My family and I just returned from a one day kayaking trip to Santa Cruz Island, about 20 miles off Ventura. We went in mid-October and the weather was perfect - sunny and warm, with a slight breeze to keep it from being too hot. The water was very calm, warm, and crystal clear. When we arrivied at the ferry dock we could see long strands of kelp coming up to the surface. Our guide, Andy, was incredible. He was very easy going and immediately took off any "pressure"about kayaking we may have had. He said our group could go as easy or as hard as we liked. We had a group of seven - my two kids were in one kayak, my wife and I in another, a father and daughter in a third, and a woman in a single kayak.
Andy briefed us on the island, basic kayaking skills, and what we would be doing. He then helped us push off the rocky beach and head out. We went through several sea caves. There is no way I would go into any of them without a guide - you wouldn't know which way to turn inside the cave, how big it was, or whether there was breaking surf inside. Andy usually led the way in and then waited for each of us to come in, constantly encouraging us about how well we were doing (I guess that meant we hadn't flipped the kayaks). There were gentle swells inside the caves, but no breaking surf, and we all felt confident in going into the caves.
Andy gave us plenty of time to float outside the caves, rest, and enjoy the warm sunshine before going to the next group of caves. Most of the caves we had entered before had two openings, so that you could paddle in one side and, after a little darkness, paddle out the other side. We wore helmets because there were some low passages where we had to lean back to avoid the over-hanging rock. Toward the end of the two and a half hour trip we paddled upwind, through 1 -2 foot swells, for a few minutes to get to the largest cave. We went back in about 300 feet ( I think), through a few tight openings, and ended up in an area that was only lit by the light that Andy had on his helmet. I was quite an experience. We then turned our kayaks around, left the cave, and paddled with the wind back to the beach. Andy then helped each of us exit our kayak.
Andy loaned my a shortie wetsuit and mask and snorkel. I swam around for a while in what was some of the clearest water I have ever seen in my life. After that we changed into our regular clothes and got back to the ferry in plenty of time. On the way back, the ferry stopped for about 15 minutes to allow us all to witness a feeding frenzy like I had never seen. It involved hundreds of birds, at least three whales, a lot of dolphin, and many sea lions, all aparently going after anchovy or other small fish or shrmip.
It was an exceptional experience and Andy did a superb job in every aspect of the trip. I think the weather in October is probably the best of the year. Santa Cruz Island, like the rest of the Channel Islands, have no stores or facilities other than pit toilets and a campground that does have water. If Catalina is the "party" island, then Santa Cruz is the "quiet" island. I'm hoping to visit some of the other Channel Islands in the future. My wife, kids, and I highly recommend this trip - and Andy.
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