If someone told me that by noon on Sunday me and three of my riding friends would complete a 100.3 mile all out pace ride around Catalina Island I would’ve said, “pass me another brew”. But that’s just what we did and today my body feels good for it. Our Turkey day ride was so great that this same group decided on a repeat performance however, the weather gods decided that we needed some more fog riding time and so they obliged.

Sunday at 7 a.m. I’m staring at the Cabrillo launch ramp from the warmth (53 degrees outside) and comfort of my 4RUNNER, sipping on some coffee, from about 30 feet away – but could not see it. I strained my eyes knowing full well that there was a launch ramp so where out there but still could not see it. The parking lot was full of fishing kayaks waiting to get in the water. Man I thought. If the fisherman can’t even get out on the water – how are we supposed to? But, just like magic by 0730 the ramp came into view. Visibility improved slightly till about 0820 when Belton, Walker, Don whom I’ll call the (cousin) and I decided to head out to meet up with Lee at Way Point #1. If you’ve ridden the LB2CAT race then you know where this point is. Its at the entrance to Long Beach harbor.

The group navigated out the breakwater through Angel’s Gate down to Queen’s Gate (Way Point #1). At times I had to look hard to make sure that the breakwater was still to our (left) port side and not dead ahead. It was still that thick. No fisherman out here yet – just lots of crab pots. I like it when a plan comes together. Like if on Q – less than five minutes later and Lee was on point #1.

Throwing a new rider into the mix is easy if he can keep up – if he can’t, it could prove disastrous for all. Two of us decided to flank him and do our best to coax him along on flat seas towards the island. How do you not keep that throttle wide open on seas like these I thought? Its cause he was trying to ride it like a couch. Work those legs cousin – stand up and ride! Nothing we could do could get him to keep up. In no time flat the first two were out of sight. Knowing full well that the wingman concept (thanks pwcoffshore.com) was in full effect we navigated towards Way Point #2 (turn around point for the LB2CAT race). With about a mile of visibility all the way to the Casino we rode on. It wasn’t hard to miss cousin on his bright red RXT but as he kept getting further and further with the fog closing in all around him we did some creative riding to keep him in our sights. Like circling him and a the same time ending back up on course. Remember, visibility at this point was only within a 1 mile range. All you could see was fog, a patch of ocean, you, your wingman and maybe just a bit of sun trying to break through.

The final riding plan was formed at Avalon. With great riding conditions like these (flat – lake like – all the way to Catalina). Why not ride around the island. Sure I thought. It’ll be just like this. Wrong. Maybe for about five miles. The waves ever so gently slapping along some rocky inviting beach. Just right for the little woman and you. With sheer cliffs behind you. Very rarely can you find conditions like these so that’s why we went for it. 10.5 gallons for my Ultra at Avalon and maybe 7 for the Seadoos. It was strongly suggested to cousin that he wait for us at Two harbors – which he agreed to do while the big boys rode around the island. So if ever in the future anyone of us decides to call you COUSIN – you’ll get the hint, won’t you.

So if you were doing this ride – I thought to myself – what would you want to know. The rest of the story is devoted to that thought. NAME OF RIDE - It started out to be a LB2CAT training ride but then morphed into this century ride. GENERAL LOCATION: Catalina Island PWC RIDER SKILL LEVEL – On a scale of 1-10 – cousin was maybe a three to four. On this ski he only had 29 hours; did not own a GPS but, knew how to use one. Was well equipped and dressed for the ride. RIDE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY - On a scale of 1-10 parts of the ride were definitely 10’s and parts were a mere 1. (When you hear me say “pay the piper time” it means it will always be a bear getting home. RIDE DISTANCE (round trip) 100.3 miles LAUNCH RAMP INFORMATION: Cabrillo FUEL DOCK LOCATION: Avalon and Two Harbors HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RIDE – Flat lake like conditions all the way to Avalon. Riding in fog with less than one mile of visibility on smooth seas – getting close to massive rock formations; riding head seas; racing with your friends; seeing natural beauty that few get to see; and no breakdowns.

