Our next major landmark was Point Conception, a notoriously challenging spot to sail around. Point Conception is a headland where the coastline cuts drastically eastward and is the natural division between Central and Southern California. This area is known for quickly changing conditions- strong winds, steep waves and fast currents that can come up without warning. The general notion is that it is best to round the point at night when the winds tend to be lightest. In bypassing Morro Bay we were set to arrive in mid-afternoon, but we were making good time and the conditions were predicted to stay calm. Our plan was to stay offshore until we were far enough south to make a straight southeast shot around the point and into the Santa Barbara Channel. But as we neared the point the winds started shifting westward. With the conditions as they were running dead down wind was not an option and we were forced to jibe back out to sea so that we could sail further south before trying to round the point again.
This portion of the trip got a bit hairy. To start with we had been riding the outer edge of the shipping lanes all day and put a lot of effort into making sure we were not on a collision course with the passing container ships. The winds steadily increased to 25 knots with gusts to over 30 knots, and the while the waves were only about 6ft they were steep and close together. At some point after we jibed back in towards the Santa Barbara Channel we realized that although we had a twice reefed main we had too much sail area up and whenever a gust hit it was difficult to steer our course. We wanted to drop the main sail, but because our lazy jacks were out of commission dropping it at that point would’ve made a thrashing mess. We also felt that turning up into the wind in such heaving seas was going to be difficult and a little scary. We had perhaps an hour or two to go before we passed Point Conception so we held out hoping that the conditions wouldn’t intensify and that things would mellow out on the other side of the point. With so much sail area up the boat was overpowered and our Hydrovane couldn’t hold the steering, especially when the gusts hit. We crossed our fingers and struggled to steer. And as we passed under Point Conception the wind gave into our pleas and started to die. Within ten minutes the wind was down to 15 knots and 30 minutes after we passed the point the wind died completely. Just like that, dead calm. Although these conditions are relatively commonplace they were the strongest we’d sailed in yet. We are still figuring out the best sail configurations to fit the conditions (when to reef, when to douse sails, etc). We’ve since learned that TOCKs sail remarkably well just flying the mizzen sail and the jib in winds over 25kts.
We were pretty tired at this point so we turned on the motor and Jonah went to rest. A few minutes later, I smelled something funny coming from our engine room. We opened the door to find waterfalls of salt water and steam spraying everywhere! Wide eyed, we shut down the motor and found that one of the engine raw (salt) water hoses had blown out. Apparently an o-ring on one of the fuel filters had been nicked and allowed a minuscule amount of fuel to drip onto the hose causing it to become gummy and fail. Fortunately we smelled the problem before the engine had a chance to overheat, though salt water all over the engine room is NOT good. We had some extra hose (halleluiah!) and replaced the culprit while we bobbed around in a state of delirium. Once fixed, we continued motoring. We hadn’t planned on stopping but when the sun rose and Santa Barbara sat sparkling like the emerald city we knew it was time to stop and rest. It was a calm, sunny, warm day and we were ready to sleep right through it. The harbormaster pointed us to an unprotected anchorage just east of the harbor. I had read that this anchorage is unsafe on windy days or with any swell, but that day the conditions were perfect so we dropped the hook for a much needed rest. We left Moss Landing two days earlier, the first 4/5 of the journey took us 24 hours while the last 1/5 took another 24 hours. That second day was long, stressful and tiring. We slept…hard.
We awoke mid-afternoon feeling fresh and renewed. It occurred to us that although we replaced the broken raw water hose we still had a pesky fuel drip to deal with. Too town! We blew up our inflatable paddleboards, paddled our way across the bay and landed in front of a posh Santa Barbara beach resort. We smiled at Orion bobbing in the free anchorage. With the boards stashed behind a bush, we walked and rode the bus to a hardware store, bought the sacred O-ring and made the three mile, one hour trek home by sunset. Without a car the smallest errands are small victories!