Point Conception certainly has built up a reputation. Cruising guides, internet forums, blog posts (including this one) all have the same quote: “Point Conception: Cape Horn of the West Coast”. Obviously the conditions aren’t anywhere near as treacherous as Cape Horn, but given the hype, and that this would be our first multi day passage, we decided to be extra cautious. We left Monterey just after noon, timed to put us outside Morro Bay at dawn. By then we would have fresh forecasts and a feel for the actual conditions and we’d make a call; keep going directly to the Channel Islands (another 24hrs away), or wait in Morro Bay for conditions to improve.
As we left I remember looking back on the beach we’ve stopped at just about everytime we’ve gone camping in Big Sur. Its just south of Caramel, and through some strange bit of luck the sun always seems to be setting just as we drive by. This time it was early evening (we didn’t time it right for sunset) and we were on ocean side of the beach. Small rain clouds were drifting by, at first threatening to drizzle on us, but instead producing an incredbile triple rainbow centered over Big Sur!
Day two. Winds had picked up to about 20kts, we were feeling good and forecasts were consistent so we decided to head straight for the islands. Ten to twelve foot waves began forming and we were surfing along at near hull speed, slowly pulling down more and more sail. Conditions were starting to get intimidating, but still fun. Dave Green cooked us up some mac and cheese. Sure, anyone can cook mac and cheese but it takes experience to do it in a kitchen that pivots 45 degrees every ten seconds. In case the pot of boiling water decided to go airborne, he was bundled up in his full set of (red) foul weather gear including the full hood with both elbow length oven mits on. Like a large lobster cooking our dinner.
We rounded the point at midnight. Midnight is supposed to be the calmest time to round, but we weren’t having such luck. The weather station registered a gust at 40 kts (sustained was in the upper 20’s). Main sail down, and jib furled (rolled) to the size of a twin bed but we were still going close to max speed. Imagine holding your bed sheet up from three corners and having enough wind to pull 12 tons of boat through the water at 7mph. Incredible. Helmer (our autopilot) couldn’t quite keep up with the swell which would shove the boat from side to side, so we were hand steering and doing two man watches. Tired, wet, and cold but all was well. Somehow despite the rolling I managed to sleep (thanks for the lee cloths mom!). Just around the point the wind died. We slowly floated down the channel to Santa Rosa Island. We made it. We’ve been told that 99% of the weather we’ll see will be better than Point Conception, lets just hope they were right.