Category Archives: Sailing

Cheap Charts

Not many bargains available for sailors — but these charts are a fantastic value.

Not really called Cheap Charts

NOAA chart 18729
NOAA chart 18729. Click chart to see order page.

It’s the frugalnavigator and said navigator has a chart bargain for you: They’re the real NOAA deal, printed on better quality paper than we used to get directly from NOAA and they’re up-to-the-minute accurate when they slide them into the mailing tube.

At $15.95 for each of the charts I need, these cheap charts will replace all of the marked up and stained (and possibly old) charts that live in my nav table.

How good a deal is that?

All of the charts I formerly used were $27 a piece from my old vendor.

And delivery is fast. My first chart was here in three days.

I know, you use your GPS/Chartplotter. And so do I, but when I need to plan a trip somewhere outside of my local area, I still like to see the whole route on paper. It’s easier – at least for me – to study it on a  large paper chart than it is to roll the cursor ahead on my chart plotter. And planning the route on paper is a good way to catch waypoint entry errors on your GPS.

If you’re a touch paranoid or a worst-case-scenario kinda sailor, you’ve already figured out that GPS could go belly up and these charts would be mighty handy, especially if they’re up-to-date.

Very popular in Sweden

We think this says –

The crew is incredibly talented, knowledgeable and remarkably handsome.

At least that’s our take on this article that was recently published in Sweden about sailing the Channel Islands with us.

We're famous ... at least among Swedish sailors who read BATNYTT
We’re famous … at least among Swedish sailors who read BATNYTT

Photographer Par Olson and reporter Sam Victorin spent the day with me aboard Wiley and we explored the waters between Port Hueneme and Anacapa Island. The wind was very light and Par decided he wanted to get a shot of us underway, so we launched the kayak in the separation zone and he got this picture. If you click on the graphic, you’ll see the rest of the story. (And, if you know Swedish, let me know what it says … unless it’s not complimentary. In that case, make something up.)

Since my Swedish doesn’t go beyond SkolI can only assume that he wrote about the humpback whale that came close aboard just after he returned from kayaking.

Both Par and Sam were excellent sailors and taught me a thing or two about sailing in Sweden. Mostly I learned that it’s mostly too cold for a southern Californian. I mostly stay close to home.

New Anchoring tips for the Channel Islands

Drag Queen LogoDrag Queen – the best anchoring aid since GPS

We anchor almost every time we sail and that adds up to more than 100 times a year. We’ve studied the techniques very carefully and are fairly expert, yet every night at anchor both the Bosun and I check our position, the anchor and snubber and we do it half a dozen times each. Part of that is that we’re old men and tend to wander around in the night. (I’m writing this at 0330 and there’s no good reason for that. Just old.)

Most books that address anchoring tell you to take bearings and calculate your position, then draw the circle representing the length of rode and your swing.

Sancerre rides to anchor at Santa Cruz Island
Sancerre rides to anchor at Santa Cruz Island

If you’ve anchored at the Channel Islands, you know that you can’t get a visual fix, it’s just too damned dark and there are satisfactory lights only in Smugglers and Yellowbanks (Anacapa Light and Platform Gail). So you’re left with taking a look around, estimating how far you are from other boats and listening to the surf for clues about how close you are to the shore.

That’s all standard and not all that accurate or reassuring. What does reassure us is our GPS. We set the track to 5 sec and can see what the trend is. We’ve spent a couple of nights in Yellowbanks with winds gusting over 50 knots and stood anchor watch at the nav table watching our track. BTW – at 50 knots with no riding sail, our track was a semi-circle. We also set the anchor alarm.

Anchor alarm drawbacks

Our anchor alarm works fine but it isn’t as loud as Tom’s (my son’s) snoring. If we’re awake, it’s OK. If not, the wind is much more likely to wake us than the  puny alarm.

Then there’s the “where are we”  issue. We hit the GPS alarm button as we drop the anchor. I presume that marks the spot where the GPS antenna is, but that is 45.2 feet from the anchor even before we lower it.

Drag Queen is a great addition

Drag Queen is a free phone app and is the best anchoring trick we’veDrag Queen screen shot picked up since we switched to all-chain rode.

