To young men contemplating a voyage I would say go.

Joshua Slocum

I recently took a 5-day sailing trip around the Channel Islands, with Marc Hughston from Santana Sailing, on La Terza Vita, a Catalina 34 sloop. Here is how it went.

First day - From Long Beach to Santa Cruz Island

I met with Marc and Ken (the other crew on the boat for this expedition) at 8h30 at the Long Beach harbor. On this first day, we sail from Long Beach to Santa Cruz Island, about 75 nautical miles away (140km).

After getting the boat ready, we depart around 11:00, we hoist the sails pretty quickly as the wind is already pretty strong. On the way out the harbor, we see a foiling catamaran rising above water!

After exiting the harbor, we sail upwind to a northwest course. Pretty soon, we see a pod of dolphins jumping up and down. We sail all day and soon enough, experience a beautiful sunset. It is now my first experience sailing at night!

Things start to look very different. We are near a shipping lane and we see these huge ominous tankers passing by.

We establish a night watch and take turns: each person stays for 3 hours and then is able to rest for 3 hours. During these 3 hours, you spend one hour alone while the other two are sleeping.

In the middle of the night, we start being completely engulfed in a very thick fog!

After my first shift, I can barely sleep, too excited about what’s happening. But after my 3-hour watch, I am completely exhausted and starting to feel nauseous. Thankfully those 3 hours of rest feel great.

Finally, we get to the anchorage at Santa Cruz Island, in Smugglers Cove and we set the anchor before Sunrise after an amazing 18 hours. We can rest at last.

Second day - From Smugglers Cove to Pelican Bay

After resting for a few hours, we get up and start preparing the boat for departure. We talk about navigation theory and do a few exercises.

The scenery around is gorgeous and very rugged. Marc shares all sorts of stories about the history of the island.

After finally leaving early afternoon, we raise the sail and a very fun afternoon in about 15-20 knots of wind. Just perfect to get the boat going at full speed.

We go around the island and head for Pelican Bay. After we are anchored and settled, we get the dinghy set up and go to shore to explore a bit with Ken.

After wandering for a while, and starting to make our way back, we come face to face with a fox! It’s a type of fox unique to the Channel Islands. The fox is very curious about us and stays close to us. Every time we move a little, the fox moves back a little but doesn’t run away. I snap some great portraits. After a while, the fox leaves and runs away in a way that looks very cheerful. I heard that the Island fox’s population dwindled to 100 individuals before rebounding with the help from scientists from the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. It was really cool to see one!

Once we get back on the boat, we are treated to a delicious pozole by Marc. After dinner, we figure out our next day’s plans and decide to get up at 4:30 (am) to make the 10-hour passage to Santa Barba island. With that we go to sleep.

Third day - From Santa Cruz Island to Santa Barba Island

As planned, we get up super early and start prepping the boat. After we get going, we apply the same watch system as before so some of us can get more sleep. We set course to go around Santa Cruz Island from where we came from and then head to Santa Barbara Island. Shortly after sunrise, we see another pod of dolphins which I was able to capture in the video below.

After rounding the island, I get some rest. When I wake up, it has just been raining, but then an hour later, it’s warm and we are all in shorts! We decide to hoist the spinnaker and have fun with that for a while.

We also cross paths within less than a mile with a giant tanker in the middle of the ocean!

We finally make it to the Island of Santa Barbara and it is once again quite stunning. The island is a big rock in the middle of the sea. We have to dodge various dangerous rocks and make it around the island to a cover where we will anchor for the night.

But first, we do some sailing exercises, practicing Mediterranean mooring which is not easy: it involves dropping an anchor and backing up to a quay (marked by a buoy in our case), without going sideways.

After that, we anchor for good and decide to go to shore to explore. We get to see a beautiful sunset. The island also has an interesting history.

Once we get back on the boat, we eat another delicious dinner prepared by Marc and after securing everything, we have a nice relaxing evening of good conversations.

Fourth day - From Santa Barba Island to Catalina Island

Today we sail to Catalina which is about 4 hours away. We get up around 8 and start preparing the boat. The weather is clear and warm but there is little wind for now so we motor.

As we reach Catalina, we are finally able to raise the sails and we spend the afternoon doing man overboard recovery drills and I learn a new method called the Heave-to Recovery which I find very effective and will be definitely adopting as my go-to method (which will hopefully be only used for practice).

After this, we find the cove where we will spend the night and learn how to anchor with two anchors, one at the bow and one at the stern which prevents the boat from swinging around with the wind and/or tide. It does require a lot of work but it is very effective.

Once all is set, I decide to try my brand new wetsuit and go snorkeling in the cove which has some wonderful places for that. I spot a lot of cool fish, including the very orange Garibaldi, which I learn is the State Fish of California!

We get a beautiful sunset for our last day on the water.

Fifth day - From Catalina Island to Long Beach

Sadly it is our final day on the boat. Today we will make our way back to Long Beach which is a 5-hour passage across the San Pedro Channel.

We explore the northern part of the island for a little bit. Marc shows us some incredible places to anchor and a few of his secrets. After reaching “Goat Harbor” and “Little Gibraltar” we turn to Port and start heading for the mainland.

We have to motor a bit, but as we get closer to Long Beach, we raise the sails and have one final really fun session, where we practice more Man Overboard drills, and I also practice mooring under sail.

After this, we head to the fuel dock, and finally get the boat back into her slip after about 220 nautical miles (~407 kilometers).

What an unforgettable adventure!!

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