A month later I went back for some more sailing. Back to the Islands.
Here we are running downwind in 30+mph winds and waves to 7ft with full sail.
Here we are running downwind with furled sail in increased wind and waves.
Beating into the wind, going to windward smoothly in a brisk wind.
Step 1: Where are the Channel Islands?
It's 11 miles between the nearest points of Anacapa and the Mainland.
Map courtesy of [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Californian_Channel_Islands_map_en.png wikipedia]
Step 2: What Kind of Canoe is That?
This is the same canoe I tried to sail to Cuba a few years ago.
It's a decked, tacking single outrigger sailing canoe.
The main hull is 18 feet long and 17.5 inches wide. It has full deck with two hatches with lids.
The stern has a squared-off transom and a stern-hung kick up rudder with a push tiller.
The outrigger float or "ama" is 12" wide and about 14 feet long.
There are three wooden crossbeams or "akas" connecting the main hull and outrigger.
The akas are lashed on with bicycle nnertubes.
The sail is made of dacron from a trashpicked genoa sail. It is a "crabclaw" or "leg-of -mutton" style triangular sail, approximately equilateral on 14 foot windsurfer mast spars.
The mast is held up by three stays. The side stays can be adjusted from the cockpit to lean the sail left or right. This helps tune the sail.
There is a removable centerboard from a Hobie 18 catamaran. The rudder is from a Tornado catamaran.
The outrigger hull started life as an "aquacat 12" catamaran hull but has been reshaped a lot. The main hull was once a hobie 18 catamaran hull, but has been reshaped. It is wider, has more rocker, is deeper, and has a new wooden deck. The daggerboard slot has been moved further forward. This stuff all violates the class rules. Only do this at home, kids.
We put down sticks to drag it up the rocky beach to spare the hull and because it's easier to drag it that way.
These shots are at Scorpion Ranch Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island and another beach a little east of there.
Step 3: Preparations and Crew Chief
I was pretty apprehensive about doing that again. So for this trip I recruited my friend Kathleen Mckee. She's organized. Competent. Fun. The opposite of high strung, which is such a rare quality we don't even have a name for it in our language. Here she is working through the maps and cruising guides. She got us landing permits, campground reservations, things I've never had before.
She's been doing me boat related favors for a long time. Here are her photos and notes of sailing Balsa rafts in Ecuador.
Step 4: New Sail
We've been seeing 18mph winds in the channel on www.iwindsurf.com every day. So it's time to cut a new flatter, less stretchy dacron sail. Kathleen lays out some cutting and sewing lines for the new sail. Then she "bones" the hem with a chunk of pipe. That pre-creases the hem and is the main difference between good and bad sewing.
The sail is cut like a Marshall Islands sailing canoe. I lived there for a few months once. I spent a lot of time pestering the locals about their sailing canoes. Chief Michael Kabua taught me this traditional style of sail cut which he used on his champion toy canoe.
For this sail I took some liberties with the tradition. Instead of lacing the sail to the spars the cloth is folded over to make mast pockets like a windsurfer sail has. All edges of the sail are 14 feet long to match the windsurfer spars I had. The leech on this sail is the existing hollow leech from the donor sail, rather than bulged. The luff is cut straight along the mast just as in the tradition. The edge rounding is 1.5" along the boom and is "S" shaped just as in the tradition.
Just to be clear: Marshallese canoes have an architecture and sailing style very foreign to this current canoe. But their sail cut is perfectly suited to it.
An inch here or there makes the difference between getting where you want to go and spending all your time thinking "why is this sail/boat/wind so terrible?". Proper reinforcing at the weak spots means you don't also have to watch your sail flap to tatters in a strong wind.
A little breakdancing can get the blood flowing and get the vision into focus.
Okay hands, make a sail!
Step 6: Haste Maketh Waste!
It couldn't be dumpster donut psychosis, I would never eat something that seagulls wouldn't eat...
This sail only has three sides and three corners, how long can it take to sew it?
Well, if the sewing machine sews at .5 miles per hour, and the sail has 4 miles of stitching in it....
Finally the sail is done!
Step 7: Hit the Road
When the water runs out this area will be dry and brown again. Already there isn't enough water to go around. It's been a few years since the salmon have run up the Sacramento river. Irrigation and domestic uses take cold water flow away so it's too warm for them. They drown in warm water.