We take it forward when we’re about to drop the hook, hit the set button when the 50 foot marker goes by and then put it away.

Once the anchor is set, we get the phone out, add the length of the rode to the distance from the bow plus 10% and enter that in the Distance Alarm field.

With bow and stern hook set, we mark the position wherever the phone is going to spend  the night, usually the nav table and set the distance at 70 feet or so, depending on how close other boats and obstructions are and how tightly we snubbed the rodes.

We have used the default for Alarm Delay – 30 seconds, and set 50 feet for GPS Alarm Accuracy.

Those are pretty tight parameters and we get the occasional false positive. We will probably start setting the alarm delay to 45 seconds to reduce the false alarm rate.

The Alarm

The alarm is startling. It’s loud and raucous. It’s perfect. If you want more volume, hook it up to your FM radio or a Jambox. Doing those things will probably wake all your neighbors.

Does it work inside?

The publisher warns that GPS accuracy can be severely degraded if the phone doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. We set ours on the nav table which is near the companionway but with no direct view of the sky and have monitored the GPS accuracy. It rarely wanders above 33 feet on either my iPhone or the Bosun’s Android.

Other cool things

Since the app notes the location of the anchor, you can transfer the information to another device  such as an iPad or a second phone.

Plug it in, plug it in

Plug your phone into an external power source. Capt. Rob has installed USB plugs for us, but a cigarette lighter plug is almost as good.

The display will not dim when the app is activated and the phone is plugged in.

If you’ve got questions

e-mail Capt. Dan

See you on the water!

Shoaling in Channel Islands Harbor is severe

It’s official –

Today ‘s (26 June 2014) Local Notice to Mariners reports

“Shoaling has been reported in the northwest entrance to Channel Islands Harbor. The navigable depth has been reported as less than 10ft and the width from the break wall to the shoal has been reported as less than 90ft.

The northwest entrance is subject to rapid shoaling and should be should be avoided due to unknown depths. Mariners are requested to transit the area with caution and report any observed changes in shoaling
conditions to the Channel Islands Harbor Patrol on VHF-FM Chan. 16, 12, 73, or at 805-382-3000.”


Sailing the Channel Islands – Prisoners Harbor revisited

Prisoners harbor tricks and tacticsPrisoners Harbor chart 18729

Anchoring at Prisoners Harbor can be a bit tricky

I like Prisoners Harbor, but there are some things to think about on your way in

1. Most folks anchor on a single hook, but I’m going to stop that practice right now. I’ve been in there on the nicest of evenings (last Monday, in fact) and somewhere in the middle of the night the wind dies and I find myself drifting about and far too frequently end up with the swell on the beam. It’s not dangerous, but it’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

I may have to anchor away from the crowd and may be be exposed to a bit more wind and swell, but I’ll go to the east side of the pier if I have to and drop two hooks and get oriented into the NW swell. It’s worth the effort for a decent night’s snoozing.

Prisoner Harbor anchoring
This is our favorite spot to anchor. It’s about 100 yards NW of the buoy that has been returned to service but is not in this pic.

2. The mooring buoy is back. It’s where it was for years, about 75 yards NW of the pier. It’s still just for National Park Service boats and Island Packers.  BTW – the chart pictured is the latest available. We’ll send notice to the CG that an update is required.

3. Eel grass, still a pain in the ass. We tried anchor just south of the 5 fathom mark. Our very reliable Fortress anchor would not set. When I hauled it up, we had half an acre (OK, a small bouquet) of eel grass in the flukes. We moved to a spot 100 yards north of the mooring buoy (about the 3 3/4 fathom mark) and got a good set on the first try. No eel grass when we got underway.

4. Note the anchor symbol. If you actually try to anchor near there you’re liable to find yourself in 100 feet of water.


Capt. Dan’s Channel Islands Cruising Guide

New Blog

I’m pulling my blog into the main body of the website. If you’ve come

Capt. Dan and Tom at Johnson's Lee
My son Tom — no family resemblance there – Dawn and Bosun ventured back to Johnson’s Lee with me in early March

here from the old blog, please subscribe to this one as the old one will go away shortly. Click the green SUBSCRIBE button over there on the left. (If I were smarter about this web stuff, I’d have been able to import the old subscribers, but I don’t  know who you are.)

