Posts Tagged ‘Channel Islands’

Despite one of the worst summers of surfing in recent California history I still managed to bring my surfing back up to speed considering the crapper it took back in June (see blog: Oh That Summertime for more details).  In July I was determined to fall back in love with surfing again.  I found myself for the most part done with my whiny ass self pity and back to my roots: SURFING!!!  I had a few surfing adventures including a trip up north to Surf Beach (see blog: Return to Surf Beach for that story).  I battled the absurd crowds for a few days in Orange County surfing Lower Trestles (see blog: Orange County Can Keep Lowers for that story) and I experienced the adventure of the summer, maybe the year, sailing out with a buddy of mine to the Channel Islands (See blogs: A Sea Going Voyage, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 for that epic tale).

All I can say is that the surf gods gave me lemons and I not only made lemonade, but lemon meringue pie too.  Below are the stats and stand out sessions from July.  Oh, did I mention Rincon broke legit a few times as well?

Number of Session: 23
Days Surfed: 19

Time Spent in the Water: 44 hours
Number of Waves surfed: 634
Waves Surfed Per Hour: 14

 Spots Surfed:

New Jetty: 5
Emma Wood: 4
Rincon: 3
Lower Trestles: 3
Fruit Stands: 2
River Mouth: 2
Mesa Lane: 2
Surf Beach: 1
Channel Islands: 1

Top 3 Sessions:

3. 7/10/11 PM Session: 2-4+ft, Fruit Stands
Time in Water: 1.5 hrs
Waves Surfed: 33
Fruits stands is sort of a secret spot on the Oxnard/Ventura border that everyone knows about but thanks to an inconvenient hike  and no easy way to check it the place is seldom surfed.  This was actually the first time I ever surfed the spot always opting for the more easy access waves.  My boy Ryan called me and said there were killable little bowls coming through and surf enough the place was a fucking chest to head high skate park.  It was a little windy but for a 45 minute window I had a blast.  Did I mention Ryan and I had he whole place to ourselves on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon?

2. 7/5/11 AM Session: 1-3+ft, Rincon
Time in Water: 1hr 45mins
Waves Surfed: 25
Rincon in July!?!???!! I know its crazy.  I heard rumors all weekend that there had been been waves at the ‘Con and not just the usual little long board waves typical of summer, but actual short board-able waves.  This morning with the near negative low tide and some time for a change I thought I would give it a look.  Sure enough there were really fun waist to chest high waves coming through.  I was pumped.  I always forget how good Rincon is, even on the bad days.  I spent the entire session up at Low Indicator and High River Mouth.  If it were winter I would not have even entertained the session but in summertime with near piss warm water and 80 degree sunny weather, why not.  I was burning up in my 4/3 and almost shedded it for the trunks I had in the car.   Have I mentioned how much I love Rincon on this blog yet?  One thing is that will always hold true is that she will never leave me for some unworthy dufuss.  Yeah she is a whore, but she always sets aside her best for me.

1. 7/29/11 AM Session: 4-6+ft, Some Where in the Channel Islands
Time In Water: 4 hrs
Waves Surfed: 39
See Blog: A Sea Going Voyage:  Part II; Quality Ocean Time for details and See Blog: A Sea Going Voyage Part III; I Didn’t Expect that to Happen. 

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 If you missed Part I: Gearing Up or Part II: Quality Ocean Time click the links.

We motored around the corner from Smugglers Cove and passed about three random surf spots that Cit said were of little significance compared to where we were going.  I had to take his word for it being that I had never been there before.  All I knew was I wanted to hop off the boat and take advantage of some of the fun rights I saw.

Pulling up to the actual spot was as much invigorating as it was disheartening.  Here we were out in the middle of the ocean in one of the most remote places around and sure enough there were ten boats in the cove.  One was this half a million dollar yacht from Huntington Beach with about ten guys on it.  They had all the fixings, hot tub, big cabin, bbq, probably a nice galley with refrigeration, a shower, and lord knows what else.

