Channel Islands Crossing: Day Eight – The Final Channel

Posted Feb 14, 2012 in Blog

February 13, 2011

Photo By: ©Shelly Strazis

I wake up early this morning feeling excited and nervous.  This is the final crossing and the longest and most difficult channel.  I will be paddling from Anacapa to Santa Barbara Island.  I lay in bed and think about the day ahead and how it needs to go. I know it’s going to be long and challenging both physically and mentally.  This is the last day.  This is it.  I feel good and know that I can do this. It’s not an option not to make it. The weather is starting to change and I have to make the crossing today or we risk running into bad weather in the days ahead.

I climb out of my sleeping bag at 530 and start making my breakfast and getting my CamelBaks packed for the day. The crew is up early readying the day’s gear in silence.  I am silent and focused as well.  This is one of the biggest days of my life.

It’s 630 and Chris tells me it’s time to go.  I climb down the ladder for the last time to get on my board.  Shelly, John and Ryan are in the dingy again and want to get some pictures of me paddling along the cliffs of Anacapa.  The rocks look similar to Cabo and they are envisioning how beautiful the photos will be.  I know the pictures will be cool but that is not my focus today.  I want to get started.  The boat senses my focus and decide it’s time to let me go.

Photo By: @Shelly Strazis

Looking at my watch I notice that I have almost paddled a mile already trying to get close to the cliffs for photos.  I know every mile is going to count today and I am a bit frustrated that I am wasting time.  I could be a mile into the crossing… but I haven’t even started yet.  I realize that the wind is not in my favor.  With side winds of 10-15 knots, rough seas and strong currents… it’s going to be a battle.

Photo By: @Shelly Strazis

I turn on my music and start the crossing.  There is no time for complaints today.  There is no time to waste.  I have a long day ahead. The conditions are challenging but my mind is where it needs to be.  I fight with the conditions for awhile and eventually work myself into a rhythm.

I have been paddling for a while now.  I look off in the distance and see a fog bank.  It creeps in quickly and completely envelopes us. We become almost completely invisible.  It is eerie.  We are concerned about the Cargo ships.  We slowly creep along using radar to guide us. As cargo ships pass in front and behind us, stress overcomes the crew. Despite the blind chaos, I stay in a rhythm.  It is a relief when we break through the fog.







I have been paddling for about 5 hours now and boredom is setting in.   I see the boat is hooking something up to the boom and so I paddle closer to get a look. They tell me they are going to hoist Shelly and Ryan over the side of the boat in a harness on the boom.  This is a great distraction. I start laughing and ask if this is really a punishment from Captain Wyms for stealing rations. He has been threatening to “keel haul” us the whole trip.  To be “keel hauled” means to be tied to a rope that loops around underneath the boat.  It drags you from one side of the boat and across the bottom, across barnacles, until you eventually pop up on the other side.












I have been paddling for about 8 hours now.  Chris signals me to the boat. He tells me that we only have 3 hours left of daylight.  I need to speed up or I’m going to be paddling in the dark.  To realize that I have another 3 hours of paddling shocks me.  I thought I was closer.  Chris tells me if I don’t speed up there is a chance I won’t make it.  I need to keep my pace at about 5 mph for the rest of the day.   I paddle away from the boat in tears.  I stay away from the boat and try to get back into my head. This is it… make it… or not.

I know deep down inside that nothing is going to stop me. The dark isn’t going to stop me and I have gotten over my fear of sharks.  If a shark messes with me now… I am ready to beat it up.  I speed up knowing that I have to keep this pace for over 3 hours.  I can see Santa Barbara island getting closer but it is starting to be a fight against the setting sun.











There is an amazing sunset now and I am watching the bright pink sun sink into the sea.  It is beautiful. I become very calm even though I know that it’s going to be getting dark fast.  The boat is worried about me as I paddle along in the dark.  They are worried about sharks.  I can see Shelly looking at something ahead in the water.  There are seals everywhere and I know this means that I am getting closer.

The boat stops and I am worried that Chris is going to tell me that it’s time to get in the boat and that it’s too late and it’s time to quit.  I look over confused.  Chris tells me to look up.  I am still confused.  He says, “you’re here… you made it!”  I don’t believe him at first.  I look ahead and can’t believe it… I made it.  I am at Santa Barbara Island.  “I can stop paddling now?” I say.   Everyone on the boat laughs. “Yes, you are done… unless you want to keep going?”

I drop to my knees on my board.  I can’t believe it.  Eleven hours and twenty-two minutes and 43 miles of paddling in side and headwinds. I am done.


They help me on to the boat and hand me a beer…a “Simpler Times”.  It is the beer that the crew has been drinking the whole trip.  It was indeed going to be “simpler times” from here on out.     THE CROSSING: VIDEO





February 19, 2012 2:19 am

Hi Karen,

Well done again fellow crosser. another year and another crossing.
We are proud here in Maui.


February 23, 2012 6:44 pm

you rock!! love this blog–this is what it’s all about. challenging yourself. and you did it!! you deserve this after a cold Oregon winter!!

good for you!! mucho congrats!!

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