Posted By admin on December 31, 2012
The Captain and I decided to sail to Catalina to meet some friends who had sailed over there earlier in the day.
The plan was to spend the first night on the front side of the island, and the second night on the back side of the island were we might celebrate New Year’s Eve and maybe find some lobster.
The primary reason for the trip was that several of us wanted to do a “shakedown” in preparation for a long voyage.
First we stopped at the Chowder Barge (a restaurant near our boat) to eat lunch first. The clouds were looking ominous, but the Captain had checked the weather earlier and we were undaunted. We were supposed to have “fair winds and following seas.”
It takes about 4 to 12 hours to get to Catalina from Long Beach, depending on wind.
We arrived at the sailboat at about 3:30 p.m., unconcerned that we would be sailing (and possibly motoring) in the dark, as we have sailed and motored in the dark on many occasions.
By the time we left the harbor where the lighthouse sits, the clouds had parted and diffused.
Leaving Long Beach harbor, there isn’t usually much wind or swells initially because Palos Verdes blocks the wind (which usually blows from the North) and the swells (which usually come from the WNW). (The Captain explained it in more complex terms, but I think my explanation makes enough sense.)
Palos Verdes isn’t really an island. It’s a peninsula.
In the picture to the right, once you get out into the ocean beyond that peninsula, which takes a good hour or two, you will find wind.
Today, we left at about 3:30 or 4:00. We got beyond the peninsula by about 5:00 because we had some pretty good wind.
By the time we got out past the protection of Palos Verdes, we were in 20 knot winds and 8 foot swells. Still unfazed, since there was an occasion a couple of years ago where we were out in 30 knot winds and 15 foot swells, and the boat didn’t sink.
At about this point, I called one set of friends to let them know we were headed out that way. She was distressed because their engine had given out and they dropped anchor in about 100 feet of water, some distance from the original destination of Emerald Cove.
I told her that due to the wind and waves, we would head for Two Harbors, which was a bit to the south of where she and her husband anchored, and more protected. The Captain and I agreed that we would rescue them in the morning.
As we continued to head towards Catalina, the wind and swells seemed to be increasing in size and speed. The Captain turned on the marine weather broadcast and discovered that there was a small craft advisory. Winds up to 25 knots and 12 foot swells were expected.
The Captain decided that we weren’t prepared for 25 knots. We weren’t experienced with “reefing” yet, and he was just getting over the flu.
We headed back to Long Beach at between 6 and 8 knots, which is probably the fastest we have ever gone on our sailboat. We were being pushed by 10 to 12 foot swells.
As we headed back to Long Beach, we received a call from the friends whose engine had given out. Their anchor had become stuck, but was dragging at the same time. They had almost drifted into rocks but the coast guard rescued them just in time. They had to cut free from the anchor.
They were being towed to Two Harbors, where they were hoping to find us, but we were already headed into the Long Beach harbor.
Tomorrow, we’ll try heading out for Catalina again because our friends will need a tow home. I just hope the Captain will be up to the task.