Under way again! Exploration Science in the Channel Islands

Under way again! Exploration Science in the Channel Islands

Accompanied by dolphins under a bright full moon, Sea Dragon started the 2020 sailing season on Sunday with a smooth overnight crossing from San Diego to Catalina Island in the Channel Islands. The boat is full of energetic grad students on an Exploration Science Program. So yesterday we let them loose to investigate all that Catalina has to offer (and also to liberate a few of them from the bane of sea sickness). It’s great to be underway again, ending a long boatyard and refit stint!

Sea Dragon in all her new shiny glory

The last week has been a super busy one, putting on the finishing touches, making Sea Dragon a fully functioning sailboat again. Eric and Shanley, the wonder-duo who run the boat with seemingly boundless amounts of positive energy, have been tirelessly putting her through one of the most thorough refits since she was built in 2000. After her time out of the water at the yard, Sea Dragon’s hull is now sporting a new paint job so shiny that I can see my own reflection. Her mast is back where it should be now too and with much cranking on turnbuckles we have made it look less S-shaped and more tuned like a mast should! The rest of our days have been preoccupied with making sure she has all the other bits she needs to sail, like new lines and sheets, a helm in a snug new leather outfit and some crisp sails straight from the sailmaker. The water maker too was taken out of its home (which it stubbornly resisted) to be checked and made ready for the long ocean passages to Hawaii and Tahiti that lie ahead!

Despite different tasks on the to do list each day there has been a nice routine with a few certain things that we look forward to. Be it the daily pilgrimage to Sprouts for a veggie sandwich with chips and hot sauce or the satisfying feeling of crossing off another thing on the ever-shortening to do list. Our special luxury is the evening visit to the jacuzzi. And of course there have been some more fun tasks in between too, like a run up to Shelter Island to fuel up which saw Mac the Doggo on board, making his debut appearance as entertainer in chief.

Mac on Sea Dragon

The final and most exciting thing on the list before we could welcome the first crew on board was to provision and fill the boat up with lots of tasty treats to keep us going! We just about managed to fit it all in the Jeep. Leaving Costco with three laden trolleys we were more than once complimented for our forward thinking, the assumption being we were holing up for three months to hide away from the coronavirus…

Shanley on the monster provisioning run

Instead, fully laden with food and crew we cast off the lines and headed out to sea! Safely arrived in the Channel Islands after the 100 mile passage, the weather is now playing games with us. We made the most of the sunshine yesterday, with a sunny exploratory hike in the morning and some cold water snorkeling amid kelp forests in the deep turquoise waters outside Cat Harbor. A passing low pressure system has us braving the swell and hunkering down in the shelter of the harbor. This morning we heard fascinating talks from the students on many aspects of conservation and research on the Channel Islands, learning about ROV operation, Marine Protected Areas and the remarkable climbing abilities of the Island Foxes.

Snorkeling in Catalina’s kelp forests

We are expecting the bad weather to have blown through by this evening, so as soon as we can after dinner we’ll be heading out again, pointing the bows north at Santa Cruz Island. Painted Caves, hopefully some whales and then a boost south to Ensenada await!