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One of My Favorite Places: Catalina

Posted by admin on January 23, 2007 at 7:30 pm  

Catalina Harbor at Two Harbors, Catalina Island
Approximately 26 miles due west of Los Angeles

Today I am writing to you from one of my favorite places in the world: Two Harbors near the northern end of Catalina Island.

Catalina Island is about 26 miles due west of Los Angeles, and the Two Harbors area is really a narrow isthmus connecting the larger southern portion of the island, with its northern portion. On the east side of this quarter-mile-wide isthmus is Isthmus Harbor, and on the western side is Catalina Harbor. It is a 10-minute walk across the from one harbor to the other.

Our visit here is part of a brief three-day, two-night shakedown cruise of The Global Adventure. Also on board is our Captain, Wolf Petrasko, and our First Mate, Rip Knot (I kid you knot!).

We’ll return to San Diego late this evening, and I’ll be on a plane for home first thing Wednesday morning.

The rich and famous – and boat loads of tourists — have been visiting Catalina’s most popular destination, Avalon, for generations. It is about 12 miles to the south of Two Harbors. Avalon boasts all sorts of attractions, including gift shops, bars, restaurants, quaint houses, a very busy dock, and spectacular scenery. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but for my money there is no nicer place than Two Harbors.

Two Harbors is a small outpost really, with a wood and clapboard general store, some showers, and limited, tasteful housing for perhaps a hundred workers and students. The area is managed by Two Harbors Enterprises for the Nature Conservancy, which owns it.

Although rustic, Two Harbors boasts the Harbor Reef Restaurant. It is so popular that boaters come from all over to enjoy, among many other meals, Thanksgiving dinner here. Reservations are a must. It is that popular.

In fact, I highly recommend it. A few years ago, I sailed here with my daughter, Laura, and son, Sam, aboard our 32’ PDQ catamaran for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful!

The Nature Conservancy owns most of the island. By necessity they’ve taken an essentially militant view toward protecting Catalina. Nothing changes here. For example, because there is a perpetual water shortage on the island, no one – at least at Two Harbors – washes what few cars are allowed here. The result is comical, with layers upon layers of the island’s reddish soil caked on anything that moves.

Isthmus Harbor on the eastern side of Two Harbors is the most popular among visitors, and the easiest to get to. The western cove, known as Catalina Harbor, can only be entered from the west. This entails a trip around the often windy and rough west side of the island.

We left San Diego at 9 pm on Sunday (it is now Tuesday) and ran the engine for a full 18 hours, taking ourselves far west of Catalina. Only at the end of the day did we duck into Catalina Harbor to enjoy a calm evening “on the hook.”

There are moorings available on both sides of the isthmus. They require that you attach lines to your boat that are themselves attached to permanent buoys.

After losing our brand new gaff hook trying to snare one such line, we decided that was too much work; so we just dropped anchor in a corner of the cove. We held tight all night, and I enjoyed a full eight hours sleep.

The plan today is to catch breakfast onshore, then to head along the west coast of Catalina until we clear the island and can assume a course of 126 degrees (southeast) direct for San Diego. It’s about a 70 mile trip.

We’ll be cruising at abut 1300 RPM, and doing about 8 knots. We could add another couple of knots to our speed by running the engine at 1500 RPM, but doing so requires literally 40% more fuel.

At 1300 RPM we consume about six gallons of fuel each hour. At 1500 RPM we consume 10 gallons of fuel.

If we drove the ship to Hawaii at 1500 RPM, we would run out of fuel about 500 miles from Honolulu. By staying at about 1300 RPM, we’ll have about five hundred miles of fuel to spare. Quite a difference!

12:30 PM PST
Heading to San Diego from Catalina Island

Yesterday we saw two whales. One was within 100 feet of our ship, swimming and playing right across the bow. We actually had to change course or risk hitting it. Today we’ve seen several whales – all heading south – but from a distance.

Also, the dolphins came to play yesterday, and again today. Yesterday there was a pod of about seven dolphins that hung with us for nearly a half hour. Today, three or four jumped our wake for twenty minutes or so as we ran down the west coast of Catalina Island. They are such beautiful and powerful creatures. I always feel honored to see them – and the whales – up close.

We also put a line in the water and had our first-ever strike! The fish got away moments after it hit, but, man, you should have heard that reel spinning! You could hear it all over the ship – and no, we did not snag a dolphin.

We look forward to fishing regularly during our trip, eating what we catch, and releasing anything we don’t need.

Functionally, the ship is passing this first shakedown cruise with flying colors. We are still struggling to learn the operation of all the sophisticated communications equipment aboard. But that will come in due time.

The sea is glassy and smooth. Today is one of those great days – clear, calm (although a bit cool), where it is fair to say we are “living the dream.”

Whoa! Two pilot whales just surfaced right in front of the ship! They swam under the bow and surfaced in our wake. Beautiful!


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