On the eve of my first kayak crossing and camping trip to Catalina, I thought
it best to call on divine intervention to help me on my journey and
called on the Tiki God Wave-Ra to watch over us.
Who's to say he wasn't at least partly responsible for our excellent adventure!
It was 4:45am when I pulled up in line behind Duane Strosaker at our launch site at Cabrillo Beach and the adventure started quickly. Behind me, Steve Wilson and Bob McMurray completed our group, or did they! The gate was to be opened late to allow for LAPD to be on hand to check for contraband on this Independence Day launch. As we waited a young man named Patrick came up and asked me where we were headed. I told him Catalina was our goal and he went on to ask me if I knew of this guy named Duane Strosaker! He'd been reading about his Catalina adventures and was planning to head there as well! We introduced he who needs no introduction and he waylaid a passerby to get a photo of himself and Duane and deigned to let us in on group shot. Not the first time I seemed to have lucked into Duane's fame!
We not being tea-totalers, three of us were packing various spirits of a medicinal nature to ease the aches and pains of a long crossing. Some medicinals are quite tasty mixed with lime juice. But the cops were making their way down the line checking cars for fireworks and coolers for alcohol. Upstanding citizen that he is, Duane informed the officer that he did have some tequila, but that we were on our way to Catalina where it could cause no harm. He was soon fertilizing the near by plants with agave extract. Next up, I produced my cooler for inspection, but some how, my pint of tequila must have "accidentally" found its way into a dry bag. The cop may have had some questions about the pint of lime juice I was carrying, but perhaps the bottle of Pepto Bismol in my cooler convinced him to stop looking.
We were about to launch and it turned out that Patrick and his friend had their SOTs ready to go as well. I think they were hoping to tag along with us, but I think Duane explained we were somewhat of a closed group. He told them they were welcome to follow us, but they'd be on their own. We made a quick launch and as we slipped into the misty horizon, I'm afraid we saw Patrick's group having a bit of trouble in the surf and we hoped them well on their journey.
This was my first paddle in a loaded kayak and despite my nerves, my stomach was nice enough to give me the morning off!. Heading out through the waves through what was at best a three footer, it was interesting how the bow plowed right through. Once underway my newbie overloaded boat didn't really seem too hard to keep up to speed and I was glad to be under way. Conditions were great and Duane's crossing procedures seemed to make the crossing go quickly and at about an hour out from Catalina, Duane let me lead the group on in to Lava Rock Beach.
Wave-Ra leads me to Lava Wall Beach
We had some boat campers at the site who were taking up most of the beach, but
they gladly rearranged things to give us some room above the tide line. Free
spirit that I am, I chose a small, secluded patch of sand for my tent away
from the others. Heck, I borrowed the tent, who cares about high tide lines!
We had landed at 12:15 for a 5 hour and 45 minute crossing and we were in for the night, so we hunkered in
by the slight shade of the cliff to rest an eat and chat about the crossing.
With the giant cliffs, it seemed natural to think we'd get some shade, but the sun gave us no quarter, so we searched for shade where we could find it and alternately resorted to the cool ocean water for the ultimate cool down.
As I hunkered down in a shady cave, Bob headed in to the briny wearing his diaper and sipping a cold tequila.
Pull up a rock!
We were happy for the sunset and the chance to sit through the cool evening. Our
boating neighbors left for some evening fishing, but expressed concern before they
left about my tent site being below the waterline, but Duane felt I was safe and
besides, it wasn't his tent either! We all slept well, although I woke to the
neighbors shooting off a couple Aerial fireworks from their boat and notice the
larger waves crashing on the sand and the water making its way up to my tent. On top
of a six inch air mattress, I was safe, but the sand all around my tent was wet in
the morning and I was glad I'd tied my kayak up!
The views from my tent
In the morning, we all launched separately for the paddle to Twin Harbors carrying our used WagBags on our poop decks. I took my time enjoying my first exposure to the Catalina coastline. The crystal waters clearly showed the alternate world beneath my kayak and there were plenty of rocks to play around and scrape more gelcoat off my hull. Three of us met up inside a cave where Steve had stopped to rest in the shade and we all traversed a narrow tunnel out, glad for the calm sea state. We met up with Duane and continued on to town.
A nice surprise at Two Harbors was to be greeted at the cantina by Dave Houser.
He supped with us an treated us to a tour of his hoity toity Yacht club where if
your blood is the right shade of aquamarine, after about a ten year wait list you
can join and stay in a nifty little room in the converted civil war barracks house.
He invited us to a evening rib-roast, but it was too late for us so we hung out for
a while enjoying the local bikini clad fauna.
Trying to conserve my energy for the next day's crossing, I paddled home alone while the other three hugged the coast looking for more excitement.
Bob and Steve returning from Two Harbors
For our final night, we enjoyed a much cooler evening. The daemon rum
nearly had Steve washed up on a rocky shoal, but he managed to survive
long enough to down most of three MREs. Apparently alcohol makes them very
tasty! Most enjoyed a second dinner when our neighbors offered us some of
their dinner and Duane said he really enjoyed the ribs and something that
was either a potato or corn on the cob! Yeah, alcohol will do that to you!
We had a beautiful sunset and another fire works show from Two Harbors way.
Wave-Ra came to my assistance once more by weakening Duane's resolve for a 6am launch, making him cave in to the request for an extra hour. Once again I wondered about the crossing and how my two night bivouac would affect my paddling. But by my second hour on the water, things seemed fine and we settled into a nice pace.
We stopped for a while to watch some dolphins and birds feasting on something in the water, but all we could see were floating fish scales. While I was in the lead, I spotted a shark that seemed to be following us, that Duane guessed was probably a 6 foot Blue shark. No man eater, but my first shark sighting at sea. We looked for blue whales, but despite the excellent conditions, came up empty. We paddled home under a dense cloud cover over a dead calm sea and hit the beach at Cabrillo in 5 hours and 15 minutes.
It was a great trip and full of firsts for me. The conditions we enjoyed and
the times we crossed in seemed great for a first timer. Some may chalk
it up to luck, but it seems no coincidence that everywhere I went, Wave-Ra
was leading on my bow. I think we owe him an offering, but sacrificial virgins
aren't easy to come by these days!
More Catalina Photos