Free Spirit August 2015 Single Handed Cruise
by Peter Beale
I often hear sailors complaining that there is nowhere to go when based in Marina Del Rey. Although not as closely situated, as say in the UK’s Solent, we do have a great variety of locations.
To the North we have Channel Islands with numerous anchorages and three distinct harbors; Santa Barbara, Ventura and Channel Islands, all with friendly yacht clubs.
My ten-day August single-handed cruise this year was to the South. It started the Thursday night after the SCCYC party to celebrate the final Sunstroke Lido 14 summer race and to give out prizes. As ever, our club really treated the sailors well, with great food, music and dancing.
After the party I headed to Free Spirit, my Magellan Ketch, 42ft overall, and motored out of the Marina South to Redondo.
In daylight one can go inside the tanker moorings, avoiding the famous sewage pipe that at least one boat each year hits and sinks or does major damage. At night I prefer to go outside the tankers as the unlit tanker mooring buoys are a real danger.
Night sailing, or in this case motoring, as there was no wind, is wonderful. Once away from the shore lights the sky brightens up revealing thousands of stars we seldom see when living in a city. With no wind there is a tranquility and calm. One just has the glow of the compass light; the quiet throb of the diesel engine and one keeps an eye out for lights from ships and navigation aids. Redondo is typical of many harbors where the concentration of shore lights hides the entrance lights until one is close.
King Harbor YC is very friendly and if they have space on their pontoon one may tie up. First night is free. Otherwise Redondo harbor has a good anchoring area close to the club. (No fees) There are mooring buoys inside the center part of the breakwater. Unfortunately the harbor has generously anchored a pontoon in the middle of the moorings and devoted it to the seals. They bark most of the night so anchoring, which is further away, is preferred.
Next morning, having paid my respects to the club secretary, had a shower and then made a good breakfast, I headed South to Long Beach. It was motoring until Palos Verde headland and then sail on a broad reach, turning a run, down to the harbor’s second entrance, entering at two pm. Positioned at the center and back of the harbor is White Island. It is fairly close to the shore and a mile from the Queen Mary and Rainbow Harbor. Rainbow harbor is between the Long Beach Aquarium and Seaport Village. White Island is really an oilrig turned into an island and it providers great anchoring protection.
Part of my vacation was to work on my latest book and there can be no better place to write than when anchored and listening to great music.
The oil company has built a very large “architectural” wall and at night they have a big waterfall and lots of colored lights. which is an unusual and interesting combination.
Francesca, my wife, does not sail. She will make exception for short sails with friends as long as the boat is upright, and I mean upright. No healing!! However she does join me at interesting harbors when I go cruising and drove down to Rainbow harbor to meet up for the morning. Rainbow Harbor is managed by the same people who are developing the SCCYC part of Marina Del Rey, and building our new clubhouse. At Rainbow Harbor they have a lot of visitors moorings, free for three hours. The buildings are themed with traditional New England architecture into Sea Shore Village with many shops, restaurants etc.
So the village, along with the Aquarium, makes for a nice visit.
Other great places to visit in the harbor are San Pedro Fish market and restaurants where there is three hour mooring by the harbor Fire Station, and Alamitos Bay. The club, ABYC, has visitor berths and are always very friendly.
Saturday afternoon I motor sailed down to Newport. As often happens the wind came up late afternoon so the last hour was just under sail. The activity in Newport is many time more than I have ever seen in the Marina Del Rey. There is a much bigger variety of boats. Very large luxury motor yachts moored on the private slips outside the mega villas, traditional trawler motor yachts, converted tugs, harbor launches, zodiacs full with extended families, lots of high end sailing yachts, racing boats of all sizes including the famous Harbor 20s and Lido 14s and of course, paddle boards. As I turned from the entrance up the main channel past the ferries, the wind came from in front. This is where the Tides’ mast track and sail luff slides and the lazy jacks are a boon to single handed sailors. All I do is release the main and mizzen halyards and the sails drop flaking them selves onto the booms.
There is a good anchorage in Newport and I found it was full of boats with families and friends having parties, BBQs, people swimming, jumping into the water, bouncing on floating water cushions, playing all types of music, and basically having great fun. One mega yacht with white uniformed crew had a band on board and the guests were coming via speed-boats. There must have been some twenty speed boats tied up the stern. I had to anchor, (no fees) on the edge of the official anchorage in the channel but the harbor master did not seem concerned when he came by. The partying continued late into the evening. Sunday morning I found only ten boats remaining so re-anchored and by noon was surrounded by more boats and people having fun. It is a ten-minute row from the anchorage to the shops by the ferries so it is easy to get supplies. There are a number of yacht clubs that have exchange arrangements with SCCYC but I did not avail myself of them.
