Marina Del Rey
As we were preparing to leave Marina Del Rey for Catalina Island there were more surprises in wait. One was that our new friend Mike picked up his new favorite boat. It was very exciting, and we all got the “tour” of a gorgeous woody.
Secondly, we were happily swept up into the celebratory dinner at Mike’s favorite and excellent Italian restaurant in nearby Playa Del Rey with his friends Jim and Sylvie. A fabulous way to top off our stay at Pacific Mariner’s Yacht Club.
“When you say that you’re going to leave, don’t forget to leave.” Mike Q.
On Monday, November 30 at 7:00 am we actually left Marina del Rey. Mike and little Luigi (his dog) shivering in Mike’s jacket, and chef Mike K. (remember the scallops?) showed up to see us off just after dawn. We headed for Catalina Island, aiming for the West End per advice from our friend Alan who has extensive sailing experience here. Given light east winds, with a forecast for more, we opted to sail around the West End to the outer south side of the island. Our goal was Catalina Harbor which is paired with Isthmus Harbor in a place called Two Harbors, northwest of Avalon on the island.
Sailing along the south coast of the island highlighted a rugged and steep geology. Veins of quartz striate the island, visible for miles at sea and noted in the Coast Pilot.
Catalina Harbor is deep and well protected. We picked up a mooring buoy for the experience of it, instead of anchoring on our own hook. The harbors are so popular that tightly spaced mooring buoys with bow and stern lines accommodate more boats than could swing on individual anchors.
We launched the nesting dinghy for the first time on this trip. It took some time to work out the process for joining the bow and stern sections on the foredeck, then using the spinnaker halyard to lift the dinghy over the side and lower it into the water. There is room for practice and improvement.
About 100 residents live on the west end of the island during the off season in the communities of Two Harbors and a marine research station. More housing is available for summer season staff.
Arriving in San Diego
It’s about 85 nautical miles from Catalina Harbor to San Diego. More than a day sail, the best plan was for an overnight passage. We left in the early afternoon, timing the trip to arrive in early morning. However, it was a busy night. Firstly, right on our projected course an oil tanker and lighter decided to transfer fuel (a lighter is a barge or local ship used to off-load cargo from ocean ships). This meant a significant detour around a ship that measured in tenths of a mile long. However, the detour helped slow down the passage and our dawn arrival. We were also busy keeping an eye out for warships, as they call themselves on the radio. All ships and many boats broadcast their position, course, and speed on a system called AIS that shows up on our electronic chart plotters to help avoid collisions. We do too. US military vessels were doing night time exercises in the area. But they don’t broadcast their position on AIS. However, they do announce their position and general movements on the voice radio to help avoid collision. And they let us know that they are showing “non-standard” navigation lights. And they move very fast.
After a night of light wind and motor sailing at less than full speed, we were off Point Loma at dawn.
San Diego harbor is very busy. Our experience on the Columbia River of dealing with large ships in close quarters served us well. We know how to stay out of the way.
We are now safely tied up in the very nice “Harbor Island West Marina” and scheduling final boat projects and chores before Mexico.