Mysterious Island: The Magellan Club Part 1

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Somewhere around my fortieth year in this world and my tenth on this island, I fulfilled a great ambition I had entertained since first moving here.

And that was to paddle my kayak, or be conveyed by some other means of self-propulsion, all the way around the Island, stopping here and there to swim or camp or spear a fish.  I would be in no particular hurry, I decided, and I would be sure to stop at the Isthmus first on my westward leg and again on the easterly one to replenish my supplies and sling a rum and coke or two at the Harbor Reef Saloon.

Somewhere around my fortieth year in this world and my tenth on this island, I fulfilled a great ambition I had entertained since first moving here.

And that was to paddle my kayak, or be conveyed by some other means of self-propulsion, all the way around the Island, stopping here and there to swim or camp or spear a fish.  I would be in no particular hurry, I decided, and I would be sure to stop at the Isthmus first on my westward leg and again on the easterly one to replenish my supplies and sling a rum and coke or two at the Harbor Reef Saloon.

I determined that I would do a counter-clockwise circumnavigation so that I could “hide” from the incessant Northwesterly winds while paddling up the leeward shore.  Once around the West End, I would take advantage of those same winds blowing at my back to drive me down the windward side, around the East End and back to Avalon.

Being a man of my word (at least when it comes to things that I want to do) I did just that:  a complete circumnavigation of Catalina Island over the course of three and a half glorious days.  Being a Jules Verne fan (the very name of this column is taken from the Verne classic “L’île mystérieuse” or “The Mysterious Island”), I even dubbed my expedition “Around the Island in Eighty Hours.”

As is my usual custom when doing such things, I didn’t bother to get in shape first, rationalizing that I would get in shape “along the way.”  And I did.

The wonders of those nearly four days in the wild could fill many a column.  But I will confine my discourse at this time to such remembrances as dangling beneath the sea’s surface in the midst of an endless undersea caravan of thick, meaty yellowtail at Parson’s Landing; gliding through aquamarine pools beneath lime green cliffs and purple-red volcanic formations near Goat Harbor; soaking in a hidden, fresh-water pool near Coffee Pot Canyon getting days of salt and sand off my body; and finding innumerable beachcombing treasures, including the half-buried hull of an entire fishing trawler that went aground at Salta Verde back in the 1980s.

There were moments of terror, too, including nearly getting dashed to pieces on the rocks by a massive rogue wave that appeared out of nowhere on a reef near Shark Harbor.

Then there was the large seal that inadvertently (I think) slammed into the underside of my kayak while it was surfacing in a kelp bed near China Point.  The collision, which was accompanied by a sudden frothing of seawater all around me, brought me and my kayak several inches up out of the water.  I don’t need to tell you what was going through my mind during that experience…

Now to the column at hand:  Many moons ago I submitted to you, Dear Reader, a column entitled “The Crusoe Club,” named after Daniel Defoe’s unfortunate castaway who spent 28 years stranded on a island off the coast of South America.  The purpose of that column revolved around the question, ‘What’s the longest amount of time anyone has ever spent without leaving the Island, even for a few hours?’

The winner of that contest, the “Queen of the Crusoe Club” if you will, was the late Linda Garvey who spent an incredible 31 years on the island without ever leaving—not even once.  (That’s three more years than our friend Mr. Crusoe spent on his island).  Linda moved here in 1981 and it was only her death here in 2012 that stopped the meter running.

This week, we bring you another club named after another larger-than-life character, in this case the intrepid Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.  Anyone can be a member of the Magellan Club, as I call it, by performing one not-so-simple feat:  circumnavigating Catalina Island under their own power.

It doesn’t matter how you do it nor how long it takes.  You can swim, you can paddle a canoe or row a boat or do like I did and paddle my sit-on-top “rubber ducky” Ocean Kayak.  As far as I’m concerned, you could even hike along the shoreline all around the Island at the high water mark as best you can and still qualify. The only requirement is that you do it all under your own power.

Before we continue, for those of you who snoozed through World History, an introduction to Ferdinand Magellan is in order and why I would name such a club after him.

Unlike Robinson Crusoe, Ferdinand Magellan was in fact a real-life fellow and is credited with heading the first expedition ever to sail completely around the earth.  It was in the year 1519 that he sailed with a fleet of five ships from Lisbon, Portugal.  Five years later, after surviving devastating storms, near-starvation, hostile natives and myriad diseases among other perils, the sole surviving ship of the five limped into Lisbon harbor carrying a grand total of only 18 of the original 237 crew members.

Alas, Magellan was not among them.  It seems that in the Philippines, after making the mistake of immersing himself in local politics, Magellan found himself on the business ends of a large number of spears and lances that the locals had sharpened for just such a purpose.

What we know of the adventure comes largely from the writings of the ship’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta who, as luck would have it, was one of the 18 survivors.

As far as is known at this time, it was the first time in history that humans had travelled all the way around the earth.

Now that you understand my reasoning behind the naming of this club, the question is, who should lead it?  Who has accomplished the most extraordinary circumnavigation of Catalina?  Who has circled the Island the greatest number of times under their own power?  While my kayak trip around the Island is somewhat uncommon, it wasn’t exactly a spectacular feat.

Actually, I have already chosen the candidate I believe should be considered the King of the Magellan Club as well as an impressive Honorable Mention.  The circumnavigational feats of these two gentlemen are nothing short of astounding and…

Oh dear, it looks like we’re out of time for this week.  Guess I’ll have to tell you about these around-the-island adventurers next week.

NEXT WEEK:  THE MAGELLAN CLUB, PART 2

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