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Monday, May 28, 2012

Wait a Second, Am I Sailing to Hawaii?

Visions of sailing across huge expanses of sea, seeing cloud formations form over days and weeks and of course feeling that amazing feeling of seeing an island slowly develop on the horizon are reasons why the dream stays alive. Some things are worth the pain attached to them. Let me explain:

Today, when I left my boat slip, the wind was blowing perfectly - not too hard to make me reef down the sails for a gale but just fast enough to make us sail fast. The wind and air is usually cool enough to get me wearing a windbreaker but today the wind was warm and I only put my cap on. The air felt comfortable and it was beautiful sailing across the wind blown water. The sails pulled the boat gently on its side and we sat on the seats on the high side and switched every time we tacked the boat in the other direction. We were now on a close reach, and passed the Coast Guard Ship and the blood red triangular flag was blowing indicating a Small Craft Advisory. But even though there were quite a few gusts that came blowing through, I was fairly sure the worst had hit last night. The evening before the boat had been shaking with the howling wind and I wasn't even at sea! I mean the boat had only been tied to the dock and was still rocking. Predictions were from 25 - 35 knot winds and five to seven foot waves at sea. You know this is not the end of the world and squares up to be just a light gale. But be that as it may, sure enough, this early afternoon, four to five foot waves met us out at sea. Dotted here and there all over the water were breaking white caps. The sun was shining bright and the ocean reflected its glory. The sea was this amazing deep aqua green, clear and bright with the sun rays glowing over it. Over its top, the sea was decorated with cascading white caps and further out the sea were shades of darker blue. It was so beautiful, it reminded me of Florida - on the Caribbean side.

We headed north toward Santa Monica Pier. The waves were big, bumpy and fun. The wind was strong and we were healed over quite a bit. I jumped up on the cabin top and carefully made my way to the bow. I wanted to sit up there on the bow pulpit and watch the waves go by. They would be fairly interesting seeing them close up - especially as they were five footers. I was even looking forward to the occasional spray! But I could not stay there for long. No matter what I did I could not get the boat to balance out like I usually do. I usually am able to get the boat to stay on course by itself by loosely tying down the tiller when on a close reach. But the sudden gusts and increased speeds of wind made this very difficult. So I had to give up sitting at the bow and come back and manually take the tiller.

In a while we had reached the Pier and came about. We headed back to Marina Del Rey with the sails out on a beam reach. The sails were now out half way and it was exciting to see them catch the wind. The waves hit the boat broadsides as we passed through the troughs. Suddenly far out over the sea, I could see beautiful cumulous clouds that looked like they had broken up. They looked like cotton candy or loaves of white bread out on the distant horizon. And with the amazing Caribbean like tone on the water, for a second I felt like I was in a different place sailing across the Pacific with my heading for Hawaii!

The image is imprinted on my mind. I guess deep down I would like to really make that voyage and the vision of it found a way to remind me. My friend asked if it was possible for me to sail my boat to Hawaii. I seem to get this question often and my answer has always been that I believe my
Columbia 22 is capable of the trip but that if I did decide to do that, I would want to replace all the shrouds, turnbuckles and stays with super strong new ones. But, though this is true, I honestly am still deciding whether I want a different boat or use the one I have for such a trip - if and when such a trip is to happen. I guess this is one of the reasons why I want to get my captains license - beyond monetary reasons. I really favor the experience I have to go through to get my license. Its been my dream for a long time to sail across an ocean and see new places and explore the world. Visions of sailing across huge expanses of sea, seeing cloud formations form over days and weeks and of course feeling that amazing feeling of seeing an island slowly develop on the horizon are reasons why the dream stays alive.

But over time big doses of reality have presented themselves to me about this dream. And although the beautiful images of the dream still grab me, the scary aspects still give me the creeps! I mean living a life often filled with damp and cold and storms that crash and lash out for days on end are things that are okay to read about but entirely different to experience in real life. And I guess, having sailed through a huge storm in real life a few years ago left some lasting impressions on me. The sea can be this amazing place even when angry. Its like nothing you've ever seen before. But it can scare you to death - very literally. And make you throw up over and over again like you never have in all your life.

Ok, so now that we're on the subject of sea sickness for a brief moment and how this relates to sailing to Hawaii, let me share a little with you: When I first started sailing in the mid 1990's - I'll be honest - I got sick at sea fairly easily. It only took me being an hour out for me to start feeling queasy. And sail me over to Catalina island and I would have to go down in the cabin and sleep or else I was going to throw up. But now after having sailed so long and regularly each week, I generally don't feel sick most of the time. I still do believe there is a threshold my body can stand before I start feeling seasick again. in the last few years it used to be that I started feeling queasy again when I went out at sea for longer than I usually did (after four hours) or got in waves bigger than five foot. This used to be a trigger for me and I remember pressing it whenever I went for a longer sail or went out in a gale. But it seems that I have broken through this threshold as now I can be out for an extended period of time in ten foot seas and quite enjoy myself!
However, even now, make me do work down below for half an hour where my eyes can't follow the ocean waves and its over for me! I think I found out my tolerance level for work below decks while I was out sailing for hours in the fog. Not being able to see anything except the outside of my cabin and eventually I got dizzy and disoriented. I think this is the same thing that happens when you work on a boat and feel the waves but can't see what's going on. Perhaps I stretched my tolerance level, on my last two trips in the fog - but I can tell you it was not fun and I haven't even explained the dangers of sailing in fog! So getting back to sailing to Hawaii. One big reason you have to watch out for sea sickness is because when you start feeling this way, you begin to get despondent and simply start not caring what happens to you. You feel so sick and horrible - what could be worse! I mean, here I was with twenty foot waves creeping up on me from the stern and I only needed to get a rogue wave or one coming from a different direction to capsize us - or at least wreak havok upon us and because of my sea sickness, I couldn't seem to care enough to even glance back and check. I was just holding on to the tiller for all I was worth just doing what I knew I could do - steer. And that's all I could do. After ten hours my energy had all been zapped, my face was flushed and I was trying to just throw up over the side again and get it over with! So that's exactly what I'm talking about. With that to look forward to, its a little bit of a dream killer! But as I looked out to sea this afternoon and took in the scenery, breathing in the windy air, I could feel fresh fire on the vision of sailing to Hawaii. And I guess for this reason it will never die. Some things are worth the pain attached to them!


PS: Your comments are most welcome - thanks!

My new Mast!

My new Mast!
Because the mast is now 29 feet, I found a Catalina 27 sail that fits it real well. CLICK on PIC to go to page all about different masts on the boat!.

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Sailed to Catalina
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