created unusual surf conditions. Meanwhile the California newspaper surf reports were predicting that a big southerly swell would arrive eight days after the New Zealand storm on Friday and Saturday, September 16 and 17. Thursday, September 15, had a 6.5-foot-high tide forecasted at 8:00 P.M. for the Southern California coastal area, with the tide being slightly higher Friday night when the moon was at its perigee (closest approach to earth). Ironically, the arrival of a big swell coincided with one of the year’s highest high tides.
At that same time, Bill Watkins, vice commodore of the California Yacht Club, along with other members of the club, had his boat on a mooring in Catalina Harbor. He told me that on Thursday night a large wave came into the harbor, rocked all the boats, and tossed dishes and other supplies onto the floor of one of them. This in itself was unusual, since Catalina Harbor is a deep protected cove where one rarely feels any boat movement at anchor or on a mooring. It was made more unusual by the fact that the wave also washed out a portion of the road leading to the California Yacht Club’s Ballast Point facility at the edge of the harbor or, as Watkins put it: “Just like you’d used a skiploader to cut a channel.” Around the same time Thursday evening, large waves crashing on shore broke windows in oceanfront homes at Malibu, California, and on Friday and Saturday surfers had 12- to 15-foot-high waves at Newport and other south-facing beaches in Southern California. Remarkable to think that waves generated by a storm in the southern hemisphere could retain their energy and travel 6,000 nautical miles at an average speed of around 31 knots and cause damage in the northern hemisphere on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean!
One of the joys of being on the ocean on a good sailing day is sailing “down wind and down swell.” Under these conditions the boat moves smoothly, a slight heel, and the helmsman can feel a surge of speed as each swell passes under the stern of the boat and pushes it toward its destination, adding to the forward motion due to the wind. Looking