Channel Islands Cruising Guide

Anyhow, if you’ve been thinking the old Channel Islands Cruising Guide looks a little funky compared to the new website, I’d have to agree.  It’ll be long and slow, but we’re updating gradually with a new reliance on video. We’ve most recently updated  Johnson’s Lee.

Johnsons Lee, Santa Rosa Island

Even though Santa Rosa Island is now fully under the control of the National Park Service, there are still some places you must avoid. You no longer have to worry about getting shot, but you should still refer to the NPS website hiking restrictions & beach closures as certain beaches are closed from time-to-time to protect the snowy plover nesting sites as well as pinniped rookeries (seals, sea lions, elephant seal nurseries)


There are relatively few anchorages on Santa Rosa Island, and most of those visiting this island are drawn to Becher’s Bay NW anchorage, often not venturing beyond this large, well sheltered and popular anchorage. However, heading around East Point up the south west coast of the island to Johnson’s Lee is well worth the trip in the right conditions. However, this anchorage is untenable when the winds are out of the southeast or there is a short-period southern swell. Also, as mentioned above, strong winds out of the west can also make for a pretty unsettled night if you’re not equipped with a properly rigged riding sail.


Near Ford Point on the Way to Johnsons Lee
Near Ford Point on the Way to Johnsons Lee – the far point

The approach to Johnson’s Lee is fairly straight forward as it lies immediately NE of South Point (the southern most point of Santa Rosa Island). However, finding the “sweet spot” can be a bit of a challenge. Brian Fagan states in The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California (revised 2002) “The buildings on the slopes are visible from a long distance. Steer for the pier immediately below them. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the sake of returning the island to its natural state), these buildings and the pier no longer exist and all traces of them have been eliminated. There is, however, some sort of storage shed that is visible for miles. The light on South Point looks like it should be a good landmark, but, don’t expect to see this light when approaching from the south east. While it should be visible when approaching from San Miguel Island, spotting may also be a little difficult (except at night, which we’re not likely to attempt).

How we did it, specifically

We’ve made the run from Yellowbanks a couple of times. We headed fairly far off coast on a southwesterly heading in search for some wind and perhaps a few dolphins and a whale or two. Fortunately, we encountered all of the above (including the largest and most active pod of Fin Whales any of us had previously seen). On our spring 2014 trip, we encountered transiting gray whales and a lonesome bull elephant seal in the anchorage. We had sailed far enough out so that when we tacked we were on a northwest heading that practically took us straight into Johnson’s Lee. Finding the right place to drop the hook required a little more poking around as the landmarks listed in Fagan are all gone. In addition, there is a fair amount of kelp to be avoided. While the anchorage is quite large, care must be taken to avoid anchoring at the base of the canyon where strong winds can at times come roaring through. At the same time, care should be taken so as to not to get too close to the northern shore where (according to Fagan) it is rocky and the holding is poor. We wove our way through a small kelp bed, and dropped the hook in approximately 35 feet of water, a half mile or so off shore, paying out about 200 feet of chain. The wind was blowing almost 30, but we were well sheltered from the swell that had been punishing us for two days. Note: If you have a mooring buoy on your chart, you’ve got an old chart. The buoy’s gone and the chart has been updated.

Going Ashore

Go to Santa Rosa Island for general information including history, topography, flora and fauna of Santa Rosa and an excellent slide show on the Channel Islands National Park website.


None that aren’t charted or visible. Updates: If you have new or amplifying information concerning this anchorage or the surrounding area, please contact Capt. Dan. His e-mail link is in the left sidebar.

See you on the water! 

Sail Channel Islands new website

Out with the old (big, clumsy, unwieldy) and in with a new website

It’s just a coincidence that we’re redoing our site in this, our decade celebration. We’ve keeping most of the information, but we’re separating the cruising guide and the navigation training information.

We welcome your comments on the new site. Obviously, I’m  a sailor, not a web developer, so there will be issues. If you can’t find something you need, particularly something that used to be here, please let me know.