Cuyler Harbor, Santa Miguel Island California
Cuyler Harbor, Santa Miguel Island
Currently anchored in Cuyler Harbor, off an island that feels remote and raw. There is a long sweeping white beach to the south that extends north to near our anchorage with a couple of breaks where the hillsides have collapsed to the sea and made smaller isolated beaches. In these spots are a couple of sea lion rookeries. In the rookery near us a couple dozen sea lions are basking in the sun, most of them covered in sand. They crawl up a steep sandy bank, roll around in the sand, slide down the hill and continue to use their flippers to awkwardly toss sand over themselves until they resemble sausages coated in panko batter, ready for the fryer.
Their honking, barking and at times even cooing can be heard all they way out into the bay where we are anchored. It isn't the frantic hostile honking and badgering we heard in Newport, it is more "conversational" and will drop off for an hour or two. Last night as we rocked gently in the swell their chatter and chortling carried clearly over the sea.
The island is arid and colored an array of browns, khakis, and deep greens with a few small patches of vivid green tucked up into small depressions in the hills, most likely where water has gathered. Otherwise, it appears to be completely dry and stark. Quite the contrast to the waters around the island that are home to a large variety of sea mammals including five species of pinnipeds. The island is protected by the national park and requires a permit to explore beyond the beach. According to our guidebook of the islands, Santa Miguel is covered with many archeological sites from pre-contact peoples, Spanish explorers, sealers, and fishermen. I believe many of the areas of the island require a park guide to visit but that could be old information.
We are anchored out enjoying the sun, the swell of the ocean keep us bobbing around. The surf has started to pick up and is now rolling along the beach, exploding into sea caves, and providing a dramatic soundtrack to the day.
Last night we dropped anchor around five after three days of sailing from Half Moon Bay. We seem to have developed a knack for gnarly weather and found ourselves at the tail edge of the weather pattern that much further north had hit the coasts of Oregon and Washington with winds of 80mph and heavy rains. We spent our first night out in heavy seas with winds in the mid-20's, gusting to the high 30's. It was a wild ride after spending a month dockside in Berkeley. Amazing how much we seem to "forget" when we are not constantly on the move. That first night had us bouncing all around the cabin when we were down below, and hanging tight when on watch in the cockpit. We had waves wash up over the cockpit coaming and douse us a few times. A rare experience. Our windvane, Sir Robin, was once again a champ and kept us on course, sliding down the waves, pausing to find the wind for a moment, resetting course, keeping us on track.
Though the ride was a bit rough, the moon was out, and the sky was incredibly clear and sharp - almost no moisture in the air. Shooting stars, the Milky Way, the strong light of the moon on the wave tops, made for a mesmerizing night. At the end of each watch when one of us would update the other and comment on what had gone on during their shift - it was mostly about how gorgeous it had been and how we had just stared into all that was unfolding around us. Also that there was no sign of mankind - no planes, no ships, no lights, no AIS targets, nothing on radar. It is such an odd feeling to be in a small boat, cruising along at 7-8 knots in an inky black sea, dashed with a few highlights of breaking waves, the sky bright with the moon and stars, but otherwise just trusting in the emptiness ahead.
As the sun set we had reefed the genoa down, gone through a double reefed main and traded that for the trys'l. We carried on the whole night with little sail but still making mostly 7 knots, often surfing to 8 or more. Thrilling.
The next day we saw the seas ease a small amount and the winds drop a few knots. We kept the trys'l up and unfurled the genoa a bit but kept bombing along. As the day progressed the seas started to line up a bit more and the secondary wave train that had been throwing us around so much the first night took it much easier on us, letting us get some sleep when off watch.
As we came in closer to shore yesterday the winds continued to drop until we were a couple hours north of the island the winds left us and we were forced to motor over a calm sea to our anchorage. A couple of hours out we watched one of the more incredible displays of life at sea, a massive school of dolphins, it seemed a hundred or more, racing along in a pack, many jumping high into the air - much higher than their body length, 8-10 feet, then plunging back into the water. They cruised by us at high speed, like a biker gang on a rampage, the surface of the sea frothing from their fins. We assumed their were hunting down an unlucky school of fish that had caught their attention. A rare experience.
The harbor was calm with a few knots of wind coming from west when we dropped anchor. As we went about putting Tumbleweed to bed the winds picked up and within a couple of hours we were seeing winds in the mid-teens. We were pretty exhausted from the trip down and after an early dinner struggled to keep awake. Douglas somehow managed to fall asleep on his feet while standing in the galley.
Another sailboat anchored shortly after we arrived, and a large motor yacht came in after dark. Two small fishing skiffs came in at sunset and anchored near shore. In such a massive bay it still felt very secluded and remote. This morning we woke to a dense fog, with visibility down to a handful of yards.
We spent the day reading about Mexico, and organizing Tumbleweed after the couple days at sea. Planning on spending another day here, then heading for Santa Cruz Island, and from there to Santa Barbara where we can pick up mail and take care of a couple of small projects - and make ready for Mexico.