Catalina trip


As we neared the island the sun began to break through and we spied the cove where we would stay. A small headland stood out to the starboard side, sheltering our harbor from the wind. This was to be our first time using the 10' inflatable dinghy. We plugged our little air pump into the cigarette lighter plug, threw the uninflated dinghy over the side, and filled it full of air. The inflatable was advertised as a five person boat. I think that would be accurate if you liked getting really wet. We managed to get everything on shore, including a 30 lb. ice chest, a small two burner stove, five people and their stuff, a tent, and a shade cover. With a 150 anchor rode and a slightly oversized anchor, the boat rested securely in the cove.

We made the mistake of thinking the porta potty would serve five people. Bad idea! I convinced my wife to use the five gallon rode bucket for a thunder receptacle, which worked nicely - if such a thing could be said.

Another mistake was visiting three different places in the course of four days. We were definitely working from a backpacking mentality of quickly and easily packing up and moving on. Every time we moved, we had to row out in the dinghy, and that alone is a story in itself. The boat loses air as the day goes by. It gets a little more water each time you get in and out. Then everything has to be carried down to the water. You get a little wetter each time. It's a hassle.

The next camp was ripper's. A cove with sand on the shore and a flat beach. What a joy a flat beach is when it has sand!

We learned to back the boat in much closer to the beach before we unloaded and then we anchored in deeper water. The boat is lost in the photo but you'll find it near the top of the picture. It was here that I introduced my children to snorkeling. The variety of plants and fish was amazing. We saw schools of silver fish, Garabaldi, rays and guitar fish in crystal clear water.

My wife left on the third day. She had to film a commercial in San Diego so we motored back to Avalon, put her on the cattle boat and bid her farewell. After a beach side meal, we gassed up and headed back to our private cove. That night we experienced our first “blow”. Tropical clouds drifted in from the south and the wind came with it. At 1:30 am I woke up with the tent whipping about above us. I was pretty sure we had 1:3 anchor rode in the water so I rowed out to the boat, leaving my daughter waiting nervously on the shore and proceeded to let out line. Then, for fun, I shined my spotlight into the sea. Thousands of tiny fish swam on the surface, darting and jumping out of the water. Little jellies glowed fluorescent in the cloud filtered moonlight. It was a beautiful scene, quite different from my kids' mutiny the next day.

We packed up in the morning, ready to visit the third campsite. Unfortunately there are no pictures. We were dead tired. After starting to unload the John E B good, my children decided they had had enough. My 15 year old began throwing rocks angrily at the cliff. His brother and sister, unable to deal with this outward expression of anger, yelled at him to stop, which only served to anger him more. At this point, watching everything from the boat, I decided we would eat lunch, unload nothing, and head to Avalon where my wife was planning to arrive later that afternoon. The kids were all for going to Avalon and their moods rapidly improved. Our second mooring in Avalon went well and we quickly learned via cell phone that my wife would not be on the boat from the mainland. The children cheered.

I radioed the harbor master as we left Avalon only to find that the radio was taking the rest of the day off. Fortunately the crossing was uneventful and we returned to Dana Point, a 35 mile jaunt, in about 1 hour 40 minutes. My nine year old slept almost the whole way back.

All in all, it was a fun but tiring adventure. Five people crowded the boat a bit, especially with all the gear. Next time, we'll buy most of the food and drink on the island, camp in just one spot, and do very little.