San Pedro is the harbour district of Los Angeles and, as such, does not have a lot to recommend it; liquor stores, tattoo parlours and pawn and taco shops seem to be to four pillars of the retail economy. The dock area which is shared with neighbouring Long Beach is enormous, not surprising when you consider the incredible amount of goods being imported from Asia to feed the insatiable consumerism that is America. However like all SoCal harbours it also has an extensive marina and a small corner behind the breakwater allocated for anchorage.
The problem with anchoring almost everywhere in Southern California is the limited duration that you are allowed to stay. In most places there is a three day rule after which you have to move on but can usually come back again several times then it’s time to move on anyway. The rules are in place to prevent people from abandoning their boats leaving derelict wrecks floating in the bay. Sausalito is the exception to this and as a consequence has quite a few itinerant people living on dilapidated boats which eventually sink or catch fire. Anyway we dropped anchor in San Pedro, had a visit from the harbour police and managed to get a permit to stay for two weeks – yay!!
The reason for coming to San Pedro was to catch up with our friends Britta and Tom who we met in French Polynesia. We sailed with from Nuku Hiva to Hawaii where we shared a few anchorages and rum-soaked evenings then we sailed again with them up to the Pacific Northwest. Now they are living on their yacht Desire in the marina in SP and it’s been really great to see them again. They have introduced us to many of their boating friends here so it’s been a very sociable time.
On the waterfront between the marina and the docks there is a vacant piece of land which is used for various events and one weekend while we were there the Red Bull Rallycross car racing came into town. The cars are regular production cars; several teams use Hondas, Subarus, VW beetles which have been considerably sooped up “supercar” specs and can do 0-60 in less than two seconds. The track was like a gokart track on steroids with asphalt and dirt sections and a jump at the back where the cars get airborne. It was exhilarating and ear-splitting experience; the colour, the speed, tyres skidding on the tarmac and dirt spraying up into the air at the tight turns, watching the cars in mid-air was fun.
Another interesting event in San Pedro was the arrival of the SpaceX rocket booster which was parked on the waterfront for a week before being transported out to their testing facility in Texas. SpaceX is a private company which has designed and built rockets to deliver payloads into orbit. The rockets are made up of a booster and a second-stage which is the business end carrying communication satellites into space or other cargo to the International Space Station. The second-stage does not come back to Earth but the rocket booster lands on a drone ship and is brought into San Pedro. We were fascinated to see this bit of space debris standing behind the masts in the marina.
Catalina Island is just thirty miles west of Los Angeles and is a favourite place of Angelinos to go for the weekend. As a consequence the most popular bays are chokka block full of moorings but there is usually still room on the fringes and in the deeper water for boats to anchor. We crossed over to Catalina Harbor on the west coast which is a great place to shelter from a Santa Ana; the strong, hot, dusty easterlies which blow out of the desert at this time of year. We loved Catalina, the red dust and eucalyptus trees reminded Neil of northern Australia and the pace of life seemed casual and easy-going, especially during the low season with few tourists around.
After a couple of days in Cat Harbor we moved down the coast Little Harbor which was uninhabited with just a couple of nice beaches, a camp site and a dirt road connecting it to the rest of the island. In the evening we went ashore for sundowners and to use the showers and we saw two bison grazing between the palm trees. It was amazing to see these primeval beasts which represent the pre-European history of America on an island of the southern Californian coast. Apparently fourteen bison were brought to the Island in 1924 to be extras in a film called The Vanishing American and when the filming finished they didn’t have enough money to transport them back to the Great Plains. The wonders of Hollwood!
Another good place to anchor when your SP anchoring permit runs out are the Oil Islands. These man-made islands lie just off of Long Beach Harbor were constructed to develop the Wilmington oil field which underlies San Pedro Bay. The good people of Long Beach didn’t like the view of ugly production platforms so islands with palm trees were built and on two of the islands the drilling derrick is disguised as an apartment block – it sure beats the Aberdeen office.
Before we left San Pedro we celebrated Halloween with Britta and Tom and a bunch of other friends. The Americans take Halloween very seriously and for weeks houses around town had been decorated with spiders and cobwebs, witches and skeletons. Neil and I made masks from a hollowed out pumpkin, they looked pretty evil but were pitiful compared to some of the other costumes at the party. Nonetheless we had a great time – good music, good food and good company with new friends and old. We’re going to miss them as we head south down to Mexico.
Cheers for now