When you spend the better part of a lifetime roaming the Santa Barbara Channel, some strange things are encountered.
I’ve been thinking about some of the strangest I’ve seen. Some are scary as navigational hazards, some are funny, some are worrisome and some are difficult to explain.
Coming back from San Miguel Island one afternoon, at about mid-Channel, something bright red caught my eye and I changed course to investigate closer. It was a lifeguard’s rescue buoy and the ankle strap hung straight down into the water.
I wasn’t sure my crew and passenger wanted to see what might be at the other end of the ankle strap, but fortunately it was empty.
On a high-speed run across to Santa Cruz Island many years ago, I saw an odd-looking corner of something just a few inches above the surface of the water.
I approached with caution and whistled softly when I recognized it as a container that had fallen off a container ship. It wouldn’t take much speed for that big metal box to rip the bottom out of a boat or at the very least bust a propeller.
I reported the hazard to the Coast Guard so they could put out a recurring PAN PAN warning on the marine VHF radio to alert boaters in the area.
Another surprising hazard to navigation started out as a stick breaking the surface of the water by only a few inches, several miles off the mainland coast. I steered clear of it but close enough to look down into the water to see what it was
I was so surprised that I throttled back, came around and took a closer look. The stick turned out to be the very top piece of lumber of a beautifully crafted spiral stairway. How it got into the ocean and several miles offshore remains a mystery.
Perhaps the best laugh I’ve had related to things I’ve seen at sea was during a Channel crossing to Santa Rosa Island one morning.
It was a glassy-flat calm and glorious morning and everyone aboard was quietly enjoying the scene as we cruised along comfortably at 25 knots. Suddenly, one of the passengers began screaming and point astern.
“Mermaid! I saw a mermaid!” he was yelling.
Well, that’s enough to make any red-blooded male sea captain slam on the brakes, so I made a tight turn to investigate. It turned out that what he saw was a mostly deflated and partially submerged blow up doll (Yes, that kind of doll!).
We hauled it out to dispose of it back at the harbor, but once back, we all felt pretty silly pulling this thing out of the boat and stuffing it into a trash receptacle while people on the docks watched us with quizzical looks.
— 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.