I mix two stroke oil with gasoline for the outboard at one of the fuel stops.
The world famous indoor waterfall urinal in the Madonna hotel.
Step 8: First Sight of the Islands!
Step 9: Santa Ana Gale at the Launch Site
Step 10: Batten the Hatches
The phrase "Batten the hatches" means to actually nail the doors of the ship shut with strips of wood all around over the edges. They did this in storms. The crew who weren't on deck couldn't get out easily. And you know what? If it was rough enough they didn't want to get out.
Step 11: Wet Sand for Stuck Truck
On the return trip I carry a bucket of seawater to dump into our truck's tracks and around the tires.
That will make the sand solid enough to drive out on. We hope. If that doesn't work we'll let air out of the tires to enlarge their footprints. Down to 15psi or so. If that doesn't work it's time for all the tricks I learned in the snows of Minnesota.
Step 12: Rig and Stow
We carried stuff down, lashed the canoe together, stowed gear inside. We drove the truck off the beach easily. The wet sand technique worked great. No need to flatten the tires any. We went to the store, bought some jugs of water, ice cream and a waterproof map of the islands. We asked the Harbormaster where to park and parked the truck there.
By then the Santa Ana was done. The wind had dropped and reversed. The islands were visible again. Ahh. But would it last?
Step 13: Ready to Sail
Step 14: Sailing!
We're wearing our "steamer" wetsuits like pants with the arms tied around our waists. Easy to put them on all the way if conditions change. Lifejackets with whistles.
Quick drying long sleeve shirts. Sunglasses and hats. Sunscreen. I've got my floral sun hood on over a baseball cap. That keeps the hat from blowing away. We're barefoot but our wetsuit booties are handy under the hatches.
We take turns sailing. We don't have to trade positions to do that thanks to the long push tiller.
Step 15: Repairs on the Fly
We pass the oil rigs that extend in a line along the california coast.
Step 16: Sail Shape
To get excited about traditional sails, read C.A. Marchaj "The Sail Power of Various Rigs" in his book "Sail Performance". He shows that the traditional Pacific island "crab claw" sail is far superior to our conventional modern "bermudian" rig. Unfortunately he didn't bother to find out how actual islanders make their sails so he left out various refinements. Also there's [http://www.proafile.com/view/weblog/comments/rig_options_crab_claw/ some controversy] about his methods and analysis. But many people have had the experience of sailing a modern yacht in a remote place and being passed by a local in a traditional boat.
Step 17: Tipple the Crew with Grog!
K's hat is a nod to her friends back in Florida...
We see dolphins and seals doing their liesurely swimming. We see birds chasing schools of fish. Probably there are some hard working seals and dolphins underwater chasing the fish to the surface.
Step 18: Race the Sun
Step 19: Night Sailing
The dark brings a chill so we put on more warm clothing. Insulated jacket over my lifejacket and [http://www.instructables.com/id/Hat/ airline blanket hat] for me. K puts on a wool sweater, rain jacket, and fleece hat.
We've still got our wetsuits halfway on, arms tied around our waists. A wetsuit feels clammy to me unless I'm actually in the water, and K is trying it my way.
My hero [http://koti.welho.com/tnoko/puku/INDEX.HTM Timo Noko likes a wetsuit] for sailing and camping, maybe you will too.
As the air cools off the water starts feeling warm. I look forward to phosphorescence in the water. The moon is so bright it's impossible to see if there is any.
We tack east along the coast of Anacapa Island as the moon rises higher. We pass cliffs and rocks on the near tack and no good places to land. We pass the end of the island and head toward Santa Cruz. There are some strange fishing boats with brilliant flood lights between the islands.
K punches in the gps coordinates of Scorpion Ranch (thanks to the handy cruising website by Captain Dan: [http://www.sailchannelislands.com/cicruisingguide/sc.php]), the location of our reserved campsite. When we get there, I hold the canoe off while she gathers some sticks to drag it up on. The beach is made of pebbles and rocks and we don't want to lose our bottom.
Step 20: Morning at Scorpion Ranch
Step 21: The Gifts of Civilization
Step 22: Strolling and Sightseeing at Scorpion Ranch
The campground has a spigot of running water. No warning sign and a taste no worse than the water on the mainland. There's also a magnificent composting latrine with skylights and a mini interpretive center with bronze terrain models of the islands.
