Yellowbanks Anchorage and Smugglers Cove, Santa Cruz Island
||Last visit: Nov. 2015
||Last visit: May. 2015
|| Prisoner's Harbor
|Skipper: Capt. Dan
||Boat: S/V Sancerre
Heavy-weather Go To Anchorages
Yellowbanks is one of our favorite spots, particularly in strong westerlies. There's a sand bottom and a mountain between you and the wind. Not that the breeze doesn't sneak by. We spent a night in there and registered gusts over 50 knots. We were buffeted hard all night, but there was little wave action and with 10:1 scope (all chain), we didn't drag. Nor did we sleep. It was too damned noisy with the wind whistling through the shrouds. But, unless there is a southerly swell, this is a smooth spot when the wind is less than 30 knots.
If you're trying your hand at your first overnighter, this is the best place to easiest place begin your indoctrination if there are no Santa Anas in the forecast.
In reality, Smugglers and Yellowbanks constitute one big anchorage, but everyone has a strong preference for one or the other. No matter which becomes your favorite, we're pretty sure it will be your "Go To" spot when the wx is making life uncomfortable.
I know, it's Southern California and it is rarely terribly inclement, but there is nothing like the feeling of blasting down windy lane aimed at Point San Pedro. Maybe you're shivering a little bit, but as soon as you round the point you're in a whole new world. Hats come off, jackets are stripped. Though the distance from the point to your favorite anchorage is only a few miles, it's like going to a new hemisphere.
You usually have to motor if you round the point close aboard, but by the time you're at your anchorage, your sails are doused, you've got a beverage in hand and you're feeling much better than you did a few miles back when you were wondering why you'd made the decision to leave the long johns at home.
With a west wind and swell, both places are great. An east wind is deadly.
If it gets warm and dry and the wind starts blowing from the east, get underway. If you see smog at sea, get underway. You're about to meet Santa Ana.
A south swells can make both spots uncomfortable, with Yellowbanks feeling those effects first.
From the north, you'll round Point San Pedro and shape a course toward the farthest headland. You'll pass several small anchorages. Eventually, Smugglers will open to your right, the olive grove is unmistakable. Aim for the center of either anchorage and stay far enough off to avoid the ground swell. Caution, there is a small reef between the anchorages that can be identified by the low lying point.
From any other direction, you'll drive toward 1808 ft. El Montaņon peak -- the most prominent peak on the east end of the island. Look somewhat north near the shore and find the olive groves. Smugglers is right there and Yellowbanks somewhat to the left.
Another nice thing about this place: one hook. That's all you'll need in the sand and shell bottom. But it can get a bit crowded in here. We've started using an anchor buoy routinely. It helps other boaters figure out what your radius is and tends to spread everyone out a bit.
Most everyone likes to snuggle in pretty close to the beach. The depths don't really require that. You can find 25-30 ft. quite a way out and stay out of the heavy traffic. The closest I've gotten to having trouble in this anchorage is when I snuggled in. I hadn't given the spring tide enough consideration and found myself listening to the surf get louder as the tide ebbed. I'd anchored in 25+ ft. and ended up nearer 15 when the tide went out, the wind died and we drifted to the shore side of the anchor buoy. The bottom is sand, pebbles and shells.
Going ashore can be very interesting. If my pal Randy shows up, you might get to see his dinghy surfing techniques. I think the score stands at Randy 2 or 3 the dinghy 10 or 12. The dinghy wins when it gets ashore without Randy.
Pick your spot carefully, wear your life jacket and tie everything to the boat that you want to keep. Bag everything you want to keep dry. The beach gradient is fairly gradual in close, which means your motor will get kicked up pretty far out. There's always at least a little surf. Based on my observations, about half of all attempts to land and get underway from the beach while remaining dry are very damp failures. The bottom near the shore where we landed was fairly free of obstructions, but the beach is very rocky. Wear shoes or sandals. But going ashore can be worth it. After looking up at the olive groves for years, when I finally hiked a bit of the island I realized that looking down provided some fantastic vistas. And there is one historic sight at this end of the island: Smugglers Ranch. The 1889 ranch house is worth the row ... if you manage to stay dry.
Permits not required
The chart of the anchorage shows several rocks in both Smugglers and Yellowbanks that uncover near datum as well as a dangerous wreck in Smugglers. The rocks in Smugglers are close to shore, but the Yellowbanks hazards are in somewhat deeper water but are marked on the chart. There is also a small reef between the anchorages. Stand-off 200 yards and you'll avoid it. And the wreck near the CG buoy - well, we've never detected it.
It's your national park. For information about camping ashore, guided tours and facilities, go to Channel Islands National Park
If your next day includes a trip west toward any of the anchorages on the south side of the island, leave the anchorage and head south. Keep a lookout for kelp, which gets very thick near Sandstone point at the SE corner of Santa Cruz. Capt. Randy advises standing off at least a mile south of the island, maybe more, to avoid the entangling vegetation; however, the kelp crop in 2012-2013 has been negligible.
If you have new or amplifying information concerning this anchorage or the surrounding area, e-mail Capt. Dan.
Map: Yellowbanks Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island Google Map
Video: click the play icon, or, to view a larger version click here