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Hi All,

I was looking at two different outfits in Long Beach for a potential three-day charter to Catalina: Harbor Yacht Club and Marina Sailing. The reviews on-line are limited and decidedly mixed on both, and I was hoping to tap in to some local knowledge on these places. The reviews I could find ranged from "great charter" to "we arrive and the holding tanks were overflowing, the diesel engine wouldn't start, etc, etc". Does anyone have any experience with Harbor or Marina? Any strong recommendations one way or another?

Thanks very much in advance!

Jeff
 

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Both clubs are chains with boats and locations in San Diego as well as other Socal ports. I know a number of friends that rent from Harbor in SD and are happy with the club. If you were local and could rent from your local branch of Harbor Island often it has some cool programs to get people out and racing with a fleet of smaller Capri 22s.

One other location to look at, not sure they are still around but I used Pacific Sailing to challenge some ASA ratings a few years back and liked the instructor and club owner. Last I looked the fleet was shrinking so I do not know the current status of the club.

If all clubs are receiving equally mixed reviews I would suggest Marina Sailing only because they have more locations so you could rent from Channel Islands Marina in the future.
 

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When we lived in SoCal we had our boat in the down-town marina. Marina sailing's boats were situated on the dock across the fairway from us and, frankly, we kept a close watch on the boats whenever a user was departing or arriving as skills were somewhat "lacking". I must say also that the boats definitely looked beaten up (we would not have used one). My information is quite old at this point but...
 
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I used to belong to Harbor in San Diego. Generally a good experience although it was always possible that the last guy who had the boat had not taken care of everything, and the club missed something before sending a boat back out (that seems to happen other places too).
 

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When we lived in SoCal we had our boat in the down-town marina. Marina sailing's boats were situated on the dock across the fairway from us and, frankly, we kept a close watch on the boats whenever a user was departing or arriving as skills were somewhat "lacking". I must say also that the boats definitely looked beaten up (we would not have used one). My information is quite old at this point but...
I don't doubt the conditions of the boats you mentioned. However the sailing skills of the average rented boat is going to be poor. In San Diego there are 3 rental companies and you do well to recognize what their boats look like because there is a greater than 50% chance the skipper does not know right of way rules. The bar for being able to rent a boat is so low, they might as well hand out keys to anyone with a credit card.

I recently checked out a new partner on "my" group owned boat and the new member had ASA 104 certificate and was in the eyes of the charter world an experienced sailor and would be able to rent a boat anywhere in the world and had done so. This guy looked and sailed like a character out of a Benny Hill show. I honestly wished i had the soundtrack of the show playing while I was checking him out.

Some of the highlights:
Another partner was hanking on the jib and asked this guy to hand him the halyard. The halyard was attached to the lifeline and was hitting him in the back of the head. After looking around for the halyard he was told it was behind him. The guy tried to grab a stantion and hand it to the guy on the bow, when that did not work he tried to hand him a jib sheet.

One time he tacked the boat and kept turning till he gybed the boat.

The whole day was like this I could right a long thread on how bad he was, maybe I will. When the day was done he asked for the keys to the boat because he was qualified to sail it because he had ASA 104. I told him he needed to hire an instructor to take the boat out. I would guess most charter company would hand him the keys to a 30+ foot boat, because he had ASA 104.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks all for the replies. I'd already laid out a deposit (the entire cost of the charter) with Harbor by the time I'd read @jephotog's comment so that was who we were going with (FYI: Pacific Sailing appears to have gone out of business...).

I arrived LB with low expectations, but I am glad to say, was pleasantly surprised. All critical items on the boat (Beneteau Oceanis 31, "Souvenirs") worked well during our three day return trip to Avalon. There were a few small fittings which were broken and the boat looked like it was frequently used (but clean). The only major system which didn't work was the electronic chartplotter at the helm - the unit powered on, but the screen had been exposed to the elements and the laminate degraded to the point that the screen was completely illegible. It's a straightforward crossing, and it would have been fine using paper charts and compass, but I was glad that we'd brought the iPad and Navionics HD Boating app all the same. Everything else major: rigging, diesel, head, shower, electronics, dinghy, outboard, etc. worked great. We left late in the morning on the first day, and encountered 20-25 knot winds about two hours out from Avalon. The boat's roller furling main and jib made it easy to reduce sail shorthanded. All worked as expected and the boat handled well.

My impression is like @danvon said: overall it seems like the boats were frequently used, but well maintained. I could easily imagine that if you were unlucky and the last guy to take her out and broken something and it had not been caught, you would be stuck dealing with it (probably true of any place like this).

And like a few of you mentioned, the bar is pretty low for chartering a boat. Harbor required no skills check (actually this was a selling point - after 20 years boating and sailing in the SF Bay and Northern California Coast we weren't interested in taking an hour or two to take the boat out and do fairway turns or whatever with charter staff -- we wanted to get underway). Marina said they would require a skills check before chartering a boat to non-members. And as far as certification goes, the idea that you can go through the ASA course sequence and have the skills to handle a boat on the varied conditions of the Pacific is a joke.

Anyways, thanks everyone for the replies. We had a great trip and are already looking forward to our next Channel Islands trip!
 
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