To San Diego

This post , like many others , is being submitted by Ham radio while underway at sea. The system uses a mix of old and new technology. Satphones can do the same thing , perhaps easier . Probably about the same price overall , but satphones don’t provide the opportunity to be part of a community. No party-line on a satphone..

John is asleep in the forepeak. Mer is asleep in the pilotberth. The aft cabin on this boat is usable while motoring , but it is quite noisy. We are motoring now. We left Catalina Harbour on Santa Catalina Island about 2 hrs ago. There is no wind now and there is no wind predicted for a few days. We would kind of like to get to San Diego now and move on into the Baja, so off we go motoring into the night. One thousand five hundred RPM on the Isuzu and 5.5 knots.

The radar is on , showing the island on the stern at about 3 miles distance. We have just come through a fleet of squid seiners working the W side of Catalina Island. The squid fishery is lucrative. They are using a variety of boats including some purchased from BC that were full size salmon seinboats. The only modification for squid fishing is the addition of huge and powerful lights for attracting the squid.

The AIS unit is on , showing many targets as we move through the LA and San Diego traffic areas. One target is 17 miles away , moving 29 knots. No name. What can move that fast ? Perhaps a military vessel.

The VHF radio is on channel 16 but is very quiet. Much quieter than at home. Around here most pleasure boaters use the cellphone I think.

We sailed from Santa Cruz Island to Catalina Island yesterday. We had anchored for two nights at Smugglers Bay on Santa Cruz. A gale was predicted 2 days ago and it did blow hard. At times in the afternoon the gusts were heeling the boats over to 20 degrees or more. We measured a 37 knot gust on the handheld anemometer. It was very scary returning to the boat from the beach by kayak or dinghy. We had climbed to the top of a nearby 1500′ hill past an old olive grove .The wind increased significantly while we were walking.

Mer had already returned to the boat and was keeping an apprehensive eye on things. John was in the dinghy and I was in a kayak. Had we missed the boat there was nothing but empty ocean to leeward. I was fully occupied staying upright in the gusts and in fact had to vigorously backpaddle to keep from surfing past the boat out of control. Quite sketchy.

There were 3 other boats anchored nearby. Two of the boats’ crews never went ashore that day because of the wind and the surf landing(always entertaining). Also, a 75′ Coast Guard Cutter had picked up the mooring in the bay. They are deployed to Smugglers Bay from Santa Barbara during gales to provide a faster response time in case of problems. So it is not like we were going to die or anything ,but we still got a good shot of adrenaline.

Barb and Gavin and Susie and I had anchored here in 2001 in much calmer conditions.

It is warm tonight , the warmest so far. I took my socks off. I think I will take off my sweater. Not my Underpants , though.

I have done this trip down the west coast of North America twice before in 1987, with Barb, and 2001 , with Barb and Gavin and Susie. Each time is completely different. More experience makes it more interesting and less stressful. Different companions makes for different travel styles. We meet different kinds of people and do different activities ashore. It does not feel like I am covering the same territory at all. I remember the previous trips in some detail as we go along but it is like they took place somewhere else , not just some time else.

Posted via radio.

cheers , Steve

Jimbo and the Foxes

At the moment, 1945 hrs Oct 24,2010 we are anchored at the E end of Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands. You could spit at Los Angeles, we’re so close, like about 30 miles. Yet, yet we are in a teeming wilderness. Brown Pelicans plummeting out of the sky to catch whatever little fish that the hundreds of sealions haven’t eaten. There must be a LOT of fish. we have seen quite a few commercial fishboats , particularly in Monterey Bay seining for sardines and squid.

In Courtenay on Vancouver Island, if someone sees more than 6 seals in one place they start to talk about a ‘seal-cull’ because the salmon are disappearing. We see thousands of sealions and seals and elephant seals in California and there still seems to be enough fish for the pelicans and other birds. It is amazing how communities such as San Francisco, Monterey , Morro bay , and others have learned to tolerate and coexist with the the sealions. Loud , enormous, smelly predators with big teeth living along the populated waterfront. It would be like sealions taking over part of the sea wall in Stanley Park or West Van. Hard to imagine, but that is what is happening here.

