June 2016 From Shore to Sea Lecture: Exploring the Channel Islands by Kayak


I want to thank the park for including
me in their lecture series it was it’s a real honor. I want to start off by
saying in my opinion, my humble opinion I think kayaking the islands is
probably the best way to see the islands. There’s lots of places can’t get to on
foot or even in a boat you actually need a kayak to get into all those nooks and
crannies all those nameless places that are on the map so I’m going to start by
going through my images here from quite a few trips. Started circumnavigating the
islands in 1999 and haven’t stopped since. Been to quite a few places around
the world and I think the Channel Islands are right up there as some of
the best there is to see throughout the globe. This image this first one here
this was a couple years ago this is Willow Anchorage on the backside of
Santa Cruz and see if I can look this here the laser. So I got dropped off
right here at Yellow Banks and paddled all the way along the backside of Santa
Cruz and hit Water Canyon in here at about dark so roughly a 30 mile day by
myself but it was a good day there was no virtually no wind it was yeah sounds
like a long ways but time goes quickly because it’s so beautiful out there
there’s so much to see you just never know what you’re going to see. But in my
opinion this is one of the prettiest Anchorages on the on the back side of
the island, those two big rocky pinnacles there’s nothing like that on the
backside it’s it stands out like nothing out there. This one I call the Pyramid,
that’s a friend of mine that’s Craig Fernandez down there in the on the right
right at the surface of the water and this is actually a big pinnacle between
Diablo Canyon which oh shoot sorry it’s right around here somewhere. It’s a very
volatile area there’s a lot of current in there and there’s been lots of times where we haven’t been able to paddle between the island and that pinnacle it’s just a
lot of water moving around in there so it was relatively calm that day and this
was during a circumnavigation of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. (mumbling) Do we have a light? You can move the map over there in that corner where there’s a light alright okay.
Alright we’ll figure this out sooner or later. So Diablo is right around here so
up towards the west end. (mumbling from audience) Painted Caves right here, oh what, it’s right here, so Diablo is down here somewhere, Willow is over here,
so whenever I do a circumnavigating it’s pretty rough right along here, there’s a lot of water moving around, a lot of time it feels like you’re paddling a river and once you get past Diablo then it kind of settles down typically it’s just a lot of exposure up there on
the west end. But this was a this probably a week long trip and that’s me
going solo from Santa Rosa back to the mainland so that’s Santa Cruz right
there that’s me approaching the west end of Santa Cruz so if you look at the map
I took that shot right about here right out there in the Santa Cruz
Channel and that’s been listed as one of the top ten most dangerous channels in
the world and and the potato patch is right in here and that’s probably the
big reason why that is but on a day like that it was pretty much butter all the
way across so it was actually one of the most boring paddles I’ve ever done it
was about 30 plus miles from Water Canyon, Water Canyon is right here and I
bounced off the island there and then headed right there to home. So it was
about a nine-hour day and like I said it was one of the most boring paddles I’ve
ever done I didn’t see anything other than a rhinoceros Auklet. I’m using a sit-
on-top it’s an old dolphin made by Neki and uh that’s it right there that’s been
the boat of my choice for a long time. Yeah I got really good hatches. (question from audience) Easily yeah yeah that’s me just getting
some lunch on the back side of Santa Cruz there’s some beautiful spots back
there I don’t remember the name of this beach but it was up above just west of
Willow a couple couple anchorages up now oh this is way past Cochise this is
way west of Cochise might be Laguna. This actually this shot appeared on the cover
of Canoe and Kayak Magazine in August 2014 and this is myself and the guy in
the foreground there is Fraser Kersey and then there’s another guy right there
that’s Gericke Babick those are two of my bosses at Channel Islands Outfitters and
this was going to be a trip that they were going to sell to people. The trip
would begin at Prisoners Harbor on the front side of Santa Cruz and then next
stop would be down at Scorpion and you spend the night and then from there you
would go over to Anacapa and spend the night there and so when we did this trip
we started out with 10 guides and 4 of us finished. So the reason being is
because the wind came up and it got up to about 40 knots and we were supposed
to camp on the island on Anacapa but it was virtually impossible to set up a
tent so we slept on the cobble at Frenchy’s Cove and we had to build like
a little fort with all our kayaks because of the wind and a couple of the
kayaks blew off in the night into the water but we were able to get them and
it was so bad, I knew it was really bad because the pelicans there was a couple
of them that landed inside the 4 kayaks. This is about six years ago and two of
the birds just walked right past us and stuffed their heads in the bushes and went
to sleep and uh and then about 4 am it was like somebody shut the window and
the wind stopped and you never saw four guys move so fast in your life they
everybody just stuffed everything they could in their kayaks when we got the
