Tag Archives: channel islands

Coast Guard inspection on the high seas

The local Coast Guard inspection force is in  frenzy mode.

Here we come, ready or not.

We were boarded last week

Why us?

Because we were there. Not many choices that day, we were the only ones on the horizon.

BUT we’d just gone through our annual Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection just a few weeks before, (we semi-pleaded) when they asked if they could board.

No point in saying no, so we extended an invitation.

As always, the “coasties” were polite and very respectful of our boat.  And the boarding party from the cutter Halibut completed the inspection in 20 minutes. (The old men in the auxiliary took an hour plus.)


What were they looking for? It was primarily a safety check: They looked in the bilges to see if we were sinking, they checked our flares, wanted to see our sound signaling devices, they  jiggled our fire extinguishers and looked at the gauges, noted that we were all wearing life jackets, checked our documentation then quizzed us on holding tank procedures.

For a complete rundown on what you need to have, download http://www.uscgboating.org/images/420.PDF

Coast Guard inspection protocol

When you see the blue lights, and last weekend there were many blue lights on multiple Coast Guard craft in the harbor,  here’s what you do:

Maintain course and speed unless directed otherwise. No matter what they direct, you’re in charge of your boat and they can’t see what you see. So don’t put yourself in danger by cutting someone off or getting closer to a dock than you’d like. If you’re sailing, a close reach is probably easiest for boarding. It’s critical that you hold everything constant as they board. Before they come along side and once they’re aboard, if you need to maneuver, just tell them what you intend to do.

Guns: if you have any aboard, let them know. It’s probably best to let them know before they board. They didn’t ask us until they were on Sancerre, but we don’t have anything more sinister than a flare gun.

Why so many inspections?

They may be filling some sort of training quota and/or inspection/ticket quota. In any event they’ve been out there in force. We were boarded about three miles out, but most of the action last weekend was in the harbor.

Save your Coast Guard Inspection form

According to the guys who boarded us, it’s sort of a get-out-of-jail ticket. Good for one year, they won’t board you without a specific cause if you can produce the form.

Probable cause?

Apparently doesn’t apply in the case of stopping you for a safety inspection. On the other hand, I’d bet 95% of the boats they stop have multiple discrepancies, so think of it as a service.

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.

Google Street View Vessel lurks the Channel Islands

Street view of the Channel Islands
Street view of the Channel Islands

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted a blog. But this encounter jolted me out of indolence.

Google Street View?

Frankly, we’re not sure, but what else could this be but a mission to detail our favorite coastline? It certainly is one of the oddest vessels we’ve encountered out there, this enormous catamaran.  On the other hand, it’s no quirkier than the Google cars we’ve seen on the road.

Only a few crew were visible, but it’s unlikely that this operation takes many folks.

I’m hoping Google will allow us to use the pictures in our cruising guide. We’ve got our own, but I’m sure they’ll have much more than we can do with our Brownie.

Apparently Google has been doing watery street views for several years and launched a boat for Amazon, the river not the store, exploration in 2011 as well as an unmanned boat that mapped San Francisco Bay last February.

The boat we encountered is apparently only one of a fleet. For more info, go to the source: Google.

Wiley and crew new honor: proclaimed gemütlich

A gentle day in the Santa Barbara Channel
A gentle day in the Santa Barbara Channel

Summer is the best time of the year in our business for meeting folks from other parts of the world. Germans, Dutch, Spanish and Canadian tourists make for some of our best experiences.

I sailed this week with a family from Köln, Germany. Cologne is easier for the English tongue, but the family worked with me until I could handle the umlaut fairly respectably.  At least for one day.

They – mom, dad and a 10-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl – were a delight. Fortunately, they all spoke excellent English, which is good as my German is limited to being able to order a beer. (Bier, bitte?)

Here’s why I like to sail with Europeans: their kids are always interested in learning about sailing and about our area.  And they are  always excited about being on the boat.  And if they ever get bored, they never say so.

And why I like to sail with Germans, in particular: They don’t get seasick or do anything messy, they hang up their lifejackets more neatly than they found them and they are full of laughter and fun.

And particularly in particular, these Germans deemed the time, the place, the whole experience gemütlich.

Their explanation of the word went far beyond the dictionary’s “comfortable.”  Apparently the umlaut is loaded with expression that we just can’t apprehend with an English ear.

And another thing, when the parents translated technical sailing stuff that I was trying to pass on to their young son, well, I sounded much more intelligent and knowledgeable in German. I guess something was lost in the original.

If I ever have another boat, I think I’ll have to name her Gemütlich. Or, perhaps, Gemülichkeit, though a Mayday call would inevitably bring severe consternation to the Coast Guard with either one of those.


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!