Getting Some Experience

I recently had the opportunity to help a friend move his new catamaran from Mission Bay, San Diego to Oxnard Ca.

I’ve spent  most of my sailing career coastal racing and day sailing on SF bay. So this was a great opportunity to do some off shore sailing, route planning, and night time navigation.


My friend Jim sold me my boat, and then bought a 1997 37′ Fountaine Pajot, Tobago catamaran named “Aha”. Built in a factory in France, very solid boat, with similar qualities to my Spindrift, but more space in the hulls, and much nicer finishing throughout. Unlike the strange drive system in my boat, Aha has twin 18hp Myanmar diesels, as well as a modern chart plotter and generous electric system.

We drove down to San Diego from the bay arriving late at night. Jim didn’t have a place to move the boat, the marina that housed it having leased out his slip already to a new owner, and we only had a few days left to move it before the new slip owners arrived.


I called every marina in Mission bay and San Diego bay, but being a catamaran, with a wide 19′ berth, it required more space than normal, and literally, NOTHING was available.

After a few hours of calling marinas, moving up the CA coast, I found a great endtie available in Channel Islands harbor in Oxnard Ca about 180 nautical miles from San Diego. We looked at the weather and decided to go for it.

I had brought along Brian Fagan’s The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California: Golden Gate to Ensenada, Mexico, Including the Offshore Islands” which I highly recommend for coastal Ca cruising. It recommended that to go north along the coast, where the prevailing winds are from, you “harbor hop” but motoring at night and early morning, then wait out the afternoon winds. By motoring in calm conditions instead of sailing, you can get there 3 times faster, and not bash upwind against steep waves and high wind. Jim only had a few days, so unfortunately sailing was out.

We spent the day, provisioning and figuring out the systems onboard. Starting engines, checking electronics, checking rigging etc.


By 9pm the wind had dropped to only 10kts and we were ready to go.

Leaving the harbor at night, was my first time being on the water at night, and following the harbor lights out to the ocean was pretty exciting. After an hour of motoring into the chop and light wind, we were watching the lights of San Diego fall away in the darkness, and keeping an eye out for shipping and other traffic.


After motoring all night, pointed at Catalina island and dodging giant container ships we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise and the cliffs of the southern coast of Catalina.



By 7 am we had motored into Avalon harbor, greeted by the harbor master, and moored for an hour while we waited for the gas truck to arrive at the temporary fuel dock.




After gassing up we continued motoring up the east coast of Catalina, staying in the lee of the island. The water was glassy, with a small gentle swell. The sun was out, the island was incredibly green, after the last few months of rain, and above Los Angeles were snow covered peaks. It was rather picturesque.




As we left the protection of Catalina, the wind started to pick up, gusting to around 30 knots, the waves picked up to around 3-4′ and unfortunately it was still coming from directly where we were headed. But we were on a schedule, and only 75 or so miles away, so we continued to bash our way into the wind.

Our autopilot and chart plotter started going out. so we broke out the paper and iPhone charts to make sure we were on the right course, and started hand steering.


As the sun set over Santa Cruz island, we had spotted our destination. Referring to the cruising guide as well as the paper charts, we were able to distinguish the correct lights and bouys in the darkening conditions, and made out way into the new harbor in darkness.



Having successfully docked, we passed out after our 22 hour passage.

We woke to a new beautiful harbor. Its proximity to Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands make it a great place to day sail from, and I hope to get back down there soon to help Jim take his boat out.


Thanks again to Jim for the opportunity to go out on his boat, and to help move it up the coast. Great learning opportunity with both paper and electronic charts, navigating at night, and entering new harbors. Good times all around, big inspiration to get my boat fixed up.