The WaveWalker floated easily in a small cove on the northern side of Santa Cruz Island where the water was so clear we could easily see fish swimming and critters scurrying near and along the rocky-strewn bottom 20 feet below.
“There’s the California state saltwater fish,” crew member Capt. Tiffany Vague said excitedly while pointing toward a crevasse between two rocks below. A knowledgeable passenger responded, “That’s a garibaldi.” Sure enough, the cute orange, slab-sided, big-eyed fish swam lazily between the big rocks, probably prospecting for food. Another one swam into view, and soon our group had spotted five within our range of visibility.
A close examination of the underwater wonderland below us showed us more and more of our special saltwater friends. Crabs crawling around rocks, bigger fish — such as cabezon — hunkered down in rocky lairs, smaller fish — such as smelt — swimming at midcolumn, sea lions looking for a sunny haul-out spot, cormorants chasing fish, critters peaking out from billowing stands of seagrasses and kelp.
It may not have surprised any of us to see a mermaid swim by or climb out onto the sun-warmed rocks. I glanced up hopefully, to a rocky niche several feet above the water — at a “hole-in-the-wall” — because that is where I most expect to spot a beautiful and graceful mermaid.
Between the critters in our calm little cove and the myriad seabirds, dolphins, whales, porpoise, fish and other seafaring critters we spotted throughout our adventure, my passengers had quite an adventurous voyage.
On other days, I’ve taken out divers and snorkelers who venture underwater to go face-to-face with the flora and fauna of our seas. They come back up telling incredible tales of what all they have seen.
We are all learning to care more and more about the critters, plants and the various cultural heritage resources under the surface of the sea.
We have a fun and meaningful chance to share our mutual concerns and cares and celebrate our enjoyment of the local seascape this Sunday when Santa Barbara puts on its annual Parade of Lights at the Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf.
I volunteered to serve as the emcee for the event on the wharf, so join me in celebrating our underwater wonderland (the theme of this year’s event). In fact, show up early (about 3 p.m.), because the festivities include music, Santa’s Village and lots of manufactured snow (weather permitting), then a tree-lighting ceremony near the Ty Warner Sea Center and the fabled Parade of Lights featuring many of our very own local boats decorated to portray the owner’s or designer’s unique perspective of our underwater wonderland.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.