The Great Migration has begun. We’re not talking about whales, but rather the annual migration of northern sailors heading south, seeking warmer climes. Without local knowledge, though, it can be hard to know the best places to stop along the way. Cruisers’ needs are usually much different from the average boater’s, and finding details on any given harbor can be a lesson in frustration. One spot to mark on your Southern California charts as ‘cruiser friendly’ is Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Not only are many services and stores easily accessible, but the several marinas housed within the harbor offer plenty of options for moorage.
Needing to find a slip for our Wauquiez Centurion 47 Gazelle for the month of August, my husband and I randomly chose Channel Islands Marina as our destination, and we couldn’t have been happier. The grounds are beautifully maintained, the staff is beyond helpful and the facilities are excellent. They also happen to be an official sponsor of the Baja Ha-Ha and SoCal Ta-Ta.
The walking path that runs along the waterfront leads to a maritime museum, several restaurants, a health club, and a small market. The only thing missing along the west side of the harbor is a coffee shop, but that ‘problem’ will be resolved with the upcoming opening of Honey Cup in the Marine Emporium Landing (crisis averted!)
We also just happen to be right in front of the very fun and friendly Channel Islands YC, which hosts three dinners each week, along with a bocce ball tournament on Thursdays. It’s a small club with no guest docks, but Pacific Corinthian YC, all the way down the west ‘arm’ of the harbor, offers a reciprocal moorage for visitors.
There are no grocery stores within easy walking distance — although there is a farmer’s market every Sunday. But a short dinghy ride to a county-owned dock at Fisherman’s Wharf, at the termination of the east ‘arm’, gets you within a block of a Ralph’s, CVS, West Marine, Starbucks and, most importantly, a Spudnuts donut shop. For a bigger provisioning run, consider dinghying deep within the housing development north of the bridge to the Von’s shopping center. Their dinghy dock is right outside the store, making it easier to load your groceries.
Need to hit more stores? Uber runs in Oxnard (Lyft doesn’t), or you can call Steve’s Beach Shuttle. Steve lives in Hollywood Beach and charges flat rates to wherever you need go — Costco, Trader Joe’s, the Post Office, etc. His number is (805) 208-5377. Speaking of mail, Mariner’s Mail Stop will accept packages for yachts in transit, and if you plan to stop for a spell, you can rent a mailbox on a month-to-month basis.
A word of warning: When entering Channel Islands Harbor, use the south entrance, even if you’re approaching from the north. “To save on dredging costs, the county is letting the north entrance silt in,” says Karen Duffey, Channel Islands Marina’s leasing agent. “It’s a much longer walk to get to the water on Hollywood Beach these days.” Hollywood Beach, by the way, is about two blocks away and seems to be the most overlooked beach in Southern California. Stop by The Rudder Room bar at the southern end of the beach and take your cocktails outside to watch the sunset or a game of volleyball.
The fuel dock is almost directly across the harbor from Channel Islands Marina, on the east side of the harbor. Just north of it is The Boatyard, in case you need any work done. And harbor bulletin boards are littered with the business cards of a number of divers and boatwrights who will come to you.
While Channel Islands Harbor doesn’t have the quaint, touristy quality of Santa Barbara or the high energy of Marina del Rey, the laid-back vibe, slip availability and easy access to services make it a great stop for this fall’s batch of cruisers.