Channel Islands Crossing: Day Five – Santa Barbara Island to San Nicolas

Posted Feb 11, 2012 in Blog

February 10, 2011

This morning is an early morning for Chris and John.  The Captain and his first mate get up at 430 a.m. to get the boat ready to leave Cat Harbor by 5.  We are going to motor from Cat Harbor to Santa Barbara island.  Today’s crossing is from Santa Barbara Island to San Nicolas.  Shelly, Ryan and I sleep.  They wake us up about an hour before we arrive to Santa Barbara island.  I need to be ready to go when we get there.  It is going to be a 28 mile paddle today.












It is 830 a.m. and I am about to get started.  It is a beautiful day.  The sun is shining and the water is calm.  I look off the side of the boat and see kelp and seals everywhere.  The seals are very curious and stretch their necks up really high to get a good look at us.  I am a little hesitant to get in the water with them.  They are everywhere.  I get the orders from Captain Wyms to get on my board.  “Aye, aye, Captain,” I say laughing as I climb down the ladder to get on my board.  Climbing down the ladder feels like I am being sent to walk the plank. Once I go down… I know I won’t be coming back up for a long time.













I start paddling and immediately see some whales in front of me.  They are not far away.  I am hoping to join them for a while but they are moving a lot faster than me.  I pass over something very large and grey.  I don’t tell the boat.  I am hoping that it is a big rock.  I am still close to the island.  “Don’t start seeing things already,” I tell myself.  So, I come up with a plan.












My plan for today… is to not look too far ahead.  If I look only about five feet in front of my board… maybe my imagination won’t go wild.. Whenever I look too far ahead I see things.  Birds heads bobbing up and down in the distance have a way of looking just like a fin.  I ask the boat if they will have someone always scanning the water from the boat. Maybe I won’t be so worried.













I have been paddling for a while now and I am bored.  I paddle over to the boat and ask Ryan to sing to me.  Ryan has no problem belting out a couple of songs for me while I paddle along the side of the boat.  We talk for awhile.  I am ready to focus again.  I paddle away and put my earphones back in.

The boat spots a shark today, a big one.  The shark is heading towards me and I have no idea.  Shelly and John have both spotted it and they don’t know what to do.  It has a huge fin and they are sure it is a Great White.  They see it surface twice and thrash around.  They do not tell me.  They watch the shark and watch me paddling ahead.  I am really close to finishing todays crossing.  They choose not to tell me.  They are all freaked out.











I finally reach the island and climb back on the boat.  Another crossing done!  I notice that the crew is acting strange.  I don’t know what is going on.  I figure it’s better not to know… so I don’t ask.  Seals are everywhere.  I am drinking my recovery drink and watching the seals from the side of the boat.  I say to Ryan, “it is so beautiful here.  I would live here if I were a seal.”  Ryan responds, “Not me!”  I ask, “why?”  He says, “think about it?  This many seals… means a lot of food for other things.”  I understand what he is saying.  I still don’t know that they had seen a Great White following me today.













We are anchored at San Nicolas. San Nicolas island is the most remote of the Channel Islands.  It is controlled by the United States Navy and is used as a weapons testing and training facility.  We are only allowed to anchor at a certain point near the island.

We are eating another great dinner that Shelly has prepared.  We are having Ahi, rice and salad.  We are listening to boats talk to each other on the VHF radio.  We hear a Warship talking to another boat that is not responding.  We all have a scenario as to what is going to happen if they don’t respond soon.













Captain Wyms says it’s time to have a talk.  He looks serious.  He tells us that we are using too much water and our holding tank from the toilets is 3/4 full which is not the normal amount.  The guys are not allowed to pee in the toilets anymore.  If we aren’t careful… even Shelly and I are going to have to go off the side of the boat.  We are going through everything too fast… water, wine and food.

Tonight’s anchorage is sketchy.  The wind picks up and there isn’t any protection from the wind where we are anchored. Shelly notices that the boat has moved a little and Chris goes up on deck to check it out.  We are dragging the anchor.  Chris and John will have to take turns every hour through the night checking the anchor and our position.  We have a GPS alarm set to wake us up if the boat moves more than a certain amount of feet.  I hear the anchor dragging all night in the V berth where I am sleeping.  I wake up all night wondering if we are drifting.  It was a sleepless night.



One Comment So Far...

Robert C.
March 21, 2014 11:08 pm

Hi Karen, I just watched your vid re: your crossing of the Channel Islands. Very cool and super impressive.

I noticed you haven’t updated your site lately so I am hoping you are healthy and happy.

I’m going to San Nicolas the first of April. They have opened it up to recreation as of 2/14.

I was wondering if you could tell me, or maybe your captain, re: where you anchored and how it was, and any pictures you might have of San Nicolas.

Thanks for considering my request and very best to you and yours.

Cloud Nine
Bowman 57′ Cutter Rigged Ketch

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