I'd be looking at something like the Vanguard 15 or Zuma (you would have to be crazy to take these into the ocean, but hey, you sound crazy):
The Nomad is closer to something doable, but out of your price range.
Hobie is a great idea, much better idea than dinghy IMHO (Also look at the Inter 20, nacra, etc lots of ocean racing under those hulls). Go to http://www.catsailor.com/
. One of the reasons these are such a good idea is they are fast, which translates into shorter transit times.
However, not sure I'd sail any of them to Catalina island, but then, I'm a wimp.