Even though there are 8 Channel Islands, Chris and I have spent all of our time exploring Santa Cruz Island, the largest one of the 8. Before reaching the southern tip of Santa Cruz Island (where our favorite anchorage Little Scorpion is located) you will first pass by Anacapa Island, most notable for its rigid form and arches that all together look like the spine of a sleeping serpent. Although the cliff sides and clear water are welcoming in their wild untouched way, the surrounding anchorages are not optimal for overnight stays due to their unprotected nature, but for a day trip? No problem!
On Saturday morning our friends Mitch and Quincey (QM Travels) invited us for a day sail aboard their beautiful boat Esprit to the small island for lunch and a swim. The wind was not in our favor as we left the breakwater, giving us less than a breath to fill the sails. With the main set and the engine purring, we motored our way out to Anacapa. It felt good to put down the tools and be on the water, leaving the projects and worries at the dock. We arrived in Frenchy’s Cove around noon, just when the sun began to peek out from behind the cloud cover.
The small cove was named after Raymond “Frenchy” LeDreau (1875-1962). After losing his wife to the flu in 1918 and spending some years lobstering in Mexico, he moved to West Anacapa Island sometime around 1928 to seek solace… and wine. He was a bit of a hermit and took the position as an unofficial park service representative in 1938 when the small island became a national monument. Frenchy lived alone with his many cats in one of several cabins which had been built in 1925 at the cove which now bears his name. From his tiny cabin window, he had a million-dollar view across the channel that I like to think he enjoyed with a cup of coffee and a cat on his lap. Towards the end of his life, State authorities grew concerned with his advanced age in fear of the diverse terrain being hazardous to navigate in addition to his failing sight and health. They spent years convincing him to leave the island, and in 1954 in his 80th year, he regretfully agreed after suffering injuries from a fall. Frenchy died at his home in Santa Barbara, on April 21, 1962, at 87 years old.
After some gentle coaxing and good old-fashioned peer pressure, I wiggled into the wetsuit that I have had since 8th grade and jumped in to explore the unfamiliar island from beneath the waterline. Fall was definitely in the air (and sea) as the wind had a bitter bite and water was a chilly 60 degrees. Despite the years of surfing in my home town of Santa Cruz, I am always timid to jump in the water which is a bad habit I am actively trying to break. My sister in law Shannon (from SV Prism) who im convinced has gills, once told me to “just get in the water” because even though I might be cold, I wouldn’t regret it. She was absolutely right then and continues to be everytime I am presented with the opportunity to dive in. Even though Shannon is physically across the continent sailing, her voice rings around in my head and is ultimately the final push that reminds me to just get in the water.
To be honest, there wasn’t much going on in the ocean by Frenchy’s in comparison to the always-lively Santa Cruz Island but on shore, there was a small isthmus that we could walk through to see an unobstructed view of the vast pacific. I have never felt more compelled to chase the horizon than I did at that moment admiring the glistening sea alongside my love and our friends.
We scoured the shoreline searching for shells, bones, and trash stuffing the treasures into the various flaps and folds of our wetsuits. We dove for abalone shells, admiring them before returning them to the ocean floor from which they came. Back on Esprit Mitch prepared for our return to Ventura as the wet lot of us stripped off our seal suits and gravitated to the sunny parts of the deck to dry us quickly, protecting us from the reality that summer is coming to an end.
The sail home was fantastic with the wind pushing us along at a steady speed. A stampede of dolphins made their appearance off the starboard bow, capturing the attention of the crew. We have a theory that sea creatures despise the sound of engines which is why they keep a wide berth while motoring, which is understandable – as sailors we prefer nothing more than the sound of the wind and lack of machinery. Esprit was beautiful as she cut through the dark blue waters with her pristine sails catching the wind. She is an incredibly well-balanced sailing yacht that provides her crew with comfort and safety, making her a fantastic home.
As we enter a new season and kiss summer goodbye, we look forward to much more sailing and embracing the all of the changes coming out way. We look forward to more sailing with Quincey and Mitch soon and getting Avocet back on the open water!
Marissa & Chris