Last year I went on a three day live-aboard diving trip in the Channel Islands offshore from Santa Barbara. We went on the same trip again and this time I brought along my little Frenzy kayak strapped to the roof of Paul’s truck. Fortunately we left early on Wednesday and had time for the various adventures that fate threw our way. One adventure involved a flat tire (ultimately not repairable) followed by breaking lug bolts. Then the kayak blew off the roof of the truck at 70 miles an hour. We heard a bump on the roof to look up and notice that the bow and stern lines were gone. Only then did I look back to see the kayak flying down the freeway behind us with cars swerving to miss it. We pulled over and ran back to get the kayak out of the fast lane and back to the truck. The kayak was scratched up in several places but the main damage was a dent near the bow. The plastic on the side of the bow had been popped into a deep concave shape, but had not split. The boat would still hold water but would probably pull to the right. We tried later to pop the plastic back into shape with a scissors jack but were unable to fit the jack inside the bow where it would do some good. I decided to use the boat as it was. It was never a very fast boat so this would not slow it down by a significant factor.
On the first day of the dive trip I was too busy to try out the kayak, but on the second day the boat stayed at a place called Victoria’s Reef long enough for two dives. After going on the first dive I needed to rest and wait for my nitrogen levels to drop anyway, so I took the kayak out. The new asymmetrical prow of the boat had no noticeable effect on my paddling and I was able to paddle several kilometers west around a little cove. There were a few caves to poke into, several beaches to look at where I didn’t bother to land. There was a large offshore rock at the other end of the cove with a huge arch in it. I told the crew that I would stay mostly in sight and leave my radio on monitoring channel 80. Of course I had to go out of sight for short times to go into the caves and coves. When I got to the other end of the cove I headed out to the rock with the arch. I paddled into the arch from behind and ran aground in the shallow water. I had to wait for a few large waves to lift my boat high enough to scrape out the other side. Then I continued along the inside edge of the island until I was in danger of getting out of sight of the boat again. At this point I turned and let the wind and waves blow me back to the boat. I got back early enough that I had time to go past the boat and out of sight in the other direction before returning to the boat again, in time for lunch.
The dive boat took us over to a reef off Anacapa island to find a dive spot out of the wind. My kayak trip had kept me out of the water long enough to dive again, and when the boat stayed long enough to do two dives, I went out in my kayak instead of a second dive. I paddled several kilometers west to the very tip of the island. The boat was parked on the southwest end of the island with mild swell coming around from the northwest. The shore was very rugged and steep with no beaches to speak of and no caves at the waterline. I did see one small cave above the water level with a meter or so of sandy beach behind a row of rocks. I considered surfing between the rocks and making a landing. However, there was a half a dozen seals hauled out on the meager stretch of beach and I left it to them. I paddled up the coast and tried to position my boat under a waterspout. Then I paddled past the extreme west tip of the island until I could see just a glimpse of the north side. The waves were largest at the tip of the island and almost gave me a few rides as I turned back. Then the wind and waves pushed me back to the boat in time for dinner and a night dive afterwards.
Every evening the boat would motor back to Santa Rosa Island and anchor in a calm harbor for the night. This always took place late so I never got a good look at the harbor. In the dark all we could see were the bobbing lights on the masts of yachts anchored around us. Then in the morning the boat would head out for the first dive spot before I got up. My preferred morning routine was to get in the water as soon as I could get ready and to catch a few rock scallops. Then clean the scallops and give them to the cook in the galley to make me a scallop omelet with my very fresh catch. After breakfast there would be time for another dive before lunch. At lunch time we preferred our scallops raw dipped in soy sauce and wasabe.
On the second day around noon the boat was pulling up anchor at Santa Cruz Island when a kayak came by. The boat always ties up to two anchors and had to back right up to the cliffs to retrieve one of them. So I was only 5 or 10 meters from the kayak as it paddled by and I noticed it was a Tsunami X15. The guy sitting in the kayak had a big bushy beard and the combination made me think of John Dixon, a BASK kayaker I know. But it was to much of a coincidence to think he would be here so I didn’t say anything. Then a second kayak, a Tsunami X2 came by, and it looked like Joe Petolino’s boat. Sure enough, there was Joe in the back seat and I was seeing a BASK kayaking trip go by! I shouted out “Hey Joe, is that you?” and at first he didn’t respond. Like me he probably couldn’t imagine the coincidence of knowing someone on the boat next to him. On my second hail he looked up and recognized me. He shouted to John, “It’s Mike Higgins!” just as my boat revved up the engine and started to pull away. Over the noise Joe and I couldn’t hear each other shouting and we didn’t get to say another word. My boat pulled away and left them behind. Two ships passing in the night.
On the last day of the dive trip the boat went back to Anacapa Island again. This time we stopped at a place called the Goldfish Bowl, where Erin and I stayed down for a long dive. The shore looked very interesting to a kayaker, so when the boat moved only a kilometer west for the next dive, I figured on paddling back to the Goldfish Bowl. I usually talked to one of the crew members before taking off, but this time the captain himself was walking by. “Captain!” I called to get his attention, then I raised my arm in a salute. “Permission to launch the kayak! Sir!” He rolled is eyes and waved his hands at me to go ahead. Then he came back and talked about my plans and recommended that I stay away from he west point of the island. I recognized the rocks he was referring to, they were the at the extreme west end of the island that I had paddled around the day before. I was getting to explore the opposite side of Anacapa Island this time. This Island is very small and I could probably paddle all the way around it in a few hours. But it is extremely rugged with no good landings. It does have a campground on it and a ranger in residence, but the only way to get to these sites is to grab onto a ladder, climb up to a winch and crank your kayak up after you. The island is known in kayaking circles as being a beautiful place to paddle into caves. As I paddled east along the north shore I poked my nose into several caves. One of the caves went so far back that I wondered if it went all the way through the island. I had been on the other side of the island the day before, however, and had not seen any caves in this spot.
When I made it back to the Goldfish Bowl where I had just been under the water, I found an arch to paddle through above the water. The arch lead to a small cauldron connected to the ocean through a shallow rocky channel. I paddled through the calm water in the arch then sat in the boiling water of the cauldron for a few minutes. When a large enough wave came in I was easily able to paddle out. When I came by on the trip back to the boat I reversed my course and paddled over the shallow “washover” into the cauldron and then under the arch. As I was playing in this area another dive boat motored up and set its anchors. I made it back to the boat in time for lunch, but skipped eating and used the time to go for one last short dive in the water near the west end of the island.