Exploring places where we can encounter the raw power of nature expressing herself in magnificent ways including sound, sights and colors is the best, and we have such an opportunity on many winter days.
I had an enjoyable feller hire me to go out on his boat and show him some sights and fishing spots, and help him get comfortable with his new boat. A buddy of mine came along, too. I knew just where I wanted to take them.
We do get some delightful weather even in the middle of January, and on this day, there was no wind in the Santa Barbara Channel and the sun shone brightly and warmly. There was, however, a big swell running, and from experience I knew that the farther west we went along the Channel Islands chain, the bigger those swells would be. Out at San Miguel Island the swells were running as high as 16 feet.
From experience I knew that the front side of Santa Cruz Island holds its own magic when the wind waves are small, but the swells are big, so I took them to Chinese Harbor where we hook two halibut. The we explored the area and began casting swimbaits to boiler rocks as we slowly moved westward.
Once up around Twin Harbors the swells were noticeably bigger, pounding the boiler rocks with such force that spray was thrown way up into the air.
Some of the smaller sea caves of the area were suddenly filled with water as big swells came in. The air trapped inside the sea cave had to go somewhere, and the result was a spectacular horizontal eruption of water.
Each eruption began with the sound of the sea cave choking off, then a deep throaty sound like “Bwooof!” Water was expelled with incredible force. Some was spray and some was atomized water mist that roiled and slowly dissipated as it hung in the air. In the bright sunlight, pretty rainbows formed in the mist, then faded away.
A couple of times when exceptionally big swells came through, the spray and water mist were expelled with such force that it came all the way out 80 feet and got us damp. That makes people laugh and have fun as they dry off.
While fishing in close to boiler rocks between Twin Harbors and Platts, casting for calico bass (delicious) and enjoying the blowholes, I had that feeling of being watched. I looked up on a cliff and an American bald eagle was sitting on the dead branch of a bush, looking down and watching us intently.
We caught a couple of nice calico bass, realized it was mid-afternoon and decided to head back northward toward Santa Barbara Harbor. The channel crossing was calm and speedy, and we enjoyed sharing stories of what we had seen. It was a great wintertime adventure.
— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.