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The Officers, Staff and members of this site only provide information based upon the concept that anyone utilizing this information does so at their own risk and holds harmless all contributors to this site.
I'm usually a poster in the 250 sub-forum but a report from our weekend cruise to Santa Catalina Island is a better fit here in the cruising forum.
Several smaller local yacht clubs here in the Los Angeles area band together to cruise to Emerald Bay on Catalina Island for the last weekend in June each year. My wife and I attended this year sailing our 2007 Catalina 250.
Our cruise began with a Thursday departure from San Pedro which is the location of the Los Angeles Harbor. Our first destination would be Two Harbors on Catalina Island. Sailing to Catalina requires crossing about 22-miles of open ocean... and small boats such as ours routinely do this - when the weather cooperates. Summertime usually offers prevailing westnorthwest winds and with Catalina being southwesterly of Los Angeles - it means beating as the best course you can expect on the outbound trip - and a broad reach to running when making a return crossing. Small boat boaters have to watch the weather as the San Pedro Channel is fully open to the ocean and can be quite rough on windy days.
This outbound trip was upwind as usual. Sailing not possible on a direct course… had to power. The little Honda 9.9 was up to the task pushing the boat against the wind with minimal sail asist. The seas were as predicted - 2-foot westerly swell with about 1-foot wind waves… and coolish too - in the sixties and low seventies. About as benign condition as can be expected. A Southern California weather phenomena called “June Gloom” was in full effect - dense low cloud cover which remained in place most of the day with only cracks letting the sun shine through. We were underway at about 1 PM and the Catalina 250 handled the outbound conditions with no complaints and as we were able to push along at about 4.5 to 5-knots. We arrived in Two Harbors at about 6 PM.
Entry to Two Harbors is very easy as the harbor is a bight into the island and open to the ocean to the east. There is a island-rock northerly of the opening named Ship Rock and a rounder/flatter rock to the south of the bight called Bird Island. Bird Island is white and covered with guano. Westerly of Bird Rock is a submerged reef which never really pokes out of the water but does catch keels of the occasional unlucky boater - the reef is marked by a buoy. Our entry was uneventful.
Two Harbors has several hundred moorings spread across essentially all of the harbor. Only a small patch is left at the south side for anchoring. As the 250 is only 25-feet long we choose to stay on the “string line” which is a cable with attached mooring lines stretched north/south across innermost waters of the harbor. The price for staying on the string line is $35 per night. With the prevailing westerly wind and swell bypassing the harbor, conditions on the stringline were benign.
Thursday evening we took the dinghy to get ashore and had dinner at the Harbor Reef restaurant. Back on the boat after dinner we settled in by converting the settees and dinning table into a forward berth. Very comfortable with only light blankets needed for the night.
Friday was spent back on land hiking and exploring the area. The small community of Two Harbors seems to have everything in small scale… a one room school house, a sheriff's station, a clinic only staffed part time, the restaurant, a general store, ticket sales offices for adventures, and several houses for the staff to run the community. In addition there is lodging at the Banning House as well as a campground which is located to the east of the community.
Our mooring was the most northerly spot on the string line which gave us a front row seat to watch the activity on the pier including fueling by visiting boats, the lifeguard boat coming and going, the arrival and departure of express ferries, and cruisers going back and forth in their dinghies… fun stuff.
Saturday morning early we relocated to Emerald Bay. We started our short two mile commute at 6:30 AM arriving at Emerald Bay at about 7 AM. Emerald Bay also has a string line and dozens of moorings. The string line is very close to shore and we took the most northerly moor - which placed our stern about 30-feet offshore and our port side about 30-feet from exposed rocks… we were really close in. Conditions were good but there was also a bit of motion as we were now exposed to the the southeast - the direction weather was expected to come from.
We dinghied ashore and joined the other cruisers for a four mile round trip hike to Parsons Landing - a small beach that is used for camping. The trail was wide and easy to walk with only a few steep spots that required caution. The June Gloom kept the sun away and made for a comfortable hike. The event at Emerald Bay is held at the Corsairs Yacht Club facility. The facility is not fancy but it is functional with showers, restrooms, bbq facilities and picnic tables. We had our showers and came away from the hike refreshed and ready for the day… but there was a serious change of plans about to take place.
