Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kayaking the Channel Islands Guys/Couples trip 2010

Thanks to my knee injury I could not do Rainier as planned. Bram and my brothers didn't want to go without me. I told them they should go anyway but I was secretly glad they didn't. Hopefully we can all go next year. We had to come up with a Plan B for this summer. We decided to Kayak to the Channel Islands, not as epic as climbing Rainier but pretty epic none the less.

I have a friend who kayaked with a group, the 12 miles to the first island, Anacapa. In an effort to one up them I decided we should shoot for the second island, Santa Cruz. My friend put me in contact with the guy who led his trip so I could get some advice. When I told their leader of our plans he didn't think it was a very good idea on our first time out.

"My first time it took us 10 and 1/2 hours to get to Anacapa. We arrived in the dark. You guys are biting off quite a bit. Are you all pretty experienced on the open ocean?"

"Four of the five of us have never even sat on a Kayak."

"If I were you guys I would shoot for the first island at best."

"Well, we kind of like to get ourselves in over our heads."

"I think you've done that."

He went on to tell me about the low morning visibility and then the afternoon headwinds and finally the currents that surrounded the islands. All of which were likely to hinder our efficiency. He helped me chart a course that included aiming for an oil derrick when we left Oxnard, then to the east tip of Anacapa, along it's four mile shore line, then from the west tip of Anacapa to the east tip of Santa Cruz finally into a fierce head wind along the shore line of Santa Cruz to where we could camp at Scorpion Bay. He said it would be at least 22 miles, a true epic. Then he wished us luck.

I had to do my usual overstating of our abilities to get the blessing of the charter boat that was to pick us up on Santa Cruz.

"That's a pretty long paddle and there is some pretty stiff wind forecasted for that day are you guys all experienced."

"Oh yeah, we do this kind of thing all the time."

"So you guys certainly have a portable V.M.S."

"Yes, of course." (I googled it as soon as I got off the phone and still have no idea what she was talking about.)

With that let the trip log begin.

Maybe the most incredible feat of the trip was fitting five kayaks on a short bed truck without any special racks. It took us until 1:30 a.m. and we had a 2:45 wake-up call. That meant we were all going into the epic on an hour of sleep or less.

Three out of four Smart brothers ready to sit in a kayak for the first time.

Leaving the harbor for the open ocean.

Free on the open sea.

Finally nearing Anacapa.

Finding a place to beach for lunch was tricky, this was about as good as we could do. Beetle managed to roll his kayak while trying to beach and had to be rescued by Rocky.

Rocky's rescue efforts led to multiple flesh wounds.

When Bram beached he got cut up as well.

Bram exploring a sea cave on Anacapa.

The lunch party got broke up by the Ranger. We convinced him we were capable of getting to the next island and he finally left us alone. But ten minutes later he was back with word of strong winds ahead. He kept asking us the same questions over and over.

"Are you guys all experienced?"


"Do you guys know what a it's like to paddle into a 10-knot head wind?"


He didn't seem to be buying it. Maybe it was the rental numbers on the sides of our kayaks. Beetle couldn't take the pressure and finally came clean with him.

"Actually four of us had never ever sat on a kayak before this morning sir. He's the only one with any experience." (Pointing to me)

The Ranger then proceeded to scald me like I was in junior high.

"You brought four totally inexperienced kayakers all the way out here in scramblers and camping gear. " (Scrambler is the type of kayaks we rented, apparently they are not intended for open ocean.)

He then asked for a emergency contact number. I gave him my home number where all five of our wives were staying.

"I'm going to call your wife and tell her that I saw you and you were alive and had made it this far and that I urged you to accept a ride to Santa Cruz from us, but you guys refused help despite my warnings of strong winds ahead."

Thanks Ranger, that ought to put them all at ease.

Just as we had finally convinced the Ranger to leave us in peace. The rudder on Beetle's kayak broke, making it almost impossible to steer. Beetle didn't waste any time in making a decision.
"Excuse me Mr. Ranger, are you guys still going to Santa Cruz? Do you think I could get a ride?"
About two hours later we would all be wishing we had broken a rudder.

This is Beetle's kayak getting loaded into the Ranger's boat.

What appears like clear water all the way to Santa Cruz. We all were betting the Rangers were just exaggerating. Turns out they weren't. We were soon battling white caps that crashed over our bows and wind that made us feel like we were standing still. It was finally becoming an epic.

After suffering through our ninth, tenth and eleventh hours of paddling we finally arrived at our destination, with Beetle being the first one to greet us.

I think all of us are a little disappointed in any guys trip if at least one person doesn't call us idiots. But when the Ranger refers to you as F-ing Idiots you know you have accomplished something. Word had gotten around the campground that there were five guys paddling over from the mainland and when we finally arrived we were mini-celebrities amongst the other campers. One of the kayak guides on the island used the words gnarly and heroic in defining our paddle. I think I liked the Ranger's words better.

The next day five hotties showed up on the island. I was the first to spot them and immediately called the one in yellow.

We tried two people in a single kayak but it wasn't working out for a multitude of reasons. The first being neither of us could feel our legs after five minutes. We elected to take turns instead.

Sara navigates a tunnel.

Heading on through.

Yours truly paddling through a little key hole.

Mindy paddling 7 months pregnant. I literally called Mindy and begged her to come. It was worth it. Unfortunately she threw up on the boat ride over, but things got better after that.

Here is Mindy on a long romantic walk with Beetle.

Bram and Selenia on the same romantic walk with Rocky and Sarah in the distance.

Bram got called an idiot twice. Once by the rangers and then once by all of us for flirting with certain death for this picture.

That's a long ways down Bram.

Beetle is about 5 feet from the edge and not getting any closer. Right after I took this picture he looked over and asked me if I thought he could make it all the way to the water if he ran and jumped. "Beetle with your compact frame and low center of gravity, absolutely."

A beautiful wife and coast.

This picture is for Roman and Michelle to photoshop themselves in. They went on the hike but they went by themselves and there was no one to take their picture. Sorry guys.


Mindy said...

Rangi,those were great pictures and I am so glad I was lucky enough to be in them thanks for planning such a fun trip.
P.s. I did not throw up on the boat ride over, that was another sis in-law. I am glad I had a sea sick buddy though.

Rachey Smart said...

I agree with Mindy, those photos are amazing. I am SO sad we couldn't come:( Im even more sad because I dont think another couple trip will ever happen! That looked like an awesome trip. My favorite was "Beetle with your compact frame and low center of gravity, absolutely." I seriously laughed SO HARD, in the MIDDLE OF CLASS. And for the record, I love bragging about how brave/tough/stupid my brothers are!
*Mainly Stupid:)
Glad you guys made it home in one piece, love ya!

cheryl said...

Great blog Rangi, as usual. One part you left out that was my favorite was... how Everyone on the Island was making fun of the last name of the Kayaking Idiots.

Robyn & Co. said...

I also love bragging about you guys. It's cool to know someone who is truly crazy. Glad you had fun... maybe someday you can talk Dave into joining you!

Darrell said...

The word "Epic" is an understatement. You never cease to amaze me. Our current family motto is "Anything worth doing, is worth over doing." I suggest you adopt it as your life long personal mantra. Glad you're alive.

Jonathan Stock said...

That is documentary material! One of you guys need to invest in some video cameras and with one of these trips each year you can quit your day jobs!