Ships Wheel ®

United States Power Squadrons® 

Phoenix Sail and Power Squadron
District 28
Sail and Power Boating

"Come for the Education ... Stay for the Fun"

 Phoenix Burgee


Catalina Island Cruise
28 May - 1 June 2012
* Cancelled due to equipment problems *

* * *

Catalina Island Cruise
5 - 12 June 2011

by Lee Whitehead
Photos by Fitzgerald, Schloeman, and Whitehead

The annual District 28 Summer Council has meaning beyond USPS members from Southern California and Arizona to meet amid the last throes of Gray May and the opening moments of June Gloom. It's the time of year when the marine layer comes ashore with a vengeance in the San Diego area. Arizonans who are accustomed to "…just another beautiful day in Paradise" syndrome perversely enjoy the overcast weather as much as they renew friendships from around the district.

The Council meeting traditionally marks the end of the beginning of an annual sail cruise from San Diego to Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, some 26 miles off the California Coast from San Pedro. And so it was in 2011.


Frank Fitzgerald - Skipper
Bob Schloeman
Lee Whitehead

There was only one boat that took the cruise this year-Wind Tree-owned and skippered by P/D/C Frank Fitzgerald. The 45-foot Columbia has comfortable accommodations for the three member crew, who had made the trip numerous times, P/R/C Bob Schloeman and P/D/C Lee Whitehead. The trip is made in two legs, the first was from Southwestern Yacht Club to Oceanside, a distance of about 42.5 nautical miles, and the second from Oceanside to Avalon Harbor, a little under 47 nautical miles.

The crew is responsible for two evening meals each, snacks of choice and whatever else may fancy their taste buds. The crew also divides watches, with two on a one-hour watch each. One hour is spent as an observer, the other as helmsman. The idea is to have a straight-as-an-arrow wake, not an easy accomplishment on a sailboat with the California current and prevailing roughly northerly winds. Eddies along the way also present a challenge. Aging 1990-era GPS units are used by the aging crew members. Navigation waypoints and routes are familiar, and the crew abides by the navigator's philosophy from a Maine sailor, Eliot Daley: "Wherever we are is exactly where we are supposed to be."

Carnival "Paradise" anchors off shore for the day

Cruise ship passengers travel to and from shore
in a day long stream of small "shore boats"

Wind Tree at her mooring
in a very sparsely populated harbor

Mooring tender hoists a buoy
to paint on a new owner's boat name.

Avalon residential hillside

Say "cheese" Frank

Bob finds it comfortable in the sun
even with an extra jacket.

A cell phone call to home.

Avalon harbor was nearly deserted partly because California schools were still in session, and perhaps because of the state's financial troubles. The operator of the shore side shower grumbled how bad business was for him. The prevailing onshore breeze was welcomed by the off shore crew of Wind Tree. While anchored in Avalon Harbor, Frank had the opportunity to prove one of Newton's laws of motion: for every action that is an equal and opposite reaction. If the dinghy is not secured to the boat, stepping from it to the boarding ladder can momentarily leave one suspended in space. It was right after a fresh-water shower, but Frank was spared from a salt-water dunking.

Avalon is often described as in the same terms as Mediterranean town perched on the sides of hills. And so it was. It was clear that vegetation has covered most of the scars left from a fire several years ago, and the June Gloom weather parked clouds on the tops of the hills, especially at dawn and dusk. The island's carillon reminded the crew of the time, which no one particularly cared about. The only other sound was naval artillery from San Clemente Island.

A common occurrence along the California coast.

There were some memorable moments in 2011. The crew was met by a large, grumpy sea lion that was promptly named Fred. He was somewhat irritated that Wind Tree was planning to tie up at his perfect sunbathing spot. When the boat came close, he slid silently in the water and bounded on the next pier. He grumbled again and resumed his nap. He was there when the crew hit the sack, but gone in the morning.

On the return trip, the crew was visited by a very tired Townsend's warbler, a small green and yellow bird. The male seems to be wearing a mask. He bounced around the rigging, came and visited under the dodger, and then moved on, finding little of interest.
This year's trip went from Sunday to the following Saturday. It was the best of these kinds of sailing ventures-uneventful.

(l-r) Frank, Lee, and Bob at the end of the cruise,
gear has been stowed in the car and we are set to depart for Arizona.

* * *

For those not familiar with this exercise this was an OFC, O stands for OLD and C stands for CRUISE. You have to make up your own mind what the F stands for.

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