Sailing Trip to Santa Cruz Island, CA

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you may know that we recently came back from a five-weeks trip to the U.S., alternately known as “Our Honeymoon”, “The Trip” and “The Mini-Sabbatical”.  While the name and given occasion for the trip varied during the planning process, its goals were always clear: 1. to go somewhere we hadn’t been before, 2. to meet new people and reconnect with far-away friends and 3. to go with the flow and be as open as possible to whatever adventure may come along.

To make it short, we had the best time. (And I’m going to be posting bits and pieces over the months to come).

What turned out to be the most striking thing about our trip was that out of five weeks of travel, we had paid accomodation for two nights. Two. For all the other nights and days, we were very incredibly thankful to have friends, friends of friends, relatives of friends, friends of relatives and even almost total strangers provide us with a place to stay. Which truly still fills me with gratitude every time I think of it.

One of the people who hosted us so graciously was someone Daniel knew a long time ago – Sevan. He is the son of Daniel’s mom’s best friend Bettina. The two women and their sons used to spend the summers together in Salzburg, Austria, and the boys, naturally, grew to be friends. When they were ten, however, Bettina and Sevan moved to Paris, later to L.A. – and the boys never saw each other again. That is - until now, 20 years later.

Sevan, his fiancé Zoe and their daughter Kalea welcomed us into their home with truly open arms, and it was wonderful to watch Sevan and Daniel snap right back into where they had left off at ten – a quiet and mutually respecful companionship.

So when Sevan - who’s a firefighter and paramedic, and lover of all things outdoors - invited us to a two-day-trip on his old sailing boat, there wasn’t a doubt in our mind that we had to cancel our other plans, and go. Daniel had never actually set foot on a sailboat, and therefore the idea fell perfectly in line with our wish to do things we hadn’t done before.

It was also to be the boat’s last trip with Sevan, since time to sail is scarce and the costs of keeping it are high.

In preparation, Daniel and I bought ridiculous amounts of food at Wholefoods, and Zoe (who sadly had to work and couldn’t join us) lent me some of her warmer sportsclothes, that I was going to be very thankful for later. Other than that, we boarded the boat with very, very, very little knowledge about the sea and sailing.

And pretty soon, things started to go just a little differently than imagined. From the time we set foot on the boat, things didn’t work, failed, or broke. It was something of a running gag, the way lines snapped, got tangled under the anchor (which took about an hour to untangle), and parts of the boat unceremoniously broke off (and were taped and hammered together by Sevan, who proved to be a genius of improvisation). Oh, and I got pretty seasick, too. Surprisingly, none of this was able to lessen the enormous fun we had (although I did wonder at times whether we were going to make it back o.k.)

Our plan was to cross over to the Channel Islands and spend the night on the boat, to return in the morning. We sailed for something like six hours, one hour of which I used to sleep off my seasickness under deck. When I awoke, the light was low and magical, and you could see the islands coming closer. We anchored (which sounds easier than it was) and climbed into the dinghy we had been dragging behind the boat. We were supposed to take it for a spin to another beach, but – continuing the running gag of things going wrong - the dinghy’s motor died and was unwilling to be coaxed into working again. So as it was getting dark, Sevan rowed us to the closest stony beach on Santa Cruz Island instead.

Setting foot on Santa Cruz Island was a strangely magical experience. The island is largely uninhabited, and while it is far from uncharted, arriving on a deserted island via a small boat felt somewhat primeval. A few steps onto the beach, we surprised an island fox – a beautiful small creature indigenous to the island, and threatened by extinction. It ducked under a piece of wood, eyeing us shyly… and after having checked us out for a few moments, went on its light-footed way.

We strolled inland for about half an hour, until there was no light left and we were surrounded by pitch-black dark. (Those ghostly photos of Daniel carrying the water bottle and me looking up to the sky are from that time, with ridiculously high ISO.) Making our way back to the beach, we noticed right away that the waters had changed – the tide had come in and there were high waves coming at us. I was a little bit reluctant to part with my camera, but Sevan convinced me to put it in the water-safe box in the dinghy’s belly – some very good piece of advice, as I’d find out soon.

Sevan pushed us off against the waves, slung himself into the dinghy, and right away started yelling at Daniel: “Row!! Row!!”. Which Daniel did, straining against the waves which were coming at us relentlessly. I sat right in front, and saw those waves coming at us… whoa, this is going to be a big one… coming closer, closer, closer… WOOSH. The waves broke right over our heads and smashed down on us, Sevan all the way, yelling: “Row! Row!”

It probably took only about five waves until we came through into steadier water, but to see those waves coming at us, all the way wondering whether the next one was going to sink us, was certainly an experience. We were all completely soaked from head to toe. But also strangely exhilarated. What a wonderful day. We were soaked and cold, but as we toasted with beer and Ginger Ale, we were all very thankful and happy. As the boat rocked us to sleep, I slept like a stone that night.

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