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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fear of the Storm

There would be no mistaking those huge monster waves!' I said looking out to sea. Dark silhouettes would form along the horizon confirming the wave height. I wasn't seeing any. The darkness of night didn't help either and made it difficult to make certain. I remember a night like this about a year ago. Coming out of the breakwater, I looked along the edge of the sea and saw these massive forms of water suddenly break out of the dark horizon. Those were the big cresting waves crashing forward with white water as they moved speedily ahead. But I wasn't seeing that tonight. I also looked for white caps too but there was none. The wind wasn't blowing hard enough yet. The weather report had said the wave height was five to seven feet tonigh! And the wind report had been for at least 20 - 30 MPH winds and gusts. Could I be so deceived? Surely I wasn't wrong. So I steered my Columbia 22 cautiously out into the waves. A couple minutes out. Not getting that 'big wave' sensation. But there was something. What was it? I looked up at the next wave coming my way. It was deceptively bigger than it looked! 'Must be five or six feet!' I thought. There also was a significant valley below the wave too, which confirmed my suspicions. The wave wasn't breaking and the intervals between it was long - which took the fury out of it. Still it was definitely bigger than the average and I would need to keep my eye on these.

I tacked the boat to the northwest on a close reach and suddenly I caught a lot of speed. 'This is amazing!' I thought watching how the boat tore through the wave, cutting white water as it went. And yet because of the waves size, it almost seem to squirm up to the top! A very strange feeling! The sailboat must not have had as much wind at the bottom of the trough but as it made its way up, it was hit full on by the increasing wind. Then it would suddenly lean heavy into it giving it this 'squirming' like feeling. It was fun! I crawled out over the deck and knelt at the bow watching the boat approach each new wave. Yes, the swells were definitely bigger than they at first appeared. Suddenly the boat began to heel heavily and I held on tight to the safety rope so I wouldn't fall off into the sea! 'Man alive, we were going fast!' The wind was gaining power before my eyes. 'I better get back to the cockpit.' I thought. 'If anything goes wrong...'
Quickly I exited the safety rope and held on to the bottom of the boom as I jumped down into the cockpit. Taking the tiller in my hand, I turned the yacht downwind a bit and steered it from going so fast. It sure wasn't a storm yet but the sailing was incredible!

I tacked into the headwinds, going out to sea in a northwest direction. The ocean was very dark and foreboding. I had seen it this way many times before and calmed my spirit with the assurance of experience. Nevertheless, its important to remember that just when you think you can handle the sea, the sea can turn it up to the next level on you. This thought always keeps me humble. The wind would just have to increase to 20 MPH and the game rules would change. Right now it must be blowing 8 - 10 - so not so bad. I had my small storm sail all set up and ready to hoist in case things changed too. As it was, my little jib was up right now - but things would have to get a lot worse before I raised the storm sail. Nevertheless, it was true. I was flying along this fast with my small jib. It was after 9pm too. 'Hmmm. Warning signal.' Usually the wind calms at this time - but the wind was just getting stronger. I got a ways out to sea and was greatly enjoying the ride. But I wasn't going to be foolish tonight and either wait for the storm to really hit or for the winds to die. So I tacked back. On this reach, I was close hauled heading directly for the red beacon signal, with the big waves thrusting the sailboat forward with every interval. Nothing seemed to be boring tonight. It just kept getting better and better. I had to keep a watchful eye out because at anytime it could cross the line from 'better' to crazy. Ok, at least I was ready.
And within half an hour the 'crazy' began. Out of control gusts and this 'howling' noise in my ears. Thankfully I was nearing my slip by this time. 'What's concerning me is the angle of the wind! It's coming out of the north east and very hard. Because I don't have an engine, I use the sails all the way into my dock. And I usually ease out my sail as I come in to slow the boat down. But that's not going to work tonight! What to do? I'll have to take the main sail down just before I turn the corner to the dock!' I said trying to figure out how to take it down that fast and safely so I wouldn't crash into the half million dollar boats that would be nearby.
Ten minutes later when the time came to really take the main sail down, I knew I would literally only have 20 seconds to make this work. So I headed upwind into the gusting wind, jumped up on deck and tried to drop the wildly beating sail. I pulled down on it with all my might - just hoping against hope it wouldn't get snagged! It didn't. The wind was now pushing the boat fast sideways and in less than a minute would have me bumping into a docked sailboat. So I turned the boat 180 degrees and entered the last small 'finger channel' where my dock was. I came in to the slip - going super fast as if demons were on my heals! Unclipping the lifelines, I jumped out onto the wooden platform and ran with all my speed to the end so I could slow the bow of the boat down. As it approached the wooden dock, I was just able to stop it from hitting! Imagine how fast I would have come in if I hadn't taken my main sail down? With my main sail up and the wind pushing directly behind, it wouldn't have been pretty!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Get Away and Enjoy Some Sailing Adventures!

