I'm hightailin' it outta here first thing in the morning!

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
I headed over to Avalon, Catalina on Wednesday to take advantage of the "pay 2, get the next 5 nights free." The plan was to head home next Wednesday after getting a bunch of work done on my laptop.

The weather had other ideas. Here's the current forecast:

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Stay until Wednesday? I don't think so. Right now I'm in Hamilton Cove, which is one of the outlying coves near Avalon. It's been lovely over here and is very isolated--perfect for getting work done. And with my flopper stopper deployed, the motion has not been bad at all. No generators, no loud music--just the sound of surf hitting the beach. Oh, and a stray kayaker paddling by. Glorious.

This mooring would be a death trap in the conditions now on tap. I've been watching the forecast for the last few days, when this weather pattern was starting to emerge. At first it looked as though I might be able to get away with having them move me in the harbor (if they had space) to a mooring that is *realtively* sheltered for mild to moderate NE weather. Avalon is open to the NE, but there is some shelter next to the iconic Casino due to a small breakwater. But as the forecast has shaped up to this, I'm going to take my marbles and go home.

Monday in particular is kind of gnarly. What makes the 4 to 6 foot seas interesting is the 6-second period! Definitely a good idea to remain in port.

But I've got no complaints! It's been a great trip, even if a bit shorter than I might have liked. And the crossing tomorrow ought to be pretty typical and perhaps even on the light side.
 
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goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
Good luck and I'm jealous of your trip.

I've been watching the red flag warnings here in the SF Bay Area. My parents are in a rural part of the state and vulnerable to the type of massive forest fires we have had.

We've also had just about enough (thank you very much, Nature/PG&E) of fires in the North bay wine country etc.

I have been looking to windy.com for more clear predictions of today-Monday, but am disappointed that their algorithms seem to forecast little-to-none of the gusting that the weather services anticipate. Something tells me to believe the weather services.
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
H
Make it back OK? How was the trip?
Hi, Geoff. Thanks for asking.

The trip home yesterday was no problem. I'm still down at the boat, which is now in its slip at the marina in San Pedro. Since I had blocked out a week for my Catalina trip and stowed enough food and beer for that long, no point letting all that go to waste! :p I'll stay on the boat at the marina until Wednesday.

The gale-force winds were supposed to come in late last night, but we didn't see any of that down here. The nor'easters did show up here around 9am this morning, but nothing very strong. However, Avalon Harbor was a different story, judging by some shots I captured off of the webcam they have mounted on the Casino. These were captured this morning.

The 10:25 am shot is of a vessel aptly-named Wild Wave, which ran up on the rocks. The 1:31 pm shot is what I just took as I was writing this reply. The vessel is a goner. My friend (and former student) Ron, who works Harbor Patrol, told me that's a vessel that has been anchored outside of Avalon for about a year. His luck finally ran out, as happens all too often for some of the "anchor outs." This is a real issue for the Harbor Patrol, because they will sometimes have to rescue these people off of their boats in the middle of the stuff hitting the fan. They won't try to save the boat, however, if it is at all dangerous to do so--which it typically is. I don't know what happened in this particular case as Ron was on the mainland at a doctor's appointment, so he didn't have any details. For all I know the boat was unoccupied. If the skipper was aboard and the vessel operational, the obvious thing to do would have been to run around to the back side of the Island to Catalina Harbor and drop anchor there. I thought about doing that myself but just decided not to mess with it. Although I think it's safe enough, the strongest winds were forecast for the NW part of the Island, which funnel through the canyon between the Isthmus (on the front side) and Cat Harbor (on the back). It would be really windy even though the sea conditions would be mostly flat.

The 9:54 am and 9:56 am photos are obviously shots of what it looked like inside the harbor. You'll see that all the boats are tucked in toward the right side (NW direction) of this photo. That's because there is a rock mole by the Casino that gives some shelter from the wost of the seas. But it's still not especially comfortable, and if it were a really bad Santa Ana then it's also not secure. I had thought about seeing if they could situate me in there rather than heading home before it all blew up, but I decided to just head home. It's profoundly uncomfortable in there, sometimes adjacent boats can swing into you if they are not properly secured, and so forth. I've been there in conditions like this and it's not enjoyable.

The 9:48 am photo gives a view of where I was moored for most of the time I was over there. My boat was in the area mid-way between the sailboat in the foreground and the jet ski barge that's flying the American flag. I was on the first row of moorings off the beach. I'm not sure what's up with those sailboats in the foreground. That's no place I'd want to be. Likewise for the sailboat located somewhat past the barge.
(Edit: Actually, the sailboat in the right foreground is an Ericson 35 that was anchored in that spot the whole time I was there. So I guess the skipper just decided to ride it out. Or perhaps the vessel is unoccupied. I have no idea what is going on with the vessel to the left, but it doesn't look good to me.)
 

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Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
Wow, it's wild to me that I could spend a long time learning about what it's like boating somewhere like the PNW and know almost nothing about boating somewhere like California. Those mooring balls look so close together, it makes me nervous. Are the winds consistent and prevailing enough that boats don't just end up bumping each other all the time? You mention it happens with improper tie-ups, how do you prevent it? Up here, with funky currents and no wind, boats can often end up in any number of directions in a mooring field.

