How Dangerous is it to Anchor at Little Harbor?


I guess the simple answer to that question would be that it depends on how prepared you are. Did you check the charts? Did you check the tide table? If not, then be prepared to go aground. If you did, then you should be okay. We’ve anchored at Little Harbor about six or seven times now, and we’ve always been safe and enjoyed our stay there. Not always the case for others.

During our last sail to Catalina Island, we spent two days and two nights at Little Harbor. There are the good and the bad that goes along with anchoring at Little Harbor. The good is that it is remote as compared to other harbors at Catalina Island. The beauty is almost unparalleled when compared to other harbors. One could argue that Cat Harbor or Emerald Bay are also lovely places to anchor, but there are always people on moorings or anchored in both of those two, so they just don’t have the same vibe at Little Harbor.

The bad would include that there is no phone/data coverage, so no internet. You also have to be conscious of the tides if you are going to anchor close to the beach or the rock outcroppings. There is about a seven-foot tide that rolls in and out of the area, so this should be watched closely.

During our last anchorage, we saw two sailboats, a really nice Beneteau Oceanic 45 and a great little Catalina 38, sail in that had not paid attention to the tides and they both anchored next to us. Had we known that neither of them had a shoal draft, we would have warned them. Our draft is about 4.5 feet, but theirs were both a good 6 feet. I was awakened at about 2:am by the Beneteau’s diesel being started, and when I went topside to see what was going on, I saw the captain of the Beneteau slam the throttle to quickly move forward. He then dropped the anchor about 50 feet farther away from the beach. The Catalina 38 stayed where he was, so I thought that all was good. The next morning the captain of the Beneteau motored his skiff over to let me know that he had almost gone aground so that’s why he had to move his boat. He also told me that the Catalina 38’s keel had been stuck fast and that the boat had been listing a bit before the tide came back in and floated her. Once floated the captain of the Catalina 38 quickly pulled anchor and moved into deeper waters. The captain of the Beneteau also noted that he felt bad because he had all the previous day to check tides, but he did not. He saw our boat and figured that it was a big boat, too, so he thought he would be safe. Neither considered that we may have a shoal keel. Lessons learned!

In the end, we are all responsible for our own boats. Although in the sailing community we all tend to watch out for one another, we really should not assume anything when it comes to our boats. Boat owners tend to approach others with respect that the other owners probably know their boats and where they are anchoring. No one wants to insult the other owner by giving unasked for advice, so it is the assumption of most owners that the others have done their homework. Always check and double-check charts and tides!




About Captain Tom

Over 10 years sailing and over 3500 miles under our keel. Was an engineer (EE) for over 30 years, then after moving into management, decided that the corporate world was no longer for me. Ran my wife's law office for 15 years and recently retired. Now we live aboard and sail the California coast, soon to leave for the Sea of Cortez.