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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sailing to San Diego Part Two: A Day at Catalina

 After a difficult time sailing to Catalina the day before, I was looking forward to fixing the broken rigging and resting up. I had no desire to sail further to San Diego today and besides there were things I needed to complete before I left. 

My day started early at 5:30 am. I awoke, got myself ready and then set the jib sail and texted Janette as I awoke to the most glorious sunrise:

Albie: "Oh my gosh! Most beautiful sunrise I've seen since Philippines! can see distant mountains toward San Diego wrapped in golden light shooting 2 heaven!"

Albie: "Goodmorning darling! By the time u get this I'm already had a good sleep and am rowing or sailing 2 shore 2 get my shroud fixed. I love u. Talk 2 u when awake."

   I undid the mooring lines (similar to an anchor) connected to my boat and floated clear. Raising the jib sail halyard, the boat now had power to go to Two Harbors. I stood up on top of the deck near the mast overlooking the peaceful sea. Passing by the island and the other boats, I could see the gentle wind blowing softly on the ocean and into the jib sail at the bow. It was so beautiful to watch the sail fill slowly with wind and see how it pulled softly on the boat taking it where you would like to go. The morning was so peaceful and the deep blue and green sea so lovely to sail upon. The cliffs and coves of the island passed on by. It was such a refreshing moment that I inhaled and remembered why I loved sailing so much!

 At Two Harbors there would be a place to fix my shroud and also retrieve my mainsail halyard (rope). The night before it had got stuck in the rigging and got all mixed up. Unfortunately I had made a bad mistake in trying to undo it - accidentally letting go of it and the rope had gone up to the top of the mast! It is truly amazing, now I think about it, how many problems I had the day before! Also how the next two two nights sailing to San Diego would bring more painful moments to really learn how to deal with these situations at sea. For instance, when the wind would stop blowing and the windless waves would rock the boat, it would make the boom swing out of control across the deck and the mainsail halyard rope would often get snagged on the upper mast light. It's hard to understand even for me being on land reading this in my comfy chair but these painful gut wrenching moments would have to happen a couple times before I would learn the 'secret' trick to un-snagging my twisted halyard and how to keep it from getting mixed up like that.

So after sailing peacefully by under a light breeze, the harbor patrol man named John came roaring by in his patrol boat and knowing I had had problems with my mast the night before, saved me a lot of time and gave me a tow into the dock where I could retrieve my halyard and attempt to fix my shroud. He also set me up with a man who was good at repairs to help me. With his help I was able to finally get my halyard rope down. To do this I had to attach my oars to my long 'man overboard pole' and rig a hook attached to the top of it to snag the line. Swaying back and forth on my feet with my eyes and head strained upwards at the top of the 30 foot mast (holding a very long - wildly swaying pole and aiming for a small knot hole to snag onto) was almost insane to even think I could succeed! But with my friend holding me steady so I wouldn't fall into the water, I finally achieved it and we shouted with joy when we pulled it down on deck!
       Once this was done, the kind gentleman left and this whole proceedure gave me an idea of using an extra strong bungie cord hook attached to a rope in which I would hook into the place on the spreaders and tie down the attached rope to the deck in order to procure a make-shift shroud. The spreader arms (which look like a cross on the mast) are only half way or so up the mast - so I accomplished finishing the whole job in only half an hour! This being done, I tightened my new make-shift shroud and believed it would work quite well! In reality it did get me to San Diego but as I would later find out, the metal bungie hook was not really strong enough. The metal needed to be stainless steel in order to take the heavy pressure of the mast and sails pulling on it. But this I would find out later sailing in San Diego harbor.

