Small Boat to the Channel Islands

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Posted by seahunt on April 11, 2001 at 08:06:22:

Here is the last of three parts of an essay I put together.
I hope you enjoy it, seahunt

The Island Breaker

Really, for me, this was the time of the Peace and the Truth, taking
Wednesday trips to San Nicolas (The Badlands) and Santa Rosa (Talcott Shoal)
Islands. Then if I wasn't set for skiing or bodysurfing, I would go on a
small boat to the inner islands on the weekends. Work hard, play hard!
This was the great lobster hunting times, say the mid 80's.

Then I met Don and Glen. They owned the Island Breaker.
Originally, it was Glen's boat, but as I hear it, Don was driving along
and saw an 8 foot shark hanging in a tree. He figured he had to check it
out and that is how he met Glen and bought into the boat. I won't say that
either one of these guys was extremely sane (or myself for that matter),
but they did like to dive and the Island Breaker was a real dive boat.
It was a 25 foot boat with twin 6 cylinder Chevy engines with Mercury
outdrives. That gave it good speed and reasonable gas consumption. It
was ugly, but it did the job. We could carry 5 divers comfortably enough
and 14 tanks. There was a big swim step at the back just made for diving.
The deck had burned off years back and was replaced with a simple deck that
made it look like a big ski boat. It had as much capability as you had nerve
to try. With the barrel under the deck, it carried 85 gallons of gas. They
had taken it to San Miguel Island on calm days. Best of all, it was very
I hear tell that they came straight back from San Miguel Island, all the
way to Ventura Harbor one day and got pulled into the Coast Guard docks
for inspection. They were basically told that the only ones that drove
that route that straight and fast, were drug runners.
Well, then Glen pulled that slick maneuver that got him in the pokey, I
was making good money doing side jobs and I must have been a bit insane,
cuz I bought Glen's interest in the boat. We all know about that day
for a boat owner.
I had been making trips with them for some time, so that didn't change
anything much. If you're going to partner in a boat, a mechanic like
Don is a good person to do it with. What a lot of work!

The Island Breaker

The good part was that it was a fast trip to Santa Cruz Island. We'd load
up and be there in a bit over an hour from Ventura. If there was a
swell from the north or west, we would go straight to the back side of
Anacapa and turn up to Santa Cruz Island, flying over the calm water.
If the swell was from the south, we would stay in front in the smooth
water there. Sometimes it was just rough everywhere, but that was why
it was called the Island Breaker (one reason anyway). It was heavy and
had a nice V so we could go into rough water.
Then if it was a nice day we would go up the backside of Santa Cruz
Island. Realize, that is a 27 mile long island. There is a lot of diving.
Pick a cove, any cove, or just some offshore kelp patch. We looked for spots
that looked to be too small for the charter boats to want to visit. We
would stop at Gull Island or go on to Santa Rosa. If not Santa Rosa, we
would stop at Kinton Point where there were still plentiful abalone and
fish. The diving inside of Frazier Point (the north west corner of Santa
Cruz Island) was good. The diving outside (like the Potato Patch) was better,
but a challenge if there was any swell. Then a dive under the northern cliffs
before heading home. In between, munch Fig Newtons and eat mystery chicken.

Glen and Don. Notice the Pink and Red Abalone.

It's truly a different world out there from nearby LA.. There may be
other boats out there, but not many past the south east end of Santa
Along the backside are a number of deep coves that go back to sandy
beaches with streams that come down from the island canyons. There
are often power and sail boats anchored in the well protected back of
these. From what I saw, I can only imagine that they anchor there all
summer, perhaps longer and occasionally go to shore for supplies. Heck,
if they are really serious yaghties, I would expect that they mosey on
down to Cabo or Acapulco for summer.
These coves are very deep and you may never get really see into
them from charter boats.
Sometimes, hunters with bows go up the canyons beyond the beaches looking
for wild boar.

Sometimes if we wanted to go to Santa Rosa Island, we would start from
Santa Barbara Harbor and make the long Channel Crossing there, but then
we could dive the backside near Bee Rock. That is some great diving.
During lobster season, we usually just went across to the frontside to
Santa Cruz where it tended to be calmer and we could do frontside diving
for lobster. I always liked tooling around China Point looking for bugs
and scallops. We used to find 3 or 4 pounders fairly often, bigger
occasionally. Every point
on the front side is rich with life. Every cove was a good dive.
We took the boat into Painted Cave and were real lucky not to
lose a prop. You could see the rocks just below it. Next time, we just
swam in, but went in a ways further than a boat can go. Sea lions are
barking and bouncing around everywhere. They don't seem to like their
privacy and feeling of safety disturbed there.