heck out of there and we got to the mainland before it started to blow again. And this is on that same crossing this
is on the way into Oxnard and it’s always nice to see common dolphins while
you’re paddling out there in the open ocean it gives you a little bit of a
warm fuzzy feeling even though you’re all wet. And this is a last November and
this was not a warm fuzzy feeling this is a solo trip and I was heading out the
day before work last November and I got out to the oil derricks and I was riding
on top of a swell and the swell coming at me the next one there was a big
dorsal fin cruising across but I wasn’t able to confirm if it was a great white or
not because I never did see the tail dorsal but it did move like a shark and
made me wake up and put my camera away and just concentrate on paddling, my head
needless to say it was on a swivel but I never did see it again and that you can
see there’s a ship right there so i’m just starting to move through the
shipping lanes. My head I was just looking over my shoulder the whole time constantly. This is a long time ago this
is about 1999 and I’m coming from Santa Rosa into Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel. So right about here so I started out the
morning over here somewhere and then I paddled up Santa Rosa and I was able to
get up on the bluff on my binoculars and look across because you really can’t
tell when you’re that low in the water what it’s the crossing is going to be
like so I got up on a bluff with my binoculars and I looked across and it
was brilliant conditions and and then by the time I got to the island it started to
howl and it was a fight just to get in to Cuyler Harbor but then I had three days
of bliss out there because weather was just phenomenal was beautiful and then
on the return it got horrible again and I flipped the boat over out there in between
the islands and a little bit of a yard sale ensued. This is a photo I call
knowing when to say when and this was probably two or three years ago by
myself paddling I had already gone around the backside of Santa Cruz and
Rosa and so this is day three and I was looking to go to San Miguel but this is
only about three three-mile crossing but it was pretty treacherous I’m about a
quarter mile off the island there, off Santa Rosa, and the wind was starting to
whip up something fierce. The next day it was 47 miles an hour and gusting to 60
and so this is the same afternoon I took that shot the previous shot this is
Arlington Canyon on the front side of Rosa so up here somewhere roundabouts
actually it’s right inside here because that’s Brockway Point so it’s right
inside here and you can see my kayak right here so
that’s it’s a it’s a great spot for a lot of reasons this is where they
discovered Arlington Man, the oldest human remains in North America, so
roughly 13,200 year old femurs that they found up the canyon here and I
could see why whoever that was liked it there pulling a water running down into
this freshwater estuary before it hits the beach and a great lookout but there
are a lot of shoals out here and when the wind the wind whips up and the swell
kicks up waves break out here and that’s what I experienced the next morning. Go
ahead? Arlington Canyon? So it was okay right then but things started to get
rough. This is another trip this is getting out of the wind so over here is
the ocean to the right of the image I that’s myself and Craig Fernandez and we
were paddling up the backside of Rosa so just just before just after let’s see
west of Cluster Point right around here and then between B rock and Cluster Point
so right around here we had stayed here and once you get around south point you
can see whether it’s going to be rough or not the water gets really dark, get a
really good idea what the wind line looks like and that’s what happened to
us we didn’t get very far that day so we hightailed it to this beach, landed, drug
everything over the dune and just stayed right there all day against that bluff
out of the wind, we’re both freezing, we’re both hypothermic actually. Okay so this was a last, year ago last
April, and uh my one of the guys I was with here this guy here, Will Miller and
Patrick O’Hay, they were former they were on the national rowing team and
Will was in the Olympics in 2012 in London and we’ve been doing some trips
together out of the islands and other places and I knew the day we were going
that it was going to be a gale out there and they had aspirations of paddling
around the islands and so I knew that wasn’t going to happen as before we
left the harbor and they weren’t totally believing me but they did once we got
there. Bechers is over here. And I told them when we paddled to the campground
which is over here to the left to hug the island because once you get on your
board you’re going to take off like you’re windsurfing and they almost
nearly missed Bechers the beach there in here and so here’s Will paddling back
into the wind a stand-up paddleboard. So they’re both big strong guys and they
were able to pull it off and Island Packers doesn’t allow hardboards so those
are both inflatables. (mumbling) sure. No. You can’t start a fire in the islands anyway, just
get in a sleeping bag, get in a tent and sit in the sun, yeah. So this is Will and Patrick again, this
is the next day, and this is Cowboy Arch as it’s known and it is right in
here somewhere. This is this is Carrington right here and Cowboy Arch is in
there and it’s not an easy place to get to, luckily it was flat but the wind was
up but we were able to get in there and we were on our way up to Lobo Canyon and
Lobo Canyon is around Carrington and it’s the first anchorage west. It’s
