Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Newport to Catalina...

We’ve wanted to sail from somewhere on the southern California coast to Catalina for a while now. It’s not a long trip, but for northern California sailors it’s a warm one with an inviting destination, and not nearly as barren a destination as the Farrallones off the coast of San Francisco.

So, this past weekend, we chartered a Jeanneau 36.5 from Marina Sailing in Newport Beach, and were joined by our friends Hilary and Layne for an overnighter to Catalina. What fun!

On Thursday, before our charter began, Deb and I jointly took a “sail test” with Bill, an “old salt” who checked out non-members for the Marina Sailing Club. Of course, we almost immediately forgot any verbal responses to questions like “what are the five points of sail,” but we managed to pass the test and learn a thing or two from him as well. And, Deb backed Pretty Naho into her slip as though she’d done it a million times.

Next morning, after finally loading what seemed like a week’s supply of stuff into our friends’ SUV, we all drove down to the marina in Newport Beach and loaded our things and ourselves aboard Pretty Naho. We discovered that some of the items supposed to be on the boat were not – working radar and GPS – and some things were not in working order – the autohelm. We went by the charter office, reported the problems to Charlie, who knocked a little off the charter price for us. Then, undaunted, we pushed off for the twenty-six miles to Catalina.

The weather was beautiful, no fog, lots of sun, but alas, not much wind. So we motor-sailed our way, making five to six knots, one long tack northwest to make a southwesterly tack to Avalon. It was a good trip, and we arrived in some six hours, racing another sailor in for one of the last moorings available, which was not in the main harbor, but up the coast a couple of thousand meters at Hamilton Cove, just off an impressive condominium complex. After the obligatory celebration of our successful passage and mooring with a bottle of wine and a bunch of good cheeses, we briefly (very briefly) debated whether or not to inflate our dinghy, and instead called the shore boat for a ride into Avalon. A bit of wandering let us to the Ristorante Villa Portofino for more libations and great dinner.

Before midnight, however, we all were worn down, and got the shore boat back to Pretty Naho. The mooring field was amazingly roily all night. Deb and I had never experienced quite so roily an anchorage, but somehow managed to sleep without becoming seasick. Next day we realigned the boat, moving the bow and stern mooring lines to give sufficient angle and slack to take the waves off the beam and more on the bow. Our second night at the mooring was much more comfortable.

Saturday, I awoke to make coffee for us all, after which we took a shore-boat ride into Avalon for a glorious breakfast at (inevitably for a breakfast place), the Busy Bee. After followed a day of wandering the shops and sightseeing. Great fun, and after another turn back to the boat for a swim and relaxing, we returned to Avalon for another glorious dinner, this time at the Channel House.

Sunday morning we awoke to see Bill and Charlie tie up alongside a Catalina moored near us and set about doing repairs. We found out later that the boat's steering system had broken down at what was the start of a five-day charter. Bummer. Meanwhile, we decided just to nosh on whatever we had aboard for breakfast – and there was lots of noshing stuff aboard – and we left for Newport late-morning. We had a nice, although gentle sail back to Newport, to discover a literal traffic-jam of boats coming in and out and crisscrossing the harbor. Just like southern California’s freeways, its harbors are jammed at the end of the day. Nevertheless, we got safely into the slip, Deb again backing Pretty Naho in without a hitch. What a helmsperson she is!

And what of southern California sailing? Well, it was pretty tame compared to San Francisco Bay, but we’re looking forward to more and are sure the winds can pick up a little more than ten knots. Meantime, Deb thinks it's nice to be warm. More photos


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This looks like it was a great trip. If you want to try another southern cal charter, try sanat barbara to santa cruz island. i've done this one twice and the channel islands wildlife refuge is a great destination.

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