Monday morning, having washed the mud off the rode chain and anchor; it is thick and black; I had a leisurely sail six hour sail to Dana Point Harbor. I anchored, (no fees) in the West basin close to two sail training “tall” ships. They made for a nice background.
Alas it was Monday so the Dana YC was closed. The harbor was quiet except for paddle boarders. I asked one where the nearest supermarket was and was given detailed instructions to walk to the very end of the harbor and up a short hill. It was guaranteed to be no more than ten minutes. Normally I enjoy walking but the combination of a sprained ankle and the California heat wave were against me. Having walked to the end of the harbor I had to retreat half the distance and then climb a long hill. Thirty minutes and not ten! By the time I got back to the boat I was limping badly. Fortunately once on board one does not walk a lot.
Tuesday I headed north to Avalon on Catalina Island. The first three hours motor sailing, and then a great three-hour close reach. Free Spirit will sail herself close hauled and close reached, once one has balanced the sails. I have an auto-pilot which works in light winds on a beam reach or run. Otherwise it is manual helming.
In Avalon the anchorage is way outside the harbor so I paid $38 for a mooring. The harbormaster pours a colored liquid into the heads to ensure that one does not use the heads in the harbor. When he came on board he commented that he seldom sees paper charts any more. I had to confess at not having a GPS. It seems such and extravagance for what is basically coastal navigation.
The yacht club is not open to visitors but near the club are public showers. The town has nice classic architecture, a church bell that still rings out the quarters and hours, is full of shops and restaurants and tourists. The tourists come on the ferries, which arrive nearly every hour. As I arrived a large Carnival cruise ship, that was anchored just outside the harbor, was hooting its horn and summonsing its many passengers back to the ship via a flotilla of harbor launches.
Wednesday Francesca arrived on the ten am ferry. We rented a golf cart and spent time exploring the town and adjacent countryside and then had a great fish lunch on a balcony at the edge of the harbor.
Thursday morning I waited to get fuel and water. The fueling dock is tucked into the back corner of the harbor with no real space to turn and defiantly not friendly for a long keel sail boat with reversing challenges. Thank goodness I have practiced reversing into SCCYC dock and turning in little more than Free Spirit’s boat length using prop walk. Otherwise I would have been in trouble. After getting fuel I headed south past the stone quarries to the South tip of Catalina Island and then North up the West coats to Catalina (Cat) harbor. The coast scenery is spectacular. Just before Cat harbor is Little Harbor. It is a great anchorage in calm weather but care is needed as an unmarked reef extends half way across the outer bay. It is such a beautiful area that is a Mecca for painters who get taken over in a four-wheel truck from Two Harbor.
Cat harbor is one of my favorite places. The surroundings are un-spoilt and no restaurants, shops or houses.. The anchoring (no fees) is very good as are the moorings. I was surprised that the anchorage was busy but the harbormaster reminded me it was Labor Day weekend.
I was a bit concerned as one or two boats were moored bow and stern and others just by the bow. A potential for problems later! All the moorings were booked but he had an isolated one in front of the commercial loading ramp, so I took it for $42 a night.
Free Spirit has a classic rowing tender, with no out-board motor, that tows behind Free Spirit, so far in all weather with no problems. Next morning it was an energetic ten-minute row to the dinghy landing and a fifteen minute walk across the causeway to Two Harbor.
Two harbor has a bar, café, restaurant general store, toilets and showers.; a ferry and fuel pier and diving and other boat related rentals. There is accommodation for those working there but no private housing. After a shower, sadly, I had to connect to emails and so spent three hours catching up with work. The nice thing was that I did it on the bar/restaurant terrace sipping coffee and enjoying the view of the moored boats. While there a big buffalo came down the hill and past fairly close by causing a lot of excitement. The locals said he would just wander on, and he did.
Friday was spent on board writing.
Saturday I headed out and back to Marina Del Rey. The first hour and a half was motoring into the wind and then once past the Eagle Rock and West End it was a close reach all the way back with 10 to 12 knot winds. A really great sail.
It is now September and in most places sailors are starting to think about winterizing the boats and taking them out of the water. Fortunately in LA we have sailing year round so I am looking to many more day and long weekend sails before the year is out.