not really an anchorage but it is a cove and you can get in there and hunker down
but it was so cold we couldn’t even stay there so we had to turn around and come
back. Basically it was a gale force wind with sideways rain and… (mumbling) well our gear is all at the campground at this point and we’re just doing a day trip because they
finally realized that we were not going to go around the island so we were
fortunate just to get as far as we could at Lobo Canyon. I took a bunch of it on
my kayak so they didn’t have to because I’m it’s a lot easier for me to paddle
because I’m lower on the water and I have all the hatch space and so I took
most of the gear, they had some on them but I had most of it. This is on the way
out to Lobo so a bunch of sea lions there and they’re always curious, this is
near a place called Coati Point and Coati Point is isn’t really show up on
this map it’s this rocky finger inside of Carrington but there’s a huge sea
lion haul-out there and we were you know way off the point but these are all a
bunch of youngsters and they’re all full of themselves and so
they like to see what’s going on out there. All right so uh this is Arlington
Canyon and there’s a few friends there that I didn’t know they were going to be
there so you can you can see out on the horizon it’s looking pretty nasty this
is the day that was blown 47 and gusting to 60 and I was basically stuck there
and I woke up in the morning and there was these four northern elephant seal
pups cozying up to the kayak and I was trying to figure out what the heck I was
going to do because I needed to be at a guide meeting in a couple of days and
and so it’s thinking should I or shouldn’t I go for it and I went for it.
And the first attempt I got washed the beach and the problem was if you look at
the map this is Brockaway Point and so it was really hard to get off the beach
there and the current and the wind was moving so fast it was pushing me in to Brockaway Point so I needed to clear that to make it around and out and I was
having my doubts after I got washed in the first time really got hammered I got
hit by three or four waves and was on the beach before I knew it so I just
decided to charge it and go right back out and made it outside but between
there and Carrington Point I probably got launched out of the kayak somewhere
between five and ten times. And the weather radio was spot on it was calling
for seven to eleven foot seas and so the interval was really short the troughs
were very steep so I got to Carrington Point eventually and started aiming towards Bechers just to
take a break and got near Coati Point and I was about a quarter mile off the
island and to my left right next to the kayak a wave started to suck up and break
and then the whole ocean in front of me started to boil and so there’s a lot of
rocks and I whipped the kayak around really quick and took two waves full on
back to back and I thought for sure I’m coming out of the boat and it’s just
going to be a mess but somehow I stayed in the boat and I said the heck with the
break at Bechers and I just went all the way across the channel to the west end
of Santa Cruz. Came out of the boat probably another five or six times
especially in the potato patch where it was really rough. My neck was sore from
looking over my shoulder the whole time. Had a leash connected to my paddle so
that was a good thing I didn’t have to worry about swimming after a paddle too,
just the kayak, and finally touched down at Cueva and took a break and then went
all the way to Prisoner’s so it was like a 35 + day. no, no I really don’t want to be
tied to it, I’d rather just swim out it’s pretty heavy it’s not going to get too
far away from me no no no it doesn’t get that far away it’s got food and all my
you know my tent and sleeping bag and pad, all my camera gear and everything
else, water. I had a long sleeve short leg spring suit on with a spray jacket and
that was it, nothing on my feet. So this is actually
the day before that last picture and these were two of my tent mates so there
were no animals on the beach and I pulled in there right before dark and
was pretty tired, pretty stiff, pitched my tent, ate, got my sleeping bag and
wrapped up and there was a full moon that night and I woke up in the middle
of the night and I realized that I could not roll over on my right or my left and
so I had two on my right and one of my left and they were making all the noises
that they make like yeah all kinds of things and they weren’t, they were
totally fine. What it was amazing was the tent didn’t collapse because it was bowing in
all the way and the poles didn’t snap and the one of them I don’t know which
one it was but one of them kept putting its face right next to mine just the
tent wall was separating us but amazingly enough everybody went to sleep
I didn’t need the sleeping bag, there was plenty of insulation and I slept the whole
night. In the morning that’s when I took this picture I unzipped the tent and these
two were right there in the entrance so I went out the back and then there was
probably 50 of them frolicking out in the water, a lot of first year pups, they
don’t make that migration back to Alaska, they’re not strong enough so they stay
put and that’s what these they’re called wieners that’s what they were doing so
very sweet looking teary-eyed puppy dog faces and they didn’t mind hanging out
with me. Well kayaking out to the islands wouldn’t be the same without these
little rascals. They get into everything, the island fox,
they inspect every kayak out, this is at the kayak site at Scorpion
Anchorage, if anybody anybody doesn’t know where that is, that’s it right there.
