Anchored in Sunny Santa Catalina Island – Swell Free At Last!!

Hey all, we are moored in Santa Catalina in Catalina Harbor on the south west side of the island. We arrived early this morning after a 22 hour overnight passage from Forney’s Cove on the west side of Santa Cruz Island, a total distance of 88 nautical miles.  We made it to 33 degrees north!!  After trying our hardest to find a decent anchorage on Santa Cruz we finally gave up yesterday morning and pulled anchor at 0900 and pointed Ellie’s bow south bound for Cat Harbor, a nicely protected cove on Santa Catalina Island.  We are in relatively flat water and loving it!

So, as an update, we left Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon around 1300 and sailed across the SB channel over lumpy seas because of the remnants of the NE swell from the strong Santa Ana winds over the weekend.  They were bouncing off the islands and coming back at us in a SE direction so it made for a raucous passage.  Luckily the wind stayed above 15 knots so we could sail across the channel.  We arrived at Forney’s cove and anchored amongst fellow cruisers and enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous sunset.  That night was torrential; we were getting tossed about in 35 knot winds coming straight down the canyon into the anchorage; oh, and we had some huge rocks and a reef as a lee shore – perfect!  We stayed up and took shifts watching our position and making sure we weren’t dragging anchor.  A Trimaran that was anchored off our port bow dragged backwards, through the immense kelp beds and within 50 feet of the rocks and reef!  Luckily it seemed his ground tackle held and he didn’t run aground.  Another yacht off our starboard bow was dragging but caught within 50 feet from us so we danced around our anchors within striking distance all night which was hair raising.  Around daylight the wind let up and we were able to get a few hours of sleep.  Our anchor didn’t move an inch all night.  Did I mention that we LOVE OUR ANCHOR!?!

The next day was a real treat.  The NE flow brought warm weather and calm winds and a low swell that we thoroughly enjoyed.  We both dawned swim suits and basked in the warm sunshine.  I sat in front of the dodger in my awesome arm chair with my kindle and read while Alyssa soaked it up and read along side me.  In the afternoon we dropped the dinghy into the water and I loaded it up with my fishing arsenal: pole, tackle box, net, spear gun, mask, multi tool, and radio.  I rowed over to the reef and tied off to a long stock of kelp, dawned my mask and looked below.  The visibility was 30-40 feet and I could see a few rock fish and sea bass swimming on a pinnacle down below me.  I dropped my fishing gear into the water, a double squid rig, and after a couple minutes of jigging was hooked up with a 18″ sea bass!  Dinner!!  I rowed back to Ellie and delivered my catch to the chef!  We cleaned it on our folding fish table and packed it in the fridge – we are bringing it over to s/v FYFM tonight to share for dinner 🙂

That night the weather deteriorated and a huge W swell rolled into the anchorage and by the early morning hours was tossing Ellie beam-to-beam even with our flopper stopper poled out on the boom.  We couldn’t sleep and decided to bag the channel islands and head to a better protected anchorage on Catalina Island.  

We pulled anchor at 0900 and sailed due south until we cleared the island then set a course of ESE about 100 degrees and set the monitor windvane.  We sailed this course for the next 16 hours and made a few sail changes in the process to deal with the variable winds.  About 18 nm south of the east end of Santa Cruz Island I heard an announcement that the coast guard was conducting live firing south of Santa Cruz Island; the coordinates that gave were very close to our location!  Oh sh!t, what was the exact location they said?!?!  I radioed the coasties on channel 22A and asked they repeat the coordinates.  They came back with a location that was 7nm SE of our location and they advised we keep at least a 5nm berth; uh, hell yes we will!  I diverted our course to take us north of the firing location and we skirted within 7.5nm of the firing.  We didn’t see or hear any firing but it could have been muffled in the dense fog.

After avoiding being fired on by our nations finest, we had a nice sail south while trailing two tuna lures and we enjoyed a nice sunset while riding down 5-7 ft wind swell and being pushed down wind by 10-14 knots of wind.  We enjoyed a delicious hot dinner of leftover chinese food that Alyssa made and then I took a nap.  Alyssa woke me around midnight and let me know that there were two huge tankers only 1.5 miles off our stern …..  WHAT?!  After assessing the situation, she correctly read the nav lights and they were safely taking our stern and headed straight for Long Beach…ok, we don’t get run down tonight….that’s good.

Alyssa went down below to take a nap and I was on watch from 0000 to 0330.  This was one of the most fun watches I have ever had because I was so used to being in rough seas that being down below didn’t faze me at all and I spent most of my watch at the nav station watching radar and the instruments while also watching a movie!  I watched the naval film Master and Commander!  It was awesome!  So, here I am in the middle of the ocean, it’s pitch black outside, the only sounds I hear are the water rushing past the hull and the occasional flogging of the sails, and I am watching an epic naval film about battle in tall ships on the high seas!  Does it get much better than that?!?  I don’t think so.  It was awesome.  And yes, I did go up topside every 10-15 minutes to check for nav lights, buoys, etc.

After my shift ended I woke up the very reluctant Princess and she took over until daylight when we were only 3-4 miles off Catalina.  We motored into the harbor over glassy seas just after daybreak and had the anchor down and set hard by 0800.  No swell, no wind waves, great protection, great holding ground … oh, ya – we may stay a while 🙂

We met up with Allan and Rina on s/v FYFM (Alyssa’s parents boat) who have been down here in Catalina all week.  We all had lunch and enjoyed some much deserved rum punch on the beach at twin harbors.  Now it’s off to dinner to eat my fresh caught fish!  

Life is good.  Dreams do come true.  Stay tuned because this can only get better.  



p.s. – We are planning to be here for a week of longer so I promise to upload pics and video!!  (seriously this time)


  1. Slove's Gravatar Slove
    October 9, 2013    

    Great post man I feel like I’m sailing while reading it! There is definitely something to be said about finding protected anchorages….I’m gonna write that down, and not anchor at Santa Cruz island and save my sleeps for Catalina….and I might even be in a Catalina 38…they are one of my dreamies

  2. October 15, 2013    

    Hey there, Love the post. Dinner was Fabulous – Fish Three Ways! Alyssa , you should add a “recipe blog” to your post! These were so easy, but very delicious.Especially the crab cakes!! Let me know if you need any recipes that we made while we sailed down the coast together, or any family recipes for that matter! We are glad to be home, our “bash” back up the coast was hard & cold. Enjoy your WARM weather, fair winds, and following seas! Love you both, love Mom

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