Catalina Island and San Diego

Our last week has been filled with adventuring, lounging, eating, and, in the absence of wind, lots of motoring. We left Ventura on Friday, January 30th, and arrived in Avalon harbor that evening. Avalon is the vacation destination nestled in the south eastern corner of Catalina Island; and with its Aegean blue waters, bright white hotels and homes, and dramatic sloping mountainside, Dominic and I were both instantly reminded of the villages we enjoyed while sailing in Greece. I highly recommend a jaunt to Avalon if you're feeling like a quick visit to the Mediterranean coast!

The forecast was for sunshine all weekend, so we decided to take a few days off and do some exploring. On Saturday, we hiked the Hermit Gulch Trail, a loop out of town that, after two miles of climbing, offers a lovely gazebo from which to enjoy a full panorama of the island.

The downhill slope of the hike wraps around the western coast of the island, houses many Catalina Island foxes, and ends, conveniently, at the botanical garden. The highlight of the gardens was the array of cacti on display.

We ended our evening in Avalon with a trolley tour that took us from the gardens to the boardwalk. We enjoyed a fabulous meal of grilled artichokes, steamed mussels and clams, and fresh fish on the patio of Bluewater Avon Grill. The patio offered a view of the harbor so we could keep one eye on Helios, and our other eye on a raucous group of twenty-somethings in a speed boat who were enjoying throwing each other overboard and having a hard time keeping their bathing suites on. We saw the harbor patrol approach the boat, but instead of dampening the festivities, the police joined the dance party from their own vessel. Our waitress and waiter borrowed our binoculars in turn, and assured us this was the norm for Avalon entertainment. Next time I'm living in California and in need of a weekend away, Avalon will be very high on the list.

On Sunday, we moved to a secluded mooring about three miles north of Avalon. The natural beauty of White's Landing was magnificent. To the left were lush, green grasses cascading from peak to seaside cliff, directly astern was a beach and girl scout camp, empty for the winter, and to the right was a much more typical California landscape: an arid slope, with chaparral and oaks, and just one neighborly motor boat enjoying the views.

From here, we spent a decadent afternoon doing all of our favorite things, basking in the sunshine, practicing our knots, drinking delicious wine, and Dominic even took the inaugural leap off of Helios into the sapphire bay.

After a brilliant sunrise on Monday morning, we departed for Oceanside in San Diego. There were no winds to speak of, so we spent about six hours motoring across the bay. Mission Bay was lovely, home to the most domestic sea lions and most avid stand up paddle boarders we have met thus far. We even saw something of a paddle board pilates class going on. A group of about 12 paddle boarders, of all ages, entered the harbor while we were having lunch, and then dropped and planked on the paddle board for about two minutes. I was impressed, and took note for my own growing cockpit calisthenics repertoire.

After relaxing for a day in Mission Bay, we motored for about two hours into San Diego harbor. The wind was (again) nothing to speak of, but there was a continuous stream of boats, military vessels, helicopters, and jets to keep Dominic and Dad entertained. Two particularly interesting sightings were the schooner 'America', and one of Her Majesty's Canadian Ships. We rest easy knowing that all of our navigational alarms begin to sing when a ship of war enters Helios' safety zone. 

So, we've had a fun and busy week! We are in San Diego now, and planning to stay for another ten or so days while we wrap up some projects we need to accomplish before we head to Mexico (yahoo!). I have found a perfectly funky coffee shop with grape vines painted on the walls, vintage Barbara Streisand records on the wall, Michael Jackson on the stereo, and plenty of wifi. So get excited to hear about some of the smaller details of our trip, before what will likely be an extended period of disconnection...