Paradise Found

(September 30 – October 3, 2017) A windy night in Avila Beach, a rocky night in Cojo, a REALLY windy night at San Miguel, and then the most sketch raft-up next to a rock ledge ever… would I ever sleep again?

When I finally gave up on sleep and got out of bed the next morning, then slowly stumbled my way into the cockpit to greet the sun, my thoughts about the prior nights’ lack of sleep simply evaporated. In front of me was the most beautiful, and most private, beach I’d ever seen. The sand was creamy white, with rock walls looming up on each end, standing tall and strong, like security guards ready to devastate any threat to the beach’s inhabitants.


Two more guards stood watch in the cove, daring the sea to enter. That morning, the sea did not dare.The surf was down, which made landing our dinghy easy. Which was a good thing, because the girls were so eager to play in the sand that they shot out of the dinghy and onto the beach almost before we even landed.

Plenty of escargot on the beach, with some beautiful shells!
Ellie gets very contemplative when she’s played out.

It wasn’t long before Decision arrived on shore, and with Tuwamish already beached, we had a proper kid-boat beach party on our hands.

While the kids played, I took the opportunity to hike up the nearby hill, and look out over the cliff at the bay.

We played until lunch could no longer be avoided, and headed back to our boats. Although Willows was picturesque and calm all morning, we all still remembered the rocky night rafting before, and we were eager to find an anchorage that would both fit and protect all our boats, more calmly. After some strategizing how to separate our boats without sending Tuwamish onto the beach and Mobert onto the rocks, we managed to exit the cove without incident, and move along.

Our next stop was only a few miles away, at Coches Prietos. As we approached, we were disappointed – another “anchorage” that was nothing more than a shallow indent in a rock wall. But then we continued closer and found what we didn’t think we could find on this rugged coast – an actual (albeit small) protected harbor! It had a wide entrance, but a rocky finger curved around the northeast side of the cove to close the gap just a little. It was no “harbor” as I knew it, but it just might work.

There were already five boats in the cove when we arrived. Luckily, it’s the custom in the tight anchorages of the Channel Islands to set a stern anchor to allow enough room for other boats in the anchorage. The boats in the inner “harbor” portion of the cove had all set stern anchors, so we readied our stern anchor and followed suit. We’d never set a stern anchor before, and we learned over the course of the next few days that there are myriad ways to do it. To set ours, we first backed into shore until we found 10 feet of water and dropped the stern anchor; paid out the rode as long as we could while we motored forward; then dropped the bow anchor and let out our scope, while backing toward the stern anchor and taking in the line. Then we spent the next several minutes bringing in bow and stern rode alternately, until we were comfortable everything was set. With two anchors sitting comfortably and securely on the bottom, we’d have to get a good night’s sleep, right? I took the girls for a quick trip to the beach, but after only a few minutes the sun set over the hills next to us, and the evening grew chilly quickly. We dinghied back to the boat, and settled in for the evening. After getting the girls to bed, I paused. No rocking. No rolling. No screaming wind. No squeaking fenders or lines. Could this be the calm, comfortable, and protected anchorage we’d been looking for since leaving the Pacific Northwest?

With a contented exhale of relief, I can tell you that it was. That night, I slept a solid 10 hours without waking even once. I was so happy to know we were staying here a few more days.

A view of Mobert from the beach.

(October 1) The next morning, we were all eager to get to the beach. Unfortunately, the girls took unreasonably long finishing up their modest amount of schoolwork, and I got frustrated. I was ready to leave without them when they finally finished up and got their swimsuits on. S/V Decision had a yoga instructor aboard as crew, and morning beach yoga was already underway. With the girls finally ready, we hopped in the kayak and paddled to shore.

I thoroughly enjoyed my beach yoga that morning, and the girls enjoyed playing in the waves and the sand. However, at the end of beach yoga, we had a bit of a problem with tar. You see, there are a number of natural crude oil seeps in that area, and when the oil seeps out of the ground and into the ocean, it often eventually finds its way to the beach. It dries there, in small sheets and clumps, until an unsuspecting beachgoer finds it adhered to a foot, a leg, or maybe mashed into the fibers of a favorite shirt. After the morning’s beach yoga session, we all found ourselves with tar stuck in various places. For me, I suffered a “favorite shirt” attack. Oh well, if I could at least get the stickiness out, a few stains wouldn’t matter much. Not when the only other people you typically see each day are other people living on boats at booby trapped tar beaches.

One of the bigger chunks of tar on the beach.

With yoga over and lunchtime on our minds, we piled back into the kayak to head back to the boat. The surf had picked up, and unfortunately my kayak-mounting skills leave something to be desired, which led to a minor disaster. With the girls in the boat, I pushed the kayak into the surf. I knew we hadn’t made it past the breakers yet, but the kayak isn’t particularly stable, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to climb in without pulling it over if we went out much deeper. So, I tried to hop in where I was, between the breaking waves. I missed, and without thinking, tried a second time. I was just about in on the second try when a breaker pushed us sideways and rolled us right over.

The girls came up crying, and gasping for air. I didn’t have the heart to point out to them that they never went under in the first place. I helped them out of the water, and laid my momentarily submerged backpack, with iPad and iPhone inside, on the beach. I began pulling out contents, surprised and relieve to find that most of them were still quite dry. The girls, however, refused to allow my attention or my hands anywhere but on them, so after a second I gave up and just cuddled them as they cried. They were fine, but understandably rattled. The girls refused to get back in the kayak, and so Rich brought the dinghy to shore to ferry them home. Now alone, I found the kayak much easier to manage in the surf, and paddled back to the boat behind them.

