Small Boat to the Channel Islnads - Part 2

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Posted by seahunt on April 10, 2001 at 07:59:26:

Small Boat To The Channel Islands

Here is the second of three parts of the essay I put together.
I think this part is better than the last.
I hope you enjoy it, seahunt

Cruising the Channel Islands With Kevin

It seems I've known Kevin forever, but I guess it's really only
since High School when we first met and tried to mess with each
other in shop. It didn't work well for either one and we ended
up as friends so that we could seriously mess with each
It seems like almost every weekend, I was water-skiing
with Kevin, Richard and Arthur. It was Arthur that had the boat
and we'd all head up to Piru, Castaic or Pyamid Lake. For longer
trips we ended up at the river, Pine Flats Lake or Mission Bay.
Often my brother was along with his flat bottom. That was one
shockingly fast boat. In the early morning the lakes were glass
and great for water-skiing. Mid day, the water would get rougher
and skiing would slow for a bit. I even got a bit of a tan one
summer doing this. It only took about 2 years to heal. Anyway,
water would calm some in the afternoon and we'd be skiing again.
Then in the evening, I'd make the last trip across the lake
behind my brother's boat back to the dock, flat out.
If you wonder why I write about water-skiing here, it definitely
is part of the context. It was just part of what we were doing
at the same time as we were diving. Diving just lasted longer.
To me, it's also a statement of amazement about how much time
we had in those days. At least we used it for fun.

Life wasn't all water-skiing though. There were plenty of free time
for diving. I was constantly shore diving and I had been making trips
to the Channel Islands on Charter boats like the Sea Bee and Sea
Packer, almost weekly for a couple of years, but this was very
different. Kevin's father, Glen, had been taking small boats to the
Channel Islands for many years. Instead of slowly chugging over in
a 55 foot, heavy, wood hulled boat, this was flying in a 23 foot
fiberglass rocket that glided over the water as we went
to Anacapa.
We pulled into this well protected cove that they knew of on the
frontside and went onto the island. It was legal then. It was only about
a 150 foot walk to the other side of the island where the ocean waves hit
the small beach. I walked along the island shore for the first time. It
was enchanting. In spring and early summer the islands get verdant green
and there are yellow wild flowers everywhere. As I describe elsewhere,
scuba and freediving in the calm frontside coves is great with good
vis and lots to see, especially then. This was when the bottom was thick
with huge red urchins and warty sea cucumbers. Scallops were common in
the cracks behind the urchins and there were even legal pink abalone
part way buried in the sand at the bottom of the rocks at the mouth
of the coves. There were still some big sheepsheads even at Anacapa and
the Calico bass were thick. In those days, the large purple jellyfish
were common and you could count the blue sharks you passed by their fins
sticking up. There were a lot of them.

View From Anacapa

For Glen, cruising was just what he did for fun when he wasn't doing
business. He was a bit of an adventurer and he had a lot of good
stories from over the years.
On these trips, I would burn my tanks with Kevin or Bill and then free
dive along the island shore for hours at a time. Sometimes we hiked
onto the top of the island itself. Glen would be rowing around in his
small inflatable or just relaxing on the island.
I made a lot of trips over many years, to Anacapa, Santa Cruz and
Catalina with Glen, Kevin and Bill. It was always fun.

Then Kevin got Pinky. He finally had his own boat. It was this
17 foot, pink, high sided fiberglass bathtub with a 75 hp Evinrude
outboard. It was made in 1956. That made it older than him.
We were stoked. A couple of kids at Channel Islands Harbor with a boat,
ready for our first trip to Anacapa. We got loaded up and headed out of
the harbor with about 7 other boats... all but 3 of which turned
back as soon as they got in the swell beyond the breakwater. It
wasn't a huge day, but it was big. A bit of discussion and we
figured we had to try it. It was the first time out. So on we
went due south, which should take us to the east end of Anacapa.
Kevin was standing on a plastic step stool for driving, so that he
could see over the windscreen. After a few miles of bouncing along and
a few launches, the only boat still following was a nice new cruiser that
was over 30 feet and they weren't passing us. The entire boat flexed as
it went through the waves. We were really bouncing when
there was this huge crash of shattering plastic. Kevin's step stool
was plastic fragments, but that was not our first thought. We
both thought it was the boat at first.
Well, it was a beautiful day when we got there and calmer when
we went home.

There was one thing that really made small or large boating to the
Channel Islands a lot nicer than it might have been. Going back to
dock, you were always going with the waves. Never into them. A lot
of times, even with a big boat, you can get on a swell and surf for
quite a ways. So if you could make it out, you could always make it
back... Unless it was Santana Wind conditions and then you might well
want that 40 foot boat the Coast Guard mentioned. Usually though, the
trip back was a relaxed beautiful ride.
Of course, there was one other thing about Pinky. It was an old boat
with an old design. The bottom behind the V of the bow, was sort of a
flat curve. They made boats that way for a while... Then they learned
that that design can cause them to flip if you surf a swell...
Note that the Santana Winds (sometimes mis-called the Santa Anna's)
are always blowing from shore, but they are usually come from the
deserts high up and come down to the ocean 60 miles out. If the
weather is right though, they drop down through the mountain passes
and blow along the water. They may or may not be a problem, but
they can be a bad one, especially at Catalina. A boater must
keep a weather eye open for them and smell the air. If you smell sage,
the Santanas will be there soon and it is wise to look for shelter.
You can get stuck for a day or two in the lee of the island depending on
where you are and how bad the winds are.
The Santanas can make the ocean flat for shore diving though.
Of course another thing to watch for then is if the water
temperature suddenly drops about 4 degrees. It means that the winds
have blown off the top warmer water and pulled up cold upwelling
waters. Vis along the shore can get extraordinary at that time.