Winter may be here but we ride year round! See you on the water.


Subject: Turkey Day Run to Catalina Island – 11/27/08
Unplanned turkey day run from Los Angeles Harbor via Long Beach Harbor to Avalon, Catalina Island and back to LA. J. Belton called this ride (Ralph, Lee and Paul) responded. The four pwcoffshore.com riders set out this morning to get a little exercise (0830) prior to the anticipated big evening meal. Four riders rondeavued at the LB breakwater about the time some of you were maybe still sleeping in or just having your first cup of coffee.
Did you know that this group is in keeping with a long tradition of running to the island and back. Why the first officially recorded race was from our start point - LB to Catalina Island back in 1911. This was also the first recorded offshore race in the U.S.A. Known then as the Rum Run Race. You wonder what kind of iron hulks were used back then to power those boats to the island and back.
So what is this PWC racing thing all about? Its about taking what you now own (hopefully a 2000 and newer PWC) and putting it through its paces by filling it with fuel; packing all the safety equipment you can find and then taking it for a spin, hoping to one day build up the nerve to do it at WOT (wide open throttle). Now, just for the heck of it, do it with say 1-50 of your friends or competitors all on their boats doing the same thing and now congratulations – you too can be an offshore endurance racer.
So why do we do this run. We do it to stay in shape. We do it to improve our boat handling skills; to gain a better understanding of the weather and what it will look like on any given day. Also, throw in the navigation aspects, organizational and analytical skills required to grabble with any unforeseen problems - that do happen. Both of the mechanical and mother nature kind. Part of this enduring appeal of racing is also the challenges presented. Not only will we possibly never ever master all the skills or win every race, but, we get to enjoy what we love best – FREEDOM. Freedom from the work week, economic times or whatever! What better way to do so than on the water.
With a desire for a little offshore exercise these four (Two Ultra’s and Two SeaDoo’s) started out in near lake like conditions with patches of blue sky; big towering thunderclouds and visibility for about 20 miles. No need for snivel gear this morning as the temperature was fast approaching the high 60’s before launch time.

Remember our old familiar tag line – fall may be over but we ride year round. Well here we were.
Something like five miles out it was like if someone turned on the water wave switch. I could clearly see now that the distant thunderstorms seemed to have totally enclosed us in. We were four spread across an open ocean heading in the same direction. Only a clear blue sky was all around us as we still kept the same WOT (wide open throttle) pace. Not a drop of rain fell on us at either end. And then Mr. Harbor Patrol came out to meet us. Got to warn you guys – USCG warning of a funnel cloud spotted somewhere around Newport. So that’s what that cloud was all about I thought. No problem – let’s add about 3 gallons of fuel for safe measure said John. $10.00 later we were off again. This time it looked like it was going to be pay the piper time going home. Lot of that good head seas coming our way making for a wet ride.

Boat handling part II says that heavy weather to a seasoned and weather-wise skipper is never a bother. While operating on deep and large bodies of water, wave action tends to build more slowly than on large waters that are more shallow. In deep waters such as our San Pedro channel, wind action only causes moderate seas with slow, rolling swells.

Knowing your boat is part of the key and also one of the reasons we are out here. Since no two boats react the same in the same sea condition I was watching how John handled his Ultra. He looked to me like a wax action figure standing; not seeming to move or bounce much. Me on other hand at times felt like I was at a wild disco party break dancing at times, with my legs flaying off into the air at times. Bam! I got a few of those on the way home. At times you would think that that noise would be enough to scare me but I know better by now. Seems every so often you catch one of those waves wrong and that hull pounds that water like a hand slapping it just so.

So there you have it. You may or may have been one of the lucky few out there. We on the other hand are planning to go back out and do it all again on Sunday. If you can keep up we may or may not want to see you but that’s all in the day of an offshore endurance rider. See you on the water!