It rained all night long, and usually the patter of rain on Sonrisa’s cabin top will lull me to sleep. Not this time, though, I was too nervous. The northward passage up the California Coast is no easy passage. The wind, waves, and current are all usually out of the North. This means tacking back and forth in a zig-zag rather than just sailing as the crow would fly to our destination. It also means waves hopping over the bow with spraying into the cockpit, cold weather, and boat movement akin to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Usually, I am game for such tom-foolery, but add to this a wind forecast of 25 knots (medium high wind), shipping channels and what will be only our second nighttime passage, I was a bit on edge.
“What is that sound?” I said the next morning as something approached the boat sounding like a low flying jet engine. Seconds later, a deluge of rain poured in through the companion way, and then just like that, it was gone again. I guess that is what is making me nervous; I don’t know what to expect. Everything feels new, different and unfamiliar. I don’t even recognize the sound of approaching rain.
I’m generally the helmsman in tight spaces and Andrew is the muscle. When we pull into/out of parking spaces, my job is to thread the needle and place the boat where she is supposed to go using engine propulsion, the rudder, and her quirky steering qualities. Andrew’s job is to pull her close to the dock and tie her up, or strategically loosen lines as we leave. We have been practicing in our own neck of the woods for the last couple of years, and I have a good feel for how Sonrisa reacts. However, we still experience “adventures” in parking every now and then. Today, we were backing out of our Dana Point guest dock, in a quite narrow space. My fingers are crossed that it all goes smoothly.
When it does, I give a little cheer, thank Sonrisa, and we head out to a rainy ocean. We have donned wool layers, fleece layers, foul weather boots, and our Gore Tex foul weather gear. We look ready at least. But, as we pull out into the main channel we see dark heavy clouds to the South and blue sky to the North. A 20 knot wind is already blowing out of the Northwest. Perfect sailing. My nerves subside a bit as we set our sails and start making way.
We sailed all day, all night, and all the next day. The ocean treated us to three different pods of dolphins, beautiful skies, an early rising almost full moon. The waves were not especially large, but such a short distance apart that we plowed through them rather than up and over, resulting in water splashing in big gushes up and over the bow and onto Andrew in the cockpit. It was a little cold, and quite rambunctious, but not a boring sail.
On the afternoon of the second day, the wind died for a spell so we turned on the motor and motored the remainder of the way, directly to Santa Barbara. We arrived around 10:30 p.m., and dropped anchor in an anchorage that was not as well protected as we would have liked. The boat continued to roll side to side so much so that we still had to hang on as we cooked a warm meal and took hot showers.
“It’s nice the anchorage isn’t very crowded. Makes it easy.” Andrew said as we arrived.
“There aren't any other boats at all, are you sure this is the anchorage?” I replied, but I did remember that the last time we visited Santa Barbara (by car), this was the area all the boats were anchored. Andrew checked the chart, which indicated it was an anchorage, and for good measure checked Google Earth which captured images of other boats anchored here. Satisfied our anchor was well set, we set the anchor alarm and turned in for the night. Bed felt so good.
“WONK WONK WONK-WONK!”
“Is that the anchor alarm?” I asked, concerned we were dragging swiftly onto the beach. Andrew respond with a confused look, “I don’t think so.”
“WONK WONK WONK-WONK!”
Andrew poked his head outside to be greeted by Harbor Police. “Sorry to wake you up, but this anchorage has been closed for the winter. We will need you to move.” Of course, this makes sense. Groggy, but well slept, we threw on our gear and prepared to up anchor in the early morning light. We ended up securing a guest dock, and put our Dana Point to Santa Barbara passage in the books.
We then spent the weekend visiting with my little sister, patronizing a little cafe with a perfect breakfast menu, mountain biking in the Santa Barbara foothills and the bluffs above the coastline, dining at a Himalayan Restaurant that served Yak (quite tasty), and relaxing a bit on Sonrisa here and there. We also made sure to sample Santa Barbara's special delicacy, sea urchin (or Uni) harvested from the cold, rocky coastal water.
Most definitely worth the trip.