Meanwhile we pulled up on our barely sea worthy sailing vessel with nothing more then a hot plate, a cooler and a couple of boards.  We were pirates as Cit put it and he was not pleased with the crowd situation.  The lineup was easily twenty five guys deep, everybody hassling and frustrated.  You could hear the jeers from the boat.

I decided to cook us breakfast, scrambled eggs and bacon.  Let me take a moment to describe exactly what cooking on a boat is all about, especially in the ghetto ass little galley I had to work with.  I had never cooked on a boat before and all I can say is that it is as challenging as it gets.  Imagine getting knocked around by waves and pushed in every direction while attempting to chop, sauté, boil and sear food.  How I managed to keep from getting burned or lacerated is beyond my comprehension.  Its funny because all the pots are designed to clip into the range so that you don’t have to worry about a pot of hot water or even worse hot oil bouncing off into your face.

I think I made some pretty decent meals considering what I had to work with.  It’s a ton of work.  I kept getting knocked over by waves and was on a constant battle with seasickness.  Cit was overall pumped on the quality of the meals and it’s always good to keep the captain happy.

After breakfast he jumped in and paddle over to the line up.  I hung back to finish my food and clean up the galley.  I sat there and watched as this perfect 6-8ft + A-frame came out of deep water hit the reef and just went perfectly in both directions.  The left was good for about three to four turns before ending up on dry reef.  The right was a perfect wall bowling around the reef with anywhere from four to eight hit sections depending on the wave.  It was not really a barrel but a perfect wall with just enough lip to get gnarly on.  Cit said you could not ask for a more rip able wave and I would have to agree with him.

According to Cit there was a landslide 200 years ago or something like that and it created this perfect reef pass.  He is not a geologist by any means, but he seemed to know his shit about the island.  If you looked at the way the place was laid out there was nothing but sheer cliff all around and then this small rocky beach with a perfect wave in front of it followed by more cliff.  There was enough evidence for me to accept his reasoning.  Truthfully I did not give a shit how it got there. All I cared was that it was there and I was about to rip the fuck out of it.

It sort of reminded me of Hammonds but with out the shifty lineup and a bonus killable left.  The crowd slowly began to thin out as the early morning crew slowly made their way in to eat their own breakfast, “the bacon effect” as Cit called it.  I jumped off the boat and the water was a surprisingly warm, 65 degrees.  Hurting from the previous night I took my time paddling over to the peak.  Cit was sitting way outside and not looking to mix it up with the pack yet I sat with him.  Then a set came in.  Cit went on the first one leaving me out the back and in perfect position for the second.  I turned and burned to the chagrin of everyone out there.  One dude even yelled “way to just paddle out and snag a set wave”.  Shoots I don’t know how he was going to get it anyway if I was in the perfect spot for it.

Right off the drop I did a huge vertical tail free reo, which I recovered backwards in the white water.  I thought I lost the wave but then bottomed turned right into the next section perfectly and banged out another three good turns.  After that wave I hung on the inside and scraped a ton of fun lefts and rights.   I stuck a nice front side air reverse landing nose pick only to spin around staring dry reef in the face.  I bailed and swam up to face to avoid taking the rocks head on.  Still I got worked pretty good on them and learned that urchins live on those rocks the hard way.  I calmed down a bit after that thinking it would not be a good idea to get injured that far away from proper medical attention.

I paddled back to the outside to focus on the sets, but I think the crowd was still rather salty that I snagged that set wave off them.  I got a really nice right super deep off the pack.  This Long boarder tried to paddle on me, but in the process created a perfect section.  I hit it, launched a nice clean three foot backside gap air, landed perfectly on the other side, coupled by a few good hits and finishing with an air reverse in the shore pound.  Upon paddling back out no one had shit to say to me any more about anything.  Instant respect.

