October 15, 2013
Pirates Cove, Santa Catalina Island, CA, USA
I awoke this morning to the gentle rocking of Ellie in the slight west swell that wraps around the Casino breakwater on the north side of AvalonHarbor. I think Ellie was getting a little restless being on a mooring for almost a week now; I know I was. I made some breakfast and sat in the cockpit soaking up the morning sun. It was warm, warmer than it has been; this is due to the NE flow brining warmth to the coastal waters from the desert. After breakfast the harbor patrol boat came alongside and informed me that we had to clear out by noon or pay for the next two days; even though this wasn’t the arrangement we had with the harbormaster office, I decided to clear out to sea anyways. I think both Ellie and I were fed up with the chaos and crowds of Avalon. The final straw was seeing two cruise ships drop anchor just outside the harbor….we decided to get out of dodge, and quick.
Within 45 minutes I slipped both mooring lines and pointed Ellie’s bow to open waters. Almost free of the immense minefield of moorings, of course a huge flotilla of idiots on kayaks blocks our path. I keep steaming towards them with a slight optimism that they don’t want to be hit by a 40 foot ship…..but alas, they are idiots, and apparently they don’t understand that they would seriously lose in a collision. I flip the transmission into reverse and stop Ellie in her track so that the village morons can go along on there merry way into oblivion. Dodge the fishing boats, dodge the ferry, dodge the passenger shuttles, dodge the cruise ship, and finally free! Whew! Open water at last. It feels great to be out again. No more noisy harbor, no more chaos; just us and the sea. Felt really great.
I unfurled the jib (because I was just too lazy to raise the full main) and turned off the engine. Ellie was cruising along the warm, flat, clear water at a lazy 3 knots in only 8 knots of wind. We sailed about 40 degrees off the wind and were headed for a point far enough off the island to donate the contents of our holding tank to the San Pedro Channel. – – See when in Avalon, the friendly Harbor Patrol was nice enough to board us and put a dye tablet into our head (toilet). That turns any discharge water bright neon yellow. So if you dump overboard in the harbor, they immediately know about it and you are hung in the public square and they send your boat to the depths….ok, the consequences are probably not that bad, but we didn’t want to chance it. – -
On the way out to the dump site we saw a pod of pilot whales swimming just off our bow. I hesitated about crossing their course but my curiosity got the better of me and we sailed right over them. I got a great video of it!
Once far enough off shore I flipped the switch to the macerator and out went the neon yellow contents, leaving a huge trail of evidence in our wake. We then set a course almost due west towards Pirate’s Cove. Once at Pirate’s Cove we sounded into the bay and dropped the hook in 60 feet of water. I let 200 feet of chain out and then backed down hard – our trusty anchor caught immediately. I let out another 40 feet of chain for good measure and a sound nights sleep and immediately launched the dinghy.
I rowed along the coast sounding the depth with our portable depth sounder and eying the depths below for sea life. The visibility was superb; I could see straight down to the bottom in 30 feet of water! I went close to the kelp beds and saw tons of fish and even a stingray trying to hide in the sand. I got excited and rushed back to Ellie to gather my dive gear. I didn’t even want to take a lunch break so I chowed down a clif bar while throwing my dive gear into the dinghy.
I rowed back to the dive site, dropped the dinghy anchor over, suited up and dove in. The swaying kelp was amazing. The towering kelp stocks extended from the sea floor to the surface even out to 40-50 feet! I cautiously made my way into the dense kelp jungle, being careful not to get hung up. What a magnificent sight to see the sunlight peeking through the swaying kelp branches with fish of all sizes schooling around me. There were many small bait fish of various types, many Gibraldi both juveniles and adults, tons of juvenile kelp bass and even a few huge suckers! Note made that I had to bring my spear gun on the next dive to try and procure one of the big’ns.
Towards the end of the dive I picked a spot against a large rock, deflated my BC and sank to the sea bed. I sat there on my knees for about 15 minutes just observing the fish and immensity of life all around me. Once I was sitting idle the fish actually came up to me out of what I assume was curiosity. It was quite comical because the large Gibraldi came up, then the juveniles, then some more, until they were all swimming up as if to say hello. I watched as a fish worked diligently to remove the sand from around a rock; not sure why he was doing it but I assume it was to find bits of food in the sand around the rock.
I also watched as a kelp clingfish used his unique color, shape and grace to dance in rhythm with the swaying kelp plant. It was amazing to watch him use the plant for disguise. I shot a video of it – see if you can spot him the whole time.
I surfaced with 1500 psi still remaining in my tank because sitting on the sea bed and not moving my muscles had brought on the cold pretty quickly. I rowed the dinghy back to Ellie and off loaded all the gear.
I took a warm shower, soaked up some warm sunshine, sat in the cockpit and read and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
There is little swell running. There is no wind. It’s warm. We are tucked inside a well protected anchorage. I hear gulls, pelicans and seals enjoying a sumptuous dinner to be sure. The only thing missing is my best friend (she is visiting her aunt this week in Newport).
Here’s to the sun setting on another magnificent day in Santa Catalina; and looking forward to what tomorrow has in store.
**Will upload more pics and video when data connection allows**