Step 23: What's Your Price for Flight?
The wind comes and goes. We try the outboard motor.
It's a 1970 1.5 horsepower Evinrude Mate. It takes a 42:1 fuel to oil mixture.
Does anyone know of an eco-friendly two-stroke oil?
I once thought I'd invent that, but then I found out that the usual (best of usual) stuff comes from castor beans and is natural but not healthful.
We motor and sail up the coast.
Step 24: Arches and Cliffs
We did see plenty of sea caves and natural arches.
The motor was running great, so I adjusted it until it stopped working and we couldn't get it going again despite K's Hail Mary's and attempts at kinetic mind control.
Step 25: Dead Wind Shore Lunch
This meal was my turn, so I unleashed my culinary hyena kung fu and whipped up a mess of unspeakable horrors. Fortunately we also had granola and other munchies from Kaia foods, our pal Nick's enterprise.
K forgot her lifejacket on shore, so she swam for it while I tacked in circles just off the beach. The water felt surprisingly warm!
Step 26: Jacket and Pants
Step 27: Amphibians Sleep Ashore This Time
We had a good anchor with us and room to sleep on the boat, but our sleeping gear was stowed below in such a way that it would be a big pain in the neck to set up.
So we'd eat dinner and take a long nap on shore. Not camp. In the future we'll sleep on the boat anchored out like good ecocentrics.
The islands are well taken care of. There was no sign of trash or any fire scars. It's pretty much as
mother nature and human history have left it.
Step 28: Steep Beach Theory
The steepness of the beach meant it was a big pain in the neck to drag the boat up, even with the help of a skidway of sticks. In future we'll be sleeping on deck.
Step 29: Mummy Zoo Beach
Step 30: Arroyo Scenery
A movie at the Ventura Interpretive center had told us that these dead-looking Coreopsis gigantea plants (2nd photo) were ugly. So we rebelled and revelled in their starkness.
Step 31: On the Whale's Road Again
Step 32: Beating Toward the Cave
In gusts the tail of the boom flexes off spilling lift from the tail of the sail like a modern windsurfer. You can program this in by where you attach the sheet to the boom.
I've looped the sheet over the backrest tube and around my knee for extra friction. I can drop the sheet anytime if a capsize seems eminent. In easier conditions I tie the sheet with a loop knot so I can relax a bit more and shake it out with a tug if need be.
We passed a large group of sea birds resting and feeding on a kelp forest.
Here's some video of us beating into the wind:
Step 33: Lunch Break
We bore off the beat onto a reach and went screeching toward shore at a million miles an hour.
It looked like we'd have to body-brake the boat when we hit the dead air behind that big rock. This side of the beach was mostly sand. We were tired enough that we threw down our lifejackets and dragged the boat up over those. Boat-dragging sticks could wait.
Out of the wind it was a hot sunny summer day. Quiet even. Ahh. We dried out our gear and ourselves, had some food and water. More seals peaking their heads out at us from the water in curiosity. A nice beach at the mouth of a picturesque arroyo. This island is mostly rock. The winter rains must just run off it, making the rivers in these arroyos roar.
The rivers are full of a huge variety of stones. It looks like glacial till, the terminal moraines of my Minnesota hometown. But glaciers have never been here. These are stones that weather from the matrix of conglomerate volcanic rock.
Step 34: Reality, Miscommunication, and other Threats to Dreamers
The wind and waves increased as we approached the end of the island where the cave is.
We still made good progress into the wind and still carried through the tacks. "Carry through" means the boat has enough forward momentum and turning ability that you can do a tack in a single rapid turn. You don't need to "back and fill" or "wear about" or use a paddle to complete the tack.
The wind got louder. Sailing started taking more and more concentration. The waves broke more frequently, splashing up and over our deck. The effect of getting sucked up the face of the wave and pushed down the back had to be compensated for. The waves got big enough that they affected the wind. There was some dead air in front of each wave, just when we were getting pulled up the face. A couple of times I was distracted and the outrigger rose uncomfortably high before smacking down on the water again.
Less than a mile from the cave I asked K how she'd feel if we turned around. All the waves had whitecaps, and the wind was howling. At the rate the waves were growing, who knew how big they could get? I didn't want to risk a capsize. She said that would be fine, but didn't I really want to see the cave? We talked it over. It turns out we both thought the other had a heart set on seeing the cave. We were both relieved. We pulled up the daggerboard and turned the canoe to run downwind. We shifted ourselves aft to hold the nose up while surfing. Very fast sailing downwind, surfing down the waves. But much quieter. Our speed got subtracted from the wind speed instead of added to it. This video gives the general idea, but the camera shrinks the waves a lot.
