Friday, October 23, 2009

Death Valley and Santa Cruz Island

October 21, 2009

A Mexican, a Korean, and a Canadian are walking through the desert. The Canadian says to the Mexican... I know, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke! We decided to trade ocean waves for sand dunes and spend the weekend in Death Valley national park, the hottest, driest, lowest part of North America. The weather was hot, 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C). We walked through giant sand dunes, hiked canyons, and saw the great salt flats. It was an amazing trip and we had a lot of fun, but most of all, we enjoyed the heat, and sweated all the fog and cold weather of the last couple of months away. It was also great to spend a weekend with Manuela - grand conversations, healthy exercise, and a sense of kindred connection were appreciated by all. For us, a return to the desert on a road trip was also like a return to something familiar, a place that is well within our comfort zone. We have done many trips to arid places during the last 15 years of climbing. While we were not climbing this trip, the familiar feel of the road, the desert heat, and the sense of accomplishment of a road trip was a welcome reprieve from our current trip. It was like a holiday. I know that sounds odd considering that we are currently undertaking this adventure, but we have learned on this trip that traveling this way is not easy, in fact it's a lot of work and stress. Another lesson we are learning is that a trip like this necessarily brings one out of their comfort zone. Whether it be the un-easiness of being out to sea, approaching a new anchorage with heavy shipping traffic, weather unpredictability, different marinas and rules in each port, meeting lots of people (for better or worse) or being alone together for long periods of time, you name it, at some point you are going to be uncomfortable. These necessities of travel tend to bring about an amplified sense of emotion that tends to approach the opposing extremes. That is, you tend to feel the highs and lows in a rapid succession.
Upon returning to the boat in Santa Barbara we prepared to spend a week or so out in the Channel Islands. We headed out in the early afternoon on a beautiful sunny day with 10-15 knots of wind blowing from the west. Our course was going to take us 25 NM on a beam reach across Santa Barbara channel. My mistake was not paying attention to the sailing directions, that I had read several times. The wind piped up to 25 knots gusting to 30, the waves built up rapidly and we began taking heavy spray and even a few crashing waves over the side and into the cockpit. The boat was heeled over (tilted over) such that the side rail began disappearing under the waves. While putting in a reef, I was standing on the lee rail and was occasionally thrust up to my knees in rushing water. The weather was warm and at no point were we in danger, but we were not impressed. As we approached Santa Cruz Island, we found the anchorage that cruising guide suggested was unusable as the wind and waves were blowing directly into it. We turned down wind and found another anchorage that was slightly more protected and dropped the hook. We showered all the salt water out of our hair and spent the night getting tossed around in a rolly uncomfortable anchorage. When I re-read the cruising guide I found out that you need a permit to go ashore on the island and you can only get the permit back on the mainland. We have since moved to a slightly more comfortable anchorage and are sitting amid steep cliffs in emerald green water. There are massive schools of fish that surround the boat and the water is so clear that I could see the anchor on the ground 25 feet below. Like I said, highs and lows.

Fry's Cove
N34 03.21 W119 45.26

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, Death Valley... Reminds me of when Brad and I camped there for a couple of days. We drove out of Death Valley at the end on a very low tank of gas, assuming that the gas station where the road turns up the hills to get out of the valley (you guys were below your boat at one point I imagine!!) was going to be open. It wasn't and we drove out with the gas light on from before the gas station!! We got out though...