June 30, 2015

Catalina Harbor

We have made a habit of visiting Catalina Harbor each time we sail out to Catalina Island. Sailing to Catalina Harbor is surely one of the great pleasures for any Southern California boater. You leave behind the more popular, leeward side of the island and enter into the much more wild and windswept Pacific Ocean side.

Catalina Harbor has a storied history, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo dropped the hook here on his epic journey into California. Richard Henry Dana and his trade ship would hide out in Cat Harbor to take cover from Santa Ana storms blowing from the east. Rum-runners evaded authorities here during the prohibition. And then Hollywood discovered this gem. Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed here, as were many others. If you look close you'll see that the final scene from 'Suicide Kings' with Jay Mohr and Christopher Walken was shot from a boat in Cat Harbor.

Catalina harbor
Sailing from Two Harbors around the Northwest headlands of Catalina Island

To get there, just point your vessel North from Two Harbors and wrap around the headlands.

Turning the corner around the tip of Catalina Island
There's a sea urchin harvesting operation up here, you may see these guys in action.

Catalina harbor
Sailing Southeast just outside Catalina Harbor
Then head down the windward side of the island. With luck you will have good winds as you sail down past these cliffs. Though...as you can see, the wind shut off for us here - we had to start the engine.

Approaching Catalina Harbor

Sails down, approaching the entrance to Catalina Harbor
And then tuck into Catalina Harbor, the gem of Catalina. The Harbor is about 25 nautical miles from Long Beach, LA. If you're planning to explore the west facing side of Catalina Island, or any other Channel island / coastline off of Southern or Central California, then make sure you have the boaters handbook for the area. This is Brian Fagan's classic boater's guide to the area, it's got all you need to know..

June 24, 2015

An excellent review of boat insurance companies for 2015

Our friends over at All Things Boat.com have just released their annually updated boat insurance comparison. This is an overview of the basics of boat insurance and also a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most popular boat insurance companies in the U.S.

This is good resource for anyone that is new to boating and needs to decide on a reasonable policy.
It is also a good resource for anyone that is getting a little tired of their current provider and wants to compare boat insurance options.

We began with Boat Insurance Agency in Seattle, Washington. This worked out very well for us. Since, then while moving around, I have gone through Progressive and Boat U.S. Honestly I don't have too many complaints. However, I have never filed a claim - and that is when you truly find out how good your insurance is...

It's not that enjoyable to read through all the details and policy info. for each provider, however, this review does take a lot of the pain out of it. See if the page helps you compare policies from the best boat insurance providers in the U.S.

If you're going to anchor poorly, make sure you have insurance first!

June 18, 2015

ZB Savoy introduces the Captain Curran bow tie.

Life is good over here at CaptainCurran.com.

We are blessed with warm San Diego air, a pleasant afternoon wind, the occasional Tecate with lime...and now this.

Our good friends at ZB Savoy have released a nautical themed bow tie in our honor, they call this fashionable accessory, the Captain Curran.

They say 'a gentleman never sails to windward', well I think there's some truth to that.

I've spent some time banging upwind and it never felt very gentlemanly. But, perhaps the old saying can be augmented to 'a gentleman never sails to windward, but when he does, he wears a bow tie'.

So far, the Captain Curran has been selling like hotcakes. This is excellent news. I never thought I'd have a bow tie named after me, but now that I do, I want this thing to be a huge success.

The tie is on the racks at the new ZB Savoy store on Broadway Ave in downtown San Diego (1028 Broadway Ave, San Diego, CA 92101). Or you can find the Captain Curran on the ZB savoy website.

June 13, 2015

40 foot visibility at Catalina Island

We were blessed with an unusually clear Pacific Ocean on this trip to Catalina island. The visibility was 40 feet, often 50 feet. The trip was in late May, so from my understanding this is better than average for that time of the year. Most of these photos were taken near Two Harbors. This Catalina Island visibility contributes to these gorgeous shades of blue seen here.