Welcome to Sailing with Me!
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 dedided 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 wih your friends and with those who you know like sailing!

This week check out my new post: Sailing Adventures And One Million Other Thoughts!

Sailing Adventures And One Million Other Thoughts!

It is odd. My first introduction to sailing was through a book about Transatlantic sailing. I was heavily interested in historical tall ships and pirates and used to read an amazing amount of books on the subject. When I was a kid, one of my favorite topics to draw were sailing pictures! Even today I have yet to master some of the angles when drawing a boat. Which is why I take lots of pictures on my camera phone and draw from these!

Ok, so back to the story. One day I took out of the library a book about a sailboat. I said to myself: 'well if I can get into tall ships, maybe I can get into sailboats too!' Well that was just the beginning of my fascination with sailing. After reading a most amazing story of a man who sailed the Atlantic with his friends and family, I was hooked. I couldn't stop reading more and more books! I also would learn more about the sport of sailing after I ordered the magazine 'Sailing World'. I would enjoy looking at the beautiful sailboats inside its pages and the exciting articles.
I didn't slow down reading all these books and magazines until I finally took my own sailing lessons in Marina Del Rey, California.

When first wanting to learn how to sail, I went to a sailing school. We leaned how to sail on the water - in the marina and out at sea. We learned sailing terms, how to read the nautical map and how to take the boat in and out of a slip. After the basic classes were over, I even took a class in bareboat cruising and coastal navigation in which we sailed to Catalina island. I learned a lot from that class! All in all I highly advise going to a sailing school and taking sailing lessons as this will greatly improve your understanding. It amazes me when I see some people in their boats how they don't know the rules and do all kinds of crazy things they shouldn't be doing. One afternoon I saw a small power boat motoring right down the channel reserved for sailboats. I was so mad at him! I realize the bigger party boats need to use the sailing area (as they are just a size smaller than a ship and need all the draft they can get). But the regular size power boats should use the going out and coming in lanes assigned to them. But if you don't take sailing classes and learn sailing, than I can see how its very possible you will have no idea what to do! There really are few signs posted. You see, you don't actually have to have a 'sailing license', so to speak. Getting a license to sail, kind of like getting a license to drive, as far as I am aware, doesn't exist. I think you only need your regular drivers license to get insurance for your boat. Still, after having sailed around with crazy boat drivers and hearing stories of horrendous accidents, even though you don't have to have a license, I would highly recommend taking them! The sea is not one to play around with! To give an example, one time while at Catalina Island a skipper anchored his boat and went to Avalon to have some fun. When he returned, his boat was gone! He obviously didn't know how to anchor properly and how to give the anchor the proper anchor scope. So the sea took his boat and I believe it was days before the coast guard finally found it!

Okay, so with that in mind, my experience has still taught me that after taking some lessons, the next best thing to do is to own your own boat. There is no better way to learn how to sail than by this. Even if its just a small boat. With a small boat you can learn some of the basics even better! And you need your own boat so that no one is looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. You need to be able to make your own decisions and be able to make your own mistakes. Hopefully you will have learned how to avoid the really serious mistakes from the sailing lessons!

Well after taking lessons, I finally found a boat I could afford. For one hundred dollars I found myself a nice sunfish boat. I began to sail this everywhere. Lakes, rivers, marshes and then even out in the ocean. After finally turning this boat into an outrigger boat with hopes of sailing to Ana Cappa island, I sailed it on a test run out of Redondo Beach. Realizing I had hardly any ability to come up wind with it, I gave up that endeavor. But I did at last sail it somewhere really interesting. One Christmas night I even sailed it onto our roof, me disguised as Santa Clause. That gave the kids something to talk about!

But as for the boat, it finally was getting old and after over use it finally started falling apart in our back yard. After this I bought my own catamaran and took this everywhere too (except this I hooked on to our trailer). Catamaran sailing is an art in itself and I had to read a book about it before sailing it. Out on the water, it was a really fun boat to sail. But it took me a while to figure it all out!

I used to also own my own dinghy. Dinghy sailing is fun if you have a good boat. My dinghy on the contrary, was needing repair on the fiberglass and had no mast, sails or rudder. Me, being the creative person I am, found parts to make do for all it lacked. In the end I learned some incredible sailing lessons but didn't have as much fun as I was hoping!

