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Santa Barbara to Avalon, Santa Catalina via Santa Cruz Island

We departed Santa Barbara mid afternoon on October 3rd for the short hop across Santa Barbara channel to Smuggler's Cove on the back side of Santa Cruz Island.  Before leaving, we strolled down the shoreline to the huge, weekly arts and crafts fair and along the way, encountered an anti-Iraq war protest.  They had named crosses laid out in perfect lines on the beach for each of the 1000+ US service men and women who have died to date (there have been over 30,000 Iraqis killed in the war to date) as well as other visual displays.  It was very tastefully done, very respectful and of course, extremely thought provoking.  No matter where you stand on the issue, you could not help but be moved and sobered by the display, the magnitude of which was immediately apparent to everyone, including the kids but whose rationale was quite a bit more difficult to fathom, much less explain to an 8 year old.

Early evening found us safely anchored in Smuggler's cove where we rendezvoused with S/V Trinity once again.  We stayed two nights (deciding not to go ashore due to the large surf) and departed early on the 5th for Avalon Harbor on Santa Catalina Island.  Avalon is almost certainly the most "touristy" place we are likely to encounter on our entire voyage with the possible exception of SeaWorld.  Cruise ships arrive daily, pouring thousands of tourists into the small town, effectively doubling the population.  Everything from the stores to the restaurants to the streets themselves are geared to handle and channel this massive influx of humanity in search of the perfect commemorative t-shirt.  Melissa and I where here 20 years ago before we were married and thought it was touristy then when a much smaller number of visitors arrived mostly by ferry from Los Angels.  It's worse now.  We've seen small towns (those unlucky enough to have deep water ports) similarly impacted in the Northwest and SE Alaska.  Cruise ships may be good for the local economy (at least for those seeking low-wage retail jobs hocking cheap plastic junk made in China) but dealing with the concentrated volume of visitors breeds a homogeneity that sucks all the authenticity and originality right out of a place.

The last day we were here, no cruise ship was scheduled to stop.  It was wonderful actually being able to walk along the sidewalk without having to dodge the milling throngs.  Mel and Roma engaged in some retail therapy while Eric and Steve took the kids snorkeling around the corner at "Lovers Cove" (though its hard to imagine any real lovers coming here with all the tourists in golf carts driving by).  Even with just ferry visitors, the boys had to work to avoid the huge glass bottom boats made up to look like fake submarines.  With all the faces peering out from behind the portholes, it felt a little like snorkeling in the aquarium at Sea World, but the kids had fun at least.

All in all, Avalon is probably a nice place to live and I'm sure the thousands of people who bought ice cream and a lacquered turtle during the three days we were there had a wonderful visit, but it will probably be a long time before we visit again.  Next time, we will choose to explore other parts of the island or spend more time up in the channel islands.

As always, click on the photos for larger sizes. 


USCB, Eric's Alma mata. The larger building on the right used to be the Computer Science building where Eric had an office as a grad student.

Sea Urchin dive boat unloading at the wharf in Santa Barbara Harbor.

Anta-war protest against the war in Iraq on the beach near the Santa Barabara marina. Very tastfully done and very sobering.

Sand sculpture of a fallen soldier at the anti-Iraq war protest near the wharf in Santa Barbara.

Oil rig in Santa Barbara channel crossing to Santa Cruz Island.

Smugler's Cove anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. One of the warmer spots in the lee of the prevailing NW winds.

Anacapa Island at sunset as seen from Smugler's Cove anchorage on Santa Cruz Island.

Kelsey and RJ soloing in the dingy, rowing over to S/V Trinity anchored nearby.

Avalon Harbor, Santa Cantalina Island.

One of the many cruise ships which visit Avalon regularly. From 10am to 5pm, when the ship is in, it's a total zoo of tourists.

The old Avalon casino.

Avalon harbor as seen from the roads in the hills above. Note the mooring buoys and the density of boats. Sula is hidden by the tree branch.

Another view of Avalon. Sula is near the middle of the photo.

The view from our mooring bouy in Avalon Harbor.

Out for a spin in a rental golf cart, the preferred mode of transportation in Avalon.

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