We ended up surfing till round two when the wind came up.  A decision needed to be made on whether to hang around for the wind to go offshore and have an evening session or cruise to the Santa Barbara side of the island and go for a hike.  Cit had his heart set on the latter, I really did not care either way, almost wanted to just sail home so I could get back to the Barb.  The ruling was to go for the hike.

We docked in a place called little scorpions that was supposedly a safe anchorage.  Thanks to a sudden change in the wind it became hell on water.  I cooked us up Spaghetti and meatballs as a celebratory meal.  Exploring the island was a total trip.  Turns out there used to be a ranch settlement there in the early 1900’s and as a result the parks department has a chill little museum and old farming equipment set up.  The place really was amazing and I am very fortunate for the opportunity to get there.  On the way back to the beach to claim our skiff and paddle back to the boat we passed this random group of people hanging out.

“Hey, you guys want a cocktail?” a voice chimed.  Well you folks know that one does not have to ask me twice and I think Captain Intoxication who was already five beers deep and a glass of wine felt the same.  These people opened up a cooler that contained a properly stocked bar.  Then they busted out a bit of chronic as well.  At that point I had a feeling we were not getting off the beach.

Normally I’m not one to indulge super hard (ok that’s a lie), but as I looked at our boat getting rolled around in the distance I knew I needed all I could get in me if I was going to make it through the night.  The stars were stunning.  I had not seen a sky like that since my New Zealand days.  Our new friends were hired kayak guides who spend five days on the island, two days off.  In a way I almost envied them.

Cit and I decided to cruise as our wits gradually came back to us.  As we were walking away he tripped over a rock and fell flat on his back.  Some how he managed to miss hitting any rocks.  Good old fashioned drunken luck strikes again.  We sloppily attempted to push our dingy back out into the water through the by then dicey shore break.  In the process we ended up springing a leak in the bottom of the hull.  To get back to the sailboat it was a quarter of a mile row through what now had become some very rough seas.

This was all going down in a beat up five foot dingy.  A few minutes passed and I felt a tingling in my feet.  The first thought that came into my head was “man that was some really good ganja”.  Then Cit yelled, “We are talking on water”.  I looked down and sure enough I was in water up to my ankles and growing.  Luckily there was an empty milk carton in the dingy.  I ripped the top off and started bailing to literally save our lives.  Its shark water out there, the night was cold and we were drunk.  I am pretty sure if the dingy sunk I would have drowned.

The Gods were smiling on us that night cause we got to the boat with the skiff barely afloat.  Immediately we pulled it up on deck and gave it a quick epoxy, during which I passed out.  I awoke to Cit freaking out at around 3am as the boat was getting tossed back and forth by five foot seas.  It was too dark to set sail but way to uncomfortable to sleep.  The two of us sat there in the dark sick from the rocking and drinking, just waiting for the sun.

At 5am we set sail.  The wind was howling and it was a different kind of scene then the previous day’s.  It looked so angry, like a scene out of Hemmingway’s Old Man In the Sea.  The sky was dark gray, the sea a bellowing deep greenish blue.  There were white caps everywhere.  Once under way Cit handed me the till.  He was exhausted and very hung over.  Turns out he did not get any sleep that night.  I was feeling bad too, but Cit definitely needed a nap.

I grabbed the till and held a steady course.  I had to work it so that the boat rode up and down the swells evenly to keep as minimal water from splashing over the bow as possible.  At first it was daunting.  Then I got the hang of it and I was cruising.  It became quite salubrious out there in the wee hours of the morning.  There was not a boat in sight except a giant barge being pulled by a tugboat and visibility was limited.  I could see the island getting smaller behind me and the ominous gray horizon in front of me; my trust was in the accuracy of my compass to get us home.