While we were away on our hike the winds from the southeast had picked up a bit… maybe more than a bit… perhaps up to 15-knots… and as the bay is exposed to the east and southeast - wind waves were rolling in… and the boats were rolling on their moors. The Catalina 250 was no exception and it appeared it was rolling worse than others perhaps due to its light weight and the location - in the shallows near shore on the string line.
We dinghied back to the boat and noted that this was going to be a difficult boarding. While hard to describe - the boat was rolling perhaps one foot up and down at the gunwales… not easy to safely board from a bouncing dinghy. By luck and good physical fitness we managed to get on board and down in the cabin. The rolling was bad enough to have pitched a couple items sitting on countertops down onto the sole… not good. It was all we could do to sit on the settees and hold on… this was not looking good. We did laugh briefly at the items on the table sliding back and forth until it became not funny realizing that this would likely be our condition for the remainder of the day and into the night until the winds let up.
Recognizing that we in an untenable situation we radioed the Harbor Patrol for their opinion of the weather and they reported that the winds would be out of the southeast at 15-17 knots for the next day. That would be a fail and we choose to bail out of Emerald and return to Two Harbors. We requested assistance to get off the mooring as we were in such proximity to the shore and nearby rocks. Harbor Patrol responded first in their powerful patrol boat and after determining that the area was too shallow for that boat, they responded in an inflatable. Kudos to Emerald Bay Harbor Patrol for caring for us in a professional and perfect manor. Together we managed to get the 250 off the mooring and we bounced out of the shallows and made our way back to Two Harbors. At Two Harbors we took the same morning we had left only hours before.
Two Harbors has more protection and while mildly rolly, it was comfortable compared to the situation at Emerald Bay. The remainder of the day was spent on-board relaxing and people watching. We noticed an abundance of paddleboards in the harbor and one of the boarders passing by mentioned that there would be a race starting the next morning… A quick google - yes - Two Harbors has an excellent internet connection answered all questions. As it turns out there would be a race - a big race… from Two Harbors Catalina across the channel to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. Cool. The race webpage said the start time would be 6:30 AM. We had also noticed the stringline was filled with smaller boats - many of these turned out to be chase boats as required for each paddler.
Early Sunday we awoke to hubbub going on outside and sure enough, the pier was filled with boats loading camping gear and loading and unloading people. Luckily, these small boat captains were skilled and the maneuvered around each other without incident. At 6:30 AM a horn sounded and in a moment, from the other side of the pier, dozens of paddle boarders appeared headed to sea - moving fast. The crossing is about 22-miles and it was my suspicion that even the slowest paddle boarder would finish the crossing before we did as we are not a fast boat and not leaving until later in the morning. That was the case.
Our crossing began at about 9 AM with an uneventful release from the stringline. We motored out to just about the line between Ship and Bird Rocks and raised the main. There was a light breeze out of the southeast over the starboard rail which filled the sail and got us moving. We had the mainsail already reefed two anticipating the 15-17 knot breeze which had caused so much trouble at Emerald. We let out the full jib and caught a bit more breeze as we begin to round the edge of the island becoming more exposed to the wind… a simple releasing of the mainsheet brought the boat on keel with nice boat speed. Nice sail (if you don’t count no sun due to the June Gloom).
The ocean had some swell from the southeast but it mostly hidden by the wind waves… and the wind waves were not large… not exactly a smooth sail, but a nice sail… bouncing along at 5-knots. As southerly winds are not common the starboard tack all the way back to San Pedro was a treat. As the day progressed the winds became a bit lighter and to maintain our desired 5-knots we had to add a bit of Honda power - no problem… although I did suggest that without additional power it would take us even longer to get back and that would be a good thing.
What a difference a year makes… last year at about the same time of year and time of day the winds were brisk and westerly - making for a tedious bouncy ride while managing the tiller to carve our way through the waves - not so this year. The light southeasterly winds made for an easy sail back to LA.
All the best,
Hull No. 922 Wing Keel Building the boat as a cruiser. Home port: San Pedro, CA
Notice: The advice given on this site is based upon individual or quoted experience, yours may differ. The Officers, Staff and members of this site only provide information based upon the concept that anyone utilizing this information does so at their own risk and holds harmless all contributors to this site.