Fall Cruising Perfection: Santa Catalina Island

I’ve finally decided that October IS my favorite month of the year for sailing.  The days are shorter, but the sunsets are gorgeous in the warm dry air.  This is the perfect time of year for cruising Catalina.  The anchorages are deserted, and mild Santana wind conditions mean calm, warm, and peaceful anchorages.

It was about 11:00 PM on Sunday evening October 22nd when Chrissie and I departed Dana Point Harbor, bound for the West End and Big Geiger cove.  We motor-sailed our Catalina 34, La Terza Vita, until about 1 AM when a mild north-westerly filled in.  We unrolled the big genoa and sailed close-hauled for several hours, making 4-5 knots on a course that brought us in toward Ship Rock at the Isthmus.  We arrived with the sun at Big Geiger, and had the whole cove to ourselves.

Sunrise en route to Big Geiger cove

Big Geiger
We anchored bow and stern as the sun rose a bit higher, and then laid down for a few hours of perfect rest.  And later that day we swam, snorkeled, and took a dinghy ride to explore Little Geiger, Emerald Bay, and Doctors’ cove.  The only boat in Emerald Bay was the Beneteau 48 Cabernet Sky, on a mooring at Indian Rock.  I thought of stopping in to say hello, but we were enjoying our own solitude so much, I thought we’d let them enjoy theirs.  And that night at anchor the sky was so clear, you could see Long Beach in sharp detail with its orange glow behind.  And we were still the only boat in the cove.

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Big Geiger from the road above.

 

It's nice to be the only boat in the cove.

Cabrillo Beach
It was Tuesday afternoon that we finally weighed anchor and headed for my favorite anchorage on the North Side of Catalina, Cabrillo Beach.  Tucked in behind Little Gibraltar, Cabrillo Beach is a lovely anchorage with a rock islet that has a piece of re-bar cemented into it – you can tie your stern rode directly to it.  Here’s what we did:  we dropped the bow anchor part way out near the point, and then backed in about 90 feet from the rock islet.  I took the stern rode in my hand, having first disconnected the chain, and while Chrissie kept the boat in reverse to hold our position, I swam it in to the rock with my Teva sandals on.   I tied off on the re-bar with a rolling hitch, and after backing down to set the bow anchor, there we were – super secure, and the only boat in the anchorage.

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Tucked in behind Little Gibraltar

 

Our stern rode is tied off on the rock islet

This is the coolest anchorage on the north side of the island

Avalon
The next day after snorkeling at Cabrillo and exploring ashore at neighboring Goat Harbor, we headed out for Avalon, only about 6.4 NM away.  The moorings were plentiful and for a while, we had no other boats nearby.  And on that Wednesday evening, there was plenty of space at the dinghy dock, and there was no wait for an outside table at the Blue Water Grill.  We had a beautiful view of the Casino, and our boat, in the second row of moorings off the beach.  This was a perfect finish.

It’s November now, but there’s still time to enjoy fall cruising at Catalina.  Keep a sharp weather eye out for strong Santana winds, and make sure you have your copy of Anchoring At Catalina, so you can enjoy a quiet cove and a beautiful clear night at anchor.  And if you miss it this year, remember for next time that Fall cruising can be complete perfection at Catalina.