Thursday, August 17, 2006


Ahhhh - Sailing to Catalina Island

"26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is awaiting for me" as the old song goes but it's more like 102 miles from where we are in San Diego.
Well, we did it. We loaded up the boat with food and water, flew our younger son down here and took off for Catalina Island the Tuesday of last week. It was a beautiful morning, clear skies and light winds. Our marina is at the very southern end of San Diego Harbor so it took 1 1/2 hours of motoring just to get out into the open sea.

Check out the California Sea Lions sunning themselves on one of the buoys.

Hmmm...too light of winds and coming from the wrong direction. We sailed for hours...and hours. After 10 hours we covered 39 miles of ocean surface, tacking back and forth, but only managed to make about 19 miles of real progress towards the island. Time to turn on the engine and make some forward progress.

Night fell, a beautiful full moon rose, and the ocean swells increased. We were sailing directly into the oncoming swells, the boat "hobby-horsing" up and over the swells and rocking wildly bow to stern. The auto-pilot had a mind of its own and began steering us towards everywhere but where we wanted to go. No biggie - we'll steer by hand.

Hours went by. Motoring. Dark. Chilly. Bumpy. Quiet, except for the soft purring of the engine. Several large ships were in the area - they showed up on radar and we could see their lights in the distance. Jones went below to get some sleep and I took over the steering. Brett, our son snoozed on one of the benches in the cockpit wrapped in a blanket. More hours passed. At 1 am Brett took over the helm, Jones came back up from his nap, and I went below to sleep.

Yes, apparently I can sleep in a wildly rockin & rollin boat. Next thing I know there is light coming in the hatch over my berth. Brett had steered all night with Jones alternating between talking and dozing. At about 6am, Brett went below to sleep. Yep - he fell sound asleep as the picture shows him slumbering soundly in his berth (moms just love taking pictures of their sleeping babes).

After over twelve hours of motoring and a total of 22-1/2 hours, we arrived in Catalina harbor at 8:30 the next morning. As we pointed the bow towards the harbor entrance our VHF radio crackled with someone calling our vessel - by name "Niki Wiki". What? Who knew that it was us? Turns out it was one of our marina buddies, Phil, who was just leaving the harbor on his Morgan 41 foot sailboat headed back to San Diego. He told us that the halibut were biting in the harbor - Whoo hooo! Fishing!!!

Ahhh - Catalina Island - "the island of romance". No time for that! Exhausted, we dropped anchor and as the guys slept, I knit quietly, working on my "Land & Sea" sweater.

The faithful sailing vessel Niki Wiki rocked gently at first, ...after a couple of hours rocked not-so-gently, then rocked/swayed/swung around on the anchor violently. The wind was howling and coming straight off of the ocean into the harbor. No "safe harbor" this day! The cliffs looked dangerously close - would the anchor hold? Did we have enough space or were we going to crash onto the rocks? I woke up Jones and Brett.

A quick decision was made to pick up a mooring. Why risk losing the boat? Sure, the moorings cost $32/night and were shunned by seasoned cruisers, but what the heck, we were newbies who were tired and scared. So the Niki Wiki was secured to a mooring (a big ball floating on the surface which is attached to a giant cement anchor on the bottom of the bay).

That night the crew slept like babies.

Beautiful pics. Good for you for deciding to pic up a mooring. I recall a night spent with little sleep off Canouan constantly checking as we slipped more and more anchor line, then chain, as the winds sliced down the mountain creating a wind tunnel into the "safe harbor". If a mooring had been avail we would have gratefully taken it.
What does your "land and sea" sweater look like?
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