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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sailing into Danger



It was a sunny afternoon and I was happy thinking about sailing today! I could see myself attaching the main sail to the halyard and pulling it to the top of the mast and then setting out over the blue water.
All went like I had imagined it - at first. My suspicion that something was not right happened when I got out to the main harbor. 
The wind was pretty strong and it took some of my advanced sailing skills to keep the boat in the right direction. It wasn't till I was about to head out past the lighthouse into the open ocean when I noticed it. A massive fog bank rolling in with the rushing wind.
 I could see the fog moving past like ghostly fingers. Wow! I exclaimed. It was truly amazing! It was huge like a mountain and dense too. Looking out, I could only see maybe a mile to where the first green buoy was, marking the shipping lane. And it could get worse. I have sailed in fog before and honestly I don't like it. You lose all sense of direction. Immediately I went and got my compass and jotted down my heading in the log. If ever you get lost you can take the reciprocal compass route back. 
When I got out to the open ocean, it wasn't the fog only that I had to be concerned about. It was the wind. It was blowing really strong and whitecaps were forming on the wave tops.
I then got my life jacket on and went out on the bow to get a better look. When I got settled out there and had a tethered myself to the boat, I could see it was actually worse than I thought.
Spindrift was occurring and you could see where the white water was forming streaks over the waves. As for the waves themselves, they were not big yet. Maybe four feet high sometimes.
Being out on the bow is one of my favorite places to be. You can see every facet of the wind on the waves and at the same time get a really good look at the horizon. In this case I could only see the massive fog bank.
Usually I just relax and breath in the freedom being out there. Today though, I could feel the urgency and the danger. I had too much sail up and I knew it."

If I pulled the sails in tight the boat would heel too hard and I would put way too much pressure on the shrouds. Right now I had the sails so that some of the excess wind was lost but not loose enough for them to crack and shake. Eventually if you leave the sails too loose they will rip. For a little while I sat at the bow watching how the boat and the sails were reacting to the heavy wind and the ever increasing waves. 

It was just a matter of time before the waves would get bigger. I carefully made my way back to the cockpit holding on to the shrouds as I crossed the deck. Looking in the pilot book to give me some info about how strong the wind was, I saw that spindrift accompanied a gale. I knew it was not a gale yet but it was not looking good. I determined to only go a mile and then turn around. Eventually that time came. The green shipping lane buoy was now to my left on the port side. 

I then turned the boat into the wind and let go the jib line and waited for the main sail to switch sides. But it didn't happen. "Rats!" I yelled. I was afraid of this. The wind was too strong and was not allowing the sails to pass through the eye of the wind. The boat now turned right back to the same course as before. 

I tried again. This time I helped the boat gather a little more speed before I turned the tiller. But the wind pulled us right back. I sat there a little stumped at first. "Ok" I thought. Don't panic. Yes, I still have a few more tricks I can try." And I did. If one couldn't tack into the wind, one could always jibe away from the wind. True, I would lose some of my way, but I couldn't help it. So turning the tiller I turned the boat the other way - but this time there was no response. There was simply too much sail up to be able to jibe. The power in the sails wouldn't allow the boat to turn. "Great!" I said. "Now what?" Yes one more idea came to mind before I would simply have to take the sails down and use the engine to turn around. This time I pulled in the sails a little tighter (something I hadn't wanted to do) and this is turn brought the boat closer upwind. Now I was closer to the eye of the wind and if I could just keep the boat speed up I might be able to do it. 

After seeing the wake of white water passing the side of the boat (which meant I had speed) I turned the tiller again. As soon as the boat rounded into the wind I held on to the port jib line so the jib would get back winded if the boat passed the eye. It did and we turned! "Hurray!" I yelled and sprung to life pulling in the starboard jib line like a snake that was trying to get away. Letting out on the main sheet I then headed back to the San Pedro light house. I could still see it in the fog. "Whew!" I said relieved. The worst was over now.

