CIVR Blog: Avalon Harbor Patrol

12:13 pm
The Avalon Harbor Patrol assists the boating pubic on Catalina Island

The Avalon Harbor Patrol assists the boating pubic on Catalina Island

The centerpiece of Avalon on Catalina Island is its harbor and making sure that the harbor is safe and secure is the Avalon Harbor Department. Part of the City of Avalon, the department is overseen by the Avalon Harbormaster.

With about 12 full-time officers and an equal number of part-time officers, the Avalon Harbor Patrol is one of the City of Avalon’s larger departments. These sworn officers respond to a gamut of situations, from sinking boats and vessels on fire to dive accidents and missing kayakers. Harbor Patrol officers are the first line of defense for medical calls in the harbor, most officers are EMTs and all patrol boats are equipped with cardiac defibrillators. With full arrest powers, they also handle criminal incidents like domestic violence and boating under the influence. Officers respond to boating accidents, enforce boating and fishing regulations and administer the city’s harbor restrictions. During storms, the officers of the Avalon Harbor Department face down danger to protect life and property. Northeast storms, when mainland Santa Ana winds generate high surf in Avalon Harbor, are particularly harrowing, with officers jumping from surging patrol boats onto moored vessels, while seas in excess of eight to 10 feet churn beneath them.

The Avalon Harbor Patrol office is staffed 24 hours a day and no matter what time it is, at least two officers are on duty. In addition to their law enforcement and rescue duties, these officers also assist the boating public, help boaters find their moorings and administer the city’s profitable mooring rental operation.

CIVR Blog: Cooking spiny lobster

6:59 pm

Catalina LobsterIn the fall, one of Catalina’s most delicious denizens is in season. California spiny lobsters are plentiful around the island and catching them – and eating them – is a favorite activity of both residents and visitors. Spiny lobsters can be caught with either hoop nets or while diving on scuba; either way requires a fishing license and complying with size and catch limits.

For the most part, the only edible part of California spiny lobsters is the tail. They lack the large claws found on their more well-known Maine cousins and what’s to be found inside the carapace can best be described as an acquired taste. The tail however, is a delicacy that is well worth experiencing.

Even after you’ve cleaned your lobsters, you’ll want to use care when handling them. They are called spiny lobsters for a reason and one of those reasons is the gauntlet of spines on either side of the tail. Gloves, or at least caution, are warranted when handling lobsters.

Lobster tails can be cooked in a variety of ways. Grilling fans will find that lobster tails are delicious cooked on grill. To do so, heat the grill to medium high heat and slice the tails lengthwise. Brush a bit of oil on the cut side and lay it directly on the grill. Cook for three to five minutes until the shell begins to lighten, then turn the tail over and cook for an additional three minutes.

If grilling is not an option, boiling is always a good idea when it comes to lobsters. For this method, you’ll need a large pot of salted water. Boil the lobsters for eight to 12 minutes and then drain them well.

Lobsters can also be baked. Heat the oven to 375 while you slice the top of the tail to remove the meat. Cook the tails for 20 to 25 minutes until they are opaque.

No matter how you cook your lobster tails, you’ll want to melt butter to accompany them.

CIVR Blog: Dining on Catalina Island

10:52 am
Healthy options at the Avocado Cafe on Catalina Island.

Healthy options at the Avocado Cafe on Catalina Island.

Dining on Catalina Island offers a range of options, from quick burgers to consume on the beach to culinary creations crafted with care. Avalon restaurants are a frequently changing cornucopia and one of the newest opened in the spring of 2014. Located on Sumner Avenue, just below the Glenmore Plaza Hotel, the Avocado Café offers a menu of healthy sandwiches and salads as well as coffees and smoothies.

Receiving rave reviews on Yelp, the Avocado Café has quickly become a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The sandwich shop has proven to be a great spot to grab sandwiches before heading to the beach, on a hike or – for some of us – back to work. Avocado Café prides itself on fresh produce and healthy ingredients and offers a range of options, including gluten-free bread. Don’t miss their Dole Whips – the same iconic treat made famous at Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room.