Anyway, we made a lot of trips to Anacapa and a few to Santa Cruz Island
in Pinky. It's great trying to figure out where a good dive spot might
be. These were spring and summer trips. The air was warm. We would just
dive in coves or look for kelp offshore. We had no electronics beyond a
compass and a flashlight... There was only one thing that was
uncomfortable. Kevin always liked to leave the island later than I
would have. We were often one of the last boats to the harbor, just a
bit before dusk. Well, there was this one time when the boat started
and we got a few miles from the island. Then something happened and
suddenly the engine would barely run. We tried everything we knew, but
it would just sorta rough idle along as we barely moved. It was late
and though I saw two boats, they were a long way off. That flashlight
I mentioned... Well, there was one other boat a couple of miles away
that was not going in the opposite direction. I quickly recalled
how to SOS and we shut down the engine so that we weren't moving.
The folks on the other boat didn't really want to tow us, but
it was like a 50 foot swordfish boat, so they did.
The post mortem showed that we had a broken distributor shaft.
How we ever got the motor started was a mystery.
We had a lot of fun with Pinky. We were kids having a great time
exploring and everything was brand new.

I went up north for a couple of years after that and I have no idea
what exactly happened to Pinky. It was time for replacement before Kevin
ever got that boat. Kevin went through a succession of boats. He was a
bit of a wheeler dealer, so he would buy a boat and maybe sell it a short
time later, usually for more than he bought it for. He kept most boats
for only a couple of years and never for more than 3.

His brother Bill had a boat too now. Sometimes we would go out alone or
with his brother or father. Actually, his brother Mike had a boat too, but
we don't mention him. Since they were more into cruising, we would only
bring a couple of tanks, but I liked free diving so much that tanks
didn't matter that much to me. This is when I got in the habit of swimming
out over the sand past the cove rocks with my tanks. You don't always find
much, but anything you find is almost guaranteed to be interesting and unusual.
Any small isolated rock in the sand will be used as cover by every animal
that can glom onto it.
Also, in winter, I would see some lobster boeys a ways offshore and just
jump in there to see if they were sitting on a reef. You have to be a bit
careful of your depth doing that, but I found some amazing shelves that
seemed rarely visited by divers because some had large abalone or scallops
on them. It seemed like sometimes the lobsters had already found the traps
and sometimes they hadn't. I remember more than once finding nice
lobsters in ledges right near traps. There seems to be a lot of small reefs
between say 100 feet and 115 feet, off of Santa Cruz Island. Finding them is
another story. There are big Calico bass down there.
This was also when I could free dive comfortably to 70 feet. Past about
50 feet, the fish don't know what you are if you aren't blowing bubbles.
I usually didn't do much spearing when on a small boat, but I still liked
playing hide and seek with the big calicos. They don't like being snuck up

Sometimes, when cruising out, we would just stop mid channel and fish,
but that usually just meant catching mackerel or barracuda and then
having a shark grab that. If you got them in, the objective was to get
the hook out without them ever coming onto the boat.
Sometimes we went to Catalina. Avalon is a fun town for pizza and watering
holes. Sometimes we would stay over night anchored outside the harbor there
instead of at the Isthmus. There is great diving all around Avalon.


I should mention one other boat. Kevin loved to go to the LA boat show.
One time when I went with him, I was wandering around by myself when I saw
the Mercury exhibit. This was the first year (or near to it) that Mercury
was selling the Black Max line of outboard motors. I looked at it and
told the sales women 'wait until my friend sees that'! She said that he
already had and that he hugged it... That was Kevin's way of judging it's
So Kevin ended up with a 125 HP Black Max mounted on a 16 foot ski/race
boat with maybe 4 inches of freeboard. Great ski boat. Interesting ocean
boat. We took it to Catalina a number of times. The trick is to never
stop mid channel unless it is really calm. We did do a fair amount of
ocean skiing, but really it was still a matter of going to coves and
Catalina with other boats... Just with that boat, we had to do a lot
of waiting for others to catch up.
If you know ocean boating, you know it was just a matter of time.
We had already made a couple of trips back from Catalina in the afternoon,
when the seas had started to pick up. You have to drive a boat with a
fairly nimble touch, but no one did it better than Kevin. This one
afternoon though, it was really big even if it was trailing seas.
I was sitting backwards in one of those padded contoured seats that
they put in ski boats. My view was of whitecapped walls of water trying
to fall on the boat from behind. We got launched every couple of minutes.
At least that boat was a good flyer. Three
times we launched good enough to knock the wind out of me. Kevin sorta
apologized, but he was busy. In conditions like that, you just have to
rely on your boat and driver...
After that trip, there were lateral crack lines in the boat, so Kevin
sold it. Actually, I think I liked the bigger boats for the ocean.
Talk about rough rides. He got one boat that had a V8 engine, but the
boat was really designed for a V6. The extra weight in the back made
it bounce a lot. Mara almost lost her... chests on that first trip. Then
Kevin got those fins that bolt onto the bottom of the outdrive to lift
the engine for stability. It rode like a Cadillac after that.

After his divorce, the Wendy Sue becamse the Wendy Who.

Quiet morning at Isthmus

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