A couple months ago I was walking through Pismo Beach and spotted a big poster with information on parks and recreation programs in the city. Since I’ve been studying Recreation Management at college this year it reached out and grabbed my attention… I have radar for this stuff now! In reading through everything I spotted an excursion to Santa Cruz Island for $100 a person that included transportation from City Hall to the island and back. Considering the boat ride there and back runs about $79 anyways this was a really good deal especially since I didn’t have to drive anywhere. I decided that I needed to give this trip a shot since I’ve been up to the islands a lot of times but I’ve never actually set foot upon a Channel Island before!
I’ve been out to the edge of Santa Cruz Island a couple times now and it in particular hasn’t been very kind to me. The first time I went there was the middle of the night on a tiny boat to help my friend Evan break the record for that channel crossing. I threw up so much and so hard on that trip that I think I busted a rib because I hurt for at least a week afterwards! With that in mind I was cautiously optimistic that I would fare much better on a much bigger boat.
On Saturday morning Allison and I got our gear together and headed over to City Hall to catch our ride to the Ventura Harbor. Our driver and trip leader Charles greeted us and got our bags stowed away. I had more stuff with me than most because I was hoping to get wet while I was out there. That required fins, GoPros, goggles, swimsuit, towel, etc. Around 7:30am the last members of our group arrived and we got on the road shortly after that. Once we got to Ventura we checked in with Island Packers and then were turned loose to explore until the boat was ready to go. I think this time was built into the schedule with the idea that you could go eat lunch before we left. I’m not that brave. I made sure to eat breakfast really early so as to have nothing fresh in my stomach upon departure.
There was a lot of wind brewing at the harbor and having been out in the channel before I knew it was going to be ugly out there. I overheard one of the deckhands explain the conditions to one of the people on the boat as “chunky” and I’d say that was the right adjective. It was above lumpy but below burly. Luckily the Island Packers boats are big catamaran type things that are reasonably stable and FAST! We jammed out to the island in an hour. I felt nauseous most of the way out but didn’t puke so I was pretty happy with that. Allison on the other hand was having the best time ever! She was all over the boat checking stuff out while I stayed focused on the horizon.
When we pulled up to Scorpion Anchorage I got up and took in the beauty of the island. It really is gorgeous out there. We pulled up to a concrete and metal pier and climbed up a ladder from the boat to get up to the top of it before walking down to the island itself. Allison and I opted to follow a guided hike for a while to get a feel for the island. Since there were older folks in our group we got extra time with the tour guide to chat and ask questions while slower movers caught up to us. Along the way we spotted a Channel Island Fox as well as some burrowing bees.
Up at the top of Cavern Point the tour concluded and everyone scattered. Allison and I parked it right there and ate our lunches overlooking the ocean. The view was fantastic. A salami sandwich has never seen such a glamorous location :)
After lunch we hiked around some more before descending back down to the beach. I geared up with my fins and a bright pink speedo much to the delight of the non swimmers in the area. The water felt like it was maybe 59-60 degrees. Walking out was a little tricky because of the mix of sand and cobblestones, but once I was deep enough to push off it was smooth sailing. I brough my GoPro 3 with me attached to my Enjoy Handplane. It’s supposed to be for bodysurfing but it’s really good for taking pictures while diving too. I kicked down to about 10-12 feet and cruised through the kelp looking for fish. I found a lot of tiny bait fish schooling around. They didn’t seem to mind me much at all. There were also some larger 12″-15″ fish that I found tucked in the kelp that were pretty cool as well.
After playing for a while I heard engines in the water. It was the last boat to the mainland showing up to get us. I made a couple more dives to the bottom and then swam back to shore to dry off and change back into dry clothes. Within 30 minutes we were jamming back to Ventura and the van from Pismo City had us home before 10pm. It was a long day but we didn’t get as much time as I would have liked on the island. The next time I go it’s going to have to be an overnight trip to fully explore the National Park portion of the island and get more water time in.