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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

9/28 Santa Anna Winds.

We are back at Catalina Island after a detour back to Marina Del Rey and our trip to the boat yard. M.D.R. is just North of LAX and though the noise of the city blots out the sound of the jets I had a big job cleaning up the fine layer of black dust that had settled all over the deck and then been tracked inside as we did our speed job. We spent some time relaxing and enjoying the warm weather with Josh and Diana who came down for a day. I even got my Hollywood “fix” by squeezing in two movies.

We love Catalina. It is a very nice sail from the mainland and is like escaping to a foreign country after LA. We spent one day at the Isthmus again and are now in Avalon.
We arrived on the hottest day of the year and after the sail over we just did a quick walk through town for some cold drinks and a loaf of bread. We found a small slice of shade near the beach and sat down to watch a handful of families playing in the sand and the surf. I could walk into the small waves to cool down at will and it was a good place to watch the world go by. The weather across the bay (18nm) in LA hit an all time record of 113 yesterday. It was cooler here but still hot enough to break a sweat sitting still.

After an evening AA meeting for me we headed to bed pretty early with every hatch and port wide open to catch any hint of breeze. Bill had mentioned that there was a possibility for Santa Anna winds but as we turned off the last light there was barely a whisper. Then, in the wee hours of the morning we woke to the sounds of wind. Strong winds. A Santa Anna was whistling across our bay.

Santa Anna winds are sometimes called Devil Winds. They usually come in spring but mostly late fall. They can be cold winds but they are most often accompanied by the highest temperatures of the year. Their winds often reach hurricane force and the biggest threat of all is to the legendary fires of southern California. Several years ago virtually the entire town of Avalon was evacuated (by boat) when the winds came and the fires marched through the hills. The fires stopped just short of town and burned only a handful of homes. By comparison the current Santa Anna is a mere baby.

It was instantly enough to have Bill and I up and alert at 415am. I stumbled on deck in the dark and stared for a moment at the sky. Yesterdays clear blue sky was now a muddy rolling grey. I hurried to fasten down the bimini enclosure what we had opened up to cool down and did a quick pass to make sure everything was battened down. We were in good shape. Bill went forward to check our line to the mooring ball and gave us a quick release knot. Then we fuddled about getting the dinghy motor hoisted and on its bracket on the stern rail before raising the dingy onto the davits. We both sat up for a bit listening and planning. If things got bad we were all ready for a quick escape.

Over the years boaters have learned that when the Santa Anna blows it sometimes becomes necessary to leave Catalina Island. NOW. There are plenty of stories told of entire anchorages thrown into chaos in the night. Catalina has no all weather anchorages. There is one pretty good spot at Catalina Harbor on the opposite side, about half way up island. But the mainland is closer and there simply is not enough room in Catalina Harbor for even a ¼ of the boats that fill the many tiny anchorages that dot the island. So, we were ready if not excited for a possible exit.

For now the winds have died somewhat and the skies are a bit more blue. We are watchful and ready and the whole anchorage feels a little bit “tight.” It is relatively cool but it promises to turn hot as the day grows. LA has too much concrete for this kind of weather and our first taste of a Santa Anna was mild so we will stay. For now.


P.S.We made our escape from Washington early and I have been waiting patiently for "the pack" to appear. It's now official this years cruisers have finally caught up. When we came back from town we saw a boat we know, another Peterson, Bravo with Adam and Cindy from E-dock at Shilshole. We made plans for dinner and it will be great to catch up with them, hear about their trip down and talk about the comming south bound exodus. Yea!!

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