Of Dolphins and Dinghys

We left Santa Barbara on Thursday, Oct. 26. We meant to get an early start, but couldn’t resist going to the Breakwater Cafe for breakfast again. Koiya got a Belgian waffle piled high with whipped cream and sugary strawberries. I was worried she might try to hide in the kitchen and live there forever!


The 15- 20 kt wind was from the southwest, so we were beating, but we had a wonderful, 24-nautical-mile sail to Santa Cruz Island. Great wind, a few big splashes up on the decks, and a close encounter with a HUGE car transport freighter, just to keep things interesting. A lot like sailing San Francisco Bay!

One thing we don’t get in the bay, though: dolphins riding our bow! How exciting to see them race and dive! While whales’ size and power fill you with awe, the dolphins’ speed and acrobatics are so thrilling, you want to shout and holler like idiots… which we did! Southern Californians might call them “the Blue Angels of the sea”, but really, that doesn’t give the dolphins their due respect. They are effortlessly fluid and graceful in a way that no machine could ever be.

I can’t help but wonder if the dolphins can see Koiya on the bowsprit, hear her excited shouts, and know that their brief visits are the highlights not only of our day, but our entire trip! Koiya used her Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises book to identify them as common dolphins, and in the excitement of seeing them, she often recites what she’s learned about them. “I think the best kind of dolphin for us to see is common dolphins, because they are known for being playful and riding bow waves,” she told me.

We spent two nights anchored at Pelican Bay, which is aptly named for the many pelicans that roost on the rocks there. We enjoyed a potluck dinner with Barrie and Sandra of Passat II, and a warm but lovely hike. We didn’t get to see any of the unique Channel Island species, but Koiya and I did see a cute burrowing owl.

On Saturday we motored to Smugglers’ Cove on the eastern side of the island. Koiya spent the entire trip on the bowsprit, sighting dolphins. Koiya and I decided to row the dinghy to the beach, so she could play. “Watch the sets of waves,” I told her, “so you can tell me when to go.” We got close to the beach. “Row!” she yelled, “Row for all you’re worth!” Though I could see another wave coming, I followed her order.

Well, apparently I’m not worth much, because the next wave caught us and tipped the dinghy up! Koiya and I were dumped into the surf! Koiya was a bit freaked out until she realized we were in about 3 feet of water. My thought was, “Crap! My PFD is going to inflate!”, but luckily I had forgot to wear it! We wrestled the dinghy to the shore, both sopping wet. “Well,” I said, “Go play!” But she was (understandably) freezing, so we radioed Todd and told him we were headed back to the boat.

Todd was waiting for us with the solar shower. “When you said you’d dunked, I was worried about my two girls!” he said. “Oh, Koiya and I are fine,” I reassured him. “No, you silly woman, I’m worried about sand on the boat and damage to the dinghy!” Capn Anal replied. “Now wash off that sand before I beat it off of you!”

The next day, with the help of the outboard and the dinghy wheels, we had a much more successful beach landing. And, since I was going to force him to shower (it had been 4 days), Todd decided he might as well go for a swim. Koiya joined him for about 5 seconds.

We so enjoyed our brief visit to Santa Cruz Island, but we had to leave to meet up with Matt, Koiya’s dad. We had another wonderful passage to Marina del Rey (Los Angeles), partly sailing and partly motoring. Matt decided to fly Koiya up rather than coming down this way to see her, so we got a bus to LAX and put the girl on a plane. We marveled that she had woken up on Santa Cruz Island and would take a boat, bus, plane and car ride before going to bed in San Francisco!

See all our Santa Cruz photos, including a great shot of Todd’s legs as well as a couple of dolphin videos, here:

20071029ChannelIslands

3 Responses to “Of Dolphins and Dinghys”

  1. Marcus Anderson ex-Restless says:

    We dumped the hard dinghy once on San Benito Island.

    Umm, I almost hesitate to say anything, but I just want to caution you against clipping your harness to the lifelines. Especially if you are in the cockpit the big cleats are more inboard and more secure. Talk to Rick about leaning on lifelines….
    I assume you use a similar jackstay to what we had running up the sidedecks?
    Take care and have fun! Sounds like a great trip.
    Don’t forget to grease your nipples and check for a bent stripper Todd.

  2. Susan says:

    Not to worry, Marcus; we have very secure jacklines that we clip into. I think you saw a photo with the tethers clipped to the lifelines, which is where we clip them when we are *not* wearing them.

  3. Dave, Melissa and Ella says:

    This is so great guys. We’re enjoying following the trip with you. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the dolphins!!!!

    –Dave, Melissa and Ella

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