After passing the lighthouse, I turned on the engine and motor sailed on a close reach against the wind. Soon I was sailing into my marina and had the sails down. It had not been the calm and relaxing sail I had imagined. More of an adventure really! 

Thanks for your comments! 

~Albie



Monday, October 26, 2015

SAILING Atop the World in October!




The ocean brings you up on a wave and then the boat falls down into the waves valley like trough. 

You feel the rhythmic drop throughout your whole body. And then just as you settle in, the wave surges with power under the boat lifting you up high again. 

You feel the powerful ocean current under you lifting the boat up with its invisible 'wings' and for a moment feel atop of the world! It's as if the ocean is singing with the sea chanty: 'Way ho - up she rises...way ho! Up she rises!'. 

As you can see I was having fun sailing yesterday afternoon - even though the wind was really wierd and blowing from a strange direction in the middle of the day (usually without fail it blows from the northwest during the day). And on top of that the wind was as fickle as anything, Sometimes blowing, sometimes not. So I was sailing under power most of the afternoon. Sailing atop the world in October can only happen with some kind of power and honestly without an engine and without wind, it's more like floating with frustration atop the world instead! Lol! 

 In the past, I had a lot of aggravating sailing days in October because for three years I sailed without an engine! Man, you learn a lot about sailing that way! But it has a big price tag, I can tell you. And it's not always 'safe'. Not having an engine in October is just like asking for trouble - especially when sailing along the coast in California.

For one, what happens when a big ship comes along and you're in the middle of the channel? Well, you have to get creative! I learned how to row a sailboat - and that's not easy - or fast. And two, what happens when you're out at sea and suddenly the wind dies on you? What then? Well, your stuck having to sit around and wait till it comes back and meantime using the tide to the best of your advantage to get inshore a little. 

October sailing has its drawbacks. Honestly it's not my favorite time of the year to sail. Maybe its because the sun does not shine as long during the day nor is it as hot since the colder weather is approaching. I have always found October to have a lot of days when the wind is variable - sometimes blowing and sometimes not!  It seems that in the summer that the wind is like clockwork - up and running at 10am and ready to retire at 11pm. But in October the wind decides to 'sleep in' on many days and 'get up' at 12pm and then take lots of 'naps' in the afternoon - finally getting going around 3pm but then often finishing early at sunset! Crazy!

So anyway, I wish you the best of 'sailing atop the world in October' (and in this season) and my advise to you is (and I thought I would never hear myself say this) is that if you don't have a reliable engine right now, find a way to fix it or get a better one! And if that's not possible check out my website  http://albiesailingwithoutengine.blogspot.com/ and maybe that will help you prepare for some of the problems you may face.

Thanks for your comments!

~Albie
SMILE :-D
http://GodsBeautifulName.blogspot.com



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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sailing from San Diego to Los Angeles Part X: From Point Vicente to Marina Del Rey

Marina Del Rey Breakwater


 It was while crossing from Newport Beach to Long Beach and then from there through the San Pedro channel that I had my hardest battles with the sea.

 For one the winds were really cooking at beginning speeds of 15 knots. These rapidly changed into gusts to 20 knots and up. One can tell by the development of whitecaps on the waves. It was during this time that, though the waves were yet small, they were nonetheless still very powerful and had a very aggressive nature about them. 

I can remember standing in the cabin opening to the cockpit resting my arms on the top hatch and feeling the pounding the boat and I were getting on each wave about every 5 - 6 second intervals. The boat would go down and them up and smash into a forceful wave trying to win the battle the wind was playing too of pushing us back into the lee shores of despair. Of course the waves were not winning, but with the giant force of the pressure on the sails - and ultimately the shrouds (metal cables that hold up the mast), all the wind and waves had to do was send my mast crashing down for their victory. So I watched and nursed the sails (by moving the tiller of the boat) in and out of the gigantic loads of pressure against them.

