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arthursteingart 10-21-2011 12:41 PM

Sailing to Catalina Island
I am wondering how hard it is to sail to Catalina island on a montgomery 17. I've been lake sailing for 6 years with no real training other than books and experience. I would have a working radio and auto tiller with a huge compass on deck as well. I am well equipped with sails and am comfortable with my little boat overall. I would leave from long beach and head to Catalina island the city if Avalon, than down to Laguna beach around the 4th of July.

Should I do this trip or is Ocean sailing something not to fool with even in good weather?

night0wl 10-21-2011 01:35 PM

a ~30 mile ocean passage on virtually open Pacific on a 17 foot trailer sailor....*ooph* not my idea of fun. Especially with a background in lake sailing where there are no ocean swells and surf. I guess some M17s have made impressive passages, but they've been significantly upgraded. Good little boat, but doubt its designed to handle the open ocean like a hardier vessel.

I'm sure its been done by many a yachtsman, hell I've seen videos on YouTube of people making hte passage from Miami to Bimini on jet-skis. But please, if you do this trip, have a means of bailing your boat (strong bilge pumps), lots of ocean worthy pfds, a EPIRB or PLB at a minimum, a well running tuned outboard engine, and file a float plan with friends and family. Also, most importantly, please choose a good weather window.

overbored 10-21-2011 01:44 PM

it is doable in that boat. In July the wind will be good for the sail. mostly it depends on your experiance. the sea between long beach and cat lsland is called Hurricane Gulch for a reason. it is the ocean so it can get big weather but most of the time it is a very good place to sail. in the afternoon the chop can be a bit much for small boats. I would think you might want to do some daysailing off the coast of long beach to see if you are ready for the ocean before heading to Catalina. for first timers I suggest starting out early and motoring until the wind picks up. in the moring it will be flat water and you will get halfway before the wind comes up. most days this will be up wind to the island. the trip home is the fun one, usually broad reach with following seas.

arthursteingart 10-21-2011 02:14 PM

I forgot to mention I just bought an 8 HP four-stroke Johnson with no hours on it. This will aid in my safe trip to Catalina. I also have manual and electric bailers.

I'm also worried about getting accurate bearings to avalon on a compass and how do i take current into account or is that mute due to the auto tiller?

wmjr 10-21-2011 02:59 PM

Be very sure to have confidence in predicted wave size and wind and do not go if it will be too rough. Practice sailing to San Pedro and back inside the breakwater and then outside several times then practice using the compass on a trip to Redondo Beach and back. If you are comfortable with your compass by then you will be fine for the trip to Catalina. In July it will be easy to see when you are 6 or 7 miles out. (In Winter you might see it clearly when you leave.)

Got a radio?

PSC 31 #28
San Pedro, CA

arthursteingart 10-21-2011 03:02 PM

Yes, i have a great onboard radio. Thank you for the advise so far. I am wondering the usual direction of the wind durning that time of year.

AdamLein 10-21-2011 03:05 PM


Originally Posted by arthursteingart (Post 788927)
I'm also worried about getting accurate bearings to avalon on a compass and how do i take current into account or is that mute due to the auto tiller?

This sounds like a good reason to do some shorter coastal trips to see how your boat handles those conditions. Practice some dead reckoning. Sail out a few miles and then back on a reciprocal heading (original heading + 180). See how far off you are. If you have a way of finding out the current for the time of day you were sailing, subtract that out. What's left is your boat's leeway.

You'll also get a chance to see how well your tiller pilot steers your boat in the swells.

When sailing upwind to the island, you will need to manually take into account both current and leeway. All your tiller pilot will do for you is try to maintain a constant magnetic compass heading.

I haven't sailed in California but I have gone out on small boats in Hawai'i and Mexico, and the difference between morning and afternoon conditions can be quite surprising.

PaulfromNWOnt 10-21-2011 03:10 PM

Here you go.... A couple of videos showing that you're probably quite alright to do this in your Monty.

Outrigger Canoe Sailing - Channel Islands - Running Furled in Gale - YouTube

Outrigger Canoe Sailing - Channel Islands - Full Sail Downwind - YouTube!

This fellow also has many other noteworthy videos, and some of his stuff can be found on If you do a search for Tim Anderson on the instructables website you will find plenty of interesting things.

AdamLein 10-21-2011 03:34 PM


Originally Posted by PaulfromNWOnt (Post 788945)
Here you go.... A couple of videos showing that you're probably quite alright to do this in your Monty.

Cool videos. However, minor differences:

- downwind vs. upwind

- high form stability of outrigger, vs. probably low form stability of the Monty.

Personally I think the OP is probably fine to go once he has some familiarity with the conditions he'll encounter.

n0w0rries 10-21-2011 03:53 PM

I think a GPS should be pretty high up on your needed safety gear list. They are so cheap now-a-days that if you can't afford it, you certainly can't afford drinks in Avalon. Even if you're a great navigator, nothing will save you faster than being able to communicate an accurate location to rescuers. Most days visibility can be pretty bad, and you'll spend most of your channel crossing not being able to see land at all.

Prevailing conditions would be the wind blowing from the island, so you'll be beating all the way there. A lot of locals leave early and motor over, and then sail back. The wind usually picks up in the afternoon, blowing 10-20 knots, with gusts to 25 knots. The swell is usually on your beam.

If you end up anchoring you'll need lots of ground tackle. The island falls off very steep. Being small you might get to squeeze in, but Avalon is always crowded.

It would be an easy sail to Laguna from Avalon.

A guy who races with our club sailed his Cal 20 from MDR to Isthmus, but that's a beam reach the whole way.

Also keep in mind you will be traversing shipping lanes.

I always go to the Isthmus, we usually motor across early. One time we got a late start and the wind was already blowing, and we made it across on one long beautiful tack. Our friends showed up later with wide eyes and said it was nasty out there, wind was right out of the island now.

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