We moved at a humdrum pace towards Santa Barbara, yet I was ok with it.  I was in need of some time to be alone with my thoughts.  That has sort of become a common theme for me these days.  I am not going to get into that now.  There will be plenty of time to come for Lisanti revelations. All I can say is I cherished every minute of “Quality ocean time” as Cit put it the very first moment we left the harbor.

After four hours I could make out the big while buildings of City College and knew our time away from the stain of man had come to a close.  Cit woke up, came on deck and we lowered the sails.  The sea went completely calm just a few miles from shore and we motored it back to port.  Just like that it was back to reality.  Its good to escape from life sometimes, I do it a bit more often then I probably should.  Its not like my life is real by any means.  Most people are like why do you need to escape?  Lisanti Land may be a fantasy for you my friends out there in internetville but for it is reality and every so often I need a break.

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If you missed Part 1: Gearing Up click here. 

As we motored out of the Santa Barbara Harbor my apprehension quickly turned into excitement and awe.  I had never been on a boat out of the harbor before and I have never been on a real sailboat. There I was first mate on a two man excursion to hopefully score some worth while surf.

Cit immediately began teaching me the names of all the different parts of the boat most of which I forgot leading to his frustration later when asked to do something.  I did actually learn a lot.  I had three main duties: Cooking in the Galley, Operation of the Hook (anchor) and keeping our coarse with the till (long stick used for steering).   Occasionally I had to help raise and lower the sails as well and propeller kelp detail.

The wind was nonexistent for the first 20 miles and it is around a 35 mile shot to the surf spot.  We got a late start no shoving off till after one.  Due to the calm conditions we had nice smooth seas but no wind thus having to use the small out board motor and only making a progress of 5.5 knots an hour.  Slow and steady wins the race.

On the way out we passed buoys laden with seals barking at each other.  The funny thing is I can hear those same seals at night from the patio of my apartment.  It was nice to finally see them up close.  There were all these tourists on kayaks sitting around the buoy staring at them as if they had never seen a seal before.

After about twenty minutes Cit handed me the till and said keep our course on a certain compass reading that I am not going to give out.  It was a warm summer day making visibility only about 15 miles or so thus you could not see the islands allowing navigating by sight to be impossible.  I grabbed the till and at first it was very hard to keep the boat on course with out constantly meandering in a serpentine motion, pissing off Cit.  After about 30 minutes I got into a groove.

We passed the rigs and let me say they are not nearly as nice when you get up close to them.  Most are just weathered boxes on stilts with cranes hanging off them.  I don’t know why I thought there would be more to it then that.  I think I have over glamorized the oilrig life style.  After being near them up close it seems a very solemn life for only the most salty or hardened of souls.  Apparently the majority of them all line up perfectly when you are next to them and it is because they pump along an under water mountain range that runs the channel.  All I know is that I will have a greater appreciation of the rigs next time I stare off at them from the shore.

About 20 miles out Cit yelled “there are dolphins coming up the bow”.  He took the till and let me go up to the front.  I hung off the mast’s suspension cables over the bow and watched and listened to the purposes as they playfully showed us how more capable they are then us at sea travel.  The sun was shinning and the water was the clearest dark blue I have ever seen.  I could not see land on either side of us and I was enjoying the spray on my face as it splashed up over the bow and then trickled down my bare chest sending exhilarating chills through out my body.

I began laughing out loud.  Two months ago I wanted to kill myself over a woman.  A WOMAN! What a waste that would have been.  If it were not for her I would not have even been standing there with the realization of just how wonderful life really is.  The world is an amazing place and I think we get bogged down by life too often and forget all the awe-inspiring things it has to offer.  Two months ago if someone told me I would be hanging off the bow of a sailing vessel playing with dolphins I would have said he were crazy.

There are just so many moments in my life where I just keep expecting to wake from this dream I am living, but I never do.  While everyone else was at Emma Wood getting all grumpy and annul this is what I was doing.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Sorry I had to just chuckle to myself a little more.

