California’s Channel Islands

Shelly and I have been fortunate to sail on several trips with our buddy Paul aboard his schooner Dauntless to California’s Channel Islands. Physically, the eight-island archipelago extends 160 miles from San Miguel Island, which lies beyond the shadow of Pt. Conception, south to San Clemente Island – roughly 65 miles west of San Diego. Emotionally, the islands are an opportunity to escape from 22 million Southern Californians and the grind of the modern world. The Channel Islands National Park encompasses five of these remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara.) and their surrounding ocean environment. The Park’s isolation has created and helps preserve a unique window to California as it once was. Some of our favorite anchorages to hike, dive, kayak, and – fingers crossed – surf, on Santa Cruz include Smugglers, Yellow Banks, Coches Prietos, and Pelican Bay. But nothing can quite compare to the mist veiled remoteness and sheer magic of rarely visited San Miguel. The anchorage at Cuyler Harbor, and witnessing the staggering population of elephant seals at Point Bennett, one of the largest gatherings of wildlife in the world, are unique rewards for the intrepid traveler. Be forewarned, the passage to this northwestern outpost, with its rough waters and severe winds, can test both boat and crew. Our sail home to San Diego, with a lay over in Catalina, includes the constant escort of dolphins and the occasional blue whale. If you’ve never been to the islands, go. If you’re among the fortunate who’ve been before, return. To learn more about this wonderfully preserved piece of California ‘raw’ visit www.nps.gov/chis/index.htm

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