The Harbor Report: Back from Catalina in one piece

I have been pleasantly surprised by the response from people who read my first column last week.

The first remark I received was in Catalina from Diane Buchanan: "I read your story in The Daily Pilot, Len. That's a great idea and I look forward to reading more of them," she said as four 11-year-olds old charged the picnic table for dinner.

Yes, I pushed the limit in Catalina this weekend and I will not be in trouble until my wife Jennifer reads this story.

This Monday was also the start of the junior sailing season and I have a couple of observations I want to share with you.

Since moving my column over to the Daily Pilot, the response I have received has multiplied by 10. I received e-mails from people like Malcolm Geffen, Paul Blank, Mike Whitehead and Ray Lewis, along with Nancy Teulie and Diane Buchanan stopping me at the Balboa Yacht Club and telling me how they enjoyed my story.

The best quote came from my son Andrew, after we arrived back at the yacht club: "Dad, how did everyone know it is my birthday this weekend and knew we were in Catalina?"

"Looks like a lot of people read The Daily Pilot and want to know how your trip to Catalina went," I replied.

I had been dreaming of taking Andrew and a number of his friends to Catalina Island for his birthday. It all came together this year. Yes, when you see me on the water this week I'll be the dad with the ear-to-ear smile.

But don't let me fool you that it was easy. I was fortunate to have my best friend, Bobby Blake, helping me with the crew of the Happy Times. It consisted of Bobby's son, Jack, and Andrew's two friends from the neighborhood, Bubba and Brian. We also hooked up with the crew of the Inconceivable, Christophe and Porter Killian, and, yes, when you blend these two crews you have "Inconceivable Happy Times."

Now the idea of an air-soft battle with biodegradable BB gun pellets was a bad idea of mine. Not because the kids got hurt or that we must have broken a number of laws. It's because I am still picking up BBs that were spilled all over the boat as the kids filled their guns.

Bad, bad idea that ranks right up there with allowing cheese puffs on the boat.

The next exciting moment came when we heard, that the week prior to our arrival, there had been a great white shark seen off Long Point. You would of had to been there to see the expression on our faces when we received the news and looked up at the kids playing on the beach.

After checking with the White Harbor Department, BYC caretaker and my old friend in Avalon, lifeguard Steve Trigger, I was convinced of the kids' safety — although they thought it strange when I vetoed snorkeling and swimming from the boat to the beach.

The weekend could not have been any better, with the morning marine layer burning off by 11 a.m. each day and a full moon each night. Not that the kids really got a chance to see the night's sky after a full day of playing on the beach and running up and down the hills of Catalina. They were asleep by 9 each night, although I did ask Andrew to come back on deck after our return to the boat the first night. I placed my arm around his shoulder and pointed out the full moon just breaking the horizon and filling the whole bay with its sparkling light.

This is when I asked him to make me a promise: "Andrew, now you have to promise to bring your son to Catalina for his birthday, OK?"

"I will, Dad" he replied. "Wow, look at the moon! I can almost count the rocks on the moon. Can I go back and watch the rest of the movie now, Dad?"

This gave time for Bobby and I to sit outside in the cockpit and recall all the good times we had aboard the Amante, the Richley family's 48-foot sailboat.

"Hey Bobby, let's call Mel" — Mel Richley is the owner of the Amante — "and thank him for all the good times we have had on his boat and for introducing us to Catalina and White Cove and the understanding that every second with your family on a boat is priceless," I said.

Bobby then replied, "I have a better idea. Why don't you write about it? You know Mel reads The Pilot every day."

To Mel: Thank you! You have no idea how much you have helped me over my life and carrier by allowing me aboard the Amante and telling me about your family stories on all of those moon-lit nights we had over the years.

This Monday was the first day of junior sailing this year. I started to worry when I was cleaning the boat up Sunday night and noticed all the fathers getting their kids' sabots ready for the next day. I was OK because Andrew and I went sailing last week and everything was in good shape. We still arrived a little early Monday morning, and sabot parents have nothing over Little League parents. The tension on the docks felt like tryouts, with each parent giving last-minute advice before the big show.

Later that day I was moving a boat I had just sold to its new slip and must have seen at least five kids in complete meltdowns, with crocodile tears running down their faces.

As I arrived at Andrew's class, I was just in time to watch Andrew flip his boat and then look over and notice me. He told me with a big smile that he was all right and had misjudged the wake made by the Pavilion Paddy charging past the class — too close for this father's comfort level.

The classic moment came when one of the Balboa Yacht Club's staff commodores, who was concerned about his grandson getting hit by the boom earlier in the day and with the return of his grandson to the dock was trying to help, fell into the water. Fortunately our commodore did not hurt himself and it was even more priceless to hear the young skippers tell the grandfather where the ladder was to get out of the water.

Truly a priceless weekend on the water and a fantastic start to the yachting season.

Stay tuned for next week.

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