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Old 10-04-2011, 13:23   #1
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New Sailor Wants to go to Catalina for the First Time.

Hello Group:

I have a 1973 Cal-27. She is my first boat. I have already had some basic sailing lessons and experience. The boat is seaworthy, safe, and well provisioned.

I want to go on my first trip to Catalina Island (California) and do not know all the logistics, the in's and out's, of how to do it and what to expect.

With the prevailing winds, and currents in the channel, are there any special headings or tacks to get there more efficiently? When I get there how do I obtain a mooring? How do I get ashore? What is the cost and how do I pay? Do I need advanced reservations? How do I contact them ahead of time to reserve a mooring? I will probably leave San Pedro on Saturday AM and hope to return Sunday afternoon.

Any other information that you can give a newby would be appreciated.

Thank you,


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Old 10-04-2011, 13:33   #2
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Re: New sailor wants to go to Catalina for the first time.

Hi Pedro,

Welcome aboard, and congratulations on your new boat. I hope you find a great crew for your first trip, and am sure you will be inundated with great tips very shortly....


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Old 10-04-2011, 13:42   #3
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Re: New sailor wants to go to Catalina for the first time.

Pretty good online Catalina visitors guide at Two Harbors Catalina Island - Boating, Camping, Banning House Lodge . As far as prevailing winds, Sailflow, especially - CA- long beach Wind Data , is a pretty good supplement to the standard weather forecasts.
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Old 10-04-2011, 15:02   #4
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Re: New sailor wants to go to Catalina for the first time.

Pt Mugu to Two Harbors 26 miles. As I remember this is usually upwind. At 4 knots you are looking at 6 hours minimum and more likely the sailing distance will be closer to 36 miles if you sail upwind. At four knots that would be 9 hours. I've done the around Catalina Race on a Farr 40. We started at 9 am and finished around 2am. That was racing hard. The way back in was a beat too as I remember b/c the wind shifted to an on shore breeze. A weekend trip on a 27' boat would be fairly strenous. Can you take off a Friday or a Monday it would make the trip a lot more pleasant.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 10-04-2011, 15:43   #5
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Re: New sailor wants to go to Catalina for the first time.

Hey, Roy,

You must be as excited as I was planning my first trip across the channel.

The first decision is between Avalon (all kinds of diversions/shopping, and touristy) or Two Harbors (showers, laundry, store, bar, one nice restaurant, hiking trails, lots of seclusion). I'm a Two Harbors guy.

Any day that visibility is decent, you hardly need to use your chart, but a rhumb line can be drawn from San Pedro to Avalon @ 174/354 and to Two Harbors @ 203/023, magnetic. A slight correction to allow for a 1kt. south current, and you can hardly miss your destination. If you have the prevailing NNW wind, it's one long starboard tack.

The link that sded posted provides all the rest of what you need to know: to pick up a mooring, start your engine on your approach (if it's not already running) so that you can begin to douse/secure all sail well before you get about 100 yds. from the fairway mouth, and when once there, hail Avalon or Two Harbors on their respective channel. Say that you're requesting a mooring for a 27' sailboat. The Harbor motor launch will meet you there (often they will come to greet you before you can hail the harbor master; if there are boats waiting ahead of you, just be patient, and the motor launch will come to you).

A technique I've found convenient at this point is (with all sail down, of course) to shift into neutral and let the yacht come to a stop, shift into reverse, and let the bow blow down directly downwind. Depending on the strength of the breeze, you'll pretty much be keeping station in one spot while interacting with the harbor launch.

I'd recommend having at least one crewman with you, only because picking up the mooring can be tricky for the uninitiated. You will be assigned your mooring by the launch; it will be numbered like a stadium seat: a row letter followed by a number. A is the row closest to the beach. Tell the launch operator you're a first-timer and ask him to point it out for you.

Print out the mooring diagram & directions on the visitcatalinaisland site, and make sure you study/discuss the mooring procedure ahead of time as you cross the channel.

After you move down the row and spot your mooring, take note of the wind direction and how much room you have . After you swing around for your second approach, close on the buoy from directly downwind, aiming for the pole. Come in slower than your instinct tells you: unless there's a breeze up, the slower the better, because the tendency is to over-shoot.

The diagram and directions given on the site are good, so I'll just give a couple of tips about securing your boat to the mooring:
  1. Make sure your crewman passes the bow hawser under your rail, to attach directly to the bow cleat.
  2. The best way to walk the sand line to the stern is to remember to haul the line and to walk to the stern at the same time. Your line-handler has no leverage to keep the stern of the boat from blowing down if he's still standing at the front of the cabin house. Get to the stern quickly.
  3. You may find that simply throwing the stern hawser over the cleat isn't adequate, and that it's better to haul up some of the hawser and cleat it off to give yourself a more snug berth.
Getting to shore can be accomplished either by your own small craft or by hailing the shore boat to come to you (a couple of bucks each way per person). There is a whole etiquette involving dinghy tie-up at the dinghy pier that you will get to know, but the basic rule is that you tie off with plenty of slack to allow others to push you aside so they can nose in and tie up. If the pier is packed, walking through others' dinghies while arriving or leaving is customary.

Just about everything else you need to know is on the site.

Again, bring a crewman.

Have a great trip.
s/y Elizabeth Catalina 34 MkII
"Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them." G. K. Chesterfield
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Old 10-04-2011, 15:48   #6
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Re: New sailor wants to go to Catalina for the first time.

I coulda sworn the song says "26 miles across the sea..."

Oh, wait, that's in a power boat, isn't it?

; -)

Have a great trip, that's a nice little boat! She will take good care of you.

ain't what ya do, it's the way that ya do it...
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Old 10-04-2011, 17:58   #7
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Re: New sailor wants to go to Catalina for the first time.

Let me amplify a bit on Starbuck's explanation.

If you are arriving at Two Harbors, call the harbor patrol on Channel 9 and ask to be assigned a mooring. There are several choices: Isthmus which is in front of the main dock, Fourth of July Cove and Cherry Cove. There are others but they are farther away. I always try to stay in Fourth of July Cove. The moorings for a small boat are tucked away up in the cove. Same with Cherry Cove but it is farther away.

When you pick up your mooring you need to appreciate that all boats on moorings are held by a bow and stern line. Motor up to the mooring ball going the same direction (usually facing to sea) as the other boats and pick up your bow mooring- the one connected to the pole. Tie it off. Then pull in the small line (which has weights every ten feet or so) which is connected to your stern mooring. When you get to the heavy line tie it to a stern cleat. If you have a boat that is shorter than what the mooring is designed for, you have to cleat off with the light line, but that is ok.

When you leave, drop the stern line and wait a few seconds for it to sink. Then drop the bow line and wait another few seconds, then motor away.

We go to Avalon in the winter when it is possible to get a mooring. In the late spring, summer or early fall we go to Two Harbors. Two Harbors will also fill up on some weekends in the summer and during Bucaneer Days in the fall. But you can always get a spot in Emerald Cove which is farther away and infrequently served by the shore boat.

Have fun in any case.
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Old 13-04-2011, 17:39   #8
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Re: New Sailor Wants to go to Catalina for the First Time.

In light of a recent rescue... Make sure you have the obvious: Life Jackets for all crew,

Best of luck....

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