Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard

Date: Wednesday Oct 5th
34° 09.822' N  119° 13.553' W  
Log 1784.8, Engine Hours 1248.6, Batteries %100

First, a couple photos that belong to earlier posts.
Sailing between Monterey and San Simeon
Light playing on the water toward sunset
San Simeon sunset
I'm currently in slip B-11 at the Channel Islands Harbor Marina, Oxnard.  I left Morro Bay on Monday, Oct 3rd at 9:45am.  The winds were forecast as NW 10-15kts which would have made for a nice sail.  The forecast had the same winds for two days, followed by stronger winds for two days starting Wednesday.  Wednesday had a forecast for 20-25 knots with local gusts to 35.  Today at 6pm the wind was a steady 25 knots, so the forecast was pretty close.  Earlier this trip, I would have looked at 25 knots of wind with relief, as they would have diminished from stronger winds.  At this point, I'm glad to be in a marina where I can sleep soundly, not keeping an anchor watch or sleeping in 20min cycles.

Morro Bay exceeded my somewhat low expectations by a comfortable margin.  It is a small town and everybody I met was super friendly.  The weekend festival was pretty small, though there were two music stages and plenty of wine and beer to sample.  There was also lots of food to choose from, stuff to buy or not, art to judge, and so on.  It was a good time, enjoying a beer or three in the sun while mingling with the people.  I arrived on Thursday the 29th at 11:30am and anchored.  The anchorage area in Morro Bay is between the red nun markers 10 and 12 toward shore, and I dropped anchor close to the #10 marker.  There is a fairly strong tidal exchange in the bay and I ended up staying aboard for all of Thursday watching while the boat swung back and forth with the tide.  I ended fairly close to the #10 marker on an ebb, fairly close to what looked like an abandoned boat to my south on a flood, fairly close to the shore with east wind at slack, but my anchor seemed well set and I didn't see any need to adjust anything.  After watching the boat swing around for the day, I was ready to set out on Friday and start exploring.

Looking at Morro Rock from Luckness at anchor near sunrise
Same time as above, more east, toward the power stacks
My visit followed a similar pattern.  I explored by walking around most of Friday.  On the way back to the boat in my dinghy I spotted someone aboard an interesting boat two south from where I was and headed over toward her.  Desiree on Gia said Hi and Damon soon joined us.  I asked their destination, which was points south toward Mexico and they invited me aboard and we started talking about this and that.  Gia is a gaff rigged schooner with a steel hull, which is a pretty interesting combination - its a true cruising boat with no pretensions about going racing after work in a tight little fleet rounding the cans.  Gia has been to Hawaii and back, and these two have been cruising for 9 years on her - although they are still a young cruising couple.  It was cool talking to them.  I'm still considering my return trip to Seattle, if I make the return trip.  One route is through Hawaii but I was under the impression that my stay in Hawaii would be marina bound with only very poor anchorages in the islands.  These two put that idea to rest with stories of many excellent anchorages in the islands.  They recommended a good cruising guide for the islands (Cruising Guide to the Hawaiian Islands by Bob Mehaffy and Carolyn Mehaffy, available through Amazon) and highly recommended going to Hawaii and anchoring while exploring.  I was very happy to hear these stories and the possibility of going to Hawaii is going up in my mind.  Another piece of advice they passed along was to not plan too far in advance, which is advice I've read earlier on many occasions - you come across all sorts of possibilities while cruising.  So I'm not planning on a return trip via Hawaii, but its a stronger possibility than it was.  It was good meeting these two, and I hope to cross their path again somewhere south.

Sand sculpture at Morro Bay festival, Oct 1st
From the beach north of Morro rock, looking back at it
From Morro rock, looking back at the town across the entrance channel
After my festival day on Saturday, I spend Sunday exploring the town further, provisioning a little and doing a few boat projects for my starting to sail on Monday.  I left on Monday in the morning, as the tide was starting to flood to make the bar crossing a little milder.  Damon came out in their kayak to wish me Bon Voyage as I left and the bar crossing was barely noticeable with the swell only being 4 to 6 feet.

After leaving Monterey and thinking about it, I summed up my visit with: "I could live here."  Morro bay was interesting and friendly, but its not a place where I could live.  Its too small for me, I like to have more facilities, services and variety that a larger city offers.  But its a fine place to visit.