Visibility at Catalina Island

catalina island visibility
metamorphic tidal rocks looking out at the mooring balls
 The visibility at Catalina stayed this quality the entire week. Maybe this can be attributed to the warmer waters this El Nino year? Who knows?

great visibility at catalina island

Even here in deeper waters - 200 feet, you can see this great pastel blue color to the ocean.

40 foot visibility catalina island

Catalina island visibility

The shallow waters in the Two Harbors bay was spectacular. Jess and I snorkeled at the Blue Caves and we scuba dove at Cherry Cove. We actually had much more fun snorkeling. The caves were spectacular. Lots of abalone. It is all marine protected though, so no harvesting.

great catalina island visibility
great visibility in the water at the Two Harbors dock

prickly pear cactus at Two Harbors
We sailed out from San Diego, which is about a 73 nautical mile journey. If you are taking your boat from LA, here is a good link to estimate crossing distances for boating to Catalina Island from major LA harbors. 

If you're taking your boat from San Diego, this page has good San Diego to Catalina Island boating distances.

June 5, 2015

Mooring ball or drop the anchor in Catalina Harbor?

Every time I boat out to Catalina Island, I make sure to spend a few nights on anchor in Catalina Harbor. Cat Harbor is certainly the most strikingly beautiful anchorage in Southern California. You can grab a mooring ball or else drop anchor in the outer Catalina Harbor for free. Once your boat is secure, crack a beer, dingy to shore and hike out to the dramatic headland cliffs.

mooring balls catalina harbor
boats on anchor and mooring balls at Catalina Harbor
We sailed my Newport 30 from Two Harbors out and around the northwestern tip of the island and then approached the stunning geologic headlands of Catalina Harbor. The cliffs are a combination of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks - with large quartz veins creating a banded pattern across the sheer face.

anchoring in Catalina harbor
approaching the Cat Harbor headlands
sailing to Catalina Harbor
sailing around the northwest tip of Catalina Island

Getting a mooring ball in Catalina Harbor

Catalina harbor has a soft sandy bottom that shallows out near the inner harbor (where the dingy dock is located). Depending on the size and draft of your boat, the harbormaster will find you an appropriate mooring ball. As of 2015, the price for one night is 41.00 for a 30 foot vessel and 49.00 for a 40 foot mooring ball location. Apparently, this price if going up a few bucks every year...

The harbor master will be cruising around the harbor in their powerboat, they will offer you rides to the dock if needed. They will also be collecting money upon your arrival.

Anchoring in Catalina Harbor

As the harbormaster will tell you, you are also welcome to drop anchor for free in Catalina Harbor. There is usually plenty of secure anchorage to be found. If you are a small boat (under 30 feet with less than 5 foot draw) then you can motor to the inner harbor and and drop anchor near the dingy dock. But - watch the tides, because at a negative tide your keel will be close to touching bottom.

For a larger boat (30 feet or more) you should look for anchorage space in the outer harbor. By outer harbor, I mean just outside of the last row of mooring balls. This will put you in 50 feet of water. And, of course, the farther out you anchor - the deeper the water.
Anchoring out is is free but you will get a bumpier night (depending on swell size).

I recommend a stern anchor, as this will keep your bow into any western swell, and minimize any beam roll.

If you anchor in outer harbor, the dingy ride is longer to the dingy dock, but you can also just paddle over to the nearest shore and then walk the rest of the way on dry land. It's a beautiful area with great trails, so this is my recommendation. You'll be drinking a Buffalo Milk at the Harbor Reef in no time at all.

If you plan to explore other anchorages or harbors around Catalina Island, its good to have a cruising guide on board. Fagan's book, the Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California is considered the gold standard for boating Central and Southern CA. Plenty of detail on your local waters and its just good piece of mind having this in the navigation table. Amazon sells cheap used copies.

how to anchor in catalina harbor
long term resident on anchor at Catalina Harbor
We dropped anchor next to this guy "Chester" in about 50 feet of water. You can see the trails on the southeast side of the headlands in the background. This anchorage is a short paddle in a dingy to a rocky beach.