That’s the most visited spot on the islands and so the foxes are very used
to people and we’re trying still to get used to them. They get into everything so
he’s this one’s looking for food obviously. Yeah that’s what a lot of people
say, they’re only about three or four pounds full size they’ve been on the
endangered species list since 2004 but thinking they’re going to come off the
endangered species list pretty soon here. Carrying capacity is still unknown
there’s about 2500 of them out on Santa Cruz alone and they’re
flourishing out there even though we’re experiencing a drought and right now
there are a lot of foxes out there they are into everything. Unfortunately
they’re omnivorous so out on the island they’re supposed to eat crickets and
mice and land birds and reptiles and things like that but unfortunately
people are careless and guides included. They get they’re smart they’re
crafty and they’re fast. Nothing now. Here’s an island fox doing a little
dumpster diving at the kayak site, have no idea why it was going in the box there
wasn’t any food in there but it needed to go in there and check things out, this
is like its third attempt we kept chasing it out and it kept jumping out
of there. And this kind of shows you it gives you
an example of how nimble, how cat-like they are, this is an old fig tree in the
back end of the lower campground behind the guide site we have our own camp site
out there and last fall there was heaps of figs so these branches aren’t
real strong it’s a quite a balancing act but they have no problem weaving in
between the branches and getting to the choice is fruit; there was also a lot of
birds in there too is a great bird-watching spot last fall. There’s a
guide hard-working, that’s Tam Loren Chase he’s one of the guys for
Channel Islands Outfitters and like I said the foxes they come right up to you
they’re always curious. This photo I call the blob this is Potato Harbor
and it’s right about here on the map, it’s in the marine protected area just
like Scorpion Anchorage is and that’s my friend Craig Fernandez and I we were
coming back down we’re just about finishing a trip coming down Santa Cruz
from Prisoner’s and we pulled in there just because it’s one of the prettiest
places out on the islands I think and we hit the beach and I noticed this bait
ball of fish that was forming in the back end of the beach there and so I told
Craig to just ease his kayak out there and see what happens, see if they congregate
around you and sure enough this bait ball kind of formed around him and
his kayak. I don’t know silver fish or minnows I don’t know. This is also at
Potato Harbor this is during a trip that I was leading I had these four girls
from Taiwan and we’re sitting at a little lunch
spot right here that we made with driftwood and we’re sitting there, eating,
talking, and this juvenile brown pelican just flew in maybe just two or three
feet in front of us and landed right there and the girls were freaking out
they thought that it was going to attack them and take their food and and I
was like no it’s just sometimes they get a little confused when they’re
growing up when they’re trying to figure things out out there and so the bird
just sat there and then I went over and sat next to it and it was just sitting
there and then I started stroking its breast and then I started scratching his
head and his head flopped back and he took a nap and so the girls were going
crazy they were filming all this and they started calling me the Pelican
Whisperer. So when I stopped stroking its head and he woke up and he flew away. So
this is at dawn let’s see here right here if you can see that but we’re
leaving Santa Cruz Island, that’s Anacapa that’s where the sun’s coming up and we
are where is Santa Barbara Island oh ok. Santa Barbara Island is down here so we paddled
from here… tell me about it. It’s it ended up being about 50 miles so that the guy
paddling there that’s Tony Chapman maybe some of you know him he’s been a guide
islands for a long time, close to 30 years at least and Tony asked me about maybe a year and a half,
year nine months ago, to paddle with him to Santa Barbara Island and I told him
I would do it and so we had a plan laid out we were going to leave at three in
the morning and start our paddle across and but then we found out there was live
fire exercises going on and so we had to wait until six o’clock in the morning
and let them finish and so Tony said he would take care of the navigation
portion of the trip and I agreed I trusted his experience being a guide for
such a long time but as soon as we got out there between Santa Cruz and Anacapa
I started having some reservations about the direction that we were taking.
