Kayak the coast, fish, dive, hang out and take photos
It was short notice. It was also a little bit of a reach. A trip to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California. Purpose: Kayak the coast, fish, dive and hang out. Matt would do the spear fishing and I would do the documentation. So we went.
I had to scramble and organize a kayak since I don’t own one but having lived in Santa Barbara for close to two decades, this turned out to not be a problem. Getting it from the boat to my car was a different story. Instead of paddling it through the harbor and to the boat launch where I could have parked the car I carried the thing (estimating ~100lbs) on the dock and to the car in the parking lot. This was a mistake. But it did work out and the next morning we boarded the Island Packer boat in Ventura for the one and a half hour journey to Scorpion Bay on Santa Cruz Island.
It was overcast and moody out. An early morning funk was sitting on the coastline, smells of fish and seaweed mixed with seagull droppings and coffee wiffed through the air. Classic harbor. I was a little taken aback by how many people were getting onto the boat and especially how much stuff was going on it. It took us several trips down the dock to get all of our gear to and onto the boat and the whole situation took a good 30 minutes. People were chatting and excited but there was an underlying tension of getting the loading done so we could leave on time.
Once we cleared the harbor the boat picked up speed and was zooming across the surface, cutting through the water and whipping whitewash up into people leaning out over the railing too far. The loud rumble of the engine combined with the wind making any conversation a little bit more of an effort.
We passed the oil rigs and mainland California became more indistinct. Trees and houses melted together and soon there was little detail left to make out. At the same time Anacapa Island emerged from the fog. Isolated rays of sun poked through the dense cloud cover and made for a dramatic scene. A wild place. One that is fantastic to experience from the safety of a boat but also one that would be scary to navigate on a kayak…
I remembered a previous trip when some friends challenged themselves by swimming across the Santa Barbara Channel on more or less the same route we were now traversing. Dodging sharks, fighting fatigue. Romantic but painful.
Once we arrived at Scorpion Bay the weather had drastically improved. The clouds had parted and we were bathed in sunshine. We slowly pulled up to the pier and I looked down into the water and was taken aback by it’s clarity. I had been out on the Island before but I must had forgotten. It was so intensely beautiful. Blues and greens and red of seaweed, I wanted to jump in right there and then.
The boat connected to the pier with its nose. All the people who just came out for the day got off and walked away. Next were all the campers. This group formed a line down the length of the pier to built a chain which would transport all the gear. And boy there was gear. I had watched it being loaded but since I was loading myself and had only caught a fraction of the items. Now part of the chain, I more or less touched every bag, cooler, paddle, rucksack, stove, sack, life vest, fishing rod and kayak seat that came off the boat. And once we found ourselves at the end of the pier with all our stuff we had to carry it for about three quarters of a mile down a path and to our camp spot. It was painful. It was getting hot. The bags were heavy. And there was no other option. No pain, no gain. This was not the Four Seasons and that was ok.
Our spot was to the left of the path under a large, beautiful tree. There was a level patch which I claimed for my tent while Matt decided to built his bright orange tent in some bushes by a dry creek bed with difficult access. We went through the entertainment of tent building, especially me watching Matt deal with his choice of location and unfamiliarity with the (new) tent and since I was done before him I ran out of things to do. This turned out to be a rather unusual situation. It almost never happens. There was absolutely nothing for me to attend, fix, sort, set up or even think about. For a few moments I felt a little lost and without purpose. I then came to the conclusion that I tent camped too little and that I should take a nap.