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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beware of the "Santanas"

As a boy growing up in Newport Beach one thing I'll always remember is the "Santana" winds. Orange county was mostly farm land in those days. Starting about October and ending about the end of April it was possible to get the powerful northeast winds at any time. The first signs of the winds would be hot dry summer weather in the winter. My dad used to wake me in the middle of the night and say, "Ernie, how about coming with to help double up on the lines on the "Kelpie" and make sure everything is secure aboard her." Kelpie was my dad's sixty five foot schooner that he kept docked at his little boat yard on Mariner's mile. For a young kid to go out into the night in forty to sixty knot winds it was quite exciting. Branches were coming off trees, tumble weeds were coming down all the NE facing streets, waves were breaking over the docks on the south side of the bay. Down on the docks one could see boat covers being shredded, small boats that had been poorly secured being damaged as they rubbed wood to wood against pilings and wharfs. The wind would howl through the rigging of "Kelpie" and other nearby boats as dust and debris filled the air making it hard to see and a bit dangerous. We would get the "Santana" winds four or five times each winter. It was pretty much a southern California occurrence with considerable damage taking place along the coast. Catalina island, especially Avalon would usually take a direct hit. Avalon bay is open to the NE and boaters foolish enough to not heed the early warnings (summer weather in January, large swells starting to come into the bay from the NE, a large dust cloud approaching from the mainland) would find themselves in very dangerous conditions. Boats on mooring would drag ashore, boaters attempting to leave would get there props fouled in mooring lines and blow ashore. Those lucky enough to escape would run around to the back off the island where they could find refuge off the palisades. Yes, the prudent mariner should have a lot of respect for the "Santana" winds. As I write this little ditty, I'm on a mooring in Avalon, it's hot and dry and we are having summer weather the second day of October. My weather man (my son Josh in Newport Beach) has been advised to call me on my cell if stiff NE winds start blowing. It's totally beautiful here, but I have first hand knowledge that it can turn to pure hell in a matter of an hour or two......

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