|Loc: North coast Santa Cruz||Lat: N 34-02.9||Long: W 119-35.45||Last visit:July 2021|
|Tide/Sun/Moon/WX||Dist: 3||Prisoners, Santa Cruz||WX|
|Chart||18729||Anacapa Passage||Google Earth|
|Skipper:Capt. Dan||Boat: S/V Sancerre||Capt. Dan||Port: Channel Islands|
|Landing Permit||Local Notice to Mariners||NPS Alerts|
Potato Harbor is one of the prettiest anchorages on Santa Cruz. Maybe the prettiest. We’re compelled by the grandeur of the cliffs to sail in almost every time we’re in the neighborhood, yet we rarely get to drop the hook in there. Why? It’s a death trap when conditions are normal i.e. westerlies of 15 knots. You’re on a lee shore and if the wind pipes up above normal, you’ve got to fight a swell exacerbated by the shallow water at the mouth of the harbor.
Refuge from Santa Ana
On the other hand, if you’re surprised by moderate Santa Ana winds, this is a great refuge. The towering cliffs to the north and east make this a great spot to ride out the “Devil Wind.”
On the third hand, if the wind is out of the east or northeast at much more than 35 knots, it can roar over the cliffs and straight down into the anchorage. It is spectacular. At that point, you’re far safer in Chinese Harbor. Additionally, if the wind is strong and on the beam, you’ll play hell getting both anchors up. In Dec 2019 we had that situation. Plan A was to pull up the bow anchor first as it was more to leeward, but we were concerned that the heavy cross wind might make that impossible. Therefore, Plan B: We rigged floats at the middle and end of the stern rode, which we would jettison for later pickup if we couldn’t get the bow anchor up quickly.
The wind abated right in the middle of the process, so our fears were not realized.
By the way, when we anchor here we anchor facing west because we want to be able to bailout straight ahead if it gets too sporty.
The anchorage is easy to locate. Just look for the white rocks SW of Cavern Point. Potato Bay, as it’s sometimes called, lies just to the east of to those, guarded by a 112 ft. pinnacle rock (above) on the east side and marked by a small arch on the northwest (below). I’d think you can fit two or three 35-footers in here, each anchored bow and stern.
However, Labor Day of 2007, I counted 30 boats in there. Too much of a crowd for me and an outright disaster if any wind had come up. Boats were scattered everywhere, though, to be frank, many of them were quite small. Some were beached, perhaps not intending to spend the night.
When we stay overnight on settled nights, we plant the stern hook as far east as we can go, in 15 ft. or so, taking care to check tide tables so that we wouldn’t find ourselves aground in the morning. The bow anchor ends up on a sand bottom in 25 -30 ft. I set the anchor alarm for minimum movement – on Sancerre, that’s 60 ft. – and then keep an eye on things throughout the night.
It should go without saying that we brief our crew thoroughly on our emergency escape plan and we preposition our gear – searchlight, flashlights, life jackets and gloves in the event the wind builds from the west; we also write bailout heading on the binnacle.
There are rocky areas, particularly in the NE corner and some kelp, but on the last visit, the kelp was not much a factor. Be on the lookout for lobster and crab pot buoys. During lobster season, they are everywhere starting a mile or more from the entrance and then are scattered throughout the anchorage. Also be on the lookout for crabbers.
The last time we spent the night, we had a crabber encroach into our space. We had two hooks down, yet he dropped his hook no more than 100 ft. away. I don’t know how much rode he had out, but the thought of him swinging in changing breezes made us uneasy.
If you have pictures to share or new or amplifying information concerning this anchorage or the surrounding area, please contact Captain Dan