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Channel Islands in December?

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Wellington, FL
posts: 6
reviews: 8
Channel Islands in December?

We will be spending a few days in Santa Barbara in December and I'm wondering about a day trip to the Channel Islands. I've been told that the regularly scheduled boat run is an all day affair leaving at 8am and returning at 5pm. I don't think our group, which includes 4 teenage boys, will want to get up that early for the trip or spend quite that much time there.

I had two questions:

1. Is it too cold/too rough at that time of year to go to the Channel Islands? and,

2. Is it possible to charter a boat and go at our leisure? Can anyone make any recommendations?

Thanks in advance for you input.

Santa Barbara, CA
Destination Expert
for Santa Barbara, Channel Islands National Park
posts: 693
reviews: 15
1. Re: Channel Islands in December?

Hi there,

It is really weather dependent this time of year - the swell and winds can make the trip not fun. That said there are plenty of beautiful days on the island in the winter as well. If you are considering kayaking the sea caves, most outfitter provide wetsuits so you are still fine in the water - but if the swell is up you may or may not be able to go inside the caves.

I would wait until a few days before and judge the forecast. If you are working with an outfitter, they can help you with judge the day.

There is no real option for chartering a boat to the islands. You need to go through Island Packers in Ventura. It is worth the early start though - so I wouldn't let that discourage you. It is a great adventure for a group of teenagers. They will love it.

Have a great time. -Suz

Edited: 12:07 pm, December 11, 2012
Thousand Oaks...
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 8,785
reviews: 13
2. Re: Channel Islands in December?

Going in winter without less people running around is awesome. Just be prepared for pretty cold winds, possible large ocean swells, and shorter daylight hours.

Just as an FYI....Island Packers has two locations, one in Ventura harbor and another satellite location at the Channel Islands Harbor a few minutes south.

See their website for comprehensive information.

http://www.islandpackers.com/IslandTrips.html

Dr. Z

Los Angeles...
posts: 890
reviews: 69
3. Re: Channel Islands in December?

Here is the Island Packers website. They offer a couple of options with an island landing and exploration but also non-landing sailings where you view wildlife, etc, from the boat. These are shorter tours with morning and afternoon sailings. You might also want to consider a whale watching tour - they offer two sailings a day - morning and afternoon.

http://www.islandpackers.com/

Wellington, FL
posts: 6
reviews: 8
4. Re: Channel Islands in December?

Thank you for your advice. I will check out Island Packers.

Also, once you land on one of the Channel Islands, are you on your own for hiking/exploring, or do they guide you?

Thousand Oaks...
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 8,785
reviews: 13
5. Re: Channel Islands in December?

You can do both

Fortaleza, CE
posts: 7,213
reviews: 348
6. Re: Channel Islands in December?

Look at the Web site, and don't just rely on what you've been told by some unspecified person. Most of the trips are half-day, but some are longer. There is not just one regularly schedule trip. They go to different islands. I've been to Anacapa Island twice and Santa Barbara (the furthest out) once. In both cases we got off the boats and walked or hiked for a while. We walked on our own. To some islands there are both morning and afternoon trips. Some trips leave from Ventura, some from Oxnard.

Too rough for you? I don't know. Depends on weather that day and, of course, each person's susceptibility to seasickness. Just knowing the ages of people doesn't say too much. Do they like the outdoors? Boats? Do they get seasick? I do, but survived all 3 trips. You may want to phone Island Packers and discuss any concerns with them.

Edited: 3:31 pm, December 11, 2012
Santa Barbara...
posts: 1,721
reviews: 1
7. Re: Channel Islands in December?

The two closest islands - Anacapa and Santa Cruz - are on Island Packers' December schedule for landing trips. The Channel Islands are essentially wilderness areas out in the middle of the ocean - no cars, no businesses, few buildings, few to no roads, primitive facilities, but with seals, sea lions, seagulls, guillemots, oystercatchers, shearwaters, dolphins, whales, an occasional shark, kelp forests, garibaldi, endemic plants and beautiful vistas. In season, the wildlife, wildflowers, swimming, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and camping makes the Channel Islands a world-class worthy outdoors destination.