 Finally I had to make the decision to stop the boat, head it into the wind and get a smaller jib head sail up (that would cause less strain on the boat). This helped, but as the gusts increased in velocity even this sail had trouble later on. As I watched the sails pulling down the boat lee rail near the rushing white ocean water, I had to trust God that the boat could handle the strain and just try to relax a little. 

So I would often pop down into the cabin to get some lightly salted peanuts to munch on or some Gatorade to drink and refresh my mouth a little. Finally, the sea and the wind leveled out  and things got back to normal. 

I was reflecting how I enjoyed the cool air on the ocean. I would start off by wearing just a wind breaker during the day usually to keep the sun from burning my skin. But the sea breeze eventually would cool me down to a degree where I was thankful for its warmth. As the evening drew on I would put on another jacket over the wind-breaker and eventually I would then pull the hood on my windbreaker over my cap. This really seemed to keep most of the cold air out and I would be very cozy and warm in this, but still enjoy the cool night air against my face too. Sometimes I remember the wind blowing very aggressively at night and making my head cold even inside my hood, so I put on my warm woolen cap under the hood and put a scarf on too.

 This seemed to help, but on this particular night only the shelter inside the cabin was the answer. I would go below and suddenly the chill of the night would leave. Looking out the dark cabin windows the bright stars would shine. I could see the dark ocean waves passing by too. Turning on the cabin lights would add a warm glow inside. Looking at the map to get my bearings on the distance my boat was from shipping lanes, I then turned out the light and went back outside to the cockpit. Here I could see the stars truly gleaming. I put a blanket around me to keep off the chill and settled down near the tiller (like the wheel) and made sure the boat was truly on course.
For an hour or two more I sat out watching the boat sailing with a slight angle to the wind blowing against me. The Point Vicente oscillating light was now clearly in sight and remained so until the wind died around 11:00 pm


Finally the morning came and with it the hope of the wind coming out again and being able to finally get going and sail on again to Marina Del Rey

But the wind wasn't listening to me or my hopes and didn't come out for most of the morning. Nine o'clock came and went and I thought 'well, the winds not going to be early today.'

After 10 o'clock rolled past I said 'well, the winds not going to be on time either.' I conveniently found a sail to sew and mend up and after doing that I cleaned up the boat. It was a bit foggy but the sun burned it off later in the day. I was generally happy but with only one thing missing - wind! As 11:00 am came and still nothing, I started feeling upset that I was just going to sit here all day and waste it by just waiting. Suddenly I felt something on my cheek. The wind was light but there it was. I finally set off - very slow at first but I was moving and happy. 

Soon I could see the orange ball buoy between Redondo and Point Vicente.  The very same buoy I saw floating on massive twenty foot waves coming back from Catalina in a gale. This time I passed it on three foot waves as I sailed north to Marina Del Rey.

Here's what my wife and I texted each other around this area: 

Albie no just fog but I'm only 15 miles from MDR. It should be easy. I feel like a mess. I want 2 take a shower so bad. But the boat is in top shape. Even mended sail.

Wife: Glad 2 hear boat is in shape.  Call or text when u r entering MDR.  Will u b ready 2 b picked up and head home?

A: Oh today's mom & dad's anniversary! Oh - I wish I could be there. Don't wait 4 me though till I call u @ MDR. I want 2 see the movie too! Yeah - I'll be ready! 

A: 10:23 and still no wind? W/ all the fog the land must b taking longer to heat up and create the wind. Getting a lot of little things done, but frustrating wait.

J: Mom said she will take us to dinner @ Souplantation in MDR.  U can shower down there.  Where r u now?

A: Passing Redondo! That would b real nice!! Tell mom great idea! Doing 6 knots right now! Should be there by 2 at this rate! We'll see. So look forward 2 seeing u

A: Comin up 2 big ships near MDR!

J: Yeah!  Call when u r entering the harbor.  Love u. You have been sailing 4 2 weeks!

