Thus far, the trip has been a very positive combination of challenges and rewards. We patiently waited out a gale at anchor north of point conception, a most foreboding and ominous promontory they call the Cape Horn of the Pacific. The last spit of land before the California coast bends easterly, the point is known to stir up winds and confuse currents, making for a harrowing, and potentially dangerous passage.
On the first day the winds calmed, we ran for Point Sal in the afternoon. We hid in the lee of this wilderness bluff hoping the seas would ease enough to allow for a southbound passage come early morning. We dropped anchor and waited.
The wind has picked up to a dull howl. Another passing set rocks us from side to side and continues on. It’s just a short quarter mile before it trips up on the shallow rock reef and heaves itself shoreward in a last exasperated sigh of energy and life. This coast is desolate and painfully beautiful. Windswept and remote, even the CA 1 turns inland to avoid this stretch of coast north of Points Arguello and Conception. The creak and audible stretch of the anchor line reminds us of our tenuous position – a precarious pit stop, a chance to catch our breathe and gather our courage before committing to rounding the point and gaining Southern California waters.
At 0100 our alarm went off. I can’t sum up the mindset of the moment better than Daniel, who’s voice strained through the wind as he pulled the anchor and said, “The mix of emotions I have right now is just like a backcountry bivy before a committing alpine climb: stoked to be here, anxious to leave and scared of where I’m going”.
Several dark, anxious hours saw the wind decrease and the horizon start to glow. Daybreak brought clear skies, calm seas dead winds. Our vigilant weather monitoring paid off and we hit a favorable window. Celebration took the form of a luxurious pancake breakfast spent in awe at the remote and hostile looking coast. We couldn’t help but feel like we were tip-toing past a sleeping mother nature, who might whimsically serve up the usual high seas and punishing winds the area thrives on at any moment, with nary a thought of our little craft scooting through. But she doesn’t, and we turn east, slipping into the lee of the point. The next ten miles of intermittent right-hand point-breaks have us frothing with excitement.
We anchor the boat in twenty feet of sand, and barely have our wetsuits zipped up before we are off the boat and scratching for the lineup. With the water up to a comparatively balmy 60 degrees, we are greeted by clean and kelpy, slow waves breaking over rock reef. We share the lineup with just a few others, all of whom have quietly been coming here for decades. It’s a non-trivial off-road affair, getting here by land, which explains this most enjoyably high ratio of wave quality-to-crowds.
Friendly vibes and easy rides characterize the session, and after several hours we are back on the boat. We are left to cook up some dinner and reflect on the previous 24-hours in solitude. It’s a peaceful first sunset in Southern California.