Part of a small group of cafes, Avocado Café also has locations on the mainland in Huntington Beach and Irvine.  They are open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and stay open until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Visit their website at www.Avocadocafes.com or call them at (310) 510-8325.

CIVR Blog: Descanso Beach Ocean Sports

2:50 pm
Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a great way to explore the island.

Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a great way to explore the island.

Exploring Catalina Island is something that takes a lifetime. Hidden coves, dramatic vistas and unique flora and fauna are just waiting to be discovered. Adventurers can take many routes to find the hidden side of Santa Catalina and one route is aboard an ocean kayak.  Catalina Island’s leeward side is ideal for exploring from an ocean kayak – calm waters beckon and marine life abounds.

Descanso Beach Ocean Sports, located just past the Catalina Island Casino at Descanso Beach, offers a menu of experiences sure to please everyone from the novice paddler to the experienced kayaker. Single and double kayaks are available for rent by the hour or the full day. Gear, including paddle pants and jackets for cooler weather, is available as well, as is snorkel gear and accessories like dry bags and personal floatation devices. Looking to try something different? Descanso Beach Ocean Sports also offers “glass” bottom kayaks to give you a view beneath the surface, as well as stand-up paddleboards.

Want to learn more about Catalina Island while you’re paddling? Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a number of guided kayak tours, including natural history experiences, astronomy tours and kids kayaking trips. For more information, call (310) 510-1226 or visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Land’s End Catalina

7:21 pm
Land's End on Catalina Island

Land’s End on Catalina Island

Catalina Island’s coastline is a study in contrasts. The island’s 54 miles of coastline represent everything from gently sloping sand beaches to vivid cliffs that plunge precipitously into the sea.

One of the most dramatic stretches of Santa Catalina’s coastline is located at the island’s far northwestern tip. Christened, appropriately enough, Land’s End, this area is home to steep cliffs, rocky promontories and drifting kelp forests. This stark landscape rises from a sea churned by waves and currents and the high cliffs are frequently lashed by swirling winds.

This area is consistently one of the most difficult stretches for boaters and kayakers who set out to circumnavigate the island. The finger of land is nearly always awash in heavy surf and Pacific currents that signify the abrupt transition from the lee to the windward side of the island.

The high cliffs are the realm of one of Land’s End’s – and Catalina’s – most dramatic residents. Bald eagles have called this forbidding habitat home for decades. The West End aerie has been a nursery to dozens of eagle chicks, several of which have matured to claim their own territory in Catalina’s ever changing skies.

CIVR Blog: Middle Ranch Catalina Island

2:38 pm
Middle Ranch includes an equestrian center.

Middle Ranch includes an equestrian center.

One of the most frequent questions visitors to Santa Catalina Island ask is “What’s on the rest of the island?” For the most part, the answer to that question is wild lands and wild places, but there are a few spots other than Avalon that host human habitation and history.

One of those spots is Middle Ranch on Catalina Island. Located just about in the, well, middle of the island, Middle Ranch has long been a center of livestock operations on the island. A classic red barn pays homage to that history and is now the center of the island’s equestrian facility. The Catalina Island Saddle Club offers residents – both full and part-time – the opportunity to board their horses cooperatively and take advantage of the island’s trails.

Middle Ranch is also a center of activity for the Catalina Island Conservancy.  The James Ackerman Native Plant Nursery propagates – and sells – a wide variety of native plants. Volunteers spend countless hours here ensuring the survival of Catalina’s flora, which includes several species that grow nowhere else on earth. The Conservancy also houses much of its facility maintenance operation here as well as several laboratories for studying life on the island. A number of families also live at Middle Ranch, in housing the Conservancy provides for its employees.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island races

7:30 pm
Photo courtesy of Spectrum Sports

Photo courtesy of Spectrum Sports

Catalina Island has become a magnet for athletes. Throughout the year, tests of speed, endurance and will take place on the island’s roads, waters and trails. Catalina Island races are famous for their natural beauty and the challenges they present for even the most accomplished athletes.

