Cactus and Quartz

Marina Del Rey


Randy and Mike admiring the bronze propeller and brass rudder under a bright finished stern

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.







Ruth and Mike beaming next to a beautiful wood runabout



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.




Catalina Island

“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.


Bands of quartz in Catalina Island glow in the afternoon sun. Quartz was underfoot on the next day hike.

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.


Snug in Catalina Harbor on the south side of the island, looking out the entrance to the open Pacific ocean.


Ruth rowing in the evening light. Small row boats seem to make everyone smile.

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.


The small children’s playground has a creative sand box border constructed of large diameter PVC pipe. Practical and economical in the salt air environment, and easy to hop or slide over.

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.


No comment


A wave of environmental vertigo touched Randy as he read the placard encouraging ways to save water by “3. Use disposable paper-plastic plates and dinnerware.” and “4. Use store bought water whenever possible.”


Two Harbors as a summer camp quiet in the winter.



The rugged south coast of Catalina Island faces the open Pacific ocean.


With Catalina Harbor to the left and Isthmus Harbor, facing toward LA, to the right, the community of Two Harbors is well named. It’s about a half mile walk across. Buffalo graze on the slopes below us.


The entrance to Catalina Harbor is marked by steep rock and cactus. It is well hidden when approaching from the northwest. We had to sail past and approach from the southeast to see the entrance.


Lots of prickly pear, and other cacti, grow on Catalina Island. And white quartz shows up all over the ground.

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.


Point Loma marks the northwest entrance to San Diego harbor.

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.


A car carrier departs. A pilot boat waits to take off the harbor pilot. Comparing this small white boat to the large yellow ‘hi-vis’ pilot boats in San Francisco or Astoria provides some perspective on the nature of the ocean waters.

We are now safely tied up in the very nice “Harbor Island West Marina” and scheduling final boat projects and chores before Mexico.


6 thoughts on “Cactus and Quartz

  1. Felix Navida, Velic crew. We tried to send you an email, but it bounced back. We enjoy following your blog and watching your progress via Marine Traffic. Have a wonderful time in Mexico. Prospero ano nuevo.

    Joy & Jerry


  2. I’m surprised how arid it is, despite being right next to the ocean. Yes, I know ocean is different than rain.
    Did you get to eat any nopales or prickly pear? If I’d been there I’d have tried to eat everything that wasn’t rock, and excitedly gelologist-ing everything that was – ha! 😉


  3. It was smart going into San Diego when it was light. The first time Nancy and I sailed into San Diego, we had traveled from Dana Point, arriving when it was dark. It was difficult to find the navigation lights, as street lights and traffic signals could be seen in the background. We were practically on top of the buoys before we were able to see them. Remember, though, this was before there was GPS, so we were using compass and paper charts. Glad you trip has been pretty much uneventful, so far.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s