I then got another tow from the Harbor Master to an area I could anchor. While anchoring near the sandy beach on one side and near these beautiful protruding rocks on the other, I noticed a lady sitting on her boat anchored near me curiously watching us set the anchors. After two anchors were set, I promptly went below into the v-birth and fell asleep for a couple hours.
    I awoke to the sounds of children and parents swimming in the beautiful aqua green sea just offshore. I decided I needed a try at that too and promptly got into my swimming things. The lady from the other boat was still watching everything going on and all I was doing now as I jumped over the side of the boat. Truly the water was as glorious as it had looked! The water was refreshing from the hot summer sun and beautiful to swim in! I swam all the way around my boat and then got out. As I was changing out of my wet things, there seemed to be no escaping the ladies eagle eyes, so I went below and shut half of the hatch door so the beautiful cool breeze could still come through, but not those gazing eyes! After changing, I ate some tinned fruit. I had had such an unrestful night I then realized I was still tired. So I opened the forward hatch to get some cool sea air while I rested and fell asleep again.

    I awoke the second time hearing the lady outside yelling: 'Columbia!' I awoke realizing that she was calling out the the model of my boat. I then looked out the forward hatch and realized my boats' anchor had slowly drifted during the afternoon. I climbed out the hatch and began to hesitate a little in fear what I should do to remedy the problem. I promptly began to pull the boats main anchor line and the boat moved away from her boat. The lady in the meantime had called the Harbor Master on her cell phone or portable VHS and this didn't help much as when they came out it seemed like I had everything under control. But that did not stop the lady and the Harbor Master from getting in a nice argument over it all. She seemed to have a chip on her shoulder about them for some reason and the Harbor Master could feel it and didn't appreciate her grumpy and whiny attitude. She blamed the whole incident on the fact that they had said to call if there were any problems. The Harbor Master came back at her for being unappreciated of their help and there necessity to take care of important business and leave that which could be handled by mariners on their own - to themselves. I however, tried to distract the argument from going any further and suggested to them that I lengthen my back anchor and also attach my third anchor 10 feet from the end to hold it down since I did not have any chain on that line. He thought this a good idea and also suggested that I row out and drop this extended anchor much further away this time and I did so, while his boat revved up his four engines and steered through the green ocean and held my boat at bay so that it did not drift toward the ladies boat in the meantime. This, it seemed, worked really well and as I look back on it, became a standard procedure with my anchoring and I am very grateful to that negative circumstance for teaching me this lesson. Due to this I was never to have an anchor problem during the three more times on this trip that I would anchor.

     So after this incident was over, I stayed on the boat for a good while longer just to make sure the anchor was holding. When I saw that it was, I put my cell phone in a plastic watertight bag and got into my dinghy and rowed to shore. Once there I pulled the dinghy up on the shore and taking the paddle with me for a walking stick, took a pleasant walk up through the campsites over the hills near the beach. The walk was very pleasant and the trek over to 'Cat Harbor' was beautiful. Over there the dreamy blue mountains on the far side of the bay meat the sea - truly lovely! After all the hiking, I arrived at Two Harbors and then called Janette. I needed to get her insight on my new plan I had just come up with. You see, I had begun to entertain the possibility of leaving Catalina this very evening and sailing to San Diego at night. Before my walk, I had pretty much convinced myself to stay the night at anchor. But sitting around doing nothing is hard for me - especially when I feel refreshed and ready to go. And also Janette was leaving for San Diego tonight too. I wanted to be there with her and didn't want to waste a moment. So I discussed these thoughts with her. Ultimately the decision rested with me so while I was at the dock I got the weather, coastal wind and wave report to help me. This report seemed to support my belief that there would be plenty of wind and so I felt encouraged further to leave this evening.

Later when getting back to the boat it would take all my skill and strength to get the anchors in fast enough before I drifted too close to another boat, the sails up and sail the boat upwind and downwind, in and out of all the other boats - without an engine and get out to sea fast enough before the wind had a chance to die down for the evening.

This night sailing to San Diego was to be one of the most adventurous sailing moments for me - one I would not forget! Join me next time in Part III to hear the rest.

-Skipper Albie

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sailing to San Diego and Back - Alone without an Engine

The First Leg: Sailing to Catalina Island.

It was our vacation time!  We had a couple weeks open and we thought that it would be fun to stay on the water in San Diego for a holiday. So I thought I would sail down there so we could stay on the boat in Mission Bay.

