Anacapa Island in the northern chain of the Channel Islands is the favorite of many Southern California divers. Anacapa is the closest to shore of all the Channel Islands (a mere 11 miles from the Ventura County coastline at its closest point) and it is the second smallest of the Channel Islands (actually just three islets). It is one of the original islands in the Channel Islands National Park (declared Channel Islands National Monument in 1938) and is now the most heavily visited. In spite of all this pressure, it continues to draw thousands of divers every year. Portions of the underwater environment here have been protected since 1978. Anacapa Island is a success in underwater preservation and enjoyment. And one of my favorite ways to dive Anacapa Island is onboard the dive charter boat Spectre.

Spectre captain Ted Cummings has been skippering boats for over three decades and knows these waters as well as anyone. He knows intimately several dozen dive sites and exactly how to put you right on top of each one and how to make it as easy to dive those spots as possible. The Spectre uses a two-anchor system with the primary off the bow and a secondary off the stern in shallow to stabilize the boat. The boat not only lacks swing but rocking is also minimized. The dive site is only a few fin kicks away or often just straight down.

The big boat, 85 feet long, is superbly laid out for diving. There are rows of dive stations port and starboard, one station for each individual diver. The benches give you lots of room to sit and put on your tank neatly tucked in behind you. Below the benches is ample storage for a bag with gear and a small shelf at the top of the station is a very handy place for your mask and small accessories. This is one of the best arrangements I have seen on any dive boat. Long air fill whips reach every tank so there is never a reason to move your tank around other that to get on and off the boat. Air fills are quick and an honest 3,000 p.s.i. (if that is your tank’s rated pressure). Air fills are included on every trip.

Aboard the boat are three full heads, each is equipped with a hot freshwater shower. Two of the heads are on deck and one below near the bunkrooms. But my favorite warm water experience while onboard the Spectre is the freshwater hot tub! It is a big hit with divers wanting to wash away the chills of a day of diving.

The Spectre is a fast boat. Travel time to Anacapa Island is just 75 to 90 minutes depending on the specific destination point. And the trip is smooth and comfortable. If you choose to nap on the way over to Anacapa there are sleep accommodations for 32. A large sundeck is also available if you want to relax in that way. During travel time I prefer to tinker with my camera gear. Big tables in the galley allow me to spread out a bit.

Speaking of the galley, you’ve got to plan a trip aboard the Spectre if for no other reason than its famous real charcoal barbequed chicken. Mmmm-mmm, good food! A full chicken lunch is included in the price of all trips. (Vegetarians are also accommodated if notified ahead of time.)

During the week there are a number of opportunities with variable schedules to dive the Spectre. Year round the Spectre runs 3-tank, ¾ day open boat trips on Fridays (during the summer on Wednesdays also). These trips are an excellent value and their schedule is quite relaxed. The boat departs at 8 a.m. and returns approximately 4:30 p.m. A minimum amount of divers are needed for these trips to run, but the boat has developed a core of regulars so the boat nearly always goes (weather permitting). During the weekend, in addition to some charters by dive stores and clubs, the Spectre runs single-day 4-dive open boat trips that also include lunch and air fills. If conditions are good the boat may jump on over the nearby Santa Cruz Island for some diving.

Hundreds of joyful relaxed divers have stepped off the Spectre this last summer, thousands in the last few years. The diving continues to remain great out at Anacapa Island. Isn’t it time you seek out the fun that diving the Spectre can give you? Play hooky this coming Friday and go diving or really get into it and make a full day of it this Saturday or Sunday. Perhaps I’ll see you onboard!

For more information on diving the Spectre, call 805-483-6612 or e-mail