Kayak guide Chuck Graham looks back on two decades spent exploring the rugged and surprisingly remote Channel Islands wilderness, just off the crowded Southern California coast in 'Home Waters,' featured in the new, December issue of Canoe & Kayak, available on newsstands now. Here the author outlines the challenges and rewards of exploring the island chain by kayak, talking from Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island, and then taking the C&K crew on a tour of his favorite sea caves nearby.

Photos by Chuck Graham and Dave Costello

Home Waters
Life In The Channel Islands

By Chuck Graham

We hunkered in the lee of an eroding bluff, our faces covered in kelp flies and raw from the stinging blast of wind-driven sand. The weather radio repeated its warning until it blended into the background, a mélange of pummeling surf, shrieking seabirds, incessant wind and that damned robotic voice, telling us over and over again that the northwest gale was going to blow for three more days, at least.

I couldn't take it anymore. "C'mon," I said. "We're getting out of here." Dave Glaser and I had been marooned on this windblown strip of sand for nearly 24 hours, having made the eight-mile crossing from Santa Rosa Island in sit-on-top kayaks the previous day. The wind came without warning late that afternoon, forcing us to take refuge near the west end of Santa Cruz, the largest of California's Channel Islands.

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