Out in the Channel Islands there are still thousands of higher order animals going about their hungry daily business, so I guess that their big numbers are not a product of a wasteful urban place.

The area is not pristine. How could it be , with 10 million people living within 50 miles ? Lots of damage has occurred in the Channel Islands over the past century or so. Huge , and apparently effective, efforts have been made to restore some of the natural communities here.

We spent a really interesting day walking around on San Miguel Island. Part of it was in the company of Jim Howard , the National Parks biology technician. His job is to radio collar the Channel Islands fox on San Miguel Island and track the individuals over the years. He is also live trapping Peromyscus deer mice to monitor fox-prey numbers. He spends 8 days on the island and 6 days off, on the mainland. They fly back and forth in a Brittain Norman Islander fixed wing airplane. This is his 3rd season. His job is similar to what I was doing in the Yukon with snowshoe hares in 1980. Jim is a knowledgable scientist and seemed quite happy to spend hours answering our questions. He did not know the functions of all the antennae on the island but that was OK , and he barely got defensive about it at all. He was able to explain to one of our party that a small valley in the earth caused by water run-off is called a ‘gully’. A man of rare good humour and patience.

Thanks , Jim , and we’ll radio first, before the next visit.

The foxes are endemic and sub speciated to each island. Urocyina littoralis littoralis is the San Miguel subspecies. They are very small animals weighing less than 2.5 kgs.

I might not have the sequence of events in this story quite right but I will try , and I have no way of confirming the facts at the moment. No cell coverage and no internet!

The foxes were OK living in competition with bald eagles as co-predators. Farming and ranching came to the islands. DDT was used throughout our society. Did you know that a brand name of DDT was ‘Kybosh’? The eagles eggs were thinned from eating fish affected by DDT run-off into the water. Bald eagle numbers dropped. Golden eagles moved into the vacated niche. Golden eagles prey on foxes as well as other animals. The fox population virtually was extinguished.

A few remaining animals were trapped and a limited-success captive breeding program ensued. Bald eagles were reintroduced and golden eagles removed. Wild reproduction has been successful. On San Miguel the fox population is around 350 , with an estimated climax population of 500 . The feral pigs and sheep were removed.

We have discussions aboard the Silas Crosby about whether we as a society should be spending rather large sums of money to restore populations of obscure species such as local foxes. We think it is money and time and effort well-spent , but we are not sure that it can be explained to a non-believer in a rational and convincing way.

That is enough for now. We are off Santa Cruz Island , and a westerly gale is predicted over the next couple of days. we plan to stay here in Smugglers Bay for two days until the winds settle down. As an anchorage it is ridiculous. Wide open on 2 or 3 sides, only protected from the W and NW. That is as good as it gets around here , short of going into a marina. Ya gotta trust your ground tackle here. It is about like anchoring on the southeast side of Worlecombe Island in Howe Sound and saying it is a good harbour since it is protected from the inlet outflow winds. Marginal. Must be southern California.

There are 3 other boats here tonight : the Sterling from San Francisco , the Aleydabeth from Qualicum (!) and the Extreme Snailing from California with Sean aboard. The beach landing is through significant surf. The Aleydabeth crew was capsized in their dinghy this afternoon trying to get back to their boat. Nonetheless we will go ashore tomorrow (with drybags) and hike up the local mountains. John says he watched the capsize of the Aleydabeth dinghy with ‘schadenfreude’. Word for the day meaning ,I think , gaining pleasure at others’ expense.

We have been out of town so long that we drank our last beer today. I’m OK with that. Really. No problem at all. What? what? Actually I’ve heard that potato peels and sugar can make a refreshing beverage , if allowed to stew for a few days in the right temperature. Scurvy is not a concern as we found a bearing lemon tree ashore here at the old homestead near the abandoned olive grove.

cheers , Steve