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SoCal Sailing

After the drama of the previous week and the horrific morning with the pump-out, we were looking forward to a few quiet days for a change - you know, the type of days we were expecting when we went cruising - morning coffee on deck, sunny days, gently rocking at anchor, taking in the sights....

Fortunately, the next few weeks were just like that! We explored the tourist spots - choked on the cost of a (plastic) glass of chardonnay and sangria at the Hotel Del Coronado, about died when we were charged $80 for a 10 minute ride in a pedi-cab (admittedly, there may have been an extra charge for having to listen to me singing Bee Gee's songs at the top of my lungs. There may or may not have been gin involved but needless to say, Stayin' Alive is no longer on my Spotify playlist), made our way on a lovely sunny day to Mission Bay where we discovered the insane fun of careening along the boardwalk on electric scooters (pedestrians must hate them with a passion) and enjoyed watching the sunset over the Pacific.

Aside from the trip to San Diego from Ensenada, our transit time between anchorages so far had been anything from an hour to maybe 3 hours at most, and we were excited to head to Catalina island for a few days. Instead of going direct to Catalina from Mission Bay, we decided to head to Dana Point and then do the crossing to Catalina the next day. Our trip to Dana Point started at 7AM in a bit of a fog with 3 to 5 foot swells leaving the channel. We started our watch rotation of 2 hours on 2 hours off and settled in to what we calculated to be about an 8 hour trip. While Darrin was napping I saw my first whale! He came up right beside the boat, went underneath and before I could grab my camera and yell for Darrin, he was gone. I think it may have been a Pilot whale but I'm not sure, it all happened so quickly. We got to shake the sails out for a few hours when the wind piped up in the afternoon - for the most part we'd had light and variable winds so it was nice to turn off the engine for a while.

Dana Point is a fishing mecca with a cute little town with the smallest anchorage we have ever been in. Shoehorned in between the fuel dock and the bait barge with the breakwater wall behind us, we were really nervous about anchoring. The potential for disaster was a little concerning what with the traffic at the dock and the barge so we tried to get a slip on the guest dock but unfortunately, no room was available. In hindsight this was a good thing, it makes us work out what we need to do and deal with the situation rather than taking the easy way out! We've really learned a lot and tweaked our anchoring process on this trip, and small anchorages have been the norm (although nothing this small) so we knew we could work it out. After setting the hook and monitoring our movement for a while, we got out the dinghy and took a tour around the harbor.

So much activity! Paddle-boarders, fisher folk, jet ski's, sailors, swimmers, kayakers - all coming and going, all over the place. All the docks were lined with yellow buckets to keep the sea lions away - they were keeping a weather eye on the bait barge to scoop up any escapees from the pens. Pelicans and seagulls following the fishing boats returning to the harbor, squabbling over filleting scraps. Just incredibly busy, on water and on shore.

The next morning we woke to a foggy mist and a line of about 30 fishing boats snaked around us, waiting their turn to buy bait. We weighed anchor and headed to Avalon on Catalina Island, about a 6 hour trip. No wind again and a small swell on the beam, it was a pretty smooth ride and we made good time. Coming into Avalon, I was surprised at how small the harbor is, pictures make it look so much larger than it is. Mooring here is on a ball with both a bow and a stern line, and we had done research before we arrived so we knew what we were doing as there's not a lot of room for maneuvering, but once again the captain made it seem super easy, I grabbed the line and without further ado we were tucked in safely, relaxing on deck as we took in the incredible view of Avalon.

Gloriously sunny by this time, Avalon reminded me of any picture you've ever seen of beach villages in the Mediterranean. Villa's clinging to the hills above the beach, a golden crescent of sand dotted with bright beach umbrellas, restaurant patio's full of chattering people enjoying the view, jewel colored bougainvillea spilling over stucco walls - just beautiful.

After a tumultuous history of ownership between Native Americans, Spaniards and Americans, Santa Catalina Island was bought sight unseen by William Wrigley Jr. of the chewing gum and Chicago Cubs family in the 1920's. He developed it as a tourist destination, and in the 1970's the Wrigley family donated about 80% of the island to a Conservancy to protect it's wildlife and flora. The Casino (not a gambling casino, a casino in the true sense of the word meaning "meeting place") is a stunningly beautiful art deco building still used today for concerts, movies and dances. We hired a golf cart and drove all over the town and up into the hills. There's a 14 year wait to bring a car onto the island - everyone drives golf carts!

We wished we had more time to see all of Catalina, we could easily have spent another 2 weeks exploring the rest of the island. It was time for us to start to make our way south again though so we planned our route, choosing to stop at Oceanside to break up the trip to San Diego. We were expecting a quiet night at this little seaside town. We'd booked a slip on the guest dock so we could fill our water tanks and top up our batteries before we traveled on and an early night was definitely in order.

Expectation and reality. Two very different things: Expectation - we expected to have a quiet, early night. Reality - the state of things as they exist, including everything that surrounds us, such as...oh...I don't know...maybe sea lions?

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