 The King of Beers

At our slow pace, even when we were able to get the sails up we still only were averaging 6 knots, making the journey about a 4-5 hour peregrination.  For this duration Captain Intoxication (why he was garnished with this name) kept cracking and handing me beers.  “When in Rome”, plus it made the trip go by much faster.  By the time we got near the Island both of us were ten beers in each and thrashed.  As Cit put it “I may be a drunk captain, but I am a good captain”.  Honestly the guy really did know his stuff.  I was impressed.  Heck we did not die.

Unlike the rigs the Islands are a magnificent sight up close.  Most consist of sheer hundred plus foot cliffs made of black, white, pink, yellow, brown and red rocks, depending on the mineral type.  Some of the cliffs fall right down into the ocean, while others guard black cobblestone or black sand beaches with no other disturbance then the birds. Atop the cliffs are miles of tall yellow grass, cypress trees and just open space.  The whole area is a protected National Park allowing for no development.

There is wild life everywhere.   Seals swim in large packs, twenty or greater and jump out of the water in unison similar to dolphins.  Purposes swim around, sea otters, jelly fish and birds, tons and tons of sea birds of every variety.  It makes you think that is probably what most of the California coast looked like 200 years ago before man ruined it.  It was breath taking.

 Smugglers Cove

We pulled up at a “safe” anchorage, by the Islands standards.  All of them stick out in the middle of the ocean, where the weather is super fickle and all are uninhabited meaning no man made ports.  As Cit put it “we are pirates out here”.  Smugglers was a small cove semi protected by high cliffs on each side of it.  In the middle was this impressive rock/sand mix beach.  Up the hill from the beach was an old Olive Orchard that sill looked rather tame for not being manned in fifty years.  Cit said there was a ranch house up above the orchid as well.  Initially we were going to row into the beach and check it out, but it was already pretty late when we got there.  Then I cooked up some Rose Mary Chicken and mixed vegetables in tomato sauce.  After eating that and washing it down with the bottle of Merlot we were exhausted from the journey, good and drunk and with waning light decided it was better to chill on deck.

I passed out shortly after.  I awoke sometime in the night freezing cold after getting thrown off the seat I feel asleep in onto the deck.  Still drunk I crawled below deck climbed into my bunk and wrapped myself in my comforter.  In that position I stayed till morning.  Getting drunk off beer is a big mistake, probably my worst handover next to tequila.  Cit and I were definitely hurting from the previous night’s festivities.  The surf was on as we could see 3-4 foot south swells rolling past us and crashing onto the rock covered beach.

We hoisted the anchor, which by the way is a pain in the ass to do manually.  It takes so much strength to get the chain off the bottom and it is heavy as hell.  Not to mention it burns the fuck out of your hands.   We let out 75 feet of chain.  Hook detail fucking sucks and now I know why it is the first mate’s job.  Dropping anchor is a bit easier.  All you have to do is steady the line with your hand as it falls into the water to make sure the chain does not pile up on itself.  Finally it was off to the surf spot.

Stay tuned for Part III: The surfing, Island Adventuring and the Trip Home.

The rigs falling in line

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I am going have to postpone this week’s UCB a day or so to write about a “most excellent adventure” to quote Bill and Ted. I was lucky to survive the whole ordeal actually, as my captain put it “if _________ happens you probably wont survive”.  This may take more then one part.  I literally have only been on dry land for a few hours and still feel like I am on a boat, not to mention the fact that I have had in the last three days a total of 10 hours of sleep and being it is my roommate’s last night living in Lisanti Land I promised we would go out to the Wild Cat tonight.  I am going to need a beauty nap at some point before that happens.  We will see how far I get.

A Sailing Trip, with a little bit of surfing and way too much drinking

Being temporarily unemployed is a wonderful thing.  Sure not having a ton of available cash is a bit of a bummer, but having oodles of free time is priceless.  Actually I have been putting a few applications out all over town and have gotten a bite or two, one being very prestigious for an aspiring chef.  I even have some cash work going at the moment as well, but those are blogs for some other time.

