Catalina, the island just 26 miles off the Long Beach shore, relies on tourism for the vast majority of their economy, according to Jim Luttjohann, President & CEO of the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
Long Beach-based cruise ship visits are the base, supplemented by tourists taking the Catalina Express and boat owners mooring in its many tranquil bays. Catalina is a contract city to Los Angeles County, and under current restrictions only owners can use vacation rentals, hotels and moorings.
With the island closed to visitors, the impact has had a devastating effect on their community. The bulk of the island's population works in the hospitality industry.
The Avalon Community Church in collaboration with the city of Avalon have been collecting food and donations to help fill the shelves of The Lord's Cupboard Food Pantry for those in need. Luttjohann said the food bank went from serving 15 to 20 families on the island to almost 200.
“We have an amazing community here," Luttjohann said. "Everyone is coming together and helping. The Rotary Club, Vons Market — even restaurants that are closed have opened up their refrigerator space.”
Catalina Express has reduced service to Catalina Island from Long Beach to one boat in each direction daily. (Services from San Pedro and Dana Point ports are suspended until further notice.)
Catalina holds a special place in the hearts of many Long Beach people, especially the boating and diving community. Dana and Chef Paul Buchanan are two of them. As owners of Primal Alchemy Catering, they have pivoted from doing large events all over Southern California to home meals for pickup and delivery. Their pop-up pantry in front of their Kitchen by the Sea overlooks the ocean with a clear view of Catalina.
This is where the idea for Food Ferry, by Primal Alchemy Provisions, a dock-to-dock program to help feed Catalina was born.
“People have been just giving us money and telling us to feed those in need, so we have been doing that," Dana Buchanan said. "I know that there are a lot of resources here in Long Beach that are supporting our community, then, I thought, Catalina is, literally, an island, cut off from the support we have on the ’big land.’ So, with the help of Dan Hunke, community services director of the city of Avalon and with permission from the Harbor Master in Avalon, we are going to give some love to the islanders.”
Starting this week, the Buchanan’s will provide a boatload of prepared meals and with the help of volunteer boat owners ferrying the food over, the meals will go from Alamitos Bay Marina to the Avalon Pier — dock to dock.
Some boaters with Catalina mooring are doing what they can to help Avalon’s economy.
Long Beach’s Bob Blair took his family on board their boat to the island last weekend and said, “On Saturday while on a little coastal cruise we counted 57 boats on anchor between Frog Rock and Empire Landing. All island moorings are closed to transient boaters. Only the owners or Leases are being allowed to use ‘their’ moorings.”
Blair also reported Avalon shops are open with limited hours, several restaurants are offering takeout, and the fuel dock is open with limited hours.
Blair also noted the following, “Leo’s drugstore is open, line forms outside and minimum customers allowed in, the Island Toy Store +More was open and very well stocked for any 8-month-old grandson as well as for a kid at heart grandpa who still enjoys an Etch-a-Sketch and astronaut ice cream.”