Sailing on Blue Water
California has got the goods when it comes to climate. I’m finding Los Angeles to be more and more of an outdoor city. There are beautiful mountain trails, camping venues from the shore to the desert, and it seems everyone is constantly outside enjoying nature. The weather here allows for it. The ocean’s current brings cold water down from Alaska, but the sun shines on the same latitude as Georgia. The result is a warm sun with a cool breeze. This creates a Mediterranean climate that hangs out somewhere between 50 and 70 degrees all year long (perfect sailing weather). So if you are a fan of light jackets and ocean breezes, this might be the place for you.
While this holds true for nearly all of coastal California, Los Angeles has a unique geological feature that makes it even easier for those considering a nautical life: Santa Monica Bay and the Channel Islands.
Santa Monica Bay runs from Malibu down to Palos Verdes. The water here is shallower, and warmer than other coastal areas of California. The eight Channel Islands and many offshore seamounts help to break up the wind and the waves to make the ocean more palatable for sailing. When departing from Marina Del Rey of Los Angeles, the winds will average between 5 to 15 knots, the swells will be milder, and you will be more comfortable in your boat. With the typical western winds, one can take a comfortable upwind tack to Catalina Island, camp for a few days, and a ride a broad reach home. If you go a mile offshore, you will find virtually zero boat-traffic: a true boater’s paradise. But be aware that, sometimes, dense fogs can sweep in out of nowhere and your boat will be ensconced in a cloud so thick that you cannot see ten feet beyond your bow.
Just why does that fog roll in the way that it does? When cold breezes from the Pacific pass over the warm oceanic air of Santa Monica Bay, they re-condense the water vapor above the surface into that famous California fog. These mists will blanket the city of Santa Monica and stop at the inland “marine layer” (where the warmth of the land heats the vapor back to its un-condensed form). So while inland Los Angeles will be experiencing a bluebird day at 90 degrees; Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu may be chilling in the 60s in a mist thicker than pea soup. This is just one of the jeopardy factoids that I have learned at my new sailing school.
I began teaching sailing with a venue called Bluewater Sailing. They have a fantastic program set up with a variety of vessels from 22-foot keel boats to 57-foot camping sloops. In addition to basic classes and weekend trips to Catalina, they are now expanding into the adventure travel market. This year, they are offering captained sailboat charters to Bora Bora, Tonga, and the British Virgin Islands. As someone who sailed for all his life, I feel very lucky to get to learn the ins and outs of so many different types of sailboats, as well as have future opportunities to discover the more removed coastlines of the world. I look forward to sharing my journey with you as it continues to unfold; all the hiccups, detours, and meanderings. California is a great education; the water here is blue, and with that Alaskan current, it’s colder than you might think. So make sure you bring some wool along with you.