One night last week, I was cruising along our coastline with the owner of a new yacht, and he wondered why we could not see the light of Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island. Well, I explained the curvature of the Earth and that Avalon is actually below the horizon from Newport.
Most people are only familiar with Avalon. Most members of the local yacht clubs only make the crossing to the clubs' boat mooring and beach areas on the island. A smaller percentage, usually a boater crowd, know about the hamlet of Two Harbors, which boaters often call the Isthmus. These are the only harbors on Catalina with shops, restaurants and fuel docks. Visitors will find minimal overnight accommodations at the Isthmus with camping and the Banning House Lodge, but Avalon has more hotels and overnight accommodations.
Looking from Newport's shores, one can see the tops of Catalina's mountains, but not the harbors. Catalina is one of the eight Channel Islands, which stretch from San Miguel Island located west of Santa Barbara to San Clemente Island, which is the most southerly island, situated offshore from San Diego County.
Boaters leaving the protection of Newport Harbor will cross the San Pedro Channel, sharing it with the north and southbound shipping lanes for Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors. Boaters need to look at their chart or GPS to see where the inbound and outbound lanes are to avoid tangling with a ship. Furthermore, experienced boaters know to monitor Channel 14 on the marine band VHF radio for periodic reports on ship traffic by the Vessel Traffic Service. Only a fool would try to outrun a ship to cross in front because it is very difficult to judge a ship's speed due to their size.
The best times for crossing the channel are in the morning if you want to motor across, or sailors can wait for the afternoon breeze to fill their sails. Friday evenings can be busy with boaters making the voyage after everyone gets off work. Sometimes, there is an evening breeze, but usually sailboats have to fire up the iron genny to make a nighttime crossing. You will notice the typical northwestern seas flatten as you enter the protected lee of the island.
If you are heading for Avalon or Isthmus, or rounding the West End or the East End, there is much more to explore around the island's 54 miles of coastline like Long Point or Cat Harbor to name a couple. Whether you are new to boating or an experienced cruiser, Catalina Harbor is within reach for a new adventure, but always remember to keep to eye toward Point Conception for large swells, to the mainland for Santana winds and to the south for hurricane produced swells.
Tip of the week is a thanks to Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner for promoting being on the water with her paddleboarding in the harbor. This brings up two important topics about the harbor. First: Paddleboarding is technically classified as boating. As such, you need to have a personal floatation device (lifejacket) with you by either wearing the lifejacket or onboard the board.
Second: City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle's call for paddleboarder lanes shows how out of touch she is with the harbor and boating community. We have "boater lanes" in the harbor now, yet many people never study a nautical chart or abide by the right of way rules before venturing on the waters.
We cannot get the average Sunday sailor to follow the rules, so the suggestion to make lanes or impose more rules will only complicate the matter. Who knows where windsurfing is not allowed in the harbor as per federal rules?
Lastly, I have received many emails regarding last week's column about the increase in the tideland tax, yes a tax and not a fee. However, everyone requested that I do not use his or her names or any part of their emails. Remember, if you send a correspondence to a columnist, nothing is off the record. I only choose not to publish the emails and names so that I do not lose the connection with my readers. Additionally, you need to speak out and be heard on boating and harbor issues, as I am only a voice of one.
And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sundays.
MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.boathousetv.com.