Ex­pe­ri­ence the best of Cal­i­for­nia’s iconic coast on one small chan­nel is­land.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Carly Sis­son

With its clear waters and moun­tain­ous ter­rain, Cal­i­for­nia’s Catalina Is­land is a quiet es­cape from the bus­tle of LA.

Just 20 miles south of Los An­ge­les is Santa Catalina Is­land, a nat­u­ral and his­toric par­adise set against a ma­jor ur­ban land­scape. Though only 21 miles long, the com­pact chan­nel is­land is stud­ded with ac­ces­si­ble har­bors and se­cluded coves. Catalina Har­bor— called Cat Har­bor by lo­cals—is among them, and is a des­ti­na­tion of its own. Reach­ing the har­bor re­quires a cruise around the is­land’s west end; it may add an ex­tra hour to the trip from the main­land, but the trek will re­ward with a uniquely calm cove.

Cat Har­bor is part of the vil­lage of Two Har­bors, lo­cated on the Isth­mus of Catalina. The sec­ond is Isth­mus Cove, the busier of the two and the quick­est to ac­cess from the main­land. Though less pop­u­lar than its neigh­bor, Cat Har­bor is well worth the trip. “Cat Har­bor is one of the safest har­bors in Cal­i­for­nia,” says Paul Artof, who has been cruis­ing here for 40 years with the Del Rey Yacht Club. Cut ex­cep­tion­ally deep into the is­land and fac­ing away from the main­land, Cat Har­bor is pro­tected from pre­vail­ing winds and ocean roll. It is des­ig­nated as a year-round safe port by the Coast Guard, one of only two such har­bors in all of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. With 96 moor­ings and an­chor­age for more than 200, it is well-pre­pared to han­dle traf­fic from cruis­ers am­bi­tious enough to make the trip around the is­land.

Cat Har­bor of­fers on­shore pic­nic fa­cil­i­ties, a pub­lic dinghy dock and free pump out, but most

other ser­vices will need to be ac­cessed at Isth­mus Cove. The har­bors are sep­a­rated by an easy 10-minute walk. Ameni­ties at Isth­mus Cove in­clude a con­ve­nience store, a num­ber of restau­rants and nightlife, with a bar district that fea­tures live mu­sic on busy sum­mer week­ends. Cat Har­bor is close enough to the ex­cite­ment, but pro­vides a calm es­cape from the ruckus on the other side of the is­land. There is no miss­ing out on a good night’s sleep.

Well-equipped har­bors and beach­side ac­com­mo­da­tions make stay­ing in Two Har­bors com­fort­able, but it’s the nat­u­ral land­scape that sets the is­land apart from other des­ti­na­tions. “It looks like it’s the peak of a moun­tain,” says Artof, who en­joys hiking when­ever he vis­its Catalina. With its moun­tain­ous to­pog­ra­phy, ocean views and dirt roads, it is an ideal lo­ca­tion for hik­ers and moun­tain bik­ers alike. Moun­tain bike rentals are of­fered for those who ar­rive with­out one. While travers­ing Catalina, you will likely see buf­falo that have roamed there since 1924, when they were fea­tured in a movie filmed on the is­land. They’re harm­less (if you keep your dis­tance).

Catalina is also home to some of the best scuba div­ing and snorke­l­ing in the world. Its unique coastal habi­tat and Ma­rine Con­ser­va­tion Area is home to sea lions, whales, dol­phins and a num­ber of other species. “We al­ways see fly­ing fish when we cross over to the is­land,” Artof says. “It’s a unique­ness of the area.”

On the other side of the is­land is Avalon, about 20 miles from Two Har­bors. The iconic city was home to Wil­liam Wrigley for a time and fea­tures a his­toric casino, which dis­played the first talk­ing pic­tures in Amer­ica and was once fre­quented by Char­lie Chap­lin. Avalon has the most boat ac­tiv­ity on the is­land, so find­ing a moor­ing may be tough dur­ing the busy sum­mer months, but it can be reached by bus from Two Har­bors.

“We’re very lim­ited in where we can go in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia,” Artof says. “The only is­land that is a real des­ti­na­tion from Ma­rina del Rey to San Diego is Catalina.” The is­land is well-loved by those who know it well, and has an en­tire coastal land­scape wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered by new trav­el­ers.

Why Go? Santa Catalina of­fers a quiet es­cape from the ur­ban sprawl of LA. Cat Har­bor is the calmest har­bor on the is­land and one of the safest in all of Cal­i­for­nia, grant­ing cruis­ers peace of mind when ex­plor­ing the crys­tal clear waters and moun­tain­ous ter­rain.

1. Kayaks are avail­able for rent at Two Har­bors Dive & Re­cre­ation Cen­ter. 2. The 4th of July is a busy time. 3. Hiking and bik­ing en­thu­sisasts, re­joice! 4. Avalon Bay of­fers a num­ber of re­sorts. 5. There are buf­falo in yon­der hills.

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