Field Notes: Exploring Catalina Continued

Pretty close quarters sleeping on the boat last night, but all were up and buzzing by first light. It was clear that the weather was going to allow us to cover distance heading out towards the West End point of Catalina Island. Definitely had to rub my eyes a few times to wake up and to grasp the reality of where I was and how we got here.

It felt dry and warm and tropical and we all had an excited energy. It was like the water was yelling for us to come out and play and we couldn’t get ready fast enough to get out there. It felt very familiar to me having lived on Maui for over 10 years, but one look at my pasty white arms and legs quickly reminded me I now live WAY above sea level.

First thing you notice in the waters around Catalina is just how much sea life is here. I don’t know for sure but by the large number of seal and sea lion pups we saw, birthing season was very recent. Mother seals would pop up out of the kelp beds and keep a good eye on us as we paddled past, nudging the curious youngster back with her nose. The kelp bed community was bustling with Garibaldi, barracuda, albacore and mackerel. Water visibility was around 35 feet and we would pass over pulsing jellyfish as they moved through just about every shade of blue imaginable.

Dave spotted a sea cave and charged right in. Whitney and I watched him disappear into it. We rounded the corner and could see all the way in to where he had pulled his board on to the sand, waving us in. Catalina’s topography is dazzling and the walls of this cave offered up a mix of different color stone and minerals with names I won’t even pretend I know. A gap was opening up in my mind between what I know and what I was seeing.

Just as we turned the West End point, the rather phallic looking Eagle Rock exposed itself to us. As Dave and I exchanged the obvious jokes, a playful seal came in between us and was rolling around on the surface. We figure you talk to seals like you would a dog so we were asking him what’s up when he snaps his head around and snags a 10-inch perch. He gave us a big smile and showed the fish off to us before digging out to enjoy his brunch.

After a little miscommunication with the boat that motored ahead for gas, Dave and I got stuck in little death paddle against a current that held us to about a two mile-per-hour pace…for two hours. We ducked into a little cobalt cove to rest and a seal followed us in to see what was going on. He sat at the waters edge as we ate some bars and finished the rest of the coconut water. We figured it was his crib and named him Sigmund. When the boat finally came around Lobster Point to look for us we were ready for food and water and some rest. We hopped in and motored over to Little Harbor to drop anchor. –Ron Ayres

Check out Ron’s first installment here. Check back for more Field Notes from Tahoe SUP Project: Explore this week. Tahoesup.com