 I was impatient to start the trip and began the voyage late at night. However. the wind was too light and there was not enough wind power to sail very far. So I headed back and instead went to bed in the v-birth. First thing in the morning when the wind came up, I sailed out of Marina Del Rey. Here is what my wife Janette and I texted each other:

 A: Just heading past lighthouse. Wind is light we will see how wind gets when @ the breakwater! Love u

t  J: Don't push u r self...pace urself.

 A little later...

 A: Position is about 33.46 and 118. 29. Just wanted to let u know. I can see Long point (& Pt Vicente) at about 9 o clock from me

 J: K thanks

 A: All is well. About 1/2 - 3/4 way across. Heading 180 from MDR. For 2 harbors. I love u all! Xxxooo please tell mom too!

 J: I will tell mom. Be safe. R u going to rest? Sail in morning to Oceanside. Love n miss u.

 It was only shortly after texting this that I made my big mistake. I had begun to feel nauseous. At this time I usually didn't get sea sick unless the waves were getting five foot or higher. And this is what was beginning to happen as I got out past Point Vicente. And it was this sick feeling that made it harder for me to take more careful action. All too slowly the wind had been picking up faster and faster without me really identifying the significant change - or if I did it was without care as I didn't want to move. And so the wind was putting an enormous strain on my large genoa jib sail. Since it had taken the strain okay up to this point, I thought it could take just a little bit more until I got to Catalina. But it came to pass that suddenly, the wind did for me what I should have done myself. Indirectly it took that sail down, because my lower shroud (one of six super strong wires that holds up the mast) suddenly snapped! The mast instantly flexed and bent and looked like it was going to snap! In terror I quickly turned the boat into the wind - taking the pressure off the sails and mast. Then I crawled over the cabin top to the bow and trying to stand up amidst five foot swells, I let out the jib halyard allowing the sail to fall quickly to the deck. Then very carefully I crawled back to the cockpit and guided the boat back on course with only the mainsail up. Now that the big genoa sail was down, the pressure on the mast was not as great. I turned the boat onto the other tack so that the boat would sail at another angle to the wind and thus relieve all pressure on the right starboard side shrouds. In this way I was able to sail to Catalina without having to turn back for home. I still had no idea how I was going to fix that broken shroud and finish sailing to San Diego. But I was still sailing and thus thankful.

 I arrived at Catalina around seven pm and was so glad. I thought that only another half an hour would take me into Two Harbors. But I was really mistaken, because the main prevailing wind decided to end its day and left me just outside the harbor without enough wind to get in! If I had an engine things would have been much different but that would have been a different story. Now I had no other choice but to tack another direction and try to come in the harbor at an angle where there was still some wind blowing. Even though the giant rocks rising from the sea, the tiny mystical islands around Catalina and the evening sky were all so beautiful, all I could focus on was trying to get in the harbor and anchor before dark. But it was not to be. I was going so slow due to such light and varying winds that it was dark before I even came close to the harbor. In fact it became quite a battle. One time the wind suddenly died completely - leaving the boom swinging back and forth from the high swell, when it swung dangerously close to hitting me in the head. As I pinned the boom away on its hanger so as to stop it swaying and moving from side to side, suddenly the boat moved to a different position, and a huge gust of wind arose that pulled the boat down on its sides nearing me to the water! The mainsail being hung on its hanger was reacting to the gust and creating all the power. Yelling with anger, I quickly unleashed the mainsail again, letting out some pressure as I rode along. As I went quickly through the dark water, I felt utter frustration and anger at the seas for playing games with me and such games as could possibly bring the mast crashing down too!

