Coches Prietos Anchorage

 

The beach at Coches Prietos is the best one on all of Santa Cruz Island. ©Bill Roper
Loc: mid-south coast Santa Cruz Lat: N 33-58.01 Long: W 119-42.45 Last visit: May 2015
Tide/Sun/Moon/WX Dist: 6 Prisoners, Santa Cruz WX
Chart 18729 Anacapa Passage NPS Alerts
Skipper: Capt. Dan Boat: S/V Sancerre Capt. Dan Port: Chan Islands
Landing Permit Required Nature Conservancy permit app
Local Notice to Mariners

Please excuse the inaccurate spelling, it’s supposed to be Coches Prietos … dark pig.

Coches Prietos

NOAA chart 18729. Note hill 432.
NOAA chart 18729. Note hill 432.

There are two great anchorages here: Alberts and Coches. They are similarly protected from wind and swell from the north and west but have no protection from south and east. Coches gets the most late-in-the-day sun. It also has the best beach on the island: small to zero surf, easy to get ashore and excellent access to inland hiking trails. And that is why it’s tough to find a spot here on summer weekends. If you’re here in high season, plan on anchoring bow and stern.

Nature Conservancy

Hill 432 separates Coches from Alberts
Hill 432 separates Coches from Alberts

This is Nature Conservancy property. You need a permit to come ashore here. Really. There are two big prohibitions here: no dogs (or other domestic animals) and no fires. They are worried that your pooch will bring disease to the island, particularly to the newly revived population of island foxes and they are also leery of the possibility that island animals carry disease to which your pet has no resistance.

No fires? The very thought scares the hell out of them as the place is usually tinder-dry. They also want you to haul out your garbage and use the head aboard your boat.

Approach

Rounding Hill 432. First sight of the Coches beach
Rounding Hill 432. First sight of the Coches beach

Finding these anchorages coming from east or west is simple. Coming from the west, find Bowen Pt. It’s easily distinguished by the white rock at its base. Once past the point, Coches opens to your left.

On closer approach the distinctive headland separating Coches and Alberts becomes visible. Give the headland at least a quarter mile clearance to avoid gathering kelp or hitting the submerged rocks indicated on chart 18729 a few hundred feet from the headland.

The place is way too popular for us in summer and it's a madhouse the first night of lobster season and on three-day holiday weekends.
The place is way too popular for us in summer and it’s a madhouse the first night of lobster season and on three-day holiday weekends.

Coming from the east, Bowen Pt. is frequently silhouetted and the headland is impossible to see. Parallel the shore about a mile out and keep on track for Bowen Pt. The Coches-Albert headland (hill 432) will eventually standout. Passing the headland, the Coches Prietos beach and anchorage open to your right.

Anchoring

Coches is the site of a major First American settlement.
Coches is the site of a major First American settlement.

If there is the typical NW wind, we try to anchor close to the western cliff. It’s really not necessary to jam right up against it. Though some yachtsmen will anchor behind (north) of the reef, there’s not enough room back there for us. Beware of anchoring too close to the east side as there are many rocks near datum and a shelf that is three feet at datum adjacent to the east side of the beach area.

When we were in there in summer a couple of years ago, we put two anchors down just east of the cliff.

Sancerre rides to anchor on a winter day at Coches Prietas
Sancerre rides to anchor on a winter day at Coches Prietas

In the winter last year, we were the only boat in the anchorage and chose to drop a single hook in the middle of the anchorage. The area was uncharacteristically free of kelp. When we got underway, we found tiny purple sea urchins on the chain … probably the reason there’s no kelp.

Whether on one hook or two, approach the beach slowly to avoid kelp (when it comes back) and submerged rocks near the eastern cliff and western reef.

Hazards

Getting ashore is usually very easy, But there is a very steep drop off just a few feet from the sand.
Getting ashore is usually very easy, But there is a very steep drop off just a few feet from the sand.

An uncharted mooring buoy near the mouth of the anchorage and some kelp. Also, beware of Santa Ana winds. You’d be in grave danger, particularly on the west side of the anchorage. However, some local experts think you can snuggle into the east side and seek refuge. A couple of months ago, one of our friends was unable to retrieve his anchor. We scoffed as he claimed it was stuck in rocks. We scoff no more as our windlass strained and the anchor brought up a fair-sized rock on our last trip.

A bit of spring rain greens things up.
A bit of spring rain greens things up.

Landing Permits Required

If you intend to go ashore, you’ll need a permit from the Nature Conservancy. This rule is flagrantly violated, but you’re trespassing if you don’t have one.

Updates

If you have new or amplifying information concerning this anchorage or the surrounding area, please Capt. Dan. His e-mail link and phone are below.

Photos

Sail for just a few hours …. or several days