I’ve been to Santa Barbara Island lots of times so I didn’t feel
right and I kept asking him along the way, hey are you sure, are you sure? cuz I
don’t know something doesn’t feel quite right and he was reassuring me yeah
we’re going in the right direction and I was like okay okay. So about seven hours of
paddling I could still see Santa Cruz over my right shoulder and now I was
getting really worried and so I said Tony let’s uh let’s go have a talk with
the navy vessel captain or the tugboat captain that was pulling the targets
they were still out there and so the navy vessel was way off too far away we
couldn’t hail him but we got the guy the captain on the tugboat and he told us we
were heading to too steep we were heading to far southwest when we’re
heading south enough so we were actually heading towards San Nicolas island which
is about 60 miles off the coast and he told us we needed to be heading and we
were going about 147 we need to be going at 126 and that was the direction we
needed to go so we we were both maybe a little deflated it was about one o’clock
in the afternoon and then I asked the captain how many miles more do we need
to go and he said 26 and I was like okay we got to get moving here because it’s
going to get dark. And we had already told the Ranger on
Santa Cruz that we were planning on being to Santa Barbara Santa Barbara
Island at 6pm we weren’t even close. So off we went I started paddling faster
and I thought Tony was going to be able to do the same and I kept having to stop
and wait and then I had to get the nerve to ask him if I could put him on tow so
I could at least paddle at my own pace and he agreed maybe a little reluctantly but I
was glad that he let me do that and so that was about five o’clock in the afternoon
and about six o’clock it got dark and I had my wetsuit on up to my waist and I
just peeled up the rest and was fine and I had to help Tony get into his he had
his trunks on but he was sitting on his wet suit pants so I had to help him get into
those because he was pretty stiff at this point. Tony’s probably he’s Tony 77
now so then he was about 75 and so I had him on tow and we’re going and now we’re
in the right direction but really didn’t have any reference point as to where we
were going and but then the moon popped up the east and it was a nice bright
moon you couldn’t see the mainland for a long time it was really hazy we were way
out there and then and then it got real dark and there was a star in the south
and Tony said if you stay on that star that’s right where we need to go and so
we continued on and I kept keeping an eye out for the beacon that’s on Santa
Barbara Island and I kept it was kind of like being out in the desert where you see
things that are not really there and I kept thought I was seeing a light Oh kept thought I was seeing a light and it
would be there and then and then there was nothing and then I would see it
again and then there was nothing and I was going oh well I’m going cuckoo,
tired, hungry, and then about eight o’clock at night I felt Tony’s line goes
slack behind me and I thought it had snapped and he came up behind me and he
said it just came untied and he needed to retie it and so while he was doing
that I didn’t realize that he didn’t have a leash on his paddle and while he
was retying it he dropped the paddle in the water and it was gone it was a you
know black shaft with dark red blades and so right when I was about to lose my
mind I turned and looked and I saw Sutil Island which is this this big
giant rock outcropping just southwest I’d say it’s about an eighth of a mile
off Santa Barbara Island and that’s what I was looking at and but I couldn’t see
Santa Barbara Island it was covered in fog and I was looking for the beacon and
so I was asking him, are you seeing what I’m seeing, because we were still about
eight miles away and he says no I don’t see anything and I was like Tony you’ve been spotting dimes on the water all day today you, don’t telling me you
don’t see this and then he saw it and and then we were both very you know
relieved and happy and all that and while we’re paddling you know we could
hear the rangers on Santa Cruz and the seabird biologists on Santa Barbara
Island they were really concerned for obvious reasons. And so I when we figured
out we were there and we saw the island and the fog moving around and I saw the
beacon I was like okay I can do this last eight miles with him with no paddle,
go ahead? (mumbling) yeah we’re low on the water we could hear them they couldn’t hear us we
tried them eventually we did reach a boat we don’t know where it was but they
relayed a message to Santa Barbara Island and so it took me
another two and a half hours to paddle that eight miles so it ended up being
about a 50 mile day 17 hours on the water and six hours of towing in the
last two and a half hours with no paddle for Tony. (mumbling) he had the compass he had
the compass and we were using that star that southerly star. No. So the seabird
biologists were terrific they were right there at the dock there’s a landing dock
there there’s no beach there there’s no beaches on Santa Barbara Island so Tony and I
were pretty stiff when we got up the ladder, I had to help Tony up the ladder
and they were kind enough to let us sleep in the bunkhouse, we didn’t have to
pitch tents or anything at midnight. I got pretty early next morning made
Tony get up so we could paddle around the island so I could take pictures. He was he was uh he complied he was a good sport and uh that’s Tony out there on a
lunch break don’t ask me where we just out there somewhere between the islands. That’s long before he lost the paddle. (mumbling) Right, there’s two kayaks on the dock and
there’s a little boat house there and so they have paddles there and we just
borrowed one but this is during the paddle this is midday and we’re getting
lunch. (mumbling) sure, that’s right, it’s a good job. (mumbling) No, we borrowed a paddle to go around the
island and then in the next that day was Island Packers’ last day to come out to
Santa Barbara Island and that’s what we took in to the harbor. We didn’t paddle
back but I will say if I didn’t see Santa Barbara Island
by 10pm I was going for the coast that was my only choice so that would have
been probably a 90-mile day and I wouldn’t have got there until the next
day obviously if I had been fortunate enough I was pretty tired at that point.