Leaving Morro Bay on Monday the winds were light, S 1 to 3 knots, so I motored toward Point Conception.  Point Conception is known as the last of the major capes in the trek south toward San Diego.  It has a reputation for having strong winds every day as the land heats up and you get a strong onshore breeze.  So I had a desire to round this point at around midnight, reducing the possibility of gale force onshore winds to a minimum.  As I was motoring toward the point I realized that I would arrive very early but that since the winds were so light, the chance of their increasing dramatically seemed slight.  At 12:40pm the winds increased to SW 6 knots and I started sailing on a close reach to beam reach toward the point - it was sweet.    The longer I sailed the later I would arrive at the cape and the more enjoyable my trip would be.  It was a win/win situation.  The winds varied between 6 and 8 knots until 5pm with the boat doing a little more than half the wind speed.  I could sail in these conditions all day, for weeks on end.  Its a dry ride, no salt spray across the decks.  The seas were calm, with the swell small and widely spaced.  It was mostly sunny and warm, and there was very little traffic to contend with.  At 5pm the wind diminished to 2.5 knots, and as the boat was barely moving I felt I needed to take action and started to motor.  Unfortunately I didn't sail again for the rest of the trip.  As I was approaching Point Conception after 10pm I was considering whether or not to stop in Cojo anchorage or to continue toward Oxnard.  In the end I decided to anchor for a while.  Cojo Anchorage is just around the corner from Point Conception, and entering it on a dark night was a little strange.  I had a GPS waypoint from a cruising guide I headed toward, avoiding kelp beds I had read about.  There was a offshore oil platform tender at the waypoint I could see visually as well as on radar, and I cleared him and avoided two other boats to anchor 1000 feet from shore.  I could hear the surf line toward shore from where I was strongly, but I never saw it in my stay.  I ended up anchored in Cojo Anchorage (lat/lon: 34 26.8N, 120 26.5W) with the winds varying between 2 and 5 knots mainly from the NW at 10:45pm and was asleep by 11:30pm after adding 10 gallons of diesel to the tank from my gerry jugs, the last of the diesel on deck.   The strong onshore breeze I thought might appear at Point Conception never appeared, although I think I would pass this cape in a similar manner if I cross it again.

I wanted to arrive at Oxnard on Tuesday, as if the weather matched the forecast I didn't want to be contending with entering a new marina and docking the boat in 25 to 35 knot winds.  Tuesday the winds were forecast as being benign for entering the marina all day.  Since it was 62  miles from Cojo anchorage to Oxnard, the longer I stayed sleeping the later I would arrive.  The marina office closed at 5pm.  I can motor at approximately 6 knots.

I got up at 4:15am as the swell started to increase and the boat started rocking.  My plan was to get up at 4:30 so I beat it by a little, and was underway by 4:45am.  As I was leaving the anchorage I came across a freighter that was rounding the point and was a little surprised by see me appear - we made passing arrangements on the VHF and everything was fine.  Heading toward Oxnard that morning I had another of those moments of peace that seem to occur fairly frequently on this trip, where everything seemed right with the world - motoring along in my boat watching a light show erupt around me as the sun started to rise and while I was heading off to a new harbor to explore.  Sailing would have been better, but the winds were 5 knots at my back.  I ended up motoring the whole way in order to get to the marina in time.  Toward the end of the trip the winds started to increase, eventually to 10 to 15 knots from the west - these were fine sailing conditions, but my agenda and schedule interfered and I continued to motor to my destination.

After sunrise, heading to Oxnard.  No wind!
I arrived at the marina and pulled into B-11 in the Channel Islands Harbor Marina at 3:45pm.  The slip is single width and there is plenty of space in the marina.

Before leaving Morro Bay I was phoning around the area trying to find a good place to visit next.  I had wanted to visit Santa Barbara as I have heard lots of good things about it.  However after speaking with the marina office I learned that they were starting a major construction project on Wednesday (today as I write) and were evicting all their transient moorage customers.  They are doing work on a finger pier and need to move all those long term customers to the transient slips. I was offered a nights stay, but no more.  The next marina along the coast was Ventura and that sounded good as well.  One marina was full and the other offered me a slip at $1.50 per foot, $60 per day.  My slip at Oxnard is $35 and is 46 feet long, with plenty of availability here.  I realize that I'm applying a different scale to what I pay for a night's moorage.  When traveling by car and looking for a hotel - given the choice between a $35 room or a $60 room, I would definitely choose the more expensive as $35 for a room in america just doesn't buy you a very good experience.   But my dock space in Monterey was $28 and it was an incredible location.  More on Oxnard in a later post.  Oxnard wasn't my first choice so I had low expectations coming in.  But Oxnard seemed to be a good distance along the coast and I have a bit of a schedule to keep to now, leading up to the end of October.