 Finally I arrived at an area where I could drop the mainsail completely and attach the bow securely to a mooring cann and rest for the night. But when I did I was 'anchored' (so to speak) to one of the most unshielded mooring canns in the harbor and the ocean swell would rock the boat like crazy making a lot of noise. In order to get any sleep I had to put ear plugs in my ears! Little did I know but this was to be one of many nights sleeping on a rocking boat at sea. But before I end this part of the story, there is a little more to tell as I realized I had attached the mooring cann ropes to the boat completely backwords and as I tried to rest I could hear the rope pulling against the bottom of the keel. I couldn't help but think this was dangerous as it might put unneeded pressure on the keel and perhaps create a leak or something bad. So I got back up, very irritated, and pulled the boat around undoing everything and pulling on the wet ropes and finally half an hour later got the boat secured properly. But as I was involved in this, the Two Harbors Patrol came out and wanted to tow me over to a better mooring cann (to a more sheltered area) and while this was nice - I was just plain tired and didn't want to do a single thing. So we worked out a deal and I went to sleep! I missed Janette and couldn't wait to see her in San Diego. My text to Janette that night and hers back to me went like this:

 Albie: I'm safetly over @ Catalina! I'm moored to a mooring cann (like an anchor). I miss u too! I will try to call later. :-) xxxooo

 Janette: Yeah! U r safe.

This was the first leg of my voyage sailing to San Diego. In the next section I will share how I temporarily jury rigged the lower shroud and headed toward San Diego. I will add the next leg of the voyage to San Diego shortly. Feel free to share any comments with me about the trip. I would love to hear them! -Skipper Albie

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winter Gales

The last three weeks in a row, Marina Del Rey has been hit with small craft advisories and winter gale warnings. Last weekend I was out in one. Preparing the boat (before I left) for high winds took an hour in itself. The harness was set in the cockpit ready to attach to the safety line. The hatch doors were ready at hand to put in place. I had started the engine ahead of time and it was warm and ready for me to turn it on. I always have my life jackets ready - so that was one detail I didn't have to worry about. I had three sails ready to set and up on the bow from the smallest up. First the storm jib then the regular jib and then my genoa. The wind swept through the marina at high speeds until about 3:30 pm or 4:00. And then just as I was untying the dock lines, the intense wind dropped in intensity from around twenty knots to about fifteen.

 Setting sail without the engine (as I usually do), I set out down the basin. Tacking back and forth in fifteen knots can be a little challenging for most sailors who are not used to tacking in tight quarters and strong winds. This is because you HAVE to build up enough speed to cross the wind before you tack or the wind WILL pull you right back in the direction you were going before - and that could mean suddenly wondering if you are going to hit someone's boat (NOT fun).

So tacking in 15 knots is kind of like a good exercise for me but its the real deal at twenty knots and up. So I practiced turning the boat from reaching as close to the wind as possible to a beam reach half way across each tack just to build up that extra speed - even though it means gaining less ground over water.

After a nice sail down the main channel I entered the ocean and was soon met by five to seven foot seas that had built up over the day. The waves were not cresting and the wind had suddenly dropped from fifteen knots to ten and I honestly was struggling to get the speed I really wanted with that little front sail set. So I jumped up on the cabin top and held on tight to the rigging as I crossed the deck to the bouncing bow. Once there I grabbed the wild head sail and brought it down and set the larger genoa. I began to get a good clip after that and passed an anchored boat to port. The sun had already set and I was sailing along the dark ocean in the ever fading red twilight. It's a strange thing but the most fearful time of sailing for me, is right as the light is leaving the sky and darkness is falling. That is the time when you are used to the light and the darkness seems more intimidating than it usually is. I can't even remember how many times I've been sailing out at night and I usually am just fine with it. In fact there is a fascination with it for me as I love to see the shore lights many miles away creating a silhouette of the mountains in the distance. The silver light on the waves is beautiful too as they come and go from bow to stern. But right after the intense beauty of sunset has left and the afterglow is fading, I've noticed how lonely I feel and how apprehensive I get about facing the dark sea. And add the possibility of racing winds and growing waves and white caps and it all becomes that much worse!

And true to form, the seven foot waves now appeared bigger for some reason and the reason I was sailing further and further away from the welcoming green and red harbor lights made less and less sense! But I kept going for another half an hour. In this time the wind began to increase again and soon the boat was healing hard from the pressure in the sail. Time to bring down the sail and put up the smaller one again! Soon the small one was up and I was safely back in the cockpit taking over the steering from the tied down tiller in 'auto-pilot'.