So this is Sutil Island, this is just off Santa Barbara Island and there’s uh there’s
Tony being a good sport right there and we paddled around the island which is beautiful,
it’s it’s Santa Barbara Island is only one square mile, it only takes you know an
hour and a half to two hours to paddle all around it. And there’s Tony sea lion
rookery there is amazing it’s arguably one of the most entertaining rookeries
there’s thousands of them on the on the south side or the southeast side of the
island. So that’s a this is on the southeast side on so there’s a blowhole there
that works like a fire hydrant when the swell is running and there’s a good
south swell running and so the sea lions come and go they kind of use it to cool
off in get up there on the bluff and they bask in the sun and then they come
down and they wait for the blowhole to fire off and it blows it fires off all
day when there’s a swell like that. I think that’s it. So if you guys have any questions I’ll…
Yeah we’re gonna open up for a question-and-answer period again just
wait till I bring the mic to you, I know it was a little bit of a different thing
during the talk but just wait until I bring the mic to you and then ask your
question. What do you have against having a GPS? It’s kind of the same thing with
my film camera, I don’t use digital so… Using the compass is I don’t know like the old
school way I guess. I’m curious about your selection of a sit-on-top versus a
sit-in. Ah good question so I do a lot of photography from my kayak and the
closed deck boat is rather restricting; sit-on-top I can move around in it, I can
move all over it if I want to, so I just keep my camera gear in my lap in a dry
bag, I don’t use a housing, I just throw a leg over either side of the kayak and
that also enables me to stabilize the boat that much more especially when it’s
windy out, some of those shots you can tell I took in the chop and so to sit on
top it’s just more I feel like I’m in more control. You in Arlington Canyon
you’d mentioned the the freshwater estuary and I was curious if are there are
there spring-fed creeks or is it just run off creeks during the winter? There’s a
lot of springs out there a lot of natural natural springs out there. If you
know where to go and I do most of the spots I don’t need to bring much water
with me at all even in a drought year there’s still plenty of water out there.
