A thousand miles to the American Riviera
Damn good sailing
After our passage to Monterey and our longer-than-expected stay there, we shoved off for Santa Barbara the morning of October 28th. We were growing accustomed to California’s blue skies and warm sunshine, and the day did not disappoint. Our passage to Santa Barbara was to be among our longest, second only to our nearly 700-mile jump from the coast of Washington to San Francisco. Our sails went up as we neared Point Pinos, and the sounds of the ocean replaced Yanni the Yanmar’s (aka our engine) throaty growl.
Winds were ideal, with 16 to 18 knots blowing steadily from the northwest. Remnants of the storm that had postponed our departure from Monterey were still evident in the seas. Six- to eight-foot westerly swells, combined with three- to five-foot wind waves, added ample churn to our sail (and to my belly) during the first 100 miles. The day was beautiful.The large, arcing bridge that spans the cliffs of Point Sur was a sight to see from the water. Perched along the rugged bluffs, it is the type of structure that makes me respect the masterful craftsmanship of its architect. It also makes me question the lucidity of the workers who hung from ledges to build it!We watched another day wind to a close over dinner together in the cockpit, part of our daily routine that I love and that has remained steadfast even during passages. Neil took the first and last night watches, and I held down the fort from midnight to 5 am. The winds and seas calmed throughout the night, but six to nine knots was enough to keep the sails from flogging and to maintain our course south. By 9 am, winds had subsided altogether. Hesitant as we were to fire up the engine, as we always prefer to sail, the final cape of our sail down the coast of the western United States loomed.
Referred to as “the Cape Horn of California”, Point Conception has been the site of many a maritime tragedy. We had heard more than a few horror stories of boats who were knocked down, damaged, or worse. Fortunately for us, our crossing was remarkably uneventful and memorable for beautiful reasons. We rounded the towering cliffs that welcome mariners to Southern California in seas that looked like cascading ribbons of color. The dark blues of the cold northerly waters began to meld into rich turquoise and teal of the warmer seas from the south. The seas were long and rolling, and multiple pods of dolphins leapt from rising swell into the trough of the next wave, dancing beneath the afternoon sun.The American Riviera
We dropped our hook off Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara just before midnight and crawled immediately into our bunk. My eyes were opened with the rising of the sun, and I scurried up into the cockpit to see our new port. The Santa Ynez Mountains towered over palm trees and white sand beaches, like a postcard in a 1950s beach movie scene. The heat of the awakening sun warmed my skin, and I felt a sense of ease mixed with accomplishment. We were officially Southern California. We had sailed over one thousand nautical miles together.Santa Barbara has been dubbed the American Riviera, a romantic nickname deriving from its Mediterranean-like climate. On a clear day, the outlines of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel, three of the Channel Islands, can be seen on the horizon. Stearns Wharf adds character to the immense and beautiful stretch of white sand beach extending along Santa Barbara’s seaside. Dotted with a few restaurants, souvenir shops, and an ice cream parlor, it’s a lovely place to while away time and enjoy the views. Be warned about the gulls, though! We witnessed two of them snatch prawns unabashedly from the plate of a patron at one of the outdoor picnic tables!Santa Barbara is not a large city. Fewer than 100,000 inhabitants reside within its city limits. Nonetheless, its main drag, State Street, rivals those of cities far larger. State Street runs perpendicular to the beach and is a montage of bourgeoisie clothing retailers, stylish eateries, and practical shops.
The architecture is European-inspired, which adds a romantic charm to the area. The temperate climate lends itself to outdoor leisure, and attractive verandas clad with chic linens invite passersby to take a seat at their dining establishment.
Budget constraints meant pizza for us, but Uncle Rocco’s did not disappoint! And, of course, there are always a few dollars for ice cream! McConnell’s secured the first place honor in Neil’s ongoing quest for the best ice cream cone between Seattle and Australia! My husband the ice cream connoisseur claims they served up the best salted caramel he’s ever tasted. Salt…of the Himalayan variety
Long before I knew I loved the salty sea, I loved salt. Regular salt. Table salt. As a rule, I put too much salt on my meals. I nibble on salt flakes as a snack. I like the taste of salt on my lips during a sail. I like exotic salts, particularly the kind with truffles or Cajun. Shocking that Neil’s obsession with salted caramel ice cream is his and his alone.
