It was the end of July, overcast with winds out of the west at 12 to 14 knots and one to two-foot swells, headed to Little Scorpion on the S/V Maude, a 37-foot Swan. We could have sailed but chose to motor over, using the auto pilot. I was with Captain Neil Ablitt and Bob Peace.
We were there earlier in June and I think what Neil likes about that anchorage, is that we have cell service there. Since that time, I saw an episode of Huell Howser’s California Gold exploring the caves between Scorpion and Potato Harbor. That inspired me to dig out my book Sea Caves of Santa Cruz Island, by David Brunnell. That book maps out over a hundred caves on Santa Cruz Island. Hence, my interest was to go explore some of these caves.
We anchored at Little Scorpion at about 1400 hours. The wind was still out of the west and hadn’t really let up, but protection from the swells was good. We proceeded to settle in and launch the dinghy. With the wind up it was decided to wait until the next day to go exploring. So, I grilled a tri-tip for dinner, which was a little challenging since I accidently dumped the lighter overboard. None-the-less we had a fine dinner and I was kicking back telling stories when something fell through the companion- way. Neil turned the lights on and saw a flying fish flopping around on the salon floor. For a few moments I was thinking about breakfast and then we decided it was too much work. So, I picked the fish up and threw him back into the water.
The next morning the wind had laid down. I went up into the cockpit to enjoy the morning while Neil made breakfast and Bob played on his phone.
After breakfast, Bob and I got the dinghy setup and decided to see how well the 2HP outboard worked. There was a cave about 75 yards from the boat. So, the both of us went over there to take a look at it. The water was clear, you could see the bottom. We shut the motor off to keep from getting gassed, and paddled our way in. It got dark and I was thinking about going back to the boat to get my dive light when Bob turned on his phone flashlight. Being aware of any swell that might come up, we decided to turn around when the ceiling started to close in. There was a beautifully framed view of the boat as we came out of the cave.
We then motored over to the next cave to check it out. It was not as deep or as dark, so we continued to explore some more caves that were in this cove. As we entered one of these caves the water just exploded with fish jumping out and a seal close on their tail looking for breakfast. The seal didn’t seem to be too bothered by us. He just kept corralling the fish into a corner hoping to get a meal. The next cave we went into had an exit. To paddle thru the exit, we had to raise the outboard because of how shallow it was.
Getting to the next cave was a bit of a challenge due to all the kelp, but once inside there was an awesome display of colors on the wall due to an entrance on the side that allowed light to illuminate it. There was also a rocky beach.
After exiting that cave, we decided to motor down to the pier they were building at Scorpion. Impressive hydro drilling operation. You could see in the yard where the fire had started a few months earlier. We kept our distance from the pier as men were working on drilling to install another piling.
Bob’s battery was getting low, so we decided to head back to the boat. On the way back we saw another big cave on the northeast side of the larger island at Little Scorpion. We had to paddle through the kelp to get into the cave, but once we got in there a couple of cormorants flew out. As we paddled in further, we saw that a tunnel went clear through to the other side. As we emerged on the other side, we found the rocky bottom was so shallow I had to get out and pull the dinghy as Bob shifted his weight from the bow to the stern and back. It was about that time I slipped on a rock and fell in the water. That is the only time I got in the water this trip which is pretty unusual.
Once we got back on the boat the wind started to pick up. We had lunch and gave up on the idea of going back out. Spending the afternoon playing on our phones and going over the pictures we took made the time go by pretty quick. What an experience those caves were.
That night the swells had us rolling a bit which kept waking me up. That is part of boating, you wake up until you are too tired and fall back to sleep. In the morning we prepared a leisurely breakfast and then went out to pick up the dinghy and get ready for our trip home. Setting the sails and heading out on a course of 330º we were quickly doing six knots with NW winds of 15 to 20 kts and 2 to 4 ft seas. Like Huell says, “That’s a fine example of California Gold”.