Catalina Island News

Winter Doldrums

Afishinados Charters

We have been running charters in Avalon since 2003, so it would seem that we should be ready for the winter doldrums.  I may never fully get the concept that our very robust business slows down so considerably in the winter.  But, I am thankful for it.

Winter is the time to fix boats, re-frame offerings and try, once again, to create a web site that does everything our customers need it to do.  Impossible, but a good goal regardless.

Fixing boats is kinda fun, but not so when the weather breaks them as soon as they are fixed.  After years of fairly harmless winters for us (no always so for others), the law of averages has caught up.

We had a Boston Whaler (AHAB) get chewed up by the constant jamming against the dock in heavy weather.  The tow-eye bolt was literally pulled through the hull and bent at a 90 degree angle.  AHAB looked like it had been in a series of head on collisions.

We pulled the skiff, repaired the damage, built up the bow with an industrial sized bumper, gave her a nice paint job then returned her to the water.  This time, when the weather came we put AHAB on the string line.  The next morning she had a hole the size of a fist punctured in her side from another boat. 

AHAB is currently sitting in my driveway, waiting for it to be safe to return to the water.

My other skiff MOBY is a beauty.  I bought her this fall and immediately liked this little boat, but she needed a little work.  I added a cage to protect the nearly new-looking Yamaha 40hp from other boats at the dock. 

MOBY got some paint, some rod-holders and seating installed.  We dropped her into the harbor looking like a new boat.  Then the winds and rain came.

I tried a new strategy.  Forget the dingy docks that become battering rams.  Forget the string line that gets all bungled up.  This time I tied MOBY to Catallac, put up a number of storm fenders and crossed my fingers.

After a night of rain, the winds came.  I used binoculars to watch MOBY ride out the turbulence alongside Catallac.  She was looking pretty good.  Then came a freak gust of wind that measured above 60 knots.  Within moments a shore-driven sea was raging and swamped, then flipped MOBY.

I cannot express the disappointment.  One moment all is well, the next, not so much.

The Harbor Patrol was extremely helpful as was Nate Lins who had been passing by.  We got MOBY back on the surface and towed her to be pulled out.  A minor miracle followed, as Jim Parrish showed up to help dewater the motor and try to save it.

MOBY is also sitting in my driveway.  I have not given up on her.  While trying to work through the insurance issues and getting the electronic components replaced I have doubled my efforts to make MOBY the Swiss-Army Knife of skiffs.

I have spent a good deal of time raising the free-board along the stern to reduce the chance of a shore-driven swell climbing in and filling her up again.  I added a very sophisticated automatic dewatering system that seems to be working even through that heavy downpour last week.

The time I have spent on MOBY has been a labor of love.  I built seating, a tackle center and put in a couple more rod-holders, installed new flooring, laid out some new anti-slip decking and generally got MOBY ready.

While working on the skiff I got my usual calls from visitors looking to book a boat.  I sat there telling one such customer that I was sorry, but there were no boats that catered to individuals.  The only thing I could offer was our 4 passenger boat at $175 per hour.

This is a common problem in Avalon Harbor.  We do not have open party charter boats that sell seats.  Many have tried, but none have succeeded at this business model.  The successful model is to offer private party, on-demand charters for small groups.

I turn away a lot of individuals, couples and even groups of 3 that cannot afford the price of the 24’ boats.  It occurred to me that MOBY could fit nicely into Afishinados Charters as a passenger-carrying charter for groups of 3 or less.

I applied for and the City Council approved my request to add MOBY as a charter boat for customers looking to do some guided trips in a skiff. 

Now, I can’t wait for winter to end.  We have something new to offer visitors, and I am personally excited about catching big fish in a small boat.  If we get lucky enough to catch a marlin in a 14’ skiff this year, you will definitely hear about it!

By Capt. John King
Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 –