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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Catalina Gale - Part III Ignorance of the Sea.





After having sailed all night and arriving at Catalina in the morning, we docked and let the three teenagers, Braddock, Matt and Louie off to find a camping spot.

Brad continues:
"But they were denied with the explanation that only an adult could make the reservations. In the meantime Captain Albie and I were busy getting our boat “Canta Libre” settled in for the night on her hook (anchor). We made our way onto the beach using a system of lines to comically pull ourselves back and forth from the sailboat to the beach in a little toy inflatable that as it turns out would barely - and I do mean barely - float under our weight. We would have to refill it with lung fulls of air after each short embarkation since as it turns out; it also had a very significant leak. While we did not seem to have avoided getting soaked in the process, we were fairly successful in getting the sleeping bags and other camping essentials onto the shore in relatively dry condition. At last we had made landfall. Now our greatest concern was that the weather forecast had taken a turn dramatically for the worst. The following is the entry of the Captains log accordingly: "It was now predicted for gale force winds the following day with 20 foot seas."

We walked into town to talk with the Harbor Master, as well as some of the more knowledgeable locals to find out what they advised under these circumstances, being intimately familiar with the Isthmus. They informed us that because of the direction of the intended wind, Two Harbors would be converted into a lee shore, meaning that if we stayed where we were, we were likely to experience 10 foot breaking waves which they believed would undoubtedly throw the sailboat on to the rocks no matter how well we were anchored. If they were trying to scare us, it worked. They further informed us that the only safe option was to sail all the way around the West end of the island to Catalina (“Cat”) Harbor. We did the calculations, and deemed it about the same distance to just sailing home instead. The only problem is that we had just got there, and were too tired to just pack everything up and leave. When I spoke to my wife on the cell phone she wisely commented that if the storm was going to kick in, it was not a good idea to attempt a crossing at night, since it was far more dangerous if someone fell overboard in the dark. Besides it was such a beautiful evening, it was difficult to be worried about such things for the present. Since the young men were not allowed to pay for a reservation, we were all going to sleep on the boat, but I decided to at least try to speak with the people in charge of the campgrounds. They were kind enough to hint that even though their offices were closed, and therefore could not accept money for reserving a campground, that in lew of the approaching storm, we were welcome to go ahead and set up camp anyways for safety sake. How awesome is that! There are still some decent people on this earth when it comes right down to it. We spent the remainder of the evening hiking around and then set up camp on the side of a hill overlooking the harbor and Albie's little ship. We were in a wonderful mood, despite the uneasiness of what might follow in the wee hours of the morning. The one peculiar thing that I remember from that evening was a group in an adjacent campground trying to light their camp fire with gasoline. However, the fuel would consume itself, and the fire kept going out. This caused them to take action by pouring even more fuel onto the now simmering coals. To their amazement (but not to ours as we watched) there was suddenly a huge ball of flame - gasoline having a flashpoint of -40degrees Fahrenheit - and as everyone ran around trying to put out the miniature, but growing forest fire, the gas can itself began to engulf itself in flames. We couldn’t help but be entertained and bewildered at the same time as everyone in their group began to attempt to extinguish the fire with bottles of what appeared to be Evian drinking water - which was causing the gasoline to splatter, and to spread even further. I had just recently completed an advanced fire fighting training course at the Navy Base in San Diego for fires on board ships, and tried to advise the group that water was not always a good idea when extinguishing a type B fire. To our surprise, they not only rejected our advice, but were visibly upset that we weren’t minding our own business. We ended up making our own campfire, as well as some exquisite hot chocolate while we gazed off towards the horizon at the distant glow of greater Los Angeles where over 12 million souls were either asleep, or no doubt too busy to stare back. We were in a different world out here on our little rock, so peaceful and serene, without a single worry. That is what we thought anyway, but as we continued gazing up at the stars and the clear night sky, we noticed a particularly dark mass of clouds meandering across our view. It seemed just moments before the stars were devoured by this ominous presence, until everything was pitch black. Even the lights of L.A. were extinguished. This did not look good at all. No Sir! Albie and I began to discuss some of the options in case the storm hit us during the night, which looked likely. We decided to move the boat over to a mooring ball as close to the protected side of the isthmus that we could maneuver into. We explained to Braddock, Matt and Louie that it was paramount for them to monitor their cell phones in case we had to leave in a big hurry, rather than be trapped in the harbor by huge breaking seas. As I squirmed my way into the quarter birth (sleeping space), I found that I could barely fit. I had no room to turn on to my side, or to even take a deep breath for that matter. Definitely not for the Closter phobic.  Not to worry, as I heard the rain begin to pitter patter down on the cabin top of the boat, I was just extremely glad to be warm and dry. AAAAh! Good night everyone.

Captain Albie continues:

"Yes, it was a good sleep. Having little sleep from the night before, crossing over to the island, I was very tired and slept soundly. In rethinking it all though, I wonder why I let Brad sleep in the quarter-birth? The main birth would have been much better. I only had to drop the chart table and put out the cushion that goes across it and Brad would have been much more comfortable! But all this is in hindsight. Also I don't remember the weather report indicating 20 foot waves for late sunday night. I do remember hearing 40 knot winds. But after hearing these reports often and having been out in seas that were supposedly reported to have 40 knot winds, I didn't take it too seriously. I expected some five or so foot waves but could not imagine it could get much worse than that. But this was my ignorance of the sea! I may have sailed in areas where up to 40 knot winds were PREDICTED, but to actually sail where 40 knots winds WAS - is entirely different!

~Albie

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