Even in an exotic high-performance boat such as a Mystic C4400 catamaran, a VHF radio—even a handheld unit—is a necessity. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
When I was 13 years old and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I watched a dive boat sink three miles off Anacapa Island, a speck of uninhabited land that’s part of Southern California’s Channel Islands chain. Unfortunately, I watched it while bobbing in the Pacific Ocean with my friends and fellow divers—our diesel-powered boat’s bilge pumps failed in the bumpy seas during our final shallow-water dive, which made it a long one, and by the time re-boarded the boat the compartment was nearly full and the engines were mostly submerged.
Fortunately, most of us were still in our wetsuits when boat went down like a stone. A few wetsuit pieces floated to the surface, so those without found a bit of additional protection from the cold water of the Santa Barbara Channel.
We bobbed in the water for close to four hours that day before we got lucky. Our skipper hadn’t gotten off a distress call so no one knew of our predicament, but somehow a passenger on a fishing boat—the last boating leaving the island—spotted us in the water. They rescued us and brought us back to Ventura Harbor. Without being too dramatic, I’m pretty sure that if we hadn’t been spotted I wouldn’t be here to write this story. As I said, the water was cold—less than 60 degrees—and the Santa Barbara Channel is notoriously full of sharks.
Even if we’d had mobile phones back then, they wouldn’t have done us any good. Cell service is spotty at best near Anacapa Island—I’ve been there since