Island Time (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Two-Dinghy System)

Every night, I write in my Log – which is just a cooler (not to mention more nautical) way of referring to my journal. I started the log several months ago in a desire to track my time and document my accomplishments – which is a big word for any little thing that I manage to get done in a day.

Documentation of my days became increasingly important when we got to Catalina prepared to do so many projects (boat and life) thanks to the extra time, and after almost two weeks I’ve read one and a half books, written several blog entries and made two unsuccessful yellow jacket traps.

I’m in constant awe of how fast a day passes here, and while Adam spends a good part of the day working his actual job, I’m in further awe of how little I manage to get done. My theory about boat life compared to land life in this regard is two fold: 1) Everything that you do on a boat takes much longer and has several extra (usually unforeseen) steps, 2) The lifestyle requires that you move much slower and take more breaks, because it would be a damn shame not to.

Example: It took me two hours to check the mail yesterday.

10:30 am

From where we’re anchored in Cat Harbor, it’s a 10 minute dinghy ride and a half a mile walk into town. But before I could use the dinghy I had to fill it with gas, pump it with more air and bail out the two inches of water sitting on the floor. When I got to shore, I tied up the boat to the dingy dock, inevitably getting into a conversation with another boater in the same harbor, many of whom we’ve gotten to know. Once I got into town I went straight to the warehouse where you can have mail and packages sent, but it was locked and there was no one in sight.

11:15 am

I look up at the warehouse sign – “open daily 8:30am – 4:30pm,” and wish I had brought a book with me. What I reminded myself is that Two Harbors, although a short ferry ride from LA, functions on island time and so I continued to wait patiently until someone came back to the warehouse, greeted me with a smile and opened the door.

11:50 am

I spent 10 minutes riffling through other people’s mail but didn’t find anything for us. We were expecting two packages, one from our parents with mail and goodies (and Bounce to ward off the yellow jackets) and one with an engine part that is sorely needed.


I walked the trail back to Cat Harbor, stopping for 10 minutes to watch a single buffalo eating grass next to the road. I though about the book I’m reading “A Voyage Long and Strange,” where Tony Horwitz (my favorite travel writer/historian) traces the routes of Spanish Conquistadors in the modern day Midwest. He writes that as late as the early nineteenth century, some thirty million buffalo roamed the Plains, but due to massive hunting and the Army’s efforts to exterminate buffalo to drive out the Indians in the late 1800s, fewer than a thousand buffalo remained in North America by the year 1900.

He mentions that buffalo are strictly herd animals, which made me wonder why all of the 10 buffalo I’ve seen so far on the Island have been hanging out solo. I suppose the difference is that while buffalo from the Plains stayed in herds for protection against hunters, the buffalo from Catalina are carefully monitored and protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

In 1924 a herd of bison were brought out to Catalina Island for the silent version of Zane Grey’s Western Tale, The Vanishing American. Controlling the bison population has been the job of the Conservancy who initiated a scientific study that determined that a herd of between 150 and 200 would be good for the bison, and ecologically sound for the island. To reduce the numbers from 600 to 150, they’ve partnered with different Native American Tribes to ship buffalo back to their ‘native’ lands – which is pretty cool. According to the Wikipedia article, in 2009 the Conservancy started giving animal birth control to the bison to maintain the population to around 150. Since, several of the buffalo have complained about weight gain and mood swings. Zing! A little birth control humor.

A couple of years ago, I remember Adam telling me that the Island was allowing buffalo hunting as another solution to the issue of overpopulation. There’s no such evidence of that online, so I’m glad I didn’t run out and buy a bunch of hunting gear. You can, however order a buffalo burger in some of the islands’ restaurants, which I fully intend to do.

See how time gets away from you here? Back to my quest for mail.

12:30 pm

I Got back to the boat just in time to take an hour to make burritos for lunch and another hour to hand wash and dry the dishes. After lunch we decided to patch the hole in the dinghy (remember the two inches of water?). We started by running a halyard (nautical term) down to the dinghy so that we could haul it up on deck, when several yellow jackets started taking an interest in our project. In the commotion of fighting them off, with the occasional high five to celebrate a ‘kill’ as I like to call it, we lost grip of the dinghy and it started floating away. We then piled into the sabot and rowed out to rescue the inflatable dingy – which is where two dinghies really come in handy.

After finally getting the dinghy securely up on deck, we encountered our next dilemma: to deflate the dinghy and do the patch job the right way by letting the glue sit for four hours before re-inflating it and  putting it back in the water or to stick the patch on and hope for the best. Since the first option seemed like a lot of work and super time consuming, we opted for the second. It didn’t take us long to figure out that our patch job wasn’t going hold, and that we’d used the last patch in our repair kit. We’re going to have to order another one and have it sent to the warehouse.

Before we knew it, the sun was going down.We had no mail and had failed to patch the dinghy. But the sky was turning pink as we brought some drinks and cards into the cockpit. It had been a great day. Not too productive, but not too shabby.

What’s on the docket for today? A shower.

The road from Two Harbors to Cat Harbor

Approaching Two Harbors from Cat Harbor

A tree and bench along the road

Writing in my Log

Yellow Jacket Trap – First Failed Attempt

Yellow Jacket Trap – Second Failed Attempt


4 thoughts on “Island Time (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Two-Dinghy System)

  1. You’re a good writer, Molly. Keep it up. Loved the pictures, too. The one of Adam trying to drink a beer lying down–that’s a skill that has to be mastered for successful relaxation.

    Also, if the inflatable continues to leak, you can put that outboard on the Sabot. YKW (you know who)


  2. Hey kids, it is a real pleasure to read about your adventures, and your joie de vivre is uplifting. I stumbled on your blog because I’m toying with the idea of sailing beyond Catalina, so your description of the various legs is very useful, not to mention entertaining. Anyway, reading about the wasps reminded me of another blog that I enjoy. Maybe he has a (partial) solution?


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