Arriving in Avalon we called the harbor patrol on the VHF and waited outside the channel entrance until we were assigned a mooring. Avalon’s special was buy two nights get five free! As we navigated between the rows to our mooring we tested our nerves. The mooring rows at Avalon were super close together! Good thing we didn’t arrive on the weekend! As we approached the mooring number we had been assigned, we ran into a snag. Another boat had their dinghy lazily hanging out behind their boat making the row even more narrow than we felt comfortable navigating. Grant aborted, and we tied up to the next closest mooring 10 balls early. Harbor patrol came to meet us and said it was no problem, then requested permission to come aboard. He wanted to dive right into our head. Umm . . . sure! This required some quick maneuvering since we’d mainly been using it for storage during our passage. After clearing everything out, our visitor dropped one round disk of green colored dye into our toilet and instructed us to flush it. He went outside to observe the water around our boat to make sure our holding tank did not leak. Maluhia passed with flying colors!
Avalon has a no dumping policy within the harbor and with good reason considering how clear and pristine the water is. In fact most coastal areas have this policy but whether or not it’s followed can be questionable. Maluhia originally came to us with a lock on her y-valve because she was a fresh water boat, and in the great lakes, you can’t dump overboard at all. Avalon is one place that takes dumping your holding tanks into their harbor seriously. If at anytime during your stay there is any presence of dye surrounding your boat, you will be asked to leave and undoubtedly be banned from the harbor for a minimum of up to one year!
Shortly after our dolphin visit and right before entered the harbor, Grant made a comment that the wheel felt funny. Great! What could it be now? After we were settled I took out the SUP for a quick paddle and inspection of the prop area. Affirmative. There was something black attached to our prop. We poked at it with the boat hook until we were able to confirm it was a plastic bag. Ugh! Plastic has no place in oceans and this is just one example! We cleaned up our prop and properly disposed of the mess.
Avalon is a great little town with a Mediterranean feel. Anyone can get to Avalon by taking a ferry the 22 miles over from the California mainland, renting a helicopter, stopping there on a cruise ship or taking your own boat. If you don’t have your own boat then get ready to pay! I believe a one hour ferry ride averages about $72 round trip! All of the Avalon mooring balls are leased to private parties and then rented out when the private parties are not using their ball. The waiting list for a mooring ball is just about as astronomically long as the waiting list to bring a car onto the island. Rumor has it leased owners are willing the leases to these mooring balls to their family members after their passing. While exploring Avalon we couldn’t help but notice all of the little cars and golf carts. They were some what comical and some what annoying. My favorite was the the tiniest little Fed-X truck I had ever seen!
After our arrival we managed to catch up again with our friends M&M. We swear we weren’t following them! We ended up getting a tip from a local who told us about cheap $1 tacos and $2 beers at a local establishment. M&M were trying to teach us about keeping ourselves on a cruising budget, but Avalon had lots of Happy Hour options! During our stay we also attended a local Octoberfest street fair which included live music, street vendors, and pumpkins in the sand. It was great to watch the locals and sample some delicious food, not to mention ice cream. I’m not sure what it is about tourists and ice cream. (Easy targets!) I noticed ice cream being offered in every corner store and just about everywhere people were eating it!
During one afternoon we walked over to the famous iconic casino to have a close up look. We didn’t take the official tour but we got some pictures of the Moorish Alhambra style structure. A little history of the Island tells us that Native Americans lived here for about 7,000 years. Then a European explorer from Spain stopped by while while exploring the California coast and named the island Santa Catalina after St. Catherine of Alexandria. The island was then purchased by the Banning Brothers, who sold the island after a devastating fire. Then entered William Wrigley (of Wrigley’s chewing gum and the Chicago Cubs) who purchased the land hoping to develop it into a unique island resort. The Chicago Cubs did their spring training on Catalina for 30 seasons. Wrigley had requested the building of the casino. However, this is not your typical gambling establishment. In Italian casino stands for place of gathering or place of entertainment, so this building was designed with a ballroom over a movie theater. The theater contains a live working movie theater and the ballroom is used frequently for events. In fact there was a Jazz festival with a pricey admission fee happening there the entire week.
About 3,800 permanent residents reside in Avalon, and after being there more than a few days you start to see just how small town the place really is. There is pretty much one of everything there, post office, bank, a full sized Von’s on one street and a Von’s express on another. A huge contrast from the even smaller Two Harbors from where we had previously visited. Another feature that makes this town a little more serene is the presence of the bell tower located on Chimes Tower Road! (Suitably named.) The tower was a gift from Mrs. Wrigley to the town of Avalon in 1925. The chimes go off every 15 minutes starting at 8 AM daily and they can be heard all over the anchorage.
Nothing prepared us for the spectacle of boats that came over from the mainland for the weekend. Avalon has about 100 mooring balls, maybe more, and I am pretty darn sure all of them were full. We were shocked! Guess this place is no secret among boaters! What we couldn’t get over were all of the center cockpit dinghies that came attached to these boats. From there I started to notice a pattern. Center cockpit dinghies ALL had drivers over a certain age. (Enough said.)
Internet was something we needed so we could continue working during our stay and we found a local coffee shop to be a suitable place to set up shop. It was here where I had a first hand reminder that despite it’s more established city feel, Avalon is still surrounded by wilderness. After burying my head in my computer for a few hours, I popped up for a quick stare out the window. I continued to take in a gorgeous view right on the waterfront. Seconds later, I noticed people rapidly parting on the street and to my surprise a gown up version of Bambi was running full throttle down the waterfront promenade!
During our stay at Avalon we really enjoyed ourselves and once again we were tempted to stay. What a great place we thought! But our friends M&M encouraged us to keep going. They assured us that the places we would go would just keep getting better and better. There was warmer water out there somewhere and I was still desperate to find it.