For Points of Departure #15

Well, it was vacation time and once again, Dee Dee and I decided to rent a small sailboat and cruise the California Straits. This year, we decided to head north from our home in Mojave rather than the southern trip we'd done last time.

Grapevine Lighthouse

So, eight hours after we sailed from "Edward's Marina" at Mojave, we arrived at the narrowest point of the Western Channel, site of the famous "Grapevine Light," built in 1923 to replace the earlier light that was lost to a fire the year before. Sitting on a narrow Grapevine Lighthouse at nightpeninsula opposite the western end of Wormhead Island, "Grapevine" is not open to the public, but the campground at Gorman Harbor offers a spectacular view of the light none-the-less.

At night, "Grapevine" is a beautiful sight from de Iturbe State Park and one not to be missed on any tour of the California Straits. I, of course, took lots of pictures

Dawn the next day we returned to our boat and headed north up the channel. Be sure to take care as the Western Channel is heavily traveled by ships of all kinds – I almost got run over by an "Empress Cruise" liner!

Tejon Light

Two hours later we left the north end of the channel, passing beneath the watchful eye of the "Tejon Light," which perches on Frazier Bluffs, right at the entrance to the channel. Now we had officially entered the Northern California Straits and we continued north along the Inner Coast towards that night's stop at the small town of Buena Vista, where we planned to spend three days relaxing at the historic "Buttonwillow Inn" – along with a tour of the "Buena Vista Nature Reserve," of course!

Smilodon on the reserve

As is turned out, we spent most of those three days at the Reserve. We were really lucky on the second day, and actually got to see some of the rare sabertooths that roam the area. I think there's only a hundred and twenty left on the whole island, and half of those are confined to the Reserve (with most of the rest being in Big Sur Park on the west coast of the island).

I got several pictures of them in the distance and this one real good one from close up when we were riding the tour bus. He (she?) was just standing there, scratching his chin on the fence, totally ignoring the bus-load of tourists on the road next to him. After a minute or two, he gave a cat-glare at us, and strolled off into the brush.

Tejon at night

On Saturday morning we left, a little sad, and sailed back south, crossing over to the Sierra Coast and following it down to the start of the Eastern Channel of the Tejon Straits.

The Eastern Channel is far narrower than its western counterpart – you're not going to be dodging cruise ships here! – and winds sinuously between the eastern end of "Wormhead" and the southern edge of the Sierra Coast. Fortunately, the channel was well marked and we had no troubles reaching our last stopping point for this trip.

Iturbe Island"Iturbe Island" is a small (less than half a mile long) rocky body that nearly blocks the narrow Eastern Channel of the Tejon Straits. On it's southeastern corner lies "Small Harbor," both the harbor itself and the campground of the same name. We arrived late Saturday afternoon and anchored just off the campground, discovering that we had it all to ourselves for the evening.

The island is quiet and peaceful and the campground, in spite of its small size, is well maintained and comfortable. The only residents on the islands are the keepers of Stillwell Light at the other end of the island, so this is not the destination if you're looking for night-life!

On Sunday, we had our last meal of the trip cooked over one of the campground's firepits, loaded our boat, and set sail back to the marina at Mojave.
map of Tejon Straits