Channel Islands?

-- Last Updated: Jun-14-16 11:19 PM EST --

Anyone done the Channel Islands (off LA)?

The ferry transport page strongly prefers sit-on-top. Other kayaks "require prior permission". Just wonder if that's something routinely done.

(I know people had brought their own kayak on the boat but I didn't think to ask specific at the time)

Thinking mostly of Santa Cruz Island.

was there this past winter
I was out at Santa Cruz this past winter. We camped at Scorpion, which at that time had a broken dock so required a skiff ride in, rather than the Island Packer ferry going right to the dock. We had 6 day-touring sized boats (14’ to 15.5’). They did charge us the oversized boat rate (which the web site says is for boats 16’ or longer), but had no issues with them.

Many Times
I’ve used Island Packers for years to all the islands. I’ve taken an 18’ glass boat to all but Anacapa. The crew has always taken good care of my boat & been quite amiable about it. I in turn tip for their service. You’re going to love Santa Cruz.

Scorpion to Prisoner harbor?
Looking at the map (not chart, just a rough map), it seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult to paddle from Scorpion to Prisoner harbor? Have you done that? Anything tricky or not obvious one needs to know about?

Nice paddle
It’s about 4 miles from Scorpion to Prisoners and very scenic, IMO. Depending upon tide & surge, passing between the shore & the off lying rocks between Scorpion & Little Scorpion can be interesting. It’s sometimes better to swing around to the outside. The beach at Prisoners can have dumping surf during a south swell. Any CI paddling is usually better early in the day to beat the wind. Be wary of the wind anywhere on CI. They rescue tourists every once in a while who get blown offshore & can’t make it. Prisoners is a very nice lunch spot. The old ranch building, olive grove, & fruit trees date from the Caire family’s residence on the island about a century ago. I find CI history fascinating. There’s also a nice hiking trail between Scorpion & Prisoners with spectacular views.

time of year and your ocean experience
make a big difference.

Good idea going with a guided group for your first trip. Do you know the wind and swell patterns for the time of year you are going. Check the long range surf/swell forecasts 10 days or so in advance. Winter sees very large west and north west swells that depending on the angle can affect the East side. South swells can be large too in the summer but with different window of exposure. Right now we are seeing a lot of wind activity from the NW and then from the south, should calm down by midsummer if normal weather patterns apply, but in recent years normal patterns are not the rule.

"Do you know the wind and swell patterns for the time of year you are going."

For non-locals, the answer to that question is almost always NO! And that goes for just about everywhere I don’t paddle regularly.

One may argue that means always going with a guided tour. The problem being majority of guided tours are geared towards occasional paddlers.

That’s why I ask on the “internet”! More to find some solid and reliable source to obtain information when the time comes. (also to gauge the level of complexity for the trip to decide whether to proceed with actual planning)

September is usually good
Fall seems to see the most benign weather there, but no guarantees. CI weather & sea can change quickly & dramatically. Best to be conservative in the length of paddles you plan & pre-identify bailout points. One more thing - Do Not paddle if a Santa Ana wind is forecast. It can be tempting if you’re unwise. The ocean will be beautiful & the air crystal clear before the wind hits. Then it turns to hell. Seriously. If you’re caught offshore, it can be a battle to survive.

Which camp?
Which do you prefer, Scorpion or Prisoner?

My Fault
abc - I must confess to being a bonehead. I read Prisoner, but was somehow thinking Smugglers. So scratch the features I mentioned, as well as mileage. It’s more like 9 miles to Prisoner. That stretch is pretty too. I haven’t camped at Prisoner (didn’t want to lug my gear that far) so I can’t offer a camp comparison. However, my recommendation of Smugglers for a day paddle stands. Sorry for the confusion.

No problem…
…for the confusion.

I was thinking it being a long slug to camp at Prisoner too.

But isn’t the camp at Scorpion is some distance away from the dock?

Not far
The sites at Scorpion are spread out in a Eucalyptus grove. The first sites you come to are only about 1/3 mile from the dock. And it’s a level walk, not a multi-mile climb.

Now that makes sense!
I was slightly confused at the mentioning of southerly swell and dumping surf on Prisoner. Smuggler makes a lot more sense. Scorpion to Smuggler looks also a lot more exposed too. Were there much tricky current around the point(s)?

Does Prisoner gets much swell say, in a northerly? It looks a bit more protected than the route to Smuggler.

Just my experience…
…but I’ve found the northern side more exposed. The times I’ve been there the wind & swell have usually been from northwest. But, as with all CI weather & sea, the caveat is “not always and it can change.” Prisoners can get at least some protection from the shore trending northwest just to the west of it. I’ve had no problem rounding the east end to & from Smugglers, again, going early to try to beat the bulk of the afternoon winds.

Santa Ana wind
When does Santa Ana wind more prevailing?

I vaguely recall it’s a winter time phenomena. About what time of year does it typically start blowing? October? November?