That’s a ye, Arlington Canyon that spring that’s a year-round deal there
and there’s several other places like that too. Do you have to notify the Park Service
where you’re going to go ashore and spend the night or can you just stay
anywhere on the island? No you can’t stay anywhere. Santa Cruz Island most of
it’s owned by the Nature Conservancy and they don’t want anybody camping on the
island but over time I’ve been able to just paddle the whole length of Santa
Cruz and then over to Santa Rosa Island and Santa Rosa Island certain times of
the year allows beach camping at certain spots so some of those spots so… this
time of the year March through September there’s no landing, no camping or
anything like that at Skunk point because of Western snowy plovers and then once
you get up here once you get East Point you can you can camp there and then
along here you can camp and then once you get up here you have to pick your
spots you’re not supposed to camp where there are seals and sea lions hauled out
and because there’s so much overcrowding of that out on San Miguel especially
northern elephant seals they’re starting to colonize the backside of Santa Rosa
there’s a colony at Cluster Point and then there’s several fingers out here,
Sandy Point and there’s some nice beaches there and they like to haul out
in there too. You don’t really don’t see elephant seals much at all on Santa Cruz
Island, every now and then you get one that’s off course and it’s usually a
youngster when we see maybe one or two a year that make it there by accident but
San Miguel has a campground and that’s a about a 24 mile paddle to go all the way
around the island so that’s very doable. Yeah when you’re paddling out there
sooner or later you’re going to run into some big wind it’s just there’s just no
avoiding it. Some trips are better than others. So I
kind of have a follow-up to that so if you do get in trouble how does the Park
Service feel about you taking shelter? Um well I don’t know how it happened when
we had to camp at Frenchy’s I let my bosses handle it they talked to whoever
at the Park Service and they were fine with it, I mean they would rather us play
it safe, you know, and if it was rough like it was it was blowing 47 that day they would
rather we pitch it right there on the rocks. We didn’t pitch any tents or
anything we’d slept out we just barricaded ourselves in with they kayaks best
we could and stay out of the wind so they understood I think for the most
part. You’re obviously a world-class athlete most of us they go out to the
islands we go for the day and explore the sea caves and this kind of stuff;
I’ve assumed that you’ve been in most all of the caves and you probably have
some wonderful wonderful pictures of those. I do. It was sort of expecting to
see more of that today but it was a wonderful talk, thank you. Thank you. I’ve
been in a lot of the caves. There’s well over 200 documented sea caves between Anacapa, as small as Anacapa is, there are a lot of great caves out there and then of course
Santa Cruz. There’s nothing on the backside not too much maybe one or two
but all up along here there are some massive grottoes. Got to be really
careful especially the further west you go you get a lot of exposure up there
the wind and swell and you don’t want to get trapped inside some of those caves, they
got some real deep chambers and you really have to be on the ball when you’re
caving. Um when you’re with the island foxes and
can you touch the island foxes? That’s a good question you shouldn’t touch a wild
animal a lot of times they come up to you, they’re not afraid, the Chumash used to keep them as pets, so there is something there, there is a connection
there. But they will come right up to you, I’ve been lying in my tent and I have
all the fox prints to prove it, they literally walk right up the wall of the
tent and got up in between the rain fly and the roof and I’m just lying there
looking at them going ‘it’s just me in here’ you know there’s no food in here
but they’re so curious and they’re so adept you know they’re so cat-like they
literally walk up the wall of a tent like we walk up a flight of stairs it’s
nothing for them. Have you seen any of the sea stars coming back the knobby
ochre sea stars? That’s a good question, have been seeing a few I’ve seen a few out on a Scorpion
Rock right off the island here, Scorpion Anchorage and a few along the
way out to Potato Harbor so you know within the Marine Protected Area but it
isn’t a lot it’s just a few I would say no more than 10 I’ve seen the last few
trips but they seem more visible when the tide is really low. I don’t know the name
of the parasite but a parasite wiped them out and it’s been a couple years
now. Denso Virus, if anyone’s curious. Thank you. Have.. is this on… have you had any encounters with close
encounters with whales or sharks out in the open sea? I’ve never seen a great
white out there I have had a really cool encounter with gray whales paddling from
the middle of winter- it was February- I was at the campground here and I was on an
assignment for Backpacker and I was doing these hikes to East Point and
Cherry Canyon and I told myself if it looked good I was going to go and head
home and it was nice and glassy and I could see the whales out in the channel
and so I paddled, took off, and there was two adults with a calf and I didn’t
approach them they approached me and at one point the tail of one of the adults
was underneath my kayak and the calf was in between the adults and they were
basically sunbathing on the surface they were there they’re really mellow they
were just barely rolling on the surface and then I just continued on, hit some
Risso’s dolphins and then headed for the coast. Still waiting for that killer
whale encounter in the kayak. So what’s the longest you ever paddled in one
stretch, the longest in terms of distance and hours? That would have been Santa
