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From The Boathouse: Check out more of Catalina

October 18, 2012|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

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.

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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.

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