By the time we finished lunch, they were over their trauma, but ready to spend a relaxing afternoon on the boat. Legos and dolls were on the agenda for the afternoon, and the girls played the heck out of them.

(October 2). The next day, with two miraculous days of sleep under our belt, we were ready for a hike. I was so excited. I love hiking, and this was going to be our first real, non-bear-infested, not-four-times-as-long-and-hard-as-you-thought, with-an-actual-trail hike! We got our gear on and headed to shore.

The hike started off rough. We carried our hiking shoes to shore with us, because the beach landing required us to get our feet wet, and we didn’t want to hike in wet shoes. But once we landed, we ran into the issue of our feet being covered in sand. So, we decided to walk up to the brush line without shoes, and give the sand a chance to dry and fall off. The problem was, once we reached the brush, the ground was armed with hundreds of tiny, pointy land mines, the seed of some plant that had fallen to the ground in hopes of inflicting several puncture wounds before being carried off to its new bed.

It only took one puncture wound before we realized we better just sit down and put our shoes on where we were. So, we were hiking in sandy socks. Except for Ellie, who didn’t bring any socks at all, and brought her water shoes. Somehow, the pokies managed to find their way into her shoes throughout the hike, necessitating several stops.

There was a nice road to hike down, so we started to follow it. After nearly an hour, we’d made it a mile. Our pace was slowed due to the fact that we had to stop for every gecko we passed along the way – and there were a lot of geckos!

Gecko no. 00167 on our hike.
The girls learn about the island’s wildlife at the trailhead.
Meanwhile, back at the beach…
We found a prickly pear cactus, with ripe fruit and all! But don’t take any, it’s protected land.
And don’t touch it either, ouch! (Don’t worry, she only touched it lightly to see how sharp it was. Turns out, it’s pretty darn sharp.)
Ellie, on the road again.
Almost a mile…
She made it the whole mile in!
Now to hike the mile back…

After our hike, we headed back to the boat to have lunch and rest up.  We were all downstairs, seeking escape from the sun, when I begrudgingly came up to the cockpit to hang up some wet clothes.  I was very surprised to find us within 20 feet of S/V Decision.  Clearly, after 2 days of holding firm and good nights’ sleeps, one of our anchors was loose.

Quickly, I called Rich up.  Our Rocna has never dragged, so I checked the Fortress on the stern first.  Sure enough, it had come loose.  We pulled it in as we backed and bow-thrusted away from Decision, using our bow anchor as a pivot.  It took several minutes’ discussion to agree on the best way to re-set (or whether we re-set at all), the main problem being that we had to bring our stern about 100 feet to starboard against a building wind.  In the end we decided that Rich would put the Fortress in the dinghy, then use the dinghy like a tug on the port side of our hull, pushing Mobert sideways and back into place against the wind.  Then, he’d dinghy out as far as he could to the starboard and into shore, and drop the Fortress.

The plan worked well for the most part, except that it took 20 feet or so for the Fortress to set, and in that time the wind blew us back toward Decision.  But, it was an easy fix, as Rich simply pulled the dinghy back up to the port side of the boat and pushed her back again like a little tug.  While he did that, I pulled in on the stern anchor rode until it was as tight as we could get it, and tied it off.  Then we cinched back in on the bow, then in reverse again to pull in the stern, and a few more rounds until everything was all tightened up, and we were set again.

Want to know why our stern anchor dragged?  It’s pretty silly.  Our supporters on Patreon can read about it by clicking here.  Not a patron yet?  Click here to sign up!

With the boats now firmly in place, and afternoon relaxing accomplished successfully, we headed over to Tuwamish with Decision for a little kid-boat party.  Tuwamish was farther out in the anchorage, and getting hit by some swell, so it was a bit rolly.  And, being a full-keeled ferrocement boat, Tuwamish’s motion in the ocean was quite a bit different from Mobert’s fin-keeled, fiberglass roll.  So, after an hour or so of rolling, Morgan started to feel a little seasick.

I took her out on deck, where she pouted that she couldn’t play with the other kids.  But then we saw Jack, Tuwamish’s resident monkey, swinging in the rigging.  Adam, Tuwamish’s skipper, asked if Morgan would like to try, as they had an extra harness.  She was delightfully terrified.

We put the harness on, and started winching her up the mast.  High above, Jack was still swinging from mast to mast in Tuwamish’s ketch rigging, out and around over the ocean, and back again.  For her part, Morgan was hanging onto her halyard white-knuckled and squealing with exhilarated delight.  Two feet off the deck.  She hadn’t even made it as high as the boom when she told us she was high enough, and we could stop winching.

For the next two hours, she sat there, dangling stagnantly from the mast and having the ride of her life the whole time.  Eventually, she made her way about 6 feet up, and started swinging gently in the nearest shrouds.  By 9PM, we could barely talk her down, she was having so much fun.  But, it was time for bed, and in the morning we’d be leaving for Ventura.

That night, for the third night in a row, I slept soundly.  The boat rocked gently, the waves crashed rhythmically on the beach, and all was right in our little cruising world.

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