October 2010 Cruise

Channel Islands

Frank on the Deck

Having had a three week jury trial continued due to another party's appeal, I found my calendar pretty open for late October.  Since September and October weather is sometimes the best of the year in Southern California, I decided to take off for a week's cruise of a couple of the southern channel islands.  I had recently been on a quick fishing trip that included San Clemente Island, but I had never been to Santa Barbara Island, only 20 miles west of the west end of Catalina.  A visit to Santa Barbara Island was a goal of the trip.


October 24, 2010, Big Geiger Cove:

I took off on Sunday and made the crossing to our Club's leased Cove on Catalina's west end.  I anchored bow and stern in Big Geiger Cove, nestling on the west side of the Cove, near the west wall and close to the kelp beds behind the reef.  The predicted weather was for Northwest winds and the wall, the reef and the kelp add some protection.  Since the seas can get nasty rolling into the coves on the north side of Catalina, I gave myself a significant amount of room off the beach just in case I had to bail if the seas got too bad.  The predicted wind wasn't too bad, but predictions can be wrong.

Leaving Alamitos Bay  24 Miles Accross the Sea

Bow Behind 8 Ball Rock  Stern Anchor Line

Boat Interior  More Interior

October 25, 2010, Big Geiger Cove:

Strong winds were predicted from Monday morning through Tuesday night.  Monday dawned clear with a good breeze, but no strong winds.  I put the kayak in the water, went ashore and took care of some housekeeping items on shore, including turning the water on so I could use the solar shower.

About 11:00 a.m., I started a hike up the ridge above the Cove, passing the water tank and climbing the fire road above up to the top of the ridge.  On a clear day, the views are spectacular.  Near the top of the ridge, a trail back down branches off and goes down to the point above the start of the Isthmus coves.  I passed that and climbed up to the ridge where you can see the link to the main south side dirt road and over the Island to the water on the south side of the Island.  After taking a few pictures, I walked back to the trail junction and took the other trail down and then the dirt road back to the Cove.  It was a perfect day for a long hike; clear, with a good breeze.  Recent rains had the soil damp so there was not even a lot of dust.

Back at the Cove, a shower was welcome, if not quite as warm water as it gets in the summer. 

Trail up Ridge  Trail Sign

  Isthmus  Schooner at Ithmus

Boat Anchored in Cove  More Cove


October 26, 2010, Big Geiger Cove:

While the weather was good, strong winds were predicted through Tuesday night.  Not a good time to be at Santa Barbara Island.  During the day I took a long kayak paddle and came back to the boat for dinner.  I put in a NetFlix movie on the television ("A Mighty Wind") and was watching it when I saw strong lights shining into the boat.  Investigating, I saw a big dive boat, the "Sand Dollar," out of Long Beach, anchoring near the kelp on the other side of the Cove.  Not too unusual because the reefs and kelp beds on each side of the Cove are great diving.  They had probably done a night dive and were tucking in for the night.

Kayak at Peace  Calm Night

I went to bed and was awakened about midnight with the sound of strong wind in the rigging and waves making the boat a teeter/totter.  I pulled on my shorts and jacket and went outside to do an anchor watch.  The dive boat captain was pacing his decks and checking his anchors as his boat hobby horsed (I am sure causing his passengers to cling to their bunks.)  After an hour or so, I heard a loud metallic clank from the back of the boat and discovered the ring from the kayak with the painter still attached was in the cockpit and the kayak adrift.  After quickly dismissing the possibility of jumping in the water after it, I ran down below and pulled the inflatable dingy on deck and started pumping it up while watching the kayak's progress.  After moving toward shore and then back, it started a definite drift past the stern of the dive boat east toward Little Geiger Cove.  I got the dingy in the water, and rowed quickly past the dive boat, across the kelp and caught the kayak.  After tying it to the dingy, I rowed around the front of the dive boat (whose stern anchor line was lifting out of the water aggressively occasionally.   I made it back to the boat and pulled the kayak into its rack on the boat. 


October 27, 2010, Santa Barbara Island:

By morning the winds had subsided as predicted and the weather was calm.  I pulled the anchors, put away the dingy and headed west for Santa Barbara Island about 9:00 a.m.  A north wind filled in, but I was only able to sail for an hour before turning the engine back on.  By 1:30 p.m., I had dropped the anchor just off of the National Park Service landing, in the indentation in the east coast of the island that is the only thing that approaches a cove or harbor.  The seas were still 3-4 feet and rolling in from the north and east.  The west swell was blocked, but it was still pretty rough.

Leaving Catalina  Cruising Guide

Santa Barbara Island from Sea  Anchor Down

I anchored in 30 foot of water.  The bottom is mixed sand and rock, and the cruising guide warns that sometimes the anchor can just slide across the rock.  The cruising guide talks about extensive kelp beds on the east side of the Island, but they are all gone.  I thought about just leaving, but put down the hook to at least eat lunch and rest.

Rocks  Fisherman

Since the anchor seemed to be holding, and the prediction was for the seas to lay down, I decided to stay.  The rolling was pretty bad, but calmed near sundown.  There was little wind and the place crawled with kelp flies.  Lots of sea lions cavorted around and barking in the sea caves, amplifying their voices.  A couple of fishing boats also anchored, as well as a three masted-schooner.  They were all a little further offshore in deeper water.

Left Over Pasta  Schooner Again

I went to bed early (a good thing) and got three or four hours sleep.  However, by midnight sleep was impossible as the seas had picked up again and the wind was blowing out the east, pushing me right toward the rocks.  I checked the GPS position and I was definitely moving toward the rocks.  It might have been the 150' of chain just straightening itself out, but I was not confident enough in the anchor to test it. 

