Friday, May 23, 2008

Cape Horn of the Pacific

A friend of mine in Silicon Valley has a cousin who has a boat. ("It's better to have a friend who has a boat than to have a boat.")

The cousin wants to drive the boat (a 34' Boston Whaler) from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I guess he wants to do it for the adventure of it, because he's going to have somebody drive it back. And he certainly doesn't need to deliver anything.

Anyway, since I have sea experience in that part of the Pacific Ocean, my buddy asked what I thought about him going on the trip. (He has no sea experience other than a few boat trips out of Half Moon Bay to go salmon fishing, and a trip to Anacapa Island from Ventura Harbor.)

I pointed out that they will have to cross two long and wild stretches where, even close to the coast, the ocean is likely to be rough and there will be no place to land if they get in trouble. In fact, one of those stretches, the trip from about Morro Bay south around Point Concepcion to Santa Barbara is a particularly rough and nasty piece of ocean, with no place to come ashore.

In fact the
region around and offshore of Pt. ConcepcĂ­on is known by sailors as Cape Horn of the Pacific. (See the story here from 2006 about a sail from Avila Beach around the Point. Or see Richard Henry Dana's 1840 book Two Years Before the Mast.) You can see that sailors have recognized this as a wild and formidable crossing for centuries.

This afternoon I was checking the local surf report for a possible surfing go-out in the morning. I checked the CDIP (SEE-dip) to see the surf and swell report and discovered that the prediction (based on measurements from offshore buoys and oil platforms) showed about 1'-2' swells along the Southern California until Pt. ConcepĂ­on, where the surf suddenly jumps to 15'-18'.

Yeesh! Even when I was working on that ocean, spending countless hours driving back and forth across the Channel, if the surf or the groundswell got that big we simply wouldn't go out. And we were running in bigger boats than 34' Whalers. (Well, most of us were anyway.) I wish him well, and hope that he doesn't easily get seasick.

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