Wednesday morning I got a text from an acquaintance of mine who incidentally has a boat and owes me a tad bit of money for some ding work (what else is new, the ding repair business never changes).  “Are you free the next few days” the text read.  I have gotten these texts before and that means one thing: Island trip.  What am I talking about?  The Channel Islands of course, those south swell blocking curses of land that span the length of the coast line of Santa Barbara keeping it flat all summer long.

Those Islands don’t just block the swell they also funnel it in and enhance it at certain surf locales.  This person whom I am going to call Captain Intoxication, Cit for this blogs purposes knows the place like the back of his hand and will stay anonymous as will the actual location where we surfed.  This is to both protect the spot and keep either one of us from being banned from going back.  Also there will be no photos either for the same reason.  Sorry folks, but to make up for it I will try and be as descriptive as possible.

Captain Intoxication (Cit) and His Almost Sea Worthy Vessel

 I have been on stand by all summer long for one of his voyages.  Each time I have been bumped for his regular first mate he has been cruising there with for years.  Finally when I got the call I jumped on it.  I had to move a few things around, but I was not about to let this rare opportunity slip from my grasp.  Cit I found out has a kid on the way in November so life may not grant him the freedom to cut away as much in the future.

Certain influences in my life, those I value rather highly warned me more then once to stay clear of Cit.  I hate having a negative predisposition towards another person on behalf of a third party.  Cit has always been decent to me and never really given any reason not to be trusted.  I needed a pick ax for my garden and he lent me one. I have fixed boards for him and he almost always paid up front.  As far as I was concerned I was willing to entrust my life to him despite the misgivings of others.

After getting to know Cit over the last 48 hours I must say I found him to be an alright guy and I am proud to call him an acquaintance no longer in exchange for friend.  I pulled up to his slip at the docks with two boards (5’11 J7 round pin/5’10 J7 short board), sleeping gear, food for at least 5 meals (frozen chop meat/chicken breast, angel hair pasta, sauce, olive oil, canned vegetables, cookies, granola bars, 4 plums, bacon, dozen eggs, swiss cheese, 1 tomato, garlic, bananas, which went overboard cause of bad luck, a loaf of slice bread and two cloves of garlic, I was after all in charge of the galley), an old, but freshly sharpened santoku knife, 2 gallons of water, two wetsuits and my warmest cloths.  In addition I took along a change of clothes, a camera (never left my bag for fear of Cit throwing it over board), Oliver Twist (yes I am still reading it, I have been busy so get off my back), a bottle of merlot and sun block.  I don’t know why I felt the need to jot down the contents of my provisions, but it may prove beneficial later on in the story.

The Boat

 She floats, was the first thought that came into my mind and truth be told the 25-foot sailing sleuth was although beat up far better then anything I expected.  Once a few years back some friends and I stupidly believed we could get to the Ranch from Gaviota State Beach in an old beat up rubber ducky that was supposedly “water tight” with an electric motor that barely clocked the little boat 4 knots an hour.  This is definitely a good blog for some other time, but long story short we ended up deflating about 5 miles in and had to paddle the vitiate craft in on our backs.  It was a mistake I did not want to repeat again, but left me with low expectations for his boat.

The mast looked solid, the jib was good.  It had a small but adequate two bunk cabin, new radio, GPS, an out board motor, rescue skiff, a small two gas burner range with a sink and life jackets.  She needed a coat of paint, but besides that was more then sea worthy and in the harbor looked rather impressive.  Let me tell the reader that 25 feet is very small when you’re in the open ocean taking swells over the bow.

We stowed all the gear, tied up the sails, battened down the hatches, filled the water and gas tanks and shoved off.  Look for more on the voyage there and adventures from the island in Part II.

The Channel Islands

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