Is it too cold? Well, it sprinkled rain this A.M. and was cold enuf to need the heater. Right now, it's dry and partly cloudy - very pleasant, but it is mostly sweater weather. When out on the boat and outdoors on the island, you will want to bring warm outdoor clothes. Shorts and t-shirts won't be warm enough. You can sit inside the cabin for the ride over.

Is it too rough? (I meant to look out on the ocean, but forgot.) Yeah, it can sometimes get pretty miserable out on the ocean, in any season. Things to consider... I think you can make a decision on whether to go the day prior. Check the forecast & ocean. Island Packers will leave a message in the A.M. for you to call if they cancel. Also, it only takes about an hour to get out to Anacapa or Santa Cruz - you have to decide on which island for a landing tour. So, before you get too nauseated and wish you were dead, you are getting off the boat onto the island or back to shore. Non-landing tours can be as long as three hours of misery if the seas are rocking.

Is all day too long to spend? Well, that depends on your interests. If you are able to schedule a kayak tour, (with a company like SBSuz's SB Adventure Company), you will have the adventure of your life. I've camped on nearly all the islands. I thoroughly enjoy the islands.

Hiking Anacapa Island takes about an hour and a half or more. During winter, the plants are greening up because of all the rain, but there won't be many flowers, or nesting birds. The view from the west end of the island looking towards the other two islets and SC Island is very pretty. There are no NPS guides to show you around - you don't really need a guide. There is a very small museum. There is a classic lighthouse, but you aren't allowed to get too close. There are picnic benches available. There are no beaches (except at Frenchy's Cove, which is only accessible by kayak or special trip by IP.)

Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands. You have a choice of landings - Prisoners Harbor or Scorpion Cove. I like the hike at Prisoners to Pelican Cove. Hikers here must be accompanied by a guide. You will walk through and around oak woodlands and arroyos and near the ironwood grove. Check with Island Packers to ensure that the hike will take place. This rugged but very doable hike takes about 2 - 3 hours, round trip.

Otherwise, Scorpion Cove hiking (Santa Cruz Island) is more desolate, and you are on your own. The cove itself is nice, but better to have a kayak - there are caves and pieces of a shipwreck to explore; and swimming is better during the summer. The hike over the hill to Smuggler's Cove is a bit boring and exhausting. I usually have a kayak, so I haven't tried this hike, but I think I would enjoy the hike to view Potato Harbor better than the hike to Smuggler's. There are some historic ranch buildings, (not really much to look at), to view at Scorpion Cove.

nps.gov/chis/…island-transportation.htm

www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/maps.htm

http://www.islandpackers.com/IslandTrips.html

https://reserve.islandpackers.com/

http://www.islandpackers.com/WaterSports.html

Santa Barbara...
posts: 1,721
reviews: 1
8. Re: Channel Islands in December?

I searched "charter boats santa barbara" and found:

http://www.santabarbaraoceancharters.com/

Santa Barbara, CA
Destination Expert
for Santa Barbara, Channel Islands National Park
posts: 693
reviews: 15
9. Re: Channel Islands in December?

I'll save you are little time looking into charters - Island Packers has the only permit with the NPS to land on the islands. So another company may get you to the islands, but they can't land. So Islands Packers is really the only option.

You really want to visit Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Islands - that is a great place to start exploring the islands. There is a visitors center there and it is great for hiking, camping, kayaking, etc. I don't believe the Oxnard Harbor IP office goes to Scorpion Anchorage - Ventura does for sure.

If you want to do a guided trip - for kayaking - there are three outfitters with permits in that area of the park. Santa Barbara Adventure Company, Aquasports and Channel Islands Outfitters. My husband owns the first company mentioned - so I may be bias, I think they are best. ;)

Have a great trip. It is worth it..

10. Re: Channel Islands in December?

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