Cruz Island to Santa Barbara Island. Should have been a 42-mile paddle it
ended up being about 50 and that was about 17 hours. Too long. I do I always
wondered about you know the length and the time doing that especially with
everything that happened and about a month after our trip I read an
account in Canoe and Kayak Magazine about a guy named Matt I’m going to
butcher his name its Crieson or Creisen and he’s a sea kayaker up in a
Half Moon Bay and he did the whole California coast in 36 days and so he
finished a month after our trip and in his account he said the hardest
stretch or one of the hardest stretches of his trip was the stretch from Santa
Cruz Island to Santa Barbara Island. It took him 15 hours and he was in a closed deck
boat 18 and half feet long so he had a real sleek boat and he didn’t have to
tell anybody so I felt a bit better after knowing what I endured with Tony
and I endured. I might have missed it but what do you
do when you’re not kayaking for fun? Well I’m a lifeguard in Carpinteria and I’m a
kayak guide out on the islands and then I’m also an editor of a surfing/ ocean
related magazine called Deep and then I do a lot of freelance writing and
photography for lots of different magazines and newspapers, websites. I looked at your kayak and I thought that
wouldn’t have room for all the food I’d want to eat, what kind of food do you
bring to pack enough food for these extended trips? Um kind of big on dry
salami and dry cheese and crackers and dried fruits, I like dried mangoes and
instant oatmeal, get freeze-dried mangoes and bananas and other things and trail
mix and there’s some good freeze-dried meals that a company called Mountain
House I believe they’re really good they taste good I mean it’s not one of those
things where you have to wait you’re so hungry that you can enjoy it,
it actually it tastes good, so there’s some good stuff out there actually. I
always like to have especially when I know I’m going a long ways I like to
have a lot of stuff right on my chest so pockets in my vest or stuff down between
my vest and my chest I like chews and things to keep my mouth moist while I’m
paddling, something I can just suck on and then plenty of fluid so I’ll use
Emergen-C or some other you know energy drink and try not to stop just keep
throwing down keep something in my mouth and keep moving forward. So like that day
I paddled from Rosa back to Carpenteria I never stopped because I was a little bit
wigged out you know just because of great whites and things like that
and then of course the ships. Of course when you’re crossing a channel you know
the worst thing is the fog. The first time I paddled across the channel I was
with three other guys and the fog rolled in right about here and everybody wanted
to quit and I was like no we’re not quitting we’re going and we got out here
just before the shipping lanes and this image showed up out on the horizon and
it looked just like Anacapa Island, I was like oh my gosh look how fast we drifted
and you know it was the fog it’s just like being out in the desert again it was
just playing tricks on our mind and we were really moving fast I thought well
we’re really this current was ripping and next thing you know here the ship came
into view and then there was six more like it and the last one we hailed on
the radio and he told us exactly where we were right eight miles off the
middle of Santa Cruz so we didn’t see the island that day until we were about a mile
away it was just talk about monotonous paddling in the fog it’s just really old. So there’s a bunch of us here who are
sailors and we’ve been out and about and we know how fast it can go from flat
water and no wind to 20 miles an hour, so what’s your worst experience along
those lines because you had to have had at least one where you thought you were
going to die? I don’t know if I could ever say I thought I was going to die. I
thought maybe something could happen where I could lose the kayak and I’m gonna have
to swim for it but I never think I’m gonna die. No. You know, I don’t
know what to tell you, I just put my head down and get it done. Well the biggest
stuff there’s a guy sitting in the audience here his name’s Dave Glazier, he’s
right there, he and I got in some nasty stuff. We got stuck
and we were on Santa Cruz and uh we were out at Fraser Point and we had to get
out of there it was going to blow for days and I was like we’re not staying
here we’re going and we needed to avoid this right here- West Point- and we were
right here and so we needed to get out and away so we didn’t get swept into
that cliff because it’s it’s a nasty-looking cliff it’s a, it looks like
something out of Lord of the Rings and so we needed a paddle into the wind, into
the potato patch it was about 6 to 8-foot the surf and uh needed to paddle out
and then just make a hard right and then just ride it down. That was pretty heavy
and then the heaviest stuff I think was just that solo paddle around Rosa and
then getting trapped at Arlington Canyon and and trying to get off the
beach. I really had doubts I was going to get off the beach, especially
after I got washed in the first time and stuff was all over the place, I lost a
whole bunch of stuff, I found it but I had to reattach it and make sure and
then just paddle like there’s no tomorrow. And then again around
Carrington and where I almost got destroyed at Coati Point I thought I’m
gonna take a real beating here and I wanted to rest but I was just like I was
so freaked out I was like I’m going anyway I’m going all the way to Santa
Cruz right now I don’t care I just wanted to get out of that spot it was
really a scary spot to be in. Have you ever have you ever needed a water
purifier for drinking the water out there? No I’ve always just drank it. Well thank you everyone for
coming tonight let’s give another round of applause to Chuck here. Thank you.

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