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Buccaneer Days

Catalina Island has a long-standing annual pirate festival called Buccaneer Days. I've been wanting to go since I moved to LA in late 2004. And at last, I made it! We reported to pyr8queen's family's schooner, "Pilot" Immediately upon arrival at the marina, we saw a very colorfully dressed pirate strutting around - and we hadn't even crossed the ocean to Catalina! It turned out that the pirate in question was the boyfriend of pyr8queen's sister's boyfriend. We piled ashore "Pilot" and joined them in looking over the side at something very important.

Most of the preparations were already complete, so as soon as our dunnage was stowed, we put out to sea! We immediately saw a strange bird up on a flag post. We believe he is an osprey - apparently he's been eating all the tiny birds in the marina and is thus popular with the boat owners. I swore it was a turkey vulture, but after looking close, he's not bald, he's feathered. Not that there's anything wrong with being bald! Bald is lovely. For a vulture.

As soon as we cleared the breakwater, a very strong wind blew up, and after raising fore, main and jib, Pilot heeled over something fierce. She was leaning over to at least 50 degrees, and with every raising wave crashing white foam coursed along the gunwhales. The wind was so strong, we never got the bow pointed toward Isthmus Harbor, and actually rasied Catalina closer to Avalon. During the crossing, we saw a whale! It leaped into the air, did a half-gainer with a pike twist, and gave us a saucy wink. Ok, actually we just saw its spout, but given that it's early in the year for the grays to be migrating, it's possible it was even a much rarer blue whale. Alas, I did not get a picture.

We pulled up to a cozy mooring in Cherry Cove just after sunset. There wasn't much to do yet. That is, except drink, eat, and drink some more! We played a few half-hearted hands of whist but everyone was tired and we passed out. Morning broke early. Actually, it broke when it always does, it's just that we were sleeping in the deckhouse and there was no ignoring. But a hot jolt of brisk coffee in the cockpit, watching the other boats peacefully bob in the harbor had us up and motivated. We hauled out the dinghies, weighed them over the side, put on the outboards, and did lots of other boaty stuff. Then, of course, came the dressing up like pirates and heading into shore. I'm pretty sure some drinking happened.

Unlike in years past, apparently, there was not a lot of piratical stuff going on ashore. There were signs of a crowd, the moorings were all taken and there were lots of people camped out immediately behind the bar-restaurant-generalstore-city hall, which is apparently unusual. Lacking much going on, we retired to Pilot again. There was some snorkelling (I saw an octopus!) , some drinking, and then....dressing up like pirates all over again! I'm pretty sure some eating and drinking occurred somewhere in there. A lot.

The dinghies at the dinghy dock were packed in like piglets jostling shoulder-to-shoulder for teat. We had to wait until someone left to slip in where they'd been, and even then climb through two other dinghies to get ashore. The bar was no less packed! It was a weird vibe - everyone was dressed like pirates, but it wasn't your usual pirate crowd, inasmuch as there is such a thing. There was a DJ playing. The music wasn't piratey. In the end, it was a lot like any sort of overly-white-people club, but with a pirate theme. We had some drinks, but after getting physically shoved aside in the bathroom (and with my feet aching) I'd had about enough. We went back to Pilot. Some drinking might have occurred.

The following broke no later, though probably more painfullly for the more hungover crewmembers. We had some coffee and breakfast, and went for one last snorkelling jaunt (I saw a sea urchin and a kingfisher!) before hauling out the dinghies and stowing all away for the return crossing. There was not a stitch of wind on the return, so we motored all the way. We moored in the marina, and were on our way - having successfully completed the much vaunted Buccaneer Day crossing!

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