Catalina Channel Tides & Currents

SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
edited August 2012 in General Discussion
I am wondering why the Outrider uses an auto-pilot (straight course) from Dr.s Cove Catalina to Abalone Cove Palos it appeared that our swimmer may have had a better line by going up current and riding it in at the end...kind of like a mini-EC swim??? Since I have not spent time in the Catalina Channel for years, I do not recall the velocity of the currents...I know when I was a life guard and we through in dye packs...there could be a significant current...particularly on a south swell...many boats have a side drift/current reader that a pilot could analyze to make this determination?

"I never met a shark I didn't like"



  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    I can't answer your straight line question, but as far as currents go here's the site I use to check on current directions on the California coast:

    The cool thing is you can go back in time and check different days and times to see what the water was doing the day you were out.
  • TheoTheo Oxnard, CAMember
    There is just a different philosophy between the Outrider and the Bottom Scratcher. The Outrider thinks that the best way for the swimmer to cross the channel is the shortest distance and will adjust your direction relative to the current to keep it the shortest distance, hence the straight line. The Outrider has all of the latest nav gear to read the side drift/current they choose to use that information to direct you to stay on the straight line shortest distance.

    Bottom Scratcher will allow the swimmer to drift with the current even if it means a longer overall distance. They maintain it makes for an easier swim and ultimately quicker times.

    But it is nothing more than the captains' past experience, preference, and what they think is the best chance of success for the swimmers. Pick a boat based on the way you want to swim.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    My 15hr 37min Outrider swim was straight as an arrow.... spent quite a few hours crabbing toward the finish at +/- .5 mph.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    I'm hoping to swim Catalina in 2014. Which of the two options would you say is best for a fairly slow swimmer (3 miles per hour)?
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    If you swam 3 mph across the Catalina Channel, you would break the record by almost an hour.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    sorry - I meant 3k per hour. :)
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    Yeah, only @evmo could swim that fast..
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    And that's not even in his new wetsuit. :D

  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    My 15hr 37min Outrider swim was straight as an arrow.... spent quite a few hours crabbing toward the finish at +/- .5 mph.

    I did a little bit of that myself. Not knowing what was going on, I kept wondering why the pilot kept heading to the point and did not instead just take us straight into the beach. i got a good laugh later when i realized what happened.
  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    edited August 2012
    I took a look at today's currents and it looks like a route somewhat north and then dropping back to the point might be a better route?

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    (gentle reminder) still hoping to hear from someone which of the two approaches to the swim would make sense for a slow swimmer.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    heart wrote:
    (gentle reminder) still hoping to hear from someone which of the two approaches to the swim would make sense for a slow swimmer.

    I believe there are different price structures offered by the Outrider and the Bottom Scratcher. The former is a fixed price contract and the latter has an hourly charge after a certain amount of time. I've never experienced the BS, but have been on two swims (one of them my own) with the Outrider. The crew is superb, and the accommodations luxurious... comfy berths, hot showers, and galley service available. The galley service is a bargain, and your crew will love you for it.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • gregocgregoc Charter Member
    .....and no bagpipes are a bonus!
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    heart wrote:
    still hoping to hear from someone which of the two approaches to the swim would make sense for a slow swimmer.
    @heart - The reason you're not getting a straight answer to your question is that there isn't really an answer to your question, as posed. Both Bottom Scratcher and Outrider are excellent boats, and have escorted many successful swims, by both fast swimmers and less-fast swimmers. There are some differences between the boats, which may sway individual swimmers one way or the other. These differences don't have much to do with whether the swimmer is fast or not - except perhaps the cost structure.

    I used the Bottom Scratcher for my Catalina swim, and have experienced both boats as a crew member. I have an opinion about which boat is best for me (and it's not necessarily the one I used for my own swim). Many other Catalina swimmers have opinions too - they're just not likely to be expressed on a public forum.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    Thanks; that's helpful.

    Who do I contact, on either boat, to pick a date for 2014? And, is it too early/too late to do so?
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited October 2013
    Scheduling begins around November of the year prior to the swim. So, November 2013 for a swim in 2014.
  • WalterWalter Southern CaliforniaMember
    edited September 2012
    @heart, you are fast enough, and the currents are usually weak enough, that you are probably better off disregarding currents in favor of a continuously-updated straight course. Risk a longer swim; don't ensure one!

    I'm not very popular around here; but I've heard that I'm huge in Edinburgh!

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    Thanks, guys!

    Does anyone have an updated contact for the Outrider? @evmo's link seems not to work.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Try outridersportfishing at gmail
  • NatalieswimsNatalieswims Orange County, CAMember
    Catalina channel swim federation website has the captains contacts. Start training now!
  • To answer the original question, which was partially answered in the comment related to captain's experience; you will have the option to swim the other way if the current is dead against you, but if you plan to swim in a particular direction, you will have to stick with the philosophy of the boat / captain, so be flexible if you can. Walter's earlier comment about longer course not necessarily guaranteeing a speedy return to land is very true. An occasional North-South current towards the end can keep the swimmer less than 3 miles from shore and unable to land for hours. In essence, study SCCOOS & talk to the locals and captains about your intentions - planning is KEY!

    As for preference - the only real preference is for larger support groups (typically found on relays) to go with the Bottom Scratcher because of the larger capacity, while groups of 10 or less will fit on Outrider - the GPS line is a non-issue since Bottom Scratcher also has updated directional equipment. The only difference for solo swimmers is how far away from your boat / support crew you need to swim. Bottom Scratcher steers from high up in the middle and can't see swimmers less than 20 yards away (hence kayakers are highly advised), while you can be closer to the crew on the Outrider. When the big diesels get going, you need a strong voice, 2-way radio, or Walter's bull horn for communications on either of the boats. Swimmers with earplugs usually like the white board as well.

    A sustained 3km/h should get you across in a decent time, but don't look at surface currents only. Many watermen (&woman) will tell you there are other factors to consider as well sush as swell direction & height, wind, and even current prediction. Since the boats go out all the time, the captains are well prepared to talk about PREDOMINANT prevailing conditions out there, so tap into their knowledge as well as your swim mentor or observers if possible (obviously not a year out), but start preparing yourself with knowledge and terminology so you can have a good discussion about this vs. the stress of being caught in headlights with too many variables to consider before you swim. If you do get stuck in some of the backward swirls along the way, don't freak out - keep your feeds short (some swimmers drift 100 yards backwards in 30 seconds), and push hard for a couple of feeds to break free so you can ride the next current (or wave) home.
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