Sailing boats For Sale!

Finally I bought myself a real twenty two foot sailboat! This I found for sale on where I found the owner Bill who wanted to sell his boat for a great price. There are so many sailing yachts down here at Marina Del Rey. I know that many of them range from a couple thousand all the way up to half a million dollars and above. Some of the yachts here are so beautiful to see as I sail by. I have a habit of always looking at the names of the boats as I pass along. Some of the names are so creative!

My friends have owned Catalina 22's and they are great looking boats. I especially like the hatch tops that pop up into a shady like roof for you! One day some visitors came by my dock and told me that they could identify my 22 foot boat by the markings on my sail. They said every boat had the length of the boat on their sails. So for instance, a Catalina 22 sails would have the markings 22 right on them. So, I'm guessing that if you were sailing and had some binoculars, you could see the numbers right there on the sails and know what size the boat is! So in conclusion, whatever the reason is that I ended up with a Columbia 22 instead of a Catalina 22 is a mystery to me. Catalina's are a nicer looking boat. But I believe the Columbia 22's are stronger. Well they should be as I've heard they are blue water rated. And this is probably one reason why I'm still alive after 20 foot waves and two handfuls of gales. So I really have grown to love my boat, but I still think the Catalina 22's are better looking. And that pop up roof is so cool!

Now that I own my boat, comes the job of paying for it monthly! Which takes me to trying to make my slip fee cost effective. As nice is it is to have your boat in the marina near other nice boats, it still costs money. You see, I have to pay quite a bit each month for my slip fee. I've looked for sailing jobs before in hopes of perhaps helping to reduce this cost but have never found anything that would work for me. That is one of the reasons I decided to go after my captains license. I found out that if I do a minimum of four hours each time I went sailing and record my hours, I could get my captains license one day and perhaps people would pay me to take them sailing. Which would help me pay for my slip fee too! So far I have 230 days recorded but still need a total of 360. I'm hoping that when I have this (and after I take the test), I will be able to either get a part time job teaching sailing or be able to have my own sailing school!

A Story about a Storm and Sewing!

I know this sounds crazy but I have greatly enjoyed repairing my own sailboat sails and watch them endure high winds and still stay together! My own story began after I went through an awful gale just off of Catalina in the spring. Coming through 40 knot winds (more than 40MPH)and 20 foot waves, put my Columbia 22 sailboat through unbelievable stress. I'm still not sure how she made it through, but am wildly thankful to my friend Brad, my boat and to God who helped us get through safely! Your probably wondering what this has to do with my sails, so I'll tell you! After that storm, I had my first inch rip across my main sail. I put some white duck tape across it and forgot about it! Imagine my surprise when another storm ripped a two foot 'Z shape' in it! That storm was not quite as bad as the other - having only ten foot waves this time (but then again they might have been bigger waves a little further out to sea). As it was, I was just outside of Marina Del Rey when this happened and was able to get back safely into the harbor. But the rip had devastating effects on being able to control the boat back into my slip. With the heavy winds I was not able to tighten it up enough to make a close reach up wind and get in. Thus I ended up drifting down by someone else's boat who so generously volunteered to tow me into my slip! Thank you Rob!
After this I was forced to either buy a whole new main sail or learn how to repair my own. Since I didn't have the money, I used the heavy thread and sticher my friend had so generously given me. Two years later and more small craft advisories than you can shake a stick at and that sail is still in good shape! That was only the beginning. Another gale ripped my jib in half. I ended up mending that too and half a dozen other small sail rips as well! If you want to know my half crazy method that worked so well on these sails, please just leave me your email and I will share it with you!

After that I took up sewing some of my favorite sailing clothes too! When I go out sailing with my friends on their boats, I often see them wearing nice sailing apparel. I tend to see quite a few things from the West Marine store. Ok, I've bought a bunch of things there myself. Having really nice sailing apparel is fun when you go out sailing with your friends. But when I am alone, the most enjoyable apparel in my estimation, are the clothes and jackets that you have personally sewed back to life!

