The Santa Barbara newspaper has a column each week devoted to sailing and things aquatic which I usually read, especially after soaking up one of local author T.C. Boyle's novels that was set mostly in the S.B. Channel -- he makes the point, graphically, that these palm-fringed waters are more dangerous than they'd appear. Over the years, many locals have lost their lives, especially those trying to make a living while plying all sorts of craft.
Musician David Crosby learned to sail here at his father's urging in a little 8' rental (I saw what I thought were the same type in use) and fell in love with it. As his fans know, he purchased a long and beautiful old yacht made of Honduras mahogany named Mayan, and still has it docked in the S.B. harbor marina.
So, of course, I had to go see it, dragging poor N. along (who cheered up as we passed a rather nice souvenir shop). The writer of the column where I learned this wasn't too clear on where the ship was exactly, and there are more piers and boats than you can count. He also didn't mention, probably because the locals know it, that you can't go on those piers and poke around. If I had a fine boat, I wouldn't want dumb tourists like me there either. And this being the California coast and "home" to thousands of homeless people, someone would move in within a day if strangers had access.
You can walk down a long commercial pier and out on a curving sand spit, though, which affords a view of everything clearly except for the boats in the center. Dodging an insistent incoming tide and non-ankle-friendly rocks, we went all the way to the end where the biggest boats were, but, alas, did not spy Mayan.
So, David, I've read your books but I guess you still have a few of your secrets. Or maybe it's just that I can't tell one long white boat from another.
Ace Ventura, Beach Detective
I guess you could come all the way to the Pacific coast and view it from your bus or car (which, around Big Sur, is still pretty good), but we just have to find out about all the beaches. Early on, during previous visits, we got suckered into the well-signed and easily found public beaches, but they're really not worth the trip. And most charge to park in a very hot unshaded lot, for which I at least expect to find a beach trash- and kelp-free without a lot of detailed signs about what you can't do, but that's exactly the way they are. On the other extreme, there are those the access to which is something of a local secret, and you have to know how to infiltrate yourself without setting off a local millionaire's dogs, alarms, or prediliction to call the local sheriff. Since everyone tries this in Malibu, where homeowners have set up false signage and even fake garage doors to keep you away from what is technically a public beach, we seek out more anonymous places, like More Mesa beach about a mile from our hosts' home. Keeping it rather off the radar, the access is a long walk down bridle paths after a hike up a steeply rising paved dead-end street, followed by a long descent down the cliff using what's left of long-ago-built stairs of logs. Somehow people bring down chairs, tents and dogs (it's rickety enoughthat just getting yourself down is a challenge) and usually stay the whole day. Yes, there's lots of kelp and those pesky flies that seem to love that stuff in its rotting state, but no lifeguards, signs, parking lot or adult supervision.
Today we found the best of both worlds (yay!). The little town of Summerland lies between tony Montecito and funky Carpinteria, and has its own special beach park with -- wait for it -- partially shaded free parking, restrooms, a playground and benches to view the ocean. The path down the cliff face to the sand is paved and gently curving. We set up our chairs above the high tide line and watched said tide come in on nice long, curling breakers. Loons swooped by, and little dog wore himself out first chasing, then retreating from, the foamy waves, and children employed their bodyboards. In wetsuits, of course. That water is a lot better to look at and listen to than get in, IMHO.
Summerland itself has another flower-filled park, lots of places to buy fine alcohol, a custom bikini shop and about four really nice restaurants; Summerland Beach Cafe ("since 1981") gets our vote. Lots of outdoor seating with gentle ocean breezes and a breakfast menu that will hold you until evening. Three words: apple - smoked - bacon. A little place down Lillie Avenue called Sacred Spaces has large antique Buddhas, pots, carved Asian gates and doorways, and many other beautiful and probably expensive items. The landscaping in town, public and private, is imaginative, lush and a little wild.
With all these people, roads, trains, cars and trucks, you would think wildlife would keep its distance around here. Oh, no; it's like living inside a zoo (and the local one, as I think I mentioned before, is terrific). Coyotes roam at night (keep those kitties inside), hummingbirds have to be ducked constantly, all sorts of graceful waterbirds abound, and two beautiful skunks just wandered across the patio the other day like they owned the place. Actually, they and the ubiquitous gophers (ground squirrels) do. You just pay the taxes.
Returning from our fruitless effort to find Mr. Crosby's yacht, we watched, with several other people, the amusing red-legged crabs swimming around and crawling on the rocks against the commercial pier. One was cheered on as he approached a dead grunion fish and grasped it in his big claw, and tried to find a nice place to eat it without his cousins getting it away from him. Two others, pretty big fellows, were engaged in a nicely choreographed fight. We gave them wrestlers' names and cheered them on. The seals were all gathered on a platform farther away, which is a good thing, since they look much better than they smell.
As usual, we haven't seen one, despite going to places they've been known to go to. Although I wouldn't want to be held accountable for anything that happened if N. actually spotted Rob Lowe.