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  • Peggy Simonsen

Sailing the Channel Islands

The Sea, once it cast its spell, holds one in its net forever.” Jacques Cousteau

I finally got a chance to sail on the ocean again after about 10 years. (I was on a windjammer in the Bahamas in 2019, but I wasn’t driving!)

This time, with my brother, sister -in- law and sister, we chartered Sancerre, a 40 foot Jenneau monohull sailboat from the southern California coast to the Channel Islands National Park. For the first time, we had a captain and chef instead of “bareboat” as I have always done. Not knowing the waters, we decided to go with a crewed boat. My brother Richard is an experienced boater, but it has been years, since he now lives on the desert in New Mexico. His wife, Carol is intrepid and would have learned the “ropes” and my sister Betty used to sail a small boat on Lake Macatawa, Michigan and occasionally off St Joseph Island, Ontario, but has mostly been a passenger on ocean sailing vessels.

The weather was sunny and warm, with great winds and mostly smooth seas with a few rollers, calm enough to have our lunch of Chef’s salad while underway. I was on the wheel for awhile heading from Oxnard on the shore to Santa Cruz Island, in Channel Islands National Park. All the islands are craggy, with marginal harbors, so we chose an anchorage in the lee of a point protected from the wind and waves, so as not to bob all night. We had a kayak on board and were able to climb in off the stern of the sailboat and explore along the shore a bit. It was great to have our chicken curry dinner made by the first mate/chef and spend a warm evening at anchor. The next morning after a big breakfast we headed for shore in the kayak and explored a little museum of the history of settlement on the island, with a new effort to eliminate the invasive sheep that have eaten all the grass and native groundcover causing erosion. The restoration efforts are a collaboration of the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy. We weren’t alone on the island, as we watched groups of novices being instructed and then helped into kayaks through the surf. Back on Sancerre, we were served a lunch of delicious gazpacho- not something we would have prepared had we been doing the cooking!

We sailed over by Anacapa, the only uninhabited island and then returned to the mainland, with me on the wheel again to get my sailing fix for the trip! Not owning my own boat anymore, I have to seek these occasional opportunities when I can. The first chapter in “Wandering the World” is Boats, since I am “held in the net of the sea forever.”

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