all sorts. There were a few buildings left over from when the island was used to farm sheep and cattle until 1998, and the small school house had some interesting information on its prior inhabitants. Apparently, when the animals were removed from the island, a few feral sheep were left behind. We didn’t spot any. But who knows, they could have been hiding…

Cherry Canyon, Santa Rosa Island

After a night on Santa Rosa—a clear sky around midnight with a brilliant swatch of milky way—we headed to Scorpion Bay back on Santa Cruz. There was a huge pod of dolphins, at least a hundred! Bill got a great video of them playing up in our bow wake. 

Dolphin Bow Riders

We turned into a small little bay surrounded by cliffs and huge rocks. Eric and Shanley dropped us off on a little patch of sandy beach, and we set off on a little hike, searching for a view. The Renegades (Christine and Peter) bushwhacked their way to a cliff overlooking our anchorage. A beautiful view of Sea Dragon and the shoreline! Gorgeous blue-green water and seagulls cruising around below the cliff’s edge.

Beach at Scorpion’s, Santa Cruz Island
Scorpion Bay, Santa Cruz Island

Emily, Bill, and I persevered up the other side of the anchorage and found a few nice rocks to enjoy the view from. A lovely sunny day to sit and enjoy the ocean breeze.

A glimpse of Sea Dragon at anchor, Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island

Having our fill of sun, we trekked our way back to that patch of sand. Bill and I embraced our Great Lakes background and took a breath-taking dip in the waves. Christine and Peter eventually found their way back to us and jumped into the waves as well. Emily had quite the laugh as we disturbed the quiet anchorage with our shrieks of cold…

Meanwhile, Eric and Shanley had prepared fresh Posole soup and homemade tortillas for dinner! A tasty end to a tasty day. After the sunset, we had chocolate (of course) and a few rousing games of Bananagrams before heading to an early bed. 

Bright and early the next morning, we pulled anchor and headed back to San Diego to check out of the country. We had some fun listening to the radio along the way—the Navy was conducting missile testing off the island of San Nicolas and a few boats hadn’t quite gotten the message. They were hailed by an aircraft and politely advised to change course. Always enjoyable to hear the local gossip…

Just before dinner the wind picked up and we pulled out the yankee—7 knots or above! For a few hours anyway. The sun set and the wind fell, and we were back to motoring. Eric passed the time telling the cheesiest jokes known to man that I will not legitimize by typing up here. Shanley and Emily gave verbal re-enactments of movies (about as silly as it sounds). The rest of us kept a lookout for lobster pots, whales, and dolphins. 

Whatever time of day, the tea kettle is always on and warm smiles keep the chilly air away from the crew on watch. A day’s sail awaits us before we reach Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, and the rest of the adventures to come!

Sea Dragon stretching her wings back to San Diego

Stay tuned next week for Sarah’s next update – whales and dolphins galore en route to Ensenada, some lovely sailing, and the reward at the end of the voyage – tacos and beer!