Disaster at Avalon

On a Monday in November of 2018, we went to Avalon at Santa Catalina Island so that I could be certified to scuba dive (another story).   Although we normally drop an anchor, because the free anchorage area was about 100 feet deep, we decided to take a mooring ball.  

Harbor Patrol (the people who collect the money and keep an eye on the place) advised us that the Santa Ana winds were expected to kick up.  Never having been at Catalina during the Santa Anas, when we were told that there was a wind advisory, we expected that winds were going to be coming through, as that is what happens when we were on the mainland.  Santa Ana winds are winds that are usually warm and exceed 40 mph.  They are also known as “diablo winds.”  

Although Harbor Patrol advised us that they could only rent a mooring ball to us for that one night only because of the winds, Monday was uneventful.  Even though it was November, the temperature was in the 70s, as it usually is in California for most of the year.  I went into the water and it was beautiful.

We went to bed at about 9:00 p.m., but we were awoken at 2:30 a.m. due to swells that were two to three feet, which wasn’t so bad, but they were only two to three seconds apart.  This put us in “oscillation mode” which made it seem like we were on a hobby horse.  

But still, this wouldn’t have been so bad except that we haven’t finished building storage out yet.  In other words, there was a lot of crap that wasn’t tied down and much of it ended up on the floor.  

We couldn’t sleep, either.  Seriously, who can sleep when the bed you’re sleeping on is steeply seesawing?  We did figure out, at some point, that the center cockpit was a good place to hang out while we were rocking.  The center of the boat is where you will experience the least amount of rocking.  

After the crashing stopped, because there was nothing else left to fall to the floor, we went up to the cockpit with some blankets and our dog and were able to nap for about two hours before the rocking awoke us again.  At that point, the sun was coming up and we decided to detach and depart.

I have no interesting pictures to attach to this post because, well, I just wasn’t thinking about my camera when my belongings were loudly making their existence known as they crashed to the floor.  

I think Harbor Patrol doesn’t realize how it needs to describe Santa Ana winds when one is at Catalina Island.  It’s not about the wind.  It’s about the waves.  


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  • There is no doubt Avalon is susceptible to some weather, but can’t that be said to almost any harbor. With the acception to the backside of two harbors that is. Not knocking two harbors, have spent many of great visits there. Including Avalon as well. Of all the years of boating there was only one concern of weather exposure like this article points out. However depending on where your port is, two harbors can be a long haul. For instance Dana Point is about 40 miles directly into the swell to get there. Makes Avalon much more accessible and less expensive in fuel.

    • We completely agree. We normally go to the backside and anchor out at Cat, but First Mate has some business at Avalon, so we thought we’d make an adventure of it. It did turn into an adventure of sorts. We ended up sailing around to Cat and staying there for a few days before a night at Little Harbor, which is another of our favorites.

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