After A Day Backside Santa Cruz

Don, Pat, Alan and myself went to San Nicolas Island for a season opener.
We got to do some great lobster diving
Bouncing For Bugs in the shallow water
and tide pools near shore.
Shortly after that trip, we loaded up Don, Pat, Glen, Alan, Myself, 14
tanks, 85 gallons of gas and off we went to San Nicolas Island. The Island
Breaker hadn't been there. Heck, we didn't even have a course. There was
swell, but it had about a 13 second period from the west. The slow period and
the fact that we were going due south made it an OK ride. When we got about
10 miles behind Anacapa, I was able to guesstimate where Nic should be, from
all my trips there on the Peace. I saw it.
It was hard to believe that the boat could plane with all that weight, but
we made it there in about 2 1/4 hours. Since the island is Navy owned,
we were radioing ahead as you are supposed to do, to ask about closures.
Well, they waited until we were about a mile from the middle of the north
side of the island and then sent a helicopter to chase us away. Then we
were heading west directly into that big swell, but we weighed so much that
the Island Breaker just broke on through it. I suspect that they were
surprised at the speed we could make into it. I had really wanted to dive
the frontside tide pools. What a hassle, but it almost looked like a jet
up there was hovering.
Anyway we got to the west end and did our diving. Got some bugs and got
home... with almost no gas left.
For those of you that don't know it, San Nicolas is a long, challenging
trip to make in a small boat. It was probably about 60 miles to get
back. The diving is great, but a charter boat is an easier way to go.

Going Home

You perhaps ask why no more electronics. Well, we were out one day when
there was some fog, but it wasn't too bad... until we got off the east
end of Santa Cruz Island. We were heading for Yellow Banks and suddenly
everything vanished to gray. Hmmm... Then a boat went by that had radar.
We got behind it and went on. By the time we came out of the fog, there
were 5 boats lined up behind us.
I did the sensible thing and bought a Loran C. We mounted it up and it
worked great the first trip. It was weird. Our dead reckoning that we
were used to using, said 'over there'. The Loran said 'no, here'. It
was 'here'... Dead on. I liked that.
Well, Lorans need a really good ground and so there was this braided
ground wire that trailed from the unit. I really didn't know what to do
with it, so it sort of just sat out, unconnected. Did I mention the
electrical on the boat? Well, it wasn't perfect. Heck, if you had wet
feet and a bit of luck, you could get a nasty shock off that one starter
key... Well, the Loran ground wire found it's way to that hot key... It
smoked the Loran. I sent it to be fixed, but it was never the same again.

Since I'm just rambling, I guess I have add a bit about Glen. He made more
mistakes than I am prone to, so his story ended up being more interesting,
if you know what I mean. Glen was a real good guy, but.. well, he did
Glenbys and Glenbys are bad mistakes.

Anyway, he got out of the pokey after two years. How he got in was quite
incredible and involved getting clocked by the CHP while airborne and
that wasn't his worst transgression that night...
Glen got another boat. This 21 foot ugly green thing with a single
The story I heard was that his father went to the ramp at 10 pm and his
truck was still there, so he called the Coast Guard. 4 am the CG helicopter
spots them drifting. By then they are wrapping themselves in aluminum foil
to try to keep warm. Seriously, these guys would go out with no more than
a T shirt.
Well, this guy is no dummy. That's not gonna to happen again. So he got
a kicker engine big enough to get him back to dock and mounted it to his
swim step... But you have to also chain them... That fell off mid-channel
Then there was the time we towed him back. Everyone came onto our boat
for the tow.
One of his drunk buddies chose me on during the tow,
cuz I didn't like him tailing a bug I got (it's illegal to possess then).
When we got to dock, I clarified things for him.
Believe it or not, there were other stories about Glen as well, but
he did get to do some good diving.
Last I heard, Glen came into some money and got another real nice boat.

Well, I hope you found this a bit amusing. Small boating in the big ocean
is always... interesting. There are other essays on the site, about fun
on small boats at other times and places. There was the stories about the
the trips to Margarita Ville and boating from Point Sal to South Big Sur in
Central Coast Adventures With Dale. That was
some great diving and some wild boating.
I haven't put much in about my inflatable trips down here in San Diego.
There is some great diving off of La Jolla and Point Loma. Inflatables
bounce too much though.
Now a days I prefer going with Lem in his 28 foot BayLiner. Radar,
differential GPS, hot showers, compressor, bunks, shelter and it's fast.
That has been good for some great diving. I've written some essays about
those trips. We do some great night diving.. It's a Stealth Mission..
... I can't wait to go out to local reefs out of Oceanside this year with
John in his boat..., but that will be another story.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt


I donno exactly how to put it, but I think that it is fair
to say that taking a small boat to the Channel Islands takes a
certain kind of fortitude. Partly it is an individuals urge to
travel and explore places in the sea that few others have a desire
to visit. Those who take small boats across the Channel are
explorers, but they must be more than that. Boaters that visit the
Channel Islands reqularly learn to dress warm, but it takes more
than that, because the cold of the ocean is limitless and so
ultimately, the only thing that will resist that cold is the
endurence of the individual who just considers it to be a cost of
the visit. That is the way of the sea, a person coping with the
Sometimes when boating, you have to put up with seasickness. It
makes you miserable and weak, but the ocean doesn't care so the
individual must ignore it and just carry on.
Sometimes it is just rough and you're going to get beat and it's
going to go on for hours. Each wave becomes a challenge to carefully
climb and then not crash down into the next one. It requires confidence
in both the crew and the skipper.
What requires fortitude more than anything else though is the age
old issue of mariners going out to a place that can be as hostile
and dangerous as it is vast and beautiful. You just have to have
a nature that can feel at home in such a wild place without being
overwhelmed by it or to give in to fear when things get scary.
I've known a number of people that are this way. You know, salt water
in their veins, these are people I call my friends. We had some great

I hope you enjoyed this essay.
For more stories about diving fun, check out">seahunt Diving and Morality

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