Which makes me think of my sailing flags! I have had a few sailing flags of my own since I've owned my own boat. And I've enjoyed them all. My first flag was a black pirate flag which I thought was great fun! I flew that flag everywhere including through many gales and storms. A year and a half later that flag looked like a real authentic pirate owned it; as it was so tattered and worn away you could barely see the skull and crossbones anymore!
My next flag was the sailing code 'A' flag. Of course it doesn't look like an A. It is blue and white. This flag my wife bought for me on my birthday as it was the 'A' flag for my name 'Albie'. Another year of sailing put that flag in the tattered category too. By that time my sewing skills had improved and I was just getting ready to sew the hem back to life, when a friend I took out sailing was an expert at sewing and did an amazing job repairing it. Nevertheless, after some 'small craft advisories' (just a step down from a gale) and more high winds, it too came to a place where a whole do-over was essential. For this my mother stepped up to the plate and is still looking for the right material to replace half the flag with!

Thinking of Sailing Vacations.

I've always wanted to go to the Caribbean, Greece or the Netherlands, but its always been too expensive. Sailing Caribbean islands has especially been my dream too as I have heard so many beautiful and half wild stories of that region. The beautiful beaches, the warm weather and crystal blue waters are another attractive reason. For two and a half years I lived in Pensacola, Florida - which is on the Carribean side of the state. The white sandy beaches there were truly an amazing sight to behold! I have never seen anything like it in all my travels around the United States. Perhaps one day I will start saving up to go on a sailing cruise and see the places I have always longed to see. Such areas as Jamaica, Tortuga, Haiti, The Bahamas, the isles of the Lessor Antilles and Cartegena are just a few.

Until that time when I am able to either save more money or make more, I will be content sailing to Catalina and San Diego! I took a sailing trip to San Diego one summer. It took me three days to sail down there. This is without an engine and after a broken shroud and a night stay over in Two Harbor, Catalina island. Yet when I got down there, my most treasured memories of San Diego sailing is the cruising in and around Mission Bay! I loved anchoring there and swimming ashore in the clear water. Sailing around the little islands in the bay was so much fun too! My wife loved sailing there as well - and she is NOT a sailor. Going under bridges and seeing the fireworks at night from Sea World were other beautiful reasons we liked it there.
Not all my experiences sailing in San Diego were perfect, however. After losing my wind just a mile out of Mission Bay and accidentally getting pulled into the kelp bed that night were not my highlights. But that's the risks you take without having a engine! I also made the error of mistaking the Mission Bay entrance for a small beach and got nailed by a huge wave too near the shore! In hindsight it was fun to think about. But I wouldn't want to do it again!
Sailing along La Jolla was also very enjoyable. I also love to just sit back and watch the sailboats at SeaPort Village, in San Diego Harbor. As far as sailing goes, I have sailed in San Diego Harbor a few times. My first time was aboard 'The Californian'. This is a sailing tall ship that you can often find in Sand Diego. In the bay, we fired cannons out into the harbor. We then proceeded to sail to Catalina. Another time sailing in the San Diego harbor involved going to see the Coast Guard and giving them our papers on a return trip from Mexico!

The trip to Ensenada was fun! But that was with a
sailing crew. This crew I joined from searching web sights on the Ensenada race. I payed for my food and then I was able to join! Nevertheless, most crews participate in local races. And if looking online for a sailing crew doesn't get you anywhere than you should try joining a yacht club or sailing club and make friends with as many people as you can. See if you can join one of their crews. If this doesn't work, than owning your own sailing yacht and finding your own friends to crew, would be the next best option. But being part of the yacht club is important still so that you can be part of the races.

Sailing Terms:

Here are some real basic sailing terms that you might see on my blog: Port (left side of boat when facing forward to bow), Starboard (right side of boat when facing forward to bow), Tack (turning the sailboat and changing position of sail), Coming About (turning the boat by way of coming into the wind), Jibe (turning the boat by way of turning away from the wind) Bow (Front of boat), Stern (Back of boat), Halyard (rope or line that brings sail up to top of mast), jib line (rope that controls either the starboard or port side of jib sail - depending), Boom (wooden or metal bar that swings from mast that has main sail attached to it), Main Sheet (rope that controls the boom and the main sail), Helm (the tiller or steering wheel that controls the boat). Slip (personal dock where your boat is assigned). Close reach (sailing as close to the wind as possible) beam reach (sailing with the wind at a 90 degrees to the sail), Running (sailing with the wind blowing on your sails from behind you and the boat). Shrouds (metal wire like rope that hold up the mast; one in back and one in front and two on each side of the mast).

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!.

Sailed to Catalina

Sailed to Catalina
A view of Cat Harbor looking out at the Pacific. CLICK ON PIC TO GO TO ALBIE'S PIRATE PAGE!

After Sailing - bonfire on the beach!

After Sailing - bonfire on the beach!
Wow! It was so hot! You could cook your hotdog two feet away from the fire!

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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!