I realize that this reply is a little late but if you’re not planning to go until 2012 maybe it will be of some help. I have sailed from MDR to Catalina multiple times and also sailed several of the Blue Pacific boats so I hope this will be useful. Although I’m no longer there, I lived in that area for 20+ years.
The sail from MDR to Isthmus Cove (the nearest harbor on Catalina) can be a long day, depending on the boat, the wind and if/how much you are willing to motor-sail. While I have arrived at Isthmus Cove after dark, I don’t really recommend it and if you arrive late there may not be a mooring available ( either there or nearby). If you want a nice relaxed sail and have the time, consider splitting the trip by picking up an overnight end-tie at Alamitos Bay which is just South of the Port of Long Beach. You can reserve in advance on (562) 570-3215 City of Long Beach, CA - Alamitos Bay Marina
but they won’t take a reservation without seeing the insurance for the boat – Blue Pacific (or whoever) should be able to fax one for you. There’s a fun restaurant right on the edge of the water – I can’t think of the name right now but you can’t miss it. It’s then an easy sail to Catalina. On the way back, entering MDR after dark is easy - just keep well clear of the shoals which tend to form at the entrances - they are are well marked.
Whether you go via Alamitos Bay or directly to Catalina you will usually sail South West along the cost so that you stay inside the shipping lanes (if going direct, you then turn South East so that you can cross the shipping lanes at right angles). Take a close look at the chart, there is a shallow underwater pipeline from the El Segundo refinery to the huge tanker moorings offshore. Make sure you stay far enough offshore if you like the idea of getting your damage deposit back.
Catalina moorings are a little different to most (see Mooring Information, Boating - Visit Two Harbors, Catalina Island
) and were always first-come first-served but I guess some can now be reserved. Somewhere between Bird Rock and the entrance to the moorings, the Harbor Master’s boat usually appears like magic to take your money (or you can pay by credit card at the office), otherwise circle just outside the moorings and hail him on channel 9. If you are not sure, don’t be shy about asking him to show you where your mooring is and if you should be facing in or out – mostly you will face out but it varies. The moorings on the North side of the bay face inwards, are more sheltered and often less noisy. Also, if you haven’t paid for the next night as well, you have to be off the mooring by 8:00 am and they do come around just after 8:00 and ask you to leave. If you are in Isthmus Cove or one of the other close in coves and you want to have a few beers or can’t be bothered with the dingy, there is a water taxi, hail “shoreboat” on channel 9 - luxury
Speaking of drunkenness, you should find out about the “events” before you go. If you like to party, the beer festival, wine festival and Buccaneer days will suit you fine – if you want peace and quiet then it’s better to avoid them. Catalina Harbor (the other half of Two Harbors) is on the other side of the island and is much quieter. It is an easy walk from Isthmus Cove if you want to have a look before sailing all the way round (sailing takes longer than you think because you usually have to go a fair way out to stay out of the lee of the island and catch the wind). Avalon, at the other end of the island, is much more developed and “touristy” and if you pick up a mooring in Avalon Bay, make sure your holding tanks are empty – they drop in a dye tablet and if you pollute the harbor (even an accidental overflow out of the breather) there is a fine and the boat is banned for a year – doesn’t make anyone happy. There is a ferry from Two Harbors to Avalon if you want to have a look without the hassle.
I guess I’ve rambled on a bit. I’ll tell you about my experiences with Blue Pacific in the next couple of days but if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them if I can but I travel a lot so don’t expect me to be very prompt.