On the Water with Captain John King

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I have run a lot of charters in the last 13 years.  Some were duds, but most are pretty good.  I thought I delivered the best tour of my life on July 3rd.

We ran Catallac from Avalon to Two Harbors with a full load of 49 passengers.  We left the Green Pier at 8 p.m.   A cold wind had been blowing the sea into whitecaps, but by the time we turned west the wind had subsided and the sea had settled.  A thick pink fog bank hung like a curtain just off shore.


I have run a lot of charters in the last 13 years.  Some were duds, but most are pretty good.  I thought I delivered the best tour of my life on July 3rd.

We ran Catallac from Avalon to Two Harbors with a full load of 49 passengers.  We left the Green Pier at 8 p.m.   A cold wind had been blowing the sea into whitecaps, but by the time we turned west the wind had subsided and the sea had settled.  A thick pink fog bank hung like a curtain just off shore.

A few flying fish took flight in fear of our approach off Toyon, then we stopped for a moment at Long Point to peek through the Catalina Tunnel.  From there, we rounded the point and turned on our spotlights.

At first the flying fish were thinly scattered in our path, but as we passed Little Gibraltar a bloom of flyers erupted into our lights.  Then more, and still more.  We saw more flying fish on this one trip than we had seen all season.  “So this is where they have gathered,” I thought to myself.

We reached the opening of Two Harbors just in time to catch the first of the fireworks show.  I like to float just in front of the USC Wrigley Marine Institute for these shows.  There is good protection from the wind and a great echo off the limestone walls that surround the cove.

The show was fantastic.  We exited the Two Harbors area ahead of the other boats and started back toward Avalon with a following sea.  

Soon a full moon lit up the back side of the fog bank and then showed orange as it rose into the night sky and became a beacon for our return.

The sea was friendly, the customers had settled and were chatting, the music was just right.  Catallac purred homeward.  “Could not have been better,” I thought, “this might have been the best charter I have ever delivered, perfection.”

Oddly, we were booked for our ‘Perfect Island Day’ charter two days later.  This charter is designed for lounging aboard in the lee of a calm cove.  However, my customer wanted to circumnavigate the island.  “Let’s see,” I replied tentatively, knowing that six or seven hours can be a long time on board a bobbing boat for some folks.

It was overcast, a bit windy and cold as we passed Church Rock.  I pointed out the Three Vees, Salta Verde and Painted Cliffs.  I was watching the weather and the crowd for signs of discomfort.  We continued west.

A large bird school was working the beach so we decided to take a quick look.  One cast and a barracuda was hooked and released at boat side.  Cool.  A bit later a fish rolled near a small kelp paddy so we cast a lure in that direction.  “Hook Up!”

This was not a fishing trip, but it is hard to resist at least a cast or two when conditions are screaming “Fish Are Here!”  Yellowtail sashimi was added to the menu as the birthday girl reeled in the fish.  We continued into Little Harbor for some lunch and a swim.  Blue sky was showing over the island.

From Little Harbor we toured the eagle’s nest with no sign of eagles, then on to Ribbon Rock, a beautiful, striated wall of geologic layers of stone and time.  We entered Iron Bound Cove and to my amazement, the small knot of bright green algae was right at water’s edge where it has always been.  I still do not know what that is, but it is strikingly different than everything around it.

I spotted another bird school off-shore and went to take a look.  The school was massive and moving fast.  We put out some lures with no luck.  I asked my customer if he had ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ in his music collection.  As Mick Jagger hit the first note, our rod went bendo, “Fish On!”

Horse mackerel was not on the menu for the day, so we moved along as the entire boat sang all 164 ‘woo woos’ with the Rolling Stones.  Clearly, this crowd was loving the tour.  We continued west around the rocky point that marks the other end of the island, stopped to scan another eagle’s nest and started downhill.

I pointed out Johnson’s Rock, but was needled by the crowd for pandering since the charter master for this tour is named Johnson.  Of course, that only started a renaming of all places as ‘Johnson’s this or Johnson’s that’.  This fun had to come to a stop after I showed them the two ball-shaped, black rocks on shore near Lava Wall.  “Can you guess the name of this place?” I asked.

One last swim, some birthday cake at Goat Harbor and then the last leg back to Avalon.  Mr. Johnson complimented me, “You really raised it up a notch for us.”  ‘A more perfect charter?’ I thought to myself,   ‘Perhaps.’  THE Perfect Charter?  According to William Shatner’s ‘Has Been’ album, ‘It hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t happened yet.”  I think that is good news.

Capt. John King can be reached at 888-613-7770 or iCatalina.com.

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