Catalina: First Impressions

December 29, 2009

When we left off our family had just arrived in Isthmus Harbor (one of the Two Harbors). As soon as the sun set we were treated to the oddly festive spectacle of an entire harbor lit up with Christmas lights. All of the waterfront buildings and many of the boats were sporting multicolored lights. It reminded me (for whatever reason) of Jimmy Buffet’s song “Christmas in the Caribbean,” thereby putting a huge smile on my face. We ate a mediocre yet unbelievably expensive dinner at the only restaurant in Two Harbors—from which I had to hastily extricate my kids when they simultaneously decided to be the loudest kids in the harbor(s). We enjoyed a brief moonlit motor back to the boat and everyone fell asleep quickly.

The following morning we set “sail” for Avalon. Neither Victoria nor I were very excited about this port, but it did have a supermarket (of sorts) and we needed to reprovision (another meal at that restaurant would kill our budget).  Making the trip less exciting was the complete lack of wind. I navigated us past the mouth of Isthmus Harbor and past the last hazard to navigation and doused the windmaker. We were soon greeted by the complete tranquility of the day. I stubbornly tried to sail for the next half hour but eventually had to admit the futility of it as we made exactly 0 nautical miles over land.

With the engine back on we made Avalon just after lunch and were fueled up and ready for a day on the town by three. The city of Avalon reminds us of a cross between Old Orchard Beach and oh I don’t know Capitola. It was kinda scummy and kinda upscale at the same time. I loved all the punk teenagers and the wicked friendly little kids that kept introducing themselves to Ruby. I was slightly less enthusiastic about the usual tourist trap stuff and the eerie sense of chill I got from the shop and restaurant owners who seemed to be subtly vibing at us that it was off season and they would rather we not be there.

We got a quick (and much more affordable) bite to eat at Coyote Joe’s. The food was passable, but not great, and the margaritas were just what the doctor ordered. Ruby was lobbying hard for ice cream, so we decided to pick up a pint of B&Js when we reprovisioned. Once again we had a fairly easy bedtime for both kids. Vick went down by 8:30 and I was out cold at 9:30. At home a 9:30 bedtime would be a great concession to a cold or some other ailment. After a day of sailing it just seems like the natural thing to do. So, I snuggled into bed and stared up through the hatch. The moon (nearly full, nearly blue) was perfectly centered in the fore hatch. There were dark clouds moving by it, but the moon seemed to cut right through them. No matter how dark the approaching clouds appeared, when they got within the moon’s radius they seemed to part and thin out.  I was a magical way to fall asleep.

I woke up with Ruby next to me. Victoria had left at some point in the night to nurse Miles, and never made it back. I came gently awake (this is unusual) and we enjoyed an uneventful breakfast. As Vick started to wash up, we ran out of water (in the first tank). This is when we discovered that the last people to use the boat had broken the valve. I’m fairly well resolved to the fact that any time I go sailing there will be something to fix by the end of the day. By this logic, I had already had 3 free days of sailing, so I wasn’t too bummed when I went into town to get a replacement part. I wasn’t even that surprised or off balance when I was told that this port town didn’t have a chandlery (boat parts store).  The upside is that I got to visit the local hardware store. If you want to get to know good people, anywhere in the world, go to a hardware store. Of course, because I was looking for a boat part—in a hardware store—I didn’t expect to find a piece that fit (thread size, direction, and diameter) but the process of finding the kludge that would work was infinitely more rewarding than the trip to the chandlery could have been.

After the hardware store adventure I met up with Vick and Ru and grabbed a cup of coffee.  Miles drove the dingy back to our boat and we implemented the kludge. By noon we were on the water again.


  1. Comment by Verne Bradford

    Verne Bradford January 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Ah, so I see you and I agree. A hardware store is definitely the best place to start (and finish) the day. Unless . . . well, hmmm, unless it’s a tool store . . . or a computer store. Definitely a book store. Okay, I’ll get back to you on this.

    And while falling asleep in the moon shadows is blissful and nearly above compare, I have to agree with Ruby, too, that being below decks in the rain is a close competitor. There is hardly a more cozy feeling in the world. Unless it’s sitting in front of the fire on a snowy evening in January. Or falling asleep in a thunderstorm when your tent isn’t leaking.

    My New Year’s resolution this year is to simplify, simplify, simplify. I think you all have a head start on me.

  2. Pingback: Catalina: The Passage.

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