Imagine for a salt-lover like me that there should be such a mystical place that I might cover myself in salt. Hold handfuls of it. Lay in it. Fantasy realized. Enter, Salt in Santa Barbara. Salt is home to the largest Himalayan salt cave in North America. Some 90,000 pounds of 250-million-year-old salt have been imported to this magical hideaway below the streets of Santa Barbara. Curving stone steps mark the entrance to this bizarre place, which is home to all matter of salty delights. Salt soaps and body bars, lamps and shot glasses, cookbooks and cooking stones, and wishing crystals. And then there is the cave. Ornate wooden doors mark the entrance to the salty lair. Inside, hues of pale pink and pearl light are cast through the largest of the salt crystals, creating a calming and peaceful ambiance. The floor is covered in smaller salt crystals; millions of them. Bare feet tread over them, and guests can engage in meditation or request a massage or other spa treatment. My ears piqued when I learned that yoga was an option.
The next morning, I set out with Cindy and Journey from s/v Namaste. I brought my yoga mat with me but quickly rolled it aside. I had an opportunity to plank, cobra, and downward-facing dog myself directly into salt. It would’ve been foolish not to allow the experience to be so organic. Is salt your vice?Palm Springs Parrrrrrtay
Our time in Santa Barbara also included a rendezvous in Palm Springs with two of our best Seattle friends, Mark and Helen, for Halloween. Two Seahawks super fans, Tom Hanks from “Castaway”, and a broad with a blue wig and fairy wings had a blast partying with the cast of characters at Hunters Night Club. The only thing better than enjoying being in a beautiful place is sharing moments in beautiful places with people we love.Passage perks
Point of departure: Monterey, CA – 10/28/14
Point of arrival: Santa Barbara, CA – 10/29/14
Distance traveled: 227 nautical miles
Total time: 39.5 hours
Engine roaring: 15 hours
Sails soaring: 24.5 hours
Average speed: 5.75 knots
Max speed: 7.8 knots
Jessie’s musings: My favorite part of this passage was the moment I realized that we had rounded Cape Conception and were truly in Southern California. Cape crossings are daunting and fraught with a great deal of advance consideration regarding weather and sea conditions. They are intimidating. Knowing we had traversed Cape Conception without event (and with dolphins) was exciting…and a relief!
Neil’s reflections: The thing that struck me the most about the passage from Monterey to Santa Barbara was seeing the haze of the three northerly Channel Islands as we rounded Point Conception. It reminded me so much of the first views of the San Juan Islands when we sailed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Then, I recall waking up our first morning in Santa Barbara and feeling enthralled by the three-dimensionality of the Santa Ynez Mountains over the city.
9 thoughts on “A thousand miles to the American Riviera”
Fun to see Big Sur from the sea! Great pictures 🙂
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I love Neil’s quest for the best ice cream cone. And “salt yoga” how interesting. Such fun adventures. Love seeing you in summer clothes when it is 21 degrees in the Tri Cities.
Barb and John.
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OH MY, so cold there! You two stay warm!! Cheers, Jessie and the ice cream lover
We are officially living vicariously through you guys. A while back Emily cried out Damn those Red Threaders, their wearing shorts and have tans. I climbed into the quarter berth with her pulled up the blanket and we snuggled into your lives. Your pictures and stories are keeping us alive and warm. Its 20 degrees and the boat is a solid block of ice. What ever you do don’t miss Catalina Island.
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Your posts remind me to be thankful for the sunshine and warmth we are enjoying out here! Thank goodness you two have each other on that chilly boat! It makes me wonder how you didn’t freeze to death during prior winters before Emily was there to keep you warm!
We did visit Catalina…and will be writing about it soon 🙂
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