Days 5-8: When the Weather Hits

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On May 5 we were heading out again. As we left Channel Islands we were greeted by what appeared to be a large flock of birds, half of which it turned out were actually dolphins – it seemed like there were hundreds of them. We raised our mainsail and unfurled our high cut yankee in the light winds, keeping the motor running. Eventually we lowered the sails when we lost the angle on the wind after a tack. We were treated to a beautiful sunset. Our biggest concern of this next leg was Point Conception, a famously difficult area to navigate by water that requires excellent timing. Thankfully our timing was spot on and the weather was great, our only real challenge here was with all the cargo ships.

All in all the first night of this leg went well, but the wind and waves steadily began to rise during the second day. That afternoon we decided to put up some sails in order to minimize the motion of the boat and increase our speed. We made some long tacks to keep from beating into the wind. We flew the main on the first reef and raised the staysail for the first time (finally found the hole in it that we couldn’t find before). We received our first hail on the radio – a NOAA research vessel we failed to see off our port bow. The captain was gracious and let us know the course he intended to take around us, even when we offered to give him right of way. Before dark we decided to drop the staysail and unfurled the high cut yankee again, only to have to furl it back up again because of our angle on the wind.

The second night of this leg was the real challenge. The wind and seas picked up, not particularly high or scary, but the seas were tossing us about like a washing machine. We would pitch and roll, pitch and roll all night. I tried to sleep, rather unsuccessfully. Below deck it felt like we would roll and roll and roll right over, though we weren’t anywhere near doing that. Everything that was not tied down (and some things that were) flew across the cabin, all of the doors banged open and shut despite being latched. Surprisingly we only lost one wine glass.

All of our cabinetry in the galley was wet again, this time rather than the portlight we think it was because the sail track was not properly bedded before. If I were paid every time we swore at one of the previous owners of the boat for poor choices and horrible workmanship… Many of our projects have involved redoing things the right way because they weren’t done right initially. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful boat, we absolutely love it. Granted, it is a boat, there will be projects. It is also an older boat, 30 years old to be precise, so there will certainly always be things to replace or repair or refinish. However, each new project we find gets worse: more scary, confusing, expensive, annoying, painstaking, time consuming, expensive.

I digress. At some point in the middle of the night Beau and dad lowered the mainsail. At some point in the early morning I was called up to help watch for ships. Shortly thereafter I was thrown across the cockpit – my shoulder was sore, but otherwise okay.

The number of bruises was amazing – my arms and legs and derrière were covered in black and green and purple spots. My leg muscles burned from constantly balancing against the motion of the boat. My bum was raw from sitting on the cold, wet rails. I was sure my fingernails would never be clean again. Calluses formed on my hands from the wet ropes. Everything in the boat was damp. If you envisioned this trip as us drinking cocktails and drenched in sun on the bow of the boat – try again! This is what you should be envisioning:

I’m sure I make sailing sound so appealing. It’s not for everyone, but it’s something I’ve been waiting the last 20 years to get back to again. It has its low points, its “WHAT am I doing out here?” moments. But it is very rewarding, and for me it is life fulfilling. The beautiful sunsets, the star filled skies, the marine life, balancing the sails, the camaraderie of the community.

As the sun came up on our third day, the seas calmed – dad said they were the worst he’s ever been in just because of how much they were throwing us about (spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure he’d say this about another day later in the trip!). We decided to go into Monterey, get some rest, and of course work on more projects. As we neared the bay we encountered another large pod of dolphins, a few whales, and sea lions. We could hear the sea lions barking and encountered an otter just a couple of slips down from us.

The land sickness we experienced when arriving was intense and it took a good while to get everything to stop swaying. I worked on making a better seal on the portlights – the rubber is old and cracking and on many there is a sizable gap in the rubber. I also worked on bedding some of the screws in the sail track, anything to minimize water coming into the boat. Beau and dad worked on the engine blower and the bilge pump (oh yea, turns out the bilge pumps we had didn’t work). We stayed two nights in Monterey, choosing to take our time rather than push ourselves and the boat. We decided to leave for Half Moon Bay on May 8, stay the night and wait for a front off of northern California to dissipate. The weather forecasts after Tuesday look promising, knock on wood we’ll have more favorable wind and seas.