I recently mentioned to a close friend, a local of 40 years, that I had just purchased a boat.  His eyes widened as he grabbed my arm and almost shouted “You need to check out Emerald Bay!” A local myself, I always drive by the Emerald Bay sign on my way to Laguna Beach, not giving it much thought because you can’t see the beach at all from Pacific Coast Highway. The moment he says that, however, I realize the opportunities I have opened myself to— it’s as if in addition to getting a boat, which is awesome in itself, I am also now able to encroach on people’s privacy in a socially acceptable manner! 

Emerald Bay is arguably one of the most beautiful, clean, and pristine beaches Southern California has to offer. Access to Emerald Bay, or “E-Bay” as the locals call it, usually comes with a real estate price tag of a cool couple of million dollars. Having a boat gives you the opportunity to enjoy this gorgeous beach without the cost. I call the Pacific Yachting Club office and make a reservation. After, I immediately call my friend and invite him out with us—an invitation he accepts before all the words are even out of my mouth. I have since found that it is easy to get people together when you have a boat. 

We get to the dock around 11am, swim trunks on and coffees in-hand. The boat looks great and is clean and ready for our little trip down to Emerald. We start up the engines and push off from the dock, and soon we are waving to fellow boaters and heading out of the harbor. We check to see if there are any waves at The Wedge and see that the swells are small, the sun is out and it is an all-around perfect day to be on the water. As soon as we reach the end of the jetty we take a hard left and quickly bring the engines up to about 15 knots—optimal cruising speed for a jaunt down the coast. We pass Big Corona, Little Corona, Third Beach, and so on, before getting to the beaches I have never had access to before. As if owning a house with a view isn’t enough, these people get to enjoy their own personal slices of paradise on a daily basis, in the form of a private beach. Today, however, we get the feeling they must be watching us from their kitchens and thinking “I need to get a boat!” 

As we round the corner to our destination, one of our guests on board gasps at the gorgeous view before us. It is easy to see why it is called “Emerald” Cove- the water is a perfect blue-green that you just don’t see in too many places. Paired with the golden white sand of the beaches, it seems as if we have somehow in 15 or so minutes travelled to an exotic tropical location that few ever have a chance to see. There are a few other boats in the bay, and we pick a quiet spot to drop anchor that is protected by any wind that might start up later. Our equipment on board tells us that the water is about 20 feet deep, and sure enough when I look overboard I can see all the way to the bottom. Snorkelers rejoice! I set anchor and wait a few minutes to make sure it has caught before opening a cold beverage and grabbing the appetizers we brought out of the fridge. I’ve been looking forward to this day all week and now that we are actually here, I’m in heaven. 

We spend the day in the water which is a refreshing 68 degrees. One of my friends has brought his surfboard and swims to shore to take a few waves. While he’s ashore, my wife and her friend snorkel and see a manta ray. She takes an amazing picture of it with her underwater camera—boasting material to show our friends, no doubt. We stay for a few hours, swim, eat lunch, and catch up before deciding to head back to the real world- not that Newport Beach is all that bad. 

We pull up anchor and head back north, no GPS required. We can see the mouth of Newport Harbor as soon as we get around the point. We fly by El Moro, which used to be my favorite beach (there is now no comparison to Emerald Bay in my mind), and pass Crystal Cove as well. I see the famous Beachcomber restaurant and realize that I’m hungry, so I mention to all on board that there are some world-class restaurants by the Pacific Yachting Club dock that are worthy of some attention this fine afternoon. Swimming all day works up a killer appetite, after all. A unanimous “absolutely” is heard by all and we cruise into Newport by 5pm- but not before stopping briefly at the buoy just outside the harbor mouth to say “hello” to the hoards of sea lions that nap there during daylight hours.

In another 15 minutes, we are greeted by the dockhands who are there to help us unload our stuff and take the boat off our hands for the day. They let us know that they will be cleaning everything and tell us to enjoy ourselves at dinner, also mentioning the best places nearby that still has Happy Hour going. Thanks, guys! As we depart, I wave goodbye to them with my free hand as I am already on the phone with the PYC office booking our day trip for the following weekend. Life is good.