I started the engine and pulled the anchor.  The waves were coming close to breaking over the bow and the bow dipped into the troughs, but I was spared a soaking.  As soon as I got away from the Island, the conditions improved and I motored into the wind trying to decide whether to go back to Long Beach or Catalina.  About 5:00 a.m., on a beautiful night, with lots of stars, I decided to head to Avalon.

Dark Night  Arrow Point


October 28, 2010, Avalon, Catalina Island:

As the sun rose in the east, I was rounding the capes on Catalina Island heading for the east end and Avalon.  It had been a long time since I had been there, but the drill was the same and the Harbor Patrol came out and met the boat at about 8:00 a.m. and quickly assigned me a mooring for two nights in exchange for $54.  I picked up the mooring and moved the filthy sand line down the side of the boat, trying not to brush it on the hull.  With a good e-mail connection, I was able to catch up on e-mail and take a long morning nap.

Casino From Sea  Avalon

I spent the rest of the day on the boat, straightening things up and resting.  While I was not sleepy, I was tired and felt like I had been up most of the night.  The temperature was in the high '70's, but a brisk breeze off the ocean kept things a little cool.  The engine had heated the water so I got a good shower on the boat.  I watched a couple of NetFlix streaming movies on the iPad, grilled some salmon for a salad for dinner and killed the last of a bottle of good rum.  I managed to stay up until about 8:30 p.m. and called Patty to say good night.

Harbor Views  Ka-Ata-Killa at Rest

October 29, 2010, Avalon, Catalina Island:

After a good night's sleep, with no need to do midnight anchor watches, I got up feeling good, pulled out the dingy, pumped her up, and rowed into town.  I even took the trash in, streaming coffee grounds from a tear in the bottom of the trash bag.  Made a good clean-up project for later in the morning.

I had heard rumor that my favorite breakfast place had closed down (the Pancake House) and, sure enough, it had but was replaced by the "Original Jack's" breakfast and lunch place.  I decided to try it, not noticing that it was flying a "Don't Tread on Me" flag outside until after I had ordered.  I ordered the "Country Breakfast" with enough cholesterol and calories to meet the monthly limit, but my appetite had returned.  It looks like this place decided to match the Island Company hefty rent increase with a hefty menu price increase.  It was mediocre, but the service was good.  I will try somewhere else next time.

Jack's Original and the Marlin Club  Flower

The eatery was right next door to the "Marlin Club," not one of your average Catalina bars with Hawaiian shirted waiters and harbor views.  This is an old style dive bar: padded leather door, no windows, bar tender who tells dirty jokes, and a clientele who start drinking early.  A few years ago, we had an older boat and the prop shaft coupler sheered off just off the harbor.  We got in and ordered the part to be Fed Ex'ed to Avalon.  Replacement required some dirty work and some power tools including grinders to cut out hard to reach bolts.  The only mechanic in town who would touch the job worked out of the Marlin Club and we had the part sent there.  After watching him do it, I did not care how many Jack Daniels it took to get him going in the morning, or the fact that I was paying several weeks' bar tab to get him to do it.  It was a nasty job; not requiring much real skill, but a lot of bruised knuckles and curses.  Looks like the Marlin Club has survived (I cannot vouch for our mechanic's liver.)

I took a walk around the waterfront, checked out the fuel dock for where the pumps and mooring lines were in case I came in to get fuel, and walked out to the new and improved Descanso Beach.  It has been very nicely done as a European style beach resort, with even some sand trucked in from somewhere for a pretend beach.  The whole layout with a beach bar, open air massage tables, large grass area, and various vendors was a big improvement over the old set-up and was very inviting.  I suspect that cruise ship passengers will walk around the water front and end up there to lighten their wallets for the long walk back to the cruise ship (or, I am sure, they will have shuttle busses at the dock so the walk will not be necessary).  The only thing missing were customers.  However, since it was before 11:00 a.m. when I was there, and no cruise ships in town, the only customers were three helmeted and harnessed folk getting the safety talk before heading out on the zip line tour of the canyon ($90).  Another four were taking a kayak tour.  No drinkers, sunners or massagees yet.

Descanso Beach Club  Beach Club Beach

Cabanas  Teaching the Ropes

Zip Line Gear  Beach Club Shops

I came back to the boat and did some detailed fuel consumption calculations and decided that at the boat's fuel burn rate, that we had enough fuel, with a 8 hour safety margin, to make it back to Long Beach, and less expensive fuel, without refueling here.  Any little bit I can do to not spend money here and decrease the Santa Catalina Island Company's take, I am willing to do, as well as dumping my trash here so they have to pay to get rid of it. 

After coming back to the boat, I worked on this web page, re-riveted the hinge for the dingy floor boards and cooked a "Taco Salad" for dinner.

Rivit Job  Taco Salad


October 30, 2010, Avalon to Long Beach:

 A rain storm came through about 4:00 a.m. and washed the boat down nicely, getting the accumulated salt off of the decks and covers.  By dawn the clouds were mostly gone and the decks and covers drying well.  I got the boat ready and took off about 8:30 a.m.  A nice wind from the west was blowing so I was able to sail all the way back to Long Beach.  Large flocks of birds in several locations pointed to schools of dolphins who were chasing fish, perhaps yellow fin tuna, all making quite a ruckus.

Morning After Rain  Leaving Avalon

Approaching Long Beach Under Sail  Speed and Wind

Patty met me at the dock and helped secure the boat.  We went down to Jim and Georgette Hick's boat and had a late lunch and then home for a welcome unlimited hot water shower.  Dinner was with Rob and Jenny Dickson who wanted to try out a new Bon Appetite recipe on us which we were glad help with.