 The wind was fairly cold and despite two hats, three jackets, a scarf and gloves - my hands were still cold. It was probably all the times I had taken off my gloves to fiddle checking my cell phone or some details on the boat that had made my fingers get cold. I promised myself that it was time to get serious and leave the non essentials alone. So I entered the cabin and got my thermos of hot water and made myself some hot chocolate. Just holding the warm cup - helped my fingers warm up again. I sat in the cabin for a little while as the boat carried on faithfully up and over the mounting waves. Thankfully it was not a blowing like a full fledged winter gale or it would be a LOT colder and going in the cabin would have been out of the question. In fact, I did not even feel concerned about closing the hatch doors - which I would have if the wind had been blowing much harder.

Speaking of the wind, I suddenly began to realize that even the small sail was pulling the boat hard now too. Okay, time to really contemplate what really made sense. Continuing on and preparing to put the storm jib up and fight my way back through a real winter gale or turn back now before it got worse. I chose the obvious - my wife would be proud! Besides, I was beginning to feel a little queasy anyway and was at this very moment sucking on a butterscotch candy. These candies have a real way of taking my mind off how I feel and making me relax. Maybe its the taste or something but it really helps a lot. I can't tell you how many times these little butterscotches have saved me from getting sea-sick. I turned through the waves to head back. Opening the main sheet I let the main sail fly. I then uncoiled the jib sheet and let it out too. The head sail caught the wind - now coming from the boats side and you could see it belying out. Winding the jib rope around the winch three times, I then sheeted it down on the cleat and it was set. Before it was all over though, I was to be taught an old storm lesson over again. Suddenly a big gust hit the boat at probably thirty miles an hour and within micro seconds the boat headed up dangerously into the big waves. Crossing the waves broadside would normally have been dangerous but as the wind was not causing the waves to brake white, thankfully I could get away with it. Nevertheless, I was determined to not be controlled by the sudden gusts and let out my main sheet much further than usually required so that when the gusts hit - the boat refused to listen to the storms call and I stayed on course!

 Shortly thereafter, the wind was funneling through the breakwater wall and now making it hard to beat back into the marina against its force. I really did not want to sit out here for another half an hour tacking back and forth against the wind just to get in the harbor. Normally it wouldn't have bothered me, but the wind was increasing and who knows what it would be like in half an hour! So with that, I turned on the engine and cranked up the horse-power and got back in the marina in great time.

I thought that after that my problems were over but I wasn't expecting twenty know winds as I came around the corner past the Coast Guard Station and into the main Channel of the Marina. These winds were blowing directly at me and tacking into them was pulling hard on the sails. Thankfully I still had up my smaller jib and as it was just a notch below dangerous, I didn't have to put up the storm jib. But I was concerned about coming into my slip under sail as the wind was blowing really hard and I would be going too fast. So I either would have to keep the sails up and then drop my big main sail right before I got to my finger channel or use the engine. I chose the engine! Ha ha! You would have thought that all would be well and that would be the end of it - but after having dropped the main - the engine then suddenly refused to start. Imagine my surprise! It was just like an engine to work all night but then when I really needed it -  to give me problems! So now I had no choice but to try and tack up the G-Basin but I only had my jib up and couldn't tack up wind with only the jib. So now I had to turn the boat into the wind and raise the main again. But, wouldn't you know it, the wind was blowing too strong to turn upwind - the wind kept blowing me back! Really, this was beginning to look just like de-ja-vous  from four years ago when something similar had happened and I (being MUCH less experienced) began to freak out and NEARLY crashed into the boats at the guest docks. I knew my skill was much better this time. And yes - they were! I decided if I couldn't head up into the wind, then I could wear (or jibe) downwind and get up enough speed to come up. And this worked. However, just in time or If it hadn't I would be having to enter an unused dock and take a time out there! Lol!

So thankfully I got up into the wind and got the mainsail set once more. After beating upwind for another twenty minutes or so  I got to my finger channel, and with a sudden surge of energy jumped up on the cabina and dropped the main sail to the deck in a matter of seconds. Using the jib, I entered my slip - still very fast - and jumped off the boat onto the dock and tied down the boat. Another big adventure was over!