Soon I had passed R2 Buoy and within the hour would be coming into Marina Del Rey's breakwater.
It had taken me two days and a night to sail down to San Diego, have a few days vacation with my family at Mission Bay and two more days to sail up to Dana Point. From here I spent a couple more vacation days and then set sail back up to Los Angeles. From Dana Point to Marina Del Rey took me two and a half days (without the benefit of an engine). In all I had been gone for two weeks of which I was at sea nine days and nights out of fourteen. It was a highly memorable trip! 

Thanks for your comments!

~Albie
SMILE :D


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Sailing Up From San Diego IX: From Newport Beach To Point Viscente





     "As the sun was going down twelve dolphins jumped out of the water and at the same time surfed a big wave. Water flew everywhere!


Later the stars were beautiful out at sea and the lights on the mountains were intriguing. The rushing of water past the boat was restful.

San Pedro was trying to win the award for most lights blazing the night sky!"

Earlier that day...


After the wind came out late that morning, I sailed on from Newport Beach area up towards Long Beach and San Pedro. I was already about five miles out at sea and had been out here all night waiting for the wind to begin.

After sailing for a while I knew my next obstacle would be passing through the Long Beach shipping lanes that pass near the oil rigs out at sea. The first shipping lane was at least a few miles wide so I knew I was going to need a steady amount of wind to pass across it.

Since my average speed was about 3 - 4 knots, it would take me about an hour to cross it and if the wind got flaky on me - I would get stuck there. One thing you don't want is to get stuck in the Shipping Lane with a huge ship bearing down on you!

I didn't want to risk that and so I needed to be pretty sure the wind would hold. After about an hour of sailing at a constant speed, I figured that would be as much assurance from the wind that I would get - so I went for it!
At this point I texted my wife and let her know what I was doing:

Albie: "Ok. Passing through shipping lane in 15 min. I love u very much. Whatcha doin today?"

Wife: "Helping Atiana, recycling, getting flyers out 4 Prince (our dog)."

A: Oh good! Tell Atiana hi. And our kids too!

W: K

That was it for the text messages - now for the Shipping Lane. All went well for most of the way across when all of a sudden I saw a big ship coming!

The distance of the ship was at least five miles off but those ships come fast! I figured that the ship was moving at least 10MPH and maybe faster so that meant it would pass my way in 15 mins or at least in 1/2 hr. I knew I would be across before then so I felt ok. But I undid the jib line from the winch and held it in my hand and pulled it in and let it out manually to help the boat go it's maximum speed.





All went well and I passed the shipping lane without incident. I now could see the big ship passing by where I was.

Soon I sailed right by an oil rig! It was amazing. I've seen these oil rigs from the beach many times but always wondered how it would be to see them up close. Now I was getting that chance. And I can tell you it was really wierd!


Those oil rigs stand really high and tall out of the water like you can imagine. It's just the craziest thing when you've been sailing out at sea and seen nothing but water for two  days to all of a sudden pass by one of these! It's really not anything I can explain...you just kind of have to do it to understand!


Anyway, after passing to the left and right (port and starboard) of a few of these oil rigs, I finally came to where I could see Long Beach off to my right. It wasn't long before I was getting near San Pedro too.

In the mean time I thought I had sailed far enough out to sea to clear San Pedro and Point Vicente but the wind was driving right in my face and I was on a close haul tacking harder towards land than I had hoped. So much harder that soon I realized that I wouldn't even clear San Pedro - not to mention Point Vicente!

So I tacked again out to sea towards Catalina island. I was not really getting much farther ahead - maybe just a little so I didn't like this tack. It just would mean getting home was going to take that much longer.

Here's a text to my wife around that time:

A: Hey! I'm cruising @ 6knots along San Pedro. Trying 2 pass Pt Vicente. It juts out into ocean & the wind blows in ur face making it hard to pass.

A: Plus the wind is blowing 20 knots & waves r short n steep (but only 2 feet). I will b SO glad when make past Visente (Gods help). Miss u!

W: Dido

W: B safe

W: Mom is wondering where u r @ this point and how far u have gottin.

