Thursday, November 03, 2016

Santa Catalina

[Kyle]The wind from the previous night's storm was gone by the time we pulled up anchor. The swell was not. Groan.

It only took an hour or so for it to decrease to a size that was too small to throw us around anymore. We had just enough wind to keep the sails filled and without any swell swinging the mast all over the sky, it was actually quite pleasant, if a bit slow. We were averaging just over two knots, so we were basically sauntering to Catalina.

We had expected this, so we planned 24 hours for the 63 mile trip, which gave us as long as 35 hours to get there by the following sunset, so we were in no hurry. It was perfect conditions for being off watch. There was no motion and all of the sails and rigging stayed nice and quiet.

Part way on our journey we managed to be in the wrong place twice over for a NOAA vessel. The crew apologized both times that they were partaking on a course/loop-de-loop that would be unfathomable to other boats, and after moving for them the first time, they seemed even more apologetic to us when we had to start the engines to move on again for them at a totally different location.. Luckily we very much appreciate the work they do, and all scientific research generally and were happy to oblige (even if it did mean starting the engines).

A pleasant enough sail, but slow and with some detours

We arrived at Catalina Harbor just after sunrise. It reminded me of making landfall in English Harbour in Antigua many years ago. Then as now, we passed by rugged cliffs completely devoid of any signs of habitation. We were the only boat in sight. Only at the last minute did we pass by a narrow gap in the rocks that revealed the well protected harbor within.

The harbor is hidden from view - and when we arrived had a Bald Eagle guarding the entrance

We made a sharp turn and passed between two high cliffs and into the anchorage. The whole place was filled with (mostly vacant) moorings. We could anchor either in the really shallow water on the inside or the really deep water outside the protection of the harbor. The shallow water was so shallow we would have had to set two anchors, which is a real pain. The deep water was so deep that we would need more swinging room than the narrow space would allow. We opted for the third option of sucking it up and paying for one of the many moorings.

We called the harbor patrol, who was out to us in one of their launches within seconds. He immediately told us to stop as it was very shallow ahead. The depth sounder read eight meters. He kept indicating that he thought we would need at least three. He directed us to a mooring way away from the dinghy dock and right next to another boat. It seemed there was more than enough space for a buffer mooring between each boat, but he insisted that was the only suitable space for us. It was like being told to take a middle seat by the lav between two other people when there are six empty rows in the middle of the plane.

Oh, well. It is what it is. Our neighbors had a big beautiful ketch of a classic design that was so the opposite of a modern catamaran. We noticed their hailing port was Portland - maybe like us, if it was Oregon. Still, we've been to the other one, so we should still have lots to talk about. We waved and said hi and got a reluctant response. They didn't appear to be in a sociable mood. Well, now this was awkward. Now we had to try to pretend they weren't there. The moorings in Catalina are all fore and aft. This really packs 'em in, so we were only thirty feet from them.

We ran the checklist to make sure everything was done. Afterward, we decided that we were both feeling rested enough to go ashore without a watch recovery nap.

We head ashore for a better view of the harbor once we arrive

We rowed the pudgy the short distance to the nearest dinghy dock, only to discover afterwards that it made for much more walking than it would have if we had gone to the dock slightly further. Santa Catalina is essentially two different mountainous islands connected by a low isthmus, with Catalina harbor on one side and Isthmus Cove on the other. We walked over the low rise to the other, busier side at Isthmus to see what passed for the second biggest settlement on the island.

The "town" was a collection of mostly similar pre-fab buildings clustered by the beach. It seemed to be there mostly to cater to backpackers walking the 37-mile Trans-Catalina trail. It had no particular character, other than, perhaps: "Leave your money here." When we were in the information office, we overheard a backpacker and his girlfriend being told the fees for them to camp for the night would be $133. That seemed high to rent a spot in the dirt. Based on a pass through the town's only store and a perusal of the various price lists for things like snorkel rental, etc., plus a glance at the only restaurant's menu, we concluded that the Catalinans must have collectively decided that everything on their island would cost triple. Yes, we understand that things like food and lumber have to be imported from the mainland, so they should be more expensive, but a lot of prices seemed to have no correlation to either the cost of production or to high demand; it was just because they could.

Pretty hamlet of Isthmus Cove

We had a beer and split some onion rings while we figured out what we were possibly going to do the next day since we pretty much felt like we had taken our time and still ran out of stuff the first day. We decided on a walk through the reserve on the northwestern arm of the island.

We went to the information office to ask about trail maps and were told we would need a get a permit the next morning before our walk. We could not do it today.

We showed up the next morning and were handed what seemed to be an unnecessarily detailed form for a six-mile walk. It was less complicated to get permission to hike the HST. {Maryanne: By completing the form, we also agreed to waive all rights to sue, and inexplicably agreed to not hitch-hike on the island}

We started off the walk by cheekily going opposite the recommended direction. We walked along a coast road above two pretty coves: 4th of July Cove and Cherry Cove. 4th of July is owned by a very nice looking yacht club and surrounded by a lot of Private Property signs. Cherry Cove is home to a big (empty for the season) Boy Scout camp.

We then turned away from the water and headed straight uphill towards the middle of the island on a trail that didn't bother with switchbacks. We saw a lot of palm cactus, as well as a few other endemic species as we made our way too the top of the other side of the next valley. From there, we descended steeply to Catalina Harbor before crossing back into town.

Views from Goat Whisker Trail

As we passed the harbor, we collected our laundry and shower stuff from the dinghy and carried them into town for an afternoon of fun. Once at the dinghy we found our laundry bag had been emptied and our items were all over the dingy. We *Think* it must have been one or more of the ravens that hung around the village.. Oops.

Laundry before departing

Maryanne: Two Harbors (as it is known) is not quite so dire as Kyle implies, but it is certainly basic, remote, and quite the quiet get-a-way.. It was a bit too rustic for me to enjoy (given the price to stay there), but it was indeed picturesque. Two days was enough - time to move on to something a little more busy.

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