Best ten dollar boat ride

Friday, November 14th, 2014


Thomas Pauley captains the Lost Isle Tiki boat on the waters of Morro Bay.

Get out on the water with Bay Cruisers and Lost Isle Cruises

As we journey down to the dock behind the Otter Rock Café, we meet up with Thomas Pauley and Joli Truelson, owners of Bay Cruisers and Lost Isle Cruises. Our choices for a nice bay adventure are an electric boat rental for an hour or a guided cruise aboard Lost Isle’s Tiki boat. We chose the Tiki – probably the best ten dollars we’ve spent in a long time.

Pauley is our captain, and after we settle on board he loads up the little bar with ice and a variety of beer, wine and liquors for mixed drinks. We are set with cameras and binoculars and can already see dots of little-eared grebes paddling around before we watch them suddenly disappear under the water. Winter is the best time to see the volume of bird species that frequent Morro Bay.

Pauley lifts a conch shell to his lips and blows as we set off down the harbor alongside fishing boats, yachts, and sailboats. As he renders an interesting narrative, we learn about an unusual large wooden boat that is docked here. “It was built in 1930 as a ferry,” Pauley tells us, “and during World War II the Army commandeered it to be a mine sweeper.” He goes on to explain how the harbor was changed by the Navy, with a bridge being constructed to connect the Embarcadero to the sandspit, and how large wooden walls were erected on the t-piers for training purposes.

Near one of the piers is an interesting sailboat. “This is a replica of the sailing vessel that Joshua Slocum used to be the first person to circumnavigate the world,” Pauley says. We also see a huge vessel with big lights that are used to attract squid and another fishing boat that once operated a drag net, but now aids the California Fish & Wildlife department in deep sea research.

Pauley tells us about the history of Morro Rock, now a peregrine falcon rookery and not available for climbing; once a year the Salinan Native Americans are allowed on top for ceremonial purposes. We also learn about the quarry operations that took place on the Rock and how the stone was used to build the jetties here and in Avila Beach.

Our tour takes us near the rocky shore where kelp grows. Busy sea otters are floating in the kelp, munching on shellfish. Pauley informs us that sea otters are part of the weasel family and they rarely come up on land, even giving birth in the water. They have from 250,000 to one million hairs per square inch on their bodies to help them keep warm, exclusively eat shellfish and can dive up to 200 feet down to get food. “Sea otters are no longer endangered,” he says, “but are considered threatened. “

Next we head over to the floating dock, now riding low in the water as it is literally covered with California sea lions.“Sea lions have small external ear flaps,” Pauley says, “and their rear flippers are capable of turning forward. Seals have small holes on either side of their heads for ears and their rear flippers only face backward.”

Pauley steers the Tiki into a cove and approaches the sandspit. “This is Sandal’s Cove,” he tells us, “where for years a colorful character had a homemade live-aboard vessel anchored. Sandal became the unofficial Bay Keeper until the Harbor Control finally evicted him.”

We ride up to the shore and are let off to stretch our legs on the sandspit, stay for 10 minutes to look around, and then we’re back on the boat. The Tiki also carries out water taxi trips for people who want to go to the sandspit for longer periods of time.

We sail on and can see the large green island in the estuary where white pelicans, shorebirds, herons, and cormorants are roosting. Pauley turns the Tiki and has us look back at the Rock as he points out the shape of an Indian’s face on the left side. As we head for home port, some in our party enjoy a glass of chilled white wine as Pauley answers our questions about the sights along the bay.

Lost Isle Cruise is a fun educational boating tour that costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. Trips leave on the hour and there is a special Sunset Tour. Bay Cruisers Electric Boats rent for $75 an hour and you can bring your picnic and beverages on board. Call (805) 771-9337 for more information or go to


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