10 day California Channel Islands trip report and Boat still for sale!

After sitting at home recuperating from a major illness for many months it was time to say “screw this” and head out on the boat again. I cannot think of a better way to recuperate than cruising the offshore islands. Crystal clear water for diving and swimming, hiking on the mostly uninhabited islands and just relaxing with a good book is exactly what I needed. I am still recuperating physically after 7 hours on the operating table, and a long hospital stay and the worst three months of my life afterwards with the daily handfuls of pills, constant injections and IVs, and tubes sticking out of me from some of the worst places, I am getting stronger every day. This all reinforces the fact that life is short and you really need to approach everyday as though it really matters. The good news is that everyone who has looked at the boat as it is currently for sale has loved it. The bad news is that all of the potential purchasers have purchase time frames from 1 to 8 years away. It just means I have more time to enjoy it. Hopefully they will not have to experience a health issue like I did to speed things up a bit. A life threatening illness makes you reevaluate your bucket list. I cruised over 10,000 miles on my Nordhavn 55 and now have cruised about the same amount of miles on my Duck. Even though I will always remember those miles as the best times of my life it is time to do something else and have decided to keep the boat for sale.

I was originally concerned about getting the boat in and out of the slip by myself not being in the strongest physical shape after my illness. The good news is that at a 40 ton displacement it really just sits there once the dock lines are removed, giving me lots of time to get the dock lines removed and then get to the flybridge to pilot the boat. With the wireless remote to the bow and stern thruster hanging off of my neck on a lanyard I could give the thrusters a quick spurt to center the boat back to the middle of the slip as I ran around the boat. Moby Duck is the first Duck with both bow and stern thrusters. As I exited the slip into the very tight fairway there was both a strong current running and strong wind blowing, both pushing me into the dock pilings and other boats, I was able to quickly pivot the boat 90 degrees once I was clear of the berth with the stern thruster going one way and the bow thruster pushing the other way. Without moving forward or backwards, the thrusters allow you to spin the boat 360 degrees if necessary. I was quickly centered in the channel and making my way towards the open sea. The dual thrusters really take all the stress out of tricky docking situations and allow single handing in weather situations that would normally be off limits without. The area of the ocean outside of Ventura Harbor is right around the corner from Point Conception, known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific”. This area between the mainland and the Northern Channel Islands is also known as “Windy lane” because of the way the wind funnels through. For three miles off the harbor the ocean is only around 60 feet deep. All of the things contribute to a very rough beginning and end of a voyage as you try to enter and leave the harbor. The Duck has a flat chime hull design versus the round hull designs of the Krogen, Selene and Nordhavn. In conditions where the aforementioned trawlers would need some sort of stabilization, the Duck does not. In fact, during most of my Pacific crossing I did not use any form of stabilization. Leaving the harbor I started getting knocked around by the confused seas generated but the Duck has enough stability that I did not have worry about immediately deploying the paravanes or getting some sail up to steady the boat. I learned my lesson before so had everything was lashed down and properly stowed so I could just focus on piloting the boat. After a couple of hours headed south I was in the lee of the Northern Channel Islands. My destination was Catalina Island in the S. Channel Islands. Being about 70 miles southeast of the Northern Channel Islands it does not experience the rough seas and windy cold conditions generated by the currents and geographical features of Point Conception and surrounding areas. The temperature is always about 10 degrees warmer at Catalina and because the islands run parallel to the mainland there is a lee side that is usually glassy calm with beautiful crystal clear water to swim and scuba in and secluded coves to anchor and explore. The Channel Islands are famous for their kelp beds. They are like underwater forests that harbor all sorts of sea life. Just what the doctor ordered. With the wind and swell coming from behind me I set the throttle so I was cruising an easy 6 knots and only sipping 1.5 gph. What is really nice about a electronically engine like my John Deere is that it comes with a highly accurate LED display gauge called a Murphy Gauge. You can program it to display whatever information you want. I have it displaying coolant temp, engine load percentage, gallons per hour being used and engine rpm. The engine load percentage is very important because diesels like to be heavily loaded at all times. It was really really nice to have the swell, wind and current behind me on this portion of the trip after spending the majority of last year bashing my way across the Pacific Ocean west to east. I almost forgot what it was like. After a leisurely 12 hour trip I decided to anchor at Two Harbors, Catalina Island also known as “The Isthmus”. I tried to fish along the way. On my trip across the Pacific, once I got the right lure/hook combination down, I was able to catch a nice Tuna or Dorado everyday. My only problem seemed to be that a giant fish every so often would chomp on the trolling lure snapping the line and taking my $40 lure with him. The same thing happened this trip. I heard the line go spinning out, the rod bent almost in half, saw something giant jumping behind the boat and then suddenly everything was gone. Oh well, no fresh fish for dinner. All of the good anchoring spot at Two Harbors are taken up by mooring fields. For my size boat the moorings run $50 a night and they are right next to each other. Not my type of cruising. There is a large reef in the center of the isthmus area with a couple of spots only 20 feet deep. The only problem in anchoring in this area is that it is far from shore and gets rough with swells and wind. While at anchor, dropping the paravane poles and putting the fish in the water completely smoothed things out. Also, while at anchor, the boat was completely powered by the wind generator and solar panels meaning I did not have to worry about starting the generator once. I could even make water with my highly efficient 24v Schenker water maker. On my Nordhavn 55 I usually had to run the generator for hours everyday to keep the batteries charged. After a couple of days spend swimming, diving and just relaxing I decided to move down the island to another anchorage called Whites Landing. This place is similar to the Isthmus as all of the good anchoring areas have been converted into mooring fields. Having a very heavy duty anchoring system really comes in handy. I have a snubber system that takes all of the load off the bow pulpit and windlass and transfers it to the steel hull through the bow bollards. The rode is all chain and I have an oversize Rocna type anchor. Once safely anchored I quickly put on my dive gear and checked that the anchor was set. Makes for a restful night sleep even if the weather picks up. There are hiking trails that are easily accessible from White’s Landing. In the early 1900s some bison were brought to island to film a movie. They were never removed and at one time the herd numbered around 400. Hiking around the island you frequently encounter them and the mess they make.


After a restful couple of days it was unfortunately time to head home. With such a well built boat you don’t have to really worry about the weather too much when coastal cruising. On the trip home a large school of dolphin played around off the bow for hours in the glassy calm seas. Kicking back on the flybridge in the comfy Stidd helm chair with a good book in hand. About half way home the weather picked up and I spent hours bashing into head seas, current and wind. Not anything my Duck could not easily handle even with swells breaking over the bow. It just increases fuel consumption and slows down speed somewhat. The area I was to pass through between the Northern and the Southern Channel Islands is part of the Navy’s Pacific missile range. About 2/3rds of the way home a heard a loud buzzing. I looked around to see a helicopter circling the boat. I was contacted on Channel 16 by the pilot. He informed me I was wandering into a “Navy live fire exercise”. His joke that the red color of my boat would make me a great target was lost on me :). I was told to immediately alter course adding a couple of hours to my trip. Usually these exercises are broadcasted across Channel 16 at regular intervals. Not this time.


I entered the harbor and easily docked by myself with again the bow and stern thrusters making the job easy. I just line the boat up perpendicular to the berth and spin the boat 90 degrees with thrusters going opposite directions. A quick spurt in forward pushes me right into the berth. Overall a great trip!