Thanks for your comments about Winter Gales! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sailing All Night!

Sailing All Night!

Carl and I left around 10pm for our sailing all night adventure! Before we left we made sure we had extra supplies and gasoline. I always carry extra jackets and food, so I wasn't too concerned if we forgot something. The one thing you don't want to forget when your sailing all night is an extra supply of water - which we definitely had.

There was some wind blowing when we left so we sailed out into the marina, but it was fairly light, so we then turned on the engine and sailed out to sea where the wind seemed to now be blowing quite nicely. We sailed out into the dark night heading for R2 buoy three miles away. After reaching that we kept going on toward Redondo Beach - another three miles away. It was now my watch and Carl was to sleep for a couple hours or until we reached Redondo Beach - which ever happened first. I was okay with being alone for a while as I enjoy the solitude. However, after sailing much of the night, I began to get sleepy and got up and made something to drink to keep me awake. We had hot water already made so we could make coffee of hot chocolate. I made sure to keep the Captains Log up to date whenever the wind shifted or whenever I altered course. When arriving a mile away from Redondo Beach, I altered course away from the harbor as the wind was coming directly from there and it would have been difficult to go there tacking straight into the wind. Instead I headed for the more mysterious Point Vicente Light Beacon a couple miles south toward Catalina Island.

Suddenly a bunch of dolphins showed up and cleared the water with blasts of air. I immediately woke Carl out of a deep sleep (as it was his watch anyway now) and he came out to see. By now the dark clouds had cleared and the western sky was ablaze with stars. Long four foot swells passed under the boat and ran past the boat on there way to shore - miles away. At night they had a silver tone to them and the big rollers were fascinating to watch. Along with the dolphins and the stars, it was a magical moment! This is what sailing all night was all about.

     We were now out by San Vicente near the second red buoy from MDR. The oscillating light beacon could be seen shining out to sea in our direction every 17 - 20 seconds or so. I remember sailing out here one night on my way home from San Diego and losing my wind here all night. As I didn't have an engine at that time, I was helpless to get underway and slept and awoke keeping watch off and on all night long. Other times on the way to Catalina island I remember passing here just before heading into the shipping lanes. And the one time I will never forget being here was in that terrible gale with giant twenty foot waves pushing us on toward Redondo Beach. The wind was howling in the rigging and the white water atop the huge waves behind us threatened to submerge the cockpit. I remember being almost numb to the seasickness and roller coaster like motion and suddenly seeing that red buoy floating atop a huge wave as we passed it by about a mile or two to the north west.

I shared some of my memories with Carl about this spot and then at last laid down in the V-birth and gave the helm over to Carl. Every once in a while I peaked my head out of the forward hatch to see how he was doing but I was not disappointed as he did a great job and kept the boat headed for the ships lights and home. I closed my eyes and put my hands under the blankets to keep warm. The sound of the waves moving under the boat and along the side were very relaxing and interesting to listen to. I tried to completely shut down and sleep but my mind was still too excited and I had a very hard time. I had thought that if I sailed all night with a friend, that I would be able to sleep - but surprise, surprise!

Eventually Carl needed some assistance with the sails and I got up to help him. After pulling the head sails in tighter, I then went up to the bow and held on to the bow pulpit watching the waves pass us by. Looking up at the stars, I was surprised how many had disappeared already in only a couple hours by the dark rain clouds coming in!

In little less than half an hour, we passed the big ships once more. The dark night sky was turning grey and then gold as the sun was slowly arising in the early morning sky. I took a picture of a sudden burst of gold coming through the rain clouds just above the still brightly lit ships. It was an amazing picture!

Soon the morning wind that had been so constant all night finally began to subside and we turned on the engine and revved it up to full blast and headed for MDR harbor. As we entered the marina and sailed down the channel, I had had such a great trip with Carl and even though we were both tired and worn out we continued to talk all the way back to the slip.


Thanks for leaving a message about our sailing all night trip!

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
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After Sailing - bonfire on the beach!

After Sailing - bonfire on the beach!
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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!