Monday, September 8, 2014

Catalina Adventure: Kiss of the Sea Monster

Beautiful Long Point on Catalina Island 

    Chris and I sailed to Catalina Island over Labor Day with his brother
 Scott, down from the Bay Area for our annual Catalina sailing adventure.

Long Point is about halfway between Avalon and Two Harbors.

    A gorgeous orange starfish crept around the dock to say "Ahoy" to us as  
      we threw off the dock lines in San Pedro for our Catalina Island sail

A large pod of dolphins swam off of our bow wake during our sail to Catalina...

...and then they moved on. See ya later, boys!

     We scored a mooring at Hen Rock beach, and after a light
 dinner, the brothers did some stargazing and catching up
 under the crystal clear sky

The next morning, Chris bravely (or crazily?) decided to climb Hen Rock

  Master of his domain. To my relief (and with a wifely eye roll) 
      he quickly jumped in the water after conquering the great
 peak (LOL). Boys will, apparently, always be boys! 

               After the great white hunter returned from his grand adventure (really, 
              we're too old to be doing such crazy things...aren't we? Wait...don't
                answer that), the 3 of us jumped in the dinghy to do some exploring.
           After all, it was a gorgeous sunny day!

  The giant waves and swells of Hurricane Marie destroyed this 
dock at a nearby Girl Scout camp merely days before. Wow...

       We took Scott on a dingy tour of the area.
 The sun was so bright, and the sea was so crystalline blue...

Can you believe this is only 30 miles away from Los Angeles? 

       We had heard of a cave at Long Point that goes all the way through 
        and comes out at the waters edge on the other side, but we had never 
           explored it. If you look in this photo, you can see the tiny sliver of blue
            sky at the other end of the cave. Victorious after his Hen Rock climb, 
          Chris said: "Come on! Let's explore it!" Scott took the helm of our
      dinghy, dropped off Chris and I at the entrance of the cave, and motored
   around to the cave exit to retrieve us.

               We climbed through the dark cave and emerged on the other side, 
with Scott waiting in the dinghy. 

        The cave exit on the other side. You can see the light of the entrance
       side at the top of the cave. Unfortunately the exit was not as easy as
       the entrance. As this photo shows, it had a very surgy slot tunnel 
       about 10 feet deep and 20 feet long that we had to traverse in order to 
           enter the open sea. Waves were surging in and out of it, over and 
      around the sharp, craggy boulders that lined it on all sides. 
   Chris traversed the slot easily, with the waves only coming up to
 his waist. He entered the ocean safely. And now it was my turn.

      I had a decision to make. I considered signaling to the boys that 
         I would turn back, and they would pick me up at the original cave 
          entrance. Bright red warning flags were firing off in my brain all 
      over the place. But Chris made it through easily...

and I am the brave first mate...

So I decided to go for it, and began easing myself down into the slot.

Almost immediately, larger waves started surging through. 

                 I took a deep breath, grabbed crags of rock to stabilize
                myself and tried to move through the slot. Another much 
                  larger wave barreled through and tossed me back deeper into
                  the cave,  then sucked me back to my starting point, as if to taunt:

 "Ha, ha...not so easy, is it? Wanna try again?"

By the way, we later named this cave the Sea Monster. 

                 I sensed I was losing control, but there was little I could 
                      do at that point. I quickly tried again to exit, but the Sea Monster 
                      was having too much fun to let me go so easily. Another wave,
                    the largest one yet, crashed into the cave, enveloping it and me, 
                     tossing me into the depths of the slot like a dirty kitchen towel. 
                         Now completely powerless, she began sucking me out and I knew
                       I was going for the ride of my life. There was nothing to do but hope
                        for the best. The thundering waves were now over my head,  and I 
                   was sucked completely under. I could see nothing.
                  I was at the complete mercy of the sea and the rocks.

The Sea Monster

              Suddenly, I was in the open ocean. My hip wracked with pain. 
            Chris and Scott were about 50 feet in front of me, 
      encouraging me to swim. 

                            But the Sea Monster wasn't through with me yet.
                         Smirking (I'm sure she was smirking...), she began sucking 
                me back into the cave for another go.

                             I swam and I swam and I swam like I've never swam before. 
                                     I think I broke the free-style speed record for my age group,
                               because after about 10 frenetic pumps of my arms (during 
                             which time I basically stayed stationary against the sucking 
                          power of The Sea Monster) she finally let me go.
  For real this time.

  My legs were covered with cuts and bruises, 
but that wasn't the worst of it...

         I received this lovely parting gift from my adventure.
      I call it the "Kiss of the Sea Monster." 

                    We returned to Espiritu and I nursed my wounds while the 
                           boys went for a swim.  It's not smart to be in the same water as 
                      great white sharks when one has weeping, bloody wounds. 

          One encounter with a Sea Monster was enough for one day. :-) 

Scott plays on the flopper stopper 

           After the swim, the boys went off for more exploring of the island

            We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing aboard playing cards, 
music and just laughing about old times

                       Well, all things considered, I was very, VERY grateful to have made
                          it through the weekend with only cuts, bumps and bruises and no
                fractures or paraplegia. My encounter with 
               the Sea Monster could have really been catastrophic.

       Maybe we'll take it easy and act our age during next year's annual Catalina Adventure.

Maybe...or maybe not.   :-) 

"Live your life and forget your age." -- Anonymous