Several athletic challenges take place in November, starting with the Catalina Island Triathlon on Nov. 1. This world-class event begins with a half-mile swim in the waters of Avalon Harbor. Competitors will then head straight for their bicycles and race 15 miles out to Pebbly Beach and over Mt. Ada. Once the bike portion is complete, triathletes will take on the final portion, a 3.1-mile run out to the Casino Building and through the hills of Avalon. Hundreds of athletes from around the country take part in the Catalina Triathlon.

The following weekend, on Nov. 8, the Catalina Eco-marathon and Half Marathon will bring hundreds of long-distance runners eager to take on the challenge of Catalina Island’s hills and roads. Starting and finishing in Avalon, this marathon pushes its competitors to the limits, with grueling elevation changes and dramatic hills.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Fall Festival

6:53 pm
Catalina Fall Festival

Catalina Fall Festival

Like other communities around the country, Catalina Island comes together for holidays and special events. For the most part, the similarities between Catalina’s celebrations outweigh the differences, but in a few areas, those differences come into sharp contrast.

Catalina’s Fall Festival is one celebration that includes a few things found only on an island. Rather than a farmer’s field or a corner lot, island residents pick their pumpkins from a pumpkin patch on the beach. Dozens of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes scattered around Avalon’s beach are just one of the many features of the Fall Festival. This five-year-old event is open to residents and visitors and includes a cornucopia of tempting foods, delicious sweets and warm drinks. Hay rides and live music will both be available, as well as several family friendly games.

Two competitions are part of the fun at the Fall Festival. Prizes and bragging rights alike will be awarded to the winners of the Fried Chicken Competition and the Apple Pie Bake-Off Contest.

Scheduled for Oct. 16 from 5 to 9 p.m., the Catalina Fall Festival will be held on Crescent Avenue, which is also known as Front Street. It is hosted by the City of Avalon and benefits a number of Catalina Island charities. For more information, call the City of Avalon at (310) 510-0220.

CIVR Blog: Halloween on Catalina Island

3:41 pm
Rotary's Halloween Bash on Catalina Island will add some fun for adults.

Rotary’s Halloween Bash on Catalina Island will add some fun for adults.

Catalina Island has long been a popular destination for Halloween. Avalon’s school kids take part in a annual parade that attracts visitors and locals alike before scattering to fill their bags with Halloween loot. After dark, the town’s watering holes attract plenty of older party goers, eager to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve.

This year, a new party is coming to town. The Avalon Rotary will be hosting a Halloween Bash on Catalina Island, complete with adult costume contest, pumpkin carving competion and a live and silent auction. Music and magic will be the entertainment and appetizers and a no-host bar will be available. The Halloween Bash and Auction are a fundraiser for Avalon Rotary, which provides funds for locals needs, such as transportation for those needing medical care on the mainland, as well as Rotary International’s worldwide projects, including eradicating polio. Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the M Restaurant, the Halloween Bash is sure to be a spooktacular good time. Tickets are available at the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce office on the green Pleasure Pier or by calling (310) 510-1520.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Museum

4:27 pm
The Catalina Island Museum uses water totes to bring fresh water to the island. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum uses water totes to bring fresh water to the island. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

Catalina Island has been bustling with construction projects over the last several years. New restaurants, a new spa and renovated hotels are all in the works or completed, as is an expanded golf course, new activities and a new grocery store. One of the most widely anticipated projects is also one of the largest. The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building of the Catalina Island Museum will dramatically increase the amount of space dedicated to the art, history and culture of Catalina Island.

Thanks to the dedication of the museum’s staff and supporters as well as the innovation of its general contractor, this expansive construction project will have very little impact on the island’s rapidly dwindling water supplies. Catalina Island is in the midst of a historic drought that has forced residents and visitors alike to decrease the amount of water used. Rather than contribute to the problem, the museum has chosen to be part of the solution. Large plastic totes are filled with water purchased on the mainland and barged to the island. Each tote contains 275 gallons of water and with 120 totes available; the contractor estimates that by the end of the project they will have saved 33,000 gallons of water that would otherwise have come from the island’s water supplies.

The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building of the Catalina Island Museum will open in 2015 and include space for permanent and traveling exhibits as well as an atrium, digital theater and sculpture garden.