On a technical note, the alternative energy solutions I have onboard continue to please me.  The solar panels continue to be the main provider of power, aside from the alternator when I'm motoring.  One night while at anchor I was watching the last few DVDs of a TV series and got absorbed by it and ended up watching 'TV' from 7pm to 1am.  By 1am my batteries were down 61Ah, so roughly 10 amps per hour to run the boat (lights, anchor light, hand held VHF scanning and plugged in, inverter, computer, AIS and anchor watch, stray devices being charged.)  The next day, while still at anchor, it was cloudy part of the day and that evening at sunset the boat was still down 20Ah.  By the following day the batteries were at 100% by the early afternoon.  I continue to be able to, within reason, consume power without regard to its being a limited resource.  This will likely change as it gets warmer and my fridge consumes more power each day.

On a navigational note - I've now fallen down the coast by 14° 15'.  Since its 60 nm per degree of latitude, that translates to my being 855 nm south of Neah Bay.  The great circle distance between where I am now and Neah Bay is 880 nm, which is a route across land.  My boat has traveled 1087.5 nm since leaving Seattle.  I left Seattle 35 days ago and since then I've sailed on 20 days.  I've spent my nights: 15 days at anchor, 8 days in a marina, 12 nights at sea.

I slightly regret passing the Northern Channel Islands by.  I have this built in assumption that I'll be doing this coast again in the future and the next time I'll have more time to spend visiting more of these islands and ports.  This may or may not be the way it works out.  All I know is that I'm here now, enjoying life and looking forward to the islands and ports to come.

Luckness signing off, for now.


  1. So lovely to read your words and hear that the sailing experience is such a pleasure. I suspect it takes many weeks of sailing before one realizes there may be no agenda, at least as we landlubbers are used to living by one. Thanks for the photos and stories. Hawaii definitely sounds interesting. But time will tell. Happy warm sunny days! xo Mum

  2. Wow, that was a long post, but I read it all, even though I don't understand the technical sailing stuff. :) I guess long term sailing is both a lifestyle and a traveling style. But being on an open-ended journey, with no pre-determined schedule or deadlines, that must be an awesome feeling!

    One question: if you enter a foreign country on a sailboat, are the visa requirements the same as if you enter by land or through an airport?

    Take care,


  3. Would welcome some more information on your energy set up. I have PSC37 (#320) and am working on getting the optimal set up for hopefully some long term cruising. email is svcuchulain(at)

    Fair winds!

  4. Hi Mom - yeah the agenda thing is a little annoying, but its something I'm doing to myself, its not being imposed on me. There is a course I would like to attend back in Port Townsend on Oct 29/30 so I need to find a place to put the boat for a week or more around that time, which means speeding up my next visit a little. Its my choice though, so its all good :-) (To other readers, relax, my Mom and I do actually communicate in other ways than through this blog :-)

    Marie - Yo! I read your travel postings, so now its payback time :-) Sailing is a lot of things - lifestyle and travel style among them. There is a ton to learn - the couple I met in my last stop who had been cruising for 9 years mentioned that they think they are now getting better at the cruising thing, mentioning that there is a lot to learn. I like this about it - you can keep learning for a long time. On the visa requirements - I'm not sure, and wouldn't be surprised if it varies from country to country. Canada is easy to get into of course. I believe Mexico is easy to get into, and I'll have to pay for a tourist visa that is part of the airline fare when you arrive by plane. I'll learn more about this as needed - I'm still learning about other more immediate things!

    John - Hi. I wouldn't want to say that my setup is 'optimal', but so far I'm pretty happy with it. Everything is a compromise of course. My panels are installed on stern rails that I mounted from the stanchions, and they are easily shaded by sails or other equipment. But they are big and so far its rare for them both to be shaded. Let me think about the details a little before replying further. The short answer is that I think the more alternative energy you can fit on the better. I have 2x135watt panels and an Air-Breeze wind generator. There were times when the wind generator was really handy, but mainly the panels are what generates the most charge. One last also...also, I'm still pretty far north from where I'm headed, and it may be that the winds are different - with more light winds, so the wind generator may not be as useful as it was further north? I'll find out about that over the next year...

  5. Hi Craig,
    Great reading! I'll be curious to see if you do Hawaii. It's the ride I'd really like to do. Sounds like you're doing it all right. Way to go!

  6. PS are you planning to be in San Diego for the America's Cup, Nov.12-20?

  7. Hi Elena. I don't know if I'll be around San Diego for the America's cup or not... Right now, I'm planning on being out of there and in Mexico by then. But when I pulled into Oxnard, I was only planning on being here a few days, but it's day 10 today. The warm weather and easy living seems to be slowing me down! Seeing the AC45's race would be awesome. I'll see how it works out, I'm trying not to plan too far in advance :-)

  8. Hi Craig
    Your mother informed me of your trip, so i will ride along, if I may. you write well. My wish for you is that it makes the dream true.

  9. Uncle Chuck! You're more than welcome to ride along :-)