That, and the building-high spray crashing against the shore there - don't see that happen much in Elliot Bay!

Glad you made it and thanks for the write-up, fascinating stuff. Hope everyone on Wild Wave is alright.
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
Wow, it's wild to me that I could spend a long time learning about what it's like boating somewhere like the PNW and know almost nothing about boating somewhere like California. Those mooring balls look so close together, it makes me nervous. Are the winds consistent and prevailing enough that boats don't just end up bumping each other all the time? You mention it happens with improper tie-ups, how do you prevent it? Up here, with funky currents and no wind, boats can often end up in any number of directions in a mooring field.

That, and the building-high spray crashing against the shore there - don't see that happen much in Elliot Bay!

Glad you made it and thanks for the write-up, fascinating stuff. Hope everyone on Wild Wave is alright.
Hi, Geoff. I'd love to try cruising in your neck of the woods sometime! It's probably a delightful place.

As for Southern California, we have pretty regular weather patterns. In the summer the westerlies blow like clockwork. This time of year (mid to late October) we begin to get the Santa Ana conditions, which are NE winds that can sometimes blow with great ferocity. These happen off and on until sometime in March, though we can get them later in the season than that. And we can also get winter storms out of the SE or S.

The proportions in those webcam photos could be a bit misleading, but it is true that the moorings are somewhat close together. Usually there's not a problem with smacking into other boats. But if someone leaves too much slack in the stern line, for example, coupled with strong beam winds and/or a current running, the boats could collide. Also, different hull shapes can lie to the mooring a bit differently. Typically what happens is the Harbor Patrol person comes out and takes care of it--most commonly by helping the skipper to adjust his or her mooring lines properly. And when the harbor is not crowded, they will usually space you out so they will leave a mooring vacant between boats rather than putting them directly side-by-side. In the summer months, when Avalon tends to be packed, they will often have every mooring occupied, and it's not uncommon to hear calls on the VHF asking for a patrol person to come out to make such adustments. But it usually works out just fine in the end.

When my friend Ron gets back to the Island I'll try to remember to ask him what the story was on that Wild Wave. Hopefully no one got hurt.
 

Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
The proportions in those webcam photos could be a bit misleading, but it is true that the moorings are somewhat close together. Usually there's not a problem with smacking into other boats. But if someone leaves too much slack in the stern line, for example, coupled with strong beam winds and/or a current running, the boats could collide. Also, different hull shapes can lie to the mooring a bit differently. Typically what happens is the Harbor Patrol person comes out and takes care of it--most commonly by helping the skipper to adjust his or her mooring lines properly. And when the harbor is not crowded, they will usually space you out so they will leave a mooring vacant between boats rather than putting them directly side-by-side. In the summer months, when Avalon tends to be packed, they will often have every mooring occupied, and it's not uncommon to hear calls on the VHF asking for a patrol person to come out to make such adustments. But it usually works out just fine in the end.
I did some googling and see the stern line thing - so all the boats are tied to pretty much stay pointing the same direction. I thought somehow the stern was free and boats were able to swing wherever they wanted. How much I have to learn ;)
 
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Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
I did some googling and see the stern line thing - so all the boats pretty much stay pointing the same direction. I thought somehow the stern was free and boats were able to swing wherever they wanted. How much I have to learn ;)
Oh my no! It would be quite a mess without the stern anchor!

Sometimes when anchoring over here people will swing on one hook, depending on the location. But there are not a lot of good places to anchor because once you get outside of the mooring field the water can be quite deep.
 

racushman

O34 - Los Angeles
Alan - thanks for sharing this story. I was just reading Brian Fagan's cruising guide to socal and the islands last weekend. He frequently describes many of the fair weather anchorages at the offshore islands as "suicidal" or "death trap" in strong NE/Santa Ana winds... and stresses the urgency to "get out" as soon as you even suspect one is coming. Having seen a fair bit of weather, it sounded a little extreme But from these pictures I can see what he means, and I don't think this was even a particularly strong santa ana.
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
Alan - thanks for sharing this story. I was just reading Brian Fagan's cruising guide to socal and the islands last weekend. He frequently describes many of the fair weather anchorages at the offshore islands as "suicidal" or "death trap" in strong NE/Santa Ana winds... and stresses the urgency to "get out" as soon as you even suspect one is coming. Having seen a fair bit of weather, it sounded a little extreme But from these pictures I can see what he means, and I don't think this was even a particularly strong santa ana.
No, this one was not that bad. It didn't last very long and it was not one of the stronger ones.

Jeff Asbury, who used to own an Ericson 27 and post on this forum, gave an account of a horrendous one that happened on Dec. 30 , 2014. This resulted not only in losing some boats but loss of life. It was very, very sad. This is his post. Quite sobering.
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
Sorry to link to That Place on this forum, but someone posted a vid of I think the same conditions Alan shared pictures of:

Oh, my! Thanks for sharing that! It gives me a much more accurate idea of what I might have been in for had I moved inside the harbor compared to what I was able to glean from the still photos I snagged off of the Casino webcam. The still photos looked bad enough, but the video is even worse.

Of course, those boats do not appear to be in the optimum part of the cove for these conditions. There is some shelter if one can tuck in closer to the Casino. But really, the best course is to avoid Avalon altogether in conditions like these.
 
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