Step 35: Reefed and Running
I started explaining to K about apparent wind and the danger of an accidental gybe while surfng. Just then the sail hit some of that virtual dead air that can exist even in a gale. It comes from going downwind at windspeed. The boom climbed over our heads. I grabbed it and tried to throw it back where it belonged while steering away from it, but it just kept going. Accidental gybe.
We lunged onto the outrigger and waited to get thrown (K admits the memory is a blur). The sail swung out against the starboard stay, bellied out, and we sped up. But nothing bad happened. Yay! Low center of effort! Rudder authority! I turned toward the sail, sheeted it back in, and pushed it back to the port side.
But we were trying to get somewhere, not set records. So we had a little talk and decided to brail (furl) the sail up on the mast and run with that. Here's some video of what that's like. Please excuse the wind noise. There was a lot of wind, which prevents you from hearing me talk about wave formation, fetch, terminal wave height, and that other stuff you'll read about in "waves and beaches".
On the way to Prisoner's Harbor where we knew ferries docked, we caught sight of 8 boats moored in an anchorage seeking protection from the wind and waves.
Step 36: Prisoner's Harbor
Everything else was spread out to dry also.
The radio said "significant wave height, warning this, warning that, this much wind here, waves waves, that much there, this warning that warning." We talked. Not prudent to cross 20 miles of that, to a Ventura harbor that might be closed out with breakers. We'd stash the boat and take the ferry back. K looked in her info trove and found the schedule. It would come in the morning. If it wasn't cancelled.
Step 37: Waves, Beaches, and Luck
Piles of kelp and driftwood told me not to worry, the water didn't get that high, but drag I did.
In the morning the wind has shifted onshore. Three of the yachts are gone and the remaining one is bobbing violently.
Good thing I dragged the boat so high. Theres a pile of wet rocks where it used to be, dropped there by some pounding waves.
Step 38: Stashing
Step 39: Ferry Delayed by Gale. Go Hiking.
She might as well have told them she her family had been killed and she was going to the funeral. They did the same thing, which is try to profit from her misfortune as much as possible. "A one way ticket for one, um, million dollars..." The connection degrades. Okay, she'll deal with them later. She calls the ferry company and makes a reservation for us.
We go for a hike up the hill. We see an island fox! Much smaller than mainland foxes the literature says.
Step 40: Fennel Monsters
K sez: The main two goals of the island's restoration plan are to eradicate feral pigs and the fennel weed. The aftermath of pig rooting resembles a plowed field. It is within those disturbed areas that erosion occurs and fennel becomes established.
Step 41: Truck Eating Storm
Step 42: Paddle a Dozen Kayaks at Once
We stopped at Scorpion Ranch to pick up a hundred campers and a dozen kayaks. One of the guides paddled out pulling a string of kayaks. They hoisted them one by one and lashed them on the stern of the ferry. The guides were in their element. While this was going on the line of passengers on the pier made a bucket brigade handing their mountain of luggage into the boat before getting on themselves.
Step 43: A Rough Crossing
It's hard to take pictures of waves. Especially with a "sports camera" that won't focus until things stop moving.
Step 44: The Dreaded Harbor Entrance
We definitely made the right decision not to sail today. But if we had...
If nothing had broken and we'd made it all the way across, we could have made it into harbor just fine!
Step 45: How Big Were Those Waves?
That means this is a graph of the average height of the 30% highest waves. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Significant_wave_height wpedia explains more]
Peak wave heights are higher than the significant wave height. We weren't sailing the canoe right near these buoys, so our waves were different. So the answer to how big our waves were, is "pretty big, just like it seemed at the time". Does anyone have the wind and marine weather reports for the first weekend in October handy?
Step 46: Got a Blue Bird on my Shoulder
I'll be going back to the islands soon to get the canoe and see what happens next.
I've ordered a manual for that 1970 Evinrude Mate 1.5 hp outboard.
It runs fine in a bucket, I'll have to figure out how to make it stop working so I can fix it.
A month later I went back for some more sailing. Back to the Islands.