We’ve been cruising Catalina for a long time and visit this unique Southern California island several times a year. So much so, that it sometimes feels like our own private paradise, particularly in the off-season when we might be the only boat anchored in a cove whose beauty matches that of any other place on earth. But, of course (and particularly in the summer), you only have to watch the island ferries bringing visitors in by the score – not to mention all the power boats and yachts that visit – to see that Catalina is an extremely popular destination.
Among the island’s regular visitors are countless numbers of schoolkids who stay in any one of the many camps. Is it by coincidence or by purpose that the most of these camps are located in the most beautiful coves? Or is it that every cove is beautiful regardless of whether it houses a camp? In the summer, when the camps are in full swing, a noisy reveille may start the day, and the camp counselors (mostly college kids) and organizers swing into action: snorkeling, kayaking, campfires and singalongs. The air is filled with happy shouts and laughter. I’ve never seen an unsmiling youngster here in all the years I’ve been visiting.
Of course, some of the island’s visitors say that all this action and noise disturbs the peaceful island idyll, but I love to pull into an anchorage, drop Poseidon’s big anchor, settle in and see the beach alive with activities. I remember our outings when I was a kid and, although they were largely confined to the local dairies, bakeries or parks, we loved them. They were a change in routine, a new stimulus, something to look forward to. Much though we loved them, our outings were nothing as exciting or exotic as a visit to Catalina and I can only imagine how the Catalina campers must look forward to their summers, creating memories that will last their whole lives.
There are too many campsites on Catalina to list them here and, anyway, this isn’t meant to be a guide but simply a snapshot of one of our best-loved cruising grounds. However, one particular cove is particularly worth mentioning. It’s the rock formation just below Long Point, a landmark whose light is a vital navigation aid to all boats in the area. Just below the light is a cove which may be the most beautiful underwater spot on the island. There’s a small reef and then a beautiful kelp bed. Hundreds… thousands… of fish, mostly notably Garibaldi, the official fish of California. Once almost extinct, it has been protected now for many years, a bright golden colored creature which, while it’s very territorial, will eat out of your hand. Particularly if that hand is filled with frozen peas!
The camp at Long Point may be the most active of all the Catalina camps and when we’re anchored here in the summer we expect to see several dozen kayakers at a time cruising through the anchorage.
Everyone who visits Catalina must have their favorite places and experiences. I love seeing so many people – especially youngsters – enjoying this magical island just as much as we do.