We left Morro Bay at sunset on Thursday for the 15 hour sail through Point Conception to Santa Barbara. I felt a little trepidation heading out as Point Conception is known to be the windiest point the California shores and is often heralded as the Cape Horn of the West Coast. Thankfully, our spectacularly clear sunset was followed by a calm, peaceful night sail, and our greatest excitement was the night sky. I'm happy to report, especially after our Monterey to San Simeon passage, that Point Conception was graciously anticlimactic.
Things were so tranquil we took two hour shifts alone in the cockpit each, and I even had a full eight hours of sleep (albeit in two, four-hour shifts). I woke around 8 am as we turned east into the Santa Barbara Channel. The coastal mountains turned gold in the morning sun, the glassy water creating a striking mirror image. Dominic and I admired the reflection, and then began to wonder if its luster was due to the film of oil which stretched, iridescent, across the surface of the water. Looking at our wake we could see funky brown gunk chunking in the whitewater. We had been dodging oil platforms all night, but we hear at least some portion of this is due to natural seepage from the ground. As a historical point of interest, Dad reports that Native Americans living in the area used tar that washed up on the beach as a sealant for their canoes.
We arrived in Santa Barbara in the early afternoon to find a small complication in our plans. We were intending to tie up at the Santa Barbara harbor, as they (like all marinas) keep some slips available for transient vessels on a first come, first serve basis. However, there was construction in the marina, and the sloop that arrived 10 minutes ahead of us got the last available spot. Despite having plenty of space along the fueling dock for the 170 foot mega-yacht that arrived the following day, Helios was told the next space would be available in March and turned away to anchor in the harbor just east of Stearn's Wharf. Rude!
The benefit was that we were perfectly situated to enjoyed the best views Santa Barbara had to offer. Looking west, we could see Santa Barbara Point, the mesa, the harbor, and the full curve of the mountain ridge as it rises and extends west toward Montecito.
Helios from the shore:
We arrived on Friday, and the weekend forecast was for sunshine and temperatures in the upper seventies. Dad is a UCSB graduate, and we all had friends we were hoping to visit, so we decided to enjoy Santa Barbara through the weekend. On Saturday, we inflated the dinghy for the first time this trip and went ashore. Dominic stopped by West Marine and returned to the boat for some fix-it projects, while Dad and I explored the water front and met his college buddie, Bruce Duncan, at Enterprise Fish Market for lunch.
Also on Saturday, we were treated to two visits from the Marina Harbor Patrol. Despite being marked on two separate charts as an anchorage, and there being a cruise ship anchored nearby when we arrived, apparently we were in a 'seasonal' anchorage that was closed in January. Super. Rude. We were unable to move the boat due repairs to the charging system underway; we ended up with a citation for illegally anchoring that will go on Dominic's driving record (of little import to sailors planning to leave the country) and a serious lack of respect for the Santa Barbara habor; but, we did end up with an even more picturesque anchorage just off East Beach. As seen from the dinghy:
Our attitude toward Santa Barbara was quickly revived by the amazing Sunday afternoon we spent on the beach with our friends Maggie Yates and Shad Springer. It was the first real beach day of our vacation and an absolute dream. We had delicious take-out and picnicked on the beach, swam in the surf, and discussed frivolous things that have nothing to do with boats. Hooray! My Dad had offered to be boat tender for the day, so even Captain Dominic could rest easy knowing Helios was well cared for.
The late afternoon brought clouds, so Shad treated us to a well curated driving tour of Santa Barbara, the highlight of which were the panoramas offered by Franceschi Park.
Maggie and Shad dropped us off at the harbor just in time for a warm, evening dinghy ride and drop-dead gorgeous Santa Barbara sunset.
We woke this Monday morning to cloudy skies and predictions for flukey winds and rain in the evening. So with some sadness, we decided not to tempt the winter weather gods and forego our visit to Santa Cruz Island across the channel. Such is the nature of sailing. There were also a series of small fires along the the shore. No information as to how they started, but a powerful reminder of the consequences this sunny, warm, dry January brings.
We slept in, enjoying soft boiled eggs and hash browns for breakfast, and are now motoring to Ventura and are very much looking forward to visiting family we have living within walking distance of the marina. Not too bad, for a Monday!