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Route Planning Tips

How to plan for the most comfortable cruise possible.

October 8, 2012
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My wife likes boating, but not lumpy seas. Come to think of it, I feel the same. But I’m used to bumpy conditions. Not so with my better half. So when it came to a boating getaway at Santa Catalina Island off the southern California coast for just the two of us, I had to be careful. Here’s how I planned it.

Weather Trumps All. There are factors beyond a husband’s control — like the weather. For our 26-nautical-mile crossing from the mainland to Avalon harbor, the forecast was for winds to 10 knots out of the west with waves to two feet. Not exactly glassy, but certainly not Victory at Sea. Had the forecast been dire, a smart husband would have suggested something different, like a drive to the wine country.

Plotting a Course. I wanted to avoid an up-sea run, so I launched the boat in Long Beach. This put us on a 180-degree heading to Avalon, with the mild seas on our starboard beam. Seated on the port side, my wife was comfortable, dry and relaxed during the entire 1½-hour passage.

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Morning Calm. As with other coastal areas, winds are often calm in the morning off the coast of southern California but usually freshen up in the afternoon — so much so that there’s a nasty strip of water between the mainland and the island known as Hurricane Gulch. The last thing I wanted to do was subject my wife to these howling streaks of foam, so I planned to leave the harbor at 9 a.m. — not too early (an important consideration for a relaxing weekend), but well before any sea breeze kicked up.

Stay in the Lee. A friend of mine said, “If you want to keep your wife happy, stay in the lee of the island.” No wiser words have been spoken. Despite my desire to sneak around to the weather-side to fish, I resisted.

Smooth Return. To set us up for the trip home the next day, I planned to cruise westward in the lee, so my wife could sightsee along the beautiful northeast face of this mountainous isle. This would take us to the west end of Catalina. When we were ready to head home, I could then turn southeast on a slight downhill run home, with part of the passage taking place in the broad wind shadow of the island.

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Our weekend cruise ranked as the highlight of our year, but it could just as well have been the low point had I not planned our getaway with comfort in mind.

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