A: Can see San Vicente pt. Am half way across Long Beach/ 1/2 way out 2 Catalina. Super wind. If continues u can come get me this eve!

And a little later...:


W: Where might u b?

A: 1/2 way up Point Vicente. It stretches 10 miles. In an hour or so I expect to be past it (i hope!). Am hoping 2 get 2 Redondo n sail 2 MDRtomorrow. How r u guys?

A: I love and miss u So much. Tonight was a beautiful sunset and San Pedro Hill was pleasant 2 sail by. Was very lonely 4 u all.

A: Wish u were here w/ me seeing all these beautiful sights. The stars r beautiful and the lights on the mountains. The rushing of waters past the boat is restful.

A: San Pedro is trying 2 win the award 4 most lights blazing the night sky! 12 dolphins jumped out of the water @ same time surfing a big wave. Water flew everywhere!

W: How cool.

A: Having 2 heave-to by Vicinte Pt. tonight. Wind died just as getting close 2 rounding it. :-( But, Lord Willing, will b able 2 go 2 MDRtomorrow. I Love u! Xxooo

W: U must b tired.  Hey u r almost back.  R u excited? JUST AROUND THE RIVER BEND...  Kisses

J: U needed to rest in Newport Beach last night.  R u out of shipping lanes? We r going to sleep.  Ur mom seemed disappointed u were not home yet. Miss u.

A: Yea - out of shipping lanes! Been getting some rest by hoving-to. I get up every 15 -30 mins 2 look if all is same. Usually is. JUST AROUND THE RIVERR BBEND!"



     By this time I had tacked toward Catalina until I was about five miles away from land (in hindsight I would go further out if I was to do it again).

Then I tacked again towards Point Vicente - hoping that I would clear it but it was at this time (11:00pm) that the wind died again leaving me two miles from shore. In the morning the drift of the tide and waves had brought me in about a mile or so from shore. I was thankful I was far enough out during the night so I wouldn't get too close to shore by morning!

 I hove-to all night (putting the sails in opposite directions so that the wind would just move the boat back and forth or sometimes just in circles). It's kind of like parking out at sea. Sometimes people ask me why I don't just drop the anchor but I explain that the water is so deep out there that I would need close to a thousand feet of line to even anchor at all (the depth being 300 ft or more).

It was as restful as a night as one can expect having to wake up and check for boats and ships every 10 or 15 mins all night. I had gotten used to it by now though. I don't have any bad memories.

In fact I can only remember the fascinating things like watching the oscillating light from Point Vicente shine bright and then disappear for seven or eight seconds as it shined bright in its circle wide path.

Then I remember waking up and seeing a fishing boat coming my way and passing by or a ship in the horizon passing along the shipping lanes - some going north up toward San Francisco and some heading south to Long Beach or San Diego.

I felt a little vulnerable out at sea without much power - except an oar in a real emergency. But at the same time I felt fairly safe too - knowing I was far enough away from the shipping lanes and not really in the way of fishing boats either. So it was a strange feeling of happiness and concern all mixed together!

I really enjoyed the rhythm of it all - the constant movement of the waves against the boat, the silence and solitude. The only sounds were the sounds of the sea and the main sail moving from side to side (windless) with the motion of the waves. The darkness with the slight light of the stars shining from above was also amazing.

I was nearly back. Redondo Beach was 'just around the corner' - so to speak and then after that was Marina Del Rey (about 10 miles off). As soon as the wind came out (in the morning or later tonight) I would be off."

Thanks for your comments!

~Albie
SMILE :D
http://GodsBeautifulName.blogspot.com




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Welcome to Sailing with Albie!

I made this blog because I wanted to share my adventures at sea with all of you! Some of you may be wishing they had their own boat or just want to 'get away' even if just at home on the web. So each week I decided to write down my feelings while out at sea and share them with you. If you enjoy them, please feel free to come back here weekly and see what's new. Also please share the blog with your friends and with those who you know like sailing!



Thanks!



Albie

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http://sailingwithalbie.blogspot.com/